alexej:  Gustave Doré, The Wolves and the Flock of Sheep [Les Loups et les Brebis], 1867. From Doré’s Illustrations for the Fables of La Fontaine.

Gustave Dore, The Wolves and the Flock of Sheep (Les Loups et les Brebis) 1867.  From Dore’s Illustrations for the Fables of La Fontaine. 

     Wolves possess tremendous spiritual power.  They fascinate me.  I identify primarily with birds and herbivorous animals–deer. giraffes–but when I was a child, I would fantasize about being a wolf.  

     I would pore over photographs of wolves in National Geographic and envision the feel and smell of their fur, coarse and hard like armor, with a dense undercoat.  The softness of the ears and the terrible long mouth, full of fangs.  

     I would have nightmares of being raped by a wolf or a werewolf.  These were not sexy dreams.  They were awful. 

     I still have these nightmares today.

     Terror and fascination.  Terror and fascination. 

5 thoughts on “Wolves”

  1. Doré is a superb illustrator.

    Wolves get a bad name from humans and have suffered, and continue to suffer, dreadful persecution as a result. Other top predators like lions and tigers are often seen as symbols of nobility. Not wolves.

    Maybe it’s because they have an elaborate social structure and hunt in packs.

    Hobbes said “Man is a wolf to man”. This is wrong on a number of counts, not least of which is that it traduces wolves.

    When I was a kid, I learned this poem off by heart, and it has coloured my view of wolves ever since.

    A Night with a Wolf
    Bayard Taylor

    Little one come to my knee!
    Hark how the rain is pouring
    Over the roof in the pitch dark night,
    And the winds in the woods a-roaring.

    Hush, my darling, and listen,
    Then pay for the story with kisses;
    Father was lost in the pitch-black night
    In just such a storm as this is.

    High on the lonely mountain
    Where the wild men watched and waited;
    Wolves in the forest, and bears in the bush,
    And I on my path belated.

    The rain and the night together
    Came down, and the wind came after,
    Bending the props of the pine tree roof
    And snapping many a rafter.

    I crept along in the darkness,
    Stunned and bruised and blinded . . .
    Crept to a fir with thick-set boughs,
    And a sheltering rock behind it.

    There, from the blowing and raining,
    Crouching I sought to hide me;
    Something rustled, two green eyes shone,
    And a wolf lay down beside me.

    Little one, be not frightened;
    I and the wolf together,
    Side by side through the long, long night,
    Hid from the awful weather.

    His wet fur pressed against me;
    Each of us warmed the other;
    Each of us felt in the stormy dark
    That beast and man were brother.

    And when the falling forest
    No longer crashed in warning,
    Each of us went from our hiding place
    Forth in the wild wet morning.

    Darling, kiss me in payment . . .
    Hark! how the wind is roaring!
    Father’s house is a better place
    When the stormy rain is pouring.

  2. Truly, I did not mean to besmirch the reputation of the honest wolf. Please extend my apologies to the National Wolf Anti-Defamation League.

    But seriously: I’m a huge fan of wolves as animals and I’m familiar with their historical persecution. Do they even exist in Western Europe anymore? In the Western US, ranchers still complain about them bitterly, as if the loss of a few sheep every now and again warranted the annihilation of a species outside of zoos. As far as I’m concerned, there should be a system in place where the government just pays for the value of the lost livestock and that’s that. The wolves are part of our cultural heritage and they play a role in the ecosystem.

    The point of the blog post–which I’m sure was not lost on you–was the symbolism of the wolf in the subconscious. Freud and Jung both wrote about it. The wolf represents male sexuality. I believe it. I keep a dream log. The wolf or werewolf (or, occasionally, dog) appears over…and over…and over again.

    Yes, Dore made some great stuff. Look at that wolf in the middle, seizing the lamb by its back, and the other sheep screaming above it. And that sky! Gruesome and beautiful at the same time.

    I have a couple coffee-table books of Dore, including (my favorite) his illustrations and a translation of Dante’s Inferno.

  3. And the poem is pretty, but let’s get real: the wolf would have avoided being in proximity to that dude at all costs, or, if it was hungry enough and maybe had a wolf buddy, it would have tried to eat him. They are not vicious, but they are not kumbaya-singing motherfuckers who would trade in the prey for a spot in front of the fire and a bowl of kibble. They can and do kill people. Even the hybrids.

  4. Hi Margo

    Since I don’t see how you can have a post about wolves without a little Jack London. Here are the last two paragraphs of The Call of the Wild.

    “In the summers there is one visitor, however, to that valley, of which the Yeehats do not know. It is a great, gloriously coated wolf, like, and yet unlike, all other wolves. He crosses alone from the smiling timber land and comes down into an open space among the trees. Here a yellow stream flows from rotted moose-hide sacks and sinks into the ground, with long grasses growing through it and vegetable mould overrunning it and hiding its yellow from the sun; and here he muses for a time, howling once, long and mournfully, ere he departs.

    But he is not always alone. When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack.”

    There is a new biography of London out. From the reviews it sounds pretty good. Maybe I’ll pick it up when it comes out in paperback.


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