The character debuts in the 1933 novel Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore, which is considered the closest thing the werewolf genre has to a "classic". The novel is set in Paris and the werewolf is named Bertrand Caillet. Bertrand is the son of a refugee raped by an imprisoned, deranged priest, and is briefly raised by wolves. He grows up with uncontrollable cannibalistic and sexual urges, and flees to join the military after an incestuous encounter with his mother and murdering a man. He finds a way to control his transformations after falling in love with a masochistic noblewoman named Sophie, who lets him drink her blood to assuage his impulses. When he is separated from Sophie however, he transforms again. Much of the novel leaves it ambiguous as if Bertrand is an actual werewolf or insane.
Werewolf of Paris was filmed in 1961 by Hammer studios as Curse of the Werewolf. This is an extremely loose adaptation, even changing the setting to Spain. The werewolf's father is an imprisoned beggar instead of a priest, and his mother is a mute serving girl in an evil marquis's castle. The werewolf, named Leon, works at a winery and is depicted as being cursed to become a werewolf because he was an illegitimate child born on Christmas. He is adopted by a wealthy engraver named Don Alfredo Corledo, who narrates the film. Leon's love-interest is named Cristina and lacks masochistic tendencies, although separation from her still turns him into a werewolf. Most of the running time is focused on the plight of the beggar and serving girl, then Leon's childhood.
The film was remade by Tyburn in 1975 as Legend of the Werewolf, which retains the French setting and the idea of the werewolf, here named Etoile, as being a feral child whose family were refugees. Etoile works a job as a zookeeper's assistant. The werewolf makeup is patterned after the Hammer version and the love interest is also named Christine, who is a prostitute in this version and does not return Etoile's advances, causing him to kill her clients.
The transformed Leon frequently made the cover of various monster magazines during the 60's, as well as cameos in Mad. The Hammer films version was adapted as a comic book for the magazine House of Hammer, which condenses the prologue to only a few pages and avoids the likenesses of most of the actors. The artwork was done by John Bolton. It was reprinted a few times, including the anthology John Bolton's Halls of Horror where it was colorized.
In 18th century Spain, a beggar wandered into the small town of Santa Vera in search of food after hearing church bells even though it was not a Sunday. The bells were ringing to celebrate the wedding of the local Marquis. The beggar foolishly sought out the charity of the Marquis, who made the beggar "sell" himself to the Marquesa as a wedding present. The Marquis forced him to dance and act like a dog after getting him drunk. The beggar mistakenly made a suggestive comment, but was spared from death by the Marquesa, who had him imprisoned for life instead of killed. Years of neglect caused him to go insane and fantasize about the mute daughter of the dungeon master, who brought him food.
As years passed, the dungeon master's daughter grew into a beautiful woman, and became the object of the Marquis (now a syphilis-scarred widower) 's eye. Refusing his advances, she was imprisoned with the beggar, who raped her before dying of a heart attack. After release, the girl killed the Marquis and fled into the woods and tried to drown herself. She was rescued by a rich engraver named Don Alfredo Corledo, who had his maid Teresa care for her. She died in childbirth on Christmas Eve. A local superstition was that any child born illegitimately on Christmas was "an insult to Heaven", and that the child would grow to be a monster. As baby Leon grew older, he did indeed begin to turn into a werewolf and a night watchman named Pepe prepared a silver bullet for him, blessed by the archbishop. A local priest told Corledo and Teresa that the only way to save him was through love, and Alfredo, who had previously treated Leon as his nephew, came to treat him as a son. The changes stopped.
Years later, a teenage Leon set out to get a job at a local winery, run by the cruel Don Fernando and his vain nephew Rico Gomez. The only bright spots at this job were his friendly but lecherous co-worker Jose and Don Fernando's daughter Cristina. Leon began seeing Cristina privately, but she refused to marry him because she was engaged to Rico. An enraged Leon went out and got drunk with Jose at a brothel on the night of the full moon. The combination of the full moon and his feelings of being unloved and unwanted caused Leon to become a werewolf again, and he slew a prostitute and Jose.
Cristina found Leon and offered to run away with him, and he was able to prevent the transformation for one night. Unfortunately, he was arrested for the murders, and separated from Cristina once again, he transformed into a werewolf, before being hunted by a mob. The werewolf took shelter in a church tower, but was cornered by Don Alfredo, who drove the creature mad by ringing the silver church bells. He then slew the creature with the watchman's bullet. Ironically, Leon's death had been brought about by the same church bells which had attracted the beggar to the town in the first place.
Powers and Weaknesses
In the novel, the werewolf resembles a bipedal wolf and is mistaken for a big dog. He also gains powers through blood-drinking and flesh-eating. He is vulnerable to falls from great heights.
In the Tyburn film, he can communicate with other wolves even in human form and has infra-red vision.
In Hammer's film, the werewolf can rip through iron bars and is repulsed by the sound of silver church bells. The transformation is triggered by feelings of anger and loneliness during the full moon, but can be staved off by being surrounded by loved ones. The depiction by John Bolton is incredibly tall, standing at least 8 feet.