Saturday, October 4, 2014

Human Animals

Frank Hamel - Human Animals (1915)

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The title isn't clear but historian Hamel (despite the "Frank" she was a she) collected examples of "the curious belief that certain men and women can transform themselves into animals".  There are wer-wolves (her spelling) along with wer-foxes, wer-vixens, human serpents, cat phantoms, bird women, lion men, swan maidens, witches familiars and so forth.  I've only skimmed bits but it looks like one of that era's wonderful gatherings of assorted legends and myths (see Frazer) that are then often forced into some kind of universal template.  The accounts range from Homer to Renaissance broadsides to collections of Indian folktales.  (While trying to find more about the author I discovered that Dover recently reprinted this under the title Werewolves, Bird-Women, Tiger-Men and Other Human Animals.)