The Transformation Story Archive Mythical Beings

The Wolf Who Came In From The Cold

by Mat Charles

Listen to the wolves howling,

(straight from the heart, all as one but none in harmony)

crying out their joy and sorrow,

(sweet-singing but not knowing what they sing)

never looking beyond the end of the day,

(living on the edge, sleeping with hunger, never more than a heartbeat from death)

existing only in the everlasting now.

(running lean, panting tongues, hot breath misting the cold air)

But what if

(whilst on the chase, dashing, scenting, muscles tensed to leap for the kill)

what if a wolf

(a loner, an outsider, all cut off from the warmth of the pack)

should long for something more?


Once upon a time, there was a small village in a large kingdom. The people who lived there were, by and large, happy and peaceful. They worked hard as farmers, shepherds, weavers and blacksmiths during the day. But when the sun dipped below the great mountains to the West, they would gather together in a barn - or outside in a field if the night was hot - and make beautiful music until it was time for supper. Some would sing, some played the flute or the violin. Everybody in the village, from the oldest man to the smallest child, played or gave voice in perfect harmony.

Then, one day, a stranger came to live close by. He built a hut on a hill a little way from the village, close to the woods where the wild things lived. He was dressed in tatters and rags, and his hair was matted and dirty. The villagers did not like to speak to him, for he had a touch of the madness on him.

The stranger did not tend to crops, nor sheep or cattle. He did not sell or buy, he wove no cloth. Instead, just before the night fell, he would steal away into the woods, away from prying eyes. And because they made such wonderful music, the villagers did not have to hear the sounds that echoed through the valley in the twilight.

One night, the werewolf stranger - for such he was - heard their music, caught on a breeze and blown into the woods, as he ate. His ears pricked up and he listened, open-mouthed in amazement. The marvellous sound made him feel happy and sad and lonely and at peace, all at once. He lay still, entranced, until the wind changed and carried it away. He waited and waited in vain for it to return. Eventually, he gave up and padded back to his home.

For a time, he listened for the music every night, but did not hear it again. He began to wonder if he had imagined it, for he knew his mind was a little addled.

The nights drew in, and winter began to fall. Many of the animals in the wood hid themselves away to sleep in snug burrows. Hunting was scarce. The stranger grew leaner.

He became so hungry that one night he made his loping way, timidly and tentatively, into the fields around the village, hoping to take a rabbit. Instead, he found the heavenly strains of the villagers' music. Barely able to contain his delight, he crept closer to the old barn on his belly. Spellbound, he listened until the last note had been played before creeping back to the woods.

>From then on, he was a devoted audience every night, come wind, rain, snow and frost. The music soothed his troubled soul and brought tears of joy and pain to his face.

And gradually, he began to want to be part of the music. He dreamed of aweing the people by bursting into beautiful song, of showing them his loving soul and winning their admiration with his voice.

In his confusion, he slowly came to believe his daydreams. He was a great singer, a poet and musician. And so, with a dry throat and racing heart, he made his way stealthily to the very door of the barn as the night's concert was about to begin.

The first piece was a fast, whirling solo played on a violin. The werewolf dithered, uncertain and did not make a sound. But when it ended, it was replaced by a melancholy song of love lost. He knew this was his moment. As the final crescendo approached, he took a deep breath and filled his lungs. When the moment was right, he threw back his head and sung.

When he finished, there was silence. All the villagers were staring at him. For a long moment, all was still. Then, the shout went up: there was a wolf outside the barn. The women huddled back inside, the menfolk reached for sticks or spades. Grimly, the farmer took up his rifle and threw open the door.

The poor werewolf was frightened and confused. He did not dare to move towards the people, but did not have the heart to run away. He lay there, lonely and afraid.

The farmer raised the gun to his shoulder, taking sight. But before he could fire, the girl who had sung ran up and caught his arm.

"Father, wait!" she cried, pointing. "Look closely! That is no wolf."

The farmer looked more closely, and hesitated. It was true, this animal did not look like a wolf. But he was not certain, so he took up a burning torch from the barn and walked closer.

The creature did not shy away from the fire, but instead came close, fawning and licking at him. And by this he knew that it was not a wolf, for no wild animal can stand the sight of flame.

"You see? He looks nothing like a wolf."

The girl, daring, moved close then bent down to stroke it. Grinning, it licked at her hand.

"Father, may we keep him? He looked so lonely out here, and he is so friendly."

Almost as if it understood what she said, the animal let out a bark and wagged its tail.

Smiling a little, the farmer replied. "Very well, my dear. But first he must have a name."

"Then I shall call him Dog," she replied, and led her Dog into the warmth of the barn.

The Wolf Who Came In From The Cold copyright 1998 by Mat Charles.

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