The concept of Wyre Folk, those humans cursed to live a life as part beast/part human, has a long history in storytelling. In my latest book, Willoughby’s World of Wonder, I have an entire section dedicated to the Wyre Folk. I defined a Wyre person to be any human that is part beast and part human, either temporarily or permanently. They could transform into a Wyre creature at certain times, or they may have been born that way. I wanted to expand and deconstruct the concept somewhat. Even the tradition Wyrewolf (pictured above) is different than the norm. In Willoughby’s, the Wyrewolf is seen as a poor beggar, since he cannot hold a full time job with his debilitating lunar cycles.
The Selkie (above) is a traditional creature in Scottish lore, that is a maiden who is also part seal. I tried in reference as many actual folklore creatures as I could in Willoughby’s, but I decided not to be compelled to include all the attributes of these creatures, as their definitions varied widely across different areas. I also created a lot of new beasties, and that was where I had the most fun.
One of the creatures I created was the Wyrelephant, part human, part elephant. Since elephants have a folklore tradition of having long memories, I included that in their description. They make excellent university professors, teachers, and historians. Wyrelephants are also quite stodgy and old-fashioned, and they are often scandalized by their youth, who enjoy going to the park and trumpeting loudly.
One of the more humorous creatures in Willoughby’s is the Wyrecock, seen above. Young men in particular are in danger of becoming Wyrecocks, who are part human, part rooster. This is an affliction that does not plague women (although there are other Wyre conditions that are for women only). The young man appears to be a normal person in most situations, but if his anger becomes aroused, the Wyrecock manifests in an abrupt manner. People are encouraged to flee the scene quickly, because the transformation process can happen within a matter of minutes – and you don’t want to be around an enraged Wyrecock!
The Laffer, seen above, is a Wyre-Hyena, part human, part hyena. Again, I took a common trait associated with the animal (hyenas are known to “laugh”) and made the Laffer a merry creature who enjoys to go to parties and make music, sing, and dance. They are even invited to certain parties just to lighten up the mood and make sure that it is lively party.
In Willoughby’s World of Wonder, there are even more Wyre Folk, as well an many other odd beasties. I had so much fun researching the many traditional folklore and mythology for this book, and I quickly discovered that the same creatures varied widely from tradition to tradition. This gave me permission to make some changes and create many more creatures that seem plausible and funny. It was a great journey creating this book. I encourage to you pick up a copy if you enjoy fanciful creatures, elves, dragons, Giants, and Wee Folk!
Willoughby’s World of Wonder, A Field Guide to Strange Beasts & Curious Creatures was named a Best Book of 2019 by Kirkus Reviews.