The Role of Weres In The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs

Werewolves Are Cuddly…Not!

The Role of Weres In The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs

mercy thompson, werewolves, patricia briggsThe hoopla over the Mercy Thompson trilogy has got me thinking. No, I’m not planning to harm myself so that I can be turned into a werewolf and become an Alpha male (although judging by the cover art of the books, Mercedes is quite a catch). With all the attention in the trilogy on the role of pack relations and Mercy’s own relationships with Adam and Samuel, I had to know, how much of the sexual and emotional chemistry in the books was good ol’ deductive reasoning and how much of it was literary sizzle? Armed with this burning question, I did some sleuthing of my own. Armed with a day’s worth of gumshoe research at the local public library, and aided by my trusty sidekick Google, I came up with some titillating answers…only it’s not exactly the type of thing the mechanic herself would want to hear.
To put it simply, there isn’t enough room for her. In the real world, as in the novels, pack relations are stratified. While there isn’t any such thing as an Alpha male or an alpha female–only a mother and father, regardless of Mercy’s special status as Adams’ ‘mate’ she would be hard pressed to survive within the pack. The reason has everything to do with who she is, or rather what she is. If everyone recalls, in her shape-shifter form Mercy is a coyote. And last I checked coyotes and wolves aren’t exactly bosom buddies.

According to biologist L. David Mech, coyotes and wolves are extremely territorial. Neither likes the other in their territory. A pack that feels threatened by a coyote will go out of its way to kill it – though documented cases of coyote massacres are infrequent, they aren’t uncommon. If Mercy moves in with Adam, the subordinates living in Adam’s flat might see her less as subordinate wife, and more as an unwelcome occupier. The worse nightmare scenario could see a civil war within the pack as Adam is challenged by hard-liners for his weakness in adopting his next door neighbor as his de facto wife.

This brings us to the question of Samuel. Spurned by his ex-lover, he is understandably hurt. He could pack up his things and leave – as wolves in the real world do – but where would he go? What would he do? He could go back to Montana, but that would mean throwing away everything he’s worked for – the MD, his colleagues at work, even the chance of reconnecting with Mercy in the future. With a weakened Adam, a politically unstable clan, and his status as sire of the Marrok, he would be poised to capture the top position in Adam’s clan (I call this the Breznev option).

Remember, Mercy ran away from the Marrok precisely because the women in the clan were aggressive towards her (maybe they saw her as competition?). A similar incident in close quarters would end only in a bloodbath, and Mercy’s survival wouldn’t exactly be assured. Plus, as an independent female, she would automatically lose her freedom of movement, freedom to criticize, and a lot more besides. Faced with an uncertain certain future both inside as well as outside the clan, the only sane option would be for her remain aloof from Adam or Samuel. But then, a deus ex machina could always intervene at the eleventh hour. Then again, maybe not.

by John Winn
Staff Writer – Buzzy Multimedia

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  • Forrest Price

    I guess the folkloric version of the werewolf just doesn’t sell. Not much I know of relating to “packs” and “alpha’s” etc. But I guess the sex and intrigue of competing “packs” is what makes the genre work. Pure uncontrolled bloodlust doesn’t get far in creating hot-sellers.

  • Debby Creager

    I know you are right and wolves and coyotes don’t mix but I am sure you are suppose to take a vacation from reality when you read these stories.

  • June Williams

    Forrest-I suppose it is the same reason that Nosferatu get short shrift. Not much interaction if the creature in question just eats and runs , eh?

  • June Williams

    Debby-As these are shapeshifters and have a human side as well as a 4 footed predator side the contact between werewolves,werecoyotes and
    wereleopards seems understandable.

  • Brian

    That’s some interesting research. I can suspend disbelief, but it is a shame that the story has to write around the nature of coyotes and wolves instead of working a little more reality into the fantasy. Still, I want to read this series.

  • Claire

    Just wanted to let you know, the other female alphas in the Marrok’s pack found Mercy threatening primarily because she was theorhetically the only way that the males could procreate and have a were child. Wolves, due to the physcial shifting, couldn’t bring children to term. Human women would have only human children. Mercy, because her shifting is mystical rather than physical and it was likely that she could have a normal (and I use that term loosely) pregnancy.

  • I think the werewolf like creature in Harry Potter was one of the most interesting. Yet, one does not think of that creature right away. Can’t help but wonder whether in the future this one will be included in the Folk lore of the werewolf – I just have never found the creature all that appealing – not like vampires, which really freak me out!!!

  • Administrator

    Hi Brian-I think you will find that the author of the article was interested in expounding on this particular aspect but it is something more in the underpinning and research angle. When you read the books Ms.Briggs has a firm handle on the nature of coyotes and wolves but an even firmer one on the nature of the many mythologies surrounding weres and shape shifters. FYI, after reading the Mercy Thomson series you might give her Hurog series a chance. Those are High/Heroic/Epic with nary a shifter in sight but wondrous gripping tales nevertheless.

  • Administrator

    Spot on Claire. Thank you for the insight. You really do point out another unique situation that Mercy finds herself facing.

  • Administrator

    Hi Carol-The Potter werewolf was more or less the werewolf that has generally been portrayed in film. That is to say someone who becomes a werewolf by having been bitten by a werewolf, survives, and becomes one via infection. In the Mercy Thompson series they are such by birth and are called Lycanthropes (Underworld weres are such.You can hear their leader say in the endless commercials that they can be slaves or they can be Lycans). There are a few others sorts such as Loup-garu who is cursed by a powerful witch or sorcerer and sometimes a whole line can be cursed which in that case would also make it hereditary. One more sort are Hexenwolves that use magic to transform themselves into werewolves, usually with the use of a talisman.

  • John, Coyotes are solitary creatures, while wolves are pack animals, just to clarify. Claire is correct in that mystical shapeshifters can carry babies to term, while physically changing shifters have more problems with viable births. The only way Mercy can adapt is to find a place for a solitary individual in a pack society who is mystically shifting instead of being called to shift. Ah, well if relationships were easy….As you can see, I’ve read quite a few novels which have addressed issues regarding magical and physical shifting, and by the way, the author understands her characters needs and wants better than we do, so Mercy can do what she needs to do.

  • Matt Walker

    The folkloric examples are not of much use when one puts werewolves out of the very narrow environment folklore places them in.

    For one thing, the lore is somewhat based on the behavior of actual wolves, but lone wolves, not packs – the werewolf of lore is possessed by a spirit of overwhelming violence and aggression that our ancestors associated not with wolves in general so much as one very specific kind of wolf in particular – what was called a Vargulf (Old Norse) or Wearg wulf (Old English) – the modifiers, vargr and wearg both roughly mean “outlaw” and the word referred to those wolves (usually lone renegades) who got into the habit of preying almost exclusively on livestock and often would kill many more than they could ever eat, apparently just for the joy of killing.

    It was to exploit this reputation of a supernatural spirit of ferocity that the Ulfhendar (wolf coats) wore wolf skins in their battle frenzy- just as their counterparts, the Berserkers, wore bear skins.

    Where this is based partly in real animal behavior is that preying on livestock is not uncommon among rogue wolves who have no pack of their own and find it difficult to bring down the prey that wolves usually hunt in concert. Likewise, it’s not uncommon for animals faced with such abundant and easy prey to kill in such a manner – if you’ve ever had a weasel get into your chickens you have seen similar carnage. You had 11 chickens when you went to bed, the next morning you have one chicken missing and ten bloody, mutilated chicken corpses. It is EXACTLY like something out of a horror movie.

    Additionally, the werewolf of lore is universally the result of magic (usually dark), not biology. People become werewolves through a curse, the transmission of a curse (bite) or the possession of an enchanted item – by the middle ages (the inquisition yields several accounts) usually a belt, though some older sources (notably Irish) speak of a wolf pelt which simply enables the wearer to transform into a supernaturally large wolf vulnerable only to silver weapons, with his will and mind intact (in stark contrast to most other accounts which present the transformation of a man against his will into a mindless, murdering beast.)

    Introducing drastically different elements like werewolves as a mixture of two races yet a biologically distinct race of their own (and hence beings with their own will, not psychotic monsters) puts the writer soundly beyond the realm of folklore, as does introducing a pack environment which necessitates a social order never reflected in lore.

    However, once an author steps away from the folklore, the dynamics of the whole thing is really up to them, bearing in mind it must be coherent – such a people might have a certain amount of lupine elements in their social interactions but they are also partly human and have managed to preserve themselves as a race and culture while blending into the plain vanilla human population over the centuries. It stands to reason that they are as intellectually and emotionally complex, and adaptable, as humans- and therefore would not be inextricably bound by their instincts and base nature.

  • Debby Stark

    Werewolves? I haven’t read anything by Mercy Thompson. I thought the werewolves in Whitley Strieber’s Wolfen and the subsequent movie were fascinating and the story very creative. Albert Finney as the cop, Edward James Olmos as one of the Wolves… When I think of wolves, I also think of dogs and ancient humans and how the latter adopted and adapted the former, and I wonder if Cesar Milan could handle such an animal. The beast would sense his respect and alpha male attitude and they might get along well. Okay, so the werewolf would be superfast and blood thirsty, but in turn we could give Cesar powers, too, maybe advanced Zen master powers, and he’d just not be “there”, fade to the side, when attacked, wear out the werewolf as it were 🙂 Argh, gotta go back to work…

  • Laura A.

    This is a very interesting string of comments. I really enjoy books by Patricia Briggs and the series about Mercy is where I began. Like the other posters I’ve seen many “versions” of the werewolf. I had already read Fool Moon by Jim Butcher (before reading Moon Called) and JB renewed my interest in werewolves by doing such a great job sharing some of the different legends that are out there.

    From what I’ve seen of the Briggs Mythology, being a lone female would place her in the lowliest position of the pack probably, not necessarily, but once Adam accepts her as his mate, the others will accept her as outranking them. I seem to recall that one of the injured “wolves” obeyed Mercy because he accepted her as Adam’s mate (maybe in Iron Kissed?).

    Samuel is a very interesting anomaly and I have no idea where Patricia Briggs is taking him. I don’t expect to see him challenging Adam unless Adam becomes mentally unbalanced or loses control of himself. With Mercy by Adam’s flank, he might be less likely to become mentally unstable which would make the Samuel challenge less of a possibility.

    Additionally, based on the Briggs short story about Anna and Charles, even a wolf that disagrees with his/her Alpha has a great deal of trouble going against the wishes of the Alpha. It seems that a strong and intelligent personality like Mercy would be accepted into the pack of a strong Alpha like Adam as his mate.

    Of course, being accepted by her pack wouldn’t put her out of danger. She has more dangers to worry about than wolves in her town!

  • Phil

    Forget her status as Adam’s mate, Mercy is the adopted daughter of the Marrok. The Alpha of all the Alphas. The women of Bran (the Marrok) were all below her in the pecking order, except Bran’s mate. Patricia has given us a magical world with it’s own rules and laws. Read the books and enjoy. Life is too short to beat your brains out over whata magical thing should do when compared to a normal thing or situation. These books would make very good audiobooks by the way. wink, wink, nudge,nudge 😀

  • Yoseph Denis

    I think that writers in general when talking about wolves, or werewolves for that matter often make them out to be much more vicious then they really are. its like lion’s, they dont spend 100% of their time being angry hungry beasts roaming around hunting for their next meal. They eat when their hungry then laze around all day til their hungry again(kinda like humans). I’m enjoying this seires though, because there’s a depth to the characters that allows the reader to get in on the action. I agree with phil, these would make incredible audiobooks… hint, hint 😉

  • June K. Williams

    Phil and Yoseph- Sadly, Mercy will not be ours. We are fans of Patricia Briggs’s writing however so stay tuned for some interesting developments

  • Calcamanin

    Whatever biologists say, fantasy still remain fantasy. I like it the way it is. I love the way Patricia Briggs writes. I enjoy Mercy’s world, and “Alpha & Omega” series is nice improvement too.

  • martine

    I doubt that the writer does much in the way of research, but its pretty clear that she knows very well that the two species do not mix. In fact she has referenced this several times. She has said that Adam declared her his mate so that the wolves wouldn’t kill her just like a wolf would kill a coyote found on the territory. So your point is moot. What I would like to know, is just why the bratty dog girl is so bigoted to vampires if she is a non human? The werewolves do twice as bad as the vampires, but somehow she only sees the bad that the vampires do? She is a non human, non werewolf. So why is she such a (rhymes with witch, female canine)? And why do all the women centered romances like this have all men falling over themselves over the heroine? Its annoying.

    • June K. Williams

      Hmmm, I am not speaking dor Patricia Briggs but

      A. I have every reason to believe she has done her share of research on the subject. Keep in mind that we are looking at mythology and folklore and there are many different takes on the same subject matter.

      B. Why would a were be wary of a vampire? They both can be considered supernatural but vampires are dead and they never live as normals while werewolves can do so except for a couple of nights a month. Mercy has a pulse as do the werewolves-they are alive which is one big commonality. Plus Mercy was “fostered” by a werewolf family so she would have strong positive vibes based on that alone.

      For the undead to stick around they must be parasites unless they are holding back their own natures continually. The object of their parasitic hungers are humans. Weres do very well eating many of the same creatures that normal humans eat. OK, normal humans don’t run through the woods in packs and tear apart deer with their claws and devour them with their fangs before the body temperature has cooled but heck, I won’t eat sushi and I don’t care if my friends love it
      .
      C .As to why women centered romances have men falling over themselves over the heroine, I think you answered your own question. I do not see the Mercy Thompson series as being as much of a romance as I do seeing it as the traditional hero’s journey. The reluctant hero (in this case female) who gets into trouble while doing the right thing etc.

      Of course this is just my opinion.