Read The Book of Were-Wolves by Sabine Baring-Gould, Fiction, Horror by Sabine Baring-Gould Online


The author (Sabine Baring-Gould, a parson of the Church of England, an archaeologist, a historian, and a prolific author best known for writing the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers") takes a typically nineteenth century approach to the mythology, methodical, rational, and almost mechanistic. He details the legend in many permutations as it exists in a diversity of culturesThe author (Sabine Baring-Gould, a parson of the Church of England, an archaeologist, a historian, and a prolific author best known for writing the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers") takes a typically nineteenth century approach to the mythology, methodical, rational, and almost mechanistic. He details the legend in many permutations as it exists in a diversity of cultures and includes sensational chapters with case studies of cannibals, grave desecrators, and blood fetishists, which have a connection to lycanthropy. Also included is an extended treatment of the case of Giles de Rais, the notorious confederate of Joan of Arc who was convicted and executed for necrosadistic crimes....

Title : The Book of Were-Wolves by Sabine Baring-Gould, Fiction, Horror
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ISBN : 9781587156106
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 200 Pages
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The Book of Were-Wolves by Sabine Baring-Gould, Fiction, Horror Reviews

  • Dfordoom
    2019-05-22 17:16

    Sabine Baring-Gould’s Book of Werewolves (which was recommended to me by several people here) was originally published in 1865. Baring-Gould treats the phenomenon of the werewolf as a psychological aberration, as essentially a delusional state. He also relates it to cannibalism, and seems to see at lest some of those so afflicted as being what we today would call serial killers. He also links it to the behaviour of the notorious Norse berserkers, who would suffer from an insane battle rage. His speculations on the origin the various names by which werewolves were known in different European languages is intriguing, especially the idea that the term may derive from a word for an outlaw, a man condemned effectively to run with the wolves. He has plenty of interesting Scandinavian folklore and legends on the subject in the book, and also a chilling account of the career and crimes of the infamous Gilles de Retz (or Gilles de Rais), the 15th century French nobleman who murdered hundreds of children. I’m not sure exactly how he saw the connection between de Retz and werewolves, but it’s interesting anyway. A fascinating little book.

  • AuntieTerror
    2019-05-14 17:11

    Many thanks to the ardent readers at librivox. This book is not a novel. If it weren't for the werewolves, I'd class it as a historical overview. For it is a collection of myths, folklore and cases surrounding the werewolf. As werewolves get a lot less coverage than vampires for being less glamorous, I was very happy to have discovered this.

  • Christopher
    2019-05-24 17:14

    I don't really have much of an interest in the supernatural. I do, however, have an intense interest in others who have an intense interest in the supernatural. A meta-interest, I suppose. I'd love to get to know someone who thinks that the Earth is a hollow shell with spaceships inside. Or someone who believes that there are aliens living in our bodies, causing us pain that can be extracted with an electronic device. Or someone who claims to have exorcised thousands of demons and keeps a possessed doll in his living room and writes terrible books about it all.So I started reading this as a piece of curio. I thought that Baring-Gould actually believed in werewolves, and for awhile it really seemed that he did. He made statements that "like the dodo or the dinormis, the werewolf may have become extinct in our age, yet he has left his stamp on classic antiquity, he has trodden deep in Northern snows, has ridden rough-shod over the mediævals, and has howled amongst Oriental sepulchres." How fascinating would it be to read a 19th century academic study of werewolves by a man who truly believes in them?Alas, he doesn't really. He pulled a fast one on me. Baring-Gould is a rationalist, one of the ultra-serious, ultra-scientific men of curiosity. His goal here is to examine all of the appearances of the werewolf in literature and recorded culture and provide a rational explanation. His thesis is that, like all myths, the werewolf is the imaginative explanation for natural phenomena. When our unenlightened, unintelligent forefathers (he doesn't actually use phrases like that, but it's very much implied) saw certain heinous crimes, the only explanation they could come up with is that they were committed by animal-like men.He makes a good analogy. When we say that we hear thunder rolling, we mean it figuratively. We mean only that the sound of thunder is somewhat like the sound of something rolling. (Honestly, I'm not sure I hear the resemblance, but the point is, it's figurative language.) Our pagan ancestors meant it literally. When they heard thunder, they knew it was because the chariot of the gods was rolling by in the sky above. Werewolves are a similar phenomenon. When we hear of a hideous murder, especially one involving something so horrid as cannibalism, we may liken the murderer to a wolf. Our predecessors, however, lacking psychological or any other explanation for such an atrocity, may theorize the literal transformation of the murderer from human to wolf.His research is quite impressive. The first half of the book is an exhaustive record of werewolf myths throughout the world. (It's also the most interesting part of the book.) He traces them through ancient Indian, Nordic, Greek, and medieval European cultures. And he did so in 1865, twenty-five years before James Frazer's The Golden Bough, from which he certainly could have gleaned all of his information if it had existed.The first two-thirds of the book is fairly riveting. However, in the final part, he investigates contemporary murders and explains how they could be interpreted as the crimes of a werewolf. He gets bogged down in specifics and it becomes a tedious affair. I'd recommend a perusal of the early parts of this book simply for its curiousness. I've never read anything quite like it.

  • F.R.
    2019-05-16 14:27

    A frustrating read. Not so frustrating as to make me tear off my clothes and howl wildly at the moon, but frustrating nonetheless.Sabine Baring-Gould relates various werewolf tales from myth and legend, and then fits into a 19th century idea of mental illness. It’s a good idea, disproving supernatural werewolves while still bringing together every single werewolf story to exist in Europe. That’s called having your unsuspecting traveller under the moonlight, and devouring him. But it doesn’t quite work. No matter who the writer, werewolf tale next to werewolf tale next to werewolf tale is going to become wearing, and Baring-Gould – even in one volume – proves himself to be a distinctly variable writer. When he gets her teeth into a tale he really can make it scary and dramatic and truly gripping, Unfortunately, he only manages to land his teeth on a few stories here and the rest are averagely and even flatly told – or quoted at length from other sources – and so the whole becomes a disjointed mess.There is some interesting stuff here, but this is frequently not a particularly interesting book.

  • Cwn_annwn_13
    2019-05-09 17:14

    Written in the 1860's but still holding up to the test of time this book ranks as a classic of European lore on lycanthropy/shapeshifting in particular pertaining to werewolves. Worth its weight in gold just for the two chapters on Scandinavian wolf lore, and the idea that the viking berserkers were werewolves/shapeshifters. But besides that there is plenty of folklore on werewolves/shapeshifting in eastern Europe, France, and various other places in Europe. Also historical documentation of medieval serial killers who were alleged to be werewolves is recounted, as well as Baring-Goulds own encounters with local werewolf legends that had people in fear to go in the woods alone in various locales in France that he visited. The only fault I see with this book is that even though for a book written when it was it really covers a lot of bases the vast amount of Celtic shapeshifting/werewolf lore that exists is not included. Regardless this book still remains a timeless classic work.

  • Ignacio Senao f
    2019-05-17 17:18

    Cuando llevas pocas páginas te preguntas ¿Por qué esta en Valdemar Gótica? Pues es un ensayo del hombre lobo, debería haberlo metido en Intempestivas. Error.Es cierto que el autor hace un recorrido por distintas épocas y zonas. Y nos muestra que el concepto es distinto según siglo o latitudes. Pero aquí viene lo interesante: nos narra historias por la que se llego a ese concepto de “Hombre Lobo”.Estos relatos breves son terroríficos y aún más sabiendo que no es ficción del ator, sino que es la información que ha recopilado por distintos medios. Encontramos desde personas que desmiembran, coleccionan seres humanos. Vampiros-hombres lobos. Asesinos en serie.Nunca me ha resultado terrorífico este monstruo, un perrito grande llega al punto de ternura por muy rabioso que sea. Pero vete a otras leyendas, y luego échate a dormir.

  • Vinnie
    2019-04-27 11:12

    The main problem with this book is that is horribly misnamed. It should be called "The Book of Cannibals". I was looking for some werewolf mythology maybe some background and origins and instead I get this detailed account of historical cannibals. In the beginning there are a few instances where the cannibal in question believed or was believed to be a werewolf or at the very least, a shapeshiter of some sort. But by the end of the book there is three chapters in one man who liked to chop up little children because he read somewhere that certain Roman Caesars use to engage in the activity. What does that have to do with werewolves? Nothing. The author believes that lycanthropy, as a sickness of the mind, is real. That some people are deluded enough to believe they are werewolves. He also believes that folklore has been exaggerated or misinterpreted. I can accept that point of view. But this book is about cannibals. Some of those cannibals believed to be werewolves, others had no association to the word whatsoever.

  • Tucker
    2019-05-19 18:13

    Europeans who believed they could shape-shift, generally ate children when in proper form, and were often hanged and burned when found out. Really good stuff.“Job Fincelius relates the sad story of a farmer of Pavia, who, as a wolf, fell upon many men in the open country and tore them to pieces. After much trouble the maniac was caught, and he then assured his captors that the only difference which existed between himself and a natural wolf, was that in a true wolf the hair grew outward, whilst in him it struck inward. In order to put this assertion to the proof, the magistrates, themselves most certainly cruel and bloodthirsty wolves, cut off his arms and legs; the poor wretch died of the mutilation. This took place in 1541. The idea of the skin being reversed is a very ancient one: versipellis occurs as a name of reproach in Petronius, Lucilius, and Plautus, and resembles the Norse hamrammr.”

  • Suvi
    2019-05-07 14:08

    The structure and topics are uneven, which makes the title a bit misleading. First the author lists different mythologies and folklore (the most interesting part), but then he somehow connects Gilles de Rais to the werewolf myth without ever explaining why he chose this particular historical figure. There's very little of the author's original thoughts or arguments among the recounts of folklore and criminal cases. As interesting (and disgusting) as these cases of cannibalism and corpse mutilators are, some of them are quite a stretch to be linked to the werewolf myth. However, as a reference book this is quite useful and a must read for everyone interested in werewolves.

  • Mike
    2019-05-12 19:01

    This is probably the most famous of Sabine Baring-Gould’s many nonfiction books. While many of the others cover esoteric topics of local folklore and Church history, it is no surprise that this one still attracts modern readers. It is one of the first and still one of the best books on the topic, and is such a standard reference that many later books on werewolves and lycanthropy owe a great deal to his work. In fact the Wikipedia article on werewolves appears, to me, to paraphrase a fair amount of Baring-Gould’s exposition on werewolves and lycanthropy in Scandinavian sagas as well as the paragraphs on werewolves and vlkodlak in Hungary and the Balkans.Baring-Gould attempts at least three tasks: to summarize folklore and beliefs about werewolves and related phenomena; to collect specific cases from ancient, medieval, and modern histories; and to explain the origins of the beliefs and demythologize the superstition. (It’s kind of surprising that feels the need to argue the point, but he published this book in 1865 and there were still records of werewolves in living memory at that time; indeed he recounts being warned against werewolves during his own travels in France.)These tasks do not entirely determine the structure of the book -- he also attempts to give the legends in chronological order, so that the first third of the book looks at linguistic/philological evidence to understand the legends, and also gives a fairly exhaustive report of instances of men and women assuming the shapes of animals in European literature as well as briefer accounts of similar stories from around the world. He includes stories of physical transformations alongside stories of metempsychosis (the transmigration of the soul into another body) as well as legends where the transformation is only illusory. Baring-Gould gives particular attention to the Scandinavian sagas and mythology, devoting two whole chapters on them. I found a lot of interesting stuff there.The next third of the book, covering the middle ages and more modern times, focuses on the details of how one becomes a werewolf, how they can be identified, and how the affliction might be cured. Various legends of skin-changers, shape-shifters, and the like are mentioned, with a fair amount of detail on North American native legends, as well as a few legal/criminal cases in early modern times and the reports of witch-finders like Bodin.The final third of the book is devoted to the “natural” causes of beliefs in lycanthropy, an inventive theory tying lycanthropy legends to legends of ogres and dragons and the meteorological origins of all three(!), and finally longer accounts of cannibalism and serial killing. This book is also thought to be the first to articulate the idea that werewolf legends arose from incidents of serial murders. (However Baring-Gould is writing at a time before “serial killers” were identified as a kind of pathological type, and he just sees sociopathy as part of a continuum of human cruelty and violence -- we all have cruel, violent impulses and some people just act on the worst impulses while most others do not. Maybe the fact that he was an Anglican priest led him to the view that all people are equally capable of sin and evil?) Baring-Gould gives what he says is the first English account of the horrible crimes of Gilles of de Rais, expurgated of the most heinous details. While later writers have sometimes attempted to exonerate Gilles de Rais, it is hard not to conclude that he was what we’d call a serial killer today; it is especially disturbing that the power, wealth, and prestige he wielded allowed him to carry out his crimes so openly for years. More stories of cannibalism and murder are presented to give further credence to Baring-Gould’s theory that the werewolf legends were simply an attempt to explain the most horrible acts of men.

  • Octavia Cade
    2019-05-11 12:22

    First published in 1865, this really interesting study on the werewolf is notable for what it doesn't show. Ask a random person on the street today what they know about werewolves, and the answer will generally involve silver bullets and a full moon, but the mythos of earlier centuries is very different indeed. Baring-Gould's assessment of the phenomenon comes from a place of rationalism - it is clear he ascribes symptoms of lycanthropy to mental illness rather than supernatural effect. However the folklore, legends and myths of lycanthropy - and how they appear in history (in the recorded criminal trials of those affected, for example) - describe populations and cultures where this rationalism was very far from a satisfactory explanation for the people involved.

  • Gary
    2019-04-26 16:03

    This is a very dry read, and you have to really want to know about werewolves to slog through it, but it is full of some very gruesome stories, indeed. Of course, "gruesome" is in the eye of the beholder. The author wrote this at around the time of the civil war in the United States, and what was considered too horrible to be printed then would be put in children's books now. (I exaggerate, but only just.)I read this book for reference, and will probably refer to it as a source for werewolf and other were-animal stories when the fancy strikes.If you can find an actual written copy, you'd be better off. The e-book is riddled with transcription errors that probably occurred when the original was scanned using OCR. It often turns 'e' into 'a' or 'o', as well as making other strange substitutions. Which is sometimes easy to catch when the author is writing in English, but almost impossible to catch when he is writing in German, Greek, French, or Latin.If nothing else, I've found a treasure trove of names, dates, places, and events to research separately.

  • April-Jane Rowan
    2019-05-24 16:04

    This book was really interesting. It explores how fables of lycanthropy started, detailing different cultures' history and beliefs, showing how each one could have over time been twisted into stories of men turning into beasts. It also gives account of people that hunger for human flesh, becoming animalistic and labelled as 'wolves'. Some of the fables were really cool and I was especially pleased to learn more about Bluebeard, a man whose own story has also been altered over time. It was a real shame that it wasn't reprinted with its original illustrations despite saying so on the version I read.

  • Nathan Shumate
    2019-04-30 15:31

    Baring-Gould spends too much time discussing "straight" serial killers of antiquity (related to his thesis that some werewolf legends were simply started by what we would today call bloodthirsty sociopaths), but this survey of the common threads of werewolf legends -- that they were evil people and devil worshipers who were granted the ability to transform at will -- is a necessary corrective to both the Hollywood notion of the infected man who is a slave to the full moon, and the current urban fantasy conception of lycanthropes as a distinct shapeshifting species.

  • Víctor Antón
    2019-05-11 14:06

    Se trata de una obra de divulgación. Una recopilación de casos y sucesos relacionados con el mito. El autor, al que no conocía, es uno de esos hombres polivalentes al estilo renacentista. Nos lo presenta bien Antonio José Navarro en un prólogo más sobre el autor que sobre la obra.Podéis leer la reseña que escribí en Acercamientos: http://acercamientospoesia.blogspot.c...

  • Leah
    2019-05-10 12:03

    "Startling though the assertion may be, it is a matter of fact, that man, naturally, in common with other carnivora, is actuated by an impulse to kill, and by a love of destroying life."With limited commentary by its author, The Book of Werewolves has the most value when viewed as a compilation of werewolf history based on oral testimonies from the Ancients to the late-19th century. Sometimes those stories were obtained from documents like court transcripts; other times the stories were told directly to the author.Despite the antiquated statements and supporting "evidence," there's enough information to hold the attention of a curious reader or researcher. Were it not for the repeated references to the "savage" and "its uncultivated mind" and the author's obvious bigotry, this book might've earned higher placement on my folklore shelf.Recommend A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture edited by Charlotte F. Otten as a companion (or replacement) read for The Book of Werewolves.2.5 stars"First published in 1865, Sabine Baring-Gould's classic study of werewolves is a revelation on the subject, being written at a time when werewolves were still taken very seriously in the wilder corners of Europe and, indeed, most other parts of the world. Since then, werewolves have retreated into fiction and famously into films where, along with vampires, they have become purveyors of macabre entertainment. But what this book demonstrates is that the werewolf was once the object of very real terror. And with good reason." -From the Introduction by Nigel Suckling

  • Darkvine
    2019-04-24 19:17

    Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) was a Vicar in the Church of England in Devon, an archaeologist, folklorist, historian and a prolific author. Baring-Gould was also a bit eccentric. He reputedly taught classes with a pet bat on his shoulder. He is best known for writing the hymn 'Onward Christian Soldiers'.This book is one of the most cited references about werewolves. The Book of the Were-Wolf takes a rationalistic approach to the subject.The book starts off with a straightforward academic review of the literature of shape-shifting; however, starting with Chapter XI, the narrative takes a strange turn into sensationalistic 'true crime' case-studies of cannibals, grave desecrators, and blood fetishists, which have a tenuous connection with lycanthropy. This includes an extended treatment and chilling account of the case of the infamous Gilles de Rais, the 15th century French nobleman who murdered hundreds of children, the notorious associate of Joan of Arc, who was convicted and executed for his necrosadistic crimes.With the shocking histories of 10 famous cases, this classic blends science, superstition, and fiction to tell the full story of the werewolves among us. The first serious academic study of lycanthropy and "blood-lust" written in English, this book draws upon a vast body of observation, myth, and lore.Sabine Baring-Gould’s Book of Werewolves was originally published in 1865. Baring-Gould treats the phenomenon of the werewolf as a psychological aberration, as essentially a delusional state. He also relates it to cannibalism, and seems to see at least some of those so afflicted as being what we today would call serial killers. He also links it to the behaviour of the notorious Norse berserkers, who would suffer from an insane battle rage. His speculations on the origin the various names by which werewolves were known in different European languages is intriguing, especially the idea that the term may derive from a word for an outlaw, a man condemned effectively to run with the wolves.

  • Liz
    2019-05-19 11:07

    I decided not to finish this book, despite being the kind of person that will always finish a book regardless of how boring it is. This book was certainly not boring, however.I was expecting a book about the origins of werewolves. What I got instead were continuous cases of cannibalism and torture with only a few of them actually relating to werewolves (usually people dressed in wolf skins or diseased in their mind to truly believe they were wolves). If these cases had all related to werewolves then I might have finished, but this was not the case. Morbid curiosity might have driven me to finish, but it got to the point that I was actually feeling physically sick from the book because these cases are a part of human history and I no longer felt it was worth continuing. Maybe one day I'll finish it, maybe. But I wouldn't count on it. This is not something I want to learn to stomach. If you want to hear a history on cannibalism and torture, I recommend this book. Otherwise, I suggest not...

  • Uuttu
    2019-05-02 12:26

    Vanha, mutta erittäin ammattimaisesti tehty tutkimus ihmissusista. Olin aluksi epäileväinen, kun kirjassa sanottiin suoraan, ettei ihmissusia ole, mutta kirjoituksessa oli kuitenkin käsitelty erittäin neutraalisti uskomuksia ja tarinoita monelta eri mantereelta ja eri aikakausilta. Ihmissusia oli käsitelty laajasti myös mielenterveydellisestä näkökulmasta.Myös kirjan julkaisu ansaitsee kehuja: kansi on todella kaunis ja kutsuva, käännös on suorastaan loistava. Monia asioita on selvennetty ja tarkennettu, mikä tekee tarvittaessa jatkotutkimusten tekemisen helpommaksi ja kertoo myös kääntäjän asiantuntemuksesta. Ainoa häiritsevä seikka oli, että monesti keskellä kirjaa oli esim. latinankielisiä lainauksia, joita ei oltu käännetty edes alaviitteisiin.Kokonaisuudessaan kuitenkin loistava teos, johon kannattaa ehdottomasti tutustua, jos ihmissudet tai niiden historia kiinnostaa.

  • Follis Wood
    2019-05-04 14:09

    Baring-Gould gives us a study of lycanthropy, focusing on how the legends connect to legal cases and other experiences that could explain what it is. He concludes (as he mentions at the beginning, so not a spoiler) that were-wolves are actually mad-men who develop a taste for human flesh. He includes many anecdotes, one of which is personal, and has an engaging writing style (especially for the time period). It probably helps to know French, and would have been even better if my Latin and Greek were stronger. The author was quite a linguist.He manages to convey the horror of this passion for human death, suffering and flesh without getting too gory, but it may still be strong for many readers.

  • Jolie
    2019-05-20 18:25

    An interesting look into folklore and history. Covering such topics as the dangers of starving wolves in remote Eastern Europe, the Beast of Gévaudan, the berserker phenomena, and ancient legends from around the world. Also covered, to an unsettling degree, were details surrounding real life monsters such as Countess Elizabeth Báthory, Alexander "Sawney" Bean and family, Gilles de Rais (inspiration for Bluebeard), and a handful of other completely insane people. A handy little read for anyone interested in learning more about how folklore is born from reality.

  • Jamie Z.
    2019-05-09 17:25

    Informative if a bit old-timey. I liked it, although towards the end it got redundant.

  • Oliviu Craznic
    2019-04-24 18:08

    „Cartea vârcolacilor” reprezintă pentru licantropie ce reprezintă „Vampiri și vampirism” (C. Lecouteux) pentru vampirism: baza oricărei cercetări.

  • David Fuller
    2019-04-24 17:25

    Sabine Baring-Gould is by no means a celebrity today, but in the 19th century he brought a modern sensibility to an ancient body of superstitions: werewolf lore.I first came across his name thanks to A Very Special Christmas, of all things. On the 1987 compilation album, among the carols recorded by the then-current crop of rock stars was "Gabriel's Message," by Sting. The liner notes credited S. Baring-Gould as the composer.Born in 1834, the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould was a prolific writer, composer and collector of folklore. Among his scores of published works are a multi-volume Lives of the Saints, hymns including "Onward, Christian Soldiers," and The Book of Were-Wolves, a classic survey of werewolf folklore first published in 1865.For fans of gothic literature, the first chapter alone makes the book worth picking up. As the introduction in the edition I have puts it, Baring-Gould's account of his stumbling across pervasive belief in werewolves while on holiday in France is worthy of a Victorian novel.After a day visiting the site of supposed druidic stones near Champigni, Baring-Gould notes the light was fading. "A small hamlet was at no great distance, and I betook myself thither, in the hopes of hiring a trap to convey me to the posthouse."Unfortunately, he was out of luck -- there was no cart available, not even a horse. Resigning himself to walking back to Champigni, he was surprised at the reaction of the local priest and the hamlet's mayor."Out spake then the mayor — 'Monsieur can never go back to-night across the flats, because of the — the —' and his voice dropped; 'the loups garoux.'" The villagers agree it's an insurmountable conundrum — no one will escort him back because they are too afraid of the werewolves, "as big as a calf," they might face.Baring-Gould shrugs it off and says he will go alone. "Il est Anglais [He is English]," the villagers say, shrugging at his obstinance — likely relieved, notes the writer, that he has effectively absolved them of any responsibility should he be devoured.It's a refreshingly firsthand account of belief in werewolves, but the rest of the book is fascinating as well.As a collection of European (and some world) folklore on werewolves, it's impressive; it's made all the more so by the clear-headed presentation of many aspects of lycanthropy. He delves into its etymologically Greek origins with the tale of Lycaon, but also explores Scandinavian and French traditions.It helps if the reader is as conversant in multiple languages as the author. Baring-Gould often leaves block quotes from his sources in their original Greek and Latin, though he's kind enough to translate the Old Norse passages.One interesting diversion is his consideration of the Nordic berserker as a lycanthropic entity — siding with Sveinbjörn Egilsson's etymology of the word as having its roots in "clothed in bear skin" not "bare of clothing" (as the berserkers were reputed to have charged into battle wearing little but their fury).The book is more than an assorted collection of superstition.Significantly, he looks at documented cases of lycanthropy through the centuries and after cataloguing a few notable, he later examines them as representing a serious, verifiable mental illness.Another effect his presentation has, to a modern reader, is an overview of werewolf lore uncluttered by Hollywood notions of full moons, silver bullets, and many of all the tropes we now take for granted. His examples and sources are much closer to "real" werewolves than most of what is embedded in pop culture today, and it's both refreshing and sobering.For the serious devourer of lycanthropic lore, it's a fascinating and provoking read.Originally posted on As You Were, June 6, 2012

  • Eleanor Toland
    2019-05-25 12:19

    The Book of Were-wolves is a mixed bag, a collection of myths, folklore, first-hands accounts and medieval village gossip relating to the mythological shapeshifter. It's a rambling, uneven book. Sabine Baring-Gould interprets the term "were-wolf" very broadly - this short volume encompasses Norse berserkers, English witches said to transform into rabbits, and Gilles de Rais. Yes, the deeds of Gilles de Rais, the original Bluebeard, are the subject of multiple graphic, sensationalist chapters.Whatever the reader chooses to believe about de Rais's guilt, he surely could not be considered by any definition of the word a "were wolf". Perhaps this is not so much a book of were-wolves as a book of psychopaths, a collection of serial killers and cannibals. Writing from 1865, Baring-Gould appears to be attempting to define the mental state of sociopathy, the point at which ordinary people become murderers and cannibals. Many of the stories in this book have no supernatural elements at all, especially in the later chapters, and the "were wolves" in the early chapters are overwhelmingly hinted to be deluded and possibly drugged individuals. Naturally, writing from the nineteenth century, Baring-Gould can offer little insight into why psychopathy occurs, but the book does provide an interesting study into how such people are treated. There are some interesting parallels between the medieval fear of "were wolves" and the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s. Werewolves, witches and vampires were clearly a coded way of expressing fears of serial killers and pedophiles, a warning to the vulnerable. "Stranger danger" was not, despite what many would have you believe, invented in the late twentieth century. But the reader is left wondering just how many of the accused cannibals and were wolves were indeed guilty of their crimes and how many were simply the marginalized, the mentally ill, the universally hated. Whole families were tried and burned for their supposed were-wolfism — Baring-Gould mentions the Sawney Bean case, in which were-wolves were undoubtedly used as a mask for tribal hatreds. Most of the accused — with the very notable exception of de Rais — appear to have been beggars, vagabonds and pariahs. Witness the description of Jean Grenier, supposed were-wolf.The appearance of the lad was peculiar. His hair was of a tawny red and thickly matted, falling over his shoulders and completely covering his narrow brow. The small pale-grey eyes twinkled with an expression of horrible ferocity and cunning, from deep sunken hollows. The complexion was of a dark olive colour; the teeth were strong and white, and the canine teeth protruded over the lower lip when the mouth was closed. The boy's hands were large and powerful, the nails black and pointed like a bird's talons. He was ill clothed, and seemed to be in the most abject poverty. The few garments he had on him were in tatters, and through the rents the emaciation of his limbs was plainly visible. The shape-shifter inspires fear because it can become anything — respectable citizen by day, bloodthirsty monster by night. Yet curiously, the description of Jean Grenier and many of the other "were wolves" reeks of the hatred of the poor, the foreigner, the outsider. Not perhaps the greatest work of folkloristics, The Book of Were-Wolves provides a gruesome primer into acts of cruelty through the ages.

  • Perry Whitford
    2019-05-08 14:31

    Like many, I was captivated by were-wolves from the horror movies of my youth. In The Wolf-Man he was more man than wolf, albeit exceedingly hirsute; in American Werewolf in London he suffered a full and agonizing transformation into a voracious, snapping quadruped; while in The Howling he was inadvertently cute and cuddly.Sabine Baring-Gould's study of lycanthropy was published in 1856, long before the attendant notions of full moons and silver bullets became popular. Through his work he hoped it would 'be seen that under the veil of mythology lies a solid reality, that a floating superstition holds in solution a positive truth.'The folklorist begins with the ancient sources. In his Histories, Herodotus mentioned the Neuri people of Scythia, who changed into wolves once every year for several days. Then there is Ovid's story of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, who tried to fool Zeus by serving him a bowl of human meat but was himself turned into a flesh-hungry wolf.He rejects the hypothesis that all were-wolf lore leads back to Arcadia though, aiming to illustrate this point with examples almost as old and from far-flung corners of the globe. However, for the most part these other examples (Buddhist, native American) are merely of transformations, and not specific to the wolf. But the Norse myths are full of instances of 'eigi einhamir', where an individual acquires a second skin, often a wolfs. He suggests that these tales derive from real instances of temporary madness, or berserker rage, where individuals are imbued with animalistic strength and savagery, often donning the skin of a wild animal to increase the terrifying effect.Into the Middle Ages, the were-wolf begins to become associated with godlessness and the devil. The 16th century in particular is rife with cases with a few features in common: that the guilty parties had been aided by the devil; that they made the change into a wolf by virtue of a salve; and that they preyed and feasted on young children.Jean Grenier, a teenage boy from southern France, admitted to killing and eating several small girls after meeting the Lord of the Forest, who gave him a wolf skin and a salve. Arrested and detained in a madhouse, 'he said that he still felt a craving for raw flesh, especially for that of little girls, which he said was delicious'. Baring-Gould provides a few more case studies, similarly grisly.Wolf Tidbits'St Patrick is said to have changed Vereticus, king of Wales.''The Serbs connect the vampire and the were-wolf together, and call them by one name vlkoslak.'

  • Steve Cran
    2019-04-26 11:07

    Book of the Loup GarouThis book may well be dated but it presents the information in a simple to understand fashion. It sticks more to the earth than most works coming out about Werewolves these days. The Book is to the point and the author explains their salient facts and then supports them with stories and legends produced from around the world.Anyone interested in the concept of Werewolves would do well to check out this work. It covers the mythology on lycanthropy from all over the world. It is a factual breakdown into the exact nature of this mythological character.One can imagine that on a darkened night maybe in France or some other part of Europe you are walking on the the road and you hear a bone chilling howl. Suddenly a large loping figure appears and it is coming right for you. Werewolf legend and indeed other shapeshifter legends go back all the way to Greek and Roman times. We have instances of the Gods being offended by mortals and changing them into animals of sorts. King Lyacon offended Zeus and was turned into a wolf for seven years. Apuleius story the "The Golden Ass" has him being changed into a donkey and finally being able to change back.The old Norse has their berserkers who could put on a wolf skin and change into a wolf . Other versions of Norse shapeshifting include the witch being able to throw their fetch and take over the body of another animal. Legends abound of people cursed with having to be a werewolf for a certain amount of years and then being able to change back. Others have to change into wolves during certain times of the year. Others are blessed to only have to turn once.Lycanthropy was art of changing into a werewolf. It was the ability not of sorcerers and witches. THey would take an ointment that would let them change or give them the feeling of turning into a wolf. At first Lycanthropy was taken seriously but then eventually it was regarded as madness. There are Werewolf like creatures the world over. There are also those who can shapeshifting into other animals. Hyena men of Ethiopia change into that animal. Rakasha are vampire like creatures and there is crossover into the vampire realm from the werewolf realm. In Poland and Slavaopkia they believe that once a werewolf dies he becomes a vampire. Ghouls are jinn that eat corspes like vampires during the day that have the shape of the wolf. I got this book three days ago and have already completed it. Enjoy

  • B J Burton
    2019-05-03 16:02

    This book isn’t an easy read. For one thing, it was written in 1865 which carries with it the usual problems of the writing style and idioms of a different time. For a second, there are lengthy passages in Latin and French that the reader has to translate. And finally, this is one of those free Kindle editions full of scanning errors. I know I shouldn’t complain after someone has given up their time to make a book freely available, so this isn’t a complaint, but an observation.Having said that, this is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the derivation of the surprisingly-widespread werewolf myth. The author starts with the Ancient Greeks and then moves to the Icelandic Sagas where he finds examples of three different forms of lycanthropy. It appears that the Berserkrs have a lot to answer for. He then traces the spread of the myth through Europe following the spread of the Nordic tribes.There is no doubting the strength of belief in the existence of werewolves. Baring-Gould quotes at length from various court reports involving cases of people being tried for being a werewolf, including the evidence supplied by witnesses, and even confessions.We are also taken to Africa and North American for examples of belief in transformation, if not in werewolves.As a bonus there’s a description of the derivation of dragon mythology.Unfortunately, the book goes off track in the latter stages when the author covers, in great detail, court cases concerning acts of multiple sadistic murders which, horrifying as they are, seem to be examples of savage blood lust and nothing to do with werewolves.

  • Nem Rowan
    2019-05-09 17:24

    The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars was because on the back cover, it said it was republished with its original illustrations, but apart from the picture on the front cover, there were no illustrations in the book itself! It was a fascinating read covering many different old myths from different cultures, particularly European ones, and has prompted me to do a bit of historical research of my own, particularly from the 1900s onwards. Although this book is so old, it was not difficult to read in the least and I enjoyed the authors observations and commentary. Other people are saying this book is about cannibals and serial killers, not werewolves, and I think they are misinterpreting the purpose of this book. The general idea is that years ago, people believed killers were werewolves and therefore werewolves were killers likewise, more so in certain areas of Europe than others. The book explores all the different facets of werewolfism, which going down to the root of the myth is not about the physical transformation of a human into a wolf, but what lies inside in the psychological mind of the afflicted (see Berserkrs, skin-wearers etc.) I think the old saying 'Homo Homini Lupus Est' would be a good way to describe this book. I don't recommend this for people who enjoy books like Twilight ;)

  • Che
    2019-05-12 19:05

    What if someone only told you the parts of all the movies they liked in which something cool happened, without the context, so you don't know who it happened to or why? All in a row, strung together, and they said it like this: "then Kataßlia strode through the wood and came apon a cabin in which slept three men, the skins of wolves laid up afore them. She betook it upon herslef to throw a glamour over the eyes of Thor∂eur that he might see naught her but a bobbin. Thor∂eur in all his befuddlement tossed a seal skin bag upon the head of Katal∫ia that the evil eye be naught and hastened him to the wood, clad as he was in the hide of a wolf, taken from th ebedpost of the men dreamin gin th ecabin, whereupon he assumed one's form. Thusly the young rascal determined to bite to death and eat but seven men and no more. He returned to the cave well sated and plucked from his tooth a ring of finest gold. The next day in Northern Finnwaøy young countess Lilyantinƒ woke to find her husband's track in th esnow transfixed from two to four..." on and on with trolops and whale wizards and all that good shit. What about that? huh? and it's mythologies and folk lore from around the world instead of movies, by the way.