A bright full moon, dazzling in a clear night sky, stirs the deepest nature in me. The hair beneath my shirt feels it and seems to thicken, my teeth are bared and my ears alive for prey. This is a hunter’s moon and man is a hunter.
The myth of the werewolf is an ancient one, found amongst the Greeks (in a typically rationalised form) and amongst the ancient Germans in the raw. In the saga, Sigurd puts on a wolfskin cloak and with it takes on the character of the beast, as if the poet recognised what is within, ready to be released when we step out of the accoutrements of society. All the tribes of the north had two names for that beast, one left unspoken out of supernatural fear, but still named their children ‘Wulf-‘ as if to recommend its character. In Mongolia they taught that the khan was descended from a wolf and a doe (a deer, a female deer), as if picturing the ideal characters they thought seemly in a man and in a woman.
The wolf is always with us. To look upon one is like seeing in a distorted mirror. The domesticated beast, the dog, looks up at man wishing to be loved, wishing to understand and to imitate. A wild wolf has looked into my eyes and he did so as an equal, but with another quality: he is looking for weakness. Among mankind we look at each other the same way, especially at the full moon. As Hobbes says in De Cive, ‘Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe’.
The men of former days lived beside the wolf and saw in it their own instincts: in hunting both show intelligence, co-operation, ruthlessness, the thrill of the chase and remorselessness in the kill. Perhaps they imagined man to be descended from the wolf, as the Mongols did – it would be a more attractive proposition than descending from an ape.
There have been plenty of Sci-Fi stories imagining manlike creatures evolved from wolves, but why always wolves and not other creatures? Perhaps it is an obvious thought as it just seems from their eyes and behaviour that the wolf could be like us.
Perhaps instead we should think that we are like wolves, beneath. Our dogs try to imitate us, but in the wild, man imitates the wolf, the perfectly designed hunter alongside which many generations of man grew up. Civilisation is just a few millennia old, barely that amongst the peoples of Northern Europe, while the Stone Age lasted far, far longer. We are Stone Age people, with a thin crust of civilisation sitting on top of countless ages of instinct. Beneath that veneer of society, the natural man drives our behaviour, and waits for the cracks to appear. On those cold nights where the clouds depart and the full moon blazes in the sky, casting shadows, showing where the prey lies; on those nights the crust of modernity is very thin, the age-long instincts of the natural man rise.
- Man to Man is an arrant Wolfe
- The road and Damascus
- The Noble Savage, Caliban, and Hobbes
- Of the natural Condition of Mankind as concerning their Felicity and Misery
- In fear of Jahannam
- Quarrel of a dying empire poisoning modernity
- By Thomas Hobbes:
- By Anthony Burgess:
- By H G Wells:
- By Aldous Huxley:
- By George Orwell:
- By Jordan Peterson: