How Did Werewolf Legends Start?

By | April 24, 2019

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American actor Glenn Strange (1899 - 1973) is transformed into a werewolf in the film 'The Mad Monster', 1942. Source: (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Most myths and legends have some basis in fact. Take the legends of the werewolf, for example. This half-man, half-wolf monster is said to go on killing rampages, slaughtering its victims with vicious, horrific attacks. Despite the romantic version of werewolves Hollywood and young adult novels are showing us, stories of werewolf attacks happened after barbaric murders. Were these attacks done by an ordinary wolf, by a psychotic human, or by a true human-wolf hybrid? Let’s look at the long history of werewolf legends

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Scene from the Epic of Gilamesh. Source: (

Ancient References to Werewolves

The Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient Sumerian epic poem written in Sanskrit that dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, is considered one of the earliest works of literature. Believe it or not, it contains stories of werewolves. In one scene, the hero Gilgamesh did the ancient version of swiping left on a potential love interest after he found out she turned her ex into a wolf. In the Norse myth The Saga of the Volsungs, a father-son duo happens upon magical wolf pelts that, when worn, temporarily turns the wearer into a wolf. The pair go on a deadly rampage until—spoiler alert—the father turns on the son. We even see a nod to werewolves in Greek mythology when Zeus punishes Lycaon by turning him and his sons into wolves.