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One of these days, I keep telling myself, I will write the quintessential werewolf story.
There are quintessential tales for golems (Frankenstein) and vampires (Dracula) because those stories offer more than mere entertainment. They dig into the darker side of human nature not just for cheap scares but to make us reflect on pride, lust, and daring.
One aspect that raises a good story to a great story is layering of themes. A simple novel picks one idea and runs a plot through it. A great epic folds the story onto itself time and again, like Damascus steel. For that reason, I can share the heart of my hypothetical novel without spoiling it.
The werewolf represents Man’s struggle against his baser animal nature. A beast’s life is driven by undeliberate impulses. The self-critical mind is pivotal in human nature, but is not in itself humanity. We are essentially both mind and body; both reason and irrational or subrational feelings. An unemotional person is called robotic, stone, or inhuman for good reason.
Emotions are necessary. They are the fuel that impels us forward. Reason tampers and directs that force. But without passion we idle in contemplation and endless planning.
Emotions provide not only impetus but confirmation for our logical choices. Joy is the peace born of harmony between what is and what should be, between what we long for and what has become. It is the reward for right living.
Along the vast and nuanced spectrum of emotions, anger and sadness are the other most fundamental. Anger pushes us outward and sadness draws us back in. Anger demands correction to perceived injustice. Sadness slows us down to reflect on what is lost or missing. These darker passions, when moderated and guided by reason, eventually return us to joy.
But passions can overwhelm reason and wreak havoc before they subside. That is the heart of the werewolf! Like an addict, the werewolf falls prey to an insatiatable hunger and rage. In living for lust, it is driven wild by it — never free of it. Satisfied by the power of fury, it embraces anger eagerly, habitually.
You see, there are two ways to arrive at harmony and fleeting happiness. The first is to better oneself and one’s environment to a state of grace. The other is to debase oneself into a mere animal — a ravenous reflection of the chaotic and brutal world one finds oneself in. A person can hope to repair life to manifest one’s beautiful dreams. Or that person can surrender to a broken world… and enjoy breaking it.
A measure of harmony, and so satisfaction, can be had by adopting ugly desires and habits to match ugly circumstances. Lies can be comfortable when they accord with lying company. This universal temptation is why Christians are advised to be in the world but not of the world.
For a werewolf story, as for stories of addiction or sin, a happy ending is one in which the beast finds hope of becoming something greater. Though those wayward impulses remain, as do the consequences of reckless indulgence, there is yet a measure of peace to be grasped by making a garden of the wilderness. The wild within ourselves must be tamed — directed and often subdued, but also honored and occasionally loosed.
This is part of June 2019’s Group Writing project on the topic of Hot Stuff.