By: Mark VanSteenwyk
The following is the first chapter from Mark Van Steenwyk's new children's book, A Wolf at the Gate. Mark has written books on Christian anarchism geared towards adults (That Holy Anarchist and The unKingdom of God). However, he's learned from his 7 year old son, Jonas, that radical ideas are best engaged when you're a child - before your imagination gets fenced in by conventional wisdom. Visit www.awolfatthegate.com for more information.
The wolf father taught her all the wisdom passed down from his own parents. He taught her how to hunt deer near the edge of the forest, where the river meets the tall grass. He taught her how to fight as they wrestled together in the golden warmth of the setting sun. Most importantly, he taught his daughter how to hide from their greatest enemy, humankind, by sticking to the shadows, since wolves can see better in the dark.
The wolf father also taught the red wolf legends passed down from pack to pack since wolves first hunted in the mountains they called home.
One night, as the sky grew dark and the crickets began their nightly chorus, the red wolf and her father stood at the top of a small mountain. Looking down upon the village of Stonebriar at the foot of the mountain, the wolf father snarled and told her of the wolves’ first clash with humankind:
Once, there was no village below...no walls of stone or houses of wood. No humans with their weapons of steel and iron. No plowed fields, no row upon row of wheat. No humans building fences to enslave wild things. The forest was in balance. The streams teemed with trout. The trees chimed with birdsong. Deer danced through the fields. There was enough food for the pack, and our pack was large.
Early one morning, the wolf mother caught the red wolf eating more than her share of food.
The wolf mother looked at her daughter with sad eyes and said, “Let’s go for a walk.”
As the orange oak leaves basked in warm light of the sun, the red wolf and her mother walked along the path to the river. They listened as the cawing of the ravens joined the bubbling laughter of a nearby stream. A chittering squirrel ran across their path. As they stopped to listen, the wolf mother told this tale:
There once was a raven. He was clever, but lazy. Every day, he perched in the upper branches of the tallest tree in the forest to watch the animals rushing about, storing food for the coming winter. Of all the creatures of the forest, one squirrel worked hardest. She gathered food from sunrise to sunset.
The wolf mother looked into her daughter’s eyes and said, “It is better to be hungry with neighbors than it is to be well-fed alone.”
The wolf mother and father continued to share wisdom with their daughter as she grew.
Seasons passed. The wolf father and mother grew old and died. After a time of mourning, the red wolf became the unchallenged chief of her pack.
At first, she led her pack wisely. She was respected for her hunting skills and her ability to keep the pack safe from the humans. Every night, under the pale glow of the moon, she taught her pack all the tales of their wolf ancestors.
No amount of wisdom, however, could keep the humans who lived in the valley below from hunting more and more deer and rabbits. There wasn’t enough food for the wolves. Some of the weaker wolves died of hunger.
The red wolf’s wisdom began to give way to rage. She hated the human beings for what they had done to wolfkind throughout generations. Desperately, foolishly, she believed the pack could drive the humans from the land.
Most of the pack wanted to leave the forest in search of a new home, but the red wolf stubbornly refused. “Since ancient times, this has been our forest. We were here long before the humans came. We will never leave,” she said, day after day.
As food grew scarcer, the pack grew angrier. They blamed the red wolf for their troubles. So it was that another wolf in the pack challenged her leadership; the winner of a fight would be the chief.
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