During these strange, Covid-days, I’ve found that reading about free-ranging wolves has been strangely comforting. Wolves are great characters; across cultures they’ve long been symbols of fear and badness. Authors such as Kate Forsyth and Amelia Starling have written about their metaphoric use in folk stories, warning women not to talk to strangers in the woods (or you may be tricked and eaten). However as our lives become more urban and our deep longing for wild places becomes more acute, perhaps this metaphoric use of wolves is shifting.
In The Wisdom of Wolves, Elli Radinger shares anecdotes from years of wolf observations, including moments when she’s just metres away from a wild animal. She’s watched wolf families for twenty-five years as they hunt, play and learn. Elli’s carefully researched book questions wolf stereotypes and previously accepted ideas about these iconic animals.
One chapter which I found fascinating, is devoted to the symbiotic, millenia-old friendship between wolves and ravens, both highly intelligent, family oriented creatures. It seems that ravens tease and play with wolf pups. Radinger reports that when adult wolves, ‘summon one another to the hunt by howling, their winged companions react just as excitedly as my Labrador bitch when she hears the rattle of the food bowl … the table is about to be laid.’
Another book on my reading stack, We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad is set in East Prussia during WWII. The blurb reads, … Sometimes it’s good to be wild. Sometimes you have to be wild. I’m looking forward to reading this new story about human/wolf wildness. If you’ve already read it, please let me know what you thought. I’m also reading Ahn Do’s Wolf Girl.
World history and mythology are rich in lupine characters, from Rome’s Romulus and Remus, the constellation Sirius, The Boy who Cried Wolf and that Biblical wolf in sheep’s clothing, just to name a few.
One of my favourite novels and perhaps the classic wolf wildness story is Jack London’s, Call of the Wild, exploring the crossover from domesticity to wildness, then the reverse in Wild Fang. Originally published in 1903, it’s interesting to see how cover image styles have changed over the years.