Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Wolf Totem

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Wolf Totem

by Rong Jiang

Wolf Totem by Rong Jiang X
Wolf Totem by Rong Jiang
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2008, 544 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2009, 544 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

This article relates to Wolf Totem

Print Review

Wolves as Totems

Although many in the USA will associate totems - objects, animals or plants revered as a symbol of a tribe and often used in rituals - with Native Americans, totems are found in many cultures throughout the world, tracing far back into prehistory. Google the word and you'll find websites such as animaltotem.com, devoted to helping one find ones personal animal or insect totem.

As a Han Chinese with a background in the teachings of Confucius, Chen Zhen has difficulty understanding the importance his Mongol hosts place on the wolf as a totem or symbol of reverence. Especially since the wolf would seem to be their mortal enemy – packs of them prey on herds of Mongol sheep, cattle and horses, threatening their livelihood. However, as Bilgee demonstrates, wolves are a critical link in the delicate chain that preserves the grasslands which are vital to feeding the livestock upon which the rest of China depends. Since wolves also consume gazelles, field mice and marmots who, left unfettered, would eat the grasslands barren, the Mongol herders view them as performing a service, culling their numbers by hunting only when absolutely necessary. On the other hand, the Han Chinese view wolves as enemies worthy only of wholesale annihilation.

Thus, sadly, measures to control the wolf population described in Wolf Totem seem just the beginning of the mass elimination of the species from the steppes of China.

A worldwide debate rages on as to the status of the gray wolf. Ranchers and farmers despise them and oppose any efforts to re-introduce them where the wolf population has been thinned. Proponents see the wolf as an integral part of the world's ecosystem and favor sustaining the species. While Wolf Totem makes a strong case for the latter position, the tactics require a sensitivity to nature that few individuals, and even fewer governments, appear to possess.

Interesting Links:

  • Everything you could want to know about wolves and more at www.wolf.org
  • Frequently asked questions about Inner Mongolia at innermongolia.org, including a map and short history.

This "beyond the book article" relates to Wolf Totem. It originally ran in April 2008 and has been updated for the March 2009 paperback edition.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Winter Soldier
    The Winter Soldier
    by Daniel Mason
    Imagine the thousands of confounding cases doctors face routinely for which diagnoses are hard to ...
  • Book Jacket: Brother
    Brother
    by David Chariandy
    Brother is the brief, moving account of how a single, tragic moment in time can alter the course of ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Islamic Enlightenment
    by Christopher de Bellaigue
    In this comprehensive and well-researched history, de Bellaigue examines the evolution of Islamic ...
  • Book Jacket: The Spy of Venice
    The Spy of Venice
    by Benet Brandreth
    Benet Brandreth's delightfully diverting historical thriller brings the Bard to vibrant life. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

A crowning achievement of one of the finest American writers at work today.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    French Exit
    by Patrick deWitt

    A brilliant and darkly comic novel from bestselling author Patrick deWitt.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

A rich, spellbinding new novel from the author of The Lake House. On sale Oct 9.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T Turn T S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.