A werewolf is a human being who, upon the complete rising of the full moon, turns into a fearsome and deadly near-wolf. Werewolves can be easily distinguished from regular wolves by several small distinguishing characteristics, such as the pupils of the eyes, the snout shape, and the tufted tail. At all other times, they appear as normal humans, though will often seem to be ill as the full moon approaches. This condition is caused by infection with lycanthropy, usually occurring when a human is bitten by a transformed werewolf. As defined by Hermione Granger, a werewolf differs from an Animagus in the fact that he or she does not transform by choice. With each full moon the person transforms and no longer remembers who he or she is, and would kill even their best friend given the opportunity. In spite of that, they seem to be able to recall everything they have experienced during the transformation, upon reverting to human form. There is no known cure for either the bite of a werewolf in his wolf-form or the bite of a werewolf in his human form, though the Wolfsbane potion is the only known potion that can in any way make a werewolf less dangerous by allowing him/her to keep his/her human mind during transformation.
Lycanthropy is a magical illness known to be spread by saliva-blood contact; thus, a human bitten by a werewolf in wolf-form will become a werewolf themselves. This is what happened to Remus Lupin, who was bitten as a child by Fenrir Greyback in retaliation for Remus's father offending the werewolf. However, if a human is bitten by a werewolf in human-form, the victim will only acquire some lupine tendencies. Bill Weasley, for example, retained scars and a craving for very rare meat after being attacked by Greyback in his human form.
Werewolves seldom have children, so Remus Lupin did not know whether or not his unborn son would inherit his condition but feared that would be the case. However, Ted Lupin ultimately proved not to be a werewolf.
It seems that werewolves, when in their animal state, pose the danger of biting the nearest human being, but not animals. An example of this can be seen when Remus Lupin, having forgotten to take his potion in 1994, began to transform into wolf-form. Sirius Black instinctively changed into his Animagus dog form to launch a pre-emptive attack on Lupin whom he seemed to realise as an immediate threat to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Lupin's now werewolf mind prevented him from recognising Sirius and the three students as his friends, and so would almost certainly have hurt them without Sirius's intervention. Black, whilst in his Animagus form, was not at risk of being infected with lycanthropy due to the fact that humans are the only species known to be capable of infection.
- "There was a terrible snarling noise. Lupin's head was lengthening. So was his body. His shoulders were hunching. Hair was sprouting visibly on his face and hands, which were curling into clawed paws."
- —Description of Remus Lupin transforming[src]
Though they can live otherwise normal lives, on every full moon a werewolf will go through an incredibly painful transformation from a human into a wolf-like creature. They lose the ability to think in a human way, becoming highly aggressive towards humans- even those to whom they are close. Though werewolves usually only infect their victims through biting, they sometimes take it too far and kill their victims.
Without any humans nearby to attack, or other animals to occupy it, the werewolf will attack itself out of frustration. This leaves many werewolves such as Remus Lupin with self-inflicted scars and premature aging from the difficult transformations.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for lycanthropy. However, some of the worst effects can be mitigated by consuming Wolfsbane Potion, which allows a werewolf to retain his or her human mind while transformed, thus freeing him or her from the worry of harming other humans or themselves. It is a difficult potion to make. According to Lupin it tastes disgusting and sugar makes it useless.
Because werewolves only pose a danger to humans, companionship with animals whilst transformed has been known to make the experience more bearable as the werewolf has no-one to harm and will be less willing to harm him/herself.
According to Gilderoy Lockhart, the Homorphus Charm can force a werewolf back into human shape. But, since Lockhart is known to have lied many times to inflate his own reputation and implies that the charm cures werewolves, his information is highly suspect — as is the very existence of a Homorphus Charm in the first place. However, as many of Lockhart's claims are also based on the accounts of more trustworthy wizards (accomplishments he would claim for himself, following the disposal of the originating witch or wizard), there is a chance that the charm does, in fact, exist. However it is likely it does not last permanently.
Attitude towards werewolves
Prejudice and discrimination
- "My kind don't usually breed! It will be like me, I am convinced of it — how can I forgive myself, when I knowingly risked passing on my own condition to an innocent child? And if, by some miracle, it is not like me, then it will be better off, a hundred times so, without a father of whom it must always be ashamed!"
- —Remus Lupin on his fear that he would pass lycanthropy on to his then-unborn child[src]
Werewolves are generally regarded with fear and disgust by wizarding society. People seem to think even when in human form, the werewolf may pose danger. It is not uncommon for people known to be werewolves to be shunned by society and discriminated against within the wizarding world. It is very difficult for a werewolf to get a job in the wizarding community, especially after the passing of restrictive anti-werewolf legislation by the prejudiced Dolores Umbridge in the 1990s.
- "Sometimes you remind me a lot of James. He called it my 'furry little problem' in company. Many people were under the impression that I owned a badly behaved rabbit."
- —Lupin to Harry about how James and his friends didn't discriminate against him[src]
As a result, many werewolves suffer poverty; Remus Lupin managed to get by with the aid of his friend James Potter, and later by working as Defence Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, though it is unknown how he subsisted between James' death and working as professor. He decided to resign from this position after his condition was exposed, by Severus Snape, as most parents would not want their children being around a werewolf, despite the safety precautions Remus and Albus Dumbledore took; Remus stated that it was impossible for him to even attend Hogwarts as a child if it were not for Dumbledore's kindness, as other headmasters would not want a werewolf in the school.
The Ministry of Magic attempts to regulate werewolves. By 1637, there was a Werewolf Code of Conduct, and according to Newton Scamander, werewolves have been shunted between the Beast and Being divisions of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures for years. At one point, the Werewolf Registry and Werewolf Capture Unit were both in the Beast Division, while at the same time the office for Werewolf Support Services was in the Being Division. Umbridge herself incorrectly referred werewolves as half-breeds.
Given Kingsley Shacklebolt's friendship with Remus Lupin and the furthering of Muggle-born and house-elf rights after 1998, it is likely that the reforms of the Ministry under Minister for Magic Shacklebolt included less prejudicial treatment of werewolves.
Due to the oppression and discrimination against werewolves by society, some people who are werewolves have in turn come to hate their oppressors and, in turn, society in general. These werewolves have organised themselves into their own society. Under Fenrir Greyback's leadership, this society works to infect as many people as possible, especially children, with the goal of one day having enough strength to take control of the wizarding community.
The werewolves under Greyback's command served Lord Voldemort in the Second Wizarding War, believing that they would have a better life under his rule, though Remus Lupin spied on them for the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters looked down on them; for example, they were not permitted to have the Dark Mark. They were used as a threat to ensure ordinary citizens' compliance with Voldemort; for example, five-year-old Montgomery was fatally attacked by Greyback after his mother refused to cooperate with the Death Eaters. Although only Greyback is explicitly mentioned as participating, werewolves under Greyback's command may have fought alongside the Death Eaters in the Battle of Hogwarts. They were most likely sentenced to Azkaban for life for uniting with Lord Voldemort, or killed for resisting arrest. It is unknown whether this was the only occurrence of the society, though it is implied that it was a new idea of Greyback's. Likewise, it is unknown whether all werewolves in the society were caught, or - as it was "underground"- some of the members evaded capture and continued their efforts.
- Fenrir Greyback — a leader in the werewolf community and an ally of the Death Eaters, noted to be the most savage werewolf in history, incarcerated after the Second Wizarding War.
- Remus Lupin — bitten by Fenrir Greyback as a child, member of the Order of the Phoenix, killed by Antonin Dolohov during the Battle of Hogwarts.
- The Wagga Wagga Werewolf — discussed by Gilderoy Lockhart during his time as Defence Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts and in his book Wandering with Werewolves. Lockhart may have invented this individual entirely, but since he often simply took credit for others' deeds, the werewolf itself may have existed, but been defeated by someone else.
- An unidentified werewolf on Arthur Weasley's ward during his stay at St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, this new werewolf was presumably befriended by Lupin.
- An anonymous author of Hairy Snout, Human Heart who penned a heartrending account on his struggle against Lycantrophy in the 1970s.
- A group of werewolves living underground, most of whom joined forces with Voldemort for a promise of a better life.
Other victims of lycanthropy
- Bill Weasley — attacked by Fenrir Greyback while he was in human form; Bill did not actually become a werewolf, although he did obtain some lupine tendencies (particularly a liking for rare steaks).
- Other victims at the Battle of Hogwarts - it can be assumed that there were more victims at the battle that suffered from lycanthrophy to some degree in later days. It would be similar to the effects suffered by Bill Weasley at the hands of Fenrir Greyback. Although Greyback is described as 'a grey streak,' suggesting he is in his animalistic form, during the battle and biting people that were down, it can be assumed that he was, in fact, in human form, as Remus Lupin was also in the Battle in human form.
Behind the scenes
- Professor Quirinus Quirrell had the first year Defence Against the Dark Arts class copy notes about how to treat werewolf bites. Also, Professor Severus Snape assigned an essay during the 1993-1994 school year when he substituted for Lupin, although werewolves were not due to be covered until the last chapter of the third-year DADA textbook. In Snape's case, this was an attempt to expose Lupin by having one of the students work out his secret (which Hermione Granger did, although she kept the secret rather than exposing it, as Snape had intended).
- According to Draco Malfoy and Argus Filch, there are werewolves in the Forbidden Forest, though it is unclear whether this was true. It seems unlikely, as most werewolves at least tried to live as wizards while in human form, and the forest would be a highly dangerous place for them to live most of the month. Ronald Weasley also seemed to at one time believe this rumour. During the detention in the Forbidden Forest, Harry Potter asked Rubeus Hagrid if it was possible that a werewolf could be killing the unicorns in the forest, but Hagrid stated that werewolves aren't fast enough.
- Tom Riddle once accused Rubeus Hagrid of raising "werewolf cubs" under his bed as a youngster, though this was possibly a lie or an exaggeration. It is unknown whether werewolves have cubs or not — Remus Lupin was worried that it might be possible to pass his affliction on his son, but Newton Scamander suggests otherwise. Since Riddle was trying to frame Hagrid, the veracity of his statement is questionable. Regarding this, Harry Potter series author J. K. Rowling stated in response to a fan question "Riddle was telling lies about Hagrid, just slandering him."
- Lord Voldemort referred to werewolf offspring as cubs another time. When at the Malfoy Manor, he ridicules the Malfoys and Bellatrix about the marriage of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks, asking Draco if he will "babysit the cubs." Given his purist attitude and disdain for 'half-breeds' this is far more likely to be a derogatory insult rather than an implication that lycanthropy is inheritable.
- According to W.O.M.B.A.T., it is possible that werewolves may have a shorter snout than a true wolf. It is rumoured that if a werewolf mates at the full moon it will produce a wolf cub instead of a human baby, but given prejudice, lies, and half-truths against werewolves, this is most likely not true.
- In the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban novel, Lupin's werewolf form is noted to be only vaguely distinguishable from a true wolf, and the fact that students must be taught to distinguish them from true wolves suggests the same. In the film adaptation however, Lupin's werewolf form is still roughly human-shaped, though gruesomely stretched. His fur is a minimal coat rather than shaggy and he alternates between standing on his legs and scrambling on all fours. He also doesn't have a tail, as werewolves are explicitly mentioned to in the Order of the Phoenix book. J. K. Rowling also noted that to her, "werewolf" means An American Werewolf In London, whose werewolf is an extremely animalistic wolf-shaped beast, but that she was very pleased with the Azkaban film's imagining of the concept and appreciated the sympathy evoked by the "naked" and "pathetic" aspects of the design.
- In the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, after Lupin is irritable with Harry, Mr. Weasley says that "his condition takes its toll;" later on Tonks explains that "the first night of the cycle is always the worst." This could imply- though nothing like this was mentioned in the books- that werewolves suffer symptoms other than the tranformation itself, which either directly or indirectly make them less patient and more harsh than they would normally be. What night the cycle begins with is unknown, though the full moon itself, the night after, or the new moon is most likely.
- This could also be a side affect of the "illness" described during the week leading up to the full moon.
The word werewolf is thought to derive from Old English wer (or were) and wulf. The first part, wer, translates as "man." An alternative etymology derives from Old English weri (to wear); in this case "werewolf" would indicate a warrior who wore wolf-pelts, noted for his uncontrollable battle rage, very similar to the Old Norse berserker, ber- as in "bear" the mammal, and serkr, "shirt". A third possible derivation is from warg-wolf or vargulf, a term referring to a rogue wolf which slaughtered domestic animals, but ate little of the kill.
The term lycanthropy comes from Ancient Greek lykánthropos: lýkos ("wolf") + ánthrōpos ("human"). There is also a mental illness called lycanthropy, in which a patient believes he or she is an animal and behaves accordingly. This is sometimes referred to as clinical lycanthropy, to distinguish it from its use in legends.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film) (Mentioned only) (Heard)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) (PS1 version only) (Heard)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Appears in human form)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) (Appears in human form)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game) (Appears in human form)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Appears in human form)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film) (Appears in human form)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game) (Appears in human form)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Appears in human form)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Appears in human form)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Appears in human form)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Harry Potter LEGO Sets
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- ↑ Lupin has no trouble handling wizarding currency, and is not affected by the silver door handle at 12 Grimmauld Place.
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- ↑ J.K. Rowling's Comments at Carnegie Hall
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 15 - (Aragog)
- ↑ Barnes and Noble Yahoo! Chat, available here