werewolves: 600 words (exactly) on the topic

Upon perusing Gideon Lykander’s character profile in about Kekionga, a reader has been moved to ask “just how old is the Professor, and how long has he held his position at the University?”.  That’s an interesting question, and one I hadn’t fully considered before.  But here goes.

First, you have to understand some basic facts about Knotted Rope werewolves and how they age.  Remember that in the Knotted Rope lycanthropy is not a curse, and it cannot be spread by biting or other forms of contact or bodily fluid exchange.  Werewolves are werewolves because both their parents are werewolves.  It’s a family thing*.   Fertile matings between werewolf couples always take place in wolf form, and the children are born as wolf pups, in litters of usually three.  The pups age normally until they are weaned and running around on their own, when they discover their ability to transform– into human toddlers at the already walking and starting to talk stage.  (The advantages for child rearing are obvious– werewolf women do no envy their Outsider counterparts’ long pregnancies and their children’s extended babyhoods.)

Young werewolves grow up fast, reaching full adulthood (at least physically) in 14 or 15 years. (Mental, emotional and spiritual maturity can take longer.)  Then, like all dogs, they enter a long  golden afternoon of very slow aging, until they are suddenly old.  Werewolves are tough, and their disease resistance and quick healing increase their lifespans: a werewolf may have 70, 80 or even 100 years of adulthood, aging physiologically from the equivalent of the late teen years to the late 50s before “crashing” and dying of old age in 2 to 5 years. (Many werewolves don’t bother waiting out the process, and go out in a last big adventure or dangerous project when the signs of aging begin.)  Note that werewolves are often short of sleep– there aren’t enough hours in the day for a full human life plus a fair share of hunting and howling. So they usually look a little tired and that can add years to their appearance.

So what does that mean for the Professor, who appears to be in his mid to late 30s?  Physiologically, he’s probably a little younger than that– he has a very active life in both forms and is chronically sleep deprived.  Chronologically, he is almost certainly much older, perhaps in his late 40s or early 50s?  This accounts for his world weary attitude.  It also jibes with his career position: he is fully qualified esoteric Librarian in his first unsupervised appointment.  To get to that point requires a lot of years of training, apprenticeships and general book oriented adventuring– most Outsider Librarians look a great deal older than Gideon does.

As for how long he has been the Archivist at Sauk Trail, my guess is not very long– perhaps two or three years before the story begins.  That would be long enough for him to develop his semi-antagonistic relationship with Bud, and to discover that he could really use an assistant/apprentice.  Iowa is Gideon’s first apprentice, just as Jack is Bud’s last.

Thanks for the very interesting question.

*Most werewolves belong to a tight mesh of secretive clans and packs and take werewolf mates, thus continuing the system. But werewolves like the Professor who have gone out to seek their fortune in the wider world will often mate with Outsiders.  Such matings aren’t usually fertile, but when they are, the children will often look slightly “wolfish” and may have some of the enhanced senses and strength, but they will not be able to transform and the minor traits will disappear in the following generations.

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2 Responses to werewolves: 600 words (exactly) on the topic

  1. Layla Lawlor says:

    Ooh, fascinating! 🙂 I particularly like the idea of the long adulthood and accelerated old age. I think a lot of us would love to have that arrangement …

  2. Pam Bliss says:

    Thank you!

    The original concept behind Gideon (beside what I think are the very understandable twin desires to write a snarky gay werewolf librarian and draw his transformation scenes) was that he was going to be a werewolf who wasn’t all angst all the time. I’ve read too many werewolf characters who were tortured by their horrible fate, and I wanted to make stories about a guy who could turn into a wolf and had a lot of fun with it. (Not that Gideon’s life is easy, it isn’t, but his problems are more complex than just being a werewolf.)

    Of course the standard lycanthropy-as-disease or lycanthropy-as-curse systems wouldn’t work for this– painful transformations, full moons spent as a ravening monster, and the risk of infecting friends and loved ones with the same all would tend to bring on the angst in any sane person. The logical alternative would be lycanthropy-as-family-trait, or at worst lycanthropy-as-family-secret. I had a lot of fun setting up the biology, but yes, when you take the angst out of lycanthropy it turns out that being a werewolf in this setting is actually a pretty good deal. A few extra years of healthy, productive adulthood are sounding pretty good to me right now.

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