Never Cry Wolf is a great book by Farley Mowat. Unfortunately it's almost entirely fiction which isn't so bad for a book that calls itself an "Amazing True Story of Life Among Arctic Wolves" what galls is that it is also scientifically a huge whopper. Now you'd think that a book based on lies roundly mocked by the scientific community would never make it far would you. Well as we all know that isn't the case. Farley's book went on to become the sum total of all I knew about wolves for most of my life, which would still be ok except that it also become just about all anyone outside the rare confines of wolf researchers knew about wolves.
The very successful film version by Disney was directed by the same guy as did The Black Stallion. They had a copy of this film at the remote camp in the arctic where I worked in the winter of 89-90. I only saw a piece of it, as we had a regular shift of 16 hours and our work was walking outside. Cold makes one tired. The images of some actor frolicking with malamute puppies in some warm field are all that has stuck with me.
To this day I see the book version listed as a link as if it's a reference material when it has more in common with Black Beauty.
Specifics bellow the tangled web of deceit
Mowat later admitted to fabricating much of his story to gain acceptance and sympathy for the wolf. He did that in spades.
The specifics of the lies are mind boggling. Never spent time alone in the arctic, never published any scientific reports, didn't write the descriptions of wolves at play, simply plagiarized from Adolph Murie one of the worlds great wolf researchers now passed away. He didn't just lift ideas, he did a cut and paste.
One reviewer wrote.
It takes a special sort of person to endure the frozen wilderness to study arctic wolf behavior at length, and to accept that these beautiful animals are intelligent and amazing killing machines that don't need to fulfill people's desires to view them as non-threatening mouse-eaters. Apparently Mr. Mowat just isn't that special sort of person-- but he is a liar.The greatest lie was that wolves live mostly on small rodents, when every wolf researcher in the world knows wolves eat large prey. Caribou, moose, elk, deer, even beaver for the rich fat supplies, but living on rodents, pure fiction.
Never cry wolf was one of the last books I read by Mowatt. First I read People of the Deer, then And no Birds Sang, and then The Desperate People. Two of the books were about the people we call Eskimos but I think they call themselves something different. Not Inuit, not First Nations People. They live above tree line up past Great Slave Lake in Canada and Mowat told a beautiful heart wrenching tales of desperation and starvation. All that is ruined now as I've no idea if any of it is true.
I have been in some unusual places and seen some unusual things, and I tell of them. But I always try to be as true to my memory and as true to the people who were there as possible. I wish Farley had done the same.
One can tell of the beauty of an animal such as the gray wolf without embellishment.