The Wolf Invasion of 846
Human beings are no strangers to merciless predators. We have roamed the earth alongside saber-toothed tigers, mammoths, rhinos, lions — without the isolation and protection we have now. The deep fear and awe of these “beasts” is sewed into our DNA.
But there is one predator who, for over a thousand years, has been evoking a different kind of fear. The fear of something sinister and demonic. Of deliberate, calculated evil. Of the Devil.
Are wolves more cruel or murderous than other predators? No. In fact, unless they are heavily provoked or starving, they wouldn’t attack a human. Wolves are highly intelligent social animals, who exhibit care, affection, and empathy in their packs. Like all carnivores, they have to kill to survive and unless they have starved for a prolonged period of time, they don’t do it gratuitously or excessively.
There is another predator on Earth who does kill gratuitously and excessively. Humans.
In the Middle Ages people in Europe “outsourced” this part of human nature to wolves. They created the “Big Bad Wolf” symbol, infused it in legends and fairytales, and packed it with their own worst impulses.
How and why did this come about?
It was a combination of two factors. Christianity and one particularly cold winter in 846 which resulted in a massive wolf invasion.
Christianity and the Link with Nature
In our long history of survival in the wild, humans developed a very conscious connection with Nature. We learned its cycles and rhythms, found meaning behind them, developed an understanding of both the friendly and hostile aspects of the wilderness. Our religions stemmed from this understanding, and for many centuries different iterations of paganism dominated across Europe.
With Christianity came, among other things, the split between Good and Evil. Ancients would see the night and darkness as an equal to the sun and the light. Christianity elevated one above the other. It demanded that people aspire only to the light, and deny and suppress the darkness.