As students head back to school and parents get back into the groove of studying and homework, let’s indulge in a little story of old today on Immortal Monday. A legend, if you will.
The Way of the Werebeast
(Warning : Not for the faint of heart. Vivid content)
In a century long past, there sat the fortress town of Magdeburg in Prussian Saxony. With its half-timbered steep roofed homes, cobblestone streets and crowded canals, it was deceptively agreeable. From the center, the town gradually fanned out to the surrounding fields of grain. Beyond that, however, awaited another region… the slopes of the Harz Mountains, then haunted by wolves. For all its comfort and sunshine, the small town of Magdeburg would prove it was not immune to old magic one solemn winter.
It began in January when the streets were cushioned with snow, the canals frozen with ice and people gathered round their stoves in early twilight to stay warm. A child disappeared from a nursery without a word. The next night was the same thing…and the next…and the next. There were no cries, nothing was out of order, the only clue came from outside – the tracks of a lone wolf in the snow. Since wolves usually hunt in packs, this went against their nature, making it hard to explain what would drive a wolf into man’s territory.
People were upset, distraught. They questioned the Magistrate of Magdeburg repeatedly, a man by the name of Berber. He had no answers. Handling it the best he could, he set and enforced curfews as well as posted armed men in the streets. Nothing he did made a difference. The child thief still triumphed, young ones still vanished and the children of the town were not safe.
So many children were taken, from all ranks and stations, that the people’s appeal to the magistrate turned from appeal to reproach. Even his beautiful golden-haired wife, who had no children to lose, seemed to turn her back on him. She withdrew, kept to her own room at night and he hardly saw her.
Still, a brave and conscientious man, he took to the streets, walking patrol, searching for the predator, when he happened to notice a flicker in the alleyway. When he caught up with the bundle of rags, he recognized it as the mother of the first child taken. She was half mad and yammered, “The night has teeth. The night has claws, and I have found them.”
Taken back, Berber released the woman and she ran off, he quickly followed her, making chase, winding through the streets until they were on the outside fringes of town. The woman ran like a dog with a scent, finally veering from the path, she dove into the underbrush. Moments later she dragged a hooded figure out, bearing something of bulk in its mouth. Suddenly they were running again. The hooded figure darting off with the woman in pursuit.
The chase came to an end at an old lodge Berber knew well. He approached to the sounds of many screams. He burst through the door to the most gruesome discovery of his career. I will spare you the details. Just know the old mother didn’t survive. She came apart at the seams. Or, something created new seams for her. Anyway, the thing stood hunched amidst a bloody carnage as it continued to shift shape. Not quite man, nor not quite wolf. It was something in between. A small shivering child close by its side.
Berber reeled backwards at the sight. This thing with the head of a wolf, cold glittering eyes, enormous teeth meant for killing , blood dripping fangs, gray hairy shoulders, melded with the bosom of a woman who had soft pale hands, yet lupine clawed extensions.
Raising its head, the thing snarled and lunged. Being a quick man, Berber thrust his sword deep into the she-beast’s heart. Watching the creature scream and wither at his feet, he wrenched the blade out, preparing to behead the beast. But Berber’s heart stilled as the thing at his feet began to change form. The beast was gone. There was no wolf, no half-wolf. Only a woman. His wife!
Mrs. Berber was a werewolf. He quietly carried the screaming child back to Magdeburg and told the people what happened. He then returned for his wife, removing her from the premises, never to speak of her again. But the villager often did. They said it happened on one of the Magistrates hunting trips Mrs. Berber attended. It is said that Berber’s wife drank water from a mountain spring in the Harz Mountains and for it paid a fearful price.
Werebeasts are common all over the world. Parts of Europe fear the wereboar and werebear, in addition to the werewolf. In India they fear the weretiger. China and Japan are territories for the werefoxes.
Some are believed to be cursed from birth to make the shift between animal and human form. Others are victims of curses, and more seek the power through witchcraft and sorcery. In these cases, it’s the power of the beast they seek. Norse armies were known to do this by cloaking themselves in the hide of the powerful bear before battle in order to capture the animal’s power. These men, known as berserks – for “bear shirt”, would go out into battle wearing nothing but the animal skin. It is said they lost their humanity and showed a strength incomprehensible to others.
The other animal of great power is the wolf. Known for its sharp eye, keen hearing, strong teeth, powerful jaws, great resourcefulness and deadly efficiency. They’ve been referred to as death bringers. Some believe them to be the souls of ancient savageries. For their power, men have at times sought to join the wolf in its mastery.
Depending on which road you chose to travel where the werebeast is concerned, you can determine your thoughts on immortality. If you’re a Stephanie Meyers fan, well, then Jacob can choose to live forever – right? Or did I read that wrong. If you subscribe to the ancient theories weres live on after death, only in the form as a vampire. In the cartoons and shows I grew up watching, a were died when you shot it with a silver bullet – end of story.
Never the less, they are kin to immortals and worthy of a spot on Immortal Monday.
Putting yourself in Berber’s shoes, what would you have done differently? Do you think he should have seen it coming? Werebeasts – good, bad, or misunderstood (just like the rest of us humans)?
Looking for more fun with werewolves and lycanthropy? Check out these neat links:
Thor is traveling the world. He was in the UK last week and is headed to Canada now. We’re looking forward to his next check-in. Add your stop to the list! You could blog all about Thor’s visit and I’ll promote you here on my blog, as well as track his progress. Let me know and we’ll add you to the list. Our Norse god will be getting his own page here on the blog soon. Be on the look out for that.
In other news: this blog will be relocating to a self-hosted site at some point at the end of October, beginning of November. I hope you’ll follow us to the new digs. My fabulous designer, Laird Sapir, and I have some pretty amazing ideas (I think) and I hope you’ll enjoy what we create there.
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