Monster Sunday 4: Werewolves

This is weird, but true. The other day I was thinking that if humans had a short coat of hair over our whole bodies like cats do, that maybe we would look better. OK not all of we. Gorgeous people like [Halle Berry] or [Jude Law] (fill in the names of your favorite sexy stars) could stay hairless, but those of us with lumps and bumps and blemishes and cellulite and stretch marks and scars, well, some silky, slinky fur might make a world of difference.

It seemed like a good idea at the time but my thinking may have been impaired by too much wine. My hairy thoughts, however, were not fruitless because they led me to our next featured monster: werewolves.

Werewolves are not amongst my favorite monsters, although I do have a special affection for An American Werewolf in London. I guess I just prefer my monsters to remain in human form, or at least to be kindof cute when in human form, which is why Jack Nicholson just didn’t cut it for me in Wolf. Yes, yes, Michael J. Fox was kindof cute in Teen Wolf, but come on, there’s only so much stupidity I can take in a movie.

Werewolves, like vampires, may have originated as an early sort of urban legend to explain serial killings, but more likely the stories were exaggerations and misunderstandings of physical ailments during the Middle Ages, when superstition was much more prevalent than reason and anything out of the norm might be considered Satanic. Today, you’d think, people would be more reasonable. 

a.real.girl recently called my attention to this article: A “werewolf” boy has suffered from syndrome since birth…has tried everything, no success. Now turning to *gasp*….. medical science.

The boy in this photo, 11 year-old Pruthviraj Patil, is one of only 50 people on the planet with Hypertrichosis, a rare genetic condition that causes hair to grow on his entire body. When Patil was a baby, he was already hairier than grown-up Robin Williams. Although the condition doesn’t cause any other physical problems, as you can imagine it wouldn’t be easy growing up looking very different from all of your little classmates. Patil almost never leaves the small village where he lives because he is treated like a freak.

According to the article, “Pruthviraj’s family have tried a range of treatments – including homeopathy, traditional Indian Ayurvedic remedies and more recently laser surgery – but none has proved successful. Now he has appealed to doctors to help him find a permanent cure.”

Patil’s doctor said the only thing that might work is plastic surgery, because the hair grew back even after laser treatments. I can understand the frustration of parents who turn to alternative medicine when medical science has no solutions for their child. But this makes it sound like Patil’s parents tried woo first, and only later decided that maybe medicine could help. It’s not really surprising, given the superstition that is apparently prevalent in the area:

When Prithviraj was born villagers told his mother she had given birth to a God. Others thought he was a supernatural creature and a bad omen because of his unique appearance.

Anita, 32, admits his condition had been hard for the family to accept.

“Why did God do this to us? He looks so odd and wherever we go people throng to see him,” she said.

One might be tempted to ask, “If God did this, why are they even looking for a cure?”

Patil suffers from a physical disorder, but there are also people who suffer from a rare mental disorder called clinical lycanthropy. These people believe that they transform into an animal (not always a wolf). The syndrome is considered to be a side product of another root condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or clinical depression. Contrary to popular belief, the cure for this is not a silver bullet in the heart or homeopathy, but rather some good ‘ole psychiatric treatment. Unfortunately, again, medical science is not a panacea and many people prefer the sure-thing promised by magic.

I know sometimes stories like this sound funny and is easy to laugh at superstitions, but it is sad when modern medicine can’t help someone and it’s hard for people to accept “I don’t know” as a valid answer to some of life’s hardest questions.


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. Contrary to popular belief, the cure for this is not a silver bullet in the heart

    Actually, I’m pretty sure that’ll cure just about any mental disorder, since once the heart stops beating, there’s no mind to have a disorder shortly thereafter. Making the bullet of silver instead of lead is simply an extravagance… although if you have to die, shot by a silver bullet is one of cooler ways to go, I think…

  2. The first thing I thought of when I started reading this post was a family of accrobats in Mexico. They all suffer from this disease. They work in a Mexican circus. Also I think Nicole Kidman did a movie about this.

    As far as all of us looking better with a sleek coat of hair I really don’t think it would help. The hot people would still be hot and then there would be the rest of us still not being hot. And it would be really uncomfortable during the hot seasons of the year. The hairy guys in Kuwait would get their backs waxed to cut down on the heat. I was really happy that I am damn near hairless naturally.

    As for werewolves. I loved the old werewolf movies. “How does the old saying go? Even he who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night can become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the summer moon is bright.” Then Lon Chaney Jr. freaks out. Great fun.

  3. 11 year-old Pruthviraj Patil, is one of only 50 people on the planet with Hypertrichosis, a rare genetic condition that causes hair to grow on his entire body.

    Hair growing over one’s entire body is rather normal. Indeed, it would be odd if it didn’t. What I think you mean is that the hair growth is abnormally dense and long, as the hypertrichosis web-site you link to states.

  4. Stephen (#3), dense or not, hair doesn’t grow everywhere on the body. If you look at the picture of Pruthviraj, he has hair on his eyelids. Even if the hair was sparse and fine, hair does not generally grow there, nor inside the ear. I don’t know much about it, but consider hair on his palms, or lips – normally, we are not supposed to have functioning hair folicles in these places, right?

  5. Late to the party, but I had to stand back till I calmed down lest I pour a gallon of petrol on some of the more recent volatile topics.

    The fur faces are my favourite monsters, because they are one of the few ‘living’ monsters as opposed to the parade of shambling corpses (vampires, mummies, zombies, ghouls, ghost, etc etc etc). And by the same token American werewolf movies stink to high heaven because they have mangle the werewolves even more than vampires (if that’s possible). Silver bullets, full moons, man-wolf hybrids…toss em. All made up during the monster movie craze.

    As to wolf-boys ‘cure’ – he’s damn lucky he isn’t in the middle ages where the ‘cure’ was somewhat more drastic as evidenced by the tale of Peter Stubbe (1589).

    On being accused of being a werewolf he has his flesh torn off with red hot pincers , his arms and legs broken, then decapitated, then burnt, and finally the head stuck on a pole outside town.

    No reports on wether this ‘cured’ him. But scoffing down wolvesbane (aconite) for a ‘natural cure’ is probably a bit less painful if equally as deadly.

  6. Looking at the photos on the telegraph website, it’s not apparent Pruthviraj has hair on his eyelids. I think the photo here shows shadowing, not hair on his eyelids.

    Yes, I did omit the caveat that hair doesn’t normally grow on the palms, soles or lips, but there is no suggestion that Pruthviraj has hair there.

    Hair does grow on the ear. The ear hair on Pruthviraj is on the ear, not from inside his ear.

    Have I dug myself out that hole? :^)

  7. Skingrafting from hairless parts would work, unless the body is totally covered, but as most women might know, continually waxing off hair works, that’s the only surefire way to get those pesky thick hairs off (a painful process that takes years), as the new hairs are less and less thick.

    I’m male, and I only used the picking them off technique on my left shoulder that grew long thick black hairs… after ten years, they’re still there, but much thinner. So skingrafting from hairless areas of your skin as used by plastic surgeons is the way to go, but your skin will look like you had an accident.

    I don’t think there’s anything funny about a condition like his. We all may suffer from some kind of ailment nobody takes seriously, and a cosmetic “defect” in the eyes of his peers will have a lasting effect on his life.

    In the olden golden days, having a mental disease people just either laughed at you and locked you up in Bedlam, or laughed at you and accepted them as your king… oh wait…

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