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MrsDarcy

Lycanthropy

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MrsDarcy

Hi All

I’m currently writing a fic that involves Remus, which have had me thinking about Lycanthropy – or more specifically, how the Wizarding World view this.

Obviously, it is already established in the books that there’s a stigma to Lycanthropy that involves fear and disgust – although I don’t think it has been elaborated much on. I’ve read somewhere that JKR meant it as a metaphor for HIV – I’m unsure whether this makes sense to me or not :hmm:

So basically, I’ve made a few questions which I hope someone will give their perspective on

 How do you imagine a regular wizard/witch would react to someone with lycanthropy in an everyday setting? What specifically would they fear/be disgusted by?

-  Does lycanthropy as a metaphor for HIV make sense? Why/why not? If you should compare it something else in the real world, what would it be?

Since there are plenty of Remus-lovers here, feel free to spill all your thoughts ^_^

Edited by MrsDarcy

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Margaret

-  How do you imagine a regular wizard/witch would react to someone with lycanthropy in an everyday setting? What specifically would they fear/be disgusted by?

I think the main thing is that they would fear being bitten and becoming a werewolf themselves. Yeah, that is a pretty irrational fear, given that the person with lycanthropy is only dangerous one night of the month, but I would imagine there would be fears along the lines of, "where does this person spend the night of the full moon?", "do they use Wolfsbane?", "what if it fails?", "is it safe for them to live near my children in case they could attack them when the moon is full."

There would also probably be an awkwardness. If you know somebody has a difficult and stigmatised condition, it's likely to be on your mind when you talk to them and part of you feels you should be extra-nice to them but then part of you feels that makes it look like you really are prejudiced against them and are trying to cover it up. And if you don't mention it, it seems like you are awkward about the topic or prejudiced or that you just don't care but if you do mention it, it could be seen as acting like their condition is the most important thing about them (all general "you," of course). There are questions like "should you ask how they are after the full moon?"

And there is also just the even more irrational disgust that isn't really specifically about anything. They learn about werewolves in "Defence Against the Dark Arts" so they are likely to have a sense from childhood of werewolves as in some way "dark" or "evil" or "to be feared." I don't think there even has to be a specific thing. People who fear say spiders often probably can't say what specifically it is that scares or disgusts them about spiders. I suspect there would be a certain amount of that too

-  Does lycanthropy as a metaphor for HIV make sense? Why/why not? If you should compare it something else in the real world, what would it be?

Yeah, I think it makes sense, although I do think there are other aspects to the stigma around HIV, as it tied in to certain prejudices. I don't think lycanthropy has to be linked directly to one particular thing in our world; I think it has resonances of a number of illnesses and conditions and even experiences. The first one that would come to mind would be the traditional attitude towards leprosy, which we see in the Bible, among other places. And TB to an extent too, which people tried to cover up having/family members having due to its association with poverty.

Then there is mental illness. I think things are changing there too, thankfully, but people with various mental illnesses have been stigmatised and some have been associated with violence or crime, even when people with those illnesses are no more likely (and perhaps even less likely) than others to commit crimes.

I would also see comparisons with rape, in the sense of people being blamed for being attacked.

I'm not sure I'd compare it specifically to any one thing. There have been many illnesses and experiences which have been stigmatised and there are many things people fear irrationally. You could even make links with people fearing certain nationalities or religions or races because of hearing of somebody from those groups committing a crime. They know logically that people of all nationalities and religions and races commit crimes but still flinch when they see people from a specific group because crimes by that group have gotten a lot of media attention.

 

Another thing I feel relevant, and probably more related to the first question than the second, is I think a lot of the stigma towards people who have had certain bad experiences or who suffer from certain conditions is about wanting to feel safe oneself. If you believe that say contracting lycanthropy is completely random, well, it could be you or your child or somebody else you love. If you can convince yourself that people with lycanthropy are in some way bad people who deserve it (or even that they made some stupid mistake that could have been prevented) then you can feel safe that it won't happen to you or those you love because you don't deserve it and you won't make those avoidable mistakes (again, general "you" obviously). This is all subconscious. I don't think anybody thinks, "well, I don't want to believe I could be attacked so I'll tell myself those who do get attacked must have been drunk or have taken a dangerous route home or trusted somebody who was obviously dodgy or whatever." It's more that they hear a story about somebody in this case being attacked by a werewolf and get scared, so they immediately start thinking, "oh well, that person walked home through a forest so what did they expect?" or "oh, how stupid were they to go out late at night on a full moon" or "well, I bet they'd been drinking" or "if they'd only paid better attention in Defence Against the Dark Arts like I did..."

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scooterbug8515

How do you imagine a regular wizard/witch would react to someone with lycanthropy in an everyday setting? What specifically would they fear/be disgusted by?

 

I do think that there is a a general fear and discomfort around those with lycanthropy.  It is why Remus hides it so much, people judge against him and avoid him for it.  I think the fear is stemmed from the fact that in my opinion those with lycanthropy can be loose canons.  Look at Greyback.  I'm sure he wasn't the only one who helped to build up the stigma.  I mean even a bite in human form can have an impact I mean look what happened to Bill, those bites scared and he tends to like his meat a little more rare.  So a potentially wild and vicious person would be frightening never know when they are going to go off on you.  Never know if somehow you are going to get infected too.

 

-  Does lycanthropy as a metaphor for HIV make sense? Why/why not? If you should compare it something else in the real world, what would it be?

 

I admit I get where JKR was coming from but the pain and agony I liken that to having Fibro or MS.  Something you can't control something that can mess with your emotions (particularly fibro).  So I don't fully see it connecting to the HIV as much.  Sure there is the stigma that goes with it that can relate but there are other things that have stigma as well that might fight better, particularly if the stigma is based off of my theories.  I think it could relate to some of the mental diseases, as they tend to have a less than favorable stigma particularly when the disorder is something people do not understand and there are some disorders that cause those with the condition to lash out which I think can and does happen with werewolves.  Then there are the ignorant that fear that they can catch the disorder by association similar with lycanthropy.  

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MrsDarcy
32 minutes ago, scooterbug8515 said:

I mean even a bite in human form can have an impact I mean look what happened to Bill, those bites scared and he tends to like his meat a little more rare.

I almost feel like this is a bit of a plothole in the story - I mean, if a werewolf can potentially infect someone while in human form, i slightly doubt Remus would get close to anyone, or at least be wearing gloves. I mean it is possible to accidentally scratch someone. I think I like to imagine that a scratch through the skin (like w. blood) can leave a scar, but nothing more. What's your take on that? 

I really like your real-world comparison btw. very helpful in trying to figure out how a person would react/feel/think when faced with a werewolf 

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scooterbug8515

I can see the argument of the nails having an impact at least in the sense of a scar there is lycanthropy mythos that supports a scratch causing an infection.  One can get close to a person without biting to the point of bleeding.

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Margaret
On 2/4/2019 at 8:51 PM, MrsDarcy said:

I almost feel like this is a bit of a plothole in the story - I mean, if a werewolf can potentially infect someone while in human form, i slightly doubt Remus would get close to anyone, or at least be wearing gloves. I mean it is possible to accidentally scratch someone. I think I like to imagine that a scratch through the skin (like w. blood) can leave a scar, but nothing more. What's your take on that? 

I really like your real-world comparison btw. very helpful in trying to figure out how a person would react/feel/think when faced with a werewolf 

I don't really think an accidental scratch would turn somebody into a werewolf. After all, even the effects on Bill were mild apart from the scars. I think it is more that it would leave a permanent scar and serious injuries like what happened to Bill could cause some mild contamination. (I do have a werewolf character who is in absolute terror of accidentally scratching somebody.

I get the impression there is very little information about lycanthropy in the wizarding world - like nobody seemed sure what the effects on Bill would be, even though you would think surely somebody with lycanthropy committed assault before. I'm guessing this is because of the stigma - people with lycanthropy or even those who have been attacked by a werewolf in human form are unwilling to talk about it.

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poppunkpadfoot
On 1/28/2019 at 11:58 AM, MrsDarcy said:

-  Does lycanthropy as a metaphor for HIV make sense? Why/why not? If you should compare it something else in the real world, what would it be?

I'm just going to address this one question cause it's the one I have Thoughts on. I see where JKR was coming from when it comes to Remus Lupin specifically. But what people forget is that the other werewolf we actually see in the series (Fenrir Greyback) is a vicious predator who delights in attacking other people and specifically likes to attack children, and it's pretty heavily implied that Remus is very unusual because most other werewolves freely attack people during the full moon. Even in the case of someone like Remus who is a perfectly lovely person, he still does in fact turn into an out-of-control wolf once a month who would mindlessly attack people if given the opportunity. Now, it's clear that with the invention of the Wolfsbane potion there's a lot more potential for someone like Remus to be able to lead a more 'normal' life, but that there is stigma that leads to other wizards not wanting to hire/interact with a werewolf. So again I see where JKR was coming from, with the stigma angle. But if you flip this metaphor around what you get is "people with HIV are like werewolves, i.e. mindless monsters who attack, maim and kill innocent people". If she specifically meant that Remus is an HIV allegory, that's one thing (although I'm still not a fan for various other reasons) but 'lycanthropy as an HIV allegory' means that Fenrir Greyback is also an HIV allegory, and that just intersects very uncomfortably with the way that HIV stigma actually plays out in real life, and sounds very similar to a lot of the most harmful ideas and propoganda about HIV/AIDS that have been espoused and spread since the 80s. Tbh this is the problem with making a connection between lycanthropy and any stigmatized experience in the real world, is that flipping it around means you're basically calling people monsters? And while it's true that Remus is a wonderful and lovely person for most of the month, it's also true that werewolves, in their wolf form, are legit mindless and dangerous. Sooo. Yeah. Idk. It's tricky. But that's my take.

I agree with Margaret about your first question (re: how people would react in an everyday setting). Obviously though that would all be contingent on the person realizing they're talking to a werewolf. I think Remus would have more problems long-term, he's probably fine in passing interactions but if he's around someone long enough for them to notice how he vanishes around the full moon, that's going to be difficult to explain away.

In terms of biting/scratching while in human form having serious effects, I always was under the impression that Greyback was a special case in that regard because he had rejected his humanity or something and was therefore wolflike even when it wasn't a full moon. But I could be remembering wrong or misunderstanding, idk.

I also think it's interesting to think about how wolfsbane could affect the stigma in the wizarding world. I think it's implied that it's a relatively new potion and very difficult to make. I wonder if greater ease of access for werewolves who want to take it (i.e. not Greyback and his followers, lol) would lead to more werewolves being able to lead 'normal' lives and, over time, decreased stigma against werewolves. Decreased stigma against werewolves would definitely lead to fewer Greyback followers (which would probably further reduce stigma). It seems like something that would be interesting to write about in a next gen story!

 

Sidenote, if anyone wants to chat more about HIV (whether it's related to the question of lycanthropy or not), my inbox is always open :) 

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facingthenorthwind
On 2/5/2019 at 7:09 AM, scooterbug8515 said:

I mean even a bite in human form can have an impact I mean look what happened to Bill, those bites scared and he tends to like his meat a little more rare.

I don't think this holds up! have been bitten by a human (ah, small children, what delights) and it scarred; that's not terribly unusual. It's entirely possible that Greyback puts effort into making his bites specifically more toxic, too. I don't think the rareness (rarity?) at which you like your meat is solid evidence, either, but that's just me. 

Otherwise, I agree with Kayla re: the HIV thing! It's really ugly when you think about the Greyback bit and the way he specifically preyed on children, which is.... such a horrific stereotype of gay men.

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scooterbug8515
6 hours ago, facingthenorthwind said:

I don't think this holds up! have been bitten by a human (ah, small children, what delights) and it scarred; that's not terribly unusual. It's entirely possible that Greyback puts effort into making his bites specifically more toxic, too. I don't think the rareness (rarity?) at which you like your meat is solid evidence, either, but that's just me. 

Otherwise, I agree with Kayla re: the HIV thing! It's really ugly when you think about the Greyback bit and the way he specifically preyed on children, which is.... such a horrific stereotype of gay men.

Scaring is normal in the muggle world but it seems to be highly indicated that scars only last and remain when they are magical.  That seems to be a thing in HP from what I can pick up.  Additionally, it isn't an off hand comment that Bill likes rare meet but that he will like his meet rarer than he used to since the bite.  Sorry to disagree but to me there is strong evidence that a werewolf bite even in human form can have an impact on the victim.

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