Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wolf at the Door

Years ago, when my son was still a little boy and I was reading stories to him, I read him the wonderful children's novel Julie of the Wolves. I have previously written about this, so I won't dwell on it, except to say that the novel features wolves in an absolutely positive light, and humans not so much so. In fact, before I had ever even heard of Sarah Palin and the abhorrent practice of shooting wolves from fixed wing aircraft, I was completely distraught to read about it in Julie of the Wolves.

Perhaps no other animal has been so vilified in human literature and expression. The title of this blog is but one of many expressions--the supposed origin for the expression "wolf at the door" that you will find on the Internet suggests it comes from the children's story "Three Little Pigs." Hmmm--I suspect the origin goes further back into human mythology.

If you should happen to be teaching a class on literature for children, you could try this exercise. Surprising how many children's stories use the wolf as villain.

But, I am not really thinking about wolves in children's literature or even in common expressions. The wolf I have buzzing around my head right now is the novel I am currently reading: Wolf Hall. I may write another blog about this work when I am finished. Suffice it to say that it is a most engrossing read. I didn't realize to what the title referred until I perused the handy guide just inside the novel's cover: Wolf Hall is the name of the Seymour family home which existed mid-1500s in England. No such residence stands today, the place having long ago fallen into disrepair. The novel centers on Thomas Cromwell, advisor to Henry VIII throughout a major portion of his reign.

Simultaneous to reading Wolf Hall, I encountered another wolf this weekend. My husband and I attended a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's comic opera The Mikado, which was performed at Wolf Trap. If you have never been there--and if you live in some proximity to Washington, DC, it is a treat of a place to visit. I admit it is the most tenuous of links--the word "wolf" in the novel title and the place name. Sorry about that.

Back to the various wolf expressions we use. "Wolf at the door" means to keep hunger or poverty at bay. The current economic times certainly have many people busily working to keep away the wolf at the door.

I had an interesting conversation this past week--I went to my hairdresser for a haircut. In an effort to engage in small talk--something at which I am woeful--I asked: so how's business been? Fantastic, she said. This week things have really picked up. Then, she observed, that the hair business is one of the last ones to be affected when the economy slows down, and one of the first to pick up, when the economy recovers. Maybe, the wolf will be kept from the door. Unless, he needs a hair cut!
Cover photo of the "The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs"--this delightful book was a birthday gift I received from a friend several years ago--a reworking of the traditional child's fairy tale, told from the wolf's perspective.


Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I am still in Antwerp and will be home by next weekend. I am having a lovely time. More later.

You´re are right about wolves. They are not vermin as they are so often pursued with a bounty on the killing of them. They are shy and wonderful parents. They, unlike humans, do not kill for sport and pleasure. I have had wolves stand and watch me at times when I worked as a logger. I consider it a privilege to live where I can occasionally hear at night the local wolf pack howling and chattering among themselves.

Jayne said...

Sam has that book and we love it! :c) Indeed, there are always two sides to every story, no?

Ruth said...

I don't know how anyone who can write such interesting posts could be "woeful" at small talk...

Anonymous said...

Did you ever see the movie (documentary) NEVER CRY WOLF? I loved it!

I saw an article just yesterday that they're going to release some wolves in eastern NC. If they like squirrels, I'd like to borrow one for a few days.

Now I must check the library for Julie of the Wolves. :)

Ginnie said...

An interesting blog entry, as always. My husband and I saw Itzak Perlman at "Wolftrap" over 25years ago. A gorgeous place and the sound was amazing.

dguzman said...

"The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs" is one of my daughter's early childhood favorites! I've also read Russian fairy tales, and the wolf fares no better in that culture--always a trickster and killing and eating people.

Murr Brewster said...

That's surprising, about the hair salon business. I would have thought that drinking establishments would have fit that description better. Of course, there are hair salons that serve martinis.

I second the motion that you should see Never Cry Wolf if you haven't. I think wolves are just fine, but I just met a ChiWeenie dog I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw it, which is far.

Anvilcloud said...

There's a flashback for me because I actually taught that novel (or tried to) to a rather rambunctious general level tenth grade class. Actualy, I think it went fairly well. I echo the Never Cry Wolf movie, and the book too for that matter. Wolf Hall sounds good too.