Mythical Monday: The Huntsman and the Werewolf by Mae Clair

wolfreduced1.jpgLast week on Mythical Monday I shared a vampire legend, so it seemed only fitting I share the tale of a werewolf today. I’ve been in love with werewolf folktales ever since I was a little girl and first set eyes on Quentin Collins of Dark Shadows. Since then my preoccupation with this tortured night prowler steadily grew until I eventually wrote my own story, Weathering Rock.

Today, I’d like to share an older tale with you, one that originates in the Auvergne province of France. According to legend, there was once a great lord and lady whose lands bordered an area dense with forest. All was well until a creature began slaughtering the lord’s flocks. This went on for several days each month but the creature, one of great stealth and savagery, could not be caught. Many men tried and failed.

Finally, the lord summoned his master huntsman and bade him kill the wretched beast. Surely if anyone could end its reign of terror, it would be the huntsman.

bigstock-Siluette-of-man-in-the-forest--26582798Vowing to succeed, the man set out grimly determined. As dusk fell and a pall of shadows smothered the land, he came upon the creature in a wood near the manor pastures. The huntsman drove it into the underbrush, but the beast turned on him, knocking him to the ground.

Drawing his knife, he managed to slice off of one its forepaws. With a blood-curdling howl, the wolf bolted into the woods. The huntsman tracked it through the night, but was unsuccessful in finding it. When dawn was still hours away, he returned to the manor and placed the severed paw in a wooden box as a trophy for his lord.

The next day the huntsman sought an audience with his master and relayed his tale with pride. He presented the box with the beast’s forepaw as proof of his encounter with the heinous creature. But when the box was opened, a woman’s hand lay inside. The lord’s expression turned thunderous, for the hand bore a signet ring twin to his own.

Stalking to his wife’s bedchamber he threw open the door and found her being attended by physicians. When he demanded to know why, she explained she’d suffered a terrible accident, and that her left hand had been severed at the wrist.

“Here is your hand, woman,” he thundered, displaying the grisly trophy. Then he commanded his physicians to bind her, condemning her as a werewolf. She pleaded with him for mercy, but he turned deaf fears and ordered her burned at the stake.

Not a very loving husband, was he? And you probably thought he was going to go ballistic on the huntsman when he first saw the hand (I did).

But these were dark times full of superstition and cruelty. Land and livestock held far more value than a wife. I’m sure the huntsman was richly rewarded, though the tale doesn’t go that far.

One of the things that attract me to the werewolf legend is the duality of strength and fragility, its immense power bound by the whim of moonlight. The anguish of conflict, human and creature. Vampires remember their mortal life, but once turned there is no going back. The werewolf has to constantly straddle both sides of a curse — mostly human but doomed to a bestial existence every full moon.

What about you? Are you a werewolf fan? Any favorite aspects of the werewolf curse you’d like to ponder? Or maybe there’s a particular wolf story or movie that resonated with you. Halloween is creeping right around the corner. Do share! 😀

25 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: The Huntsman and the Werewolf by Mae Clair

  1. I so thought the master was going to punish the Huntsman! I never really got into werewolves back in the day. My exposure was from movies like American Werewolf In London and Silver Bullet. But they fascinate me enough now!

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    • I remember those movies, both good werewolf tales. And didn’t Stephen King write Silver Bullet?

      I’m like you, L.J…when I first stumbled over this legend, I was sure the Lord was going to punish the Huntsman. I never expected him to react the way he did!

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  2. I love the agony of the werewolf. Their inner battle to try to gain control over an unique situation is what fascinates me. I like the old tales where it is obvious the wolf has the mind of a man or woman and acts accordingly. Thanks for sharing another grand tale with us. I can actually see that pale hand smeared with blood. The gold ring a’glitter betraying its owner. What a nasty way to go though, toasted.

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    • That inner battle is what fascinates me about these creatures as well, Daisy. I’m glad you dropped by to check out my latest mythical offering 🙂

      And yes, the stake is such a barbaric form of execution. I wonder if it didn’t have something to do with superstitions….fire seemed to be the defense of choice against supernatural beings, as if that was the only way to keep them from returning and seeking vengeance. *shudder*

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  3. What an intriguing tale! Now I want to know how the wife became a werewolf, and whether she was one BEFORE the marriage. . .one story always begets another one. LOL I also liked your explanation of werewolves straddling both sides of the curse. I hadn’t really thought of it like that before. 🙂

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    • Hi, Donna., It does make you wonder about the wife, doesn’t it? That’s the only problem with some of these old tales…they had a tendency to leave details out, LOL.

      Glad I gave you something new to ponder about werewolves! 🙂

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  4. I love werewolves and their fascinating legends… I never heard this one before and was surprised to find out it was the wife (almost expected it to be the Lord himself.) Isn’t it interesting that when we think of werewolves we think of men?

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    • Oh, good point, Debbie! Thinking back on it, most of the werewolf tales I’m familiar with center on a man being turned into the creature. I hadn’t considered that it might be the lord, but wouldn’t that be a unique twist?

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  5. I’ve always enjoyed the were tales. I’m not certain when I was first introduced to werewolves, actually. Like you, I’m drawn to both their vulnerability and strength. In my imagination, I mingle human and animal traits together into their behaviors, so things like the grace in their gait, their need to mark their territory and fight for what’s theirs, their pure animalistic sensuality with sex…it all blends together to create one provocative picture. Then there’s the idea that a wolf mates for life… It’s just another appealing trait.

    I admit, though, I have an extremely soft spot for the cat shifters…and not just because they tend to be “alley cats.” 😉

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    • Hi, Kitt. I love the idea that a wolf mates for life. It’s a thread that works well with the werewolf legend. And you’re right – – they’re constantly walking a tightrope of human and animal traits, one fighting for dominance over the other.

      I haven’t read any cat shifter books but I actually wrote a trilogy about one many years ago in the fantasy genre (I really need to rework that some day).

      I think shifters in general make compelling characters for authors. One of my all-time favorite fictional characters is Gerald Tarrant. Aside from being an undead sorcerer (always a plus in a fantasy novel, LOL) he’s able to shift form. I love it when he changes into a mammoth bird of prey.

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      • Never read that series, but it sounds awesome! I’ve read a few cat shifter books… And love them. Actually, I like most shifter books….though I have a harder time wrapping my mind around dragon & snake shifters.

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  6. Wow! Great story, Mae. I’m not typically a fan of either vampires or werewolves, but of the two, I love a werewolf story, like your own to any vampire story. Thanks for getting us all ready for the last day of this month…you know the one. 🙂

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    • LOL! Yep, that spooky day is lingering around the corner 🙂

      Like you I’m partial to werewolves, but vampires fascinate me too. I’ve just never felt the draw to write about one (other than the short novella I did recently). Wolves on the other hand… 😀

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  7. I thought he was going to have the huntsman executed!
    Going by the transformations of werewolves in Vampire Diaries and Being Human, having to turn on every full moon seems like a nightmare. The agony those particular werewolves go through is terrible, so since I’m a wimp when it comes to pain, I’d prefer to be a vampire. I do, however like the idea of werewolves having one true mate they spend their whole life with.

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    • I love that bond with werewolves too, Emma. There’s so much great material for a writer between the anguish of knowing he/she could love no other, yet at the same time tortured by what they become during full moon. You’re right – – it’s probably far less painful to be a vampire, LOL.

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  8. I concur with Debbie – I thought it was going to the Lord, himself, too – and automatically assumed a man. Interesting that this one is a female, and I am sure it represented some sort of social attitude back then in France. Because the Lord believed the Huntsman over his wife! Big poop, is all I can say.

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    • Yep, you’re right, Cd. A pox on the lord. Typical man, huh – – at least for the time period. It’s interesting that several of the readers here thought he would execute the Huntsman, but instead he ended up killing his own wife. Eesh! A double pox!! 🙂

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  9. That’s a spooky story! I too thought the lord would go ballistic on the huntsman. Or I thought the lord would be missing a hand in the morning, LOL! Good tale. Where do you find these stories, Mae? I wonder if your local librarian sees you coming and thinks, here’s that lady that likes the myths, again!

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    • Hehee. I haven’t been to a library in years (I’m ashamed to say) but I have a large collection of books on myth and folklore in my personal library at home. They’ve been a great resource for my Mythical Monday posts.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the tale, Jessi! 🙂

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  10. I love this story. I think I may have heard a version of it on the old Ripley’s Believe it or Not TV show (for some reason I can hear Jack Palance narrating it).
    For me, I always think of An American Werewolf in London when it comes to the werewolf-as-savage-monster trope, because it’s one of the best stories of this kind. But another movie that absolutely nails it is Brotherhood of the Wolf — even though it is not, technically, a werewolf movie. It does, however, present the story of an actual reign of terror during a time in France when people did believe in werewolves, and the infamous Beast of Le Gevaudan terrorized the countryside (and was never caught). The movie hops up the tale with some fancy choreography and camera work — but it also examines the political and social undertones of the need for a scapegoat when horrors are committed. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

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    • Hi, David. Nice to meet you. Thanks for dropping by my humble blog haunt and sharing. I remember that old Ripley’s Believe it Not show with Jack Palance. I was addicted to it.

      I haven’t seen the Brotherhood of the Wolf but it sounds intriguing. I’m going to have to look it up. That time in history was so dark and steeped in superstition it was easy to find hapless scapegoats. Thanks for the recommend! 🙂

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      • 🙂 You’re welcome! One note — it’s in French so I hope you don’t mind subtitles. (I’ve watched it in French and dubbed in English, and the the French voice work and acting is MUCH better). Great performances all around.

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  11. Hi Mae. Great story. I, too, thought it was going to be the lord. The wife was a surprise.

    I think I was turned of warewolf lore when I was a kid and saw those hokey, time-lapse, werewolf movies. So obvious, even as kid I could see through the primitive special effects. Fast forward to the special effects of Ladyhawk and, even though not technically a werewolf story, I was more able to suspend belief.

    Weathering Rock has a werewolf character I could believe in. See how I tried to word that so I don’t give anything away?

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    • LOL, thanks, Christy. I remember sitting through a lot of those hokey werewolf movies as a kid and a teen. Some were dreadful.

      Wonderful of you to mention Ladyhawke. I fell in love with that movie the first time I saw it. A beautiful tale, and so well done. Thanks for dropping by today.

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  12. Pingback: The Creatures of Halloween | Handgiftbox Blog

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