The Cry of the Wolf
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The Cry of the Wolf is a novel for children or young adults, written by Melvin Burgess and published by Andersen Press in 1990 (ISBN 1849393753). Set on the island of Great Britain, it features a grey wolf raised partly by humans after learning only a little from its mother before her death. --and the hunter who killed her, who is obsessed with personally eliminating the species from the wild.
The Cry of the Wolf was Burgess's first novel. He was a highly commended runner up for the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject.[a]
Tambourine Books published the first United States edition in 1992. Translations have been published in Danish, Norwegian, French, Spanish, Lithuanian and Slovenian languages, at least.
- Always before, he had been the Hunter. Now he had been the prey and he had survived. He would live. He would kill again.
The book tells the story of a man who tries to kill the last wild wolves in England, and the wolf, raised among humans, who will try to strike back. What if there were still wolves in England and only a few people knew it? What if one of those people was an obsessive, half-mad, extremely able hunter who was determined to have the honour of killing the last wolf in England? We are with the last wolf cubs as they are born short minutes before the slaughter begins. The female survives, wounded by The Hunter, only long enough to teach her sole surviving cub a few skills before she too is killed by the man. The cub, Greycub, is reared by Ben and his family and, being a social animal, waits in vain for the sound or scent of a remaining wolf. This is not to be for he is the last wolf in England. Regretfully leaving his human friends, he roams for years searching for sign of his species. In a bizarre but very fitting climax to the story, Greycub becomes the hunter and The Hunter knows, too late, the feeling of the prey.
This is a raw and brutal book and, to be sure, a cautionary tale about extinction. However, the focus is on obsession verging on madness. Ben, the boy who rears Greycub, becomes an innocent betrayer of the wolves for it is he who first alerts The Hunter to the presence of the wolf pack. The book reads like non-fiction with an almost detached manner but the brutality is so compelling that detachment on the part of the reader is nearly impossible. In fact, the feelings of readers would make for a fascinating discussion. At which point did they become engaged? Did they ever feel any sympathy for The Hunter? How did the author do that? Also, there is some anthropomorphism present. Could Burgess have done the book without it?
Greycub – Son of Silver and Conna. Main character of the story, he grows up to live alone in Scotland where he kills his enemy, the Hunter.
Silver – Greycub's mother. Her original mate was killed by the Hunter, she then mated with Conna. She is described as being cunning and intelligent.
Conna – Father to Greycub, second mate to Silver. He is a skilled hunter, killed just before Silver.
Jenny – The Hunter's trustful hunting dog, she had an accident with a hyena, making one of her front legs smaller than the other. Killed by the Hunter for betraying him.
Goldface – Silver's original mate, the first kill of the Hunter.
Cacoo – Conna's cousin. Killed by the hunter.
Brindles – An old wolf in Silver's pack. Killed by the Hunter.
Clapper – A farm dog. Killed by the Hunter when he kidnaps Greycub.
Bell – Farm dog. Killed by the Hunter while keeping watch with Clapper.
Ben Tilley – A nice boy who tries to help Greycub for most of his life after letting slip to the hunter that there are still wild wolves in England.
The Hunter – The evil man of the story, he is driven into a madness to kill the last wolves. He is killed by Greycub.
John Tilley – Ben's father and farmer at High Pond Farm.
Margaret Tilley – Ben's mother. She is somewhat of a clean person but cares for the wolves and her family.
The Breeder – The one who weans Greycub and the only one, besides Ben, that Greycub really respected. He kept over forty deerhounds in his kennels.
- Since 1995 there are usually eight books on the Carnegie shortlist. According to CCSU some runners up through were Commended (from 1955) or Highly Commended (from 1966). There were 29 high commendations in the last 24 years including Burgess and Robert Westall for 1990.