Bill posted a YouTube video containing the ‘Top 10 Werewolf Scenes’. Most of these scenes centre, understandably, on the transformation of man into wolf/ lupine monster. Interestingly the obsessive recording of the agonising transformation is a relatively recent addition to the werewolf.
There is an excellent transformation scene in G. W. M. Reynolds’ Wagner the Wehr-Wolf (1846-1847): ‘But, lo! what awful change is taking place in the form of that doomed being? His handsome countenance elongates into one of savage and brute-like shape;-the rich garments which he wears become a rough, shaggy, and wiry skin;-his body loses its human contours-his arms and limbs take another form; and, with a frantic howl of misery, to which the woods give horrible faithful reverberations, and with a rush like a hurling wind, the wretch starts wildly away-no longer a man, but a monstrous wolf!’ (From Terrifying Transformations: An Anthology of Victorian Werewolf Fiction, edited by Alexi Easley and Shannon Scott, p. 68).
The elongating snout and the loss of clothes would be masterfully reproduced in John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London (1981). By which time the pain of being reborn a wolf has become standard fare in representations of the werewolf in popular culture. The agony is part of the curse and the werewolf is an embodied monster – recreated each time they transform. In some contemporary texts, the transformation has become beneficial as the werewolf is able to heal as they transform.
However, what these YouTube clips remind me of is Being Human (UK, 2009-2013), which features in the video, and Mitchell’s description of George’s transformation:
“He should be dead within 30 seconds. The werewolf heart is about two-thirds the size of a human’s; but, in order to shrink, first, it has to stop. In other words, he has a heart attack. All the internal organs are smaller; so, while he’s having his heart attack, he’s having a liver and kidney failure too, and if he stops screaming, it’s not because the pain has dulled: his throat, gullet, and vocal chords are tearing and reforming. He literally can’t make a sound. By now, the pituitary gland should be working overtime, flooding his body with endorphins to ease some of the pain, but that, too, has shut down. Anyone else would have died of shock long ago, but it won’t let him. And that’s the thing I find most remarkable: it drags him through fire and keeps him alive and even conscious to endure every second. Nothing like this could just evolve; this is the fingerprint of God, an impossible, lethal curse, spread by tooth and claw. Victim begets victim begets victim. It’s so cruel, it’s… perfect”. (Being Human, S1: Ep2)
This description encapsulates the horror of the werewolf and punishment of the body for daring to transform into a stronger being.