The first tales of humans transforming into wolves and back to human form occur in Greek mythology. The historian Herodotus wrote of a tribe he called the Neuri. They were all transformed into wolves each year for a period of several days, then returned to their human form. Other tales tell of humans changed into wolves by Zeus as punishment for various offenses. Still others tell of humans who could transform themselves to wolves and back to human form at will. The Roman poet Ovid wrote of Lycaones in his Metamorphoses.
Belief in werewolves didn't take hold in Europe until the Middle Ages. The first known written use of the word "werwolf" is in an 11th-century German manuscript. In Norse and Icelandic legend, great warriors dressed in wolf skins. They thought that gave them characteristics of the wolf such as bravery and ferocity. Later, werewolves came to be associated with vampires in eastern Europe and with witches in western Europe. By the Renaissance, one of the many charges against Christian heretics was that they were werewolves.
Whenever or wherever they lived, werewolves wore the same kind of clothes as their neighbors, when in human form. So, if you want to, you could create a mashup costume. For example, you could be one of Ovid's Lycaones by combining a toga costume with a wolf mask. You could be a werewolf from almost any time or place by adding a wolf mask and gloves to any historic or ethnic costume.
There have been many modern attempts to explain werewolves. Some have seen them as misinterpretations of medical conditions such as porphyria or hypertrichosis. In a very rare psychiatric condition called lycanthropy, the affected person has a fixed delusion that s/he is a wolf.
In medieval thought, werewolves transformed by magic or witchcraft. The prevalent modern ideas about werewolves only date to the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Transformation at the time of the full moon first appears in an 1847 novel, Wagner the Wehr-Wolf by G. W. M. Reynolds. The idea that a werewolf destroys what it loves most originated in the 1935 movie Werewolf of London. Its resistance to injury and vulnerability to items made of silver date to the 1941 Lon Chaney, Jr. classic The Wolf-Man. The idea that werewolves have a disease, transmitted either by heredity or by a bite from one, is even more recent. Recent portrayals of werewolves have been sympathetic. One example is David Kessler in 1981's An American Werewolf in London. Another is Professor Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter books and movies.
If you want to become a werewolf, you don't have to get bitten. Choose one of our classic werewolf costumes and start practicing your howl. We have werewolf costumes for kids and adults. Strike fear into the neighbors, medieval village dwellers, and teenage vampires, too! You can use makeup to transform your face, or wear one of our werewolf masks. It's up to you to decide whether you're a rapacious monster, or a defender of humans against evil vampires! (We have a wig that lets you look like one of those....)