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The werewolf is still among us


The anthropologist Roger Bartra examines in an exciting essay the metamorphoses of the myth of the wild lycanthrope, who was born to "identify the civilized"

Jack Nicholson, in the movie 'Lobo', directed by Mike Nichols in 1994.

The werewolf, that beast that pretends to be human and that on full moon nights unleashes its ferocity, a cruelty that knows nothing but instinct, a murderous and ungovernable instinct, was not always a monster.

It was born, as a myth of the savage —the man out of control,


, as a metaphor to “identify the civilized” from its opposite, to outline “the safety of the known environment” and, going even further, “to represent the evil to, by contrast, delineate good or goodness”.

And how has he survived, and how has he evolved, since the first record of him, back in 2500 BC?

C., in the

Epic of Gilgamesh

, to the

Wolf Like Me

series , the most recent (television) incarnation of the myth?

More information

The first statue of a werewolf in Spain vindicates the myth of Vákner

The anthropologist Roger Bartra (Mexico City, 81 years old), a researcher and scholar of the mythological, has just published an exhaustive compilation essay on the subject, simply titled

The Myth of the Wolf Man


In it, he would invent every last form that myth has taken in fiction and thought for as long as there is record.

He is born as a victim, and of no less than a woman, Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love, sex and war —a lover of men and animals alike—, who condemns him to live as a wolf.

"It is she and not her victims - she has already turned a gardener into a frog, she has set a trap for the lion, she has condemned the horse to ride without rest - the one who embodies evil", according to Bartra, who points out that, however That didn't take long to change.

Josh Gad and Isla Fisher, in an image from the series 'Wolf Like Me'.

“Evil only exists as an idea.

Religion considers it, since Saint Thomas and Saint Augustine, the absence of good.

But at the popular level, evil needs to exist as something alien, someone must embody it in order to redeem it," says the anthropologist from his office by video call.

For this reason, today, he says, and since practically that distant first appearance, the werewolf is considered, as part of "the myth of the wild man", that uncontrolled being of violent animal drive, "an incarnation of evil".

In Antiquity - II century AD.

C.- lycanthropy became a form of madness - the


unearthed bones from the tombs "and, howling, carried them through the streets" -, and Bartra explains his survival by his metamorphic and cyclical condition.

During the Middle Ages, his powerful figure, somewhere between romantic and cursed, appears in numerous poems and romances, even in penitential texts —if a man was accused of being a werewolf, he was burned at the stake, just like a witch, and thus, there are testimonies from neighbors who pointed to other neighbors with no more proof than that of gossip—and travel books.

“I have tried to rescue the stories from their context and pursue the myth in its different historical appearances”, says Bartra.

Which allows comparisons out of time.

Like the one that says that "Prince Vseslav of Polotsk, that legendary werewolf who besieged Kiev in the 11th century and who was defeated in the battle of Nemiga", could have "his evil replica of him in the autocrat Vladimir Putin in the 18th century." XXI”.

Anthropologist Roger Bartra, pictured in the garden of his home in Mexico City.

Monica Gonzalez

Wolves, in children's stories, before Charles Perrault and the Grimm brothers, were werewolves.

"It is evident, in the case of Little Red Riding Hood, that the wolf is a man and that what he cannot repress is desire," says the writer, who explains how, at a certain moment, the adolescent became the center of the story. , I say that until then it had been aimed at controlling masculine desire.

“He is clearly linked to the idea of ​​the macho, to male violence, but it goes much further than that”, adds Bartra, and yet, the myth, in the contemporary, prefers to dismantle even that idea.

The very interesting series

Wolf Like Me

(Amazon Prime) presents lycanthropy -female- as a hidden and unbearable self and, yes, fierce and wild.

"Of course, due to its condition, the myth adapts to each era, and tries to explain it, or is the era the one that tries to explain itself through the myth", says the anthropologist, for whom the perfect literary incarnation still continues. in the hands of Robert Louis Stevenson and his classic

The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

, which came at a time when the myth was in decline "because of the morals that emerged from the nineteenth-century stories", more interested in instructing than in questioning the duality of the human being, something that Stevenson was able to take to his own peak that almost annulled the idea of ​​the werewolf throughout the 19th century.

Lon Chaney Jr. in the movie 'The Wolf Man', directed by George Waggner in 1941.

Would Bartra say that the werewolf is today a forgotten myth?

"Not at all.

As a myth it will always be there.

Of course, we no longer believe that werewolves exist, as the peasants of the Middle Ages believed and as it had been believed until then, but we play with their symbolic power to still identify the civilized, ”he replies.

And it would be said that much more.

From the packs of male and female wolves in

True Blood

, the series based on the novels by Charlaine Harris, wild, but at the same time, due to their canine condition, faithful and loyal, to the powerful and neurotic and funny ―although in many ways wounded― unknown that breaks into the life of the father and daughter protagonists of

Wolf Like Me

, the myth does nothing but grow to try to continue fitting into the world.

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Source: elparis

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