Saturday 17 April 2010
The Uses of Silver In Werewolf Mythology
It's accepted as common knowledge that werewolves are killed by silver; Stephen King even named the title of his novella Silver Bullet after a weapon made of such metal.
Having done a bit of research, silver has been known for its antibiotic properties since way, way back; the ancient Greeks noticed that those in the upper classes who stored water in silver canteens didn't get dysentery, whereas the majority of the lower-class troops did. (Incidentally, if silver is ingested over a long period of time it gives the skin a bluish tinge, which is apparently where the term 'blue-blood', a name for aristocracy, is derived). Throughout the ages, silver dollars or pieces of silver would be put in milk and water containers to retard spoilage; doctors started advocating the use of silver nitrate drops in newborns eyes to retard blindness, and silver foil dressings were used until around WWII (after which antibiotics were the method of choice to fight infection).
Since lycanthropy was thought to be a sort of infection, spread when one was bitten (or sometimes scratched) by a werewolf, the use of an anti-infection agent like silver would seem to be a natural 'cure' or way to kill the beast.
Or is it? During the course of my research, I've also encountered sources that claim that silver only started being used in werewolf myths after Hollywood's 1941 Wolfman film (which draws heavily upon gypsy lore, and as gypsies only tell fortunes if their palms are crossed with silver, perhaps that's where it came from?). I know -- kind of a bummer to find that out!
What do you guys think about werewolves and the silver myth? Should the metal of the moon be the only one that can kill a werewolf, or should you be able to use whatever you've got lying around?