Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Return of the Wolf III

 Lupus in Fabula 
 or 'Speak of the Devil'

We have good reason to suppose that wolves are inhabiting or at least hunting in our neck of the woods. In the heart of Chianti where, despite our extensive woodlands, civilization (farmhouses, villas, roads, vineyards, olive groves, gardens, villages and towns) makes itself firmly felt. This phenomenon seems to be corroborated by a recent article in The Guardian newspaper.

 Locals have firm evidence that our deer have met their natural predator. The carcass of a roe deer was found mauled, amputated and gutted against a neighbour's fence. The desperate deer had sought refuge inside the fence but was caught, halfway to safety.


Hunters have sighted a wolf and on a recent night howling (in Italian ululare, so evocative) was heard.
Apparently wolves howl to locate, to warn and to rally; their stance helps the sound carry further. The moon is incidental.
 If any further proof were necessary, there is even a photograph of a wolf pawprint. Wolf prints are unmistakeable as they are so large.

Between 7.50 to 9cm (3 and 4 inches) wide and 10 to 11.50 (3 1/2 and 4 1/2 inches) long, excluding the claws, wolf tracks resemble those of a large dog, but most dog breeds have feet shorter than 4 inches.

We are glad, excited and a little frightened, but trust that a better balance might now be established out there in the wild.

However I doubt I shall continue my practice of leaving out scraps 'for the fox'.


Just to underline how important the wolf is to the collective unconscious, below is a sampling of 12 Italian proverbs relating to the beast.*

Chi nasce lupo non muore agnello.

He who is born a wolf does not die a lamb

Chi pecora si fa, il lupo se la mangia.

He who becomes a sheep gets eaten by the wolf

E' non si grida mai al lupo che non sia in paese.

Never cry wolf unless he is in town

Il lupo avanti al gridare fugge.

The wolf flees when he hears shouting

Il lupo cambia (o perde) il pelo, ma non il vizio.

The wolf will change his skin but not his nature

Il lupo non guarda che le pecore sieno conte.

The wolf does not check that the sheep have been counted

La fame caccia il lupo dal bosco.

Hunger will bring forth the wolf from the wood

Matta è quella pecora che si confessa al lupo.

The sheep who confesses to the wolf is mad

Cent'oche ammazzano un lupo.
One hundred geese can kill a wolf

Per la pecora è lo stesso che la mangi il lupo o che la scanni il beccaio.
For the sheep it is the same whether it is eaten by the wolf or slaughtered by the butcher

Piuttosto pecora giusta, che lupo grasso.

Better to have a thin sheep than a fat wolf

Quando tu vedi il lupo, non ne cercar le pedate.

When you see a wolf, don't look for his pawprints

There are dozens more, and hundreds more in other languages.

*beast: a word which calls up Bruce Chatwin's theory that humans are forged and defined by two things: an atavistic nomadic instinct, and fear of 'the beast in the dark'.
*The Songlines Bruce Chatwin, 1987

For other posts on wolves in Chianti, see

1 comment:

  1. Such beautiful images. I really enjoyed reading about the wolves. NZ's fauna are so benign it's hard to imagine having wolves on your doorstep.


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