the first werewolves

March 8, 2020

wolfwoman

There is a certain irony here, because many of the first werewolves to be outed in society from the 16th through the 18th centuries were actually women. Just as our American ancestors had their Salem Witch Trials, Europe had its Werewolf Trials, and a large number of the so-called “werewolves” tortured and burned at the stake were female…In the 17th-century werewolf trials of Estonia, women were about 150 percent more likely to be accused of lycanthropy; however, they were about 100 percent less likely to be remembered for it.

There’s also a pronounced lack of female werewolves in popular culture. Their near absence in literature and film is explained away by various fancies: they’re sterile, an aberration, or — most galling of all — they don’t even exist. Their omission from popular culture does one thing very effectively: It prevents us, and men especially, from being confronted by hairy, ugly, uncontrollable women. Shapeshifting women in fantasy stories tend to transform into animals that we consider feminine, such as cats or birds, which are pretty and dainty, and occasionally slick and wicked serpents. But because the werewolf represents traits that are accepted as masculine — strength, large size, violence, and hirsutism — we tend to think of the werewolf as being naturally male. The female werewolf is disturbing because she entirely breaks the rules of femininity.

Julia Oldham
Why Are There No Great Female Werewolves?