Everything You Know About Werewolves was Created by The Wolf Man Screenwriter Curt Siodmak

What do you know about werewolves? A full moon signals their transformation from human being to feral animal. They walk on their tiptoes. They can only be killed by a silver bullet. All of these things are well known as part of the iconic mythology of the werewolf. But did you know that despite the fact that werewolf legends trace back through millennia and across the globe that just about all you think you know about those legends were created, or enhanced, by a 20th century writer. Not just a writer, but a writer of classic Universal horror flicks. That man’s name was Curt Siodmak and he was commissioned by Universal to write the original The Wolf Man movie starring Lon Chaney, Jr.

Siodmak did his research, of course, but there were so many conflicting stories about werewolves, ranging from Native American legends about the Manitou to Norse stories about berserkers to the infamous Wolfheads of France, not to mention those equally bizarre stories of wolfman type creatures found in ancient Chinese folk tales, that there just seemed to be no convenient way to boil it all down into a simple and effective horror movie plot. Siodmak decided to pretty much toss out all the “factual” mythologies and legends and simply create his own. His journey began by focusing solely on the werewolf legends associated with Middle European countries. To his joy, he discovered that these legends were the starkest, containing precious little information that would get in the way of his own mission to create the werewolf legend in his own mind.

Until Curt Siodmak set to writing The Wolf Man the full moon played little or no role in causing the transformation into a werewolf. In fact, in most legends the man didn’t turn into a wolf man at all, but actually turned fully into a wolf. Siodmak was also the person responsible for the concept of a werewolf who is still mostly man, walking on two legs and on tiptoe at that. Previous to Siodmak, there was no curse upon a werewolf in the movie’s gypsy sense, although in certain cultures the werewolf would be cursed after the fact.

The single most recognizable aspect of the werewolf myth for most Americans today is that a werewolf can only be killed by a silver bullet. Guess what? Until Curt Siodmak wrote The Wolf Man, there was never anything even remotely close to this element of the legend. The downside to all this is that what you thought you knew about werewolves is nothing more than a plot device for a Universal horror flick. The upside, of course, is that if you do come across a werewolf, you can go ahead and shoot with a simple police armor penetrating bullet. Silver bullets don’t kill werewolves, guns do.

It will be interesting to see if the new remake of The Wolf Man starring Benicio Del Toro will continue to track along the legend created by Curt Siodmak or look toward more ancient myths with which to craft its story.