The Tale of the wolf bride
In the time of ice when hunger bit deep, a hunter was tracking game along the sleeping white river. But the river yawned in its sleep and the hunter fell into its mouth. A wolf saw him fall and went to the edge and looked down. The wolf looked at the man and thought, “This man will make a fine meal, for my bones are rubbing my skin it is so long since I last ate.” And the man looked at the wolf and thought, “That wolfskin will make a fine coat, for my bones ache and I cannot remember what it is to be warm.” But the wolf could not get to the man, and the man could not get to the wolf. So both decided to bargain. The wolf said, “If you will give me meat, I will pull you out.” And the man said, “If you will pull me out, I will give you meat.” But the man was foolish and thought, “I will trick the wolf and when he pulls me close I will take my knife and I will have that skin.” So the man threw his rope up to the wolf, and the wolf caught it in his teeth. And the man held the end as the wolf pulled. When he was safely out, the man took his knife and stabbed, but he was clumsy and the knife did not kill. The wounded wolf could not fight the man, so he turned and ran, leaving a trail of blood and anguish at such betrayal. The man was cold and hungry and went home to find food and fire to warm himself.
When the man arrived at his tribe’s camp, he was welcomed for they had feared him lost or dead. And the hunter told them the story of his rescue, and laughed at how well he had tricked the wolf. And his son and eldest daughter laughed and told their father how clever his trick had been.
But the youngest daughter was silent, and she saw the look the Dreamspinnr gave her father, hooded and dark. And she thought, “My father has broken an oath, and no good will come of this.” So she went to her hut and packed her medicine bag, took her knife and bow, and in the dawn before the tribe stirred, she crept away. She found the river of ice, and followed the blood in the snow to the wolf’s den. And she found the wolf, cold and close to death. She wrapped it in her new reindeer skin coat, and dressed the wound with herbs and bark, and took her bow and went to hunt. She found a snow hare and brought it back to the den. There, she cut the meat into small pieces and fed the wolf from her own hand.
In the days that followed, the wolf grew stronger. His eyes grew brighter, and the ribs that pressed against his skin were covered with flesh as the girl hunted for him. She made fire to keep them warm, and at night she lay beside the wounded wolf and wrapped them both in her coat. In this way, the wolf grew well, and grew to love the girl who saved him. In return, he taught her wolf ways and wolf lore. How to track, to sniff the wind and find game that men could not, to hunt like a wolf and how to sing the moon song when the curved moon grew fat.
One day the girl said, “Now you are well, I have righted my father’s wrong doing, and I must return to my people.” The wolf was sad to see her go, but she had saved him and he could not make her stay. And the girl returned to her people, who were overjoyed to see her but unsure why she had chosen to leave. She said nothing, but the Dreamspinnr knew and smiled, for the girl had averted the fate that might have befallen the tribe with the breaking of an oath.
But the girl could not settle, she no longer felt she belonged to the human tribe, she saw them through different eyes. She hunted strangely and they began to fear her success, for it seemed like sorcery. She could smell and hear things they could not. And she would sing the moon song when it rose full and fat, and it frightened them. She longed for the company of the wolf, for the smell and touch of his fur, his bright eyes that saw the wind, his loyalty and lack of human guile. And once again, she packed her belongings, and in the dawn before the tribe stirred, she crept away. The Dreamspinnr saw her go, and nodded. The girl followed her own tracks back to the den, and found the wolf waiting for her, for he sensed her coming. And she knew this was her home now.
And it is said by hunters who pass that way, that they have seen a wolf and a woman dressed in white fur running beside each other, swift as the wind. And their feet never touch the ground.
All text and images © Christina Cairns 2011
‘The Talesingr’s Children’ is a story invented by Christina Cairns, and all accompanying ‘anthropological information’ was found hidden in an old wooden box with aged brass handles, in the attic in a corner of my mind that doesn’t get dusted very often. Or perhaps it’s all true...............................