"The Little Gray Wolf"
a Russian folk tale
retold by Carol Price
One day long ago, in the northern woods of Russia, a hunter came upon a wolf den while walking though the forest. In the den was a very young, little gray wolf, all alone.
Little Gray was the young wolf. He and his mother shared the den in the forest. Little Gray played at night in the woods and slept tucked into their den during the day while his mother foraged for food. This day, Little Gray awoke to the noises made by the hunter, but stayed very quiet and sheltered in his den.
The sounds came closer and closer.
All of a sudden, Little Gray was lifted out of his den by big hands and
gently placed in a burlap bag. The hunter thought Little Gray was all
alone and lonely, so he decided to take him home. As he bounced along in his burlap bag, Little Gray decided he must have been picked up by a
hunter, but he did not want to go with the hunter.
The hunter traveled a long distance leaving Little Gray's woods far, far behind them. When they arrived at the hunter's home in the city, he left the burlap bag on the floor while he rested. The burlap bag just lay there for a short period of time because Little Gray stayed real still. He was afraid. Then, he got very, very curious.
The burlap bag started to move. Little Gray crawled, he wriggled, he scratched with his claws, and poked with his nose. He found the opening of the bag, peeked out, and walked out into a room without any trees!
The hunter greeted the small wolf with a welcome, "Hurrah!" and thought the small wolf was very clever to get out the bag by himself. He spoke to Little Gray in a friendly voice and invited the small wolf to play with his black cat and small spotted dog. But, Little Gray was afraid of the dog and cat and the dog and cat were afraid of Little Gray!
Little Gray thought he and the spotted dog kind of had the same coat, so maybe the spotted dog would be ok. But, the spotted dog snarled and bared his teeth; the black cat bristled up like a huge broom and hissed and jumped up on the table knocking off a saucer. The saucer broke making a lot of noise and the spotted dog began to howl. Little Gray tried to crawl back into that burlap bag, but the bag would not open. Little Gray finally found refuge under a chair where he watched the bristled cat and the spotted dog to see what else they might do to scare him.
The hunter felt sorry for his new pet so he moved the black cat and spotted dog into another room, but the little gray wolf remained hidden under the chair all the rest of the day. That night, as the man slept in a bed in the same room where Little Gray hid under the chair and the black cat and spotted dog slept in a the other room, Little Gray came out from underneath the chair and walked around the room. It was dark but it smelled so very different from his night time's in his own woods and he was so lonely toward morning that he began to cry and whine.
Little Gray's whining woke up the dog and made him growl. The growl woke up the cat. The cat ran into the room, jumped onto a chair, and made the chair squeak. The squeaking chair woke up the man who yawned really loud. The yawn was so loud that Little Gray was scared all over again.....so he hid under the chair and stayed real quiet the rest of that very long night.
The next morning, the man put milk down for the black cat, the spotted dog, and Little Gray. Little Gray did not know what the milk was and missed the delicacies his mother always brought back to their den. And, oh, how he missed his mother.
After completing these early morning chores, the man walked out the front door. Little Gray waited until the black cat and spotted dog began to hungrily lap up their individual bowls of milk and slowly, silently padded over to the front door. ..he could smell the outside!
Little Gray poked his nose out the door. Then, he ran quickly over the threshold and down the steps. He sped out of the city and toward the forest. He trotted over the bridge, down a dirt path, and soon was finally in the wild flower meadow that led to his very own forest. He stopped to sniff the so familiar smell that of his cool, fragrant forest. He pricked his ears at the whistles and warbles and other soft sounds made by many, many birds.
He leaped and bounded all the way to his very own mother waiting patiently for him to come home. They sniffed and rubbed against each other, as wolves always do. His mother knew he would be home because all little wolves are very clever and her own Little Gray is the most clever little wolf of all.
Charushin, E.I. Translated by Marguerita Rudolph. The Macmillan Reading Spectrum. New York: The Macmillan Company. 1963.
Canis lupus albus is a large wolf from Northern Russia, which is commonly known as the Eurasian (or Russian) tundra wolf. Unlike the arctic wolf, all tundra wolves do not have a white colored pelt, even though they live on the land adjacent to the Arctic Ocean. Most tundra wolves have a gray color, with mixes of black, rust and silver gray. Although they were eliminated from some of the Arctic islands north of Siberia, they have been recently seen on Wrangle Island.
[From the International Wolf Center.]
Wolf Song of Alaska
International Wolf Center
The illustration is a wolf from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Public domain photograph from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.