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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Gothic Vocabulary: Wolves

We all know it is the fable and fairytale wolf who lawlessly huffs down the little Piggies homes and heartlessly swallows Little Red Riding Hood. It is the dastardly wolf who is behind such popular expressions as:

Cry wolf - raise a false alarm.
Wolf at the door - starvation; financial ruin.
Whose afraid of the big bad wolf - a scoff.
A wolf - a cruel, ferocious or rapacious person; a womaniser.
To wolf - to eat ravenously.
A wolf in sheep's clothing - a deceptive or treacherous person.
A wolf's lair - a sinister or cunning person's base.
A wolf pack - a group of bruisers.
Wolf-whistle - a whistle of sexual liking for a woman.
Throw to the wolves - sacrifice someone to save yourself.
Wolf note - a consistent bum note on a musical instrument.
Wolfy - ferocious, uncivilised.

These wolves are the wolf of allegory, fable, myth, parable, anecdote, yarn, exaggeration and fib. Though wolves are pictured in the common mind as brutal ferocity personified, people who live up close to wolves for a long time are struck by their friendliness and varied but unique individual characters.

* Cultural note on wolves:

In the Middle Ages it was believed that people could tranform into animals. The most ferocious and carnivorous animal was the wolf: it was a symbol of cruelty and hunger and it represented winter, storms and the night. The wolf was thus considered a messenger of death.
Stories about woves (especially fairy tales) were told to the most vulnerable: children, so that they understood the difference between good and evil.
It was later discovered the so-called werewolves suffered from a mental disease called lycanthropy: a psychological pathology which implied cannibalism. Lycanthropes used to howl, run in four legs, eat raw meat and have great delusions. Some of them were believed to be acting under the influence of drugs, some used to rub ointments prepared with belladonna, poppy seeds and aconitum which was poisonous and produced hallucinations. In the XVII, lycanthropes were confined to monasteries.

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