Creature Feature- The Dresden Files
So I read these books called The Dresden Files. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re an urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher. Set in Chicago, the books are told from the first-person perspective of Harry Dresden, local Wizard and private Investigator. With fifteen novels and a collection of short stories (so far), it’s a huge source for both entertainment and inspiration. Every novel Dresden faces supernatural creatures of one kind or another. I’ve been introduced to more than a few weird things because of these books, and I figured this blog was a great excuse to get to know the our-world versions of them better. Some I may have covered before, to greater extent, but this is just a little taste of some of the badies from my favourite book series. Let’s go!
SPOILERS AHEAD THROUGH SKIN GAME, THE LATEST NOVEL. THIS IS YOUR WARNING.
First, let’s start with the creepiest creature I have ever read about. This thing gives me actual nightmares. Ever since Butcher introduced them to me in Turn Coat, I haven’t really stopped thinking about them, or being incredibly paranoid about them. In short, Skinwalkers scare the bejeezus out of me, and I believe for very good reason.
Skinwalkers, or better known I think by their Navajo name yee naaldooshii– “with it, he goes on all fours” (Naagloshii in DF), are shapeshifters with the ability to take the form of animals and people. In the novels, they are originally disturbing-looking creatures (especially through The Sight) that use the blood of victims to transform into that person. According to actual legend, skinwalkers are medicine men and witches who have chosen the darkest paths to take. One reaching the highest level of priesthood, these people (usually men) choose to use black magic. And, by committing a cultural taboo, or killing a close family member, they become the skinwalker.
Those who have experienced skinwalkers are hesitant to talk about the encounter, fearing it may return to finish the job. However, of what people have said, skinwalkers are incredibly fast, agile, and are impossible to catch. They most commonly transform into owls, coyotes, crows, wolves, and foxes. They use charms, like bone powder made from infants, to attack. A lot of times people hear knocking on walls and windows, or see an animal-like shape peering into their homes. Skinwalkers have attacked cars as well. Legend has it they can read the minds of humans, too. Injuring or killing a skinwalker requires the full Name of the person to be said aloud. I suppose, first you would have to know its full Name.
So good luck with that.
Next up on the list are everyone’s favourite side characters, the Alphas! Alright, actually we’ talking a little about werewolves, but Will, Georgia, and the rest are a bunch of really great characters. They transform into wolves willingly and with magic, so willing-wolves, really. But there are a bunch of different kinds of werewolves, some of which we don’t really have time for this time around. So let’s discuss your werewolf basics.
In order to become a werewolf, there were (are?) a number of ways you could go about doing it. Hexenwulfen, for example, used a wolfskin or other talisman in order to transform into the beast. Other ways included sleeping under a full moon during the summer on a particular Wednesday or Friday, drinking specially-prepared beer and saying a ritual, or being cursed with lycanthropy. Some werewolves have/had the ability to keep their human thoughts while in wolf form. Others, like the cursed or the loup-garou, are/were transformed into the animal fully, losing all humanity.
Perhaps one of the most famous cases of lycanthropy is about a man named Peter Stubbe. Stubbe is said to have killed over 12 people in Germany, back in the late 1500’s. He was of the “Put on a wolf belt” variety. Legend has it that when he put on the belt, he physically transformed into a wolf-like creature, and craved human flesh. He was eventually tortured and killed for his crimes.
Werewolves are incredibly strong and fast. They can look like actual wolves, or like unnatural amalgamations of human and wolf. They take on the characteristics of wolves, including heightened sight, smell, and hearing.
Killing a werewolf using silver was a cure thought up in the 20th century, most likely by fiction writers. The Greeks and Romans believed that physical exhaustion was the cure, as the inflicted would be too tired to carry on with the practice. The use of the plant wolfsbane was a cure in medieval Europe, as was striking the head of a werewolf with a knife in Arabic culture.
I find it incredibly interesting that basically every culture has some kind of shapeshifting myth. Everyone thinks there are ways to become an animal, and ways to stop that process once its got a hold. Maybe there’s something to all that, eh?
And last, because holy cow this is going to take so many parts, are my favourite supernatural beings, and ones I have studied so much they should give me a Masters degree on them- vampires. In DF, there are basically three kinds of vampires. You’ve got the Black Court, which is kind of your average Nosferatu, undead, smelly, frail (except not at all), not very pleasant to be around. You’re traditional undead vampire. Then there’s the Red Court, who are actually giant bat monsters, but cover themselves in a flesh mask to move around in society. They drink blood, have crazy euphoria saliva, and only the strongest ones can go about in daylight under a flesh mask. And then there’s the White Court, whom are divided into three types of psychic vampire. House Raith feeds on sexual desire, Malvora on fear, and Skavis on despair. They’re all the most human of the vampires, going out in sunlight, not drinking blood.
In our world, there are also different kinds of vampires. It really depends on which cultures you’re getting the myth from. In terms of legends coming from America (since you know, the blog thing), there are really blood drinkers and psychic vampires. Traditionally, vampires were basically our dead brought to life due to a number of circumstances. They were a lot like the Black Court, or possibly even how we think of zombies. Mostly mindless, still decaying, preying on family members, and not necessarily for blood. But they evolved into never-aging humans, who needed blood to sustain their unlives. Vampires in general can’t go out in the daylight, but the really old myths say little to nothing about having to stay in the shadows. They’re fast, impossibly strong, seductive, and unchanging.
New Orleans in particular seems to be a vampire hotspot. Stories are told about the Casket Girls, women from France sent to marry the men of New Orleans. They brought with them large trunks, supposedly containing the things they would need to start a marriage. Well, legend has it that what they really brought to the New World were vampires. The Ursuline Convent in New Orleans is the center for this origination of vampires in New Orleans, and seriously, I won’t look at those attic windows at night, for fear of finding one open, and a vampire at my throat. There’s also the legend of Jacques St. Germain, probably one of the most famous alleged vampires. He’s been seen since the 1800’s, and not as a ghostly apparition. The link has more on him and other vampires of New Orleans.
Now, psychic vampires are pretty much proven. Ever have a friend you just found to be completely draining? They probably weren’t do it consciously, but they were sucking the life from you, so to speak. Psychic vampires get their energy by taking the energy of others, whether it be from sexual intercourse, or something more like meditation and transference. A person might not even know this is how they get their energy, but be around them long enough, and you’ll soon figure it out.
I have no many more creatures to write about, and even these ones could be a whole blog or two to themselves, so I’ll leave off here for now. If you have any questions, or want to talk about your encounters, let me know! And go read The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher. They’re absolutely fantastic reads!
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