The Wolf Bogey in Fairy Tales

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Origins of the Wolf in Fairy Tales

For thousands of years, the character of the Wolf has been featured in numerous legends and fairy tales of Western literature. In European legends dating back to the fourth century B.C., the species was described as a ravening beast that was a bloodthirsty hunter of prey. This was represented in the literature of Romulus and Remus, two early Roman scholars who were said to have been suckled by a she-wolf. Wolves are also depicted as beloved and feared beings in Native American folklore. In most Western fiction, the Wolf is portrayed as a rapacious, selfish beast. The Wolf has also been utilized in Christianity in the Bible as Jesus told the parable of the Wolf in Sheep Clothing showing exactly how long ago reference to the Wolf began to be mad, to imply a greedy and deceitful animal. This history also promoted the propagation of the notion that wolves should be hunted and killed, a tradition which picked up in the medieval era between Christmas and March. The Merchant of Venice also makes reference to the character of the Wolf, where a people's desires are likened to those of a wolf, which are bloody, ravenous, and starved (Shakespeare and Kaplan 138).The character of the wolf in many fairy tales has been used to educate people about the evils that exist in the world through the character of the wolf, as well as the destiny of the wolf which shows that evils are eventually overcome.

The Wolf as a Symbol of Evil

The variety of the historical backgrounds that made reference to the character of the wolf promoted the development of a cultural identity of wolves. These cultures have all told the tale of this animal so as to inform people to beware of characters with attributes among the people they interact with. This encourages the awareness of the evil things that already exist in the world, like deceit, trickery, betrayal, selfishness, among many other vices represented by the wolf. In so doing the character of the wolf and its use in tales also is important for allowing people to understand the cycles of life and to always overcome the evils of life (Zipes 61).

Depiction of the Wolf as a Menacing Persona

In many of the cautionary fairytales, the character of the wolf has played a key role and has been used widely. This character mainly presents attributes of a predatory antagonist and has thus become an archetype of a generic menacing persona in society. This has also been enhanced by the fact that the human society has for centuries depended on stories and tales to bring out the true power of culture in continuing the society. Bogeys like the wolf have therefore widely been used to explain to children the different kinds of evil in the society and how they can be defeated to achieve a harmonious community. The wolf has been brought out as an ordinary character who knows about the strength or good things about his victims and uses this knowledge to prey on his victims and others. This character has been used in the primary reading such as Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs, and in the secondary reading of the Aesop Fable titled The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. In so doing, the bogey is able to teach the reader about the evils that already exist in the world and how positive acts are able to defeat this evil (Marshall 263). As such, the wolf bogey has been used in fairytales for purposes of introducing its reader to the evil and the ugly that exists in the world as well as well as give them assurance of the possibility of defeating that evil.

The Wolf's Greed and Deceit

In the above-stated fairytales, the wolf is painted as a negative character while in the real sense the goal is to give moral lessons to the readers of the story. He is painted as a wicked archetype that represents deceit and trickery in the society and the world. He is also painted as a menacing and ravaging animal that would do anything to get what he desires and as a symbol of greed. For instance in Red Riding Hood, he is depicted tricking a poor and defenseless old lady so he could eat up Red Riding Hood as well as the food in her basket (Trousdale, 161). His conniving ways are also clearly brought out in the Three Little Pigs where he is depicted greedily huffing and puffing throughout the whole story in order to eat the Three Little Pigs. In the story of the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, he is also portrayed going to the extent of changing his appearance so as to get more to eat and he put on sheepskin. The goal of the Wolf was to trick other sheep to eat them. This clearly informs the reader of the concept of greed and selfishness that exists in the world as evil or an ugly trait that they should expect from those that they interact with, in their worldview (Tatar 48). In all the stories, the wolf is shown to not only be greedy but also to go the extra mile of including deceit and trickery so as to make the best out of his opportunity.

Overcoming Evil and Fear

The conniving ways of this character are also seen to come to an end, so as to give the readers an idea that even while there is evil in the world, it can always be overcome. In so doing, the character of the wolf serves to do more than just educate the readers of the existence of the world, but instead to make them aware that the evil in the world can also be overcome. For instance, in the Three Little Pigs, the Wolf manages to destroy the first house through huffing and puffing and almost eats up the three little pigs. He manages to also blow away the second house, but his scary and conniving ways are defeated at the end when the last pig had built a stone house with a strong foundation that the Wolf was unable to blow off. This clearly shows that even when the Wolf got so close to feeding on the three little pigs, his evil and selfish ways were defeated in the end because the last little pig who had failed to take shortcuts like his counterparts. This proves that a good deed of doing what is expected and being responsible for building a house with the right strength was what saved the Three Little Pigs from the wrath of the conniving Wolf. The moral of the story presented by this fairy tale is that these evils that exist in the world can be overcome if one is committed to contributing to their role so as to beat the enemy (Trousdale, 161). On the other hand, the Aesop Fable about the Wolf in Sheep's Clothing also depicts that evil can be overcome. This is because the evil plans of the wolf were overcome even when he wore sheepskin and managed to fool the Shepherd that he was only a sheep. It was overcome one day when he accompanied the flock to the pasture, and when night fell, and the shepherd wanted to eat a sheep for his supper, he accidentally slaughtered the fox. Finally, in the Little Red Riding Hood, the evil of the wolf is also overcome when the lumberjack comes in and opens up the wolf, to remove the Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother from the Wolf who had swallowed them whole. The wolf dies trying to flee as the lumberjack had filled his stomach with stones even when he tries fleeing (Martin 152). While the evil appears to take a toll on the naïve characters that are tricked by the wolves in these three different essays, the Wolf and his evil are destroyed in the end. The archetype of Wolves in fairy tales has therefore also been used to show the readers of such stories that it is possible for the evil in the world to be defeated.

The Symbolic Power of Fear

Across the three tales, the bogey of the Wolf has also been used to depict emotions of fear, and how they can also be overcome. While the character presents evil character traits, he invokes fear and other emotions in the reader, because he is painted as always lurking, and preying on the victims of his deceit (Johnson 38). The wolf is always brought out in the story as a character pretending to be a good person so that he can pounce on the victims the first chance he gets. For instance, in the Three Little Pigs, he invokes fear in the readers when he threatens to huff, puff, and blow the house, always making the characters fear that he was going to get in and eat the pigs. Both the readers and the pigs are filled with fear in knowing that the wolf was about to pounce. Fear is also brought out in the fable of The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing when he successfully poses as a sheep and manages to convince the shepherd that he was only a sheep, and the audience is left in fear that his plan was working and he would have plenty to eat that night. This fear is built to become even a more probable chance that the wolf would have plenty of time to eat the rest of the sheep when night falls, and the shepherd puts his sheep to sleep not knowing that the wolf was among the flock. The readers of the story know that the wolf would pounce on the flock, only for the shepherd to grab on the conniving wolf and have him for his dinner. This is also true for the case of the Little Red Riding Hood, whereby the audience has fear instilled in them that the Wolf would be successful in eating the girl, her sick grandmother, and the food she had in the basket. The wolf brings out the sentiment of fear in the audience as the audience is told in detail how the Wolf got to the girl's grandmother, swallowed her whole and then waited in bed for the girl so he could eat her. The fear is further enhanced at the moment when the little girl comes back to the grandma and starts engaging the wolf who is disguised as the girl's grandmother (Kellert 177). The cultural significance of the Wolf can also be considered as a role of bringing out fear in the audience as explained.

Overcoming Fear for a Positive Outcome

The impact of the emotional depiction of fear brought out in the character of the Big Bad Wolf in these tales serves a cultural purpose of educating the audience about how to overcome the negative and deceitful ways of the different evil things they meet in their journey of life. For instance, in those fearful instances described above can be used to educate the readers on how to overcome the negative ways of the deceitful people associated with evil in the society. This can be achieved through obtaining an interest to identify the motivation and fuel for the evil actions as well as how that person stands to gain. In addition, on an individual note, the depiction if the emotion of fear in the tale also aids to make clear to the readers that fear is also a mental tool that affects those who spend their time thinking negative thing. The knowledge that simply thinking positively and remaining optimistic can be used to overcome fear is the education we obtain from the depiction of fear in these fairy tales. Fear contributes to evil by making us susceptible defeat from this evil (Kellert 177). Therefore, the depiction of fear in the tales also has a cultural significance of educating the readers about how fear works and how they can use this understanding to overcome evil thoughts.

Works Cited

Johnson, Roger T. "On the spoor of the “Big Bad Wolf”." The Journal of Environmental Education 6.2 (1974): 37-39.

Kellert, Stephen R. "Public perceptions of predators, particularly the wolf and coyote." Biological conservation 31.2 (1985): 167-189.

Marshall, Elizabeth. "Stripping for the wolf: Rethinking representations of gender in children's literature."Reading Research Quarterly 39.3 (2004): 256-270.

Martin, Ann. Red Riding Hood and the wolf in bed: modernism's fairy tales. University of Toronto Press, 2006.

Shakespeare, William, and M. Lindsay Kaplan."The merchant of Venice."The Merchant of Venice. Palgrave Macmillan US, 2002. 25-120.

Tatar, Maria. The hard facts of the Grimms' fairy tales.Princeton University Press, 2003.

Trousdale, Ann. "Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?." Children's Literature in Education 20.2 (1989): 161-179.

Zipes, Jack David. Why fairy tales stick: the evolution and relevance of a genre. Taylor & Francis, 2006.

January 18, 2023

Literature Science


Literary Genres Zoology

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Fairy Tale Character Wolf

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