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Friday, 14 June 2013

The Wonder of Wolves

The July session of Camp National Novel Writing Month (Camp NaNo) is sixteen days away and I have been stricken with a bout of writer’s block. Well, it’s not really writer’s block… it’s more like brainstorming block. I have sixteen days to bring life to my characters and figure out just what is going to happen.
My idea for this latest work came to me after researching the word, ‘warg’. The word derives from the term, ‘vargr’ and in Norse Mythology, the term referred to the wolf Fenrir and his sons Sköll and Hati. ‘Vargr’ means wolf. J.R.R. Tolkien used the word to name a wolf-like creature consciously in league with the Orcs. It is thought that Tolkien’s Wargs are descended from werewolves or wolf-hounds of the First Age. These creatures have their own language and are quite intelligent. They have been seen on screen in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return of the King as well as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. In The Hobbit, they were being used as mounts for the goblins while in The Two Towers and Return of the King they were ridden by Orcs. In the Lord of the Rings films, they have more of a hyena appearance due to a choice made by director Peter Jackson, but they are pretty ferocious and scary nonetheless. They hold their wolf-like appearance, however, in The Hobbit. Wargs have been used in other works as well – Dungeons & Dragon and Ragnarok Online as well as books, The Sight and Fell by David Clement-Davies in which, the wargs have named themselves the Varg and their god is Fenris. Then we enter the world of George R.R. Martin and the definition of warg changes completely, and this is where my story’s inspiration has come from. In Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, wargs are people who can form a telepathic and empathic bond with wolves (and other creatures). In some cases, they can even go so far as to wear the wolf’s “skin” and see through the wolf’s eyes. It is this last definition of warg that has intrigued me most.
The wolf has been one of my favourite animals and my favourite of the canine species. February 24th through February 27th, 2000, my Grade Six class went to a place called Kearney on the southern edge of Algonquin Park. The scenery was beautifully picturesque, covered in white, virgin snow. The tees were tall and the forest was silent. The weekend was spent snowshoeing, hiking, roasting marshmallows over a campfire and playing an extended game of Predator and Prey. But one night, the forest came alive and we were reminded that we were not alone in the woods. The councillors who were taking us on our adventures took us to the edge of a ridge a couple of hours after the sun had gone down. They told us to be silent and listen. We could hear something in the distance. It sounded like something was howling. We were told to howl back – all 30 of us. So we did. And we were promptly answered. We were howling with wolves. There was a pack about three or four miles away from where we were lodging. They never once bothered us and I was forever fascinated by them. The sound of a howling wolf pack is both haunting and beautiful. It is haunting because it is a sound you never near at home (except as a sound bite on your computer) and, to me, it is beautiful because it belongs to a beautiful animal. The wolf has been horribly misunderstood during the history of Man. Wolves do what they do because that’s what they’re hardwired to do. They are apex predators in their territories and prefer to stay away from humans. Coyotes are a common appearance in my city and they are far less fearful of us. Wolves aren’t.

In my newest work, “The Wargs”, wargs are people who have formed telepathic bonds with wolves and as a result have created their own “pack”. The main character enters this world after an encounter with a wolf, and quickly learns that the pack has enemies who believe that wargs are an abomination and dangerous to society. That’s about all I’ve got for this novel that I must begin writing in sixteen days. I still need ideas, as well as a way to start the darn thing.
Wolves also have a prominent role in my Pangaea Trilogy. One of the four main characters meets and is accepted by a pack of 100 wolves. I’m well aware that packs of 100 are pretty much nonexistent in the real world. These wolves have come together from various areas in Pangaea. Some are refugees seeking shelter from countries at war. Their Alpha is an extremely old, silver furred wolf named Seneca who gives the character a hard time, but begins to like her the more she comes around. The wolf pack becomes a second, very large group of friends that accepts her any time she needs them to. They become a part of her family.
The wolf is also on my coat of arms.
Perhaps I am destined to have an affinity with wolves. My coat of arms will follow me forever and so will the wolf on it. One of my dreams is to visit a wolf sanctuary to see them up close. Wolves play an important role within our ecosystems. They keep deer, elk and moose populations stable, which gives vegetation the ability to grow and thrive so those ungulate have an abundance of food. Wolves are resourceful and do not waste their kills. They eat all they can, adopting a ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy. Mothers are extremely protective of their young and every wolf has a role to play within the pack and they are respected by the other members. Recently, the “scapegoat” of a pack in the Midwestern US died during a harsh winter. She was the one the other members turned to to vent their frustrations. She was the scapegoat. But when she died, the other members mourned her loss, despite their seemingly cruel treatment of her. She kept the pack stable. There is a hierarchy within the pack that we may not understand, but it is a system that has worked for the wolf for millions of years.

I am hoping the more I research these lovely creatures, the less brainstorming block I will have. Perhaps a trip to a nearby wolf sanctuary will be in order in the near future. I hope I can trudge through the mess that is planning a novel in the days that are left before Camp NaNo officially beings at 00:00 July 1st, 2013. Here’s to hoping. And here’s to the wolves.