Metamorphoses, by Ovid Lycaon, king of Arcadia, serves his dinner guest (Zeus in disguise) a special supper: he took a human hostage, “opened his throat with a knife, and made some of the still warm limbs tender in seething water, roasting others in the fire”. His punishment for such savagery is transformation. He howls and foams at the mouth. “His clothes became bristling hair, his arms became legs. He was a wolf.”
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe After rescue from his island, Crusoe and Man Friday are crossing the Pyrenees “when we began to hear the wolves howl in the wood on our left in a frightful manner, and presently after we saw about a hundred coming on directly towards us . . .” A huge battle ensues in which Crusoe triumphs but a couple of men are eaten alive.
Dracula, by Bram Stoker As Jonathan Harker is taken to the count’s castle he finds the coach seemingly followed by wolves. When he arrives he hears the mountains echoing to their howls. His host delights in the sound. “Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” They are Dracula’s fellow “hunters” and respond to his commands.
The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling Baby Mowgli is found by wolves in the Indian jungle. Shere Khan the tiger wants to gobble him up, but Father Wolf claims him. “‘The Wolves are a free people,’ said Father Wolf. ‘They take orders from the Head of the Pack, and not from any striped cattle-killer.'” Mowgli, declares Raksha, the Mother Wolf, “shall live to run with the Pack and to hunt with the Pack”. Hooray for wolves!
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London London narrates the adventures of a dog called Buck, who ends up in Alaska as the companion of a good-hearted gold-panner. When his master is killed, Buck must learn to live in the woods among the local wolves. He discovers the wolf within himself and finally becomes the leader of the pack.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis Wolves are the natural allies of the evil White Witch, who recruits the biggest and fiercest wolf, Maugrim, as her chief of secret police. He is killed in a final duel with Peter, who is grandly renamed “Wolf’s Bane” by Aslan. But there are good wolves in Narnia too.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken In Aiken’s alternative history of Britain, wolves have fled a new ice age in northern Europe and come to England via the Channel tunnel. Bonnie, Sylvia and Simon must defeat the schemes of evil governess Letitia Slighcarp but also survive a wolf-ravaged winter.
“The Company of Wolves”, by Angela Carter A beautiful girl meets a handsome huntsman who is really a wolf. He visits her Granny and the disguise comes off. “He strips off his shirt. His skin is the color and texture of vellum. A crisp strip of hair runs down his belly, his nipples are ripe and dark as poison fruit . . . His genitals, huge. Ah! Huge.” He eats the Granny and goes to bed with the granddaughter.
“Life after Death”, by Ted Hughes Hughes’s poem recalls the immediate aftermath of Sylvia Plath’s suicide. He and his two children hear the wolves in nearby London Zoo. “And in spite of the city / Wolves consoled us. / Two or three times each night / For minutes on end / They sang”. The howling across Primrose Hill is a dirge. “In their wailing for you, their mourning for us, / They wove us into their voices”.
Wolf Brother, by Michelle Paver Based on research into both stone age life and wolf behaviour, the first in Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness features 12-year-old Torak, member of the Wolf tribe. He befriends a cub, “Wolf”, who becomes his guide on a quest to the Mountain of World Spirit. The two can communicate with uncanny ease.