(image from C/W Mars catalog)
The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice sadly does not go into much detail of the werewolf myth as Rice has reimagined it. Much of the story is bogged down in the gruesome fumbling of the main character, Rueben, as he learns to adapt to his new powers as a werewolf without the help of anyone else in the know. However, toward the very end of the story, the very first of the morphenkinder (what werewolves refer to themselves as in the story), is introduced and tells part of his back story. I really like the way that Rice has reimagined werewolves, I just wish that she had given more back story in this first book.
The most surprising thing about these werewolves is the fact that they are not a hybrid between a human and a wolf. Instead, they are a mutation from an imaginary prehistoric race of ape like creatures that were eventually wiped out by homo sapiens. This prehistoric race already had the ability to change into a more canine-like creature when they became enraged, which they claimed was a gift from the gods. Margon, the first of the werewolves as we know them, was a homo sapien that had been exiled by his own people and came to live among this race and eventually received the gift himself by receiving multiple bites over a long period of time and a strange twist of fate. No reason is given as to why the beastly form that these creatures could take was so wolf-like, but it was not a form they could change into at will; the change only came when they worked themselves into a frenzy when faced with an enemy.
The primary reason that the prehistoric race would need to whip themselves into a frenzy is because they could smell “evil,” which always warned them of the approach of those who would do them harm. That is one trait that was passed on to the modern werewolves, along with the ability to acutely hear the voices of the innocent crying out in need of help. As the characters in the book discuss, that raises many moral and philosophical questions about what it means to be “evil” and what duty the werewolves have to help those that they can hear.
Overall, Rice’s approach to werewolves is grounded in the theory of evolution and she has addressed some of the issues that the immortal werewolves face from modern science. For as scientific as the origin myth is, however, it still has many mystical elements that make sense and help keep everything interesting. In comparison to every other werewolf story I know, which is admittedly not many, this is the most complete origin myth I have seen. I am still puzzled though about the lack of connection with actual wolves. Most werewolf stories have something to do with a mutation from wolves or involve wearing wolf skins, such as in Norse mythology, usually because of a desire to attain some of the aspects of wolves, such as their strength and ferocity. Here in Rice’s world, the wolf connection is extremely minor and almost nonexistent, despite it still being called the “wolf gift.”
Since so little information is really given about the morphenkinder in general in this book, I will most likely have to read the second book in the series, The Wolves of Midwinter (2013), in order learn more about the werewolf mythology as Anne Rice has developed it.
Rice, A. (2012). The Wolf Gift. New York: Random House.