I, Werewolf

The Werewolf of Ponkert is a (somewhat) famous novella from 1925. First published in the pages of Weird Tales magazine, it’s become notable for a couple of things. One, it was inspired by a notion from H.P. Lovecraft, and two, it’s a first-person narrative told from the titular werewolf’s perspective.

The story set in the 15th century was originally carved into human skin and kept in a church’s basement. First written in Hungarian, the grisly manuscript was eventually translated into Latin, then to modern French and finally into English. Anachronisms abound, admitted author H. Warner Munn, “but it was without dispute the first authentic document known of a werewolf’s experiences, dictated by himself.”

It’s a sad story of course: A single man beset by a pack of wolves one night in the woods. There was no escape. “Little red eyes, swinish and glittering like hell-sparks shone malevolently at me by the reflected light of the fully risen moon,” wrote the luckless memoirist. Given a choice to join the werewolf gang or become a tasty midnight snack, Wladislaw Brenryk took the only option that allowed him to stay alive—he reluctantly became the werewolf of Ponkert. “I was damned forever,” he wrote.

Brenryk was alive, but he was an angst-y wolf-man. Night after night he was growing hardened and inured to his lot, and only rarely did his soul sicken as at his first metamorphosis. But a pinch of humanity still remained. “Was I the unwitting cause of my further undoing?” he wondered constantly.

After ripping his wife to shreds (oops!), Brenryk surrendered to local authorities and helped his small Hungarian village eradicate its werewolf problem. He knew he’d be killed too, but he didn’t care. “Give me revenge and I will burn in hell for eternity most happily,” he confessed.

The story of Wladislaw Brenryk continued a generation later in a short story called “The Werewolf’s Daughter.” With nowhere else to go, Brenryk’s only surviving family member continued to live in Ponkert. But it wasn’t a hospitable place for her. “No one can ever love me. Never!” cried Ivga in despair. “I am the werewolf’s daughter, shunned, hated and feared by all, cursed at birth and despised by even children. There is no love for me in this ugly world.”

With the help of her Conan the Barbarian-like guardian, Ivga eventually escaped her village and fell in love with a French aristocrat. Whether she lived happily ever after is up to the reader’s imagination, but it’s easy to see how “The Werewolf’s Daughter” (first published in 1928) was a rudimentary (and awkward) hybrid of gothic romance and pulpy sword and sorcery novels.

[The Werewolf of Ponkert / By H. Warner Munn / Fiction House Press Edition: August 2020 / ISBN: 9781647201685]