Benign werewolves and dog men

It’s it funny how often you learn a new word and then almost immediately spot it in use somewhere. Who’d have thought this would be the case with a word like “cynocephali” though? I guess if you expose yourself to enough fiction and fantasy…

I noted this tweet in my timeline the other day.

And then while playing a little Witcher 3, I came across this text:


Cynocephalus is the catch-all term for dog-headed beast men. Apparently throughout history there have been reports across civilizations of such creatures. St. Augustine even mentions them in City of God, apparently, discussing their existence and if real whether or not they would be considered descendants of Adam (aka human).

If I were to venture a guess, I’d wager that the reports of these kinds were based on some mixture of folklore, hearsay, and observed anatomical deformities. Rare diseases like Proteus syndrome can cause bizarre, monster-like skin and bone development.


There have been documented cases of people with horns and such, so why not hound-like facial features?

My reading on cynocephali lead me to related information about dog-man variants (God bless Wikipedia). Of course we’re all familiar with werewolves, but I did come across something interesting in the vein. Some of us have expressed consternation with the contemporary tendency to subjectivize everything, including good and evil. Gone are the easily distinguishable heroes and villains of yore, replaced by tormented anti-heroes and woefully misunderstood only-kinda-bad guys. We attribute this to secularization, the rise of the self, relativism, etc. And I don’t believe this to be untrue.

But it is interesting to see that there have been benevolent wolfmen long before the emergence of the sparkly, emo, good vampire.

The wulver, for instance, is a mythological wolfman of Scottish origin. Unlike the traditional werewolf, it was not once a man and was not cursed to change shape. Instead it was a solitary spirit that lived alone and would not bother people unprovoked. The wulver was known as a fisher and would sometimes leave fish on the window-sills of poor folk.

Illustrated by Tess Garmen and Teagan Gavet for Werewolf

Another “good” wolfman is the Faoladh, of which I’ve been unable to find much information. Apparently it was an Irish guardian, though, which would protect children and wounded men.

Now I’m not saying that if confronted by a beastman of the canine nature one should warmly greet it with bread and salt. But who knows? Maybe it’s a non-hostile cynocephalus of some kind. Still, faith and silver are worthy safeguards..




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