No one does not fear wolf, but few people know that Mongolian minority worship the savage animal. There is a book Wolf Totem which can tell us the complex relation between Mongolian minority and wolf.

In the late 1960s, an educated youth Chen Zhen was dispatch to Inner Mongolian grassland. After staying here for some time, Chen found local people had a conflicting emotion for wolf. On one hand, they fear and loathe wolf, because it destroys their home and prey on their sheep; on the other hand, they revere wolf, because it keeps the balance of grasslands by preying on extra herbivores. By chance, Chen got a wolf cub. He decided to raise it. During the period living with the wolf cub, he gradually found the mystery of the mystical grasslands king.

Until now, Wolf Totem is the only novel in the world that puts wolf as a narrative subject, and it is also the only one that depicts and researches Mongolian wolf.

This book was called a semi-autobiographical novel by its writer Jiang Rong. The prototype of Chen Zhen is the writer himself. In 1967, for the love of grasslands, Jiang volunteered to go to Inner Mongolia. Same as the protagonist, he lived here for eleven years. He dug over the wolf’s lair, raised wolf cub, and saw many big and small battles between wolves and Mongolian gazelles, wolves and humans, wolves and horses. Because of the impressed experience, Jiang indulged himself in the research about wolf for thirty years, and finally spent six years on creating the novel.

Always, Chinese treat dragon as totem, but this book presents a new argument— dragon totem probably evolves from nomadic minority’s wolf totem. The argument topples Chinese’s longstanding knowledge. For a time, the book quickly became a best-seller and caused a widespread discussion.

However, some people question the writer’s opinion in the novel. Liu Xiaobu, a person who had lived with Jiang Rong in Inner Mongolian grasslands before, criticized, “I lived in Inner Mongolia for five years, but I never heard a herder has a good word for wolf. It is understood that literature needs subjective creation. Nevertheless, it at least cannot violate the actual life in pasturing area.” While other supporters claim that the book is worth reading because it indicates that human should harmoniously coexist with animal.

Shu Pengqian

About Shu Pengqian

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Shu Pengqian is a TV drama and novel addict. Although most people think she looks like an introvert, she's actually really outgoing.

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