King Lycaon: The First Werewolf

Once upon a time, there lived a king named Lycaon. He ruled over the land of Arcadia and had thousands of men and women under his command. His palace was filled with gold, fine foods and elaborate artwork, but one thing he did not have was love.

One day King Lycaon was hunting in the forest and he came upon a small lake. As he approached, he saw a lady sitting at the edge of the lake, singing.

Her song was a song full of longing. Drawn in by her words, King Lycaon dismounted from his horse and approached her. When the woman turned to face the King, her incredible beauty struck him.

“My lady, your song is so beautiful, but so depressing. Please tell me what you wish and I will do everything in my power to grant it. But first, what shall I call you?”

“You may call me Fortuna, my Lord. I am distressed because I fear I will never find a man to love. My father is too hard to please and he will not grant permission for me to marry anyone.”

The King had already fallen for the beautiful damsel and so he was quick to volunteer.

“Certainly he would not deny a King! Come with me and I will make you the happiest bride in all the land.”

Fortuna knew of King Lycaon and what a great king he was to his people. She loved him for offering his hand in marriage, but said she would only marry him with her father’s approval.

“Who is your father?” the King inquired.

“Why he is Jupiter, king of the gods.”

“My heavens!” King Lycaon exclaimed. “I’ll have to prepare the greatest feast in the history of man.”

King Lycaon proceeded to enlist all of his men and women to prepare the palace for Jupiter’s arrival. He had drapes of gold hung from every rafter. Fine food was imported from every corner of the world. And he brought in performers from distant lands to provide entertainment.

The King had prepared to host Jupiter over the course of seven days. The very first day Jupiter arrived on a cloud from heaven. He was very regal in his purple robes, carrying a golden staff. The palace appeared dull next to his glowing radiance.

Each day the King would try to engage the god and impress him with his wealth. He gave Jupiter great gifts of furs and perfumes, but Jupiter offered no more than a simple thank you.

Throughout the proceedings, Jupiter would hardly look at the King. Feeling greatly insulted, the King tried all the harder to win over Fortuna’s father, but the more he tried, the more Jupiter resented him. The next five days carried on in the same fashion — eating, drinking, and being entertained.

If King Lycaon had one flaw it was his temper. When he was pushed, it didn’t take very much to set him off. Jupiter knew of Lycaon’s temper and didn’t believe he was a good match for his daughter. In order to push the King past his limit, Jupiter insulted the King’s mortality. He laughed at how puny and finite the King’s life was.

In retaliation, the King told his head cook to prepare a steak of human flesh, but to make it appear appetizing. In that way he would get back at Jupiter by tricking him into eating the unclean meal. 

Fortuna was out at the market, when the King had his next meal with Jupiter. The cooks served the meal as usual, but Jupiter immediately recognized the ruse. 

“How dare you serve me human flesh! You have insulted me by trying to bring me down to man’s level. In return I will bring you down a level. For you will roam the world in the form of a wolf from this day forward.” 



Instantly, King Lycaon transformed into a wolf. With a glance back, Jupiter threw away his blessing — believing Fortuna would flee once she saw the King's true form. 

“You have permission to marry my daughter, but I doubt she’ll want you now that she can see the beast you truly are.”

Then Jupiter vanished to the heavens.

King Lycaon was horrified at what he had become and ran to his bedchambers. Luckily, Jupiter’s wife, Juno, was watching the whole scene unfold. She snuck into Lycaon’s chambers and made a deal with him. If he could control his temper, she would mend Jupiter’s curse.

“Yes! I’ll do whatever. Just please free me from this wretched form!”

Juno transformed King Lycaon back into a human, but warned him that whenever he lost his temper he would turn back into a wolf and that he would not return to human form until he calmed down.

With Jupiter’s blessing, Fortuna and Lycaon were married and lived together happily for a few years. Until one day Fortuna insisted that Lycaon apologize to her father. Lycaon became enraged and suddenly shifted into a wolf.

Fortuna was horrified to discover his curse and finally believed that King Lycaon was a monster. She fled from Lycaon’s kingdom. Little did she know that she was already with child — the first werewolf child.

***

With that the mother wolf leaned back in her chair with a smug smile.

“But Momma, what happens to the baby?”

“He’s what our next story is about!”

The wind whistled outside the cabin and the mother wolf carried on with her werewolf history.

“Now here’s the story of Ash — the first werewolf child. He was just like you...”

***

Author's Note: 
I used the story of King Lycaon, from Metamorphosis, for my first story. In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, this section is a small mention, but I enjoyed enlarging it. In the original story, Jupiter (or Zeus) visits King Lycaon and the King tries to serve him human flesh, but Fortuna and Juno are not mentioned. Jupiter discovers the human flesh and curses King Lycaon to take the form of a wolf.

This is an early account of the werewolf in ancient times. By incorporating man and gods, I thought it gave an interesting spin on the way werewolves were created. The temper element that King Lycaon deals with will come into play in the future. It relates to how werewolves control their shift. I’m trying to hit major time periods with my stories and this serves as the launching pad for the rest of my storybook.

Juno is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and counselor of state. Therefore, I thought she fit well as the one to help King Lycaon. I added the romantic element to the story, because it provided a more dynamic plot. Fortuna is the goddess of fate and luck. I thought it would be interesting if she were the mother of the first werewolf. Also, it gave me a way to connect all my stories. I’d like to continue my next story with what happens to the first werewolf child.

Bibliography Information:
Sample Story: Book I Ln: 199-243
Book Title: Metamorphoses
Book Author: (Original: Ovid) Translation: A.S. Kline
Year: 2000 (Kline version)

Image Information:
Jupiter (Zeus) Turning King Lycaon Into A Wolf
(Engraving by Hendrik Goltzius Source: Wikipedia Commons)