Species information
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Ministry of Magic Classification

XXXXX (when in wolf form)

"You have only ever seen me amongst the Order, or under Dumbledore's protection at Hogwarts! You don't know how most of the wizarding world sees creatures like me! When they know of my affliction, they can barely talk to me!"
—Werewolf Remus Lupin on how he is treated because of his condition[src]

A werewolf is a human being who, upon the complete rising of the full moon, turns into a fearsome and deadly near-wolf. Werewolves can be easily distinguished from regular wolves by several small distinguishing characteristics, such as the pupils of the eyes, the snout shape, and the tufted tail. At all other times, they appear as normal humans, though will often seem to be ill as the full moon approaches.[1] This condition is caused by infection with lycanthropy, usually occurring when a human is bitten by a transformed werewolf. As defined by Hermione Granger, a werewolf differs from an Animagus in the fact that he or she does not transform by choice. With each full moon the person transforms and no longer remembers who he or she is, and would kill even their best friend given the opportunity. There is no known cure for either the bite of a werewolf in his wolf-form or the bite of a werewolf in his human form, though the Wolfsbane potion is the only known potion that can in anyway make a werewolf less dangerous by allowing him/her to keep his/her human-brain during transformation.


"I did not know, for a very long time, the identity of the werewolf who had attacked me; I even felt pity for him, thinking that he had had no control, knowing by then how it felt to transform."
—Remus Lupin

Lycanthropy is a magical illness known to be spread by saliva-blood contact; thus, a human bitten by a werewolf in wolf form will become a werewolf him or herself. This is what happened to Remus Lupin, who was bitten as a child by Fenrir Greyback in retaliation for Remus's father offending the werewolf. However, if a human is bitten by a werewolf in human form, the victim will only acquire some lupine tendencies. Bill Weasley, for example, retained scars and a craving for very rare meat after being attacked by Greyback in his human form.[2]

Werewolves seldom have children, so Remus Lupin did not know whether or not his unborn son would inherit his condition but feared that would be the case. However, Ted Lupin ultimately proved not to be a werewolf.[3]

It seems that werewolves, when in their animal state, pose the danger of biting the nearest human being. An example of this can be seen when Remus Lupin, having forgotten to take his potion in 1994, began to transform. Sirius Black instinctively changed into his Animagus dog form to launch a pre-emptive attack on Lupin whom he seemed to realise as an immediate threat to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Lupin's now werewolf mind prevented him from recognising Sirius and the three students as his friends, and so would almost certainly have hurt them without Sirius's intervention. The latter, whilst in his Animagus form, was not at risk of being infected with lycanthropy due to the fact that humans are the only species known to be capable of infection.

Monthly transformationsEdit

"There was a terrible snarling noise. Lupin's head was lengthening. So was his body. His shoulders were hunching. Hair was sprouting visibly on his face and hands, which were curling into clawed paws."
—Description of Remus Lupin transforming[src]

On every full moon, a werewolf will go through an incredibly painful transformation from a human into a wolf-like creature. They lose the ability to think in a human way, becoming highly aggressive towards humans- even those to whom they are close. Though werewolves usually only infect their victims through biting, they sometimes take it too far and attack their victims.[2]

Without any humans nearby to attack, or other animals to occupy it, the werewolf will attack itself out of frustration. This leaves many werewolves such as Remus Lupin with self-inflicted scars and premature aging from the difficult transformations.[1]


Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for lycanthropy. However, some of the worst effects can be mitigated by consuming Wolfsbane Potion, which allows a werewolf to retain his or her human mind while transformed, thus freeing him or her from the worry of harming other humans or themselves.

Because werewolves only pose a danger to humans, companionship with animals whilst transformed has been known to make the experience more bearable as the werewolf has no-one to harm and will be less willing to harm him/herself.

According to Gilderoy Lockhart, the Homorphus Charm can force a werewolf back into human shape. But, since Lockhart is known to have lied many times to inflate his own reputation and implies that the charm cures werewolves, his information is highly suspect — as is the very existence of a Homorphus Charm in the first place. However, this was supposedly based on something that someone else did, so it may have in fact occured.[4]

Contrary to what the Muggle world believes, werewolves are not affected by silver.

Attitude towards werewolvesEdit

Prejudice and discriminationEdit

"My kind don't usually breed! It will be like me, I am convinced of it — how can I forgive myself, when I knowingly risked passing on my own condition to an innocent child? And if, by some miracle, it is not like me, then it will be better off, a hundred times so, without a father of whom it must always be ashamed!"
Remus Lupin on his fear that he would pass lycanthropy on to his then-unborn child[src]

Werewolves are generally regarded with fear and disgust by wizarding society. It is not uncommon for persons known to be werewolves to be shunned by society and discriminated against within the wizarding world. It is very difficult for a werewolf to get a job in the wizarding community, especially after the passing of restrictive anti-werewolf legislation by the prejudiced Dolores Umbridge in the 1990s.[5] As a result, many werewolves suffer poverty; Remus Lupin managed to get by with the aide of his friend James Potter[6], and later by working as Defence Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts, though it is unknown how he subsisted between James' death and working as professor. He decided to resign from this position after his condition was exposed as most parents would not want their children being around a werewolf, despite the safety precautions Remus and Albus Dumbledore took.[1]

The Ministry of Magic attempts to regulate werewolves. By 1637, there was a Werewolf Code of Conduct, and according to Newt Scamander, werewolves have been shunted between the Beast and Being divisions of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures for years. At one point, the Werewolf Registry and Werewolf Capture Unit were both in the Beast Division, while at the same time the office for Werewolf Support Services was in the Being Division.

Given Kingsley Shacklebolt's friendship with Remus Lupin and the furthering of Muggle-born and house-elf rights after 1998, it is likely that the reforms of the Ministry under Minister for Magic Shacklebolt included less prejudicial treatment of werewolves.


File:Fenrir Greyback..JPG
File:Remus Lupin turning into Werewolf.gif

Due to the oppression and discrimination against werewolves by society, some people who are werewolves have in turn come to hate their oppressors and, in turn, society in general. These werewolves have organised themselves into their own society. Under Fenrir Greyback's leadership, this society works to infect as many people as possible, especially children, with the goal of one day having enough strength to take control of the wizarding community.


The werewolves under Greyback's command served Lord Voldemort in the Second Wizarding War, though Remus Lupin spied on them for the Order of the Phoenix[2] and the Death Eaters looked down on them; for example, they were not permitted to have the Dark Mark[3]. They were used as a threat to ensure ordinary citizens' compliance with Voldemort; for example, five-year-old Montgomery was fatally attacked by Greyback after his mother refused to cooperate with the Death Eaters.[2] Although only Greyback is explicitly mentioned as participating, werewolves under Greyback's command may have fought alongside the Death Eaters in the Battle of Hogwarts.[3] They were most likely sentenced to Azkaban for life for uniting with Lord Voldemort, or killed for resisting arrest. It is unknown whether this was the only occurence of the society, though it is implied that it was a new idea of Greyback's. Likewise, it is unknown whether all werewolves in the society were caught, or -as it was "underground"- some of the members evaded capture and continued their efforts.

Known werewolvesEdit

Other victims of lycanthropyEdit

File:Bill Weasley 3.jpg
  • Bill Weasley — attacked by Fenrir Greyback while he was in human form; Bill did not actually become a werewolf, although he did obtain some "wolfish tendencies" (particularly a liking for rare steaks).
  • Other victims at The Battle of Hogwarts - it can be assumed that there were more victims at The Battle of Hogwarts that suffered from lycanthrophy to some degree in later days, possibly including Lavender Brown (it is unclear whether she was actually bitten). It would be similar to the effects suffered by Bill Weasley at the hands of Fenrir Greyback. Although Greyback is described as 'a grey streak,' suggesting he is in his animalistic form, during the battle and biting people that were down, it can be assumed that he was, in fact, in human form, as Remus Lupin was also in the Battle in human form.

Behind the scenesEdit

  • In the book it says that when Lupin drinks the Wolfsbane Potion he just sits in his study until the night is over and he reverts to being human. However, in the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Lupin does not transform until he sees the moon. As the moon was rising over a mountain at the time, though, it is likely that this would be the time of night when his transformation begins anyway, and actually being there at moonrise was a coincidence. In addition, it seems more likely that the time is what causes the transformation; otherwise a werewolf would simply have to avoid looking at the sky to prevent the transformation. This would also explain why Lupin's boggart did not cause him to transform, though they seem to have all the effects of whatever form they take, as in the case of Harry's dementor boggart.
  • Professor Quirinus Quirrell had the first year Defence Against the Dark Arts class copy notes about how to treat werewolf bites. Also, Professor Severus Snape assigned an essay during the 1993-1994 school year when he substituted for Lupin, although werewolves were not due to be covered until the last chapter of the third-year DADA textbook.
  • According to Draco Malfoy and Argus Filch, there are werewolves in the Forbidden Forest, though it is unclear whether this was true. It seems unlikely, as most werewolves at least tried to live as wizards while in human form, and the forest would be a highly dangerous place for them to live most of the month.
  • Tom Riddle once accused Rubeus Hagrid of raising "werewolf cubs" under his bed as a youngster, though this was possibly a lie or an exaggeration. It is unknown whether werewolves have cubs or not — Remus Lupin was worried that it might be possible to pass his affliction on his son, but Newton Scamander suggests otherwise. Since Riddle was trying to frame Hagrid, the veracity of his statement is questionable.
  • Lord Voldemort referred to werewolf offspring as cubs another time. When at the Malfoy Manor, he ridicules the Malfoys and Bellatrix about the marriage of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks, asking Draco if he will "babysit the cubs." Given his purist attitude and disdain for 'half-breeds' this is far more likely to be a derogatory insult rather than an implication that lycanthropy is inheritable.
  • According to W.O.M.B.A.T., it is possible that werewolves may have a shorter snout than a true wolf. It is rumoured that if a werewolf mates at the full moon it will produce a wolf cub instead of a human baby, but given prejudice, lies, and half-truths against werewolves, this is most likely not true.
  • In the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban novel, Lupin's werewolf form is noted to be only vaguely distinguishable from a true wolf, and the fact that students must be taught to distinguish them from true wolves suggests the same. In the film adaptation however, Lupin's werewolf form is still roughly human-shaped, though gruesomely stretched. His fur is a minimal coat rather than shaggy and he alternates between standing on his legs and scrambling on all fours. He also doesn't have a tail, as werewolves are explicitly mentioned to in the Order of the Phoenix book. J.K. Rowling also noted that to her, "werewolf" means An American Werewolf In London, whose werewolf is an extremely animalistic wolf-shaped beast, but that she was very pleased with the Azkaban film's imagining of the concept and appreciated the sympathy evoked by the "naked" and "pathetic" aspects of the design.
  • In an interview, J.K. Rowling has stated that lycanthropy is a metaphor for HIV.[7]
  • In the film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, after Lupin is irritable with Harry, Mr. Weasley says that "his condition takes its toll;" later on Tonks explains that "the first night of the cycle is always the worst." This could imply- though nothing like this was mentioned in the books- that werewolves suffer symptoms other than the tranformation itself, which either directly or indirectly make them less patient and more harsh than they would normally be. What night the cycle begins with is unknown, though the full moon itself, the night after, or the new moon is most likely.


The word werewolf is thought to derive from Old English wer (or were) and wulf. The first part, wer, translates as "man." An alternative etymology derives from Old English weri (to wear); in this case "werewolf" would indicate a warrior who wore wolf-pelts, noted for his uncontrollable battle rage. A third possible derivation is from warg-wolf or vargulf, a term refering to a rogue wolf which slaughtered domestic animals but ate little of the kill.

The term lycanthropy comes from Ancient Greek lykánthropos: lýkos ("wolf") + ánthrōpos ("human"). There is also a mental illness called lycanthropy in which a patient believes he or she is an animal and behaves accordingly. This is sometimes referred to as clinical lycanthropy to distinguish it from its use in legends.


Notes and referencesEdit

See alsoEdit

Defence Against the Dark Arts (D.A.D.A.)
Professors: Galatea Merrythought · Quirinus Quirrell · Gilderoy Lockhart · Remus Lupin · Barty Crouch Jr. (as Alastor Moody) · Dolores Umbridge · Severus Snape ·
Amycus Carrow
Textbooks: The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection · Break with a Banshee · Gadding with Ghouls · Holidays with Hags · Travels with Trolls ·
Voyages with Vampires · Wanderings with Werewolves · Year with the Yeti · Defensive Magical Theory · Confronting the Faceless
D.A.D.A. at Hogwarts: Classroom 3C · Temporary Classroom · Tower · Professor's Office · Storeroom · Staircase · Lesson Cup · Race Cup · Dumbledore's Army
Spells covered under the subject: Curse of the Bogies · Knockback Jinx · Wand-Lighting Spell · Patronus Charm · Killing Curse · Cruciatus Curse · Imperius Curse ·
Impediment Jinx · Reductor Curse · Stunning Spell · Shield Charm · Nonverbal spells · Inferius
Creatures covered under the subject: Vampire bats · Iguanas · Cornish Pixies · Werewolves · Vampires · Hinkypunks · Boggarts · Red Caps · Kappas · Grindylows

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