Why Wolves?

I really don’t know why I love wolves so much. I just do.

Wolves are Family-Oriented

Certainly, Kipling’s The Jungle Book bears a great deal of responsibility. By the time I was in fifth grade I already knew the novel so well that when our teacher told us to memorize a poem for recitation in class, the poem I picked was “Mowgli’s Song,” subtitled “That He Sang at the Council Rock When He Danced on Shere Khan’s hide.”

I’m sure the teacher was rather startled when normally-shy me took my place at the front of the classroom and began, “The Song of Mowgli – I Mowgli am singing” and proceeded to recite that cool, ironical tale of vengeance and rejection.

I wasn’t shy that day. I felt those words burning in my heart and when I finished, “Ahae! My heart is heavy with the things that I do not understand,” I think I was surprised to find myself there in the classroom with my rather astonished classmates staring blankly at me.

My dad was involved with the Justice Department’s case to protect the wolves in Alaska. I remember asking him, “Dad, if they don’t want the wolves, can I have them?” This led to the first of many gentle lectures from many well-meaning adults that wolves weren’t anything like those in Kipling’s stories, but were ferocious, not very clean animals, that I wouldn’t like at all.

Funny thing. When I started my research for Through Wolf’s Eyes, the first of what would become the six-volume “Wolf Series” (sometimes called “The Firekeeper Saga”), I learned that wolves are much closer to Kipling’s depiction than to the ferocious creatures of fairytales. They are family-oriented, hierarchical, and, in their own way, rather legalistic.

When I met my first wolves, I was thrilled. I’d come to Weems’ Artfest in Albuquerque with Jim and a couple of friends. I had no idea that MaryAnn Weems gives over a large area of the building to animal-related charities. All I knew was that, when I turned into the smaller side room, there were wolves.

(Okay. There were dogs and cats, hawks and owls, but I have to admit, all I saw that day were the wolves).

The wolves were with an organization that rescued wolves and wolf-hybrids kept as pets. I’m not sure which one. I wasn’t thinking organizations. I was thinking that here, just inches from me, was a real wolf.

I knelt down so I could be at wolf’s-eye level. I must have asked questions – I usually do – but what I remember most about that moment was when the wolf leaned over the rope barrier and licked me on the face.

Jim, watching from a few cautious steps back, admitted later that to him it looked as if the wolf was “tasting,” but all I felt was friendliness of the gesture. I also noted that the wolf had a “dry” mouth (nothing of the “slobbering monster” here) and smelled less strongly than did most dogs.

At that moment, all the research reading, all the times I’d watched wolves on film or from a distance at the zoo, merged into an appreciation of wolves that was as powerful – more powerful even – than that idealistic fifth grader had felt so many years ago upon reading The Jungle Book.


4 Responses to “Why Wolves?”

  1. Alan Robson Says:

    I read the print off the pages of “The Jungle Book” when I was the same age as you. And the poem that I memorised was:

    Now this is the law of the jungle
    As old and as true as the sky
    And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper
    But the wolf that shall break it must die…

    And, like you, I recited all umpteen verses of it to my class, to their utter bewilderment and mild consternation on the part of the teacher.

  2. Debbie Says:

    I can’t trace my fascination in the same way. I didn’t read Jungle Book as a child (though I saw the movie, alas). My love of wolves came later, as an adult. The Book “Of Wolves and Men” by Barry Lopez inspired me to write the first short story I ever sold.

  3. Nicholas Wells Says:

    I don’t have definite moment when I began loving wolves either. Actually when I was young, dolphins held my interest. But one day, I found that wolves (and foxes) were where my passion laid.

    It got worse after that.

    Now I yip when started (sometimes), and I growl when annoyed or frustrated. No really, I do. All by instinct too, no thought to it.

    Funny thing is, I’ve been to the Wolf Mountain Sanctuary in Lucerne California 3 times, and the owner says I walk like a wolf. A description I continue to not understand. I guess the wolves there agree, since I got claimed as a member by two of their packs.

    No real memorable encounters with foxes yet, but I’m hopeful.

  4. NinjaMisha Says:

    My interest in wolves started after reading Wendy Pini’s graphic novel Elfquest (you should check it out, it’s pretty fantastic!). I loved her version of wolves! They weren’t slobbering beasts, they werent mindless killers, and they weren’t the family dog.
    I was happy when reading the Firekeeper saga that your wolves didn’t fall into those lines either.
    Anywho, I’m eager to one day meet one as you did!

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