Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Night My Father Shot the Werewolf, by Josh Griffing

The boys in Mrs. Carroll's third-grade class learned a lot last year, about things like cursive, and multiplying, and werewolves.

Welcome to the Luna anthology.

Things are gonna be strange.

When a boy is nine, his Dad is the most important person in his life, and he should be able to look to Dad to defeat the monsters that hunt in the dark.  Sean Grady always knew his Dad would do whatever it took to keep the family safe:  this is Sean’s story.

I didn’t really write this one with the Luna Anthology in mind: in fact it was declined by Intergalactic Medicine Show before I’d even heard of the project.  I wrote it as an examination of a man’s duty to watch over his family and the measures that duty may require of him.

In some ways it’s a very personal story:  I used my own initials for the Dad and like him, I have something of a temper at times. One reader who saw the self-caricature even asked “Is there something you need to tell me?” But the events and—aside from a few broad lines of memoir—the characters are entirely the product of my overactive imagination. 

 A nod to Stephen King’s “Cycle of the Werewolf” is in order, if only subliminally, and a nod to the architects of leaky old schools in Southern cities where I daydreamed in my formative years.

The question of lycanthropy has long fascinated me, in terms of the division between human and animal identity, and the issue of the “moral monster” that Larry Correia handles so well in his MHI books, especially Alpha and Nemesis.  In fact, without a moral axis to the universe, one cannot well call a monster “evil” or call evil “monstrous”.  Even in H. P. Lovecraft, the horrors and demons that lurk behind the wrongness of the shadows seem to be merely Other and their terror is as much in the physical threats they pose or the psychic chaos of their divergence from the natural world.  Because Lovecraft’s amoralist world offers no Good, the evils he depicts cannot be defeated or even quite acknowledged before “The Rats in the Walls” devour all.

But in a moral universe, Good may conquer Evil, and even when it’s buried, it rises again to destroy the corruption.  This principle is a common trope in the old Lon Cheney Jr. wolfman films and much of the werewolf genre, and in the Hammer flick “The Gorgon” (1965) as well, when the monsters’ deaths revert them to their proper human forms, in honor (acknowleged or not) of the imagio dei within.  

In the fourth chapter of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar tells of God’s punishing his hubris with boanthropy—though no physical mutation happens—for seven years, and in Kipling’s famous Jungle Books, Mowgli grows up as a human boy among the wolves and beasts of the Indian jungle. Again and again, the theme of man’s distinction from the beasts he resembles is a source of wonder and inquiry, and many cultures share some form of a shape-shifter myth of creatures that are neither quite man or beast.  

Is it demonic, or a virus, or magic, or a long-muddied record of some other event long since forgotten, like dragons and giants and  world-washing floods?  Wherever the Man-among-Beasts comes from, it is the moral agency and duty of Man, integral to who he is as Man (or what C. S. Lewis called hnau in his Space Trilogy), that differentiates werewolves from almost every other monster genre, and without humanity as hnau, the monster might be called “werewolf” or “loup-garou”, but the result is merely one more generically shape-shifting monster story.

But I have said almost too much already.  Go get the anthology and read it for yourself!

Josh Griffing is an Army Reservist in Georgia who writes when he can, and reads when he can get away with it. 

He has two young children, four insolent cats, and a pair of small and yappy dogs. Amazingly, his wife is still very nearly sane, and for this he is eternally grateful.  

He blogs sometimes at https://subcreated-worlds.com/.

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