Friday, March 23, 2012
Just finished reading a very impressive horror story from the 1800s, The Were-wolf by Clemence Houseman. Set in Scandinavia, the tale tells of a beautiful woman with white-blonde hair who appears out of a snowstorm to enchant one of a pair of twin brothers. The other brother, out late, has followed the tracks of a huge wolf to the door of the community's great hall. He enters to find a stranger beguiling his friends and family, a beauty called White Fell.
Houseman slowly builds the tension, filling this winters tale with accumulating horror, as the weaker of the twins comes to realize the visitor is a were-wolf, and as the stronger twin falls more and more under her spell. In the coming days villagers will disappear, brothers will clash, and blood will spill.
This is a short novel really, though easily read at a sitting. I know nothing about Houseman, but she knows how to spin a creepy yarn. No less than H.P. Lovecraft said that the Were-Wolf “attains a high degree of gruesome tension and achieves to some extent the atmosphere of authentic folklore”.
Since this is a pre-Wolfman story, there's nothing about silver or nightshade. It's interesting that the were-wolf is vulnerable to holy water as this story also predates Dracula.
In some ways it reminds me a bit of Karl Edward Wagner's were-wolf tale Reflections for the Winter of My Soul with it's snowy setting and sibling rivalry. I suppose it's quite possible, perhaps even likely given KEW's vast knowledge of the horror genre, that he read this story.
Anyway, the Were-Wolf is available free for the Kindle, and in several other places for free online, including Project Gutenberg, so look it up and check it out.