Why The Wolf Howls

Told Through James P Mullen

©1999, 2001, All Rights Reserved

        A long time ago, back before civilization was formed, there lived a wolf. She lived in a pack, and hunted along side them, chasing game in the ancient tradition of the hunter and the prey. At night, she slept with them underneath the stars. She also fell in love with another wolf, and together they had two young cubs. By wolf custom, she left the pack and took her children some place safe to raise them, until they were old enough to keep up with the pack.

        Unfortunately, it was late in the year, and as Mother Wolf left the pack, it became Autumn. She nursed her cubs with gentle care, and by the time they began to take their first cautious steps into the world, the first snow began to fall. Winter had begun.. The snow covered every tree, making them sparkle whenever light touched them..

        One day, during this winter, Mother Wolf took her twin cubs out to hunt with her. It is very important that young cubs learned how to hunt, and she told them so. However, the cubs were not really interested in learning how to hunt, and were having fun playing catch the tail. Yipping and yapping at each other, they alerted a hare that Mother was tracking down, and it ran away. Mother Wolf snapped at her children to be quiet. The cubs would quiet down for a little bit, but they just could not pay attention for long. Soon, they were playing again, which did not help Mother Wolf at all.

        Finally Mother Wolf had enough. She turned to her cubs and hushed them till they turned and looked at her. Barking for them to go play somewhere else while she hunted, she chased them off some place safe to play. The cubs whined, apologizing for being bad, for they didn't mean to be. Mother Wolf forgave them, and gave them all friendly licks. After watching them for a while to make sure they would be all right, she growled for them to stay put. Then, she turned back, and went to stalk the elusive hare.

        The cubs watched her leave, waiting till she was out of sight before they started to play with each other again. They played in the secluded grove, but as they became more adventurous, they played closer to the edge. Soon, they were straying outside of the grove, and going deeper into the forest.

        They soon spied a deer. The deer, a large stag, was lying underneath the tree. The deer hadn't slept for days, and it was sleeping deeply. It's rumbling snore echoed through the woods as the cubs pulled back and watched him from a safe distance.

        The first cub yipped to the second one, about how proud mother would be if they could kill the deer all by themselves. The second cub was scared that they would get in trouble, and patted the ground apprehensively. The first cub yipped, and growled at a nearby branch from a tree, batting at it. We would only pretend to fight it, the first cub showed. The other pup got a little braver, and together, they play-stalked the deer. When they were close enough to leap on him, they both jumped together, and growled and hissed, taking play bites against the sleeping stag.

        The deer woke up from his sleep in a start. Not completely awake, dreams cobwebbing his mind, he heard the growls and felt the teeth and panicked. Bucking and kicking, he fought off his attackers, scrambling to get out of the pack of wolves he saw in his sleepy mind.

        Soon, the images of wolves stopped dancing and popping up in his head, and all was quiet. Looking around, the deer tried to shake the nightmare from his mind when he saw the cubs. The cubs, who had not expected the deer to wake up in the middle of their play, had gotten crushed underneath the deer. The deer realized what he had done, and immediately felt ashamed. He brushed his nose against them, hoping that they were okay. When he felt their bodies turn cold, he got scared. He had broken the rule of the Prey. As Prey, it was his duty to give up his life for others. This doesn't mean he should just surrender his life, for the chase was an important part of the Tradition of Prey and Predator, but Prey never kills without being hunted. By killing the cubs, he had accidentally broken the rule. Knowing that wolves never leave their cubs alone, the deer knew that she would be coming back for them soon. Fearing that she would never forgive him for such tragic mistake, the stag turned and ran, hoping to get as far away as possible.

        A short amount of time passed as Mother Wolf looked around for her cubs. She was upset at them for disobeying her, and had planned on letting them go without their supper that night to show them what it means to not do as the pack would ask of them. That is, until she saw their bodies. Nudging them gently with her nose, she checked the bodies. She could not believe it, even though the bodies had turned as cold as the snow. Tears were streaming down her face as she sniffed for the scent of the killer. Getting the scent of the deer, her pain turned to anger. Letting a snarl of fury into the air, she vowed to avenge her children. She started to track the deer's scent, and began running after him.

        Meanwhile, the Deer had stopped running, pausing to catch it’s breath, when it heard the snarl off in the distance. Fearing for his life, he started to run again. Deep inside him he knew he had made a mistake by leaving, but he couldn’t do anything about that now. It wasn't long before Mother Wolf caught up with him, and in fury chased him. Throughout the woods they ran, dodging and weaving through thick trees and bushes. They dodged falling snow, and broke through icicles as Deer ran for his life.

        This went on till the sun was casting its shadow over the valley, neither of them stopping for a breath. As the glow of day was fading away, they bursted out of the woods near a cliff. The full moon rose above them, as if watching the spectacle below. The river, which had flowed only recently, was iced over. The roar of the falls, however, gave away how thin the ice really was.

        Barely taking the time to notice where he was, the Deer ran across the ice, slipping along the surface as his hoofs tried to find purchase. Mother Wolf, sensing her opportunity, took a great leap, and landed on the Deer's back. The Deer started to buck, and shake off Mother Wolf, belling for forgiveness, but it was to no avail. Her claws sunk into his skin, and as she struggled to get her jaws around his throat, the unimaginable happened.

        The ice, which was just thick enough to support one of their weights could not stand both of theirs at once. Neither of them noticed the first cracks, then the river opened up, and both of them fell into the deep water. They both started to swim, afraid for their lives. Yet Mother Wolf could not stop fighting, her mind clouded with revenge. Each time Deer would gain purchase on the edge of the ice, Mother Wolf would pounce at the chance to strike his exposed back, and the ice would break. Meanwhile, the strong current threatened to pull them both under. Mother Wolf started to feel herself go numb from the cold, but she would not let Deer go free.

        With tears in his eyes, Deer knew that only one of them would live through this. In the back of his mind, he still saw the bodies of the poor cubs, and of their cold bodies. He knew he was the one that did wrong, and that Mother Wolf was blind in her anger. He wanted so much to make her understand how sorry he was, but she could not listen. The chill started to effect him, too, and he could only think of one thing to make right all his wrongs. Giving a great effort, he dove under water, and with his antlers, he pushed Mother Wolf out of the water, and out onto the ice. Mother Wolf went flying out from the water, and landed safely on the shore. Deer’s head bobbed up to the surface one last time, and then he was sucked under by the river, never to be seen from again.

        It took a while for Mother Wolf to realize that she was still alive. She shivered under the moon and stars, her fur icing over. She got up, and looked around, then stuck her nose close to the ice, sniffing for the Deer’s scent, but she found none. She went over to the edge of the cliff, and stood upon a great rock that separated the falls.

        Her children were dead, her prey eluded her, and then was denied. She had lost her heart, and her vengeance, and it even seemed that the elements taunted her, as the wind picked up. A great sadness bubbled up from inside her, and as it rose out of her she let out a great howl. Ice cracked as it heard her pain, and it echoed throughout the valley. It was very long, and it didn't go away.

        Down in the valley, the Wolf pack, who had been gathering from hunting stopped, and listened to the Howl. The Pack could barely hear Mother Wolf's voice from inside the sound. They had never heard anything like it ever before. Some of the wolves cringed to think of what would hurt her so much to create such a noise. From all around, icicles dripped, as the forest wept for her. Father Wolf, who led the tribe, followed the sound to the base of the falls. There, the Pack saw Mother Wolf standing above the falls, still howling, her stomach caved in from the need to howl. Her whole body shivered, and her fur had frosted over. The pack yipped, and barked to get her attention, but she was completely lost in her sorrow, and the Howl. The tribe saw how much pain she was in, and that if they couldn’t help her, she would die.

        Father Wolf, who loved Mother Wolf very much, was the first to try. Taking a deep breath, he took some of the Howl into himself, and he felt it start to echo in him. Soon the whole pack followed his example, and as they each took a breath, they shared in Mother Wolf's pain, and took a piece of it away from her. Mother Wolf, staggering as the last wolf took away the last share of pain, fell down and fainted.

        That night, as the pack howled, other packs came from far away and took some of that pain, and shared it. As more Packs shared the Howl, it's power diminished, and the pain became bearable, but it never truly went away. Every wolf soon carried the Howl, and vowed never to let one wolf ever bear it alone. So, if you are ever are alone, and if you listen closely when you are in the woods, if you are lucky, you can hear the echoes of her loss, and her pain. As long as there is a wolf to remember it.

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