Last week, we began a journey discussing the monsters and creatures which are featured in my novel, “Legend of the Mystic Knights”. As I stated in this earlier blog post, I tried to reproduce actually creatures, which were thought to exist in the medieval world or were created as an analogy, representing a concept or a warning to the community.
Our first mythical creature is the Waldmannlein, also known as a woodwife. This is a wood sprite or elf type creature, which exists in the deep forests in Europe. She appears as a beautiful enchanting woman, at least to the front, for she had no true back, for this is part of a tree.
The woodwife can be kind or malicious. She was known to ask for something to trade with a traveler, if they obliged they would be given a bag of wood chips. Once this kind traveler left the forest, the wood chips would turn into gold.
The woodwife could also be vicious and cruel, enticing unwary travelers deep into the woods, where they would never be seen again. This is how I described the wood wife in my novel. The Waldmannlein in my novel first appears as a beautiful woman who lures a knight into the woods. She then changes shape, her once gorgeous hair changes appearing like twigs. She can control tree limbs branches and vines and uses them to snare and strangles the unsuspecting knight.
The concept of the wood wife could be attributed to the relationship many Europeans had with the forests. The medieval woodsman relied on the forest for trees, and hunters on the game it provided. As I mentioned in an earlier post, nature was also feared by these people; it was perceived as a dark place filled with unforeseen dangers. This duel representation of the characteristic of nature is manifested into the dichotomy of the woodwife being either kind or malicious.
This is one of my favorite creatures featured in my novel, the tazlewurm (or tatzelwurm, or clawed worm). This creature is actually based on a cryptid found in the Alps in Switzerland and France.
The talzlewurm is around 3-5 feet long. It is a reptilian whose head is shaped similar to that of a cat. Its body is that of a lizard, with two-front legs. The rear of this animal is that of a snake which helps it move by slithering across the ground.
This creature may seem strange, but not very dangerous. You may receive some cuts and scrapes similar to that as if you handled a feral cat. However, in this case appearance can be deceiving. The main weapon for this creature is its breath. The creature can spew out a poisonous gas which can kill a full-grown man.
A German wood carving from 1772, depicting a werewolf.
Our next creature is of course the famous werewolf. This is where we must separate the medieval legend and our modern perception of the werewolf. Unlike what was established in such movies as “The Wolf Man” or “Werewolf of London” or even “Twilight”, you DO NOT GET TURNED INTO A WEREWOLF BY BEING BITTEN BY ONE (a werewolf does not bite people; werewolves kill and eat people). Furthermore, the moon has little effect on the ability for the person to turn into a werewolf. These are all misinformation brought to you by Hollywood and modern stories.
The perception and treatment of those who were thought to be werewolves, parallels those who suffered with mental illness. At one time, people with a mental condition were perceived as individuals who were somehow cursed, that their conditions were not their fault. They were treated with care and sympathy, often being taken care of by monks in a monastery.
Family members were often responsible for the care of those with mental illness, and sometimes the whole community pitched in. People with mental illness were providing with food, lodging and employment for their entire life.
This caring attitude changed over time. Their perception of mental illness changed and was now seen as a punishment for something they had done, or what society as a whole had done. They were now treated as if they deserved their infliction. They were no longer taken care of by monks, but put in prisons (at one time, mental illness was closely associated with criminal activities). Later, when larger numbers of people started showing signs of mental illness, the states built so-called mental institutions, these places were worse than any prison conceived by man.
Many of the people, who suffered from mental illness, ended up being victims of the witch hunts. Like the other victims; they were beaten, jailed, drowned or burnt at the stake.
This was the same as with the werewolf. At one time, a person who was thought of as a werewolf was considered to be cursed. This infliction was forced upon them by an evil presence, or even a witch.
When attitudes changed, the former sympathy for this person was soon exchanged with contempt and hatred. To become a werewolf, the person now (usually with the help of a witch) had to of made a pact with the devil for the ability to transform. To do the transformation into a wolf, the person used a salve upon his skin and wore a fur belt.
The first question you might have is, why would someone make a deal to turn into a werewolf? This is similar to why a person would make a pact to become a witch. Basically (according to legend); the answer is to obtain power. A person who is sick, weak or poor would find strength and healing in his human form after turning into a werewolf.
Another modern concept we must dismiss is that you must kill a werewolf with silver. In legend, you could kill a werewolf by any means, as if you could kill a wolf that was as large as a man. Fire, arrows and even blunt objects would destroy this creature. The concept of silver was not introduced into the werewolf legend until 1767 when a hunter Jean Chastel shot a famous man-killing wolf called the Beast of Gévaudan, even then this tale, the use of a blessed silver bullet was not added to the story until much later.
If you were brave enough a person could remove the belt from the werewolf, resulting it to turn back into its human form, and then you merely have to deal with the person not a werewolf. This type of removing the werewolf from the equation is featured in my novel, “Legend of the Mystic Knights”; even though it is a task few knights would ever attempt.
One final recommendation: If you are a blogger and also use LinkedIn, may I suggest you join the group “Bloggers Helping Bloggers-BHB”. This is a wonderful group of bloggers, sharing their stories and helping each other. Check them out.
Next Week: Our final chapter on Monsters featured in my novel.
W.A.Rusho is the author of the novel “Legend of the MysticKnights”.
Your may also find more about him and his writing at his website.