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It's SuperWolf! - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
It's SuperWolf!
I don't believe that Remus has major Wolf senses (kind of like Spidey-senses, I guess) when he's not transformed. I think he may be preternaturally strong; that seems like a logical thing to happen to the body if it's prepared to even begin to make that transformation. But super smelling? Super hearing?

Most of the time in Buffy, I didn't blink at any absurd characteristic they gave a monster, but I started laughing very hard during "Lover's Walk," in which untransformed Oz--that's the resident werewolf, who could have a nice snarky and laconic conversation with Lupin, for those of you who aren't BtVS fans--stopped the van he was driving, and from inside it, announced that he could smell the fact that he was near Willow (his girlfriend). He was in the car. She was in the basement of a factory. Granted, it wasn't in an urban area, but there would have been a lot of scents. "She's scared," he explains of this astounding olfactory feat. Cordelia, with whom he's traveling, says it's creepy. I, who adore Oz vastly and am, despite all subsequent developments, a big Willow/Oz fan with fantasies of a romantic blue-haired reunion in Istanbul, was practically busting a gut laughing at it.


Because he's not transformed. Because a highly developed sense of smell is part of the physiology of the canine, not just its psychology. There's no way, when the moon isn't full, that Oz was smelling Willow through concrete and metal from the distance of a road to a factory. No. Way. In point of fact, I don't think he could do it in those circumstances even if he was transformed, because it would be too complex a situation even for the wolf to smell it through the car exhaust, macadam of a parking lot, and old factory smells. Then again, he wouldn't be driving the car...

And yet when I write Lupin, I do have have him relying on his sense of smell more than I think normal people do, even when the moon is nowhere near full. I was just looking at I Hear Him Laughing, in which I have him go over to his book cases and start sniffing for a visitor he can't see.

Here's my reasoning, though I wasn't really thinking about it. It's not that Lupin has Super Smelling Sense®. I think that Sirius could probably do the same thing, and McGonagall has probably developed a good sense of footing--not because they have traits of the animals they transform into, but because they have the experience of transforming. Remus has had a chance to learn how to use what sense of smell he does have, in a way that people who've never had augmented smell wouldn't. More to the point, I don't believe dogs' eyesight is all that good, so he may have to learn to interpret scents. Because that's part of his working knowledge of the world, he's able to apply it even with his much "dumber" human nose.

Does that make sense? And if so, what skills might animagi be able to "transfer" to their normal forms?
18 comments or Leave a comment
buongiornodaisy From: buongiornodaisy Date: November 4th, 2004 05:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ha! I was wondering about this, too. Maybe werewolves' senses are hightened according to the phases of the moon? But I'm inclined to think that once they're human they're human all the way.
fiatincantatum From: fiatincantatum Date: November 4th, 2004 06:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm with the previous commenter... when I roleplay or write Lupin, the closer it is to the full moon, the more "symptoms" he starts showing. He doesn't have anything like "super powers" though... just little things like slightly better than average night vision (and, to even things out, sensitivity to sudden changes in the light, such as having a wand lit up in his face) and somewhat enhanced senses of smell and hearing. None of the above are much beyond what a particularly adept normal human might have, though.

*G* the scenario you mention is ridiculous, really... there are so MANY scents in that sort of situation, not to mention the movement of the air around them, that it's not even remotely believable that he could smell her. Now, if he were following her through (let's say) a hallway inside the building, it would be more believable.
idleleaves From: idleleaves Date: November 4th, 2004 06:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm one of those people who tends to believe that, at least in the HP universe, there isn't much in the way of human benefits to being a werewolf. It's more presented in canon as an illness, honestly.

I can't see there being any strength benefits, even close to the moon, mostly because of her description of Lupin as coming back from the change as looking like he'd been ill, and of being the same way in the few days before it, as well.

I suppose the heightened sense of smell thing could be written plausibly (kind of like, perhaps, how you can see the details in something even after you've taken off your glasses because you know/remember what it looks like). Perhaps... the pull of certain things gets a little stronger.

However, for the most part, I tend to believe that, in her universe, one is either human or wolf, rather than some of both.

Just my two cents.
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: November 4th, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's also one of my gripes with later seasons of Red Dwarf. They spot a spaceship on the scanners and Cat says "That doesn't smell right!"
No. I cannot suspend disbelief enough to have a felinoid character smell the crew of a distant starship...
nomadicwriter From: nomadicwriter Date: November 5th, 2004 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I kind of assumed that was a figure of speech. You know, the way a human might say "nice to see you", without necessarily meaning "see" in a strictly literal sense. Or possibly, considering this is Red Dwarf we're talking about, I'm overthinking.

As to Remus, yeah, I agree with what most people have said. I can buy that he might have a better ability to identify smells if he's used to perceiving them at a much stronger level in his werewolf form, but it makes no sense for him to have the wolf's physiological advantages when he's not even in that shape. If you think about it, it's really a lot more plausible that it would go the other way, and his werewolf form might have weaker, more human-like senses than a real wolf.

The romanticising of Potter-verse werewolves really bugs me. It's much the same thing as the way people turn BtVS vampires into Anne Rice style vamps with all that added ritual and mysticism, when in canon it's so much more prosaic. In the case of Remus I find it doubly annoying, because I think giving him non-canonical advantages and powers and inventing some kind of werewolf culture with pack law and the rest of it really cheapens the whole concept of lycanthropy as a terrible disease he has to live with.

[Here via the Daily Snitch, by the way]
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 5th, 2004 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't really been exposed to "pack law" and things like that, but yes--that seems to be really out of tune with the way lycanthropy is portrayed. It's not an advantage.

As to the Anne-ization of the BtVS vampires, didn't Spike actively make fun of Anne Rice vampires?
nomadicwriter From: nomadicwriter Date: November 5th, 2004 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
As to the Anne-ization of the BtVS vampires, didn't Spike actively make fun of Anne Rice vampires?

Yep. And there was an episode poking fun at all the vampire wannabe groupies and "children of the night" types. And yet, despite all onscreen evidence that the BtVS vampires are about as non-mystical a bunch as you can get, fanfic writers keep drawing in all this outside mythology filled with complicated ritual and bonds between sire and "childe" and the like.

It seems that in any fandom where there are vampires or werewolves, a lot of fic writers prefer to toss all canon information aside and write their own over-romanticised versions instead. Which is annoying at the best of times, but even worse when it completely goes against the spirit of canon.
queenrikki_hp From: queenrikki_hp Date: November 4th, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely reasoning. The "Super-senses" issue is one that generally causes me to hit the back button. Humans aren't designed to use the nose as much as other animals, but a human who had the experience of being a wolf (which depends heavily on it's sense of smell) might logically rely more on smell than someone who is mundane.
arclevel From: arclevel Date: November 4th, 2004 07:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree that there aren't sensory advantages to being a werewolf. I would expect reasonably fast healing; if you can change an entire body plan in a minute or so, certainly you can seal together a bit of torn skin without a massive scar, even though you'll be awfully tired and sore for a while afterward. I like the idea of Animagi learning to use their animal skills, but I'm not sure about werewolves. We don't know exactly how much HP werewolves remember about their transformations. I'd say more than BtVS werewolves, if Lupin knows he didn't eat anyone when he got loose, but still not much. We know that their human mind is effectively gone unless they're under the influence of Wolfsbane Potion (in which case, your scenario works as well as for Animagi).

As for what traits Animagi might learn, I imagine stealth would be useful for both McGonagall and Pettigrew. I'm not sure what you'd get physically from being a stag; perhaps an ability to move quickly over rough terrain or while picking out a difficult path.
sreya From: sreya Date: November 4th, 2004 08:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure what you'd get physically from being a stag; perhaps an ability to move quickly over rough terrain or while picking out a difficult path.

That just gave me the image of a 16 year old James Potter acting... well, skitterish. Quick little jerks of the head, maybe nimbly avoiding something one of the other boys threw at him.

*shakes head sharply* Very odd image, particularly when I've never had the slightest interest in imagining James Potter before. Now I'm sure this is going to stick with me if I ever do write him!
mrs_who From: mrs_who Date: November 5th, 2004 05:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I would say JKR's view of lycanthropy (a word she's never used, I believe) is that of a disease. Lupin (in the shrieking shack) doesn't seem to be exhibiting any lupine qualities. He's sort of got this wicked, zen-like thing going with, "No one's going to kill you until we've got a few things straight, Peter." (Or whatever the phrasing was there.) But I don't see him being portrayed as anything other than ill in regard to the lycanthropy. What it's taught him is to lie, avoid, and cover up as a first response to any concern or challenge. It seems he's moving beyond that in OotP; he challenges both Sirius and Molly on various occasions and seems to have a leadership roll in the Order.

From what I can recall, JKR seems to say that one's animagi form reveals what is already in the wizard's character. So, James might have already been fleet of foot, skittish, have good hearing, be a leader, be somewhat proud of stance and stand-offish, etc. The stag was sort of a magical answer to a multiple choice question -- of sorts. So, Sirius' "bark like laugh" must have been there before he became an animagus, as well as his acute hearing, sharp temper, and faithfulness. The embarrassment Pettigrew must have felt when his true self was revealed to be a rat!

With the wolfsbane, Lupin becomes a "tame wolf." But I don't think it's being portrayed by JKR as the same thing as being an animagi. If one took on animal qualities because of being an animagi, we should see more lupine qualities in non-transformed Lupin. He never became an animagus, so we don't know what his form would actually be. I really don't think he would become a wolf in animagi form. It seems JKR goes to lengths to show us that Lupin's natural personality is quite opposite that of a wolf.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 5th, 2004 06:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I definitely agree with that. I have Peter think at one point that Remus is always a wolf, but, hello, that's Peter. ;p

My thought, though, is that whatever the nature of the experience, the experience is still there, and experience is a teacher. I was once driving (something I don't do well and avoid when I can anyway) and a huge piece of broken concrete fell off the truck right in front of me. I had about a second to decide what to do--swerve into traffic, jam on the brakes (causing an accident in traffic and probably having the cement crash through the windshield, the way it was flying), or try to "catch" it under the car. I did the last, slowed it down, and avoided any accident, though I did end up pummelling the transmission and leaking all kinds of fluid--no one got hurt. I certainly wouldn't choose to have a piece of cement come hurling toward me while I'm traveling around forty miles an hour again--frankly, I still don't choose to get behind the wheel of a car--but I did learn that, when necessary, I can make snap decisions, act on them with reasonable skill, and end up with no one severely hurt. I learned that. So it occurs to me that Lupin may have learned something from his illness, even though he wouldn't choose it in a million years.
puppy_tenchan From: puppy_tenchan Date: November 5th, 2004 12:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
The (to humans) suuperiour sense of smell of a canine stems from the different shape of their nasal mucosa. There is no reason why a human with lycanthropy should have the same physical trait, unless the lycanthropy makes them, well ... inhuman.

I agree though that the way that human uses his senses might be changed and developed from their experience in the other form. Just like every human can train their smell and taste, if they want.

One thing I think is important, is that a werewolf and an animagus are not the same. A werewolf is a 'real' beast, a certain kind of animalistic being, that also changes the human being into something else. An animagus just takes on the shape of an already existing animal and maybe some of its traits. Meaning to say, if there is any chance that a human might take on physical traits of an animal, then those chances are a lot higher for a werewolf than for an animagus, I my logic at least.

joiedumonde From: joiedumonde Date: November 8th, 2004 01:16 am (UTC) (Link)
While I agree that most of the 'sensitivities' are only around when Lupin is in wolf form, I think he might have heightened senses. I have always thought of the 'sensitivity to smell' like what a person with migraines goes through. When a migraine is about to hit, some people have heightened senses. I get very sensitive to lights, sounds and to smells. I can smell if a guy has been in my room, even if it was 3 days ago; I can hear my parents talking down the hallway, even if my door is closed, and they are being quiet; I see things in sharper focus as well. Granted that I don't really like having these things, as they are painful when you aren't used to them, so it could be said that while there may be some small benefit gained by the Lycanthropy, the negatives far outweigh the semi-positives, and may even be negatives in their own right.

just my opinion.
amberdiceless From: amberdiceless Date: November 5th, 2004 02:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I dunno, I kind of like the idea of somewhat enhanced senses, or at least of Remus paying more attention to his ordinary human senses and being able to interpret what he hears/smells/etc. better than most people do. It's so handy as a plot device. But it certainly wouldn't be a "super power" that works at vast distances and through concrete and such.

I also like the notion that werewolves are preturnaturally strong and exceedingly difficult to kill by any means short of silver or decapitation, etc. Being that they're technically creatures of Dark Magic, it makes sense to me that Dark Magic wouldn't affect them in the same way as it does humans (I think I picked that up originally from copperbadge).

Although I agree with whoever was saying that lycanthropy is treated as an illness in the books, there are certain illnesses even in RL that do have their compensations. A genetic predisposition to one disease might make you resistant to another, for example. So I don't think it's violating the spirit of the thing too much to imagine that there might be some small benefits for Remus. (Not always benefist, either; having unusually sharp hearing and smell could be as embarrassing as useful--there's some things he might learn that way that I don't think he'd want to know!)

As for Animagus traits that might carry over to the human form...hmm. Perhaps a snake Animagus would have an unusual sensitivity to body heat...a bird Animagus might have a really good sense of direction...

And then again, there could be a downside. If McGonagall spent too much time as a cat, could she find herself hacking up hairballs in the middle of class? O.O
ratcreature From: ratcreature Date: November 5th, 2004 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with the comments which said that it seems more like an illness without benefits in the book. But I don't think it makes sense to argue with scientific reasons for superior canine smell and that physiologically it wouldn't be possible when he's human, because ultimately wizards and werewolves are both magical beings, and scientific rules for why something works/can't work don't apply when it's all based on magic (see broomstick aerodynamics and such). For werewolves the better sense of smell could just be a magical trait, with no basis in science as we know it (though I guess it might be possible that in the HP universe science works different to accommodate the existence of magic).
its_art From: its_art Date: November 5th, 2004 10:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Here from DS.

First of all... Yay, Willow/Oz!

On Remus' senses, I've never written him as having extremely enhanced senses. When I write him on my RPG, Remus has a more sensitive sense of smell. For example, he doesn't like being in the dormitory for at least an hour after Sirius has sex with his girlfriend. Also, when he went to Hogsmeade after a bunch of people had been killed, he got sick because of the stench of blood.

I always thought the scene in "Lover's Walk" was pretty ridiculous and I never let him go to that extreme. Most of the time, Remus' sense of smell is a hinderance to him.

As for writing animagi as having animal characteristics, the OFC I RP who was studying to be a cat animagus (but who dropped it as it was too time-consuming during the war) has an irrational fear of dogs.
amanuensis1 From: amanuensis1 Date: November 6th, 2004 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
The enhanced-senses thing is a whole lotta fun in fanfic, but canonically, it just ain't. Why? Because JKR would have SAID. It would have figured into the plot of PoA, and she'd have had great fun putting it in there and revealing it. She's like that.
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