Lycanthropy in German Literature by Peter Arnds

By Peter Arnds

Lycanthropy in German Literature argues that as an emblem of either strength and parasitism, the human wolf of the Germanic heart a long time is iconic to the illustration of the persecution of undesirables within the German cultural mind's eye from the early glossy age to the post-war literary scene.

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It reiterates in carnivalesque fashion those more severe crimes on account of which bandits were expelled as wolves, sinners of the worst kind, who inspired the Christian iconography of Hell and the Devil. Disguised as a hunter, Simplicius becomes a criminal expelled from society, living in the wilderness. Especially after his return from France, his lifestyle falls into increasing dissolution. It seems that France has forever corrupted his morals,49 as it turns him into a male prostitute in a brothel called Venus Mountain.

Although the Man of the Hill is a benevolent character, in his wild imagination, Partridge initially associates him with witchcraft and the devil. He turns out to be someone who has exiled himself from humanity in search of wisdom by reading Plato and Aristotle. This man in animal skin, a reminder of his former foolish self, is in the end a man of wisdom, but only after having learned from his own faults and from the books he has studied. Given to self-imposed loneliness and strange wanderings in the night, Fielding’s Man of the Hill is also the classical melancholic.

13 From its very beginnings in the sixteenth century, the picaresque genre explores the liminality between the human and the beastly, and asks persistently what it is that makes us human. Grimmelshausen’s novel reveals human excess and other sinfulness in carnivalesque fashion using animal metaphors – not only the wolf but also the donkey, and it contains moments in which it reveals animals as the wiser species: I might almost say that you humans have learnt your arts and sciences from us animals.

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