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Of Wolves and Men

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Originally published in 1978, this classic exploration of humanity’s complex relationship with and understanding of wolves returns with a new afterword by the author. Humankind's relationship with the wolf is the sum of a spectrum of responses ranging from fear to admiration and affection. Lopez’s classic, careful study has won praise from a wide range of reviewers and impr Originally published in 1978, this classic exploration of humanity’s complex relationship with and understanding of wolves returns with a new afterword by the author. Humankind's relationship with the wolf is the sum of a spectrum of responses ranging from fear to admiration and affection. Lopez’s classic, careful study has won praise from a wide range of reviewers and improved the way books on wild animals are written. Of Wolves and Men explores the uneasy interaction between wolves and civilization over the centuries, and the wolf's prominence in our thoughts about wild creatures. Drawing upon an impressive array of literature, history, science, and mythology as well as extensive personal experience with captive and free-ranging wolves, Lopez argues for the wolf's preservation and immerses the reader in its sensory world, creating a compelling portrait of the wolf both as a real animal and as imagined by different kinds of men. A scientist might perceive the wolf as defined by research data, while an Eskimo hunter sees a family provider much like himself. For many Native Americans the wolf is also a spiritual symbol, a respected animal that can strengthen the individual and the community. With irresistible charm and elegance, Of Wolves and Men celebrates careful scientific fieldwork, dispels folklore that has enabled the Western mind to demonize wolves, explains myths, and honors indigenous traditions, allowing us to understand how this remarkable animal has become so prominent for so long in the human heart.


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Originally published in 1978, this classic exploration of humanity’s complex relationship with and understanding of wolves returns with a new afterword by the author. Humankind's relationship with the wolf is the sum of a spectrum of responses ranging from fear to admiration and affection. Lopez’s classic, careful study has won praise from a wide range of reviewers and impr Originally published in 1978, this classic exploration of humanity’s complex relationship with and understanding of wolves returns with a new afterword by the author. Humankind's relationship with the wolf is the sum of a spectrum of responses ranging from fear to admiration and affection. Lopez’s classic, careful study has won praise from a wide range of reviewers and improved the way books on wild animals are written. Of Wolves and Men explores the uneasy interaction between wolves and civilization over the centuries, and the wolf's prominence in our thoughts about wild creatures. Drawing upon an impressive array of literature, history, science, and mythology as well as extensive personal experience with captive and free-ranging wolves, Lopez argues for the wolf's preservation and immerses the reader in its sensory world, creating a compelling portrait of the wolf both as a real animal and as imagined by different kinds of men. A scientist might perceive the wolf as defined by research data, while an Eskimo hunter sees a family provider much like himself. For many Native Americans the wolf is also a spiritual symbol, a respected animal that can strengthen the individual and the community. With irresistible charm and elegance, Of Wolves and Men celebrates careful scientific fieldwork, dispels folklore that has enabled the Western mind to demonize wolves, explains myths, and honors indigenous traditions, allowing us to understand how this remarkable animal has become so prominent for so long in the human heart.

30 review for Of Wolves and Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Fifteen years after first reading Of Wolves and Men, this book is still, in my opinion, the best examination of man's complicated love/hate relationship with canis lupus, and why the survival of the wolves matters to the survival of ourselves -- our inner souls, most of all. Barry Lopez's language is lyrical and magical, close to worshipful, but never preachy or political. This is not a book about environmentalism or preserving a threatened species. It's a love story about wolves. Not dogs, but Fifteen years after first reading Of Wolves and Men, this book is still, in my opinion, the best examination of man's complicated love/hate relationship with canis lupus, and why the survival of the wolves matters to the survival of ourselves -- our inner souls, most of all. Barry Lopez's language is lyrical and magical, close to worshipful, but never preachy or political. This is not a book about environmentalism or preserving a threatened species. It's a love story about wolves. Not dogs, but wolves. Lopez reveals an astute, realistic understanding of the wolf's basic nature as a hunter, but tempers pragmatism with an equal measure of wonder and awe at one of the last truly "wild" warm-blooded North American carnivores --- rivaled only by the grizzly bear at the top of the food chain. Just as we value North America's forests, and wild places everywhere in the world, we cherish the wolf as one of our last links to an untamed, unspoiled primeval past -- one that is forever lost to us.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    “I am in a small cabin outside Fairbanks, Alaska, as I write these words. The cold sits down like iron here, and the long hours of winter darkness cause us to leave a light on most of the day. Outside, at thirty below, wood for the stove literally pops apart at the touch of the ax. I can see out across the short timber of the taiga when I am out there in the gray daylight.” I read Of Wolves and Men the same year I read Lopez's Arctic Dreams; the latter was a gift from my mentor and teacher, a sch “I am in a small cabin outside Fairbanks, Alaska, as I write these words. The cold sits down like iron here, and the long hours of winter darkness cause us to leave a light on most of the day. Outside, at thirty below, wood for the stove literally pops apart at the touch of the ax. I can see out across the short timber of the taiga when I am out there in the gray daylight.” I read Of Wolves and Men the same year I read Lopez's Arctic Dreams; the latter was a gift from my mentor and teacher, a scholar of literacy who was also a lover of the environment. I understood in the process of reading these books that it is indeed a deeply complex thing to understand wolves, or young learners, as if they were One Thing. How we can know a thing—any thing—is complex and difficult work. Lopez wrote this classic text to share with us his basic view that: “We do not know very much at all about animals. We cannot understand them except in terms of our own needs and experiences.” We are ethnocentric, and we are human-centric: “We assume that the animal is entirely comprehensible and, as Henry Beston has said, has taken form on a plane beneath the one we occupy. It seems to me that this is a sure way to miss the animal and to see, instead, only another reflection of our own ideas.” We do no really know wolves; we can only imagine them: “. . . in the wolf we have not so much an animal that we have always known as one that we have consistently imagined.” There may be better, more recent books on wolves. I have read several things in the past decades to help me understand wolves, from the perspectives of those who want to either eliminate or save them in the American west. I side with the savers, based on what I know. But this is a great book, to help us understand wolves, and ways of knowing, with a lot of beautiful writing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    This is as much about man's complicated relationship with wolves as it is about the wolves themselves. Lopez uses a four-pronged approach to telling the story in that he considers four more or less distinct perspectives: Wolves as objects of scientific inquiry, as objects of interest to people bound up in the natural world with them, as objects of hatred for livestock raisers and, finally, as objects of man's literature, religion and mythology; from Aristotle and Aseop up to modern times. They a This is as much about man's complicated relationship with wolves as it is about the wolves themselves. Lopez uses a four-pronged approach to telling the story in that he considers four more or less distinct perspectives: Wolves as objects of scientific inquiry, as objects of interest to people bound up in the natural world with them, as objects of hatred for livestock raisers and, finally, as objects of man's literature, religion and mythology; from Aristotle and Aseop up to modern times. They all have their merit (though the section on industrial killing and wanton torture of wolves in America is possibly too long; the numbers and the brutality become almost mind-numbing and the figures cease to have meaning) but the latter is possibly the most interesting. He argues, convincingly, that throughout history man has externalized his bestial nature. Amends come only from the scapegoat, the wolf and its sacrificial death, on which our sins - the greed, lust and deception - has been cast. Though man's outlook on wolves has soften, at least in pockets, our wrestling with this heritage continues unabated today as Lopez' afterword (in the 25th anniversary edition) makes clear. As illuminating as the book is on its chosen subject(s), Lopez frequently reminds the reader of just how little genuine knowledge we have about wolves, or wild animals in general for that matter, and he has included a quote from Henry Beston that I think perfectly encapsulates what Lopez himself is all about: "We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth." As a technical aside, I read this as an ebook which, in hindsight, I regret. There are many photos and artwork in the book that just doesn't come across very well. A fuller appreciation of those pictures I'm sure would have enhanced the reading experience further.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kaia Gondron

    “Lopez, Barry. Of Wolves and Men.” New York: Scribner, 1978 With shocking and detailed descriptions of a species of animal for which the book is named, Lopez’s novel immediately tosses the reader into a world made only for wolves and their prey. Stunning images compliment his words and add such a unique flavor to his work. Ranging from scientific explanations of wolves’ adaptability to their love and protection of their pack members, this work goes into deep analysis of the wolf and everything tha “Lopez, Barry. Of Wolves and Men.” New York: Scribner, 1978 With shocking and detailed descriptions of a species of animal for which the book is named, Lopez’s novel immediately tosses the reader into a world made only for wolves and their prey. Stunning images compliment his words and add such a unique flavor to his work. Ranging from scientific explanations of wolves’ adaptability to their love and protection of their pack members, this work goes into deep analysis of the wolf and everything that the proud and impressive animal is capable of. The incredibly personal and descriptive diction immediately sucks you in to what Lopez has to say about the wolf. The novel starts out with the focus on one particular wolf whose trek we follow. This introduction of sorts connects you to the species and to the writer all at once, and is awe-inspiring. The way Lopez writes, the reader feels as though they are loping next to this young male wolf. The work graciously dives into a more scientific approach, describing and detailing many of the subspecies, and their characteristics, of Canis lupus, or the wolf. As you read deeper, you as a reader discover that there is so much more complexity to the wolf that what has just been romanticized or chastised over the years. We learn about the communication of the wolf, and how their howl is far from the only noise they make in order to communicate. Lopez speaks with various peoples, ranging from tribes of Eskimo to others that have watched and studied and emulated wolves for years and years. The act of hunting is deeply touched upon, and how it is a sort of communication with the earth. It seems to be almost spiritual, and Lopez makes the act sound almost ethereal, despite the fact that he’s talking about death. Lopez spends quite a bit of time discussing the positive and negative labels society as a whole have slapped onto the wolf, with tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, and other such legends and myths. How the church, in the past, labeled the wolf as an alternate form of the devil himself. How, in short, all of these stereotypes attached to this animal have shone a negative light upon them. Lopez also goes into the impact humans have on wolves. How wolves are killed because they venture into land owned by man and kill their livestock. How this battle between man and beast turned into a massacre, and was eventually more than men avenging their lost livestock – it was murder. Lopez even compares this to a holocaust of sorts, and mirrors it with America’s war on Indians. Through all of the negativity, however, Lopez never loses sight of the true purpose of what he wanted to express: the wolf as a being, and why we should not hate the creature, but should respect and even protect it. “Of Wolves and Men” definitely contributes to the awareness that people have about these predators. Though written decades ago, the book feels like a new friend to me; I feel more connected with the wildlife of the forests surrounding my home. Though many claim to know what wolves are and what they do, Lopez sums it up perfectly in this book. They are creatures of great pride, great compassion, and great loyalty. They care deeply for their pack members, they are determined in their quest for life, regardless of the negative view many have of them, and they are vital in our forest’s survival and are a key part of the everlasting chain of life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    A few random quotes: "Imagine a wolf moving through the northern woods. The movement, over a trail he has traversed many times before, is distinctive, unlike that of a cougar or a bear, yet he appears, if you are watching, sometimes catlike or bearlike. It is purposeful, deliberate movement. Occasionally the rhythm is broken by the wolf's pause to inspect a scent mark, or a move off the trail to paw among stones where a year before he had cached meat." "The movement down the trail would seem rele A few random quotes: "Imagine a wolf moving through the northern woods. The movement, over a trail he has traversed many times before, is distinctive, unlike that of a cougar or a bear, yet he appears, if you are watching, sometimes catlike or bearlike. It is purposeful, deliberate movement. Occasionally the rhythm is broken by the wolf's pause to inspect a scent mark, or a move off the trail to paw among stones where a year before he had cached meat." "The movement down the trail would seem relentless if it did not appear so effortless. The wolf's body, from neck to hips, appear to float over the long, almost spindly legs and the flicker of wrists, a bicycling drift through the trees, reminiscent of the movement of water or of shadows." "The wolf is tied by subtle threads to the woods he moves through. His fur carries seeds that will fall off, effectively dispersed, along the trail some miles from where they first caught in his fur. And miles distant is a raven perched on the ribs of a caribou the wolf helped kill then days ago, pecking like a chicken at the decaying scraps of meat. A smart snowshow hare that eluded the wolf and left him exhausted when he was a pup has been dead a year now, food for an owl. The den in which he was born one April evening was home to porcupines last winter." "I called this exchange in which the animals appear to lock eyes and make a decision the conversation of death. It is a ceremnonial exchange, the flesh of the hunted in exchange for respect for its spirit. In this way both animals, not the predator alone, choose for the encounter to end in death. There is, at least, a sacred order in this. There is nobility. And it is something that happens only between the wolf and his major prey species. It produces, for the wolf, sacred meat. Imagine a cow in the place of the moose or white-tailed deer. The conversation of death falters noticeably with domestic stock. They have had the conversation of death bred out of them; they do not know ho to encounter wolves. A horse, for example-- a large animal as capable as a moose of crackling a wolf's ribs or splitting its head open with a kick-- will usually panic and run. What happens whena wolf wanders into a flock of sheep and kills twenty or thirty of them in apparent compulsion is perhaps not so much slaughter as a failure on the part of the sheep to communicate anything at all-- resistance, mutual respect, appropriateness-- to the wolf. The wolf has initiated a sacred ritual and met with ignorance." "We are dealing with a different kind of death from the one men know. When the wolf "asks" for the life of another animal he is responding to something in that animal that says, "My life is strong. It is worth asking for." A moose may be biologically constrained to die because he is old or injured, but the choice is there. The death is not tragic. It has dignity." "Men in a speculative business like cattle ranching singled out one scapegoat for their financial losses. Hired hands were readily available and anxious to do the killing. There was a feeling that as long as someone was out killing. There was a feeling that as long as someone was out killing wolves, things were bound to get better. And the wolf had few sympathizers. The history of economic expansion in the West was characterized by the change or destruction of much that lay in its way. Dead wolves were what Manifest Destiny cost." "By and large, the kinds of men who did the killing in the 1880s and 1890s were drifters who gave strong lip service to Progress, the mandate to subdue the earth, and the ghoulish nature of the wolf. Ben Corbin, a frontier roustabout who at one point killed wolves for a living, left his wolf-hunting wisdom behind in the pages of a privately printed booklet called The Wolf Hunter's Guide (1901). It is typical of hundreds of other such memoirs in that it has very little to say aobut how to actually kill woves but a great deal to say about the Bible, free trade, the privilege of living in a democracy, and the foulness of the wolf's ways. It expresses the sentiments of the day and is full of bad biology and fantastic calculations."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fox

    What a fantastic book. I've long been in love with wolves, the idea of them and the truth behind them. Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez examines both our conceptions of wolves and the truth of how little we know of the creature. Myths are examined, legislation, and ethology. This book neatly encompasses the bulk of what we know about wolves, what we think we know about them, and perhaps why we want to know more. It's one of the best books on the topic I've ever come across. I truly treasure this What a fantastic book. I've long been in love with wolves, the idea of them and the truth behind them. Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez examines both our conceptions of wolves and the truth of how little we know of the creature. Myths are examined, legislation, and ethology. This book neatly encompasses the bulk of what we know about wolves, what we think we know about them, and perhaps why we want to know more. It's one of the best books on the topic I've ever come across. I truly treasure this book - it serves as a great reminder of both the good and the bad we're capable of as a species.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gill

    3.5 stars Very interesting in most parts. A lot of detail. Lopez covers all aspects of wolves and of their relationship to people. There was a large section about killing wolves. Yes, it was relevant, but I found it hard to read because I found it distasteful. There's a very nice section near the end about wolves in tales and fables.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Richard Reese

    Of Wolves and Men, by Barry Lopez, explores many facets of the long and tempestuous relationship between humans and wolves. Sadly, in an age of infinite information and growing eco-awareness, many people still remain crippled by an overwhelming, totally irrational hatred of wolves. They want them all dead. Now. The people of hunting societies had immense respect for wolves, amazing animals that could survive long arctic winters without tools, clothing, or fires. Both wolves and humans were highly Of Wolves and Men, by Barry Lopez, explores many facets of the long and tempestuous relationship between humans and wolves. Sadly, in an age of infinite information and growing eco-awareness, many people still remain crippled by an overwhelming, totally irrational hatred of wolves. They want them all dead. Now. The people of hunting societies had immense respect for wolves, amazing animals that could survive long arctic winters without tools, clothing, or fires. Both wolves and humans were highly intelligent and social species who spent their lives living in a similar way, on the same land, pursuing the same prey. Wolves were natural predators. Their bodies were perfected for the hunting life by a million years of evolution. Humans were odd creatures, incapable of effective hunting without the use of a collection of clever technology. Eskimos periodically died of starvation, but wolves rarely did. The Eskimos hunted sacred wild animals, and their meat was powerful medicine. It made you strong and alive. The opposite of sacred flesh was the meat of pathetic animals, like domesticated herbivores. This was junk food that would not keep you well nourished. The Naskapi believed that they were being spiritually destroyed as a people by being forced to eat the meat of mutant animals. Hunting societies generally did not hunt wolves for food. Eating wolf flesh was taboo in many cultures. Similarly, wolves did not routinely kill humans for food. But they enjoyed having humans for lunch. There were many stories of wolves digging up corpses. They feasted on the piles of humans killed by the Black Death, and they regularly appeared on battlefields to dine on unlucky soldiers and horses. Wolves and ravens were frequently the companions of mighty war gods. When humans migrated into North America, they probably brought three or four types of dogs (domesticated gray wolves). Dogs assisted in hunting, pulled or carried loads, and provided fur and meat. They were not pets. Nuisance dogs were promptly dispatched. The Nunamiut believed that wolves had souls, but their sled dogs didn’t. The Sioux referred to wolves as shunkmanitu tanka, “the animal that looks like a dog (but) is a powerful spirit.” Dogs were not allowed in their ceremonial lodges. Big trouble came when “problem humans” appeared, and began the bizarre and unnatural practice of domesticating livestock, poultry, and water fowl. They were completely out of balance with the family of life. Problem humans rapidly expanded in numbers, destroyed the ancient forests, and exterminated the animals that the wolves depended on. Before long, the countryside was cluttered with passive dim-witted beasts. Eventually, there was nothing for the wolves to eat except for junk food. A farm family might wake up in the morning to find that wolves had killed all of their enslaved critters, and this did not amuse them. Lopez once asked Eskimos a question: if you decided to start herding reindeer, would you exterminate the wolves? “No.” They would expect some predation. It would be insane to kill off their sacred relatives in order to maximize meat production. But problem humans resented anything that lived on their land for free, and long ago they began the War on Wolves. An enthusiastic European wolfer in 1650 might kill 20 or 30 wolves in his life, but an American wolfer in the late nineteenth century, armed with kegs of strychnine, might kill 4,000 or 5,000 wolves in ten years. By collecting bounties and selling pelts, a wolfer could make $1,000 to $3,000 in four months — big money at that time. The game was: (1) shoot a few buffalo, (2) lace their meat with poison, (3) return the next morning and skin 20 or 30 dead wolves. The strychnine hunters went crazy. Cowboys never passed a carcass on the range without poisoning it. They shot birds and painted them with poison. Farm dogs died. Children died. Anything that ate meat died. Prior to white settlement, the Great Plains was home to an incredible abundance of wildlife. Lopez estimated that between 1850 and 1900, 500 million wild animals died. Such insanity staggers the imagination. Today, the killing continues. Problem humans are using dynamite to blow up predator dens, and shooting them from planes and helicopters. They stake out dogs in heat, and then beat to death the wolves that mount them. Why? Why? Why? Lopez takes us back to old Europe in search of answers. In the medieval mind, anything evil was associated with wolves. The wolf and the devil were one. Werewolves and witches were tortured and brutally murdered in great numbers during the Inquisition, an enterprise controlled by the well-educated, Jesus-adoring, upper class. Victims included anyone odd or unpopular: the insane, simpletons, epileptics, people with Down’s syndrome. Our experiment with civilization was turning into a horror show, as they always do. From another source, I’ve learned that problem humans were not just Christians. The Japanese raised far less livestock, so wolves were not a major threat to them. Wolves were seen as spirit messengers, and shrines were built to venerate them. But the last Japanese wolf was killed in 1905. Oddly, some still believe that the wolves continue to survive. Lopez does not give us an exact diagnosis for our sickness, nor an antidote. Our problems are rooted in a failure to understand our place in the universe. They reflect self-loathing. We kill wolves, werewolves, and witches in a futile effort to erase our animal nature. We have been taught to believe that our strong and normal hunger for pleasure and life is shameful and wrong. We have been taught that humans are the center of the universe, elevated above everything else in Creation. Until we outgrow that idiocy, we will remain spectacularly crazy, and doomed to a short performance on our sweet and beautiful planet.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I find wolves fascinating, so I am glad I read this nonfiction classic from the late 70s. This would make a perfect companion piece to American Wolf. My only quibble, was the wolf folklore section. It went on far to long, otherwise I recommend it to any nature lovers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    My journey with this book begins in Yellowstone. Late one night, my brother, a friend, and myself, accompanied by my red heeler dog, ventured up into the caldera for some star-gazing and camping. Instead of a restful sleep, we were stalked by a wolf who howled chillingly over and over as others joined in the chase. We made it back to our car and the night grew silent. The next day, driving through Shoshone, Wyoming, a woman was selling by the side of the road "Of Wolves and Men" by Barry Holstun My journey with this book begins in Yellowstone. Late one night, my brother, a friend, and myself, accompanied by my red heeler dog, ventured up into the caldera for some star-gazing and camping. Instead of a restful sleep, we were stalked by a wolf who howled chillingly over and over as others joined in the chase. We made it back to our car and the night grew silent. The next day, driving through Shoshone, Wyoming, a woman was selling by the side of the road "Of Wolves and Men" by Barry Holstun Lopez. This book came to me at a perfect time. Holstun's writing is clear, intelligent, well-researched, and also animates his subjects as characters with personalities. The book is organized like a sonata, and goes through some expository sections about the wolf and our relationship to him -- hitting on the science, on the mythology, on the history -- and ends with a powerful climax that is literally the explosion of the supernova in the wolf-star Lupus. In doing so, Lopez succeeds in painting a portrait of the wolf and man that stretches across the reaches of space from the mundane to the cosmic. Very impressive, and beautiful. That said, some readers might find some of the expository parts a little too long or pedantic. Though this is not what I felt -- and I found the writing artfully balanced on the line dividing too little from too much -- I can understand that sentiment. Different strokes for different folks, I guess!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy

    If I could only have three wolf books with me on a desert island, this would absolutely be one of them. The other two change depending on my mood, but I wouldn't leave this one behind. Of Wolves and Men offers wonderful insights into the biology and behavior of wolves. But its greatest value is its discussion of wolf mythology and of our own complex and often disturbing attitudes about wolves. What amazes me is that this book was written in 1978 and, although some of the science on behavior and If I could only have three wolf books with me on a desert island, this would absolutely be one of them. The other two change depending on my mood, but I wouldn't leave this one behind. Of Wolves and Men offers wonderful insights into the biology and behavior of wolves. But its greatest value is its discussion of wolf mythology and of our own complex and often disturbing attitudes about wolves. What amazes me is that this book was written in 1978 and, although some of the science on behavior and biology has changed, the political issues Lopez explores are still completely relevant. Like all of Barry Lopez's work, it's beautifully written and meticulously researched. Lopez does a remarkable job of pulling together an amazing amount of wolf lore and wolf history into a readable and revelatory book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Lewis

    It can't be emphasized too strongly that the wolf simply goes about his business; and men select only those (few) things the wolf does that interest them to pay attention to. We do not know very much at all about animals. We cannot understand them except in terms of our own needs and experiences. We seem eager to be corrected, to know how wrong our ideas about wolves have been, how complex the creature really is, how ultimately unfathomable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Rush

    In one sense Of Wolves and Men is not really so much about wolves, rather wolves are the alien species Lopez uses to expose how Mankind tries to understand the world, and how fear and misunderstand and plain stupidity inform that understanding (or more accurately our mis-understanding) The broad stories he uses are Native American and more recent Eskimo view of wolves, Western folklore’s influence on our modern approach to wolves and some actual scientific information about wolves. BUT I think th In one sense Of Wolves and Men is not really so much about wolves, rather wolves are the alien species Lopez uses to expose how Mankind tries to understand the world, and how fear and misunderstand and plain stupidity inform that understanding (or more accurately our mis-understanding) The broad stories he uses are Native American and more recent Eskimo view of wolves, Western folklore’s influence on our modern approach to wolves and some actual scientific information about wolves. BUT I think the overriding point of the books is an observation on how humans try and fail to find their place in the world. And connected to that, what “rights” do we have over the other animals of planet Earth? Of course “rights” in itself presuppose some law that has logical outlines on who can do what to whom. The Native Americans, well mostly the plains Indians and not those who were farmers, are portrayed in a pretty positive light. And he sees in them a more connected life (to the rest of the world) because they lived a hunter’s life and that allowed them to experience life a little more like a wolf would. So the traits they valued they could see in the wolf. But aside from respect for the wolf they developed a respect for the prey that they hunted. To the point hunting became a holy endeavor. (Indians perception of wolves) ..the line between Indians and wolves may fade, not because Indians did not perceive the differences but but because they were preoccupied with the similarities. PG 98 Hunting is holy. It is not viewed in the same light as an activity like berry picking. Game animals are holy. PG. 90 Although one wonders if the Navajo or Hopi were farming at the same time did they viewed the plants as holy. Another big part is wondering where came the vehement hatred of wolves that drove the 19th and 20th century extermination of wolves from the lower 48 states. Some is traced back centuries of custom and folklore, but the upshot is humans not only cannot see animals as fellow creatures but once labeled they become the container of our vengeance It is a violent expression of a terrible assumption: that men have the right to kill other creatures not for what they do but for what we fear they may do…Killing wolves has to do with fear based on superstitions. It has to do with “duty”. It has to do with proving manhood. PG 140 Ultimately I think this book is a plea to humanity to accept that wolves (and other critters I assume), that while they could be a personal threat do have a place in the world, and if we make room for them our existence is immeasurably improved. But he is honest enough to note just saying wolves have a place doesn’t explain it all, HOWEVER if we accept we don’t know everything and accept mystery as well as wolves we will again be immeasurably improved. To reduce my own review, I think he is saying despite all the modern marvels, we don’t really know ourselves, and how we treat wolves is a very clear expression of that. But the scope, casual irresponsibility, and the cruelty of the wolf killing is something else. I do not think it comes from some base, atavistic urge, though that may be part of it. I think it is that we simply do not understand our place in the universe and have not the courage to admit it. PG 196

  14. 5 out of 5

    R. Garcia Vazquez

    The image that stays with me after having read this book is that of an Arctic wolf racing across a wide snow-covered plain while being chased by a low-flying helicopter. The so-called “hunter” (in this case a man with enough money to commission a helicopter pilot to fly him close enough to the Arctic shelf to get a safe, comfortable, and unobstructed view of his prey) pulls the trigger and a shot rings out. Immediately the wolf’s white flank blooms red. The wound slows the wolf’s pace, but he ke The image that stays with me after having read this book is that of an Arctic wolf racing across a wide snow-covered plain while being chased by a low-flying helicopter. The so-called “hunter” (in this case a man with enough money to commission a helicopter pilot to fly him close enough to the Arctic shelf to get a safe, comfortable, and unobstructed view of his prey) pulls the trigger and a shot rings out. Immediately the wolf’s white flank blooms red. The wound slows the wolf’s pace, but he keeps running, leaving a long trail of blood over the snow-covered plain. The helicopter slows a bit to maintain its ideal distance, flying maybe fifteen feet above ground and parallel with the wounded wolf. The “hunter” takes his time, aims, fires, and the wolf stumbles and topples over into the snow. Barry Lopez’s book is more an expression of reverence for life than an accusation. It’s also a compendium of all kinds of fascinating wolf information including scientific studies, interesting stories, mythology, mysticism, and wolf history (which I found quite sobering in its address of horrors committed by humans against wolves and other animals). I never did buy into the big bad wolf stereotypes. Wolves are smart and courageous for the most part, and though each remains a distinct individual, a wolf is always ready to sacrifice for the pack when necessary, often at great risk to itself. Isn’t that selflessness what we most admire in our fellow humans? Those who sacrifice for their families, their communities, and their countries – we call those people heroes. This book has a wide, almost encyclopedic scope. I found Of Wolves and Men to be fascinating, informative, and at times heartbreaking. I left it feeling that we humans have much to learn from the animals with whom we share a home in this tiny corner of the Milky Way.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Barry Lopez has dedicated his incredible career as a writer and thinker to exploring the confluence of nature and culture. Most of his fiction explores the subject through the lens of individuals, scientists and shamans and aesthetes, historical figures and travelers. Most of his non-fiction is place based, though the focus ranges from cities to islands to the entire Arctic. Rather than offering his own viewpoint, then (though it is not concealed and certainly emerges throughout the book), Lopez Barry Lopez has dedicated his incredible career as a writer and thinker to exploring the confluence of nature and culture. Most of his fiction explores the subject through the lens of individuals, scientists and shamans and aesthetes, historical figures and travelers. Most of his non-fiction is place based, though the focus ranges from cities to islands to the entire Arctic. Rather than offering his own viewpoint, then (though it is not concealed and certainly emerges throughout the book), Lopez offers a panoply of myths, stories, and perspectives. The stories told by modern science (remembering that the book was published in 1978) ground our exploration, and surely Lopez's readers as a rule couldn't accept another starting point. But while we tend to want to trust this body of knowledge, and Lopez doesn't slander its epistemology and potential, it is rather thin and unsatisfying. There simply hasn't been enough work done for a complete picture of wolf behavior and ecology to emerge. But this is not why Lopez turns to other viewpoints. Native American mythology, hunters' tales, and Christian folk legend aren't inferior alternatives to science, though they are not treated as epistemological equals either. By presenting these four viewpoints on the wolf, Lopez investigates human imagination of the wolf, its social construction by these four distinct societies. With the wolf as a fixed point of reference, Lopez is able to compare and contrast the symbology and sentiment humans have historically mapped onto nature – the contrast between European and Native American cultures of course stand in stark contrast, while the contemporary viewpoint is in some ways even more distinct from its historical roots. In each part, Lopez explores both stories and their roots and counterparts in economics, social movements, and actual ecology. Plains and Arctic Indian groups see wolves as counterparts, intelligent and skillful hunters who employ more or less the same tactics on the same prey, but manage to survive without the aid of technology. The idea of the wolf (and indeed many of the stories include spirit versions of animal species, concepts in many ways identical to Plato's Ideals) is called on to grant warriors its admired traits. Frontier hunters and rangemen made wolves a scapegoat for the manifold factors responsible for business downswings. Killing them was a tangible way for them to improve their fortunes, something they could respond to, unlike price drops and droughts. And it provided an easy, cheap way for politicians to placate the angry rancher lobby. The last part focuses on medieval European folk tales about wolves. Compared to Native Americans, European stories show a conspicuous absence of actual wolves, a reflection of ecology but more so of modes of production and religious politics. The medieval compendium of knowledge about natural history, the physiologus, is full of folk remedies premised in religious allegory. It makes explicit what is now a post-modern revelation for young environmentalists: our ideas about nature are social projections, not Truth (a point Lopez makes subtly by placing scientific perspectives on the same playing field as the rest). Beyond the physiologus, wolf stories in Europe were dominated by the werewolf. I didn't realize this, but apparently werewolves were burned and boiled to death as often as witches, if not more. Anticipating the fate of North America's wolves, they were treated as scapegoats for moral issues. Wolves, and their human counterparts, became icons for everything bad about humans. Their intelligence was acknowledged, was the premise for their place as the perfect sinner: wolves are smart enough to know it's wrong, yet they kill for pleasure and steal with abandon, with gluttony. They have an endless appetite not just for meat but for death and destruction in general. While most “werewolves” were men afflicted with epilepsy, autism, simple lack of socialization, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, some among the poor, desperate, and disenfranchised may have sought out the dark power of the werewolf, making a deal with the devil, etc, intentionally. The thing I found most interesting about this, for better or worse, was its relevance to modern genre fic tropes. I saw in werewolf stories the missing piece that explained what the Sith are in Star Wars, and by extension, what villains and mooks in comic books and fantasy are in general. They are the legacy of the embattled Christian worldview. Christians in 1100s Europe didn't, couldn't, see wolves as just animals going about their lives as God made them, and much less could they see the poor and afflicted as people. The Sith, villains in general, are incarnations of evil, servants of the Devil, because they are stories about good conquering evil: reenacting the central drama of our culture is their ultimate raison d'etre. The idea that this portrayal is psychologically lacking wouldn't have occurred to anyone until recently; only recently has the concept that the Devil employs servants to tempt Christians and introduce sin to the world begun dying out. While werewolves are mythological creatures projected onto a bunch of innocent scapegoats, an idea that serves to define a moral community, in fiction they are actually real things. Unlike the Devil and “Evil” in our world, the the dark side actually exists in Star Wars. The whole thing brought home to me more than I'd realized before – and I feel foolish at how stunningly apparent it is in retrospect – that modern good v. evil comic book fiction is an extension, optimistically the last dying gasps, of an obsolete worldview that has no place in a cosmopolitan, post-modern society. Which is kind of rough for me, cuz I love Star Wars :S

  16. 4 out of 5

    Judith

    I first heard of Barry Lopez when someone I knew recommended that I read Arctic Dreams. That book will always remain one of my favorites. There are moments in there that transcend anything other "nature writers" offer. This is because Lopez is always trying to see the world through the eyes of the animals, or at least doing his best to not let his own cultural conditioning get in the way. In Of Wolves and Men, Lopez explores the subject of wolves from many viewpoints. He looks at the wolf in the I first heard of Barry Lopez when someone I knew recommended that I read Arctic Dreams. That book will always remain one of my favorites. There are moments in there that transcend anything other "nature writers" offer. This is because Lopez is always trying to see the world through the eyes of the animals, or at least doing his best to not let his own cultural conditioning get in the way. In Of Wolves and Men, Lopez explores the subject of wolves from many viewpoints. He looks at the wolf in the wild: how it operates, what it is really like, how some other human cultures have come to embrace it. He also looks at the sad history of man's war on wolves, a war not deserved by this incredible creature. It seems a little odd to me that we forget where dogs come from when we attack wolves, but of course the lore about wolves goes back to ancient times. Lopez explores the mythology and the history of writing about wolves, how they have been portrayed over the centuries. Finally, he hopes that we can finally allow the wolf to be. There are many beautiful lines in here. I have added them as favorite quotations on Goodreads.com. So much about perception and reality. Lopez is not only a fine nature writer; he is a fine writer period.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kris Irvin

    A fascinating study of men's reactions to wolves. Not so much about wolves as it is about the mythology, demonizing, and killing of them. There's still some wolf-y information, but for someone who has studied wolves for a lifetime, it's nothing new. Still, I enjoyed reading about the different legends about wolves from different cultures. I found the Pawnee legends particularly interesting. The chapters on wolf hunting and the eradication of wolves was hard to read. It was presented well, very s A fascinating study of men's reactions to wolves. Not so much about wolves as it is about the mythology, demonizing, and killing of them. There's still some wolf-y information, but for someone who has studied wolves for a lifetime, it's nothing new. Still, I enjoyed reading about the different legends about wolves from different cultures. I found the Pawnee legends particularly interesting. The chapters on wolf hunting and the eradication of wolves was hard to read. It was presented well, very straightforward and factual, but it made me sick to my stomach to think about. 2 million wolves killed in 2 years? I can't even. And there were a few pictures that, again, while not graphic, hurt to look at. My favorite part of this book was the last chapter, where Lopez talks about his two wolf-hybrids, Prairie and River. I would like to read an entire book devoted to Prairie and River. A good read for anyone who is interested in learning about wolves and human's reactions to them. Can be kind of dry and pedantic in places, but it's a textbook - what are you expecting?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel M

    extremely interesting, the ideas that are touched upon are incredible. like the conversation of death between prey and predator. its non fiction, but it doesn't slow you down with a bunch of facts, yet it still proves the ideas. the pictures of wolves i find awesome, and i have been drawing some out of the the book. the similarities between Inuit hunting techniques and wolf hunting techniques is close. so fair i really like the book. i have now stared on the more mythological medieval historical s extremely interesting, the ideas that are touched upon are incredible. like the conversation of death between prey and predator. its non fiction, but it doesn't slow you down with a bunch of facts, yet it still proves the ideas. the pictures of wolves i find awesome, and i have been drawing some out of the the book. the similarities between Inuit hunting techniques and wolf hunting techniques is close. so fair i really like the book. i have now stared on the more mythological medieval historical section. i just finished the saddest chapter, it was the holocaustic destruction of wolves. but the author does not judge the hunter or support them he is very logical and gives reason why the wolves were hunted. sad but it was an interesting thing to read. i personalty liked when the hunters would feel regret all in all i loved the book and took away a lot from it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Lopez makes a point in the beginning that not much is known about wolvse (especially at the time that this book was written) so if you're looking for an informative source on wolves for a project, perhaps this isn't it. But he does show off some flair in his writing, and I think some of the meanings that Native Americans have put behind wolves are interesting.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    In a world where wolves are misunderstood and persecuted, this should be required reading. very hard to read at times but if you love wolves as I do, you have a duty to read it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Nearly forty years later, my only wish is that Lopez had continued updating this book, one of his first clear looks into the order of the natural world and how we as humans insist on disrupting it. In the case of wolves? Because we're afraid. Because we're prone to lying to ourselves, placing blame for events on the wolves when truly it was our doing (our greed, usually) all along. Because we seemingly intrinsically have this need to eradicate other apex predators, as if they were truly a threat Nearly forty years later, my only wish is that Lopez had continued updating this book, one of his first clear looks into the order of the natural world and how we as humans insist on disrupting it. In the case of wolves? Because we're afraid. Because we're prone to lying to ourselves, placing blame for events on the wolves when truly it was our doing (our greed, usually) all along. Because we seemingly intrinsically have this need to eradicate other apex predators, as if they were truly a threat to our status at the top. Lopez writes so clearly about all of this, of course. He finds the humanity in everyone he talks to, something I'm quite certain I couldn't have done. He is kind and he is gentle and yet he does not mince the truths of how men have so frequently impeded and attempted to eradicate wolves. This is a sad story, no less sad forty years later (for how few lessons have we actually learned!), but stunningly beautiful nonetheless, and perhaps my favorite Lopez. (High praise, given how much I love everything of his I've ever read.) [5 stars minus a half-star for it's age / lack of updating is still 4.5 stars for one of the best bits of ecolit I've read this year.]

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Interesting look at the wolf from multiple perspectives: a scientific overview of wolf behavior; an historical account of wolf hunting in the United States; a discussion of representations of the wolf in European and Native American culture, etc. The book feels a bit dated (it was written in 1978), and in many places, Lopez makes sweeping claims (about, for example, the culture of the Middle Ages -- as if it were one unified thing -- and about the religious practices of Native American tribes) w Interesting look at the wolf from multiple perspectives: a scientific overview of wolf behavior; an historical account of wolf hunting in the United States; a discussion of representations of the wolf in European and Native American culture, etc. The book feels a bit dated (it was written in 1978), and in many places, Lopez makes sweeping claims (about, for example, the culture of the Middle Ages -- as if it were one unified thing -- and about the religious practices of Native American tribes) when he would have been better served by more careful scholarship. But despite the broad overview nature of the book, he raises fascinating questions about how our understanding of a nonhuman species like the wolf includes scientific knowledge as well as a complex fabric of cultural, mythological, and religious ideas and stories. Having read Lopez's other book, Arctic Dreams, which is beautifully written, I was a little surprised to find the prose of this earlier book a little clunky.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    This is a beautiful and scholarly account of how human interpretation of wolves has changed throughout time and across cultures. The human-wolf relationship is such a nuanced one. While I enjoyed reading about wolf biology, the history of human-wolf interactions within this book was even more eye-opening. How cruel we've been to wolves! Truly, we all have more to learn when it comes to respecting animals other than ourselves. This book taught me so much, and its ideas will definitely stay with m This is a beautiful and scholarly account of how human interpretation of wolves has changed throughout time and across cultures. The human-wolf relationship is such a nuanced one. While I enjoyed reading about wolf biology, the history of human-wolf interactions within this book was even more eye-opening. How cruel we've been to wolves! Truly, we all have more to learn when it comes to respecting animals other than ourselves. This book taught me so much, and its ideas will definitely stay with me.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Carrabis

    I read Of Wolves and Men about a year before reading Lopez's Arctic Dreams. I'm not sure which one he wrote first. They are both excellent reads, both a wondrous blend of ecology, environmentalism, philosophy, sociology, psychology and frustration. As I wrote in my review of Arctic Dreams, Lopez is a gifted narrator with a strong voice. Excellent and suggested reading.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Jones

    Barry Lopez did an excellent job of outlining the history of the wolf. The book began with the modern understanding of the wolf and followed the wolf’s history to ancient times. Throughout this account, the reader is educated about the struggles that wolves have encountered with humans. We also learn about the misunderstandings that have triggered this struggle. Lopez ends his historical review with a summary of his own accounts with wolves. He concludes with the idea that it seems humans have f Barry Lopez did an excellent job of outlining the history of the wolf. The book began with the modern understanding of the wolf and followed the wolf’s history to ancient times. Throughout this account, the reader is educated about the struggles that wolves have encountered with humans. We also learn about the misunderstandings that have triggered this struggle. Lopez ends his historical review with a summary of his own accounts with wolves. He concludes with the idea that it seems humans have finally begun to embrace the mysticism of wild animals. This book was not what I expected. I expected a collection of observations about wolves. I think wolves are incredible! This book was tough to finish because the historical accounts were just a bit much for me. However, I learned a lot about how the vision of wolves has remained largely the same throughout time. If you love history, literature, and wolves, this would be an awesome read!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Hartman

    If you want to know more about wolves, this is the book for you. Some things have changed in the 40 years since he wrote the book, but I definitely feel much more knowledgeable than I did when I picked it up.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Really Enjoyed Mr. Lopez has ignited my imagination and awareness of how we as humans live in the natural world. My sense of curiosity has been awakened.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Skipr

    Good book. It's just that after a couple of hundred pages, I realized I now knew all that I wanted to know about wolves.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Lots of interesting information, but the writing is a bit uneven.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Roark

    Very interesting reading... makes you think about the folklore we've told and believed about wolves over a very long time, and how that has impacted human treatment of wolves over the years.

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