The Werewolf

The werewolf is an evil sorcerer who can transform himself into a wolf and all sorts of ferocious animals and then can harm people and animals alike while being impervious from harm. However, he must show himself in his true human form if an innocent child throws a piece of steel over him and picks it up before the werewolf. But if the werewolf picks it up first the child is doomed, for the former will become enraged and tear it into pieces.

It must have been three hundred years ago that such a werewolf lived in the village of Ergste1). He had entered a pact with the Devil and was able to change into all sorts of shapes and committed all sorts of evil-minded and dangerous pranks throughout the region. He especially loved to change into a wolf and rob sheep, cows, and other domestic animals from stables and pastures. Everyone was afraid of him, but nobody could harm him, for the power of Satan protected him.

However, once when he had broken into the stable of a farmer with the intention of stealing sheep, the two boys of the farmer confronted him. One threw a pair of scissors and the other threw a knife crosswise above him, and quickly captured them before the werewolf was able to do the same. Now he had to take on his natural form and let himself be captured. He was brought to Limburg2) to the high justice court3). In order to determine whether or not he was a sorcerer he was thrown into the Lenne river near the Oegerstein hill4). If he remained at the surface, he was a sorcerer, but if he was able to sink to the ground everything was fine. Long did he swim at the surface and it was not possible for him to submerge, and judge and people were about to condemn him as an evil sorcerer. Then, in fear for his life, the werewolf turned to his pact ally, the Devil, and pleaded to him for help. That one did not forsake him, and transformed a sewing needle which the sorcerer carried with him into a heavy hatchet so that he sank to the ground. He was now recognized as innocent and released.

Subsequently he continued his depravities just as before. But one time, when he had sunk into a deep sleep, the farmers ambushed him and set fire to his body. When he woke up he wanted to quickly transform himself, but it was too late and he was incinerated painfully. His ashes were buried far away from the churchyard where his ghost still appears every night and whines and whimpers like someone who is burned alive.


Source: Stahl, H. Westphälische Sagen und Geschichten. 1831, p. 275

Notes & commentary: What Big Teeth You've Got - Werewolves


1)
Ergste is now a district of the city of Schwerte. Interestingly, its heraldic sign features a wolf’s head.
2)
Modern-day Hagen-Hohenlimburg.
3)
The term used here was “peinliches Halsgericht” (“painful neck-court”), which means that the court in Limburg had the authority to rule in capital punishment trials.
4)
If I am interpreting this postcard correctly, the location was probably where the Oeger Straße and the Mühlenbergstraße roads meet.