For thousands of years, people have been obsessed with the shapeshifter. The idea of humans who could change into animals at will has been toyed with in all sorts of civilizations all over the world and by far the most famous of these tales is that of the werewolf. The story goes that men and women would change into wolves, sometimes at will, sometimes with the full moon. Every story has a different origin for the shapeshifting.
To make sure the stories of werewolves from all over the world stay around, Costume SuperCenter pieced together all those tales and lore into a single infographic. After you learn the stories of werewolves from around the world and back in time, put on your own wolfskin with one of Costume SuperCenter’s werewolf costumes!*
*Full moon not included.
To use this on your site, copy the embed code below:
- Greece: In a Greek myth from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Arcadian King Lycaeon did not believe that Zeus was omnipotent, so he decided to test him by serving his own son’s flesh to the king of the gods. Zeus, knowing he was deceived, transformed King Lycaeon and his children into werewolves as punishment. This is where the term “lycanthropy,” essentially meaning werewolfism, comes from.
- Iceland: In Icelandic folklore, two men, Sigmund and Sinfjotli, come upon two enchanted wolf pelts that allowed them to transform into wolves, but could only be removed every ten days. The two would wander the forest and hunt, until one day an argument led to a fight between the two, in which Sinfjotli was killed. Now alone, Sigmund had to wait until the tenth day, on which Odin arrived and brought Sinfjotli back to life and cured the men of lycanthropy.
- South America: In some parts of South America, it was believed that the seventh sons in families of all boys would turn into a creature known as the Luison on the night of a full moon. This legend mixed with the European legends of the werewolf, until they were almost synonymous. The belief was so strong that Juan Domingo Peron, an Argentinian President, decreed that all seventh son must be baptized.
- Germany: One of the Grimms’s tales mentions a werewolf. It goes: Three men went into the forest to cut wood, and the first noticed something off about the third. When they were done and tired, the third man suggested that they take a nap, so the three laid down and slept. However the first man only pretended to sleep, and instead watched as the third got up and put on a pelt, transforming into a wolf and running off to kill and eat a horse. Later, the first and second man woke up with the third laying next to them, and as they rode into town the third complained of a stomach ache, only to be questioned by the first man, who mentioned a horse in passing. The third whispered, “has you said this to me in the forest, you would be dead.”
- France: French werewolves have been documented as far back as 1214 and 1198. In 1214, Gervaise of Tilbury reported to Emperor Otto IV that the people of Auvergne were transforming into wolves during full moons. In 1198, Marie de France wrote Bisclavret, which told the story of a man suffering from lycanthropy. In a 100-year period in the 16th century, 30,000 people were killed in France, accused of being werewolves, or loup garou.
- Ireland: Werewolves have long been a part of folklore in Ireland. In the 12th Century, Griaud de Barri wrote of a priest traveling from Ulster to Meath, where he encountered a wolf that could speak. The wolf explained that his village had been cursed where one man and one woman must take the form of a wolf for 7 years. The wolf took the priest to his wife, a female wolf who was sick and dying. He sought absolution for her, but the priest refused to perform the viaticum on a wolf. So, the wolf peels off his wife’s pelt to reveal a sick old woman. The Priest then performed the viaticum, only for her to return, once again, to her wolf form to die.