FFB: Never Cry Wolf and And No Birds Sang

this is the 174th in my series of forgotten books

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat, 1963

This is Canadian author week for Friday Forgotten Books, so I picked an author who wrote a lot of great books, most of them very much forgotten, though at least one of these, Wolf, is perhaps his best known book; is still remembered due to the Disney film from 1983

In 1948-1949, Canada’s Dominion Wildlife Service assigns the author to investigate the cause of declining caribou populations and determine whether wolves are to blame for the shortage. Upon finding his quarry near Nueltin Lake, Mowat discovers that rather than being wanton killers of caribou, the wolves subsist quite heavily on small mammals such as rodents and hares, “even choosing them over caribou when available.”

He concludes that “We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be — the mythological epitome of a savage, ruthless killer — which is, in reality, no more than the reflected image of ourself.” Mowat comes to fear an onslaught of wolfers and government exterminators out to erase the wolves from the Arctic.

Mowat’s book established that Arctic Wolves usually prey upon Arctic Ox, Caribous, smaller mammals, and rodents but since they rely on stamina instead of speed, it would be logical for the wolves to choose a smaller prey than a large animal like caribou, which is much faster and stronger, and therefore a more formidable target. Also that a lone arctic wolf has a better chance of killing large prey by running alongside it and attacking its neck. The wolf would be at a disadvantage if it attacked large prey from behind, because the animal’s powerful hind legs could kick the wolf, possibly causing injury. However, a group of wolves may be successful in attacking large prey from a number of positions. The final point was that since arctic wolves often travel in a group, the wolves’ best strategy is not to kill any surplus, since the whole group could sate themselves on just one or two large animals.

That all sounds pretty antiseptic and, frankly, rather boring, but Mowat is a talented author who writes in strong prose and paints character, both human and wolf in a very appealing way.

And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat, 1979

I also strongly recommend And No Birds Sang, about Mowat’s experiences during World War II, Farley Mowat fought in Italy and Sicily with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment. And No Birds Sang is the gripping eyewitness account of a young man in combat, detailing everything from how he lost his virginity to his growing disenchantment with war. It’s an excellent biographical look at a young man at war.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

links to all of this weeks Forgotten Book posts can be found
on Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom

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10 Responses to FFB: Never Cry Wolf and And No Birds Sang

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I liked the movie version of NEVER CRY WOLF a lot so read the book, which I also really liked. I also read his memoir MY DISCOVERY OF AMERICA, which is also worth seeking out.

  2. Never cry wolf is one of my favorites by Mowat. I guess the favorite. I’ve read a lot of his other stuff too but not “No birds sang.” Gotta get hold of that one.

  3. John says:

    I saw the movie version of NEVER CRY WOLF just like Jeff. Really moving to me. This all reminds me of the successful program through the national parks in which wolves were introduced back into Yosemite after being absent for decades. Now they’re thriving there and hunting in packs.

  4. Farley Mowat is a great writer! I have most of his books, but not NO BIRDS SANG. Time to visit Canada where Mowat’s books are plentiful. Great choices, Rick!

  5. Gerard says:

    NO BIRDS is indeed a fine tale. I listened to the audio version about ten years and still think back on a few of the stories. Mowat was only 17 or 18 (and looked 12) when he joined the army and became a subaltern.
    I most remember Mowat’s stories of a fellow officer masking his terror through bravery, sighting in a Bren gun on a German position, and accidentally securing the surrender of large unit of Italian soldiers.

  6. Yvette says:

    I’m mostly familiar with the movie version of NEVER CRY WOLF which I thought was pretty splendid. Enjoyed reading your reviews.

  7. Richard says:

    Thanks, Yvette, I’m always pleased to see you drop by the blog. The book has a different, and I think preferable, ending.

  8. Carl V. says:

    I am ordering Never Cry Wolf for a friend of mine who is a big fan of stuff like this. Thanks for pointing it out, I’m sure it will be a winner for one of her Christmas gifts.

  9. Todd Mason says:

    Of course, Mowat (whom I knew first for NCW the book and THE DOG WHO WOULDN’T BE, his canine duo much available to kids with booksale programs in the schools in the ’70s) also was an early contributor to my favorite political journal, OUR GENERATION, back when it wasn’t explicitly anarchist yet and was still OUR GENERATION AGAINST NUCLEAR WAR. Having shot at US bombers flying overhead once, in a fit of tokenist pique (he knew his ammo wouldn’t reach high enough to bother the planes), he might’ve been happy to be in any issue.

  10. Richard says:

    Todd, I have and have read The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, it may have been the first book by him I read.

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