William and the Werewolf

By Michael Smith

A mediaeval love story

History | Poetry
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Lovers at the Joust – UNIQUE hand tinted print

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William and the Werewolf, also known as William of Palerne (Palermo), is a magical mediaeval love story and adventure romance.

Originally written in France in the twelfth century and then translated into English in the fourteenth, this magnificent alliterative poem tells the story of a young Sicilian prince who is kidnapped by a werewolf. But not all is as it seems – the werewolf is the Spanish prince Alphonse whose stepmother had transformed him so that her son could inherit the kingdom. As for William, he would have been killed or imprisoned by his own wicked uncle were it not for the werewolf…

The story is a parallel adventure following both William and Alphonse as they unravel these injustices and eventually find redemption. Along the way, William falls in love and elopes with the headstrong Melior and it is their relationships that makes this poem truly enchanting. Some of the descriptions of the exquisite pain of first love are still as vivid and realistic today as they would have been 800 years ago.

As well as being a mediaeval adventure romance in its classic form, the poem addresses a wide range of themes. They include inheritance rights; the freedom of women to choose for themselves; the importance of forgiveness; familial duties; the duties of social class; the codes of social behaviour and much more. William and the Werewolf is a book that can be enjoyed on two levels: as a beautiful romance and as a coded insight into the lives and ethics of mediaeval European society.

This edition is translated from the fourteenth century Middle English by Michael Smith, whose translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and King Arthur’s Death have also been published by Unbound. As with his previous books, William and the Werewolf will feature a detailed historical introduction, a comprehensive glossary and notes, and Michael’s own rich linocut illustrations.

William and the Werewolf will appeal not just to mediaevalists and lovers of English literature, but also to anyone who enjoys a beautiful and romantic story where right is done and love conquers all!

Please do support this stunning new translation – it will be a pleasure (and a treasure) for any booklover to own.

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  • Michael Smith avatar

    Michael Smith

    Michael Smith comes from Cheshire and read history at the University of York, specialising in English and European mediaeval history. In later years, he studied as a printmaker at the Curwen Print Study Centre near Cambridge. His first book, a translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, published in July 2018 from Unbound. His second book The Death of King Arthur is published February 2021. You can find out more about his mediaeval-themed art and printmaking at www.mythicalbritain.co.uk.

  • 19th October 2020 Home entertainment and the reading of books in the mediaeval household.

    Public storytelling, alongside minstrelsy, dancing, jesting and games, formed an important part of entertainment in noble, knightly and/or merchant households in fourteenth century England. Such storytelling included readings from stories such as William and the Werewolf (William of Palerne).

    Like a number of such works, it takes the form of a long poem, broken down into manageable sections…

    5th October 2020 A mediaeval werewolf with a difference

    The character of the werewolf in the Middle English poem William of Palerne (the romance of William and the Werewolf) is one which, when we meet it, is not what we were expecting. A benign creature whose mission is to help others combat injustice is in remarkable contrast to the notion of the werewolf in our own minds. Why is he so different?

    To consider the notion of the werewolf, it is important…

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