Don’t Worry, It’ll Grow Back
Sorry about the break in posts. Now back to your regularly scheduled mayhem! Part 3 of 4 in the werewolf tropes post series. Also, long post is long.
Almost as common as the moon is the modern interpretation that, as a supernatural being able to change its form, a werewolf should be able to use that shape shifting to regenerate and heal its injuries. Not gonna lie, it’s a damn cool concept. I don’t want to see it go away for a while. There’s just so much possibility.
Unfortunately, very few people realize just how much possibility there is with regeneration. Not all of it is good. Lemme ‘splain. (Side note: I was talking about this with someone else and don’t remember who it was. Speak up if it was you!)
When werewolves change form there are a lot of muscles, bones, tendons, and possibly some different cell types that get moved around, broken down, and reformed into the appropriate structures. It’s done in a very short period of time. Most literature and media portray the transformation as happening in a matter of minutes (again, an exception would be Ginger Snaps). That is a huge energy expenditure. I imagine there is a lot of heat and friction. Where all that heat and friction goes no one has yet addressed, including myself. Might be fun to speculate later, though. I’ll save it for another post.
With the werewolf’s body reacting so quickly to a change, and with the assumed high metabolism that goes along with it, one might think the body would react strangely to other “natural” occurrences. What happens if a werewolf gets a virus? Or a bacterial infection? Do the body’s defenses go into hyper kill mode to destroy the invading sickness? (Not that it’s likely they’ll get infected in the first place, but anything is possible. Technically we’re talking about a creature that doesn’t even exist. Just run with me here for a minute.)
My thought is yes. Werewolf catches the flu and they’ll still have to fight it off… they’ll just fight it faster than others. Maybe there is a dangerous fever spike as the body cleans itself. The virus or bacteria won’t have much time to replicate, sure, but the werewolf’s system is still going to overreact. Or what if there is an overreaction to an allergy? A poor werewolf allergic to penicillin gets a small dose from the hospital and boom! The body goes crazy. Where a normal human might just get a rash or feel a little strange, the werewolf might die.
The big, bad wolf could die of a minor allergy or infection. How humiliating.
This kind of overreaction wouldn’t be common, of course. Then there wouldn’t be any werewolves. They’d all pull an alien trope and die of a common cold. But the potential is still there, and I’d love to see someone address it. I don’t get the chance in my current novel. Too much other fun stuff happening in the story. Maybe the sequel?
So… back to regular regeneration talk. What is generally acceptable? Cuts, bruises, and broken bones tend to mend well without issue. This is generally accepted by authors and readers as reality for werewolves. I’ve read a few books where the regeneration process was used against the werewolf, such as not setting a broken bone and letting it “heal” in a crippling form, or using fire to cauterize an open wound so that there will always be a scar or permanent dysfunction. Cruel authors are cruel.
Regrowing entire limbs is a little excessive, though. Laurell K. Hamilton even had one of her shifters regrow its whole head! (Okay, so it was an ancient shifter, but come on. Really? A whole head? That’s just cheating.)
So what do mine do? All the minor stuff is no sweat. Might make them tired, but yes, they’ll heal cuts and bruises no problem. Broken bones aren’t going to instantly heal. That might take a day or two depending on how severe the break is. Super serious life-threatening injuries? You better believe my werewolves are lying down somewhere in a coma until that heals. The last thing I want to see is a werewolf deus ex machina where the should-be-dead wolf rises up one more time to lay the smack down on their enemy. No. Just no. You’re injured, act like it!
Badass, yes. Invincible, no. There always has to be a vulnerability, a way to beat the monsters, or the average reader loses interest. It becomes unrealistic.
If you have any favorites or hate-its about werewolf tropes, please leave a comment.
The next post will probably be another poll, but part 4 of this post series is coming soon. Last up: The Pack, and all the silly that goes with it.