On cold winter nights, when the moon shines full and clear on the forest, there is a sound that makes men mutter nervously into their beer; that makes women glance nervously into the dark, and makes all huddle nearer to their fires. That sound is the howl of a wolf, a sound that we associate with dread and fear, but if we listen without the prejudice of ages, you will hear the aching loneliness in that call. This story tells you how that came to be.
Once, long ago, wolves were silent spirits of the forest, never heard and seldom seen, even then they were only the merest glimpse of a shadow. In this time there lived a princess, whose dearest love was to walk through the forest in the moon light. To take in the sounds of the forest living and breathing, the pale silver wash of moonlight glowing everywhere, and the scent which has a magic of its own once daylight has fled.
Every month, when the clean light of the full moon blessed the forest, Princess Angharrad would slip out of the long hall and wander the deer paths of the forest. One month Angharrad wandered further than she had intended and to her horror, she realised she was lost. All her attempts to get her self un-lost only succeeded in losing herself all the more, until in frustration she slumped down in a clearing and wept. Yet as she wept, her tears turned to a song – a song that seemed to begin with “I love you” and end with, “never leave me”.
As her light, clear voice drifted out into the forest, it was with a little regret that Angharrad thought, “What a pity that there is no-one to hear me singing.”
But the Prince of Wolves heard her.
The Prince was patrolling the edge of his lands when he heard the most beautiful sound. When he investigated and found that it came from a human throat, he was intrigued. The gentle lilt of Angharrad’s voice quelled his natural caution and he sat silently in the clearing, waiting for her to finish. As her song drifted sweetly to its end, Angharrad opened her eyes and she saw before her the biggest wolf that she had ever seen in her life. This would not have been hard as she had never actually seen a wolf before, but she had heard about their dire reputation.
Angharrad let out a fearful shriek. The Prince did not like this song as much as the first, but he was a polite creature and so waited patiently. Angharrad was quite surprised. She had not been ripped limb from limb and opened her eyes. She found herself staring into the great golden eyes of the wolf and saw an intellect she would never have believed could live there. Angharrad began to sing again. She sang on ‘til false dawn was in the sky. The Prince guided her back to the edge of her father’s lands and so began one of the strangest, and yet most innocent love affairs.
Every month Angharrad returned to the woods, and the Prince would lead deep into the forest where she would sing for the whole company of wolves.
Now, such behaviour in a Princess cannot go unnoticed for long. It came to the attention of a certain warrior known as Bradfannen. He reasoned that a princess would fetch a healthy ransom, and that a Princess who wanders alone in the forest would be easy to kidnap. So under the next full moon, Bradfannen was waiting for Angharrad. She screamed into the night as she was thrown across Bradfannen’s saddle and he laughed. For who was there in all the forest to hear her screaming?
But the Prince of wolves heard her.
Swiftly, he gave his orders to his company, and then flew through the night to the hall of Bradfannen.
His company made for a nearby village and there they raised merry hell. They smashed down fences, trampled crops, flung themselves at doors and nipped at the heels of cattle. The men of the village gathered, hands upon spears and knives to drive of the wolves away, never once suspecting they were being skilfully shepherded to Bradfannen’s hall.
All this while, The Prince had come to the high walls of Bradfannen’s hall and found them no barrier. He crashed through the oaken door and saw his love screaming in the arms of the false hearted warrior. The Prince leapt. His jaws flashed and Bradfannen died. The men of the village arrived to see a distraught princess, a dead warrior and a wolf with blood on his lips.
The Prince had to fight hard to flee without hurting any of the villages and was lucky to get away with only an arrow in his flank.
The villages escorted Angharrad back to her father, bearing with them the body of Bradfannen. Before the whole court, Angharrad told the whole story of her visits to the wolves and of the songs she would sing for them. They all thought her mad. Angharrad would never again return to the forest. She would end her days shut away from the world, her songs and even her name forgotten.
The Prince returned to the clearing where he first met Angharrad and he waited until dawn. But of course she would never come. Then one winter night, all the months of desperate longing came out in a howl of aching loneliness. It split the night, and would split many more yet to come.
So, you see, wolves howl into the night in the hope that one day, we will not answer with fear and suspicion but with a song.
Maybe one day we will – if there are any of wolves left to hear us singing.
David Vale is a performer with over 25 years experience in many fields, sometimes literally. With a love of photography and being rude to people, David has been allowed to combine the two working for the Digital Paparazzi event photographers. He is working towards becoming a lonely, old, slightly odd cat person. He sometimes feels the need to write about himself in the third person…
Photograph of forest courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net