The Short Shelf: Wolves

Wolves haunt those woods Mr. Frost, whether they’re those in the mind’s recesses, or the canine predators roaming the nearest wilderness. Even though they have largely been erased throughout the world where people live, packs of wolves populate our individual and collective memories. And which of us doesn’t wonder how far removed is that canine sniffing at the offered hand?

Lest we forget those evenings around a fire, the wolf’s presence beyond light’s reach, check out the prominent place wolves occupy in our literature, the stories that define us on our trip through this life. Don’t take our word for it, search on “wolf” at Amazon. In the meantime, here are three offerings long in the incisor:

The Call of the Wild/White Fang by Jack London
Think of these two stories as the wolf cycle. In the first, a dognapped pup escapes into the Alaska wild, where he’s schooled by a pack of his forebears. He learns about the hierarchy of the pack, how that’s determined, and the roles played by members of the pack. Eventually Fang sees a wolf pup re-introduced to the domestic setting in some accelerated evolution as the eponymous pup is raised first by Indians, before settling into a California home.

The Wolf Man by Sigmund Freud
Sometimes it’s the wolf in the mind that haunts. In this case—one of Freud’s more extant—psychoanalysis reveals that the patient, while a babe in his crib at the foot of his parent’s bed, witnessed his dad making the beast with two backs with his mom, in the, ah, wolf position. Three perspectives are provided: 1) an autobiography of the patient (The Wolf Man, because of his neurosis centered on wolves), 2) The Wolf Man’s description of Freud and his methodologies, and 3) Freud’s narrative of the case. As with all things Freud, there are more than a few chuckles in this valuable insight into his cutting edge work.

Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong
Set in Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution when urbanites were encouraged to get back to the country, the author bases this 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize-winning novel on his own experiences when he served as a shepherd for a decade. The wolf occupies a revered place in the lives of Mongolians, who maintain a special regard for their ancestors of the 12th and 13th centuries, who worshiped the Mongolian Wolf as they marauded through Asia and parts of Europe like an immense pack of wolves, sweeping aside civilizations and launching the modern world. But as China industrializes, the Gobi desert encroaches on the old haunts of the wolf.

(Martin Zook can also be found at his excellent blog of political satire, zingedbyzook.)


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