Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

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Flamesky
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Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by Flamesky » Sun Mar 24, 2019 6:46 pm

This thread is meant to start a discussion of modern fictional wolf characters in general. I've read several books that have wolf protagonists, including The Sight/Fell, Promise of the Wolves, Wolves of the Beyond, Firstborn and others. After reading them, I've noticed some common themes for the main characters that seem to extend to fiction/fantasy about other wild animals as well. We know about the "Wolfy Sue" traits to avoid in user writings. However, I've noticed a lot of books where the protagonist fits one or more of these categories: central to a prophecy or otherwise fated to change their pack, having special distinguishing marks that make him/her different, and having a unique connection with a different species.

Are there other character similarities you have noticed? Do you think fictional wolves mostly follow the same formula, or is each one unique? If so, why do you think that is?
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Re: Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by x1103 » Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:53 am

Jack London's Whitefang was a seriously cool book to read, not so much because of the wolf/wolfdog's story but the way Jack London describes the world, people and nature especially... I read it in finnish but I'm pretty sure the experience wasn't too different. Maybe I liked it because it is so old too.

I have noticed something of a Whitefang cliche in people's personal writings and characters, but not so much in anything published.

Also I've read Maggie Stiefvater's books but they are about humans turning into wolves so maybe they don't belong in this topic... but anyway they're totally different from any other wolf books I've read...

The only one I've read myself from those you mentioned is Promise of the wolves and it has all those things in it you said. Pretty funny. So the other books you mentioned have those same elements too huh? :)

Edit: To actually answer your question, sorry I have a tendency to ramble, maybe the chosen one is a very common thing in general and not just wolf stories... why? Oh I don't know I'm actually a little sick of it myself in games and movies etc. Maybe it's easy? :lol:
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Re: Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by Flamesky » Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:24 am

x1103 wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:53 am
Jack London's Whitefang was a seriously cool book to read, not so much because of the wolf/wolfdog's story but the way Jack London describes the world, people and nature especially... I read it in finnish but I'm pretty sure the experience wasn't too different. Maybe I liked it because it is so old too.

I have noticed something of a Whitefang cliche in people's personal writings and characters, but not so much in anything published.

Also I've read Maggie Stiefvater's books but they are about humans turning into wolves so maybe they don't belong in this topic... but anyway they're totally different from any other wolf books I've read...

The only one I've read myself from those you mentioned is Promise of the wolves and it has all those things in it you said. Pretty funny. So the other books you mentioned have those same elements too huh? :)

Edit: To actually answer your question, sorry I have a tendency to ramble, maybe the chosen one is a very common thing in general and not just wolf stories... why? Oh I don't know I'm actually a little sick of it myself in games and movies etc. Maybe it's easy? :lol:
I think you're right about White Fang being a source of inspiration for many writings on the site, since it is a classic story after all. As for the other books, I noticed that Faolan from Wolves of the Beyond has those same traits, as well as Kaala from Promise of the Wolves. Larka from The Sight has two of the three. She was part of a prophecy and had a gift that allowed her to understand other animals, however she didn't really have distinguishing marks other than a white coat. Faolan had a connection with grizzly bears and a distinctive spiral mark on his paw. While not part of a prophecy he was the reincarnation of the original Fengo, so in a sense he was a chosen one fated to lead his pack to a place they could survive.

Personally, I enjoy reading these books, but if you're a writer you may be better off trying something different so your story isn't too similar to a wolf book that's already published.
<<<<<>>>>>
Come death, come suffering
I will not live in fear

In this fleeting life where time escapes us
The path of least resistance is a slow quiet death
I'd rather burn out than fade away
- KSE
<<<<<>>>>>

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Re: Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by Koa » Mon Mar 25, 2019 11:06 am

I've only read The Sight, Fell, and an abridged of White Fang, but I'm vaguely familiar with the premise of Wolves of the Beyond. All of your observations are fair-- and I'd venture to say that a decent amount of animal-based series, from Warriors to Watership Down, start out this way. That's why I do genuinely want to publish The Hollow, because there aren't any prophecies or special powers involved; at end of the day, it's a tale woven by many others, all of which borrow their foundation from gossip rather than fantastical elements.
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Re: Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by DaniBeez » Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:21 pm

Cool topic!

I haven't read any of the books you guys have mentioned other than Jack London's pair, but I do agree that the "classic" depiction of a hierarchical pack where there is an "alpha" or leader figure is a common theme in animal books, and I think it's because of its utility for character development. The character often has to prove their worth or ability by demonstration or force in order to be recognized as the leader. I think both Fang in White Fang and Buck in Call of the Wild eventually were alphas in their respective circles. Fang was boss of the sled dogs and often won dog fights, and Buck became leader of the wolf pack when he went wild. Rusty too, with Thunderclan! And with Jacob and the werewolf clan in the Twilight series.

This Wikipedia topic is an interesting read about conflicting attitudes in the 20th century regarding writing about nature. Jack London is mentioned!
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Re: Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by Koa » Mon Mar 25, 2019 2:39 pm

DaniBeez wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:21 pm
Cool topic!

I haven't read any of the books you guys have mentioned other than Jack London's pair, but I do agree that the "classic" depiction of a hierarchical pack where there is an "alpha" or leader figure is a common theme in animal books, and I think it's because of its utility for character development. The character often has to prove their worth or ability by demonstration or force in order to be recognized as the leader. I think both Fang in White Fang and Buck in Call of the Wild eventually were alphas in their respective circles. Fang was boss of the sled dogs and often won dog fights, and Buck became leader of the wolf pack when he went wild. Rusty too, with Thunderclan! And with Jacob and the werewolf clan in the Twilight series.

This Wikipedia topic is an interesting read about conflicting attitudes in the 20th century regarding writing about nature. Jack London is mentioned!
Oooh, this is definitely one. Since you've brought up the "rise" of a protagonist (and, in the context of wolf-related literature, the turning of one into an "alpha,") I think that this "rise" also lends itself to surrounding characters that the character is close with, and this includes characters that might have been previously despised or not taken seriously. Fell is an example of the former and I'd say Larka's love interest would fall into the latter if I remember correctly? (With the exception of Watership Down, it's been awhile since I have read any of these books.) Their rise isn't as overt as the protagonist's rise, but I do think there is enough of a pattern in animal literature at least, especially if you look at Fiver and Graystripe in Watership Down and Warriors, respectively.
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Re: Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by x1103 » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:44 am

Oh and Wolf's Rain, how could I forget about Kiba! He is sort of a leader and definitely the chosen one leading others to Paradise... in a way anyway.

What is the Hollow ? (Edit: Found it, I'll read it soon.)
DaniBeez wrote:
Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:21 pm
This Wikipedia topic is an interesting read about conflicting attitudes in the 20th century regarding writing about nature. Jack London is mentioned!
Cool I'll check it out! :D
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Re: Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by DaniBeez » Tue Mar 26, 2019 1:07 pm

I didn't mention this one in my earlier post because I hadn't thought it out yet, but to expand on Flamesky's comment about markings, I realized that animal fiction also commonly makes use of animals' overall body colorations to signify their morality, status, or social values. The popular colors being white and black for fur, and blue and red for eyes. I think this is because unlike human characters, authors can't use clothing to show a character's personality or interests, beyond maybe simple accessories like collars. It's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when people stray from the white-black-blue-red colors, which are probably overused.

Some examples that come to my mind are Wolf's Rain's protagonist Kiba (a white wolf) vs. the dark purple villain Darcia, Off-White's spirits (had either blue or red eyes and earth forms that followed light or dark color themes), Songdog's demons/Old Ones (black eyes in DoD; red and white animals in Woundbearer), SleepySundae's "The Badness" animals (white with blue eyes), NofNA's XX was pure white to symbolize her internal identity struggle.
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Re: Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by LamarWolf » Tue Jul 16, 2019 11:07 am

I've read Wolves of the Beyond, Firstborn, Whitefang, and many others, (I read all of the fiction books with wolf protagonist in the library.) Now in Call of the Wild (and Whitefang) a dog joining a wolf pack is more acceptable because in that time period the dogs where more wild, but there are several books out there where a mother wolf pups die then see finds a husky puppy and takes it in and just can't stand it. Now some fiction is good and unrealistic stuff that happens in Wolves of the Beyond is okay because that series is not suppose to be realistic. I loved Jack London's novels, the writings good, it realistic, and a lot of the events in the stories happened (now I'm not saying Whitefang or Buck is real but dogfights happened and people foolishly trying to cross the yukon when the ice was unstable) but one wolf that I really enjoyed and is quite similar to Whitefang is Kavik the Wolfdog. The term alpha has been rule incorrect but is still something that is used today, but it's still used by professionals today but in a different way then it used to mean, when some one says alpha or alpha pair they are referring to the dominant member or pair of the pack which is the breeding pair, (except when in packs where several females give brith then it which ever is the most dominant, such as in the Junction Butte Pack.) Most books follow the original term alpha term. All in all I enjoy wolf fiction but there are a lot of common unrealistic themes and I would like to see more realistic animal fiction.
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Re: Common Themes for Wolf/Wild Animal Fiction?

Post by DaniBeez » Wed Jul 17, 2019 8:11 am

The wild itself representing the unknown is another big one, in stories that feature both urbanized (known, safe) and wild (unknown, challenging) settings.
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