Friday, March 23, 2012

The Were-Wolf

  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.


Keith said...

Thanks for the tip on this one being free. I'll have to check it out.

Brian Murphy said...

Wow, I didn't know this was available at Project Gutenberg. I will check it out Charles.

Clemence Housman wrote a very fine, thoughtful, atmospheric story about a minor knight in King Arthur's court called Sir Aglovale De Galis. It's a very good story, though it requires some work with its archaic language. But what makes it stand out are its meditations on chivalry, which values honor above all, and how it ultimately was a flawed institution that couldn't stand up to truth. I wrote a review about it a while back for The Cimmerian, if you're interested:

I've got the hard copy but I think this might also be on Project Gutenberg.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

You're welcome, Keith.

Brian, I felt the same way about the language in the Werewolf. Once you get the rhythm down though, it's a great story. I will definitely check out the story about Sir Aglovale and your review as well. Thanks for the tip.