Keeping the wolf from the door

I seem to be going into a wolf-theme-related phase. Time to confront the lupine part of my own nature, I guess…


It was only after reading three amazing, and so helpful, responses from three friends this morning that the deeper levels of yesterday’s wolf-dream post unfolded, like dark and vibrant blooms, in my mind.

The dream which so haunted my early childhood, and the images which are stirring up the already-choppy waters of my psyche at present, centres around keeping wolves from the door.

What do we mean by this phrase which, expressed metaphorically in so many fairy stories and folk tales, has become such an important part of human mythology and the collective unconscious?

It seems as if the wolf has come to represent the forces of scarcity and destruction, of hunger and poverty and loss – and this chimes in very well with my childhood dream and a dominant attitude which has recurred in my life: A fear of scarcity which, in fact, has no basis in reality.

My childhood was dogged by the spectre of the wolf howling at the door, of imminent disaster (both financially and medically), of chaos held back by the thinnest thread. We were told constantly that we were ‘hard up’, that we couldn’t afford the things other children had – and, although it was never expressed overtly, the sense we got was that we were just one step away from the modern-day equivalent of the Poor House.

Was it true? No. My parents had a detached house. My father was employed as a teacher. We had ballet lessons and music lessons. The house was extended in 1972. We were not, it has to be said, as well-off as people living in the academic enclaves of North Oxford – but nor were we impoverished.

Yet, the slavering spectre of that wolf hung over everything.

It is only now that I see that wolves have traditionally had a bad press they do not deserve – and that it is not the wolf we wish to keep from our doors, but the fear of hunger and loss of material possessions or money.

We often choose situations in life, albeit subconsciously, which replicate some aspect of our childhood which remains unresolved, which represent an unhealed wound, which give us a second bite at that particular sour cherry.

And so with me: Having picked a soul obsessed with wolves and doors, scarcity and terror, it never occurred to me to question the reality of the scenario painted in such lurid and disturbing detail in front of me. That huge wolf had to be real, didn’t it? That splash of blood on the snow was a warning, wasn’t it? Opening the door would lead to annihilation, surely…

And yet, from the earliest age, I have had a great affinity for dogs – which, let’s face it, are nothing but wolves in a domestic setting! – despite being bitten badly in the thigh by a German Shepherd (surely the most wolf-like of all the breeds). And the fox motif which came so strongly in my recent Foliate Man experience was, I am sure, a loud rap upon the doors of my soul.

Was there any truth in the latter-day wolf-at-the-door inhibition and terror? No, there wasn’t. It was fantasy, a Grimm’s tale as powerful as any written by those brothers so long ago – but, ultimately, reflecting the symbolic forests we all have to battle our way through rather than any true fiscal calamity.

Now? Now, afflicted by the contagion of fear passed down through the decades, I have a choice. I can continue to bolt that door, refuse to look at what is actually outside, shiver and quiver and hide and cry – or I can open the door wide, invite the wolves in and face the true story behind the fiction.

Fear of poverty and hunger are both very potent, and extremely ancient. They have become part of our underworld, the dark places we try and avoid. They are, I often feel, an undercurrent we are unwilling to get drawn into, an area which makes us strive to make so much money that, eventually, we might feel safe; to hoard as much food as we can just in case we are caught out by lean times.

But the act of hoarding gives us neither satisfaction nor reassurance. It becomes a cycle we cannot break out of. We delude ourselves when we continue to think that possessing things, getting what we want, can possibly fill a gaping rent in the spirit.

And the act of controlling others through one’s own fear of scarcity does more damage, in my view, than any tale of mythical wolves tricking equally mythical grandmothers, or gobbling up trios of house-building piggies!

I go to face the wolves!


2 thoughts on “Keeping the wolf from the door

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