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This study of the wolf is primarily that of the wolf of Biblical metaphor and medieval legend, rather than the wolf of reality. Yet, it demonstrates for students and teachers alike how the wolf of reality underwent a long-term ‘demonization’ in western culture, largely as a result of the literary wolf. It accomplishes this first, through a close investigation of the pertinent passages of the Scriptures and select references in the works of the Church Fathers. The study then examines details from two sources with the classical tradition, Aelian’s On the Nature of Animals and select fables of the Aesopian tradition. This is followed by a descriptive survey of later medieval works: the so-called ‘beast epics,’ the Physiologus (in its Christian recension), and the illustrated bestiaries. The book explores evidence for the ‘wicked wolf’ in the early and later Middle Ages. The conclusion cites the continuing wolf terror in Western Europe as exacerbated by the heyday of the werewolf phenomenon and points to hopeful signs for the conservation of the wolf. In all, this work shows how the diabolical wolf – only a symbol in the Gospels – developed, grew much ‘larger than life,’ and persisted through late antiquity (when a new term, luparius, was coined for the hunters of the real wolf) and throughout the Middle Ages; and that the ‘agent of the Devil’ was not at all assisted by the observations of naturalists or encyclopedists like Aelian or Isidore of Seville, nor by the image of the greedy but stupid wolf of Aesop. The book is enhanced by photographs, including eight photos of actual wolves by professional photographers. A very select bibliography provides a starting point for the study of the wolf in western civilization, and includes both patristic and medieval works, along with modern works.


“ ... As a collection of powerful images and stories, Dr. Donalson’s present work is a wonderful illustration of the relevance of history and literature, as well as his own ability to bring them to life for the present and for posterity. Indeed, one may hope that this kind of study can assist in awakening legitimate concerns on more than one front: that regarding our relationship to other species and the environment, and that for maintaining a lively interest in our historical heritage. Dr. Donalson’s work will be of interest for many readers, ranging perhaps from animal rights activists to students and scholars of the Bible, the Fathers, and of the Middle Ages.” – (from the Preface) Professor Elisa Rambo, The Alabama School of Mathematics and Science

“This well-written and deeply researched work focuses broadly on the cultural history of the wolf, providing a wide spectrum of readers with fascinating insights into the human response to the wolf in the West from the beginnings of our civilization to the present day. Given the richness of the material and the information and the sources presented in Dr. Donalson’s clear exposition, the index makes this excellent scholarly subject quite accessible ... This work will not only be a ‘good read,’ but it will also provide a new and valuable reference tool ...” – Timothy Lally, Professor Emeritus, The University of South Alabama

“ ... Dr. Donalson’s literary tour of the Western civilization as it pertains to the wolf provides an important window into our own collective soul. The view is not pretty. If one were to say that this book tells us more than we ever wanted to know about wolves, it would be equally fair to say that it tells us more than we ever wanted to know about the dark side of human nature ... Dr. Donalson’s remarkable research in this area is a valuable reminder to us that it is not the wolf we need to fear half as much as ourselves.” – Fr. John Holleman, Pastor, Our Savior Catholic Church

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface by Elisa Rambo
1. The Scriptures
2. In the Fathers
3. In the Classical Heritage
4. In the Beast Epics and Bestiaries
5. In the Early Middle Ages
6. In the Late Middle Ages
7. Conclusion

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