Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Provencher, Ronald

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Tales--History and criticism; Metamorphosis--Folklore


This thesis examines the possibility that shapeshifter folktales of the "wereanimal" type belong to a universal tale type. Universal similarities are exposed through the utilization of standard folklore methodology which entails comparing wereanimal tales to a list of common character and plot themes that in different combinations form a set of related patterns.. Themes and patterns found in tales about the European werewolf will be used as a template for comparison with two other wereanimals which serve as primary exemplars: 1) the Central/South American werejaguar, the most similar to the werewolf; and 2) the East Asian werefox, the least similar. The classic definition of a wereanimal is a man who transforms into an animal at will. In this thesis, the definition of wereanimal has been broadened through the use of twenty additional common themes found in folktales about shapeshifters in order to test the possible inclusion of the werefox in the category of wereanimal. Three secondary exemplars of wereanimals ? the African wereleopard, Southeast Asian weretiger, and Native American skinwalker - all fall somewhere between the werejaguar and werefox in terms of comparability to the werewolf template. The secondary exemplars were included to test the universality of the wereanimal tale type as well as to better indicate how the stories about them are shaped by their particular social and cultural contexts.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 132-138)


ix, 157 pages




Northern Illinois University

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