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Book of Were-Wolves - By Sabine Baring-Gould - Their History and Folklore. The werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope, is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf). Early sourc Book of Were-Wolves - By Sabine Baring-Gould - Their History and Folklore. The werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope, is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf). Early sources for belief in lycanthropy are Petronius and Gervase of Tilbury. The werewolf is a widespread concept in European folklore, existing in many variants which are related by a common development of a Christian interpretation of underlying Indo-European mythology which developed during the medieval period. From the early modern period, werewolf beliefs also spread to the New World with colonialism. Belief in werewolf develops parallel to the belief in witches, in the course of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Like the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerges in what is now Switzerland (especially the Valais and Vaud) in the early 15th century and spreads throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century. The persecution of werewolves and the associated folklore is an integral part of the "witch-hunt" phenomenon, albeit a marginal one, accusations of werewolfery being involved in only a small fraction of witchcraft trials. During the early period, accusations of lycanthropy (transformation into a wolf) were mixed with accusations of wolf-riding or wolf-charming. The case of Peter Stumpp (1589) led to a significant peak in both interest in and persecution of supposed werewolves, primarily in French-speaking and German-speaking Europe. The phenomenon persisted longest in Bavaria and Austria, with persecution of wolf-charmers recorded until well after 1650, the final cases taking place in the early 18th century in Carinthia and Styria.


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Book of Were-Wolves - By Sabine Baring-Gould - Their History and Folklore. The werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope, is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf). Early sourc Book of Were-Wolves - By Sabine Baring-Gould - Their History and Folklore. The werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope, is a mythological or folkloric human with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or a therianthropic hybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf). Early sources for belief in lycanthropy are Petronius and Gervase of Tilbury. The werewolf is a widespread concept in European folklore, existing in many variants which are related by a common development of a Christian interpretation of underlying Indo-European mythology which developed during the medieval period. From the early modern period, werewolf beliefs also spread to the New World with colonialism. Belief in werewolf develops parallel to the belief in witches, in the course of the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Like the witchcraft trials as a whole, the trial of supposed werewolves emerges in what is now Switzerland (especially the Valais and Vaud) in the early 15th century and spreads throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century. The persecution of werewolves and the associated folklore is an integral part of the "witch-hunt" phenomenon, albeit a marginal one, accusations of werewolfery being involved in only a small fraction of witchcraft trials. During the early period, accusations of lycanthropy (transformation into a wolf) were mixed with accusations of wolf-riding or wolf-charming. The case of Peter Stumpp (1589) led to a significant peak in both interest in and persecution of supposed werewolves, primarily in French-speaking and German-speaking Europe. The phenomenon persisted longest in Bavaria and Austria, with persecution of wolf-charmers recorded until well after 1650, the final cases taking place in the early 18th century in Carinthia and Styria.

30 review for Book of Were-Wolves: Were-Wolf History and Folklore

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dfordoom

    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 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Auntie Terror

    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. 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    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 posses 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    F.R.

    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 quit 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Carrabis

    Fantasy, myth, and religious scholars probably know of Sabine Baring-Gould’s work. He was prolific in his day, specifically in writing hymns. The Book of Were-Wolves is a fascinating read on many levels. First, it shows a lot of the transition of literary styles from the late 1800s to today. Second, it is a real attempt at unbiased scholarship by someone whose biases show up in everything else. I enjoyed it as research reading, as histories of shapeshifting from a wide variety of cultures (Baring Fantasy, myth, and religious scholars probably know of Sabine Baring-Gould’s work. He was prolific in his day, specifically in writing hymns. The Book of Were-Wolves is a fascinating read on many levels. First, it shows a lot of the transition of literary styles from the late 1800s to today. Second, it is a real attempt at unbiased scholarship by someone whose biases show up in everything else. I enjoyed it as research reading, as histories of shapeshifting from a wide variety of cultures (Baring-Gould cites everything from North American to South American to Asia to Africa and back up to Europe for examples). He also attempts to explain shapeshifting as any number of things; is it psychosis? Is it real? Is it magic? Is it biologic? Is it culture-based (this section alone is worth the read). He spends some time reviewing cases of ghoulism - eating the dead - as were-activity, also worth the read. All in all good research for those looking for late 1800s lore, or for that era’s beliefs about the lore as far back as the first millennium.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cwn_annwn_13

    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 medi 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Suvi

    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 mutilato 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vin

    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 lit 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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tucker

    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 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.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Juushika

    A nonfiction overview that attributes werewolves not to magical transformation but to insanity and violence which convinces individuals that they've become beasts and/or is so monstrous that it's described in inhuman terms. It holds together as an argument but not especially well as a book. I wish it asked why wolves in particular reoccur as a symbol of the dehumanized man; it shows its age in arguments such as "obviously, they weren't transforming--they were just possessed, but the prevalence o A nonfiction overview that attributes werewolves not to magical transformation but to insanity and violence which convinces individuals that they've become beasts and/or is so monstrous that it's described in inhuman terms. It holds together as an argument but not especially well as a book. I wish it asked why wolves in particular reoccur as a symbol of the dehumanized man; it shows its age in arguments such as "obviously, they weren't transforming--they were just possessed, but the prevalence of baptisms has since solved that problem"; the second half covers infamous or interesting murders, notably multiple chapters on Gilles de Rais, and while these cases are suitably monstrous they aren't, as far as I know or the text acknowledges, attributed to or framed in the language of werewolves. But these issues don't impede the text's baseline readability. It's approachable, short, engaging. The breadth of research is impressive given that this was published in 1865. And insofar as it's one of the classic werewolf texts, its holds up--not for being especially good, but for being satisfying: the obvious, diverse love of the subject matter from ancient Norse mythology to contemporary folklore; the reasonable skepticism that wraps back around to a macabre and borderline-unjustified (in context, that is) fascination with monstrous acts. It feels right, regardless of objective quality.

  11. 5 out of 5

    S.M.

    This was quite a trip. Winding and occasionally racist, and it likely didn't help that the free edition I downloaded from the B&N nook store was poorly formatted. It's interesting, and I appreciated several key things about it--its age, its statements as to what educated people believed at the time of the writing, the fact that most original texts were presented alongside their translations. It might be short, but it's a slog and it's not for the faint of heart. The last quarter of the book is o This was quite a trip. Winding and occasionally racist, and it likely didn't help that the free edition I downloaded from the B&N nook store was poorly formatted. It's interesting, and I appreciated several key things about it--its age, its statements as to what educated people believed at the time of the writing, the fact that most original texts were presented alongside their translations. It might be short, but it's a slog and it's not for the faint of heart. The last quarter of the book is only tangentially about werewolves. I wouldn't have gotten all the way through it if I didn't need to for grad school.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Fuller

    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, compo 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 http://www.davidjonfuller.com/2012/06...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    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 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Octavia Cade

    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 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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kimia Wood

    It’s easy to “poo-poo” were-wolves as superstitious just-so stories, invented by our ignorant ancestors. Baring-Gould, while not convinced human beings physically transform into wolf bodies, nevertheless has taken a scholarly, detailed, and anecdote-filled look at this phenomenon. Along with his scientific, 18th-century respect for facts, he brings the Christian insight into human nature to his subject (he’s more famous for writing "Onward Christian Soldiers"). The resulting book is fascinating, p It’s easy to “poo-poo” were-wolves as superstitious just-so stories, invented by our ignorant ancestors. Baring-Gould, while not convinced human beings physically transform into wolf bodies, nevertheless has taken a scholarly, detailed, and anecdote-filled look at this phenomenon. Along with his scientific, 18th-century respect for facts, he brings the Christian insight into human nature to his subject (he’s more famous for writing "Onward Christian Soldiers"). The resulting book is fascinating, profound, and sometimes disturbing…both by what it says about were-wolves, and by what it says about ourselves. A Personal Touch Mr. Baring-Gould begins his work by explaining why were-wolves came to be of such interest to him. He describes a personal experience in an isolated village in France, where the local villagers were deathly afraid of crossing the heath at night, for fear of the loup-garou. Baring-Gould poo-poos the idea of supernatural beings (although he provides himself with a cudgel for use against actual wolves). He says that the persistence of the belief in were-wolves – even into his own time – inspired him to study the phenomenon in depth. This personal touch persists throughout. The book is stuffed with examples and anecdotes of vicious men, men (and women) who turn into beasts (not limited to wolves), accounts of diabolic interference, and other strange circumstances. It is now over a hundred years since Baring-Gould composed his work, and yet the intimacy and authority of his source material brings the subject uncomfortably close to home. Legend – Near and Far Baring-Gould also strives to include a diverse selection of material. He tells of the savage berserkr in the Norse lands…of a shunned class in North Africa who can take the shape of hyenas…a North American Indian tribe who began when a litter of puppies took off their dog-skins to play as children, and the skins were burnt…and, of course, he brings in the idea of reincarnation from India and other Buddhist lands, where a “human” soul may inhabit several different animal bodies on its metaphysical journey. Baring-Gould is also very clear about the theological significance of each culture’s story. The Eastern peoples believe that the soul is the true person, and the body is simply its “housing”…thus to exchange one living quarters for another is no big deal. In contrast, the Catholic peoples of Europe were more likely to ascribe were-wolves to the Devil. Several men convicted of being were-wolves admitted – and indeed, claimed – to be in service to “Satan”, and several accounts describe how a salve transformed them into wolves during their Black Sabbath celebrations. A scholarly treatise anyone can read. It’s true Baring-Gould often quotes from his sources in their original languages – Greek, Norse, French, etc. However, he brings enough humor and a conversational tone to the subject that it’s never too dry (although it’s sometimes too unnerving). Too Close to Home If you wanted some quaint yet spooky fire-side tales from silly, superstitious people long ago, you’ll probably get more than you bargained for. Does the Devil have the power to turn men into wolves, the better to rend their fellow humans? Is it solely the result of mental illness, where men either believe themselves responsible for the work of normal wolves – or believe themselves transformed into wolves, and so act according to their new nature? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy, where people who believe in were-wolves imagine any violent, vicious man to be actually transformed into a wolf? I imagine the truth is some balance between these possibilities, but there’s no denying the final factor: ordinary human evil. Mr. Baring-Gould makes this point emphatically. The examples he gives are horrific, while not being explicit or gory. Without sensationalizing, he lets the facts speak for themselves as he describes historical, document-able cases of cannibalism, torture, or sadism…with no excuse of physical transformation or diabolic possession. Respectable is not Holy. The most obvious example is Gilles de Laval, Maréchal de Retz, Marshall of France. Although a war hero to his country, rich beyond imagination, and an advisor to his king, he was not satisfied. When he read of the cruelties of some of the Roman emperors, he was so thrilled that he determined to imitate – and even surpass – their wickedness. In 1440, he was arrested, tried, and condemned for kidnapping, torturing, murdering, and beheading over a hundred children (most of them seem to have been about ten years old). What madness possessed this noble of France? What excuse could possibly be given for this horrific practice? None. He did it because it was FUN — and admitted as much as his own trial. Now, he also protested repentance, begged to be sent to a monastery to purge his soul, and sermonized at his own execution about the forgiveness of God. Was he sincere? Only God can know. But as Mr. Baring-Gould sagely points out, “‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments,’ said our Lord. How many hope to go to heaven because they have pious emotions!” The Were-Wolf In Our Hearts While first published in 1865, this book rang true and relevant to me today. How easy it is to relegate savagery and cannibalism and child sacrifice to the heathens of long ago! But these evil impulses still lurk among us today…they lurk in my heart, and in yours. What would it take to bring them to the surface? Do a web search for “man eats girlfriend”. You’ll find a slew of news stories from this very year. Just reading the preview text is probably enough to make your stomach turn. But it’s important to face these issues and think about them. Because, if we ignore and deny the wickedness in our own hearts, we’ll never think we need the Cure. (Five words: Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.) Onward, Christian soldiers! Lord, forgive me, a sinner! The Book of Were-Wolves is in the public domain and available on Project Gutenberg. Please check the copyright laws in your own country. Sabine Baring-Gould was an Anglican priest, hagiographer, antiquarian, and writer of several hymns in the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. [Review originally published at KimiaWood.com]

  16. 4 out of 5

    Redsteve

    Very good. A scholarly approach to the legend (mythology and folklore) and reality (anthropological and psychological) of the lycanthrope. Published in 1865, it features that classical Victorian writing style that frequently often does not feel the need to translate chunks of Greek or Latin text because it assumes the reader will be familiar with both languages. Footnotes and documentation of source material are somewhat irregular. Much of this book focuses on Scandinavian (Norse mythology and a Very good. A scholarly approach to the legend (mythology and folklore) and reality (anthropological and psychological) of the lycanthrope. Published in 1865, it features that classical Victorian writing style that frequently often does not feel the need to translate chunks of Greek or Latin text because it assumes the reader will be familiar with both languages. Footnotes and documentation of source material are somewhat irregular. Much of this book focuses on Scandinavian (Norse mythology and assorted sagas) and French (folklore as well as legal trials from the late Middle Ages and Early Modern periods) werewolves, but touches on many other peoples, including the ancient Greeks, Indians, Persians and Native Americans. Other shapeshifters in myth and legend are also briefly addressed (including hares, cats, dogs, and bears). Baring-Gould discusses serial killers (although he obviously doesn’t call them that) cannibals (from cultures that do NOT normally engage in anthrophagy), and people who feel a compulsion to mutilate corpses. The book also contains a fairly detailed account of the investigation, trial and execution of Gilles de Rais ("Bluebeard"). Goodreads note: The book description that appears above is NOT for this book; I assume it’s for another Baring-Gould book – evidently about sorcerers.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    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 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Follis Wood

    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 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.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Shumate

    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 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    As long as you don't mistake it for scholarly it is a great collection of what might have been believed about werewolves by Baring-Gould, i.e. that they were stories trying to make sense of serial killers, or it could be read as a wonderful tongue in cheek collection of werewolf stories by a favorite uncle entertaining the kinder, "No, really, and after he cut the paw off the wolf, it turned back into a woman's hand". Some of the translation is a little off, such as "wolf head"=werewolf instead As long as you don't mistake it for scholarly it is a great collection of what might have been believed about werewolves by Baring-Gould, i.e. that they were stories trying to make sense of serial killers, or it could be read as a wonderful tongue in cheek collection of werewolf stories by a favorite uncle entertaining the kinder, "No, really, and after he cut the paw off the wolf, it turned back into a woman's hand". Some of the translation is a little off, such as "wolf head"=werewolf instead of bandit but he did collect a lot of different stories about shape-shifters in stories.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Siau

    An interesting glimpse into werewolf history. The book has aged well and makes for good reading even if it's originally from the 1800's. The Finnish translation of this book is really good, giving additional information on names, events and even concepts in the book that I wouldn't have otherwise understood. The crime stories towards the end of the book didn't bother me even though the information on the werewolf myths was the best thing about this book. I'd recommend this for anyone who is inter An interesting glimpse into werewolf history. The book has aged well and makes for good reading even if it's originally from the 1800's. The Finnish translation of this book is really good, giving additional information on names, events and even concepts in the book that I wouldn't have otherwise understood. The crime stories towards the end of the book didn't bother me even though the information on the werewolf myths was the best thing about this book. I'd recommend this for anyone who is interested in history, myths and of course werewolves.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Latasha

    I listened to the Librivox recording of this book. the first few readers had a really thick accent was kinda hard to understand. other than that, this book was great. a lot of the info presented here was all new to me and it was very...graphic? disturbing? I say give it a try, it's free after all! I listened to the Librivox recording of this book. the first few readers had a really thick accent was kinda hard to understand. other than that, this book was great. a lot of the info presented here was all new to me and it was very...graphic? disturbing? I say give it a try, it's free after all!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    "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 dir "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

  24. 4 out of 5

    Darkvine

    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 revie 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    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 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...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    This was a quite interesting book, and not what I expected from a book on werewolves that is over 150 years old. Baring-Gould recounts some historical werewolf lore, but also discusses etymology and the roots of the the idea of lycanthropy. He makes it clear that he believes lycanthropy is just a delusion or type of madness, and not an actual transformation. He actually does a good job at showing the similarities between 'werewolves' like Jean Grenier and people just acknowledged to be monsters l This was a quite interesting book, and not what I expected from a book on werewolves that is over 150 years old. Baring-Gould recounts some historical werewolf lore, but also discusses etymology and the roots of the the idea of lycanthropy. He makes it clear that he believes lycanthropy is just a delusion or type of madness, and not an actual transformation. He actually does a good job at showing the similarities between 'werewolves' like Jean Grenier and people just acknowledged to be monsters like Elizabeth Bathory (unnamed, but clear) and Gilles de Retz. This helps him show that the accusations of 'werewolf' are just the superstitious trappings for such atrocities. While some of his information and ideas clearly show their age, his is actually a much more enlightened viewpoint than I expected from a reverend writing in 1865. This was a quite interesting read for somebody interested in this type of lore.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Şaşwat

    This book provided me with horrific entertainment for many a night. I first came across this book about 5 years ago, but I did not read further than the author's preface back then, thinking it to be some medieval superstitious author's work. But this time, when I gave it a go, I was surprised that the author, despite being a churchman was a most rational and scientific-minded person (I am ashamed to admit that this was a discovery to me, that churchmen aren't superstitious bumpkins as a rule, bu This book provided me with horrific entertainment for many a night. I first came across this book about 5 years ago, but I did not read further than the author's preface back then, thinking it to be some medieval superstitious author's work. But this time, when I gave it a go, I was surprised that the author, despite being a churchman was a most rational and scientific-minded person (I am ashamed to admit that this was a discovery to me, that churchmen aren't superstitious bumpkins as a rule, but now I know better). This was a most informative work, and a pleasure to read. The medieval illustrations reproduced herein really helped make the "atmosphere". And this is not just folklore and myth, but the author of this work expends no small amount of efforts to bring to light the psychological conditions behind the were-wolf, that might have lead to the origin and sustenance of the myth.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex Maria

    I read this to better inform my werewolf horror novel... It helped. The myths were interesting to read through... But ultimately not worth maintaining- some were just too silly to be believed in a modern telling of a werewolf tale. The study of the psychology of lycanthropists, however, and the investigations of historical person's tried as werewolves for brutal crimes... That was extremely helpful. This book is available in the public domain, you can read it here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files I read this to better inform my werewolf horror novel... It helped. The myths were interesting to read through... But ultimately not worth maintaining- some were just too silly to be believed in a modern telling of a werewolf tale. The study of the psychology of lycanthropists, however, and the investigations of historical person's tried as werewolves for brutal crimes... That was extremely helpful. This book is available in the public domain, you can read it here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/5324/5324-h/5324-h.htm Since it's HTML, you can also ctrl+F it too! That helps

  29. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This book was hard going for me. The audio version had a variety of readers, some more talented than others, and varying sound quality and volume. This is always a challenge with librivox. The text is dense and scholarly, but could have been more interesting if performed better. Of course, some of the information is dated, and for a world review of these legends it was remarkably Indo-European in focus, with a lot of references to savage/primitive beliefs of indigenous cultures. I know there are This book was hard going for me. The audio version had a variety of readers, some more talented than others, and varying sound quality and volume. This is always a challenge with librivox. The text is dense and scholarly, but could have been more interesting if performed better. Of course, some of the information is dated, and for a world review of these legends it was remarkably Indo-European in focus, with a lot of references to savage/primitive beliefs of indigenous cultures. I know there are stories of this type from Africa, Asia, and the Americas, but they were not well represented.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jolie

    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 in 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.

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