Wolf: Legend, Enemy, Icon


A passionate look at one of the most fascinating animals in the world.

Throughout history, wolves have fascinated, inspired and terrified people around the world. Fierce, loyal, tribal and intelligent, these animals are the subject of this intimate portrait.

Drawing on a wide variety of sources, the author weaves together ancient legends, up-to-date science, historical writings and personal observations. With penetrating photography by Daniel ...

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A passionate look at one of the most fascinating animals in the world.

Throughout history, wolves have fascinated, inspired and terrified people around the world. Fierce, loyal, tribal and intelligent, these animals are the subject of this intimate portrait.

Drawing on a wide variety of sources, the author weaves together ancient legends, up-to-date science, historical writings and personal observations. With penetrating photography by Daniel J. Cox, the result is a magnificent, passionate and powerful story of an animal worth understanding and preserving.

Chapters include:

  • Early Myths and Legends — stories that record the earliest human-wolf encounters
  • Part of the Pack — how wolves work together to hunt, for protection and to take care of the young
  • Legendary Predator — how wolves organize the hunt and select their prey
  • Warriors and Wolves — how, from ancient times, wolves have been role models for warriors
  • Shamans and Shape shifters — how wolves have been seen as a great source of power and healing
  • Predator Becomes Prey — how humans have hunted wolves beyond all reason or need
  • At the Edge Again — what the future holds for this magnificent animal.

Wolf blends natural science, history and folklore to explore the fascination with one of the most complex creatures in the world. The book reveals how humans have interacted with wolves, from the earliest creation myths to current attempts to restore near-extinct populations.

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Editorial Reviews

Nature Canada - Chris Sutton
A terrific book... Grambo provides a fascinating account of the wolf's changing fortunes, from a kind of god-like creator to storybook villain to, most recently, symbol of hope. She uses creation myths, snippets from folk tales and literary references from cultures around the globe to illustrate just how intertwined man and wolf have been from the beginning. The book has beautiful photography by Daniel J. Cox, who captures the wolf in all its iconic glory — howling at the sky, racing across the snow-covered landscape, cubs wrestling in their den.
This is a terrific book.... [Rebecca Grambo] provides a fascinating account of the wolf's changing fortunes, from a kind of god-like creature to storybook villain to, most recently, symbol of hope.... Beautiful photography [that] captures the wolf in all its iconic glory.
Wildlife Activist
Beautifully illustrated... Grambo depicts this dynamic animal as it is, an integral part of the animal kingdom.
Oakland Press - Nicole M. Robertson
This beautifully illustrated, thoughtful book explores the intricate relationship between wolves and people.
Norfolk Vigninian-Pilot - Peggy Earle
The real delights are the photos: close-ups of handsome faces, sweet pictures of mamma wolves and their cubs, and dynamic shots of the animals in action or getting together for a good howl.
Science Books and Films - Robert Smith
Well structured, colorful and engrossing book... wide appeal to all readers who are curious about wolves.
Booklist - Nancy Bent
Shifting effortlessly between science and myth, with sociological, anthropological, and ethnological stops along the way, Grambo explores all sides of the wolf, from both lupine and human perspectives. The many illustrations, which include Cox's images of wolves in the wild, reinforce the premise of the text.
Canadian Camera - Joy McDonell
Comprehensive study of the wolf not only explores the evolution and behavior... but dwells especially on the complex relationship between man and wolf... masterful photography.
Globe and Mail
This beautiful book traces the changing relationship between humans and wolves through the ages.
Kansas City Star - John Mark Eberhart
[Grambo's] text is a great read, but Cox's photos tell much of the story here... These creatures are beautiful.
Olympia Olympian - Sharon Wootton
Grambo weaves the history of wolves and humans, complimented by illustrations and Daniel Cox's photographs in a nicely done package.
Outdoor Photographer
A captivating book about wolves. Text and magnificent pictures tell of their behavior, life cycle and history with man.
Nature Photographers Online Magazine
For those who admire this beautiful animal this book will be a library treasure... It is both beautiful and inspiring.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554073887
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 8/15/2008
  • Edition description: Now in paperback
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,022,980
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca L. Grambo is the author of dozens of books including Bee: A Celebration of Power and Beauty, The World of the Fox, Eagles: Masters of the Sky and Mountain Lion.

Daniel J. Cox is an internationally published award-winning natural history photographer. His work appears in many publications including National Geographic, Sierra and Audubon.

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. At the Firelight's Edge
  3. Part of the Pack
  4. Legendary Predator
  5. Warriors and Wolves
  6. Shamans and Shapeshifters
  7. Predator Becomes Prey
  8. At the Edge Again
  9. Appendix: Members of the Pack
    Photo Credits

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I never really liked the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Even as a child, I figured that someone who couldn't tell the difference between her grandmother and a wolf deserved whatever she got. The "big bad wolf" was no more real to me than the giants and ogres of other fairy tales. I didn't make any connection between the storybook villains and the predators that once roamed the South Dakota prairies where I grew up. In fact, I knew so little about real wolves that years ago when I first camped in wolf country, I wondered whether I would recognize the difference between the howling of wolves and of coyotes. Those first howls, unmistakable as they resonated through the woods and within me, were really the beginning of this book.

The animal that most of us think of as "wolf," Canis lupus, has been around for about twice as long as Homo sapiens, modern humans. From the moment the two species first encountered each other, the relationship between humans and wolves has shifted and evolved. Wolves through countless generations simply have done what wolves do — hunt and raise families. But the way humans viewed wolves changed as cultural shifts distorted the lens of perception. Legend, enemy and icon — these are the captions we have applied to our image of the wolf.

Early humans shared a nomadic hunting lifestyle with wolves and identified with their social structure and family life. They wrapped wolves in the golden cloth of legend, revering them as creators and helpers. In these early myths, wolves helped to shape the infant Earth, and through their actions brought forth the human race. With great pride, some peoples claimed wolves as their direct ancestors. Many cultures told stories of wolves rescuing people in trouble, caring for them and healing their wounds. Used for both curing and harming, wolf magic was extremely strong.
Powerful shamans in many cultures drew upon the spirit of the wolf, sometimes even assuming its physical form.

Warriors, too, sought to access the supernatural powers of the animal they saw as a superb predator. From Vikings of the first millennium to late nineteenth-century Pawnee, warriors wore wolfskins and followed rituals designed to merge their essence with that of the wolf. Respect for the wolf remained strong among North America's indigenous peoples, especially the nomadic hunters of the Great Plains, well into recent history.

In other parts of the world, a change in human lifestyle — from hunting to herding — caused many people to hate and fear wolves for the same predatory skills that once appeared admirable. Opportunistic and adaptable, wolves saw domestic flocks as easy prey and farmers came to regard them as the enemy. Another, more insidious, cultural change also took place. With each step toward "civilization,"
people moved farther away from contact with nature and from the knowledge that humans are part of the natural world, not separate from or above it. They also forgot much of what their ancestors had learned about wolves and wilderness — and what humans don't understand, they often fear.

During the Middle Ages, human imagination merged the images of two threatening beings that lived in the woods — outlaws and wolves — into the idea of the werewolf. At the same time, the church demonized wolves, making them allegorical symbols of darkness and evil. When Europeans came to the New World, they brought along their livestock and their unfavorable view of wolves. As farmers and ranchers moved west, the war against wolves that began so long ago raged more fiercely than ever. Today, the image of the wolf as a ruthless, lamb-slaughtering enemy still lingers in children's stories, in movies, in advertising campaigns, and in the minds of some people.

But a new view of wolves has also emerged, based in part upon the rediscovery of our interconnection with the natural world. By the last decades of the twentieth century, many people observed the rapidly vanishing wilderness with alarm. The wolf became an icon of the wild, its howl representing a cry for preservation and conservation. Programs to maintain existing wolf populations and to reintroduce animals into areas from which they had been extirpated found solid public support. The restoration of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is a tangible result of this new view. The review process for the Yellowstone project generated a great deal of useful discussion, not just about wolves, but about all wild animals and their needs.

While the current popularity of wolves has expanded our knowledge of them, this knowledge is nearly always remote and two-dimensional, confined to the printed page and illuminated screen. Being in the presence of real wolves is another thing altogether, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have this experience. However, we can explore the thoughts and feelings of people who lived in everyday contact with wolves, thus adding the dimensions of time and space to our existing concept of "wolf." Placing their artifacts and stories alongside information about wolves natural history and Daniel J. Cox's beautiful images of these magnificent creatures going about their daily lives gives us a chance to hear ancient voices in a new context.

Although we may regard myths and legends as ancient history, for most of the twentieth century stories — both true and false — were the sole source, of information about wolves. Field researchers only began documenting the facts of wolf life about fifty years ago. Until then, we remained much like our early ancestors, crouched by the comforting glow of our fires, telling stories about the beasts that prowled the darkness.

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