Artsy has an article up today that asks an important question of the horror genre – where are all the great female werewolves? Think about it. It’s not that there are no female werewolves depicted in books, film, or television, but for whatever reason it seems like they never become anywhere near as famous or iconic as their male counterparts and there are far fewer of them.
Where are all the great female werewolves? Other than the occasional few over the years, there is a marked dearth of them represented in literature and film. When envisioning famous male werewolves, there’s certainly no lack. We can point to young Bertrand Caillet from the famous 1933 horror novel The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore; Scott Howard from the 1985 movie Teen Wolf; Remus Lupin of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter-verse; Wilfred Glendon of the 1935 film Werewolf of London; Lawrence “Larry” Talbot of the 1941 film The Wolf Man; and Jacob Black, the hunky teen werewolf from Stephenie Meyer’s 2005–08 Twilight books (and subsequent films).
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.
Still, many of the tales that have trickled down from this period of history to the present day focus on celebrated male werewolves who ravaged villages, the most famous of whom may be the German farmer Peter Stumpp (sometimes written as Stubbe or Stumpf). That gentleman made a dastardly deal with Satan himself in order to become a werewolf, murdering and consuming the flesh of good Christian villagers, even his own kin. He was tortured ruthlessly, and his mistress and daughter were flayed alive and killed alongside him.
We remember Stumpp, yet so many of his female peers are long forgotten. 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.
The article offers a long, detailed analysis that pretty comes to the conclusion that female werewolves don’t get traction because the idea of a woman as a huge, hairy beast isn’t very sexy to most people. That’s probably part of it. Also, just as vampire stories are metaphors for dangerous sexuality, werewolf stories are metaphors for dangerous anger – and the idea of a dangerous, angry woman has cut across the grain of popular culture until relatively recently. Then again, with the massive success of films like Quantin Tarantino’s Kill Bill – essentially an homage to the entire concept – it may be that the female werewolf’s time has come at last.
As far as what more can be done about it, we here at Moonfire would love to take a look at a story with a strong female werewolf protagonist. If you have one of those, go ahead and submit it. We’re happy to do our part to promote monster equality!