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The first lycanthrope was nothing like the were-animals we know today.

He did not
have a full-animal form, and had a barely developed “beast-man” form, the Man-
Animal cross form that is common to modern cinema. He was not created through
the lycanthropy virus, as many modern were’s are today. He was not a practitioner
of magic, no shaman or mystic of a local tribe. He was just a man driven to such
extremes to survive that his brain forced his body to adapt, making it into a form
that his brain knew could help his body survive. When finally his need to survive
was sated, he reverted back to his original human form. But his brain remembered
what it had done, and his body was able to change at will between the two forms.
But he had to keep this ability secret, or he would be killed by the scared and
untrusting tribesmen. So he hid.

Forcing evolution’s hand had set the ball rolling. He eventually found a wife,
loneliness driving him to search for companionship, and produced a son. He
discovered that his son possessed the same ability of transformation, but it was
different from his own, more complete. This trend continued through his line, and
with each generation, the animal form was more complete than the last, until finally
the lycanthrope could go from full human to full animal.

But they were not allowed to live peacefully, contrary to the way things may seem.
Once their clan was discovered, they were ostracized, reviled by society for being
unnatural monsters. They were hunted and slain with little provocation, often
blaming the deaths of livestock or pets on the clan of shape-shifters. So they were
forced to scatter across the globe, traveling to distant lands where they would not
be persecuted, some peoples even worshipping their shape-shifting abilities. As
time went on in these new locations, each lycanthrope generation changed more
and more, their forms adapting to local creatures and to fit their new environments,
thus creating many of the modern species of lycanthropes that we see today.

That is the history of hereditary lycanthropy, which predates the written word,
whereas viral lycanthropy is a much more modern condition. The discovery of viral
lycanthropy happened sometime in the early 16th century, when a French scientist
named Louis Gerou was attacked by a “wolf of great proportions, of a most
unnatural size and strength.” After his attack, Louis suffered many of the common
systems of modern viral lycanthropy (high fever, short term memory loss,
accelerated healing and an increase in metabolism), and a week after being
attacked, on the night of a full moon, he “turned” for the first time. Though there
have been many stories and tales of transmitted lycanthropy through a bite or
attack earlier than this, thanks to Louis Gerou’s diary, this is the first true recording
of such an event. Modern science believes that viral lycanthropy began with the
mutation of the lycanthropy gene, thus turning the lycanthrope into a carrier of the
virus. Evidence is taken from the fact that each strain of viral lycanthropy differs
from the others, and that not all forms of lycanthropy are contagious (meaning that
some are pure hereditary lines, not able to be transferred by infection).
Lycanthropy is now tolerated in several countries, the most prominent being the
United States and Canada, and though lycanthropes are still treated with fear and
repulsion in these countries, laws have been put into effect to prevent
discrimination against lycanthropes when it comes to jobs and civil treatment.
There are movements beginning in Europe to recognize lycanthropes as regular
citizens, though they are being met by heavy resistance from traditionalists and
“anti-monster/pro-human” groups. Areas encountering the heaviest resistance to
these movements are the Balkan States, the Czech Republic and Russia.