In their den under the fallen oak tree, the four young wolves stared out at the ever-moving wall of snow. Their warm breath puffed out their noses, turning into cold little clouds. It had not been their first winter storm, but this blizzard was rolling over the lands for many days and nights. Whenever the winds died down for a moment of reprieve, one could hear their growling stomachs. Laying in the darkness behind them were the elders; they had endured many winters before and knew this wouldn’t be their last. Then there were two young pups. They had only known summer all their lives, but now winter had been in these lands so long, they barely remembered the warmth of the sun. Here in their den, they were surrounded by dirt, rocks, and gnarly dead roots, reaching out to them like claws in the darkness. All of them dreamed of the day the rivers would thaw, and the world would explode into a lush green again. They dreamed of the hunt, of fresh meat, of blood still warm.
Firn was the biggest, the strongest and often the most brazen of the young wolves. His hunger grew as the snow had grown in front of their den, and he spoke into the darkness: “It has been many moons since we last had a meal. We are hungry and weary of waiting. Why don’t we go out and hunt a meal?” The other juveniles often looked at him for guidance, and now their eyes were fixed on him. They could hear only the wind. After a long time, one of the old voices echoed out to them from the darkness: “It is not the time, young one. We are patient. We wait.” And with that, the matter was settled, and they all returned to their dreams.
Another night passed, but the storm stayed with them. Their dreams were more vivid, their hunger more urgent. Firn rose again and said: “If we wait any longer, we will starve. Why don’t we go out and hunt a meal? Aren’t we fearsome hunters?“
Once again, they waited for the elders to reply. Some of the juveniles began panting. After a long pause, the old voice in the darkness spoke again: “It is not the time, young one. We are patient. We wait.”
“We are wolves, not cowards. Why are we starving ourselves when we should be hunting”, he asked them. There was no response, and all Firn could hear was the whimper of the hungry pups.
“I am not going to wait until we are nothing but bones and fur. I will hunt a meal for us,” Firn snarled back at them. Then without waiting for a response, he walked out into the storm. Shortly after, the three other young ones followed him outside, as they did not want to go hungry another night.
Sinking deeply into the snow and fighting against the harsh winds, they slowly made their way down the hill. They pushed ahead until they reached the woods. Firn tried to find a scent, but all there was, was the crisp smell of fresh snow and the sleeping trees around them. They wandered further into the woods until they were nearly ready to give up on their search for a meal. Then, finally, they spotted a herd of deer, treading through the snow, looking for shelter from the storm.
Like they had observed many times before, the young wolves began to spread out, trying to surround their prey. But the thick layer of snow made their steps clumsy, and the unceasing winds and flurries of snow made it hard to see. Lacking the foliage, they couldn’t hide their hungry shapes from the already wary prey. Then the deer spotted their stalkers and bounded away. Unable to herd them, Firn and the other three wolves started to give chase. The deep snow made it difficult for them to catch up. The deer seemed to bounce effortlessly through the woods. Driven by their hunger, the wolves kept after to a clearing in the woods. The deer had already made it to the other side and the wolves, unwilling to give up, kept following them with Firn bounding ahead. He only heard his heart beating, the wind howling, but not the ice cracking beneath his paws. When he felt the ground breaking, it was already too late, and Firn disappeared into the dark, cold waters.
The other three young wolves abandoned their hunt and carefully returned to the woods the way they had come. They made their way back to the den in silence. Then, when the pack learned what had happened, the cries of the old and the young were carried away by the wind through the valley.
After two mournful nights, the storm finally subsided. The elders emerged from the darkness and spoke to the young ones: “Now it is the time, young ones. Now we hunt again.”
The wolves roamed, and they hunted. They rested, and they mourned. Within time, the frozen landscape transformed into a lush green. The old and the young wandered the woods for many, many miles, until the world like it had done so many times before, turned amber, brown and eventually white again.
Now, whenever one of the young ones asks why they wouldn’t hunt during the storms, the Elders would tell them the tale of Firn. Then they would silently mourn. And the young ones would understand, and they would wait.
Copyright 2019 Sven Camrath
Photo by r3dmax licensed under Creative Commons License Attribution 4.0 International