The Book of Werewolves by Sabine Baring-Gould
The book is a few years old. It stands out for its thinness among the other titles in the Gothic collection of Valdemar, a publisher specializing in horror literature whose books are an example of well-cared for editions.
However, the book that brings us here is not a fiction, but an essay about lycanthropy published in 1865 and that was written by the English reverend Sabine Baring-Gould from a rational point of view, let’s say scientific, but without forgetting the mythological part that has given rise to the numerous stories carried out by werewolves through the ages. Because Baring-Gould’s book of werewolves is a folkloric study where the cosmic terror that Lovecraft spoke of, the irrational, is combined with the reality that the physicist Richard Feynman spoke of when he stated that the truth is more fabulous than reality. own fable.
But, without a doubt, the most disturbing thing about this edition of Baring-Gould’s book is the cover. In it appears a woman with a wolfish face, wrapped in hair. In her hands she holds a written paper where she explains her human origin. She is Antonietta Gonsalvus, daughter of Petrus Gonsalvus (or Pedro González), better known as the Wild Gentleman of Tenerife.
This Petrus Gonsalvus suffered from hypertrichosis, a genetic alteration that his daughter Antonietta also inherited and that led her to be regarded as an exotic specimen at court. Antonietta’s portrait was done by Lavinia Fontana, court painter to Pope Clement VIII, and one of the most famous women of her time. But let’s go back to his father, Petrus Gonsalvus (1537), who was born in Tenerife and who at the age of ten was taken to France, where he became a protégé of King Henry III.
The curiosity he aroused at court made Petrus Gonsalvus an attraction; an allegory of power in its political dimension, where the monarchy dominates the beast and thereby dominates the world. He is the metaphor of the werewolf tamed by the power of a king. In turn, it is the triumph of good over darkness according to the interpretation of the Hebrew mythology bestiary, since the wolf is the animal chosen by the devil to transform. In this way, disguised as a wolf, the devil becomes the enemy of the lamb, whose figurative form contains Jesus Christ. It took a long time for the so-called werewolf syndrome to be treated as a genetic dermatological disorder, a rare disease that causes lanugo hair, typical of newborns, to not disappear and continue to grow for the rest of life .
The first documented case of hypertrichosis was that of Petrus Gonsalvus who, in 1573, married a Parisian woman named Catherine. The couple made legend. Centuries later it would inspire the story of Beauty and the Beast, written by Marie Leprince de Beaumont at the end of her life, in 1780. The couple had three sons and three daughters, among whom was Antonietta who suffered from the disease, as well as most of his siblings. His portrait, as we have already said, appears on the cover of the Spanish edition of the book by Sabine Baring-Gould, the theologian who followed in the footsteps of the werewolf from classical antiquity to modern culture, demonstrating that “under the veil of mythology a logical reality is found”, in the same way that in all superstition “a dissolved truth is hidden”.
The stone ax is a section where Montero Glez, with prose will, exerts his particular siege on scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.
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