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WOLF - Spirit of the Wild: A Celebration of Wolves in Word and Image

Edited by Diana Landau, published by Sterling Publishing Co Inc (New York) and distributed in the UK by Cassell at £16.99. 192pp. ISBN: 0-8069-8717-0

"Dolphin is to New Ager as Wolf is to Shaman". Pagans of a certain generation may recall a type of verbal puzzle popular in 11+ exams of many years ago in which you were given the first three elements and required to extrapolate the fourth based on a well-known pattern. I was reminded of this childhood puzzle when reading this book, if only because there is no other animal so associated with the commonly-held image of "shamanism" than is the latterly maligned and currently romanticised wolf.

And this is the problem, of course. From being the epitome of wanton savagery to that of the animal kingdom's "noble savage", the wolf has seemingly passed from the extreme of demonisation to that of idealism without the reality of the animal being taken into consideration.

This book sets out to redress the balance, to explore the world of the wolf without resorting to either erroneous perception. Here is the wolf stripped of tacky anthropomorphism but still shown to be social, intelligent, playful and curious. Primarily Wolf explores the environments in which wolves are found and how they interact with those environments, and their social, breeding and hunting behaviours, but the book also considers them in folklore, mythology and fiction. As such, the book provides a comprehensive introduction to, and reference for, the reality of wolves and it is exactly what is says on the cover, ie a celebration of these magnificent but still threatened animals.

One of the glories of Wolf is the exquisite photography throughout the book. If the text were in Chinese, it would still be worth the price and more for the outstanding images on virtually every page. Very highly recommended for all sorts of people.