Rodolhe Jhering was the first to approximate the figure of homo sacer to that of the wargus, the wolf-man, and of the Friedlos, the man without peace (…) according to which ancient Germanic law was founded on the concept of peace (Fried) and the corresponding exclusion form the community of the wrongdoer, who therefore became friedlos, without peace, and whom anyone was permitted to kill without comitting homicide. (…)
Germanic and Anglo-Saxon sources underline the bandit´s liminal status by defining him as a wolf-man (wargus, werwolf, the Latin garulphus, from which the French loup garou, ”werewolf” is derived). (…) The laws of Edward the Confessor (1030-35) define the bandit as a wulfesheud (a wolf´s head) and assimilate him to the werewolf (…).
What had to remain in the collective unconscious as a monstrous hybrid of human and aninal, divided between the forest and the city – the werewolf – is, therefore, in its origin the figure of the man who has been banned from the city.
That such a man is defined as a wolf-man and not simply as a wolf (…) is decisive here. The life of the bandit, like that of the sacred man, is not a piece of animal nature without any relation to law and the city. It is, rather, a threshold of indistinction and of passage between animal and man, physis and nomos, exclusion and inclusion: the life of the bandit is the life of the loup garou, the werewolf, who is precisely neither man nor beast, and who dwells paradoxically within both while belonging to neither.
In this light, the Hobbesian mythologeme of the state of nature acquires its true sense. (…) Far from being a prejuridical condition that is indifferent to the law of the city, the Hobbesian state of nature is the exception and the threshold that constitutes and dwells within it. It is not so much a war of all against all as a condition in which everyone is bare life and a homo sacer for everyone else, and in which everyone is thus wargus, gerit caput lupinum. And this lupization of man and humanization of the wolf is at every moment possible in the dissolutio civitatis inaugurated by the state of exception.
In Hobbes, the foundation of sovereign power is to be sought not in the subjects´ free renunciation of their natural right but in the sovereign´s preservation of his natural right to do anything to anyone, which now appears as the right to punish. ”This is the foundation,” Hobbes states, ”of that right of Punishing, which is exercised in every Common-wealth. For the Subjects did not give the Soveraign that right; but onely in layin down theirs, strengthned him to use his own, as he should think fit, for the preservation of them all; so that it was not given, but left to him, and to him only (…)”.
In Marie de France´s Bisclavret (…) both the werewolf´s particular nature as the threshold of passage between nature and politics, animal world and human world, and the werewolf´s close tie to sovereign power are presented with extraordinary vividness. The lay tells of a baron who is particulary close to his king, but who, every week, after hiding his clothes under a stone, is transformed into a werewolf (bisclavret) for three days, during which time he lives in the woods stealing and preying on other creatures. His wife, who suspects something, induces him to confess his secret life and convinces him to reveal where he hides his clothes, even though he knows that he would remain a wolf forever if he lost them or were caught putting them on. With the help of an accomplice, who will become her lover, the woman takes the clothes from their hiding place, and the baron remains a wolf forever.
What is essential here is the detail of the temporary character of the metamorphosis, which is tied to the possibility of setting aside and secretly putting on human clothes again. The transformation into a werewolf corresponds perfectly to the state of exception, during which time the city is dissolved and men enter into a zone in which they are no longer distinct from beasts. The story also shows the necessity of particular formailities marking the entry into – or the exit from – the zone of indistinction between the animal and the human.
The special proximity of werewolf and sovereign too is ultimately shown in the story. One day, so the lay tells, the king goes hunting in the forest in which Bisclavret lives, and the dogs find the wolf-man as soon as they are let loose. But as soon as Bisclavret sees the sovereign, he runs toward him and grabs hold of his stirrup, licking his legs and hiss feet as if he were imploring the king´s mercy. Amazed at the beast´s humanity (”this animal has wits and intelligence /… I will give my peace to the beast / and for today I will hunt no more”), the king brings him to live with him, and the become inseparable. The inevitable encounter with the ex-wife and the punishment of the woman follow. What is important, however, is that Bisclavret´s final transformation back iro a human takes place on the very bed of the sovereign.