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Hyenas, those giggling beasts, freaked me out in The Lion King when I was just a little girl. I got over it. And then I learned of the Werehyena.
And it’s not the same as Werewolves. They aren’t men who turn into animals, but rather animals that turn into men.
*It’s okay to shiver right now.*
Were-hyena is a neologism coined in analogy to werewolf for therianthropy involving hyenas in the folklore of East Africa and the Near East. Unlike werewolves and other therianthropes, which are usually portrayed as being originally human, some werehyena lore tells of how they can also be hyenas disguised as humans.
In the Kanuri language of the former Bornu Empire in the Lake Chad region, werehyenas are referred to as bultungin which translates into “I change myself into a hyena”. It was once traditionally believed that one or two of the villages in the region was populated entirely by werehyenas, such as Kabultiloa.
In Ethiopia, it is traditionally believed that every blacksmith, whose trade is hereditary, is really a wizard or witch with the power to change into a hyena. These blacksmith werehyenas are believed to rob graves at midnight and are referred to as bouda (also spelled buda). They are viewed with suspicion by most countrymen. Belief in the bouda is also present in Sudan, Tanzania and Morocco where some among the Berber people regard the bouda as a man or woman who nightly turns into a hyena and resumes human shape at dawn. Many Ethiopian Christians characterize Ethiopian Jews as being bouda, accusing them of unearthing Christian corpses and consuming them; the commonality of blacksmithing as a traditional profession for Jewish men in Ethiopia may be a reason for the connection between the two beliefs.
In the folklore of western Sudanic peoples, there is a hybrid creature, a human who is nightly transformed into a cannibalistic monster that terrorizes people, especially lovers. The creature is often portrayed as a magically powerful healer, blacksmith, or woodcutter in its human form, but recognizable through signs like a hairy body, red and gleaming eyes and a nasal voice.
Members of the Korè cult of the Bambara people in Mali “become” hyenas by imitating the animals’ behaviour through masks and roleplays. These are evocative of the hyenas’ reviled habits, and may also be used to evoke fear among the participants, leading them to avoid such habits and traits in their own lives.
Al-Doumairy, in his Hawayan Al-Koubra (1406), wrote that hyenas are vampiric creatures that attack people at night and suck the blood from their necks. Arab folklore tells of how hyenas can mesmerise victims with their eyes or sometimes with their pheromones.
In the natural world Hyenas are capable of scaring off and even killing Lions and other apex predators, there team work is legendary and their communication unrivalled, could you imagine what a pack of Werehyenas would be like. The whole concept is a truly nightmarish one, a monstrous beast, with all the strengths of a werewolf, but with little to no known weakness. A creature who’s blood-lust rivals the infamous Dracula and the pantheon of Vampiric creatures. Capable of assuming human form or mimicking human voices to lure you out of your home, your village or your tent. It’s only when you see the light reflect off of their gleaming eyes that you realise it’s already too late to escape.
Like hyenas weren’t scary enough before.
Werehyenas (as they appear on the Origin of the Fae page)
The first kind is hyenas that can turn into men. They have Vampiric tendencies. They can mimic any voice. They are physically more powerful than any creature. They can mesmerise people to do their bidding. In their human guise they are quite hairy, have glowing eyes and they grin all the time.
The second kind is a curse that turn men into hyenas that can walk like men, fight like hyenas and are as bloodthirsty as Vampires. They are immune to the magic of most Fae.
Type 1: Druids and Nature Fae.
Type 2: Only the sangoma that cursed them can kill them. (And return them to their un-cursed state.)
But this did give me a great idea to rewrite one of my stories. I wasn’t quite happy with the ending of A (Nearly Vociferous and Vicious) Farewell which I published in January. I’ve rewritten it using this terrifying creature. And wow! It really made a difference. I’ve also renamed it as Awakening of the Werehyena. Go on, give it a read and tell me your thoughts in the comments. I have to note that it’s ironic that the good guys here use the power of a dark creature to defeat the Dark Fae…
“No. Worse.” He looked around to ascertain that no-one was eavesdropping. But they were all too busy saying goodbye to friends to care what’s going on between us. “An ancient curse can save humanity.”
“At what cost?”
“The humanity of a few.”
He didn’t look away. He looked into my eyes, willing me to understand. And I knew then that he didn’t break up with me because he didn’t love me – he did it for my own good.
“What kind of curse?” I whispered frantically.
“The strength of hyenas, the bloodlust of vampires, and the endurance of were-creatures. Everyone going with me have almost no use in battle as they are. This will give them strength to vanquish our enemies.”
– Awakening of the Werehyena, Ronel Janse van Vuuren
I hope you enjoy reading this tale. Comments can be left here or on writing.com – I always appreciate feedback. Aren’t Werehyenas terrifying? What are your thoughts on this creature?