Now and then I come across a piece of writing that sets my heart howling. Like hearing a song that ignites you to break dance or watching a film that moves you to take part in your own life. Maybe you brush your fingertips across a painting that you long to crawl into because the grass is that perfect and it’s warm, acrylic wind sweeps up around your skin and brings you in. That’s how I feel about this fantastically absurd story of a home for girls raised by wolves.
The parents in the tale are werewolves who want a better life for their human children. A group of nuns take the savage girls into St. Lucy’s to be groomed and normalized for civilized society. The idea of these girls marking their rooms, wearing shoes on their fisted paws and learning to stand up on two legs is delightful because it is so bizarre, so ridiculous to imagine that they can somehow be made normal. They are really trying despite the fact that their words are more like growls.
Where reality is vulnerable, the notion of being raised by wolves brings primal romance. Imagine a place where inherent wildness is valuable and under protection from the pack. Survival is amplified with the keen senses of the wolves living telepathically as one with the cavernous, dark trees. Those who cannot connect safely, can relate to the desire to say that “Yes, I was raised by wolves and therefore cannot eat without making a mess or color inside your heavy lines! No I cannot quiet and soften where I am harsh and rough!”
There’s something alluring about these feral images. The deep inner call to tear with pointed teeth. Any child who has been hurt can tell you what it’s like to bristle and spit at every shadow. If only there were claws instead of fingernails and jowls instead of jaw, there would be some way to wear that old wild coat less painfully. How comforting it would be if there was a great furred pack surrounding our fragility.
Often in my life, I’ve felt like an impostor. Walking around in clothing and brushed hair while keening to bolt into the woods and take up shelter in her earthy folds. I could dig out a bed under a pine tree and circle into the soft needles. I could transform into my true criatura, let the wild woman howl right through my tangled fur. It’s what writing does for me. Here I roam unhindered with my paws out of my shoes. I am protected by my pack. One man, two dogs, one cat. They lick my wounds and nudge me back onto the path where I am writing my own heart out on the page.
I wonder what happened to the girls after they finished at St. Lucy’s. Do I ever pass them on the street and get a scent of that old legend that they lived before they polished up and blended? Maybe we all attended there in some way or another. Maybe we’re howling to each other when we nod and say good morning.
Thank you, Karen Russell, for this wonderfully strange vision.
photo credit: Douglas Brown via photopin cc