Strange tales abound of creatures that can transform their appearances, and which should be avoided at all costs. They are supernatural entities that provoke overwhelming fear and dread – for reasons that will soon become very apparent. The Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould was someone who had a near-lifelong interest in morphing monsters, and particularly so the traditional werewolf – or wolf-man – of France, Germany, and Austria of the Middle Ages.
As Baring-Gould dug further into the controversy of man becoming animal and man again, however, he developed a deep passion for the folklore and mythology of Iceland and Scandinavia – and as well as for the many and varied mysterious creatures that lurked in such countries. One of Baring-Gould’s many publications, The Book of Werewolves, reveals that of particular fascination to him were the Eigi Einhamir, which, basically, means “of more than one skin,” a phrase which Baring-Gould specifically used in his book.
There may not be a better way of describing a supernatural shapeshifter. The saga of the Eigi Einhamir dates far back into history; in fact, to the very earliest years of Pagan times when Christianity had still yet to leave its mark on much of Europe. Chiefly, the story of these enigmatic and dangerous people originates in Norway and Iceland. The Eigi Einhamir were a unique and mysterious band of mighty warriors who lived in the frozen wastelands and who could take on the form of just about any living entity that crossed their minds.
The animals whose forms they assumed were referred to as the Hamr, while the actual process of bodily transformation was known as Skipta Homum. It wasn’t just a case of physically mutating, however. The Eigi Einhamir not only took on the muscle-power of the creature at issue, whether a bear, a wolf, or a wild cat. Their minds were majorly altered, too, and to the point where the innate savagery and beastly natures of the animals overwhelmed both their human minds and thought processes.
The mutation did not occur as it did with the likes of the werewolf, however. On some occasions, the person’s soul would leave their body and invade the mind of the animal, effectively taking it over. For the onlookers, it was a traumatic time, as – with the soul now in a new body – the original body lay rigid and seemingly in a state of death. At least, that is, until the soul returned to its original body. At that point, the person would then suddenly wake up, almost as if they were rising from the grave. The Walking Dead? Not quite, but not too far away either. Perhaps even more intriguing, the Eigi Einhamir had the near-unique ability to take over the thought-processes of people – and plunge them into hypnotic-like, altered states – and make it appear as if they had shapeshifted, when, on some occasions, it was all in the mind, so to speak.
There was one way, however, in which the Eigi Einhamir could be identified, regardless of the particular type of animal into which they morphed. It was by looking carefully at their eyes. That was the Eigi Einhamir’s one and only weak spot: their eyes never changed from their original, human form. Even when the witness to their activities was in a hypnotized condition, or when the soul of the Eigi Einhamir entered, and took control of, the animal’s mind, the eyes of the beast were always the eyes of the shapeshifter.
In that sense, identifying an animal that was not an animal – but one of the Eigi Einhamir, instead – was relatively easy. It would, after all, be very strange to see a wolf or a bear with eyes that were definitively human in appearance. When the eyes of a human were seen staring out of the face of a beast, those that feared the Eigi Einhamir took quick and decisive steps to end its malevolent and strange existence. In the same way that silver bullets and fire are said to be the weak spot of werewolves everywhere, so were the eyes to the Eigi Einhamir. If you believe in such things, of course.