Q&A: The Right Tools for Monster Hunting

Hi! What would be best weapons for a magical creature hunter (just like Supernatural hunters)?

I’m going to assume you’re talking about the TV series, Supernatural, though it is a little unclear. This means we’re dealing with a modern setting, though some of this will apply in any setting.

While it’s not particularly satisfying, there’s a pretty solid argument to be made for, “knowledge is the best weapon.” In most myth, folklore, and fantasy, monsters can’t be overpowered through brute force. At least, not the monsters people are worried about. Frequently monsters are cited with specific weaknesses, and also have well defined patterns of behavior. The harder it is to identify and exploit those weaknesses, the more dangerous the monster is.

Let’s look at the classic Eastern European vampire for a moment. These are not especially dangerous. You have the aversion to garlic, the inability to cross running water, the inability to enter a home uninvited. These are creatures with clear boundaries. Getting rid of them (once detected) is fairly safe and easy as well if you don’t mind a little exhumation.

Now, let’s look at the modern, “pop culture” version. This is derived heavily off of the Eastern European vampire. A lot of weaknesses have been lost. The fear of holy symbols, barrier against entry without invitation, aversion to garlic, inability to cross running water, and many other behavioral barriers are discarded as, “myth.” Leaving one of the only consistent weaknesses as sunlight (a weakness that isn’t universal in the classic versions.) Similarly, getting rid of them is easier, up to a point. You no longer need to enact a complex ritual to dispatch them, no decapitation, no stuffing the mouth with lemon, a simple stake through the heart will work (sometimes.) However, this also means the vampire hunter is more likely to be forced into combat with the creature. Related to that, suddenly there is (sometimes) a material weakness to silver, or a vulnerability to fire, which facilitates weighting combat in the vampire hunter’s favor. The result is a much more powerful and dangerous creature. One that is no longer bound to a specific place, is free to wander, and staying in your home at night is not a safe way to avoid its attention.

This should illustrate the issue with this question. What’s the best weapon to deal with a vampire? It really depends on the vampire. (And, I’m not even addressing the wide variety of vampire folklore from around the world.)

Then you expand to other monsters and the idea of a single, “best,” weapon becomes untenable. There is a lot of weird creatures in folklore, and getting a single weapon that would be the best, when dealing with vampires, werewolves, trolls, fairies, ghosts, and all the other weird creatures of the world, to say nothing of cryptids, is functionally impossible.

So while, “knowledge is the real weapon,” is cliche, it’s also kind of true in this case. Monster hunter is a job that covers a vast array of different creatures, each with their own rules and vulnerabilities. There’s a lot of potential material to be had in sorting what to use in a given situation. At the same time, universal weaknesses undermine that because it can degenerate into, “everything’s a nail,” territory.

I’ll, straight up admit, this is personal bias, but in my opinion the investigation into the monster, the process of eliminating possible creatures, and identifying potential weaknesses and strategies is the strongest part of a monster hunting narrative. If the audience knows, from the beginning, what the hunters tracking, the story can easily become rote. This is especially true when you’re dealing with monster hunters who only handle a single kind of supernatural creature.

In the same vein, as a writer, you have a lot more freedom to sketch out your monsters if your characters are painstakingly examining the aftermath of attacks, sifting through evidence, and generally investigating the monster’s activities before they go in for the kill.

What’s your best weapon? Your mind.

-Starke

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