Montague Summers on werewolves and cars

A Natural Curiosity :: Montague Summers on werewolves and cars

imageOn the recommendation of Glenn Danzig, I checked out The Werewolf by Montague Summers from the library (reprinted by Dover as The Werewolf in Lore and Legend).

The first thing that struck me about the book was its antique language and its erudition. “It would have been only too simple a matter, “writes Summers on the first page of his introduction, “ if I had desired, to farse and bombast my notes with scores upon scores of further references...” His book is plentifully footnoted, chockablock with Latin, Greek, and old French, and peppered with obscure or antiquated words including (in the first few pages alone) mournival, prolusion, zetetic, catena, somatist, and expiscate.

The second thing, remarkable for a book first published in 1933, is the author’s firm belief in the reality of werewolves and witches, and his brusque dismissal of those who question their existence.

From whatever cause this shape-shifting may arise, it is very certain by the common consent of all antiquity and all history, by the testimony of learned men, by experience and first-hand witness, that werewolfism which involves some change of form from man to animal is a very real and a very terrible thing.

And again…

No thinking person can deny that these witches in the form of cats suck the blood of children and overlook them, and indeed not unseldom kill them by diabolical agency.

But although Summers is quite solemn about the enduring threat of werewolves and witchcraft, what really seems to upset him is the internal combustion engine.

To-day the risks are no less than in ancient times, the British and Anglo-Saxon periods, although truly the perils are of a different kind. From one end of our island to another the roads are packed and ploughed by mechanical conveyances of the ugliest and most vicious pattern, swift engines of death and destruction, goaded to a maniac speed amid stench unutterable and the din of devils.

When we see London, despoiled of all her beauty, her nakedness uncovered, throwing out hideous suburban tentacles for miles after mile on all sides, it is impossible to realize that between the tenth and twelfth centuries there came up wellnigh to her gates, but a few fair meadows and open pasture lands intervening, vast forests in whose depths dwelt the stag, and the wild-boar and the bull.

Posted by geoff on 02/25 at 05:09 PM

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