Excerpt of Wolf Totem by Rong Jiang
(Page 4 of 4)
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Chen Zhen could hardly believe his eyes as he watched the wolves
frightened off by a pair of metal stirrups. As his courage made its
belated return, he banged the stirrups together wildly, then windmilled
his arms like a shepherd and shouted, Hurry! Hurry! There are wolves
For all he knew, the wolves understood Mongol and knew the meaning of human gestures;
perhaps theyd been frightened into dispersal by
what theyd assumed was a trap laid by hunters.
But they dispersed in orderly fashion, maintaining the ancient organizational
unity and group formation characteristic of grassland wolves:
The most ferocious members serve as a vanguard, with the alpha male
out in front, the packs larger wolves behind it. There is never any of the
confusion commonly seen among fleeing birds and other wild animals.
Chen was overwhelmed by the sight.
In a moment, the pack had vanished without a trace, and all that
remained in the ravine were a white mist and swirling flakes of snow.
By then night had fallen. Before Chen could step fully into the stirrups
again, his horse took off like a shot, racing toward the nearest
camp. Frigid air seeped into Chens collar and sleeves; the cold sweat on
his body had turned to ice.
Having escaped from the wolf s maw, he became an immediate convert
to the devotion paid to Tengger, just like his Mongol hosts. He also
developed a complex attitude of fear, reverence, and infatuation toward
the Mongolian wolf. It had touched his soul. How could it possess such
a powerful attraction?
Chen did not catch sight of another wolf pack over the next two
years. During the day he tended his sheep, occasionally spotting a lone
wolf, maybe two, off in the distance. Even when he was far from camp,
he never saw more than four or five at one time. Often, however, he
came across the remains of sheep or cattle or horses that had been killed
by wolves, individually or in packs. There might be one or two dead
sheep, two or three cows, and maybe three or four horses; but sometimes
carcasses would be strewn over a wide area. When he was out making
calls on people, he regularly saw wolf pelts hanging on tall poles, like
flags waving in the wind.
Excerpted from Wolf Totem
by Jiang Rong. Translation Copyright © 2008 by Penguin Group USA. Excerpted by
permission of The Penguin Press,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.