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Additional resources for Picturing the Wolf in Children’s Literature
And so we condemn the literary wolf to his role as a symbol for dangerous and deadly human behavior and the real wolf to extermination. The persistence of traditional images alongside more scientific ones has resulted in more than just competing characterizations of the wolf. It has made the wolf’s predatory nature the aspect of wolfish behavior where the most fundamental changes in our understanding, depiction, and appropriation of this species have occurred. In Norse myths as well as in stories such as “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Three Little Pigs,” “The Wolf and the Seven Kids,” and “Saint Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio,” the predatory nature of the (almost always male) wolf drives the action of the plot as it defines his character and colors his interactions with others.
The wolf in these stories is a predator threatening the way of life, the property, and the lives of other characters. Even though these depictions of the wolf are anthropomorphic, making him more human than wolf, the animals that he preys on—goats, sheep, pigs, and humans—reflect the threat that real wolves pose to humans and human property. This in turn renders his predatory behavior not only dangerous but also criminal and immoral. Similar characterizations in early natural histories (works purporting to provide information about various aspects of nature) along with contemporary attitudes expressed by ranchers, farmers, hunters, and politicians suggest that these depictions, however inaccurate or humorous they may be, have nevertheless stuck to the real animal.
2003; Kellert et al. 1996; Mech 1995; Nie 2003). Further, scientific understandings of nature are dynamic and biased, shaped and altered by ideological and political as well as technological and economic factors (Barbour 1983; Heise 1997, 5). In the 1940s, when biologists and ecologists began to focus on the effects of predation on a prey population instead of on the predator’s diet, scientific understanding of wolves began to change (Dunlap 1988; Flader 1974). Changes in research methods along with changes in technology often displace or modify earlier “facts” and raise new questions.