Never Cry Wolf, by Farley Mowat
I read this book on the recommendation of some friends of mine who saw and appreciated the 1983 movie adaptation of the book and thought that I would appreciate the book and its odd details. In general, I can say that I did appreciate this work, in large part because the author views himself as the subject of considerable humor and doesn’t take himself too seriously. In a book like this that relies on the author being a bit of a fish out of water engaged in the difficult task of trying to speak out against violence done to wolves, it is important that the author’s quirks and lack of understanding cuts against his desire to cut the Canadian political bureaucracy down to size. This book is written skillfully enough to encourage the reader to have more compassionate views about wolves even as it discusses the way that wolves have served as the scapegoat for the massive killing of caribou to feed people and their pet huskies, while blaming the wolves for the kills, even though the wolves were largely feeding on mice. To add to the poignant sort of feel of this book, the author notes that his conclusions about wolves were not taken seriously despite his observations and that despite having been informed of the real reason for caribou kills the response of the Canadian provincial government was to seek to increase still further their efforts to kill wolves.
This book is a relatively short one of less than 200 pages, and while it tells the story of a man deep in the wilderness seeking to understand wolves on behalf of the Canadian military, the first part of the book explains the author’s own inability to properly find a place for himself as a successful academic or bureaucrat. This leads the author to be more or less stuck a place that is seen by others as less than desirable, a sort of exile on behalf of scientific understanding. The author appears to be at least somewhat aware of the relationship between himself and the local first peoples, which demonstrates that his awareness is not only for wolves, but also for people who struggle to be respected. The author demonstrates something that I have noticed and found deeply concerning, and that is the fact that while many contemporary scientific types, including the author, show themselves hostile to biblical morality, there is a lot of sympathy between scientists and shamans, which suggests a larger religious legitimacy problem with contemporary science. Thankfully this is not a main point, and the author demonstrates himself to be a sympathetic observer of a much-maligned animal.
It is easy, reading this book, to see why it was made into a movie. It is likely, not having seen the movie, that the movie took what was planned by the author into something that made for more dramatic theater. For example, my friends who told me about this particular book and its accompanying movie mentioned a scene where the author was eating mice, whereas in the book he discusses his plans to do so that end up provoking the curiosity and interest of the wolves who destroy the traps that he had set in order to obtain his own mice. One of the more striking aspects of the book is that the author has a difficult time understanding the wolves to not be dangerous despite the fact that they demonstrate their lack of hostility towards him on numerous occasions when it would be easy for them to attack him. And it is also poignant and unfortunate that he had such a hard time convincing other people that wolves were not harmful at all. And that is a great shame, as the gulf between wolves as they are feared by people and wolves as they appear in the eyes of their friends is immense.