Your Weekend Creature Comforts: The Dire Wolf
I’ve never actually watched the TV show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but I always think they have the city wrong when I hear about that show. I mean, they probably gave the show that name specifically because it is not always sunny in Philadelphia, but guess what folks, it is indeed always sunny in California. Or at least, it feels that way since I have moved here 4 months ago. So yes, I am rubbing it in, and this week is my last winter creatures post for a while. I have been writing about monsters that love the snow in recognition of all my friends stranded on the east coast in the torrents of another terrible winter. This week I am going to write about a creature that I has become near and dear to my heart since Arthur shared our origin story with you all: dire wolves.
The dire wolf was once a real creature roaming this earth, but during one of the many mass extinctions this planet has faced, this species ceased to exist 10,000 years ago. It’s taxonomic name is Canis dirus, and while the current wolves of our world are direct descendants from this species, the dire wolf was ten times more badass than any present day dogs for many reasons: it was larger, more muscular, and equipped with more powerful jaws than any other canine species that has ever roamed this earth. Which is probably why it has become a figure in many pieces of fiction.
A classic piece of literature, now available in movie format as well, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe features many dire wolves, these entrusted to the White Witch herself. Her use of the wolves as her main trackers, following and capturing or killing her foes, gave them quite a rep.
While I have not read it, one of my family pets was named after Shasta of the Wolves, a novel by Olaf Baker. Interestingly Shasta is not a wolf, but an orphaned Native American child who a dire wolf rescues and decides to raise alongside her own cubs.
One of my favorite portrayals of the dire wolf was from one of my inspirations, Princess Mononoke. She too is raised alongside a family of dire wolves, and becomes quite bad ass in the process. I love how Miyazaki portrays the wolves in this film. In particular, even though they represent the forest and all things natural, they have their inherent dog-behavior they cannot avoid. In one scene even though the wolves know that the boy Ashitaka is important for many reasons, when he collapses on the forest trail they can’t help but jump on him like a toy and shake him by the head with their anger and frustration. These wolves are probably my favorite of all time.
But the dire wolves that are definitely the most famous at this point are those of the family Stark from our beloved Game of Thrones. Thought to be extinct as well except for beyond the wall, when the family Stark stumbles upon an orphaned group of pups whose mother was killed by a stag, it seems fate when there are just enough pups to be given one to each Stark child. Watching these wolves grow up alongside the moral and admirable Starks is wonderful, and I would argue watching Sansa’s wolf Lady get killed is infinitely more painful than watching good ole Ned lose his head any day. The nice thing about these wolves is we will have more books and TV show episodes to look forward to with their appearances.
I am sure there are tons more stories of dire wolves out there, as these canines are something to marvel at for sure. I know I feel better having my wolves at my side, ever my constant companion.
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