Never Cry Wolf By Farley Mowat: Getting In Touch With A Life Of Wolves In Wild Tundra
Never Cry Wolf is a book that was published in the early 60s and it is about Farley Mowat’s observation of Arctic wolves in Canada. The book was highly successful and sold about 14 million copies and was translated into 24 different languages. Mowat was assigned on a specific mission to observe the Arctic wolves’ behavior, more specifically how they engage in hunting the caribou. This is important considering that it was suspected these wolves were depleting the caribou population.
The book takes place in the 1950s and his expedition lasts about 2 years. The wolves come to know his presence as non-threatening and he is able to record a some of their basic behaviors. From the start of this novel it seems like Mowat has a very scientific perspective because he is intending to make a scientific report when writing this story. However, by the end of it his intentions completely change. Rather than giving very objective observations, he tends to make very subjective Interpretations of how he sees these Arctic wolves.
Throughout this entire story he’s observing one specific family of wolves. Overtime, Mowat begins to personify these wolves by giving them names and human-like characteristics. This is when the reader can start to see a difference in the author’s tone from being very scientific and direct to very personal and full of emotion. The more that Mowatt observes these wolves the more he feels attached to them and part of their family. It is very interesting how Mowat transitions from being terrified of the wolves to actually being able to go inside of their den.
Like most good books, Never Cry Wolf does a great job of taking the reader through a roller coaster of emotions. There are funny parts such as whenever Mowat tries to make mice is primary source of food or whenever he stops to urinate just to find that the alpha wolf is staring at him from behind. Although many people speculate that parts of this story are fabricated, that doesn’t change the very important and essential discoveries that he made during this journey. Mowat not only changed the way that we perceive wolves but changed the way that we view the Arctic entirely.
Another thing that is interesting is that the more Mowat observes these wolves, the more he becomes like them. Mowat starts to adopt their traits and tactics when it comes to things such as napping by sleeping in 15 minute intervals and walking in circles before eventually laying down. This is also another example of how Mowatt strays away from scientific behavior. Another thing that makes this book so unique is that it addresses our preconceived ideas of wolves versus how they actually act in nature. So often in literature wolves are perceived as the enemy even though they inhibit several characteristics that are very genuine and wholesome.
Mowat properly captures the nature of wolves when talking about their playful attitudes with each other. Whenever these wolves hunt Mowat doesn’t perceive their behavior as evil or malicious but in fact just nature taking its course. However, the wolves would rarely ever hunt caribou because their main source of food were animals such as mice and rabbits. Mowat also discovered that whenever these wolves were hunting caribou they would rarely go after a full-sized healthy caribou but rather take advantage of the sick or injured ones which would actually allow the caribou population to thrive in future generations. Even though that the Dominion Wildlife Services sent Mowat to observe the Arctic wolves with the suspicion that they are the reason that the Caribou population is declining, that was not the case. The real reason that the caribou population was declining was because they were being over-hunted buy nearby humans that lived in the area.
Mowat points out that we mythologize these wolves as ruthless savages whenever in reality that is just the reflection of ourselves. Mowat writes to expose the onslaught from government exterminators who are out to erase the wolves from the Arctic. This book played a huge part in changing the literary minds of the general public. It has also inspired concerned citizens to rise and protect this species for the sake of conservation. This book continues to be an important chapter in the history of Canadian environmentalism.
Never Cry Wolf touches on so many topics that we have covered in class. It covers how our perception of animals has changed over time and how we can bond with an animal over the course of its lifespan. Even though that this book does not mention it, there is a huge remanence of biophilia. It is obvious that Mowat has a deeper connection with wolves and animals after this experience. There is so much evidence suggesting that humans Cannot live without nature. Humans are still animals at their core and it is unhealthy whenever access to nature is stripped away from them. Mowat definitely gets in touch with his primitive side in this book and it could be seen in his behavior and mannerisms.
Both our class discussions and this book have made me thought a lot about biophilia.We have always known that nature is good for us however, we are just scratching the surface of understanding how nature is so crucial in our everyday life. We now know that there are extreme mental health benefits in doing things such as hiking outdoors or even starting a garden. Biophilia is more important than ever now that so many people in our society are attached to technology and rarely ever leave the city they are currently living in. This is especially true in the United States considering that most of our population is now living in a city. Over the course of thousands of years we have gone from primitive neanderthals to what anthropologists call an urban species.
Humans are now primarily indoors and away from the natural world which comes with a lot of potential physical and mental health issues. Diabetes has increased over the years, cardiovascular problems are becoming much more common, and depression is at an all-time high. What makes nature so fascinating is that it’s not only visually pleasing to look at but it is multi sensorial. Nature is filled with so many therapeutic smells and sounds and even tastes that it would be naive of us to not take advantage of it. All of the ways that nature engages with the senses plays such a powerful role and affecting our minds and our bodies. In class we have talked about patients in hospitals that have recovered faster whenever they had nature to look at from their window rather than if their window had no view of nature. Even our innate attachment with our pets is partially due to biophilia.
I chose this book in hopes that It would touch on some of the topics we covered in class and to my surprise it did. Observing these wolves had a very therapeutic impact on Mowat and gave him a better understanding of himself. Mowat says that a part of him wanted to stay because he felt such a close connection with that family of Arctic wolves. That is essentially the effect that biophilia has on the brain and it is the same feeling that we have for our pets.
I would highly recommend this book to people especially If they are interested in things such as environmentalism and conservation. The imagery in this book is prominent and the reader can really tell that Mowat Is very passionate about his work. However, even though this book is considered nonfiction there are elements that seem both fabricated and highly unlikely. There’s no way to tell for sure if all of these wolf encounters really happened or not but one cannot deny the impact it has had on our view of wolves. It is also important to know that this book was published in the 1960s so the vernacular can be a little difficult to understand at times. From what I understand Farley Mowat has written several books but this one is by far his most successful. This book has received several awards and was even turned into a movie in the 1980s.
Never Cry Wolf Is also a great read if you are interested in understanding the public’s view of the natural world in the 1950s. Nature used to be seen has something either to be feared or controled. It was literary works like this that played a huge role and shifting the public’s perception of nature. If I am being absolutely honest I feel like this book played an important part for its time but there are definitely better books out there that explain wolves in greater detail and in a much more scientific way. However, I would still recommend this book for pleasure.
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