Werewolves are one of the most popular creatures/beings from folklore and popular culture. There are accounts of humans transforming into wolves (or other creatures) in most cultures from around the world. Despite that being the case, most depictions of werewolves in popular culture are heavily influenced by the traditional folkloric accounts from Europe. During the past two centuries, fiction writers and later on movies have influenced a gradual drift away from the traits described in folkore to the current popular culture conceptualization.

Werewolves in European Folklore:

One of the more astounding differences between the folklore accounts and the current pop culture ideas about werewolves is how one is supposed to become a werewolf.

Folklore also describes the transformation as being voluntary and not being influenced by the phase of the moon. In addition werewolves were often but not always described as appearing exactly the same as regular wolves. Occasionally folklore describes the werewolf not under going an actual physical transformation. Instead some werewolves were believed to be incidents of people sending their spirits out in the shape of a wolf through astral projection.

How to stop a werewolf according to folklore is also different from pop culture accounts. Werewolves were believed to be stopped through an exorcism, wolfsbane, or piercing the person's hands with iron nails. When the idea came about that silver could stop werewolves is unknown. Some scholars trace it back to the Beast of Gevaudan incident from France during the 1760s. Others trace it back to books published over a century later.

Werewolf woodblock La Bete

Werewolves in Popular Culture:

The line between the earliest examples of werewolf fiction and folklore accounts is indistinct. The work that is often considered the founding of werewolf literature is the lais "Bisclavret" by Marie de France. The tale was written at some point during the 12th century. Werewolves appeared sporadically in works of intentional fiction during the centuries after "Bisclavret", but they did not take off as a popular theme until the birth of Gothic Horror during the Romantic Period (late 1700s to about 1850). Hugues, the Wer-Wolf (1838) by Sutherland Menzies and Wagner the Wehr-Wolf (1847) by G. W. M. Reynolds are among the earliest books to popularize werewolves through literature.

Werewolves in fiction lingered during the remainder of the 19th and early 20th century. They experienced a renewed period of popularity thanks to the Weird fiction genre of literature and the birth of motion pictures during the 1910s to the 1930s. The Wolf Man (1941) and its numerous sequels have had the largest impact upon the pop culture perception of werewolves. Those films established the idea in the mind of the public that werewolves are forced to transform during the full moon, that they are harmed by silver, and that one can be transformed into a werewolf by being bitten by one.

Since then there have been many werewolves who have become pop cultural figures and have appeared in many popular films, including:

Wolfman 1941 Poster Remus Lupin