by Ami Sanghvi.
When the full moon followed him home for the first time since the lycanthropy diagnosis, his mother watched the unholy aching of the shift he foolishly thought he could ignore. She screamed as his back broke and formed again. She tried to hit the beast with a broom. And God, he bared his teeth. And God, he returned to himself, naked as a sapling, as hollow as a hollow boned crow.
In most mainstream media, werewolves are depicted first and foremost as monsters, unfairly labeled by society as tragic “brutes” who are too far removed from their humanity to fathom the context(s) of their own existence. They are so rarely extended the kindness, empathy, and understanding by fiction lovers that all living creatures deserve. We almost never get to see werewolves’ lives outside of their transformations from enigmatic, harrowed, multidimensional people to wild, bloodthirsty, mythologically “accursed” canines. Most of what we know about werewolves is that they supposedly shred the innocent with their beastly claws, leap and run with blood wet upon their snouts, and howl loudly at the moon. Any creature in fiction and media that doesn’t at least slightly resemble the human form (ex: vampires, centaurs, sirens) or exude sex appeal to readers is often pushed to the wayside, condemned instead to the title of savage, unfeeling “beast.”
It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again. This depiction of the werewolf isn’t just devastating in the fictional sense. These damaging, agonizing, and utterly alienating depictions of the werewolf also serve to shed an extremely harmful light on the disabled community. The parallels between how werewolves and disabled people are [very wrongfully] perceived by the media and in society are equal parts uncanny and horrendous. Fortunately, Jared Povanda’s story, “Hot Blood, Cold Snow,” provides the righteous counternarrative this topic strongly merits.
“Hot Blood, Cold Snow” upholds and uplifts the humanity of the werewolf rather than continuing to degrade it. Povanda simply refuses to build upon these old, irredeemable tropes, directly contradicting them instead. Basically, “Hot Blood, Cold Snow” has quickly become my favorite werewolf narrative of the moment. It not only showcases Povanda’s brilliant handle of language, but it also refuses to feed into typical, misrepresentative stereotypes. The speaker does something different by stepping away from the usual external, dehumanizing, monolithic judgment of the werewolf, and instead opts to illuminate the mind, heart, and soul of the exiled werewolf child. In this, Povanda’s werewolf is extended the voice and compassion long overdue to his kind.
Additionally, Povanda takes things a step further by invoking the grief that follows the story’s werewolf child from his previous, pre-lycanthropy life, and then proceeding to pair it with the subject’s complex longing to depart from the land and become a “werecloud” instead.
Hot blood on cold snow bounces: the opposite of rain. He wishes he were a werecloud… If he were a werecloud, he could drown the whole world in his grief; instead, he has to hunt. Instead, he has to run. There’s a compulsion there, a compunction, dragging on him like a hook in the pelt.
Is there an animality to Povanda’s werewolf?
Does Povanda depict this animality as crude, or else inferior to human personhood?
These passages belong not to the cruelly stereotypical, supposed “menace” of the werewolf, but rather to a certain tenderness, innocence, and tragedy of the grappling self that is hardly unique to the presumed human existence.