Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dire Wolves

Attacked a goat gray wolves  - Zinaida Serebriakova

The train stops, and the rhythmic chugging of the train engine gives way to silence. Suddenly, you hear a howl in the dark. This happens in an excellent children's book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and it's amazing isn't it? You can't beat wolves for sheer spine chilliness. Other great authors, Tolkien, Stoker and Lewis all make excellent use of wolves as enemies. Perhaps that's because our ancestors had to deal with wolves on a daily basis. I have no idea.

You will hear people say that,  in real life, wolves don't actually attack, let alone eat, people. If you routinely go camping in the Rockies, this is good advice,  but not as good if you write in a medievalesque period. Wolves today do not carry the same dread that they did in the days of yore. The wolves in North America have grown to fear humans after centuries of getting shot by rednecks, and the wolves in Europe are too scarce to really pose a danger to anyone. But once upon a time, not so long ago, wolves posed a real danger. Wolves killed 3000 people in France alone. Half of those wolves did not have rabies.

Most of these attacks involved children, a few included lone women, or less often, a lone man; something many people forget when writing of wolves. No wolf would ever attack someone with a weapon. Wolves are opportunistic predators, and thus they only pose a real danger to the weak. They would never think of attacking an armed man... much less a train; however, you do not enjoy books like the Wolves of Willoughby Chase for their realistic descriptions of predatory habitats. You enjoy them for their stories.


  1. The pro-wolf people squawk about that book. What they don't realize is that the real wolves of Willoughby Chase are the book's villains. SYMBOLISM YO.

  2. Glad to see you're back, Brendan! :) I've never really had wolves in my stories before...I've had three headed wolves and shape shifting wolves, but never just wolves...