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The Werewolf's Daughter--Slovakian Folklore

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The Werewolf’s Daughter [1] is a Slovakian folktale published in 1865 by Sabine Baring-Gould.

FenrirGreyback werewolf

Werewolf concept art from Harry Potter, from the Harry Potter wiki.

Synopsis Edit

The story begins with a father—who is a werewolf—realizing that he did not want to support his nine beautiful daughters any longer. He goes into the woods to dig a pit and chop wood, and asks each daughter in turn to bring him something in the woods. One by one he flung them into a pit he had dug, and killed them. Eventually he got to his youngest daughter, who was the most beautiful. and also wise to his schemes. 

He got her to the pit, and she asked him to turn aside while she undressed. After doing so, she pushed her father into the pit and began to run. One by one she dropped her clothes, and he tore them up. Eventually she reached a field with haystacks, and dove into one. Eventually her father gave up, and some king found her when hunting. 

After being taken back to the palace, she becomes his wife, on the stipulation that he not allow any beggars into the palace. The years went by, and she bore him two children. 

After a while, a beggar was let in, who turned out to be the father of the now queen—and murdered the two children, hiding the knife under the queen's pillow framing the queen for the murder.

The king, enraged, tied the two children to the queen's neck and banished her. She met a hermit who brought the children back to life, and the king found out his mistake. He then casts the werewolf off the cliff to his death, and the king and queen live happily ever after. 

Characters Edit

Protagonist: The ninth daughter

Werewolf

This character is the smartest person in the story as she is the only daughter to survive the brutal plans of her father. She eventually is saved, accused of murder, and then welcomed again by the King and lives happily ever after [1.]

Antagonist: The father/werewolf

The father tires of having to support all his children and plans to kill them all and is successful, save for one child. He portrays the typical qualities of a werewolf, showcasing his vicious and horrific tendencies and is once again the villain in the story.

Supporting character: The King

This character is somewhat trusting to rescue the youngest daughter and make her his wife until he is given a reason to doubt her. In this case, he listens to no explanations of the wife he supposedly loves until his is given other evidence of her innocence.

Other characters: Daughters 1-8

These characters are mentioned only briefly and used to show how brutal the werewolf was.

Other characters: The hermit

This character brings back the dead queen and king’s children back to life, therefore giving the king the evidence he needed to believe his wife and welcome her back again.

The author uses all these characters to show how a seemingly normal family can be turned into such a tragedy just by one person’s/creatures actions. This story and their characters are also not described in too much detail, as it is not needed to showcase the main horrors created by the creature or showcase the morals of the story. This story is also another example of the vicious nature of werewolves and is a better example of a classic werewolf story when compared to more modern portrayals of the beasts.

(Photo credit)

Background Edit

This story has its roots in the extensive Slovakian folklore and werewolves . It is a tale portraying Jeffrey Cohen's monster thesis[2]: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. This can be seen by the way the killing of the werewolf father is justified as an act of justice for the deaths of his daughters and murder of the king's children.

Parallels with Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster Culture (Seven Theses): Edit

Thesis II: The Monster Always Escapes

This tale has many alignments with Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster Culture (Seven Theses). From this perspective, focusing on the intersections between themes of The Werewolf’s Daughter [1] and Cohen’s ideals, there are parallels between Cohen’s second thesis entitled, “The Monster Always Escapes,” and this tale. In this thesis, Cohen presents the idea that, “No monster tastes of death but once”[2] (pg. 5). This thesis claims that an effective monster in a tale will accumulate an aura of anxiety about the character as it initially wreaks havoc only to fade away then return when least expected. This is a concept that is also seen in The Werewolf’s Daughter, in which the werewolf father stalks his daughter to instill that initial fear then allows her to live on for seemingly multiple years (although this time was not explicitly identified) only to reappear and steal away from her the life which she had built for herself through the murder of her children. This murder of her children then implicated her as a possible suspect, resulting in the distrust of her by her husband, the king. This plays into the theme of “The Monster Always Escapes”, because had the daughter’s werewolf father not escaped, the fear would not have built up suspense for both the reader as well as the daughter in this tale, thus making it much more interesting. 

Thesis III: The Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis

In this thesis, Cohen presents the idea that an effective monster will defy the norms of the society in which they exist. Cohen writes, “…they are disturbing hybrids whose externally incoherent bodies resist attempts to include them in any systematic structuration” [2] (pg. 6). This is a heavily apparent theme in The Werewolf’s Daughter throughout the characterization and actions of the werewolf father. Throughout the tale, this character is referred interchangeably as “werewolf” and “father”, yet never as “werewolf father”. This demonstrates how these two sides of this character seemingly exists in separation, as though one cannot be both a werewolf and a father at once. Furthermore, we see this character resist systematic definition as a father through his actions. The typical responsibility of a father is to protect and nurture the lives of his children, yet here we see him doing the opposite. This creates an unnerving existence of this monster that will be effective in connecting with any reader who has a father.

Werewolf's Daughter

Werewolf attacking woman[1]

Citations Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Sabine Baring-Gould, The Book of Werewolves: Being an Account of a Terrible Superstition (London: Smith, Elder, and Company, 1865), pp. 124-128.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)," Monster Theory: Reading Culture, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 3-25.

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