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The Book of Werewolves
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The Book of Werewolves

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  640 ratings  ·  58 reviews
With the shocking histories of 10 famous cases, this classic blends science, superstition, and fiction to tell the full story of the werewolves among us. The first serious academic study of lycanthropy and "blood-lust" written in English, this book draws upon a vast body of observation, myth, and lore.
Paperback, 266 pages
Published 1995 by Senate (first published 1865)
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Sabine Baring-Gould’s Book of Werewolves (which was recommended to me by several people here) was originally published in 1865. Baring-Gould treats the phenomenon of the werewolf as a psychological aberration, as essentially a delusional state. He also relates it to cannibalism, and seems to see at lest some of those so afflicted as being what we today would call serial killers. He also links it to the behaviour of the notorious Norse berserkers, who would suffer from an insane battle rage. His ...more
I don't really have much of an interest in the supernatural. I do, however, have an intense interest in others who have an intense interest in the supernatural. A meta-interest, I suppose. I'd love to get to know someone who thinks that the Earth is a hollow shell with spaceships inside. Or someone who believes that there are aliens living in our bodies, causing us pain that can be extracted with an electronic device. Or someone who claims to have exorcised thousands of demons and keeps a posses ...more
Written in the 1860's but still holding up to the test of time this book ranks as a classic of European lore on lycanthropy/shapeshifting in particular pertaining to werewolves. Worth its weight in gold just for the two chapters on Scandinavian wolf lore, and the idea that the viking berserkers were werewolves/shapeshifters. But besides that there is plenty of folklore on werewolves/shapeshifting in eastern Europe, France, and various other places in Europe. Also historical documentation of medi ...more
This is probably the most famous of Sabine Baring-Gould’s many nonfiction books. While many of the others cover esoteric topics of local folklore and Church history, it is no surprise that this one still attracts modern readers. It is one of the first and still one of the best books on the topic, and is such a standard reference that many later books on werewolves and lycanthropy owe a great deal to his work. In fact the Wikipedia article on werewolves appears, to me, to paraphrase a fair amount ...more
This is a very dry read, and you have to really want to know about werewolves to slog through it, but it is full of some very gruesome stories, indeed. Of course, "gruesome" is in the eye of the beholder. The author wrote this at around the time of the civil war in the United States, and what was considered too horrible to be printed then would be put in children's books now. (I exaggerate, but only just.)

I read this book for reference, and will probably refer to it as a source for werewolf and
Oct 13, 2008 Vinnie rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who want to read about cannibals in supposedly civilized society.
The main problem with this book is that is horribly misnamed. It should be called "The Book of Cannibals". I was looking for some werewolf mythology maybe some background and origins and instead I get this detailed account of historical cannibals.

In the beginning there are a few instances where the cannibal in question believed or was believed to be a werewolf or at the very least, a shapeshiter of some sort. But by the end of the book there is three chapters in one man who liked to chop up lit
The structure and topics are uneven, which makes the title a bit misleading. First the author lists different mythologies and folklore (the most interesting part), but then he somehow connects Gilles de Rais to the werewolf myth without ever explaining why he chose this particular historical figure. There's very little of the author's original thoughts or arguments among the recounts of folklore and criminal cases. As interesting (and disgusting) as these cases of cannibalism and corpse mutilato ...more
Nathan Shumate
Baring-Gould spends too much time discussing "straight" serial killers of antiquity (related to his thesis that some werewolf legends were simply started by what we would today call bloodthirsty sociopaths), but this survey of the common threads of werewolf legends -- that they were evil people and devil worshipers who were granted the ability to transform at will -- is a necessary corrective to both the Hollywood notion of the infected man who is a slave to the full moon, and the current urban ...more
Sabine Baring-Gould published this study of lycanthropy in England in 1865 and it has been reprinted every so often ever since, deservedly. Forget all the Hollywood nonsense about a werewolf merely being a guy who turns into a wolf-monster at midnight and who can only be killed by a silver bullet. Baring-Gould's book describes the werewolf from the actual folklore of traditional Europe and elsewhere, placing it in the context of its sources in ancient classical Greek & Roman mythology, the N ...more
Perry Whitford
Like many, I was captivated by were-wolves from the horror movies of my youth. In 'The Wolf-Man' he was more man than wolf, albeit exceedingly hirsute; in 'American Werewolf in London' he suffered a full and agonizing transformation into a voracious, snapping quadruped; whilst in 'The Howling' he was inadvertently cute and cuddly.
Sabine Baring-Gould's study of lycanthropy was published in 1856, long before the attendant notions of full moons and silver bullets became popular. But through his wor
David Fuller
Sabine Baring-Gould is by no means a celebrity today, but in the 19th century he brought a modern sensibility to an ancient body of superstitions: werewolf lore.

I first came across his name thanks to A Very Special Christmas, of all things. On the 1987 compilation album, among the carols recorded by the then-current crop of rock stars was "Gabriel's Message," by Sting. The liner notes credited S. Baring-Gould as the composer.

Born in 1834, the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould was a prolific writer, compo
B J Burton
This book isn’t an easy read. For one thing, it was written in 1865 which carries with it the usual problems of the writing style and idioms of a different time. For a second, there are lengthy passages in Latin and French that the reader has to translate. And finally, this is one of those free Kindle editions full of scanning errors. I know I shouldn’t complain after someone has given up their time to make a book freely available, so this isn’t a complaint, but an observation.
Having said that,
What if someone only told you the parts of all the movies they liked in which something cool happened, without the context, so you don't know who it happened to or why? All in a row, strung together, and they said it like this: "then Kataßlia strode through the wood and came apon a cabin in which slept three men, the skins of wolves laid up afore them. She betook it upon herslef to throw a glamour over the eyes of Thoreur that he might see naught her but a bobbin. Thoreur in all his befuddlement ...more
Morgan Duplechin
This book was just awful. I was really hoping to enjoy it but sadly, I didn't. This was a very dry and boring read. It was almost painful to read it. If your looking for a book on werewolves I would look for a different one. This book was so boring that you I didn't learn a single thing while reading it. I'm sorry for the short review but I didn't have much to say about this book.
This is less 'book of werewolves' and more 'book of folklore and serial killers and cannibals and child predators.' But it was an interesting read.

My major complaint is that it lacked a central focus. It read more like a series of essays on vaguely related topics that lost more and more of that relation the longer the book went on.

It was pretty darned interesting, though, and shined a light into what it may have been like to live in reality during medieval times, with crazy guys running around i
I listened to the Librivox recording of this book. the first few readers had a really thick accent was kinda hard to understand. other than that, this book was great. a lot of the info presented here was all new to me and it was very...graphic? disturbing? I say give it a try, it's free after all!
Tim Weakley
Written as an examination of lycanthropy by the compser of Onward Christian Soldiers. He also happened to be a world class folkloreist and that shows in this book. Even though it was initially written in 1865 the author displays a surprising amount of scientific curiousity and common sense. He looks at a number of cases of wild men and supposed werewolves and uses them to create a history of the condition. He also keeps reminding his readers that there can always be other causes...mental health ...more
I thought this was an interesting examination of the werewolf myth, and why it was believed people could change form. One of the biggest issues I had with the book, was that there are many passages to make the author's point, usually in Greek or Latin, that aren't translated. This is an unfortunate result of those two languages being considered essential for an educated person in the 19th century, and that no longer being true.

It was an excellent source for a collection of early tales and theor
It was an interesting read but a lot of the book drifted away from the actual topic of 'werewolves,' which was disappointing.
Ian Cunningham
A very Victorian look at the anthropology of werewolves that, in itself, is now an interesting look at Victorian anthropology. It starts with tales of the werewolf, then segues into some wildly and hilariously 19th century explanations for how "savages" can come up with this stuff (Baring-Gould would be nudging you and rolling his eyes if he weren't such a Victorian). It ends with a travesty of a medieval trial against a French serial killer that serves to show how bad people are at logic, inves ...more
An excellent look at the older folklore and perspectives on werewolves. While in our modern horror lexicon the werewolf is the image of the monstrous puberty or "wild inside the civilized," Baring-Gould's text examines earlier links with a somewhat different source of horror: the cannibal. Many of Baring-Gould's examples modern readers might see as a stretch to include in a text on werewolves and lycanthropy, but they reveal just how much the subtext of this figure has changed in the past centur ...more
Adam Stevenson
The kind of book I like, it told me a little more than I needed to know about something I hadn't really considered before.
Very good. A scholarly approach to the legend and reality (anthopological/psychological) of the lycanthrope. Featuring that classical Victorian writing style that frequently does not feel the need to translate chunks of Greek or Latin text because it assumes the reader will be familiar with both languages. Much of this book focuses on Scandinavian and French werewolves, but touches on many other people, including Indians, Persians and Native Americans. The book also contains a fairly detailed ac ...more
As long as you don't mistake it for scholarly it is a great collection of what might have been believed about werewolves by Baring-Gould, i.e. that they were stories trying to make sense of serial killers, or it could be read as a wonderful tongue in cheek collection of werewolf stories by a favorite uncle entertaining the kinder, "No, really, and after he cut the paw off the wolf, it turned back into a woman's hand". Some of the translation is a little off, such as "wolf head"=werewolf instead ...more
Mar 22, 2014 Jimmy added it
This book RULES!!!!!

Also he wrote "Onward Christian Soldiers"!!!!
Terence Clay
very interesting. Historic account of werewolf suspicion.
Brad McKenna
Tracing the history of the werewolf myth across the globe, Sabine showed that most cultures had at least some form of the myth. While most had the stereotypical transformation in a wolf, a good number simply had the person going into a "beserker" rage; which is probably where creators of Wolverine got the idea.

After the mythical accounts came the historical ones. There were some seriously sick dudes. From bathing in maids' blood to dismembering children because it was a thrill, it was a disturb
This is a "non-fiction" book about werewolf folklore around the world. An unfortunate lot of it is in Latin and it has quite a lot of anti-werewolf bias, but if you just want to know everything, it's a must. For instance now I know that according to certain traditions, if I take the membrane that surrounds a foal when it is born and stretch it between four sticks and pass through it naked in moonlight, my children will be born without any pain to me, and my boys will be werewolves and my girls w ...more
Not terrible, not the best...just a good, solid "meh" for this one.
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Sabine Baring-Gould was born in the parish of St Sidwell, Exeter on 28 January 1834. The eldest son of Edward Baring-Gould and his first wife, Sophia Charlotte (née Bond), he was named after a great-uncle, the Arctic explorer Sir Edward Sabine.Because the family spent much of his childhood travelling round Europe, most of his education was by private tutors. He only spent about two years in formal ...more
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