An American Werewolf in Scandinavia
by Coral Moore
As long as storytellers have been inventing tales, werewolves have been growling and scratching their way into our imaginations. The history of lycanthropes in our folklore is vast and diverse, covering the entire globe in disturbing stories detailing the animal side of human nature. Nowhere did shapeshifters leave toothmarks more viciously than in the wilds of northern Europe.
The Norse stories of men who transformed into animals were most probably based on the barbarians wearing the pelts of animals for warmth. Men literally dressed in the skins of animals are common in the Skaldic sagas. While they were sometimes said to fight with unusual ferocity, for the most part there is no mention of supernatural forces being involved. It’s easy to see where along the way these stories may have changed from fierce men wearing the skins of animals to men who became animals. A brutal battle where the enemy was covered in a bear skin with only their eyes exposed might easily spawn such exaggerations.
The were-beasts of northern Europe took the forms of bears, wolves, and boars. These animals were symbolic to the people of these lands beyond simple sustenance and warmth. The words for all three animals had multiple meanings in the Norse language, making the associations between animal and man difficult to isolate. The word vargr (wolf) was used to indicate a godless or heathen man as often as it was used for the animal. Jöfur, the word for boar, became associated with kings, perhaps because royal headpieces often had a ruff of boar fur atop them. Bears were revered for their strength and hunting prowess, and were invoked in spirit form on the nights of hunts and battles. Once again, it’s not a very long leap from a man with animalistic traits to one who can transform into said animal.
I’ve twisted the lore of the northern werewolves to suit my needs, but have tried to remain true to their roots in my own way. I speculate that the stories of savage men who could change into wolves began with a separate race that was enslaved by the barbarians of the northern lands. Over the centuries, the werewolves were woven into the tapestry of Norse mythology so profoundly that they don’t remember their true origins. The world of Broods of Fenrir shows what such beings might be like if they were brought forward into our modern world.
The information in this post is a partial summary of my research into werewolves. By far, the most comprehensive source I found was The Book of Werewolves by Sabine Baring-Gould posted on Sacred Texts, definitely worth the time for a thorough history of werewolves. If you’d like to have a more in-depth discussion of werewolves or Norse mythology, I’m always interested. You can find me on Twitter, Goodreads or my blog.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: 60k words, 230ish pages
Shapeshifter Brand Geirson was raised to rule the Broods of Fenrir, but he refused his birthright. Instead, he killed their brutal leader–his own father–and walked away.
For hundreds of years he’s avoided brood society, until a werewolf kills an innocent human woman and Brand finds himself dragged back into the violent politics of the shapeshifters. When the two brood women who mean the most to him come under threat, he must take up the throne and risk becoming the kind of vicious bastard his father was, or let the broods descend further into chaos–taking the friend he swore to protect and his lover with them.
Relevant Warnings: There is significant violence. One on-screen sex scene, though I wouldn’t describe it as particularly graphic.
Barnes & Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/e/2940013500624