The Tale of the Wolf-Girl

Note to the reader: this is not a short story. It is a true story about Stacey and I. It is public because it is another side of a story that for many years I told publicly or semi-publicly, and it deserves equal exposure.

If you are a casual acquaintance of mine, there’s probably not much for you here; and it may be TMI for some.

If you are a long-time friend of ours, I humbly request that you take the time to read this in full. There’s a perspective below that, until now, has not been given a fair hearing.

If you are L. or J. or one of our other children stumbling across this years later, I request that you don’t read it, at least not right now. Not because it’s a secret or you’re “not old enough” or anything like that. But because reading about intimate details of your parents’ relationship is icky and uncomfortable and frankly not that interesting. At least, that’s how I feel to this day about certain aspects of my parents’ relationship, and I imagine it’s similar for
you. At least save this it for when you’re moved out and married and wondering if it was as hard for your parents as it is for you. I can’t forbid or prevent you from reading on, but I’d prefer you didn’t right now.

Not all of this story is factual, but to the best of my knowledge every word of it is truthful.

Tales are told of human children taken in by wolves and raised in the wild. What you may not know is that every so often, a human family takes in a wolf cub and raises it as a human child. This is the story of once such child.

I do not know why her parents adopted her from wolf-kind. Perhaps she had curiously wandered away from the den and they found her and fell in love with her. Whatever their reason, they took her far from the snowy mountain sides of the place she was born, and into a land that was flat and hot, where snow never fell and cars roared perpetually on wide, straight highways.

They gave her a plain human name and fed her plain human food and dressed her in plain human clothes. And before long she looked like any other human girl. Of her original wolfish features, only her exceptionally sharp teeth, and a certain look that came into her eyes when she was upset, remained to suggest that her true heritage was something other than human.

When she was old enough, her parents sent her to a plain human school. She was a clever child and learned her lessons quickly. But she never felt quite at home with the other children. There was something inside her that felt different from them, and they sensed it as well. She was awkward and unsure in her human skin, and the other children teased her and called her cruel names. 

She had little of the softness and submissiveness expected of little human girls. When other children would attack her she would lash out with biting words, and sometimes even with teeth, nails, and fists. She frightened other children, and was often scolded by adults.

As she grew older her estrangement continued. She was an only child to begin with, and she never felt quite at home in her skin, in her house, in her schools, or in the churches her human parents attended. She was a lonely girl, and in quiet moments she longed for a different place and a different way of life that she could not quite see or name.

True to her wolf-blood she was a precocious child not just mentally but physically. She grew taller than the other children, and developed a woman’s body years before the other little girls. This only made her more awkward and self-conscious. And the type of attention it brought from boys—and sometimes even from dissolute older men—was not welcome.

She was not completely alone. As a teenager she found friends among other outcasts and dreamers. In her they recognized something different from the norm; something foreign and wild straining to be expressed. She bonded with them over a shared sense of being an outsider.

As she grew into a young woman the wolf girl began to hear a calling in her blood to do as her wolf-mother and wolf-grandmother before her: to strike out and create her own territory, to raise a brood of cubs and watch over them as an alpha-female. So she took a mate; a human husband who promised to take her away from the house of her human parents.

Soon, to her joy, she was pregnant with a proper wolf brood of three children. But her body was too human by that time; it could not contain them, and went into early labor. All three baby girls died soon after birth. For a time, the world went grey to the wolf girl; there was no warmth or light in the sun, no solace to be found in any one or any thing. Days and weeks went by and she took no notice.

But wolf blood is strong, and after a time the wolf girl was with child again, and this time she gave birth to a fine and healthy girl-child. Followed in short order by another child, this time a boy. The wolf girl was comforted, and embraced the life of a mother as one who had been born to do nothing else.

As the years went by, however, she found herself more and more restless and dissatisfied. Her human mate did not appreciate her wolfish independent nature; more and more he sought to control her, and more and more she chafed under his restraints. One day she left him, taking her children with her. 

For the first time, she was truly independent. She embraced her new found freedom; she bought a house of her own and took a new job where she quickly advanced. She went out dancing on weekends and found that her once-awkward body was now vivacious and in-demand. She wrote, and found her voice as a poet. She explored new expressions for her innate spirituality. And still she loved and raised her children with all the fierce devotion of a true wolf-mother.

And then, one day, she met the boy.

The boy was beautiful, and young; almost ten years her junior. He was different from other boys she had met; he was mature beyond his years and yet still retained the spark and optimism of youth. The boy and the wolf girl liked the same music, shared a common faith, and a common interest in writing poetry. They were both outsiders, strangers to the world around them, and bonded over their common estrangement.

In the wolf girl, the boy saw a woman with strength, independence and emotional stability, not like the fragile girls his own age that he was accustomed to. in the boy, the wolf girl saw someone who was sensitive, compassionate, and unbound by the stifling societal norms that so many of her peers seemed to be bound up in.

Their romance was quick; almost perfunctory. The wolf girl and the boy both decided they had found something they wanted, and saw no reason to drag the process out. They married, and she took her children and left the land she had lived in all of her life to join him in a place where snow fell in the winter and the rolling hillsides still remembered the lonely cry of wolves.

And this is where the story should end with “happily ever after”. But they did not live happily ever after. They did not even live happily for a few months after.

The girl found herself even more a stranger than ever before, a thousand miles from anything and anyone she had ever known. And in the weeks that followed her whirlwind remarriage, the boy she loved underwent a strange and terrible transformation.

This sensitive, caring boy with kind eyes became steadily more cold and distant. He ceased to speak to her. He stopped smiling at her. He spent more and more time at work. He had few friends to begin with, but he spent time with his friends instead of her, and he made little effort to include her.

Their faith, which had once been their greatest place of common ground, became instead a battle ground. They argued about god and religion. He would not pray with her, as he had once promised. He shut her out of his spiritual life almost entirely.

He enacted seemingly arbitrary edicts, and angrily enforced them.  She and her children must eat the right kind of breakfast cereal; they must not watch television; they must celebrate holidays in the way he was accustomed to, not in the ways she remembered fondly.

He neglected her. He took long walks by himself. On her very first birthday after marrying him, he did absolutely nothing to celebrate; instead, he spent the whole evening on the phone with a friend. 

He broke promises to her. He pleasured himself to the images of strangers on the Internet, even though he had assured her that she was the only woman he would look at. Instead of giving her the children they both had agreed they wanted, he negotiated a five-year moratorium on pregnancy until they were in a “better place”, emotionally and financially.

Perhaps the worst part, though, was the way he treated her when they disagreed. He did not yell or threaten like some men. Instead, he would coolly, rationally, and mercilessly lecture and browbeat her. He would explain in logical terms why he was always right, and she was wrong. His sympathetic nature became a weapon: he would worry at her weaknesses and insecurities, tearing her down piece by piece.

Alone, surrounded by strangers, with a new job, with no friends, with a tiny apartment that gave her no privacy, and with a mate who had become a stranger to her, the wolf girl did what any wild wolf trapped in a cage would do: she started to go crazy. She acquired the boy’s old habit of self-harm, and started gouging deep cuts in her legs and arms when the pain became too great to bear. She became wildly jealous of his friends, and demanded he stop talking to them. She threw tantrums and broke things. The wolf in her, strong in the face of ordinary misfortunes, could not cope with daily emotional torment and degradation, and began lashing out at her tormentor, at the walls of her cage, at herself, and at anyone who came near.

And the boy, not realizing he had married a wolf, was shocked and frightened by her reaction. For several years, this cycle continued. The girl reacted to the boys abandonment in the only way that came instinctively to her; and the boy reacted to the girl’s reactions by drawing further away from her.

Cold distance settled between them. Both were filled with discontent and anger towards the other. The boy continued to hurt her, destroying her self-confidence by calling her fat and unattractive, immature, insane. He would sometimes use her body for his pleasure and then dismiss her. He would spend long nights at friends’ houses, insisting he needed it for his own sanity, leaving her at home with the children.

The boy spent countless hours talking to his friends about all the awful things she had done to him. Sometimes he discussed it with them privately; sometimes he wrote online journal posts for many of their mutual friends to see. Sometimes she would make an overture of peace to him, but it was as if they no longer spoke the same language; soon, they would be at each others throats again.

They discussed separation and divorce frequently; it became another weapon in their mutual cold war. Sometimes she would begin to warm up to him again, and allow herself to feel hope, and then at the very moment things seemed to be going well between them he would confide that he had been thinking about divorce and her world would be shattered again.

Four or five years went by. The wolf girl and the boy had somehow stayed together. They had reached a point of mutual emotional exhaustion. He had ceased relentlessly hurting her as much, and she had stopped lashing out as angrily, as they had in the first years; but both were now trapped in resentment and mistrust. They passed a few more years in an unstable orbit of tired-but-resigned unhappiness. They saw counselors and had occasional heart-to-heart talks that never seemed to fix anything. The boy was less cruel to her, but he was not kind to her either. And he blamed her for all of the tumult of their first few years together.

Then, one day almost seven years into their marriage, the boy came to her and claimed that everything had changed. He had had an epiphany; all of his resentment was gone, and he was ready to start a new chapter with her, if only she would promise to treat it as a brand new beginning also. They would be like newlyweds, getting to know each other for the first time.

The wolf girl—once a vibrant and independent force of nature, now a shattered shell of her former self—agreed. What was there to lose? She still, somehow, harbored some love for this fallen angel of a lover. And she still wanted more children.

But wolves do not have sudden changes of heart like fickle men. Their loyalty runs deep, but so does their mistrust when they are mistreated. The wolf girl’s scars still burned. Her anger, distrust, and sense of betrayal still haunted her. Her cage was gone; but the memory of the bars was strong, and every time she looked at the boy she would remember and flinch inwardly.

And that, I am afraid, is where this story ends, at least for now. The boy has begun to understand and appreciate the girl’s wolf nature, and even to write little stories about it. He has given her children, finally, and promised the girl that that with her support they will create a pack of their own in a place of their own where no one will try to restrict her, or force her to be something she is not, ever again. But she still remembers his cruelty, and a part of her still tells her to take her cubs and run far into the hills away from the world of men and their duplicity. 

Only time will tell if they find their happily ever after.

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