Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1043
Never Cry Wolf is a narrative, first-person account of conservationist-writer Farley Mowat’s two summers and one winter on the Arctic tundra as a researcher for the Canadian government. In his 2008 memoir, Otherwise, Mowat writes of the years 1937 to 1948, hinting that the events in Never Cry Wolf may not be sequential. Also, in the added 1973 preface to Never Cry Wolf, Mowat admits changing names and locations and reworking his stories to add humor; he denies, however, that the work is fiction. He says that he never allows “facts to interfere with the truth” and denies altering the basic information. Indeed, libraries classify the book as nonfiction.
In Never Cry Wolf, Mowat traces the beginning of his interest in nature to age five. In a somewhat humorous tale, he says that he had captured some catfish, brought them into his grandmother’s home, and placed them in the commode to keep them alive. His grandmother found the fish on a night visit to the bathroom and flushed them down the toilet.
In the book, Mowat employs the stylistic device of anthropomorphism. He assigns human characteristics, feelings, emotions, and behaviors to animals—especially wolves. Some scientists, however, consider anthropomorphism to be folk theory and misleading to readers. By contrast, Charles Darwin and other scientists have noted only one difference in degree between people and certain other animals.
In 1958-1959, Mowat had accepted an assignment from Canada’s Dominion Wildlife Service (DWS) to survey the barren lands area in the Arctic area of north-central Canada. For the DWS, Mowat conducted a census of the wolves, caribou, and fauna in the area; he observed the actions of the animals, gathered appropriate statistical and analytical data, and led a somewhat solitary existence. Mowat’s assignment came as a result of complaints made to the Canadian Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources. Gun and hunting clubs had bemoaned fewer deer kills, and they blamed wolf hordes for fewer deer. The hunters argued that wolves were regularly wreaking carnage on the deer population.
Mowat had begun his assignment by air force transport, but the plane’s motor failed, forcing the plane to land in Churchill, Canada. After several days, Mowat and his pilot secured a 1938 bi-motor plane and continued their trip to wolf country. However, running low on fuel, the pilot had to set the plane down in an isolated area; Mowat was about three hundred miles north of Churchill. He remained at this isolated location to conduct his studies until the government sent someone to retrieve him.
Mowat had few provisions, which included a radio with a battery that would last six hours, half a canoe, and cases of Moose beer. He soon found that he was not completely isolated from people: He had met Mike, a trapper. For the use of Mike’s rough cabin and his assistance—as needed—during the next three months, Mowat had given Mike an IOU for ten dollars.
Mowat soon found a family of four wolf pups. He named their mother Angeline, their father George, and an older wolf, who assisted in care and hunting, Albert. The wolves were nonaggressive—even oblivious—to Mowat, Mike, and Ootek, Mike’s native cousin, who acted as a translator for Mowat. The wolves began to respect Mowat’s “property lines” after he marked his territory with urine.
Mowat analyzed wolf scats, recorded the animals and vegetation he saw, and observed the wolf family. Among his findings are that wolves cannot outrun even a young caribou—instead, they separate the sick, infirm, and diseased animals from the rest of the herd and use these available deer as their prey. One wolf leaps to the shoulder of an impaired deer, knocks it off balance, seizes it by the neck, and brings it down to a swift kill. There is no evidence of “hamstringing,” a...
(The entire section contains 1043 words.)
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