by MJ Steel Collins

Not falling in line with the stereotypical notion of the Werewolf, the Wulver is a rather unique lycanthrophic supernatural creature. Whilst Werewolves shape shift from human form and run wild during a full moon, the Wulver is an altogether more sedate being by comparison.

The Wulver hails from the Shetland Islands. It is described as having the head of a wolf and the body of a man, covered in a layer of brown hair. Unlike the actual Werewolf, the Wulver was never human in the first place. In fact, the ancient Celts believed it to be a creature midway between humans and wolves, descended from wolf-kind.

Overall, they are regarded as benign, friendly beings. They were spotted on a regular basis around Shetland, up to the start of the 20th century, and could often be seen sitting on a stone, fishing in a loch or river for their tea. The stones, called Wulver Stanes, are flat rocks located on the banks of rivers and lochs. Wulvers had a lot of patience, and could spend hours fishing until they made a catch. It’s unclear where they got their fishing tackle – either they made it from materials they had to hand, or stole it.

Wulvers were rather helpful creatures. If a traveller got lost, a Wulver would lead them to the nearest town or village. Families that were poor and starving might find that the Wulver had left a supply of fish on their windowsill. The same favour was done for households with a sick individual, and the Wulver would also sit sadly outside the home of a terminally ill person. Apparently Wulvers had a lot in common with a similar Irish Werewolf, the Falodh, which looked after children, and guarded the wounded.

Another similarity to the Falodh is that the Wulver would only attack, and even kill, in self defence. Living in a dug out cave, half way up a hill, the Wulver preferred a solitary life. In fact, they were thought to be lithe and fast in order to escape humans, as well as that other supernatural beastie the Kelpie. And this is a creature described as having a mouthful of sharp fangs.

Some say the Wulver is an immortal spirit, though this doesn’t account for the fact none have been reported for nigh on 100 years. Modern day rationality attempts to explain away the Wulver as either a person suffering Hypertrichosis, a condition in which the entire body is covered in hair, or as someone suffering from the psychological condition, Lycanthropy, which makes them believe they are a wolf, or other animal.

The cold light of rationality doesn’t take away from the almost romantic superstitions attached to Wulvers. One has it that Wulvers will lead you to buried treasure in ancient ruins. Another, slightly more macabre belief ties them in with Hellhounds and Black Shucks, omens of death. Certainly, there was the belief that seeing a Wulver presaged imminent death, whilst anyone who came across Wulver bones and took one was guaranteed a visit from a vicious black dog hell-bent on getting its bone back.

Given the fact a substantial portion of today’s population is dependent on food banks for survival under the Tory led austerity measures, the Wulver is perhaps overdue a comeback.