"The Hero as Werwolf" is a short story by Gene Wolfe. Quoting the synopsis from here:

It [sic] the late 21st century, humanity has evolved into a master race with some people left behind. Those sorry, savage people have nothing to eat and so they went cannibalic. Protagonist Paul is on the hunt for a pair of masters when he meets a father with his nearly bestial but beautiful daughter.

Why is "werwolf" spelled in this way rather than the more standard "werewolf"? Is it just a way to make Wolfe's title more distinctive and memorable compared with other wer[e]wolf literature, or is there some deeper purpose to it? Wolfe is a writer who makes deliberate choices for often very subtle or hidden reasons, so I'm not dismissing it too easily as a gimmick. For what it's worth, the Old English root of werewolf was werwulf, so this could be an older form of the word?

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    Werwolf is the German spelling. (Der Werwolf is a funny poem by Christian Morgenstern.) I don't know if that explains anything, as I don't know the Gene Wolfe story.
    – user14111
    Oct 30, 2021 at 11:37
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    German Wikipedia claims that the word is a compound of "wolf" with the germanic word for "man", which is "wer", so Gene Wolfe might have used a more "original" spelling. Oct 30, 2021 at 11:56
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    "Werwolf" is an acceptable, though unusual, speling of werewolf, according to the dictionary. Something similar also occurs in Wolfe's "Peace", where the central character, Algernon Weer, is hinted to be a "weerwolfe" ;) Oct 30, 2021 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


This was addressed by Wolfe himself in 'The Best of Gene Wolfe'

Ever since this story appeared, I have been getting heat for my spelling of werewolf. I reverted to the original spelling to point up the meaning of the word: “manwolf.” We would be more apt to say “wolfman,” though the ideas conveyed are distinctly different. Our werewolf is a man who becomes a wolf. The manwolf envisioned by the Anglos and Saxons was a man to be feared as wolves were feared, and for the same reasons.

Wolf-wise feigning and flying,
and wolf-wise snatching his man. —KIPLING

Wer was the original Anglo-Saxon word for the male of the human species. (Man designated a human being. We see the ghostly traces of this when we say, for example, that Molly Pitcher manned a gun at Monmouth.) I wanted the old original import, and so titled the story you have just read as I did.

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