The Myth of The Evil Wolf

Black wolf running on snow

Stardance is a wolf, black, with yellow piercing eyes. She is the epitome of our mental picture of an evil wolf.

In actual fact, she is a charming clown. When you approach, she flops on her back, paws waving, belly up for the scratching. Should you want her to go somewhere or stop something at your request, she resists by flopping again, going completely limp so whatever part of her you try to touch eludes your grasp. She delights and excels in this. The only recourse is to pick her up wholesale and fling her–limp, tongue lolling in good humor—across your shoulders to carry her back to wherever you want her to go—or out of whatever mischief you have found her in. It is impossible to get mad. As you put her down, she gently grasps your hand in her mouth, asking you not to leave. She could also have been named Flopover.

But she is both—an exquisite creature and wolf, and a “flopover.” Wolves, or any creature, are not well-served by a simplified, two-dimensional caricature of their ”nature”, or an application of unreasoned prejudice about black animals or piercing eyes. That should belong to the past, to medieval times of primeval fears about the nature of evil, before we had the possibility of good education that encourages careful reasoning. Facts are now available from the relatively new field of science to help us add reason and perspective to emotion. And in this case, knowledge of a specific wolf to modulate our picture.

We are particularly prone to apply prejudice when we know little about or have little direct experience of another being—in this case, wolves. Even biologists, who study a species rather than an individual, may miss some crucial aspects of an animal or accord them little importance. They may not realize what a species is capable of, as expressed through an individual, because that is not what they are looking at. The question determines the data found and may give only a partial picture or a distorted view.

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