Wolf & Girl
Once upon a time, there was a wolf, and this wolf was all alone. All of the other wolves had been caught or killed or driven off. But this last wolf, he stayed. And he did all of the usual wolfish things. He lived in a cave high up in the hills. He raided the occasional flock for a stray sheep.
He also would appear from time to time late in the evening on a trail from the fields running down to the village to frighten some milk-maid or herds-boy coming home a little too late from the watch. And this gave rise to the stories of great, gnarled, bloody teeth and wet, long, lolling tongue and fiery, red, hungry eyes… the wolf had quite a reputation in the village.
But that was not the worst of it. The most horrible thing of all, the thing that froze the souls of the old men, and caused the red faces of the young people to blanche, and the heads of the children to go deep under bed covers at night was what the wolf would do from time to time, in the cold crackling air of the frosty silver moon, high on the stark peak of the stoney mountain near the village. He would sit up there and howl, howl with the sound of a thousand midnights down in a murky bog. Those who heard it swore it was a sound that only a beast could make whose soul was tortured and lost forever. And it chilled to the marrow everyone who heard it… everyone, that is, except one person.
For living in the village was a girl who had lived there all of her life. And yet no one really knew this girl. I mean, she spoke to folks, and they spoke to her. But no one really understood her or cared to. Even her parents were at a loss to understand her ways and her thoughts. So they mostly humored her. And the girl would lie awake in her bed at night wondering about her life and why she felt so lost among the villagers. And sometimes she would cry or sometimes she would be angry. But when she heard the call of the wolf on the mountain, right away she knew that here was a voice the like of which she’d not heard before. Here was a voice that spoke to her of feelings no one else knew that she had. And lying there and listening with every fiber of her body, she knew she had to seek out this wolf and know from it why it cried in the night. Oh, she’d heard the stories of the teeth, the tongue, the eyes so red and burning, but nothing would do except that she had to know that wolf for herself.
And so one day, before the sun rose, she set out on the road to the mountain where it was said the wolf made his den. It was a long road and a steep one, but the girl took no stick, nor wore no hat to guard her from the sun. And it was a dangerous journey to be sure, but the girl took no weapon to defend herself. And though the country was barren and rocky and not fruitful where she was going, the girl took no food nor drink to sustain her. And though she’d never been on this way before, she followed no map, but went the way of her heart, come what may. It was sometime at the end of a day’s travel that she began to grow thirsty and the emptiness inside her began to make itself
known in her stomach. She walked, becoming even more thirsty until darkness overcame her and she was forced to stop for the night in some trees near the road. And as she sat hungry and thirsty in the growing darkness, she thought for a moment about turning back and rushing blindly down the path and back to the village. But she knew that was not the way for her. So she sat for a long while shivering in the night and then lay down finally to sleep. In her dreams, the moon shone silver on the frosty stones, the air was clear and crisp, and the voice of the wolf rang out from the top of one of the peaks, calling out the way ahead, perhaps her way. She awoke in the dawn with a start, wondering if the dream had been real, and the wolf had actually called in the night.
She rose, still hungry, and continued on her way. Soon the path grew steeper and rockier. As the sun was moving high and the day was warming, the girl noticed ahead of her a flock of birds swooping and playing in a small pool beside the road.
The girl rushed to the water, fell on her belly and drank her fill. When she rose, the birds were watching her silently from a nearby tree limb. Realizing she had interrupted their play, she smiled and thanked them for letting her drink and continued on the path. Though her thirst was slaked, still an emptiness was burning deep in her belly. And as she walked, once again thoughts came to her of quitting, of just sitting down under a tree to wait for whatever might happen. And what if she never got up again? Would anyone miss her or come to find her? But something told her this was not the end of her journey. If she did not continue she would never know what was at the end of the path or why the wolf cried so in the night. And so she decided to continue walking knowing not what lay ahead of her.
You can imagine how relieved she was after several minutes to see beside the path a clump of bushes that were heavy and inviting with red, juicy berries. She rushed to them and began to pick and eat the sweet, ripe berries. But then she heard a noise. And looking up, she came face to face with a very large and hairy bear. The bear was only a few feet away in the bushes himself eating the tasty berries, The girl realized that those large arms were entirely capable of reaching out to catch at her and crush the life out of her. And so she did not move, but stood with the berries still sweet on her tongue, her lips red with juice, her cheeks now white with fright.
But the bear only stared and waited too… for a moment. And then the long white teeth showed in his fuzzy face, and one massive set of claws moved… and he began to pick and munch more of the ripe berries. The girl, realizing that the bear was hungry only for berries, smiled and began to breathe again, and went back to eating as well. After several minutes of filling herself, the girl was ready to move along, and, smiling and waving to her friend, she left the bushes and continued on the path.
A way up the path the girl noticed it was becoming steeper and so much harder to travel. And she was beginning to wonder when or how or if she would ever see her wolf and meet her wolf and know her wolf and be able to answer the strange desire she held within her to feel what the wolf felt deep in the night. Suddenly she heard a noise;
A stone tumbled; and the clatter echoed as the girl froze on the trail. Her eyes darted left and right, looking for the source of the movement when something large moved and leaped into the path. Her heart stopped, then began to beat again as she saw the visitor clearly. It wasn’t the wolf at all, but a small deer, a yearling, a young male whose nubbish horns were just beginning to show on the top of his head. The two of them stared at one another for a moment, curious, fearless, silent.
The deer gazed at the girl wide-eyed. The girl gazed back, and suddenly she was concerned that the young fellow might be in danger so she spoke quietly to the young deer.
“Oh, do be careful here. There’s a bear down the path a way. And a wolf about, I think. I’m searching for that wolf myself, but you? I don’t think you are ready to meet him.”
The deer stared back in wonder and listening.” Be careful, little man. Up here all alone and so friendly. Be wary of those who would hurt you.”
And with that the girl walked on slowly toward the deer who started and scampered away into the rocks. The girl walked smiling to herself as she thought of the deer now safely hidden in the rocks. Hiding until he grew strong and large enough to defend himself against a bear or a wolf.
As she was thinking of this, she noticed the darkening sky and the cold chill of the deepening night air as it gathered about her. She continued along the bare path, trying not to look too far to left or right, trying to keep her footing, wondering if she had been wise in coming here, if she had been right in seeking the wolf in such a lonely and desolate place. She was growing more unsure of each step as she moved carefully and slowly up the path. When suddenly… she saw something… no felt something ahead. It might have been nothing. It might have been a shadow crossing the moon. It might have been everything she sought.
Her heart beat faster. Her head grew light, but her eyes stayed sharp as she stared ahead of her up the trail. She waited quietly for another sign, and soon came her reward as the shadows moved up ahead and became living and breathing flesh. There on four paws, eyes reflecting her own bright gaze, head still as stone and pointing down the trail toward her, was the wolf.
She could not move. The red eyes, the great tongue, the huge claws flashed in her memory. But as she stared, she saw none of them. She could also recall the song that had drawn her here, the singer from the distant night, now only yards from her, breathing in the cold night, and exhaling hot steam.
And as she stood, peering into the wild eyes before her, remembering that sad, sweet song, she felt her heart soften and her fear evaporate. Her eyes filled and, without warning, she knew why she had come here. She knew in that instant what she had traveled to find, what she had heard in that song, what she had embraced in her lonely bed as she had lain awake, listening and wanting. She knew that the song had been a cry for an end to solitude. The cry was to banish aloneness. It had reached out across the miles and the years and touched her. And it had guided her. She knew this now.
And so with her heart full and her eyes afire with understanding, the girl faced the wolf and she spoke back… with her smile. And in that instant, the two… Girl and wolf… were one heart.
It is said the girl never returned to the life she had known in the village. No one there could really be sure of her fate. No one would ever go looking. But there is one tale, told by a brave hunter who became lost after chasing a large deer up the mountain one day. When he returned, he told a wild and unbelievable story of seeing a girl and a wolf through the trees, lying asleep together under a tree some distance away. But as he made his way thrashing and crashing through the forest to where he thought he would rescue the lady, he became lost, and could no longer see nor find them. And so he returned to his safe villager’s life, speaking in hushed tones of his brief glimpse of another life he could never understand. And as the people listened to his story told over and over again until the words were worn, and as the long years passed, some who listened would laugh, some would weep quietly, a few would cross themselves in disgust, and, once and again, some few would take heart and lie awake at night listening with hope to the strange and wolfish duet, sung high upon a distant peak in the silver moonlight.
"Once upon a time, there was a wolf. Ant this wolf was all alone" The most horrible thing, the thing that cause the souls of men to froze and cause the red faces of young-ones to blanch and made the heads of the children to go deep under the covers at nigh was what the wolf would do some time to time...