Every society, culture, or even theology has some figure that is used to help quell the wild side of individuals. It would be fair to argue that monsters are a culturally varying enforcer. How many of us remember at some point our parents told us if we didn’t behave or do what was expected that something or someone was going to get us? The boogeyman was used to make kids stay in bed at night. Dracula and werewolves were used by different cultures to tell young people not to go out after dark. Nessie was a tool to keep the population from swimming in the Loc. Even the most well known enforcer figure used today, the Devil, is used to intimidate the general population to be “good.” Is it possible that as a society we need the monsters to help encourage social morals?
There are even some well known fairy tales that implement the monster as an enforcer of some ideal or another.The well known tale of "Little Red Riding Hood" is one example because it uses the Big Bad Wolf to teach children not to talk to strangers. Think about it: everything is going great for Little Red until she gets personal with a stranger. Additionally, the wolf enforces the ideal of listening to one’s parents because in several versions of the story the mom specifically tells Little Red to not talk to anybody along the way. The Big Bad Wolf is just one of the most mild and current examples of monsters enforcing a social norm.
A werewolf is one of many monsters that discourages people from wandering around the woods after dark, but as you might have noticed there are characteristics distinctly associated with lycanthropes. Most of us are aware of the general myth stating that werewolves are people who turn into wolves and terrorize woods and neighboring communities during the full moon. Part of me has to wonder if this myth was born during the rise of Christianity. The history attached to this legend comes from areas once rich in pagan or witch culture. It was, and is, a well known practice for pagans to take to the woods for rituals to be closer to nature, and the full moon provides additional energy to pull from for rituals. Therefore, wouldn’t it be fair to argue that the accounts of lycanthropes could have been a ploy for the rising Christian faith to try and discourage the well known practices of witches with tales of horror?
In addition to possibly starting unintentional horror stories the Christian faith can be seen as using possibly the most well known monster as its primary enforcer. The Devil is without a doubt the enforcer that very few think of as a monster but there are few other words to describe him. Theoretically, the idea is that if you are good and be nice then you will go to Heaven with God and if you are a bad person or mean then you will be sent to hell to be tortured by the Devil. Being the most mainstream enforcer of present day society the Devil he is also the most generalized as there is no specific action that he is used to teach against but the general aura of being a bad person. We don’t think about it much, but there are many examples throughout history of monsters being a figure used to encourage social morals or discourage questionable behavior.
There are several monsters I didn’t talk about in detail but we know they exist; for example Dracula, Nessie, or the Boogeyman. From teaching us to listen to our parents to encouraging strict social norms monsters have long been used to enforce ideals and acceptable practices. I hope this makes you think next time you hear of a monster legend or see a horror movie. While not being a common way of looking at the bad guys of legends, it is a logical conclusion that monsters are a necessary teaching tool implemented by countless societies and cultures.