Isbuc and the Werewolf
His ears are long, gristly flaps and he still has most of his teeth - only one of his upper canines is missing. His hair is smooth and grey and looks like straw that has been burnt to ashes. In his face, there is something unnatural, distant, something... wolf-like. This is Gratian, believed to be a werewolf by many inhabitants of the small town of Isbuc in Romania.
When asked directly if he is a werewolf, Gratian replies cryptically: "That's what people believe," but adds that this is, "because they are stupid". But that's not to say that werewolves don't exist: Gratian admits that he, too, believes in them: "There are people who turn into them at night. They hex sheep and attack them."
Isolated as they are in a remote valley of the Carpathian mountains in western Transylvania, a world filled with demons and ghosts seems perfectly normal to the people of lsbuc. It's a very poor community in a harsh environment. There is no visible vegetation - all the trees have been burned as fuel in the lime kilns. The only roads are ancient muddy ruts, worn by the wheels of ox-carts. In a superstitious rural backwater like this, Gratian is not the only one to give credence to the werewolf legend. Local fear has made Gratian an outsider while at the same time enabling him to survive. He lives off food parcels provided by the villagers who believe that, if they feed him, he'll spare their sheep.
Gratian is eccentric at least, schizophrenic at worst, but not a werewolf. Ionica, the Headmaster of the village school, dismisses him as a charlatan. "He's been in the village for 30 years exploiting the werewolf myth to frighten the old people." But it's not just the old people who are afraid. Martian, a teacher at the school, hesitates when questioned: "They think he's a wolf because of the way he lives, but there is something about his body, too, something physical." He can't pin it down exactly, and puts it down to a feeling, an instinct.
Thanks to Lone Wolf http://wolfden.lycanthrope.org
Article © Joe McNally, 1999 "Bizarre" Magazine © John Brown Publishing Ltd, May 1999