Wolfman and the Curse of the External Stimuli

The werewolf is an interesting critter. Through no fault of his own, he is placed under a curse. Now anytime a full moon breaks out of the cloud cover, our mild mannered family man turns into a ravening beast that slaughters everything in arm’s reach. Tragic, really.

This is not how the story always went. Early on, werewolves tended to be witches who made a pact with the devil to earn their transformative powers. If not that, then they were people who had skipped out on Lent, or committed some other taboo, and got cursed. In fact, even when the occasional innocent was cursed, he did not become a ravening beast so much as a run-of-the-mill wolf for seven years or so until he went back home having lost little more than time.

The change in mythos is striking. Like a lot of curses in scary stories, you originally got in trouble for doing something wrong. Nowadays, the curse is incurred simply by dumb luck. And now that curse doesn’t just mean fleas and poor living conditions, it means you become a wild-eyed killer at least one night a month.

The first time I noticed this, it bugged me because I thought of it in terms of shifting blame from the one who committed the offense over to external stimuli. The curse was no longer the fault of someone sinning, and the mindless slaughter was now the fault of the moon or bumping into gypsies. Our society already spends so much time shifting the blame away from sinners, so I just considered this one more iteration of the same bad philosophy.

After a while, though, I realized that there was some truth to it. On the one hand, you cannot blame your sins on the external stimuli. The beast must pay for his crimes, because the problem is in the beast and the moon is just the occasion of his lunacy. On the other hand, fallen man is not exactly free. Quite the opposite. However hard he tries, just like the werewolf in the movies, whenever the full moon rises he will howl.

Grasping the hopelessness of man’s fallen state, however, is not exactly unusual for the horror genre. What is missing is a solution. Take either angle–wolf brings the curse on himself, or curse as inescapable tragedy–and you still have a man under a curse. But how do you kill the beast and keep the man?

A lot of the time, you simply don’t. The wages of sin is death, so the wolfman has to die. But in our world the sinner had a substitute, a perfect God-man who died for him. Now the sinner, though he might get a little loony from time to time, is free of the old man and the guarantee of death that comes with him. I have still yet to see a good werewolf flick that does the same. Here, as elsewhere, there is a lot of material for a solid Christian artist to work with.

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