“… I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”
Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
So many great characters have a dark side. From Luke Skywalker tempted by the dark side of the Force to Bruce Banner trying to tame the Hulk within, we love watching another human being wrestle with their darkest impulses – and sometimes what we love best is watching them lose.
The dark side of man is deeply woven into European myth, and reaches its peak in those two classic nightmare figures, the vampire and the werewolf. Though human in appearance (at least part of the time), they’re at the mercy of an uncontrollable animal nature that threatens to well up when they’re exposed to certain cues – the full moon, the smell of blood – and overwhelm them. They’re dangerous to others, and at best can only exist on the margins of society, where their true nature can be hidden or controlled.
Or can they?
While developing Wolfblood, I wanted to take a whole new approach to the animal nature. Because I believe mankind is, as Dr. Jekyll observed, “truly two” – or five, or twelve, or any number of facets. We all carry within us all kinds of apparent contradictions. We can be gay and devoutly religious: a career woman and a dedicated mother; conservative on some issues and virtually libertarian on others. And as long as we openly acknowledge the different facets of our personality, and appropriately towards those around us, that’s a good thing. It’s the interactions between the differing facets of our personality that make us who we are.
So the characters in Wolfblood don’t fear and hate their animal nature. It’s a valued part of them. This, of course, meant making some story-telling decisions on how that animal nature is expressed, because once they’re ‘fully wolf and fully human’ (as I told everyone, a lot more times than they needed to hear it!) the old rules don’t apply any more.
So we rewrote the werewolf myth as a gift rather than a curse, a natural ability rather than an unnatural one, something that empowered our characters rather than tormented them. Is transformation pleasant or unpleasant? How much control do they have over when it happens? How far do they remain themselves in wolf form? What part do wolf senses and instincts play in their human lives? All up for grabs in this new world…
The best part of all this, of course, is that we were able to pick and choose from existing werewolf stories, taking the elements we found useful and discarding others – and there are plenty of myths and legends still waiting to be explored!