The Real Animal, not the Bad Guy of Cartoons and Parables...
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
Canis Lupus - Gray Wolf
In Jack London's nature-horror novel "White Fang," ravenous wolves pursue and devour a fleeing party of sled dogs pulling two men, despite the fact that the men are armed with guns and knives. The wolves pick off dog after dog, and finally, they with relish wolf down one of the men . . . only the last man survives.
In C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," wolves serve the White Witch as her secret police, practically strapped into jackboots and goose-stepping in their slavish devotion to evil. In Stephen King's "The Stand" wolves side with the gathering darkness, acting as spies and scouts for Randall Flagg. The same in Tolkien, wolves are the bad boys. These writers followed the breadcrumb trail of fairytales, where the Big Bad Wolf eats grandma and cross-dresses in her clothes in an attempt to wolf down Little Red Riding Hood. The bag of hot air that is the Big Bad Wolf blows over two of the houses of innocent and industrious little pigs.
In Biblical parables and analogy, the wolf is the ravenous nemesis to the flock, evil enough to disguise himself in sheep wool to devour the innocent sheep. This wolf antagonist is so powerful, that a hired shepherd runs shrieking into the night at the approach of the Big Bad Wolf.
Everyone seems to be in agreement, the wolf is an enemy to both man, beast, goodness, and seemingly to God Himself. Along with serpents and spiders, wolves are the universal bad guys, long of fang and fleet of paw, whose eerie howl echoes in horrific reverberations through the night, sending shivers through the spines of generation after generation of feeble people shivering at campfires, spooked in the darkness, fearful to even close eyes, because he is always out there, the Big, the Bad, the Wolf.
The Wolf in Parable
In one of Aesop's better-known fables, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," a boy garnishes attention for himself by sounding the alarm that wolves are attacking the flock. He plays the joke repeated times, each repetition further enraging the population of the town. When wovles actually show up to consume the flock, no one answers the boy's alarm, and the predators rend and destroy. But the true point is not that wolves are evil, in this case it would more be the boy himself that is evil, that his jests interferred with man-made law, that law being that humans raise sheep to kill them and that the natural predator of sheep, wolves, shall not kill the sheep. So the boy, in his attention-getting humor, subjugates man-made law in favor of natural law; that law being that wovles do in fact feast upon sheep.
Many times in the Bible the wolf is employed as an enemy of the sheep, that Christians are sent out into the world like lambs among wolves (Matthew 10:16, Luke 10:3). In another place, a hired shepherd will not ultimately do his job when the wolf comes to get the sheep (John 10:12); the shepherd's job is put himself between the sheep and the wolf, but since he is only doing his bit for money, he's not about to risk life or limb, because the love of money isn't actually real love in the end, is it? It is more the love of comfort and security, and a guy with a stick doesn't want to mess with a hungry wolf with those sharp teeth.
These same Biblical allusions are found throughout the Bible (Genesis 49:27, Ezekiel 22:27, Habakkuk 1:8, Zephaniah 3:3, Jeremiah 5:6). In Acts 20:29 the Apostle Paul warns that after he is gone, that "grievous wolves" will rise within Christianity itself (interestingly enough the word "grievous" from the Greek actually means "weighty, heavy," so these figurative wolves that will "not spare the flock of sheep" are those that add all manner of traditions to the faith, making it a burden). In almost every place that "wolf" is used figuratively in the Bible (i.e., the Bible is using the wolf in a metaphorical fashion, so it is not discussing actual, literal wolves, but the wolf in comparison, as the "flock" represents followers of God, the "Shepherd" represents the "Anointed One," Yahshua [Jesus, Yeshua, Yahoshua, Joshua], and wolves generally represent false prophets, false religion, false teachers, or "faith for pay" practitioners, and yes, they are evil, they do to the faithful what wolves do to sheep, utterly).
So in Biblical terms, "wolf" does not equate to "evil." It is only the allusion that the natural wolf stands in a predatory relationship to the natural sheep, so that the sheep in and of itself is not in any sense righteous, in equal terms a wolf in and of itself is not evil. A false teacher harms a seeker of spirituality in the way a wolf harms a sheep, the would-be religious seeker is consumed, receiving the exact opposite to what he sought. A "preacher man" that does his preaching for the big bucks is the same as a wolf that cozies up to a lamb, the wolf and preacher have no love for their victim, their victim is a meal and nothing more.
The "wolf in sheep's clothing" (of Aesop fame) represents someone sneaking in to undermine from within. It is a comical image, a big, powerful wolf, lumbering around in a suit of wool, pretending he is a sheep (much like the Big Bad Wolf lying in Grandma's bed, wearing her reading glasses). Nobody is going to buy such a deception, or are they? The fact is, when someone chooses to be deceived, there is hardly any hope for them, as they will buy into worse and more nightmarish scenarios no sane person could ever stomach, even for a moment. It is how cults flourish, and why people will happily drink poisoned sugar water, or end up still, pale and silent upon cheap cots, their new Nikes gleaming in the floodlights of forensic investigators.
Of course, this image, the "wolf in sheep's clothing," is a metaphor, a parable, in all actuality no real natural wolf ever uses deception, but relies on cunning and brute strength and speed and ferocity, a very high intelligence in the animal kingdom. The "wolf in sheep's clothing" represents evil men, deceivers, liars and cheaters and scammers. The lowest form of humanity.
The Bible lists the wolf as an animal that will be in heaven, at perfect peace with its previous prey:
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the
leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf
and the young lion and the fatling together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and
the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and
ust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall
not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,
saith the Lord.
The wolf, in natural terms, is no more evil or righteous than the sheep, and in and of himself is a perfect creation of God. In Biblical terms the wolf is just an animal doing its job, making its way, and only the unnatural distinction of an animal belonging to a man makes the wolf an enemy of man, thus it is mankind (or manking) that has chosen the wolf as its enemy, and not the other way around.
The Nature of Wolves
Wolves are not evil, but have always represented the "wild," the untameable nature that hardly pays notice to mankind and his attempts to tame the wild. And yet, as wild and powerful as the wolf is, he is so extremely close to what we consider ours, dogkind (and dogs DO have a kind nature, even those that have been unnaturally bred to be vicious, even pitbulls and dobermans and rottweilers, at heart, are kind and loving), our familiar and faithful friend who chooses to serve mankind, who will lay down his life for his master.
The echoing wolf howl is the root of all ghost stories. The very thought of the wolf scares us, dignified and elegant and heavily armored in technology, and yet he is out there, despite bullets and traps and poison and hatred, he is out there, the wolf, pelting through the night, feral and strong and fey and uncontrolled by remote control or man-made law or even man-made boundaries of city limit signs and posted speed limits. You purchased this 0.09 acre of cultivated land, you mowed the lawn and set the timer on the automatic sprinkler -- how dare the wolf not care about squeak of land, your cultivation, your money, your power -- and thus the bounty goes out, the wolf must die, the wolf must perish, because what cannot be controlled must be destroyed.
Humans, always, are angered when they cannot make something bow to them, and the proverbial "scapegoat" for humanity has been the wolf; the rebellious beast that runs free, that really doesn't care one way or the other about humans, that exists and loves its own community.
When "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin is killed by a stingray, it is a reminder that no matter how hardy we are, no matter how knowledgeable about nature, how associated with nature, how brave and strong -- the reminder is grimly there, nature wins, nature kicks our butt, individually and collectively. Steve Irwin loved nature, knew nature, and brought truth about nature to millions of people, but in the end nature really hardly even notices great men of nature such as Steve Irwin, "Crocodile Hunter." When "Grizzly Man" Timothy Treadwell is literally destroyed by one of the grizzly bears he cares so much about, it is a grim reminder that nature, although practically indifferent to man, is more powerful than man. When the power goes out, and man is naked of his technology, it is the wolf howl that echoes and reverberates over the atmosphere of the night.
As dangerous as nature is to even the wolf, the prince of the night, the wolf is completely at home in nature. The wolf is unafraid of nature, very much the same way Steve Irwin and Timothy Treadwell were not afraid of nature, but the wolf is much better equipped to survive nature than is man. Man is unequipped, unless artificially loaded down with survival tools, whereas the wolf is born with everything he needs to survive.
The wolf is, practically, the very spirit of nature.