The Book of Werewolves
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The Book of Werewolves

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  393 ratings  ·  45 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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Dfordoom
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
Cwn_annwn_13
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
Floyd
This book was an incredibly laborious read for me. I'm sure this is primarily due to my inability to stay focused when reading 19th century literature of this nature, but a copy with a bit of proofreading might have helped. The book is well worth slogging through if you're interested in the history of lycanthropy or shape-shifters in general.

The werewolf folklore from various cultures around the world left me craving more, especially from the Norse/Scandinavians, and I found it interesting that...more
Mike
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
Gary
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...more
Vinnie
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...more
Suvi
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
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...more
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...more
Che
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 Thor∂eur that he might see naught her but a bobbin. Thor∂eur in all his befuddleme...more
Ixris
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...more
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
Whitney
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...more
Kenneth
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
Redsteve
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
Connie
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
Jimmy
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...more
Lori
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
Shea Mastison
What an amazing book! This, hands down, has one of the best overviews of the life and trial of Gilles de Rais; and whole wealth of mythological information surrounding lycanthropy and traditional werewolves.

Although written in 1865, this book is very accessible; and the times when the language is antiquated, or the author feels compelled to excerpt a passage in Greek, or Latin--serves only to add to the books charm.

If bizarre books are your thing, check this out.
Victoria
This was a strange and fascinating book. In collecting varied myths and stories pertaining to werewolves, the author created a very interesting and absorbing read. There were some editing errors in this Kindle version, but they were not terribly serious. The different anecdotes ranged a spectrum from the horrific to the almost comical. It was unlike anything I have ever read before and I think it is a great starting point in looking at the history of the werewolf myth.
Benji
Oct 05, 2012 Benji is currently reading it
The first serious academic study of lycanthropy and "blood-lust" written in English, this book rocks. Written by the same guy who wrote one my of favourite hymns "Onward Christian Soldiers". I found it, along with the seminal work on vampires, among a pile of dusty books left, along with memorial trowels, in an lost cloister somewhere behind the cathedral - it seems that vampires and werewolves are the proper province of priests.
Jaybird Rex
This is a classic history of the subject from the 19th century, treated scientifically from medieval and ancient sources. It is not new age or film and literature studies, but rather mythology-folklore. The text is old, of course, but a lot less dry than a modern book on the subject would likely be.

I approached this book in a youthful fit of occult studies. Likely it was among the better books I read during that time.
Emma Jean
Loved it. A great wealth interesting information, historical tales and mythology ideal for those interested in traditional werewolf lore, though it can be a bit scatterbrained at times with seemingly no particular order of the given information, but that didn't really bother me, I think it's charming and deserves 5 stars.
Horrorchick
This is a wonderful resource, werewolf fiction did not occur until the 20th century. Sadly, the fiction that was released was a much altered version of what was the common superstition & belief held about what werewolves were. This Non-Fiction book can be a bit dry, yet well worth the read.
Exanimis
Book of Werewolves is not a book of stories for the fan of werewolf fiction, it is an historical account of lycanthropy, the mental disorder not the Hollywood version of werewolves.

Some parts of this book are in the native language of the stories origin, French, German, Latin, etc. etc.

Stef
More folklore than werewolves, this wasn't really what I was expecting. Interesting, but I just couldn't find the interest to pick it up again once I put it down, and after six months I'm just going to accept that I won't be finishing this book anytime in the near future.
D'artagnan
Jun 19, 2008 D'artagnan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: were-beasts, people with the last name of Wolf, teenage goo-goo mucks
This full moon waxes in my blood. There can be no doubt that I have wholly transformed, berserker, both tiger and wolf, made for moonlight, loping tirelessly through pulsing hills. A perfectly logical explanation for everything, and the truth shall set you free.
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