I’m all for bandwagons when it comes to fiction. If something is selling well, we should make more of it–that’s basic market wisdom. And the laws of innovation dictate that each generation of product should improve on the last. So while Stephenie Meyer updated the timeworn Gothic Wolfman by giving us native-American werewolves whose destiny is to protect humans rather than savage them, those riding her wake are stretching the type even farther, in all directions. We’ve now seen a hero who’s only human once a year, in Shiver, a heroine adopted by werewolves in Raised By Wolves, and–my personal favorite–a Scottish Lykae Wolf-Clan king who falls for a half-vampire, half-Valkyrie girl in A Hunger Like No Other.
But before all this (before Twilight, anyhow) came Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. She wrote a bestseller called Women Who Run With The Wolves. As an undergrad I had the poster on my dorm-room wall: decorated with Aztec-esque designs, it listed the various “Wild Woman” archetypes in world myth as described by Dr. Estes in the book.
La Loba, the mythical wolf woman, gathers dead bones in the desert and sings them back to life. As an archetype she is patroness of all artists busy with the work of invention and creativity. “A healthy woman,” says Estes, “is much like a wolf: robust, chock-full, strong life-force, live-giving, territorially aware, inventive, loyal, roving” (p. 11).
To me this werewolf is more tantalizing and romantic than the repressed and oppressed wolf-boys of recent fiction. The idea that it’s not an either/or scenario–that “loyal” and “roving” can go together, that we can live civilized and responsible lives but call on our inner Loba‘s feral tenacity to create our art–holds real promise and power. Now that’s a wolf I can work with.