In “William of Palermo,” the old romance known as “William and the Werewolf,” translated from the French at the command of Sir Humphrey de Bohun about A.D. 1350, the wer-wolf appears as a sort of a guardian angel. The brother of the King Apulia, envious of the heir-apparent, bribes two women to murder the king’s son. While the boy William is at play a wer-wolf runs off with him, swims across the Straits of Messina, and carries him into a forest near Rome, where it takes care of him and provides him with food. The wer-wolf in reality is Alphonso, heir to the Spanish throne, who has been transformed by his stepmother Queen Braunde, who desires her own son Braundinis to wear the crown of Spain.
The wer-wolf embraces the king’s son
With his fore-feet,
And so familiar with him
Is the king’s son, that all pleases him,
Whatever the beast does for him.
While the wer-wolf seeks provender, a cowherd finds William and takes him to his hut, where the Emperor meets him when out hunting. Placing him behind him on his horse he takes him to Rome and gives him in charge of his daughter Melior, to be her page.
William and Melior fall in love with one another, and to avoid the Emperor’s wrath devise an escape, disguised in the skins of white bears, helped by Melior’s friend Alexandrine. When Melior asks whether she makes a bold bear, Alexandrine answers, “Yes, Madame, you are a grisly ghost enough, and look ferocious.” Together the lovers wander out of the garden on all fours and making their way to the forest hide in a den. Meanwhile the wer-wolf has followed William’s fortunes, and finding the wanderers in need, he sets on a harmless passer-by who carries provisions, and seizing bread and boiled beef out of his bag, lays it before the lovers, then runs off and, attacking another traveller, secures two flagons of wine.
Being pursued, the lovers escape to Palermo, led always by the wer-wolf, Alphonso, half-brother to Braundinis, who was destined by Melior’s father to become his son-in-law. William does battle with the proposed suitor and, still helped by the wer-wolf, whose symbol is painted on his shield, overcomes his rival, takes the King and Queen of Spain prisoner and refuses to let them go until Queen Braunde promises to transform the rightful heir from a wolf back into a human being. “Unless she disenchants you, she shall be burnt,” he says forcibly. Braunde takes her stepson, the wolf, into a private chamber, draws forth a magic ring with a stone in it that is proof against all witchcraft and binds it with a red silk thread roun.