Werewolf Archetype

Learn all about the werewolf archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Creator archetype.

What is the Werewolf Archetype?

The Werewolf archetype represents a metamorphosis, a symbol of a literal and spirital transformation in life.

It represents an awakening from darkness and fear to embrace something new and exciting, as well as the willingness to connect with the heritage passed down to us from the past.

Werewolf Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • The Werewolf archetype dates back many centuries.
  • Typically, the narrative tells of an ordinary man living a seemingly normal life but who hides a dark secret – that he is tormented by a wolf-like creature which takes over his being at night-time.
  • When this happens, he loses control over his rational life and is dominated by the rage-filled, violent characteristics of the wolf.
  • Belief in werewolves existed in the Middle Ages but grew much stronger over the following centuries.
  • Women and children were commonly victimized in these tales of werewolves and the common interpretation at the time, when religion was prevalent in society, was that the transformation into a wolf, was a form of punishment for sin on the man involved.
  • Whilst the animalistic side of the man’s nature can bring a sense of liberation and power, placing them in touch with the wild and sexual sides of their nature, it is also impossible for them to control.
  • When the wolf-like side of the man’s nature takes over there is no telling what the man is capable of, leading to him undertaking actions of which he is ashamed and remorseful.

Werewolf Archetype Examples

An example of the archetypal Werewolf is the character of David Kessler in the 1981 film An American Werewolf in London. David and friend Jack are trekking across the moors in Yorkshire when they are attacked by a wolf-like creature, though the locals insist it was an escaped lunatic.

Jack dies and David is critically injured. After some time in hospital David is released and an undead Jack appears to him, explaining that they were attacked by a werewolf, making David one too.

Jack urges David to commit suicide before the next full moon to prevent David from inflicting the same fate on others. David ignores the advice and, sure enough, transforms into a werewolf. In doing so he inflicts violence and murder, eventually being killed by the police amidst a violent rampage.

Further Reading

Further reading on the werewolf archetype includes:

  • Evolution of the Werewolf Archetype from Ovid to J.K. Rowling – by Brent A. Stypczynski
  • The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings – by Brad Steiger
  • The Modern Literary Werewolf: A Critical Study of the Mutable Motif – by Brent A. Stypczynski
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