Garth the Grey: Story about a Wolf & a Man, Young Family Members & a Meeting; Facts About Wolves
Background to the Story
Some lateral thinking resulting from Genna East’s poetry challenge (see link below) led me to write this piece. Apart from wanting to respond with prose as well as poetry, I kept thinking about the human/animal slant; not human versus animal but humans and animals. There are many stories, especially children’s, which are anthropomorphic. I do not wish to give my animals human traits, rather I choose to believe that they have some of the same emotions, especially herd and pack animals such as the elephant and the wolf.
This philosophy led me to a story about a wolf and a man, seemingly in separate worlds but linked in one way; pack, or family.
At first draft, I had wolf and man in combat but that scarcely happens when a wolf has never before encountered man. Here we have a deeper issue.
So let me introduce you to Garth the Grey and Gethin of Tregoth. The use of Celtic-inspired names is deliberate as this story is woven upon an age-old theme, way back in time......
Garth the Grey
Leader of the Grey Wolf pack, he lay sprawled in the green-dappled shadow of the High Fir, the snow-clad forest, his forest, surrounding him. The rest, numbering nine, were hunting. Garth the Grey had gnarled limbs, a ragged, ever-whitening muzzle and eyes which dimmed and blurred his whole world. He knew not if a shadow would become an enemy.
For how long had he been part of this pack, part of this forest? He had no idea nor did he care. He had fought for his position, claimed the best female as his life-long mate, and reigned for an eon of brief summers and cold, callous winters. His body told him this was his last, that a new leader would be chosen soon.
A primordial voice within had always existed; the survival, the endurance of the pack was all. He knew it needed strength, had to keep together, had to work against the insidious, pervading cruelty of this wondrous place.
Strength is Survival
His two sons were strong, as were most of his grandsons, but the whole is only as effective as its weakest part. One grandson had determination and valour but his body was stunted, others treated him with disdain, he never won his play-battles with his peers. This was Garth’s worry; how to make this pup a worthy player in the team.
The young lad was aware of his failings. Somewhat the outcast, he chose this day to go off alone, see what he could find to prove his worth. Garth knew nothing of the youngster’s intentions.
Gethin of Tregoth
Gethin sat at table, shoveling food down his throat. His unkempt body stank of beer, his matted hair hung over a scowl thrown at all within his view. A lean figure of a wife sat opposite, sending wary, furtive glances his way. She smiled her encouragement at her son to eat his stew.
Not comprehending how he had arrived at this state of affairs, Gethin knew not how to change it. Long out of work, his liking for ale had led him further down the darkening tunnel of blurred thinking. He wanted to extract himself but had lost the drive and the wherewithal to do so as his well of alcohol dragged him by the hand, to hell. A frail, distant voice told him this was no way to live. His wife no longer recognised the man whose son she had borne. His son was afraid of his heavy hand.
The Lad Goes
“Can’t ya eat without making a racket? Stop slurpin’! Shut your mouth!” Why couldn’t he stop shouting at the lad? The one decent part of him was the one he punished for his own disgrace.
The boy sent his mother a sliver of a smile, scraped the bench across nerve-rattling flag-stone and fled but not before his father’s fist landed a sideways blow.
He made it through the door and out onto the mud-slimed cobbles of a side alley in Tregoth. Puddles of mud-slush snow held a new crust of ice. Holding his ringing head, the lad ran, stumbled, ran, stumbled, as far as he could until his breath pulled the reins.
How many times had he thought of not returning? How many times had his gaze swept across the snowfields, surveyed that swaying, beckoning, deep green world beyond for a safe refuge. Only concern and love for his Ma had stopped him.
No more! A sinew inside him snapped. Bent double, a stitch under his ribs, he inhaled a headful of eye-stinging, lung-stabbing air. Then the fear, the excitement, the wave of despair took him. Adrenalin accelerated his feet. All he had ever wanted to do in the world pushed him towards those firs, at break-neck speed towards the forest of Garth the Grey.
The wolf-cub stood at the edge of the clearing, wondering which way to go. In the distance was running prey of some sort. Running towards him! He stood his ground, silent and grave, heart hammering.
The lad maintained his pace, intent only on widening that gap between past and present. The future lay ahead, somewhere. He didn’t care where. He was free!
A sense of caution invaded the air. He felt an intense arrow of steel-blue gaze. Though he stopped his snow-spraying advance as he neared the firs, his feet slid on ice-spread stone, coming to rest yards from the wolf.
Skidding to a halt broke the spell.
Their mutual stare held the universe.
Flight? Not likely! After all the beatings I’ve taken? After all the angst I’ve endured?
Fight? Against what? Do I see aggression? Do I see a threat?
I feel fear but it’s exciting. I feel excitement but it’s an unknown.
The lad’s foot moved forward without direction. The wolf-cub bowed his head in welcome.
Hesitant, be-numbed fingers grabbed the coarse, grey-mottled forest of fur. Leather skin, deep down, shivered in a frisson of acceptance. Two souls melded for eternity.
The wolf-cub turned and led the man-boy into the forest.
Back to the Pack
Garth the Grey remained ‘neath the High Fir as the pack had left him, though now his she-wolf lay beside him to offer warmth. Through the high pines came silent figures. His sons had returned. Their blurred silhouettes were nonetheless recognisable to him; the scent confirmed their presence. His eyes were drawn to an indistinct image beyond his range.
What his mind saw made him try to stand; he failed and his body returned to his snow-hollowed couch. His head remained proud, ears forward. Did he see the weakling leading a man-boy? Did he see the failure doing something none other had done?
Before him stood wolf-cub and man-boy, interwoven, both fearless and defiant. The other wolves held back, submitting to the aura of this powerful bond.
Garth the Grey no longer feared for his pack’s survival. The weakling had proved himself above any other, taking a risk but with wisdom; there was no threat here. Garth saw courage and certainty in the wolf-cub’s demeanour . He could sense the strength that each gave the other. His grandson would lead when his turn came.
That night Garth licked the face of his she-wolf, howled to the moon and gave up his thanks, his soul breaking free of that broken body.
His spirit remained to guide his grandson through his learning.
The man-boy remained within his pack for some years. He built a shelter, the wolves showed him sources of food, shared some of their own. He learnt a sense of family, honour and loyalty from these strong, stern creatures with hearts as wide as the universe. He saw his wolf-brother become leader. They remained a joint force to be reckoned with, even when the man he became had rejoined his own kind.
Garth the Grey’s spirit watched over him as one of his own.
Gethin of Tregoth mourned the son he had driven out of his home, a son whose love he had forsaken, a son lost to the forest, at first presumed dead from cold, hunger or wolf-attack. Some months after the disappearance, Gethin was found swinging from a beam in the garret, bereft of the only thing of worth he had ever created. His wife felt the boy’s live spirit in her heart; the news reached her a little later that her son had chosen the forest. She would wait for his return.
Grey/Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)
- also known as the timber wolf or western wolf
- a ‘canid’ native to the wilderness and remote areas of North America and Eurasia
- largest existing member of its family
- like the red wolf, distinguished from other ‘Canis’ species by larger size and less pointed features, notably on ears and muzzle
- long and bushy winter fur, mostly mottled grey, though nearly pure white, red or brown-black also occur
- closest relative is the domestic dog
- social animal, traveling in nuclear families - mated pair and their adult offspring
- average pack: family of 5-11 animals (1-2 adults, 3-6 juveniles, 1-3 yearlings)
- sometimes 2 or 3 such families
- exceptionally large packs of 42 have been known
- canid - a mammal of the dog family
Romulus & Remus discovered by Faustulus, with the she-wolf & woodpecker
Romulus & Remus, Suckled by a She-Wolf
Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of Rhea Silvia, a vestal virgin threatened with death if anyone found out she had given birth. The boys were sent to presumed certain death but first discovered by a she-wolf (lupa) who suckled them and then they were fed by a wood-pecker (picus).
They were later found by a shepherdess, Faustulus.
The painting by Rubens is in the Capitoline Museums.
Sources & Links
Genna’s hub & Poetry Challenge are at http://gennaeast.hubpages.com/hub/Of-the-Shadow-and-the-Gray-A-Poetry-Challenge)