The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf is a popular Victorian “blood,” or thriller, by G. W. M. Reynolds, one of the most popular masters of the form. The story relates the adventures of Fernand Wagner, who becomes a werewolf. As the novel opens, the aging Wagner is destitute and starving in his hut in the Black Forest. He laments the disappearance of Agnes, his granddaughter and only relative. Wagner accepts Faust’s offer of youth, wealth, and learning; in exchange, Wagner must accompany Faust for eighteen months and after that serve his master, the Devil, by ravaging the human race once a month in the form of a werewolf. After the prescribed period, Wagner makes his way to Florence, where he is reunited briefly with Agnes at the funeral of Andrea, Count of Riverola, the lover who carried her away.

Wagner confronts the Riverola survivors, the deaf-mute Nisida and her brother Francisco, with Agnes’ plight. He immediately falls in love with Nisida. Francisco promises restitution, but Nisida considers Agnes as a rival for Fernand’s love and murders her. Suspicion falls on Wagner, and eventually he is sentenced to execution by beheading.

Meanwhile, Nisida discovers that Francisco plans to marry her maidservant, Flora Francatelli. Nisida considers this to be an unsuitable match, and she commits Flora to the underground dungeon of the Carmelites. The dashing but wicked Stephano Verrina frees her in a spectacular assault by a gang of banditti....

(The entire section is 530 words.)