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Black Winter

Black Winter

Black Winter

Unleashing the Beast Within

The werewolf subgenre in horror and fantasy literature is captivating as it explores the primal and frightening myth of the werewolf, a creature that symbolizes the conflict between human civilization and wild instincts. Werewolf stories, inspired by ancient folklore and legends, tackle themes of duality, transformation, and the internal struggle with one’s dark side. These narratives represent broader human experiences, such as loss of control, fear of the unknown, and the search for identity in a world that rejects the unfamiliar.

By using the werewolf’s perspective, authors can explore societal norms, challenge moral dilemmas, and push readers to face their inner beast. However, in the case of Black Winter, the werewolf serves as the antagonist. Readers will only understand the evil nature of the human inside before turning through a curse.

The subgenre continues to evolve, offering new interpretations and insights into the human condition, making it a compelling area of literature for both writers and readers alike.



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An Exploration of Werewolf Folklore and Gothic Horror

Black Winter was inspired by reading works of gothic horror and werewolf stories. The concept, however, came from a screenplay I wrote with my brother inspired by the film Black Sunday directed by Mario Bava. To write this short story, I decided to take a scene from the screenplay that introduced the real horror the Carpenter brothers faced. While they protect a rare jewel they found, they end up trapped in an abandoned home in the middle of a brutal blizzard while being stalked by a werewolf.


Dual Nature of Humanity

Werewolves symbolize the duality within humans. Concepts such as the rational versus the primal, the civilized self contrasted with the untamed nature that lurks beneath the surface.

Transformation and Identity

The physical transformation of a human into a werewolf symbolizes changes in identity, often reflecting inner turmoil, repressed desires, or hidden truths about oneself.

The Moon

The moon, often triggering the transformation, symbolizes cycles, change, and the uncontrollable forces that govern nature and, metaphorically, human behavior. Though, in werewolf folklore, this may be the case, however, in Black Winter, it is through a curse from a witch.


Loss of Control

Werewolf narratives frequently explore the theme of losing control over one’s actions and the fear of one’s own potential for destruction.

Isolation and Alienation

The knowledge of being a werewolf often isolates the individual from society, highlighting themes of alienation, otherness, and the struggle for acceptance.

The Beast Within

This theme discusses the idea that every person harbors a beast within, a part of the self that is capable of acts beyond societal norms and expectations.

Transformation and Redemption

Many werewolf stories explore the possibility of redemption and the quest for a cure, symbolizing the human desire to overcome personal flaws or societal labels.

By exploring these specific examples, we can see how the symbols and themes of the werewolf subgenre have been utilized and adapted across various works.

Modern writers can learn to build tension through careful pacing and atmosphere creation, create complex characters often tormented or conflicted, and utilize setting to reflect the inner turmoil of characters.

Werewolves: A Howling Presence in Gothic Horror

The werewolf, a creature that seamlessly transitions between human and wolf, has long been a symbol of our dual nature, oscillating between civility and savagery. This fascinating and terrifying transformation aligns perfectly with the gothic genre. 

A Symbol of Duality

Gothic literature frequently explores the duality of human existence, the battle between reason and emotion, and the thin line that separates humanity from monstrosity. Werewolves personify this struggle, embodying a primal wildness lurking beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary people. Their transformation can be seen as a metaphor for human fears, desires, and hidden impulses, providing a rich terrain for psychological exploration. 

Dark and Atmospheric Settings

The setting is a crucial element in the gothic genre, often characterized by remote landscapes, dense forests, and eerie, moonlit nights. These settings provide a fitting backdrop for the werewolf mythos, imbuing the narrative with a sense of dread and isolation. Whether it’s a misty village or a secluded castle, the environment in werewolf stories often echoes the gloom and mystery typical of gothic tales.

Supernatural Elements and Horror

The supernatural is a mainstay in gothic literature, and werewolves contribute to this tradition by adding a layer of horror and fantasy. The transformation from man to wolf, often depicted in agonizing detail, invokes both terror and fascination. It’s a physical manifestation of internal conflict, bringing to life the fears and tensions that define the gothic genre.

Mario Bava’s Black Sunday Influence

Black Sunday, a film released in 1960 and directed by Mario Bava, is a classic film known for its gothic horror elements, that influenced the creation of my werewolf short story Black Winter. The film is characterized by its dark atmosphere, supernatural themes, and a cursed object (the mask of Satan), which plays a key role in the film’s plot.

Here’s how Black Sunday (1960) influenced Black Winter:

Atmospheric Visuals

The striking black-and-white imagery and eerie settings of Black Sunday inspired the atmospheric descriptions and mood. While the specific location isn’t detailed in Black Winter, the mention of an attic and a nightmarish journey implies a sense of isolation and terror, often found in gothic horror.

The unsettling encounters, horrifying showdowns, and the feeling of longing for safety are all suggestive of a mood-heavy, atmospheric narrative. This aligns with gothic horror and the werewolf subgenre. It creates a focus on creating an emotional response in the reader.

Supernatural Elements

Black Sunday incorporates witches and curses, elements that have influenced the supernatural aspects of the story, particularly the character of the bizarre witch. In Black Winter, the presence of a bizarre witch emitting red mist and a human transforming into a werewolf creates an eerie and supernatural atmosphere.

Cursed Object

The mask in Black Sunday is an object imbued with terror and mystery. This concept served as an inspiration for the jewel in Black Winter, creating an object that holds power and draws the characters into the supernatural world. The quest for the mysterious jewel introduces an enigmatic element, adding intrigue and connecting to themes of desire and danger.

Themes of Terror and Fear

Black Sunday showcases relentless pursuit of horror and its ability to instill fear have been a guide to creating suspense and terror within the narrative. In Black Winter, the brothers’ horrifying showdown with the supernatural creature, their desperate escape, and shocking events all evoke feelings of fear and terror.

Tommy’s intellectual approach clashing with Nate’s impulsiveness creates inner turmoil and adds depth to the characters. This conflict often appears in gothic horror, reflecting larger thematic tensions. The testing and strengthening of the brothers’ bond through nightmarish experiences point to a psychological exploration.

Unresolved Mysteries

The hinting at greater mysteries and the lingering longing for safety creates an unresolved tension, leaving room for further exploration or simply leaving the reader with lingering unease.

Black Sunday played a significant role in shaping the atmospheric and supernatural elements of Black Winter. Known for its eerie visuals and brooding sense of dread, Black Sunday provided a rich source of inspiration for the unsettling settings and mysterious occurrences within the narrative of Black Winter.

The abandoned two-story home in the middle of the woods, the eerie encounters with supernatural beings, and the underlying tension throughout the journey echo the dark and haunting aesthetics of Black Sunday. This influence infuses Black Winter with a timeless gothic quality, bridging the gap between classic horror and modern storytelling.

Recommended Literature

The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore (1933)

Many people compare this novel to Dracula, but with werewolves. Taking place during the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune of 1871, this novel blends historical fiction and the werewolf legend to explore the themes of violence, humanity, and societal turmoil.

Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King (1983)

This brief novel showcases Stephen King’s skillful incorporation of horror elements into the werewolf genre. It tells the story of a small Maine town terrorized by a series of brutal killings tied to the lunar cycle. King explores the fear of the unknown and the monster within us all, wrapped in his signature atmospheric storytelling.

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan (2011)

Duncan’s novel revitalizes the werewolf narrative by introducing a modern, existential twist. The story follows Jake, believed to be the last of his kind, facing not only the threat of extinction but also deep philosophical dilemmas about existence, morality, and loneliness. It’s a blend of horror, romance, and introspection, offering a fresh take on the werewolf legend.

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

Stoker’s Dracula is a remarkable example of gothic horror, skillfully intertwining themes of sexuality, invasion, and the conflict between modernity and ancient malevolence. With its letters, spooky descriptions, and deep characters, it’s become a must-read in the genre, diving into fear and desire.

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2016)

In the town of Black Spring, there is a haunting presence known as the Black Rock Witch, a woman from the 17th century whose eyes and mouth have been sewn closed. To prevent her curse, the townspeople closely watch her through modern surveillance systems. However, as this fragile coexistence begins to deteriorate, the town becomes engulfed in fear and darkness. By blending witch folklore with contemporary themes, this book creates a chilling narrative that explores fear, control, and the depths of darkness.

Final Thoughts

The rich and multifaceted world of gothic horror continues to inspire and captivate audiences, breathing new life into modern storytelling. From the haunting influence of classics like Black Sunday to the symbolic duality of werewolves, the genre’s timeless themes and symbols resonate across generations.

Black Winter serves as a complimentary example of how these elements can be artfully woven into contemporary narratives, reflecting a blend of both gothic fiction and straight horror. By delving into the psychological depths, exploring the supernatural, and creating atmospheric settings such as an abandoned home in the middle of the woods, this genre provides a fertile ground for creativity and exploration.

Writers looking to modernize this old genre can find endless inspiration in its rich history and adapt its core elements to new contexts and audiences. The terror and mystery of gothic horror remain as potent as ever, offering a window into our deepest fears, desires, and the eternal dance between light and shadow.

This story was submitted on Reedsy into Contest #189.

If you enjoyed reading Black Winter you’ll enjoy my other horror shorts and other short stories.

A novelization is in the works with a planned release date in 2026.

Black Winter