She-wolves in Reformation Germany

Hannah Priest, the editor of She-Wolf: A Cultural History of Female Werewolves (Manchester University Press, 2015), has written an interesting article on the case of the she-wolves of Jülich for History Today. She analyses a newspaper article about these female werewolves and their subsequent executions. In it she discusses the popularity of “true” werewolf stories during the 1500s and 1600s in mainland Europe and how they connected to fears about religion, gender, and changing societies. Given the rarity of female werewolves in popular culture, it’s great to read about an early case of women transforming of wolves – even if the message of the news report was very conservative and highlighted the fear that women could suddenly start preying on men. The description of these she-wolves preying on horses and cattle also made me consider how real-life wolves were being presented during this period of time. At the risk of making sweeping generalisations, the more agriculture progressed and more urban societies became, the more protective people became about their livestock and the more people feared the wilderness. The figure of the wolf became increasingly monstrous. It was used to describe heretics and threats to the power of the church during this period of time and also, symbolised an encroaching wilderness that could pull humanity back into an animalistic way of living. This can be seen reflected in the figure of the werewolf during this period of time and accounts of “true” werewolves were an effective means of re-affirming the power of religion and reason.

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0 Responses to She-wolves in Reformation Germany

  1. Thanks for posting this Kaja. I look forward to reading this article just as soon as my marking is done.

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