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There’s a Conference in the U.K. All About Werewolves Next Month

Wolf-to-human transformations in literature and history and their significance take the stage

Lon Chaney Jr. and Evelyn Ankers in "The Wolf Man," 1941 (Underwood & Underwood/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Werewolves may be fictional, but the emotions the myth stirs are not: Some Argentinians believe that seventh sons turn in to werewolves (unless the president adopts them) and even if people don’t think of literal transformations, a popular perception persists that the full moon makes people behave strangely. So experts from around the world are set to meet at the University of Hertfordshire next month to discuss the influence that human to wolf transformations have on history and culture, reports Aisha Gani for The Guardian

The conference, which takes place September 3rd to 5th,  will include visits to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust to meet animals that inspired the legend, and a trip to the grave of Peter the Wild Boy, an orphan child found living feral in 1725 in the woods near Hamelin, Germany. The conference is put on by the Open Graves, Open Minds Projecta group that has previously gathered scholars to delve into the vampire myth.

“How many people actually know the different ways that you can become a werewolf according to folklore or that there were actually werewolf trials in France and Germany where people were hanged and found guilty of lycanthropy, the correct name for this phenomenon?" the conference organizer, Sam George, a senior lecturer in literature at Herfordshire, tells The Guardian

The conference’s webpage has an explanation of the importance of werewolves and other shapeshifters:

Such beings have served in narrative fiction to question what humanity is; weres tend to reveal the complex affinities and differences between our existence as linguistic, social subjects and our physiological continuity with other animals. They also draw our attention to questions of hierarchy and sexuality, to the instinctive, and to what extent our conceptions of these are ideological.

Not everything discussed will be fictional. Also the conference docket is a talk about real wolves’ comeback in Europe. “Wolves were driven to extinction in the U.K.," George says. "We need to debate these issues and the possibility of bringing them back."

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