Partridge Writing Tips| Old School Monsters

Sep 8

Monsters. Nightmares. The things that go bump in the night. Humanity has had a love-hate relationship with the idea of monsters since the dawn of time. Despite, or due to, being figures of dread we are constantly fascinated by such things as Vampires, Werewolves, and other nasty creatures. Countless films, graphic novels, shows, and books have been made- celebrating monsters, analyzing monsters, romancing monsters. But where did the monsters come from? For all the interpretations, reinterpretations, reconstructions, and deconstructions, where did these nightmares originate? From whence did they come? Partridge India hopes to answer these questions, specifically regarding some of the most iconic monsters to haunt screen and page, in Old School Monsters.



Partridge Writing Tips| Old School Monsters
Werewolves have been depicted in all manner of ways.

One of the most iconic monsters is the werewolf, also known as: the wolf-man, the lycanthrope, and the shapeshifter. The only other monster that is possibly more prevalent and popular is the vampire (which we will eventually cover). Werewolf originates from 15th century medieval Germany, meaning “man-wolf.” At its most basic the werewolf is a fusion, a human who turns into a monster incorporating characteristics of wolf and human in varying ratios, sometimes needing the light of a full moon and sometimes not. Sometimes it is depicted as turning into a large wolf, sometimes a man with bestial features, and sometimes as nightmarish human-wolf hybrid. Due to the primal nature of werewolf story it can be difficult to specify a single point from which the concept originated.


Since the earliest days of humanity, shamans and wonder-workers of various tribes and cultures across the world have been said to change into wolves and other beasts. The Navajo tribes of North America tell of the skin-walker, a witch who made a pact with dark and terrible spirits for the power to don another creature’s skin (usually killed by the witch) and become that creature to enact murder and revenge. The Ancient Greeks have a similar story, of magicians dealing with the goddess Hecate for a magic belt (made from wolf or human skin) that will turn them into a wolf when worn. The Vikings believed wearing the skins of bears, wolves, and stags into battle allowed them to channel or even transform into the beasts for an advantage in battle. Werewolves, monsters of bestial rage and fury.



Partridge Writing Tips| Old School Monsters
Herne the Hunter, a Master of the Wild Hunt, and in some versions one of the Fair Folk.

Until recent years, the usual portrayal of the fairy has been that of a small, winged humanoid, mischievous at worst. This was not always so. All over the world, in Europe and Asia, there are stories of the Fair Folk, the Little People, the Dwellers Under the Hill. Sometimes short, sometimes winged, sometimes pretty and sometimes ugly. In the old stories these creatures were at their best mischievous, self-centered pranksters. At their worst… they were the reason people stayed indoors after dark, wore protective trinkets (usually made of cold iron), and told children to stay away from forests, ponds, and standing stones.


As the old stories go, the slightest insult or disrespect, intentional or accidental, to a fairy could result in terrible revenge. In Ireland a traveler might forgo a piece of cake for any reason, only to find themselves beaten bloody by an invisible attacker. In the Philippines, passing by a fairy’s dwelling (a mound of earth along a path) without showing proper decorum could result in a baby being misplaced from their crib. In England and Wales there are folktales about people being invited to a fairy party, but when they return they find decades have passed, their friends and family dead from old age. Fairies, monsters of petty and apathetic cruelty.


Partridge India will return part 2 of Old School Monsters.

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By Ian Smith

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