M.A. Presents: Ruggedly Handsome and Out for Revenge
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Ruggedly Handsome and Out for Revenge Transcript
[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]
Monstrous Agonies presents: Ruggedly Handsome and Out for Revenge
[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through Motown music, a voice saying “-this one's a good one-”, guitar music and a voice speaking Irish before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]
-always recommend a visit to your local library for practical advice and access to resources, as well as community events to help you stay connected.
You're listening to the Nightfolk Network, the UK's only dedicated radio service for the creature community. Tonight, though, we're taking a more global perspective, as we explore the history – and future – of the werewolf diaspora.
We talked to Ned Canavan, a community educator from the London Museum of Lycanthropy.
Right! So, here at the museum, uh, we usually talk about “lycanthropic communities”. It's a bit of a mouthful but it's a helpful way of referring to everyone who falls under the umbrella of “somatically non-stable lycanthropes” – so that [laughs] that’s, um, people who turn into wolves, in other words. Or, you know, wolves who turn into people, depending on how you want to look at it!
In this case, though, we're talking very specifically about werewolves. That is, a particular group of somatically non-static lycanthropes who hail from Britain and Ireland. And the reason we're being so uncharacteristically specific is because the werewolf diaspora is a really unique phenomenon in the creature community here.
Emigration and immigration – the movement of people to and from other countries, it’s always been part of life in these islands, for all genuses. People have always moved away to find work, to build new communities and start new lives for themselves and their families. That's just life, that's what people do. And of course, that's as true for lycanthropes as it is for anyone else.
But for other lycanthropic communities that live here – the wulvers, the loup garou, the versipelli and the gerulfi – emigration is an individual choice made by certain people for their own, personal reasons. For werewolves, emigration is an intrinsic part of our culture and history.
Britain’s colonisation of Ireland first began in the 1550’s. In the following 800 years of oppression, the Irish culture was almost wiped out. Prior to colonisation, the respective werewolf populations of each country lived in relative peace with the sapios around them. In Roman Britain, werewolves were recorded holding high-ranking political and religious positions. Meanwhile, in Ireland, the two communities maintained generally civil, if not outright friendly, relations, particularly in the medieval kingdom of Ossory, home to the largest Irish werewolf community.
Werewolves at this time had little to no comradery or community across national boundaries. They considered themselves to be either Irish werewolves or British werewolves, and shared no identity between the two. Then, in the 1600s, British werewolves found themselves, for the first time, subjected to the same treatment as their oppressed Irish counterparts.
Anti-creature sentiment rose dramatically in this period, and many genuses were forced to live with as little contact with the sapio population as possible, for fear of violence and discrimination. As a particularly visible population, werewolves bore the brunt of this sentiment, epitomising – in the eyes of policy-makers and propagandists – the savagery and duplicity common to all creatures.
In the 1650s, the British government, under Oliver Cromwell, enforced anti-werewolf policies that led to a significant depletion of the population. Cromwell enacted these as part and parcel of his ethnic cleansing of the Irish population.
£3! That's... That’s how much you'd get for a werewolf pelt. £3. Um, it works out at around 350 quid in today's money – which is actually about as much as I spent on my Roomba. Yeah. And so, that's what Oliver Cromwell and his cronies thought a werewolf's life was worth.
Which, to be fair, is actually more than he thought an Irish human’s life was worth! I mean, he wiped out around 40% of the Irish population.
But interestingly, in Ireland at that time, you could get 5 or 6 pounds for a wolf – you know, like, your regular, all-wolf-all-the-time, wolf pelt. So we actually can't be sure how many of our pelts were sold in Ireland, because hunters would just they were regular wolf pelts, so they could get paid more.
So Cromwell was wiping out the Irish population. He was, he was doing a bit of an ‘aul ethnic cleanse, you know? And the Irish werewolves were a part of that. Right? Right. But the order didn’t say anything about ‘Irish’ werewolves did it?
I mean, look, we’re using the word ‘British’ as shorthand right now, but obviously, look, you’re talking about the history of the Scottish werewolves and the Welsh werewolves, you know. Come on away down to the museum, I’ll talk your ear off!
But what I’m saying is, when Cromwell left Ireland, he went right over to Scotland. £3 a pelt. And the English werewolves? Och, Jesus, I can’t imagine their shock, to be honest. Not even a higher price for them, the poor pets! £3 a pelt. Uh, it was... It was incentivised genocide.
All werewolves were targeted. Everyone. And that was intentional. We were undesirables to be wiped out. That’s when it started, the moment everything changed for our community. [laughing] Nothing like an ‘aul near-death circumstance to forge bonds, right? The first wave of emigration was in the 17th century, and that’s when the communities combined.
Everyone was affected. You know, everyone knew someone who had moved away. And, you know, in those days, it wasn't like they could fly home for a quick visit. When they were gone, they were gone for good.
It was-- It was really-- It was a watershed moment for werewolves from Ireland and Britain. We-- We can draw a line in our history at Cromwell's bounties and say, this changed us. A third of the population went abroad, often never came home again, and a third were murdered. We were never the same again. The population has never recovered.
British and Irish werewolves alike fled to Europe, where they formed new packs and joined existing ones, creating a ready-made social network to receive the next wave of émigrés during the Industrial Revolution.
In the 1800s, rapid urbanisation and increased demand for farmland had a dramatic impact on communities of all genuses. Werewolves were among those most effected, and packs found their traditional territories carved up in the name of industrial progress.
In Ireland, many packs migrated westward, settling particularly in Donegal, Mayo, Kerry and Cork. And many, of course, followed their forebears to the Continent, joining burgeoning werewolf communities, particularly in the Black Forest and the Basque Country.
But for some, an even more radical change of scenery was required. Werewolves travelled further than they ever had before, and the period gave rise to one of the most romantic – and controversial – figures in liminal pop culture: the werewolf cowboy of the American West.
Oh, it's a great image, isn't it? Oh, the long, lean, lone wolf, doing his best Clint Eastwood squint before padding off into the sunset to howl at the moon! Turn on your telly any Sunday afternoon and you'll-- you'll see him there. Ruggedly handsome and out for revenge.
Of course, it wasn't like that at all. Um. I mean, for one thing, we're werewolves so, we don't really do loners! [laughs] Most werewolves on the frontier arrived with their entire families in tow – and I mean everyone, like, cousins to grannies. They were not stalking off into the wilderness alone.
For another, there's no evidence of actual werewolves working as actual cowboys. I mean, you know, not to perpetuate a stereotype, but, um, like, would you put a werewolf in charge of your cattle? They weren't ranchers – they were hunters. Rustlers, maybe. But ranchers? No, not a chance.
I'm not saying we didn't wear the hats, though! I'll admit to that. And God knows we love a bandana, whatever shape we're in!
The experience of persecution, emigration and diaspora loom large in werewolf culture today, reflected in songs, art and literature. People all over the world can trace their roots back to those werewolves who left their homes to make a new life overseas. But what does this culture of emigration mean for werewolves today?
Werewolves still, to this day, have higher rates of emigration than any other genus, relative to our population size. It's been part of our culture for so long, it's-- it’s almost expected. If a young werewolf tells their family, “I'm moving to America,” or to Germany or Spain, it's not a shock. In fact, you know, [laughing] they'll actually probably be given a list of cousins to check up on once they get there!
The difference we're seeing now is that a lot of those young people come back again. They'll move away for a few years, work hard, make money – and then, you know, they're coming home to their old packs and bringing that experience and that financial security back into their communities.
And d’you know, the opposite also happens – werewolves from other countries coming to visit their ancestor's packs, people whose families left this part of the world generations ago but who still feel that connection. And I think that's a really important part of what werewolf culture looks like today. It is a truly global community. And that’s from our history. Um. We’ve learnt, we are all one pack.
Thanks again to Ned Canavan, from the London Museum of Lycanthropy. The Museum houses the largest collection of lycanthropic artefacts in Europe, and is free to attend. Plan your trip at visitlml.org.uk.
Time now for the news.
[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through a voice saying “-conspiracies-”, piano music, and static before fading out.
Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]
Ruggedly Handsome and Out for Revenge was written and performed by H.R. Owen and Méabh de Brún.
Méabh de Brún is an actor, writer and playwright. Her voicework features in The Silt Verses, Omen and the upcoming podcast The Secret of Saint Kilda. You can follow her on twitter @meabhdebrun or check out more of her work at meabhdebrun.org.
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This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.
Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.
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