Sunday, November 16, 2014

Werewolves, Shifters, and Alphas

The Were, the Wolf, the Shifter, and the Alpha
Hyper-masculine. Hairy. Muscular. Violent. Self-loathing. Tendency toward grunting instead of speaking.
Sound familiar?
It’s the typical alpha male of paranormal romance.

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Fun Fact: Lycanthropy, a term that modernly refers to a human’s ability to take the appearance of a wolf, was actually used to describe a mental illness that made a person believe they were a werewolf.

Some Early Origins of the Werewolf

“The Epic of Gilgamesh”
This myth originates from ancient cuneiform literature and features Ishtar, a Sumero-Babylonian goddess who was known to be a bit cruel to her suitors. Before becoming infatuated with Gilgamesh, Ishtar had transformed one of her past mates—a shepherd—into a wolf, making the man an enemy to everyone and everything he loved…especially his dogs!

“The Metamorphoses”
In this tale, a traveler visits King Lycaon’s home. Suspecting the visitor is actually an immortal, Lycaon serves human meat to his guest. Unfortunately for Lycaon, the traveler is actually the Greek god Zeus. Jupiter immediately recognizes the meat as human flesh and transforms the king into a wolf as punishment.
According to the philosopher, Plato, there was an actual ceremony practiced at Mount Lycaeus that involved human sacrifice and men taking the form of wolves.

lykos, lycanthropy, werewolves, skinwalker

Fun Fact: Lycaon and Lycanthropy both originate from the Greek word, lykos, which means wolf.

Native American Lore
In Native American tales, the werewolf becomes a shapeshifter or “skinwalker.” The skinwalker is a witch who can take an animal’s shape by wearing its skin, usually that of a wolf, coyote, fox, owl, or crow. The skinwalker is evil and powerful—imbued with all the powers of the animal whose form it has taken—but appears as a slightly deformed version of the animal it imitates. And in human form, the skinwalker possesses eyes that shine unnaturally with an animal-like glow.
Creepy, right?

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werewolf by ntieykodesigns

The Alpha
Let’s start with the definition of alpha. Knee into paranormal literature, sometimes I forget the word alpha relates to things other than the gorgeous pack leader.
Alpha also happens to be the first letter of the Greek alphabet; the first and brightest star in a constellation; the dominant human or animal in a particular group; the dorky robot from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers universe.

And this is where this article takes a more subjective turn.
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Joe Manganiello, True Blood

In modern tales of paranormal romance, the alpha male is pretty much a staple. A hot body is essential. Usually he’s good-looking, tortured, carries physical and mental battle scars, powerful, and you probably don’t want to piss him off.
I’ve read a lot of werewolf novels, but the one that stands out most in my mind is a novel by Wayne Smith. With Thor, this guy wrote a werewolf story in a way I’d never read before—from the point of view of a German Shepherd Dog. 
maneater, full moon, urban legend

It sounds bizarre, I know, but it was a great read.
So if you don’t mind a werewolf novel without steamy sex scenes, check out Thor. And of course, if you haven’t already, you should definitely read Dark Siren, and find out what happens when the wolf loves a siren…

Excerpt from Dark Siren
The Beginning…

The sound of her screams reached him as he neared the dorm. Pausing at the threshold, the man stepped inside. Death and the wind were at his back. Dozens of hollow-eyed students turned to observe his presence. Fear had twisted their youthful faces into horrific masks. A few of them wept. Others clung together as another scream echoed into the night. The man flinched. Then he steeled himself against all emotion. His kind was supposed to feel nothing.
He made his way through the crowd, students eagerly shuffling aside to let him pass. It was as if somehow they sensed in him the power to end her suffering. When a young man dressed only in boxers and a lettered shirt stepped forward from a cluster of solemn dorm mates, the man stopped. He recognized the boy.
“You are William. You are the one who called.”
“Yes, sir,” the young man said while nodding. His eyes were wide and frightened as he pointed ahead to a closed door painted prison grey. “She’s in there, sir.”
The man looked at the door, and then back at the boy. “Is she alone?”
William’s shoulders slumped with embarrassment. “I tried to stay with her but…” his voice trailed, dropping to a hoarse whisper. “She looks bad, sir. She wouldn’t stop screaming for me to get out. I got scared. I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright, son. You have done well.” The man laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder with an encouraging smile that reflected none of the sadness he felt. “She’s going to be okay.”
But her cries were becoming more tormented by the second. He quickly continued down the hall to the grey door. Behind it, he found her all alone. Her thin, pale body was curled on a beaten sofa in the center of the room. She was drenched in sweat. Dark hair plastered against her face, framing a beautiful canvas contorted with anguish. He placed a hand gently on her forehead. 
Her eyes fluttered open. “Daddy?”
“I’m here, sweetheart. Everything is fine now.”
Sobbing in relief even as another surge of agony ransacked her strength, she gritted her teeth. “It hurts.”
Squeezing her hand, he spoke in a voice thick with regret. “I know. I’m sorry. Letting you come here was a mistake. I’ve waited too long.”
She was lost in the pain and didn’t seem to hear him. “I see horrible things. I did horrible things. There was so much blood.”
It hurt him terribly to see her in such distress. No matter what the others said, this girl had truly been his daughter. But right now, his love for her could not matter. He had a job to do. There were things he needed to know. There were questions he had to ask.
“What do you see?”
Bodies, hundreds of bodies littering the ground…” The words broke off as she rolled with another wave of misery. “They’re burned…old and young, women and children.” She sobbed again. “I think I burned them.”
“I’m going to give you something to stop the pain. It will help you sleep.”
“Please hurry, Daddy. Make it stop.” Her body shuddered. “I can’t take any more of this.”
She lifted her head, giving him a good look at her face. Surging veins had crept like black spiders from the corners of her eyes, transforming the surrounding skin into dark pools. She was deteriorating rapidly. If the process wasn’t slowed, the human form would soon be lost.
He kicked himself for making such a foolish mistake, for letting emotion get in the way of duty. It could have jeopardized everything. He hurried into the kitchen and returned a few minutes later carrying a red mug filled with steaming liquid. “Can you sit up?” She nodded and struggled upright. She took the mug. “Drink all of it,” he said and helped steady her hands.
The liquid smelled awful. But after the first sip, her violent trembles began to subside. She downed the rest without hesitation, draining the mug until the last drop was gone. The grey tint that had taken over receded as the color of her skin returned to normal. The girl peered at her hands. They no longer shook.
An uncertain smile spread across her face. “It’s over.”
He shook his head. “No. We must start over,” he said sadly.
“I don’t understand.”
He stood from the couch and held out a hand. “Come with me.”
“What?” She yawned sleepily. Everything about her was like a normal teenager again. “Dad, I can’t. I have finals tomorrow.”
“Come with me,” he repeated.
She took his hand and let the empty mug fall to the couch. He led her out into the hall where everyone waited anxiously, some visibly grateful to see the young woman leave. Averting her gaze to the floor, she avoided their eyes. “Everyone’s staring,” she muttered.
“They were worried about you.” He reached back and drew the girl forward to his side, planting a kiss atop her hair. As they reached the front door, he saw her try to stifle another yawn. Even the crisp night air couldn’t shake the veil of drowsiness that would lower over her mind.
“Dad, I’m really tired.”
“You can sleep on the way.” He smiled again. To him, the reassurance felt forced and painful because on the inside, his heart was breaking. He hoped his daughter wouldn’t know it.
Wrapping her arms about him, she hugged him tightly and buried her head into his shirt like she had when she was little. On this night, he couldn’t hug her back. Afraid that if he did, he wouldn’t be able to let go. What he had to do was cruel. He wished he didn’t have to. To have so much power and still be powerless was a wretched existence.
It was daylight when she awoke. The car wasn’t moving and the girl was alone inside. She recognized nothing of the surroundings, had no idea how far her father had driven. It wasn’t unusual for him to whisk her away on a spur-of-the-moment weekend getaway to the beach. Her father’s spontaneity was one of the things she loved most about him. But this wasn’t the beach. And the girl was positive she’d mentioned to him that she had a final to take—she glanced at her watch—in three hours. Sighing, she opened the door and slid out of the car. The sound of a child’s laughter came drifting through the trees. Joined with it was another voice she easily recognized.
With growing curiosity, she started up the hill. Her feet sank into the moist carpet of undergrowth as she walked beneath trees of brightly changing foliage. Fallen heralds of orange, red, and yellow hues blanketed the ground. Not far away, on the other side of a patch of dense forest, the girl found her father. Oddly enough, he was entertaining a small child. The two of them sat in an amply filled sand box, busily constructing a castle with the aid of a small bucket and plastic shovel. The little girl’s hair was like her own, as black and shiny as a raven’s feathers. She was four years old at most.
Looking up, her father saw her. No emotion crossed his face. “Hello.”
She stopped a few yards short. “Hi.” After the mostly uphill hike, her reply was somewhat breathless.
“Hi,” the child greeted her happily. Deep brown eyes and a winning smile made her truly a rare beauty, even at such a young age.
The young woman turned to her father, her entire face a question. She waited for some sort of explanation.
His golden hair ruffled in the breeze as he nodded toward the child. “I found her for you.”          
She shook her head. “I don’t understand. Where are we?”
“Please come and sit,” he said quietly.
Hesitant at first, her feet didn’t move until the little girl echoed the man’s words, “Please come and sit with us.”
She accepted the invitation and sat in the sandbox. Her legs automatically folded to mirror the child.
“Did you dream last night?”
“Good. I’d hoped the tea would help.” He took her hand. His grasp was both tender and desperate. “I promise you, this will be the last time.”
“What’s going on?” Although she trusted her father with her very life, his behavior worried her.
As they conversed, the little girl had never paused at play. “And this is the tower for the princess,” she announced proudly, while molding a lopsided chunk of sand.
Her father gazed down at the child fondly. “Why does the princess need a tower? Shouldn’t princesses be allowed to be free?”
The child paused thoughtfully. Then she shook her head, sending a mass of radiant curls bouncing in the morning sun. “No. The prince can’t find her unless she’s in a tower.”
He smiled and turned to his daughter again. “Yes…it is time for the prince to find her.”
He took the child’s hand and pressed it into his daughter’s. The young woman stared in bewilderment as a warm glow filled her inside and out. Then, as if someone had flicked a switch, everything went dark. She slumped forward. The man caught her lifeless body, easing it down gently onto the sand. Then he leaned over and kissed the child’s forehead softly. “I will always be close.” Not moving, the child sat wide-eyed, staring blankly at nothing.
Hoisting the body of the young woman into his arms, he quietly strode away with tears streaming down his face. The trees hid him from view as the little girl blinked twice and resumed building the tower in the sandbox.

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