The Were-Wolf Summary
by Clemence Housman

Start Your Free Trial

Download The Were-Wolf Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The Were-Wolf Summary

Clemence Annie Housman was born in 1861 in the United Kingdom. She is known as an author, illustrator, and suffragette. Housman worked as an illustrator, producing wood engravings for illustrated papers. In 1909, Clemence and her younger brother Laurence Housman founded the Suffrage Atelier, a company focused on producing political art for the women’s suffrage movement. As an author, Housman is best known for writing Unknown Sea (1898) and The Life of Sir Aglovale De Galis (1905). Housman’s short story “The Were-Wolf,” published in 1896, is an allegorical fairy tale. Unlike other pieces of werewolf literature, the short story features a female werewolf as the main antagonist rather than a male one. Echoing both gothic Victorian and Christian fantasy literature, “The Were-Wolf” is an alluring and frightening look into the unknown, uncontrolled, and holy.

Plot Summary

“The Were-Wolf” begins with a welcoming indoor scene of a family farm in the evening. It is winter, and the farm is on rural land surrounded by woods. The family is hard at work, with the men woodworking and the women spinning thread. The family is disturbed by a mysterious knocking upon the door, and a voice yelling, “Open, open; let me in!” The eldest brother, Sweyn, answers the door, only to find nothing there. This occurs two more times. The family’s dog, Tyr, is disturbed and howls at the voices outside. The family is frightened as they recall several ominous superstitions.

Another knock sounds on the door, but this time there is no voice. The mother suggests that it is Sweyn’s younger brother, Christian, finally coming home. Sweyn opens the door, but instead of Christian, a tall, beautiful woman dressed in white enters. Tyr leaps at her, barking, and tries to attack her, but Sweyn restrains him. The family is taken aback by the woman’s beauty and grace and the white fur cloak she wears. Unlike other women in the story, she bears an axe and wears hunter’s boots, and appears to have a mix of masculine and feminine traits. The family welcomes her in, and she tells them her story of having traveled a long distance alone. She explains that she must still travel further. Sweyn encourages her to stay the night to avoid the dangers of traveling alone in the dark. Rol, the youngest boy in the family, asks her what her name is, and she answers that it is “White Fell.” Rol hugs her, and she kisses Rol. The family admires White Fell despite her strangeness.

Meanwhile, Christian is close to home. He notices large wolf tracks in the snow, and follows the tracks all the way to the front door of the house, where they end. Christian is afraid that the family may be in danger. He knocks and enters to see the family fawning over White Fell. Immediately, Christian knows that she is a werewolf. Christian acts hostilely towards her. When he has a moment alone with Sweyn, he tries to convince him that White Fell is a werewolf. Since Christian is prone to fantasizing, Sweyn doesn’t believe him. Instead, Sweyn thinks that Christian is jealous. With Sweyn fawning over White Fell, Christian is unable to do anything to protect his family. The family listens and follows Sweyn, who is the more attractive and physically strong of the two brothers. Later that night, Christian checks White Fell’s room and finds the window open and White Fell gone. After White Fell’s sudden departure, Rol asks for her often. Later, Rol disobeys Trella, his caretaker, and runs away into the forest with his puppy to play. The puppy returns, scared and skittish, without Rol. Rol is never found, and the family mourns his death.

Soon after, White Fell returns again to the family farm. She explains her absence, but Christian knows that she killed Rol. Christian leaves the farm and runs to the nearest church to find holy water with which to kill White Fell. Christian is an incredibly fast runner, and he makes the long trip within three hours. While Christian is gone, White Fell bonds with...

(The entire section is 1,166 words.)