Werewolves are monsters of folklore and they are one of the most well-known folkloric creatures of all time, arguably only rivalled by the vampire in popularity and recognition.
The werewolf has been seen in countless cultures around the world and is almost always considered vicious, antagonistic and evil: in many ways the werewolf may represent the fear humans have of their own animalistic urges, though other theories suggest the legends of werewolves were caused by interactions with people suffering from serious mental health problems, rabies or deformities.
No matter the origin of the tales werewolves have become a staple of fantasy and horror fiction with many characters becoming werewolves - the Wolf-Man is one of the more prominent examples of this.
Although Hollywood has popularised the concept of werewolves transforming by the light of the full moon this wasn't a fixed rule in the folklore, in the legends werewolves came in three kinds: the cursed human, the evil sorcerer and the Wolf that would disguise itself as a man (many cultures had a fear of wolves and viewed them as demons, though other cultures revered them).
In Native American folklore, evil shape-shifters known as Skin-Walkers sometimes took on the role of werewolves and were seen as men and women who would, via black magic, transform into animals by night and attack villages - at the same time some shamans would try to invoke wolf-spirits via rituals: the werewolf was not related to the Wendigo however (despite some modern tales mixing the two).
In medieval Europe superstition ruled and as a result many men and women were persecuted by people that believed they were werewolves, much like witchcraft trials these vicitims would be accused of killing children, vandalising property or worse and were often subjected to torture and death.
The Pricolici (same form in plural) is a werewolf also and a vampire in Romanian folklore. Similar to a vârcolac, although the latter sometimes symbolizes a goblin, whereas the pricolici always has wolf-like characteristics.
Pricolici, like strigoi, are undead souls that have risen from the grave to harm living people. While a strigoi possesses anthropomorphic qualities similar to the ones it had before death, a pricolici always resembles a wolf or large dog. Malicious, violent men are often said to become pricolici after death, in order to continue harming other humans.
Some Romanian folklore delineates that Pricolici are werewolves in life and after they die, return as vampires. This also gives rise to the legend of vampires can turn into animals such as wolves, cats, or owls and (rarely) bats. The common theme of all these animals being that they are nocturnal hunters much like vampires.
Even as recently as modern times, many people living in rural areas of Romania have claimed to have been viciously attacked by abnormally large and fierce wolves. Apparently, these wolves attack silently, unexpectedly and only solitary targets. Victims of such attacks often claim that their aggressor wasn't an ordinary wolf, but a pricolici who has come back to life to continue wreaking havoc.
- Traditional werewolves are depicted as monstrous wolves larger than normal wolves. Later depictions from folktales and medias described them more anthropomorphic.