To begin, may I say that the title of this post and the entirety of its contents are entirely the fault of two things?
1. I’ve been listening to “Werewolves of London” on repeat. You know, THIS lovely piece of pajama party dance track:
2. Ireland is awesome and voted gay marriage into a thing. A thing that people can do. WOO.
Because of these two things, Marcas, the faoladh who stars in Wolf of the West, decided it was time for me to write his and Connor’s wedding. (And this blog post.) I have enough books in the works without a sequel for that one too, but I can’ t help myself. I’m under the command of numerous imaginary figments, and Marcas can howl loudly when he wants to!
So, the actual point of this post is…faoladh! Marcas is one, which is why he’s such a pain – and the rest of the wolves of the west are, too, which is why they are such a pain. The faoladh are the werewolves of Ireland (technically of the Ossory area and not really Dublin, but could YOU pass up that pun? Didn’t think so.) and unlike most werewolves, the faoladh are heroic, instead of monstrous.
Are you a child alone at night, all by yourself on your way home and afraid of the dark? A faoladh would guide you home, protect you from predators and the the danger of the dark. A wounded warrior, perhaps the last survivor of some honorable battle? The same goes for you, because the faoladh are the protectors of the lost, and the wounded.
Rather than being cursed lycanthropes with a lust for flesh (though we’ll see about that ‘cursed’ bit in a minute), the faoladh are people, generally associated with Ossory and the nearby regions of Ireland, who choose to take on the shape of a wolf for seven years, protecting the land.
This was of course a dangerous occupation, as nothing separated one of the faoladh in wolf-shape from a normal wolf. In some of the folklore, the faoladh had the ability to speak human language , and this could protect them – if they weren’t thought to be sidhe or stray spirits. Still, there is more than one story about faoladh being hunted down, all unknowing, by those they had sacrificed so much to protect.
Remember up there I mentioned curses? Well, part of the legend of the faoladh that was changed under the influence of Christianity relates to their origin. Rather than servants of an ancient god, or chosen protectors of man, the faoladh were men and women who had made fun of a Christian saint. (Some stories say St. Natalis of Ulster…some say St. Patrick.) Because they had howled like wolves at the saint’s sermon, they were cursed to stay in the shape of wolves for seven years.
Personally, I like the older version, which made the faoladh volunteers performing a sacred duty. Considering that in all versions, they’re good creatures, helping and protecting human beings, I like to think they came into being with some dignity!
If you want to read more about the foaladh, and ancient Irish mythology in general, try Wolf of the West! The main character Marcas is faoladh, and I had fun exploring the folklore to come up with a consistent portrayal of my favorite kind of werewolf. After all, how often do werewolves get to do anything but eat people or kill vampires? (Not that that isn’t fun too!)