Hello, wordsmiths and story lovers!
I hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the best season of the year! (my humble opinion, of course ;-)).
In writing news, I recently sent Book 2 of The Petros Chronicles off to my editor and typed “The End” in the first draft of my last Orchids book.
I’d like to thank everyone who voted in my Instagram Story on whether I should write a fantasy or contemporary fiction novel next. I have an idea for each genre, so I appreciate you helping me make a decision! (Fantasy won by a landslide, by the way!) I’m taking a novel-writing break until after the new year, at which time I’ll hunker down and concentrate on the fantasy story … at least that’s the plan for now; there’s still plenty of time for this go-with-the-creative-flow writer to change her mind ;-).
One of my lovely newsletter subscribers, Beverly, suggested I write about the “origin or mythology of Halloween” for my October newsletter, to which I enthusiastically said, “Consider it done!” Instead of my usual writing-advice-type post this week, I thought I’d share the story. If you like it, I think you’d enjoy my newsletter. I send out a new short story (and giveaway :)) every month!
I love diving down into the roots of popular myths and legends and learning about the people who imagined and embraced them. I find it fascinating that very often the same symbols, archetypes, allegories and themes that enchanted people in the past – even the ancient past – still captivate us today. One such archetype is the notorious werewolf! (cue chilling howl sound effect and blood-curdling scream).
“I’m going to TRANSFORM him, and unleash the savage instincts that lie hidden within…”
– Dr. Alfred Brandon, I Was a Teenage Werewolf
As I was researching the second book in The Petros Chronicles, I learned that werewolves are actually a part of Greek mythology (more on that later). Scholars believe the first full-blown werewolf story came from the Satyricon, a work written by the Roman writer Petronius (AD 27-66), who was a scribe in the court of Emperor Nero. Like many writings of the time, it’s a humorous discussion of philosophy in alternating prose and verse.
The Satyricon is a collection of stories that follows the travels and tales of two friends, Encolpius and Gita, but also contains the story of Niciros, a soldier that traveled to a distant city with an acquaintance.
Here’s a brief synopsis:
While on their way, Niciros and his friend stop to relieve themselves in a graveyard (doesn’t seem sketchy at all, right?) To Niciros’ horror, his companion unleashes a wicked laugh, makes a circle of urine around himself (gross), rips off his clothes, then transforms into a snarling wolf. Howling madly, he runs off towards the nearby town, leaving a very stunned Niciros behind.
Niciros examines the man’s discarded clothes and discovers they’ve been turned to stone. He goes into the town, but he’s so frightened (understandably so!) that he attacks every shadow with his sword. When he gets there, a woman informs him that a horrifying wolf killed a handful of farm animals but was then speared in the throat by a servant. Sayonara, Big Bad Wolf.
Now back to the Greek mythology origins…
The ancient Greeks wrote some fascinating ideas about werewolves. For example, Herodotus, the so-called “Father of History,” wrote that the Neuri, a tribe he places to the north-east of Scythia, were all transformed into wolves once every year for several days, and then changed back to their former shape – a shocking resemblance to other myths.
Hesiod, one of the earliest Greek poets (700 B.C.), wrote about the first werewolf, according to the Greeks, a king by the name of Lycaon. Pausanias, a Greek traveler and geographer who lived in the first century, wrote that Lycaon was instantly transformed into a wolf after sacrificing a child on the altar of Zeus.
The most popular tale of Lycaon is found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In this recounting, King Lycaon mistrusted the signs of Zeus’s divine nature when he visited Arcadia in the guise of a peasant. Determined to find out whether his guest was mortal or god, Lycaon served him the partly cooked, partly roasted flesh of a prisoner. Not surprisingly, Zeus reacted in his typical ballistic fashion by ripping down the roof, setting the palace on fire, and turning his host into a wolf.
This month’s short story is inspired by this haunting version of the story. Click here to read it. I hope you enjoy it!
If you have any writing questions for me, or requests for future blog and/or newsletter topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @dandersontyler or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org!