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Literature / Cycle of the Werewolf

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A short story written by Stephen King and published in 1983, Cycle of the Werewolf is about a small town in Maine that is terrorized by a series of killings. According to That Other Wiki, King originally started the project when he was asked to write twelve short chapters that would accompany a werewolf-themed calendar. Apparently, no one told them that this is the guy who wrote The Stand— the "uncut" version of which is over 1,100 pages long. Inevitably, the decision was made to scrap the calendar idea, and release the story in Graphic Novel form with accompanying illustrations (by Bernie Wrightson, of Swamp Thing fame). The influence of the initial idea can still be seen in the format of the story, though, as each chapter focuses on one month in the year of the killings.

The story uses a whodunnit format for the most part, with the reader knowing that a werewolf is responsible for the killings, but not knowing who the werewolf is. It also has plenty of horror scenes, with most chapters describing a werewolf attack rather than developing the non-victim characters. The first survivor, a crippled boy named Marty Coslaw, is not introduced until the seventh of the twelve chapters, and is only featured prominently in chapters ten and twelve after that. As a result, there is no strong protagonist to oppose the werewolf, and some may consider the narrative to be a little weak for this reason.


In 1985, the story got a film adaptation called Silver Bullet, starring Corey Haim as Marty and Gary Busey as his alcoholic Uncle Red. In the movie, Marty is featured as a main character from the beginning and his experiences throughout the year receive just as much attention as the werewolf killings. This fixes the problem found in the book, which makes the film one of the better adaptations of one of King's stories, even though most reviews regarded it as good, but not great.


Cycle of the Werewolf provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Marty's mother sometimes takes not being soft with her son a little too far.
    • Both of Marty's parents seem visibly uncomfortable with their son's disability to the point where both of them are in full denial, especially Mr. Coslaw who happens to be a physical education teacher. Mr. Coslaw puts on a boisterous act and talks down to Marty often while in the opposite direction, Mrs. Coslaw is more or less emotionally distant with her son to the point where she hardly laughs around him.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: King points out in a short author's notes section that anyone with just a little interest in astronomy can tell that the moon cycles portrayed in the story couldn't happen in reality. He freely admits that he ignored this because he found idea of setting the chapters on various holidays too appealing to pass up on.
  • Asshole Victim: Milt Sturmfuller. The narrative lampshades this:
    And perhaps God is just after all, because if there is a first-class grade-A shit in Tarker's Mills, it is Milt Sturmfuller.
  • Black Comedy: In one chapter, the werewolf slaughters several pigs on a farm. In the illustration, which shows the farmers surveying the damage, one pig's head is sitting on top of a fencepost facing them, almost as if the werewolf put it there on purpose.
  • Cassandra Truth: Marty tells the police that the killer is a werewolf after he survives an attack. In the book, they declare that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress. Hoping that being away from town will cure his "delusion", he is sent to Vermont to live with other relatives.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: The aversion of this is actually a plot point: it's because Marty's Catholic that he doesn't figure out who the werewolf is until Halloween, since he obviously doesn't attend Reverend Lowe's Baptist sermons or have any reason to cross paths with him, and isn't at first aware that the Reverend's now missing an eye.
  • Cool Uncle: Uncle Al, to Marty at least. He secretly gives Marty some fireworks to celebrate his own Fourth of July, and even has the silver bullets Marty needs forged. He is also the only member of the family who stays with Marty to await the Werewolf on New Years Eve.
  • Death by Irony: Milt Sturmfuller congratulates himself on going out of town the very night murders tend to happen, thinking this will ensure he will be spared. Turns out this was the one night the werewolf got out of town as well to avoid the mob looking for him, and he just happens to be staying at the same motel as Milt.
  • Death of a Child: Zigzagged. While Marty does make it to the end, one of the werewolf's victims is a child in both the book and the movie.
  • Domestic Abuse: Milt Sturmfuller to his wife, in just about every way it can be done.
  • Extreme Doormat: Poor Donna Lee.
  • Eye Scream: When the werewolf attacks Marty on the 4th of July, he defends himself by shooting a firework into the beast's eye. Marty shoots the werewolf's other eye out with a silver bullet in December, killing it.
  • Facial Horror: The werewolf tears the constable's right cheek off before mauling him to death, which is partially shown in that chapter's illustration.
  • Fairplay Whodunnit: Before Reverend Lowe is revealed to be the werewolf, there is a chapter where the character has an intense dream sequence showing several other townsfolk turning into werewolves. Experienced readers/viewers may recognize this as a symptom of lycanthropy.
  • Foreshadowing: Neither Milt Sturmfuller nor Reverend Lowe get killed in the chapters that introduced them; the former's first scene is merely used as a Establishing Character Moment to show what kind of person he is, while the latter's first chapter merely focuses on a strange nightmare he has involving everyone in the church turning into a werewolf. This is both a build-up to Milt's upcoming Karmic Death in later chapters and to the reveal Lowe is the werewolf.
  • Gorn: Several of the illustrations through the book are quite gory, especially the dead pigs and the death of Milt Sturmfuller.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The full moon happens to coincide with an unusually high number of holidays. Notably averted however for the October chapter, where the full moon does not coincide with Halloween but has already happened a few days earlier.
  • Kid Hero: Marty.
  • Motive Decay: Reverend Lowe initially struggles with the curse, particularly in the book, but in both versions they eventually justify their actions by saying that God gave him the curse for a reason, and most of his victims have been sinners anyway.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: See Cassandra Truth above. The town constable decides Marty has gone a little crazy from the shock of almost being killed, and his failure to follow up on the kid's testimony results in more deaths, including the constable's own death.
  • Off with His Head!: The werewolf rips Milt Sturmfuller's head off; the illustration shows the aftermath.
    • The fourth victim, Brady Kincaid, was found decapitated and disemboweled.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Not really different, as for the most part the classics are followed; this werewolf is described as having the man-wolf appearance when transformed, is vulnerable to silver, transforms at the full moon with no control and reverts back to human when killed. The only major departure is that he doesn't seem to infect through bites - Reverend Lowe was apparently infected through a flower. However in the book, the werewolf does speak. The werewolf also spoke more in the script to the film adaptation but for some reason was not included.
    • The flower may well be a case of Shown Their Work; a specific flower was classically said to carry the curse of the werewolf, a method which predates Viral Transformation through bites.
  • The Reveal: Reverend Lowe is the werewolf.
  • Silver Bullet: Played straight. It's even the title of the Film of the Book.
  • Tsundere: Kate Coslaw, who ranges from Bratty Teenage Daughter to Cool Big Sis when the time comes. When the werewolf tries to go after Marty, she's easily the most concerned for his safety despite having taunted him the night before and often tries to make up for any act that might be deemed cruel to him.


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