Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0016455, Wed, 4 Jun 2008 10:54:11 -0400

QUERY: Russian Words for Werewolves

I have a quick question for our Russian-speakers. I understand that in
Vera's Russian translation of PF, she translates "versipel" as "Oboroten,"
the Russian word for werewolf. But in my research I have also come across
the word "Volkodlak," which also seems to indicate a werewolf (and vampire,
as well?). Can anyone explain the distinction, if any, between the two
terms? Would "Volkodlak" (volx + dlaka?) roughly translate as "shaggy
sorcerer"? Lastly, how well-known is the Slavic tradition that in order to
kill a "Volkodlak," one must drive an aspen stake through its heart? I got
some of these notions from Ralston's Songs of the Russian People (1872),
where we find:
"A buried werewolf or vampire has to be pierced with an aspen stake. . . .
The warm hide of the werewolf is in keeping with his designation Volkodlak,
from dlaka, a shaggy fell." Fell, according to Webster's 2nd, can mean "the
skin or hide of a beast."
Matt Roth

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