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Of Wolves and Men

Of Wolves and Men

5.0 4
by Barry Lopez

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National Book Award Finalist: A “brilliant” study of the science and mythology of the wolf by the New York Times–bestselling author of Arctic Dreams (The Washington Post).
 When John Fowles reviewed Of Wolves and Men, he called it “A remarkable book, both biologically absorbing and humanly rich, and


National Book Award Finalist: A “brilliant” study of the science and mythology of the wolf by the New York Times–bestselling author of Arctic Dreams (The Washington Post).
 When John Fowles reviewed Of Wolves and Men, he called it “A remarkable book, both biologically absorbing and humanly rich, and one that should be read by every concerned American.” In this National Book Award–shortlisted work, literary master Barry Lopez guides us through the world of the wolf and our often-mistaken perceptions of another species’ place on our shared planet. Throughout the centuries, the wolf has been a figure of fascination and mystery, and a major motif in literature and myth. Inspiring fear and respect, the creature has long exerted a powerful influence on the human imagination. Of Wolves and Men takes the reader into the world of the Canis lupus and its relationship to humankind through the ages. Lopez draws on science, history, mythology, and his own field research to present a compelling portrait of wolves both real and imagined, dispelling our fear of them while celebrating their place in our history, legends, and hearts. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Barry Lopez including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
John Fowles A remarkable book, both biologically absorbing and humanly rich, and one that should be read by every ecologically concerned American.

George Schaller Animal Kingdom Of Wolves and Men is not only the best popular account of an animal I have read in a long time, but also something new -- a bridge between books of the past and those of the future, which, it is hoped, will incorporate and expand the perceptions so eloquently treated here.

Edmund Fuller Wall Street Journal A splendid, beautiful book.

Bayard Webster New Fork Times Book Review Fascinating....His book has a wealth of observation, mythology and mysticism about wolves that adds a colorful part to the still unfinished mosaic that defines the wolf.

Walter Clemons Newsweek Eloquent....His own patient effort to understand a despised, feared and heavily mythologized beast induces a shiver, of strangeness, the sign of fresh, original work.

Robert Kirsch Los Angeles Times Unusually informative and sensitive.

Boston Globe Haunting....has something of value to say to all of us.

Whitley Streiber Washington Post Brilliant...a work of intelligence, dedication and beauty, deserving the widest possible attention not only for the sake of wolves but also for the sake of men.

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Open Road Media
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


Imagine a wolf moving through the northern woods. The movement, over a trail he has traversed many times before, is distinctive, unlike that of a cougar or a bear, yet he appears, if you are watching, sometimes catlike or bearlike. It is purposeful, deliberate movement. Occasionally the rhythm is broken by the wolf's pause to inspect a scent mark, or a move off the trail to paw among stones where a year before he had cached meat.

The movement down the trail would seem relentless if it did not appear so effortless. The wolf's body, from neck to hips, appears to float over the long, almost spindly legs and the flicker of wrists, a bicycling drift through the trees, reminiscent of the movement of water or of shadows.

The wolf is three years old. A male. He is of the subspecies occidentalis, and the trees he is moving among are spruce and subalpine fir on the eastern slope of the Rockies in northern Canada. He is light gray; that is, there are more blond and white hairs mixed with gray in the saddle of fur that covers his shoulders and extends down his spine than there are black and brown. But there are silver and even red hairs mixed in, too.

It is early September, an easy time of year, and he has not seen the other wolves in his pack for three or four days. He has heard no howls, but he knows the others are about, in ones and twos like himself. It is not a time of year for much howling. It is an easy time. The weather is pleasant. Moose are fat. Suddenly the wolf stops in mid-stride. A moment, then his feet slowly come alongside each other. He is staring into the grass. His ears are rammed forward, stiff. His back archesand he rears up and pounces like a cat. A deer mouse is pinned between his forepaws. Eaten. The wolf drifts on. He approaches a trail crossing, an undistinguished crossroads. His movement is now slower and he sniffs the air as though aware of a possibility for scents. He sniffs a scent post, a scrawny blueberry bush in use for years, and goes on.

The wolf weighs ninety-four pounds and stands thirty inches at the shoulder. His feet are enormous, leaving prints in the mud along a creek (where he pauses to hunt crayfish but not with much interest) more than five inches long by just over four wide. He has two fractured ribs, broken by a moose a year before. They are healed now, but a sharp eye would notice the irregularity. The skin on his right hip is scarred, from a fight with another wolf in a neighboring pack when he was a yearling. He has not had anything but a few mice and a piece of arctic char in three days, but he is not hungry. He is traveling. The char was a day old, left on rocks along the river by bears.

The wolf is tied by subtle threads to the woods he moves through. His fur carries seeds that will fall off, effectively dispersed, along the trail some miles from where they first caught in his fur. And miles distant is a raven perched on the ribs of a caribou the wolf helped kill ten days ago, pecking like a chicken at the decaying scraps of meat. A smart snowshoe hare that eluded the wolf and left him exhausted when he was a pup has been dead a year now, food for an owl. The den in which he was born one April evening was home to porcupines last winter.

It is now late in the afternoon. The wolf has stopped traveling, has lain down to sleep on cool earth beneath a rock outcropping. Mosquitoes rest on his ears. His ears flicker. He begins to waken. He rolls on his back and lies motionless with his front legs pointed toward the sky but folded like wilted flowers, his back legs splayed, and his nose and tail curved toward each other on one side of his body. After a few moments he flops on his side, rises, stretches, and moves a few feet to inspect -- minutely, delicately -- a crevice in the rock outcropping and finds or doesn't find what draws him there. And then he ascends the rock face, bounding and balancing momentarily before bounding again, appearing slightly unsure of the process -- but committed. A few minutes later he bolts suddenly into the woods, achieving full speed, almost forty miles per hour, for forty or fifty yards before he begins to skid, to lunge at a lodgepole pine cone. He trots away with it, his head erect, tail erect, his hips slightly to one side and out of line with his shoulders, as though hindquarters were impatient with forequarters, the cone inert in his mouth. He carries it for a hundred feet before dropping it by the trail. He sniffs it. He goes on.

The underfur next to his skin has begun to thicken with the coming of fall. In the months to follow it will become so dense between his shoulders it will be almost impossible to work a finger down to his skin. In seven months he will weigh less: eighty-nine pounds. He will have tried unsuccessfully to mate with another wolf in the pack. He will have helped kill four moose and thirteen caribou. He will have fallen through ice into a creek at twenty-two below zero but not frozen. He will have fought with other wolves.

He moves along now at the edge of a clearing. The wind coming down-valley surrounds him with a river of odors, as if he were a migrating salmon. He can smell ptarmigan and deer droppings. He can smell willow and spruce and the fading sweetness of fireweed. Above, he sees a hawk circling, and farther south, lower on the horizon, a flock of sharp-tailed sparrows going east. He senses through his pads with each step the dryness of the moss beneath his feet, and the ridges of old tracks, some his own. He hears the sound his feet make. He hears the occasional movement of deer mice and voles. Summer food.

Toward dusk he is standing by a creek, lapping the cool water, when a wolf howls -- a long wail that quickly reaches pitch and then tapers, with several harmonics, long moments to a tremolo. He recognizes his sister. He waits a few moments, then, throwing his head back and closing his eyes, he howls. The howl is shorter and it changes pitch twice in the beginning, very quickly. There is no answer.

The female is a mile away and she trots off obliquely through the trees. The other wolf stands listening, laps water again, then he too departs, moving quickly, quietly through the trees, away from the trail he had been on. In a few minutes the two wolves meet. They approach each other briskly, almost formally, tails erect and moving somewhat as deer move. When they come together they make high squeaking noises and encircle each other, rubbing and pushing, poking their noses into each other's neck fur, backing away to stretch, chasing each other for a few steps, then standing quietly together, one putting a head over the other's back. And then they are gone, down a vague trail, the female first. After a few hundred yards they begin, simultaneously, to wag their tails.

In the days to follow, they will meet another wolf from the pack, a second female, younger by a year, and the three of them will kill a caribou. They will travel together ten or twenty miles a day, through the country where they live, eating and sleeping, birthing, playing with sticks, chasing ravens, growing old, barking at bears, scent-marking trails, killing moose, and staring at the way water in a creek breaks around their legs and flows on.

This is the animal Linnaeus called Canis lupus in 1758. In recent years the wolf has been studied enough by biologists to produce this picture, but his numbers have dwindled and his range has shrunk, and as is the case with so many things, deep appreciation and a sense of loss have arrived simultaneously.

Wolves, twenty or thirty subspecies of them, are Holarctic -- that is, they once roamed most of the Northern Hemisphere above thirty degrees north latitude. They were found throughout Europe, from the Zezere River Valley of Portugal north to Finland and south to the Mediterranean. They roamed eastern

Meet the Author

Barry Lopez (b. 1945) is the author of thirteen books of essays, short stories, and nonfiction. He is a recipient of the National Book Award, the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and numerous other literary and cultural honors and awards. His highly acclaimed books include Arctic Dreams, Winter Count, and Of Wolves and Men, for which he received the John Burroughs and Christopher medals. He lives in western Oregon.     

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Of Wolves and Men 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was blown away by the way Lopez gets across his observations and feelings about the Wolf, the Land and the native people in this book. You could be right there walking beside him. This book encourages the greatest of respect for these and other animals, our lands and people.
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