Forget the Bloodsuckers. Give Me the Wolf
by Kiersten Hallie Krum
All Hallows has past. The Great Pumpkin never arrived (poor Linus), and many of us are now swimming through vats of leftover candy (Hallelujah). But the obsession with the dark and deadly of the night never truly ends, does it? A happy happenstance for those who write in the paranormal genre.
There was a television special Friday night called Why We (Heart) Vampires. Ostensibly a retrospective on vampire movies and television shows with a focus on the men (and a few women) who’ve played the main fanger, it was not-at-all subtle, full-on promotional hour for the new NBC drama Dracula. I’m kinda watching Dracula, because, hel-lo Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Victorian England! But it feels as if they took Colleen Gleason’s Victorian vamps and vamp hunters from her Gardella Vampire Chronicles, folded it into the Dracula back story, and slapped it onto Friday night TV. Frankly, I’d rather read the books.
Give me the wolf.
Strong. Wild. Fierce. Passionate. Uninhibited. Raw. Alive. Let’s take the gloves off here; no matter how pretty they may be, you bed down with a vamp, you’re banging a corpse. Werewolves can shag go out in the bright sunlight and roam through the dark. Why anyone wouldn’t prefer werewolves/ wolf-shifters to the vamp camp escapes me.
Let’s take a look at some, shall we?
Joe Manganiello immediately springs to the forefront of any discussion of the modern day werewolf. As reluctant (and now former) pack leader Alcide in True Blood, he is torn by the desire to indulge his lone wolf tendencies and the compulsion to exploit his innate need to protect and serve. (I have not read the Sookie Stackhouse books, so all discussion of Alcide is based on the television show.) Both options seem to require him to be frequently naked. For which we give profound thanks.
I’ve stuck with True Blood long past any interest in it solely for Alcide and the wolf pack story line, holding out hope that repeated promises of exploring that dynamic would go beyond crazy pack members acting crazy and/or having tons of sex as a plot point. Despite his bad taste in women (Suckie? Really?) not to mention a penchant for the lethally crazy women in his pack, Alcide is at heart a good man and a better wolf than he believes. Manganiello himself is a work of art in physical form, admirable and impressive. He takes playing Alcide quite seriously and is as committed to making Alcide’s emotional and character journey as tight and cut as his physique. I am only too pleased to enjoy both.
Long before I dumped the Anita Blake series for its epic ton of WTFery, I devoured every book like it was covered in caramel and whipped cream. Before Anita turned into the sexual Mary Sue porn-star of paranormal novels, she had the original vampire-human-werewolf triangle with Master Vamp of the City Jean Claude, Anita herself, and reluctant alpha werewolf Richard, and holy hell was it hot.
Okay, Richard whines. I’ll give you that freely. And the hemming and hawing he does between desiring a white-picket human life while increasingly forced to take a power position in the pack gets old fast. But I lay that blame at his creator’s feet as author Laurel K. Hamilton seemed so keen to keep her heroine from making a choice and thus alienate half her readers, she kept Richard from ever following through on his character development. But those few times he embraced his true werewolf nature? Boy. Howdy.
What most draws me into the were lore of these novels is the Nordic mythology Hamilton applies to the pack structure. This is most on display in my favorite of her wolf-focused books, Blue Moon. Blue Moon steps out of the usual (dare I say procedural) locale of an alternative St. Louis and takes Anita Blake and her vamp posse out into the woods where Richard is romancing a scientist and making nice with another pack. (Jean-Claude can’t go along because of some vampire politics nonsense, which helps ups the wolf factor big time.) The series and pack mythology is deep and rich and even Anita gets to explore how her metaphysical connection to Richard and his pack is enhanced by her necromancer powers and vice versa. In Blue Moon, Richard gets to be strong and alpha with a serious reduction of the whine factor and Anita (and readers) delight in him. I also love this book for the climatic scene of faith enacted against the (seriously evil) Big Bad of the book. It continues to be one of the best paranormal climaxes I’ve ever read. Damn. Now I’m gonna have to dig that out and re-read it…again. (Update: I did.)
Kelley Armstrong took the werewolf jones and twisted it just slightly cock-eyed by making the heroine of Bitten, the first book in her Otherworld series, the only female werewolf in the world. Holding a unique position in the pack, she struggles to rectify her human and wolf-related lives as someone begins to turn criminals into werewolves…and starts picking off members of Elena’s estranged pack.
I love the fact that it’s the woman who is crucial to the pack here (despite it having a more-than-capable alpha) and am intrigued by the proposed conflict Elena goes through as she increasingly realizes how much more at home she feels in the wolf world than with humans. This is another case where I’ve yet to read the books—don’t judge; I’m visually oriented so I do better when I see the movie/show first—but I’m intrigued by the changes Armstrong makes to the lore. First with the “only one female werewolf” plot point and then by making her werewolves much more vulnerable than is typical. No silver bullets required.
Bitten has been made into a new television series, which is scheduled to debut in the U.S. in early 2014. I’ve been following the production of its first season as stars Laura Vandervoort, Greg Byrk, Greyston Holt and other cast members tweeted their way through production with lovely behind-the-scenes images that suitably whet the appetite. Their delight in the show they’ve made is palpable and goes a long way to making me excited for the project. Personally, I hope the Syfy channel has the wherewithal to pair Bitten back to back with Lost Girl come January 2014 so I can get my wolf on and on again.
Lost Girl is an urban fantasy show on the Syfy channel about a succubus, Bo, who was raised by humans and what happens when she discovers the supernatural world of the Fae from whence she truly comes. Dyson is a wolf-shifter, as opposed to werewolf, who is in love with Bo. Not controlled by the phases of the moon and completely in control when in wolf form, Dyson comes from a family of shifters who choose their animal form when they hit Fae puberty.
This is a key difference from werewolves who are typically either transformed humans who have been bitten or born a lycanthrope. Dyson chose the wolf. In this, his choice of animal form aligns with the qualities that already defined him as a man. Protector. Fierce. Loyal to a fault. Frisky. Passionate. Noble. Sly sense of humor. Occasionally goofy. Leader. Brother. Lover. Dyson can manifest physical attributes of the wolf—glowing gold eyes, razor-sharped teeth, elongated claws—without going full on wolf. But when he does wolf out…
Where Hamilton mines the Nordic myths for her pack structure in the Anita Blake novels, Dyson’s ancestry is in the Celtic pantheon. Though his back story has yet to be given an in-depth treatment in the show, Dyson’s ties to and history with a brotherhood of Celtic wolf-shifter warriors explored his pack mentality and how he became a lone wolf…until he found a new pack with the other characters who populate Lost Girl.
I also love the quiet moments Dyson’s alter ego, actor Kris Holden-Ried, works into his portrayal that make Dyson more than just a checked box next to “alpha male” on a casting director’s clipboard. At more than a thousand years old, Dyson’s seen and done a lot more than nearly all the other main characters on the show. The gravitas that experience and longevity has bred in him is as key to his character as his chiseled form. Over three seasons of the show, Holden-Ried has built a layered portrayal of a complex man who occasionally finds himself in wolf’s clothing.
Yeah, I got the wolf jones, baby. How ’bout you?
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