Although lions and horses steal the limelight, wolf statues do make the odd appearance. And sometimes ‘odd’ is the operative word!
The most famous is probably the Capitoline she-wolf, who, according to legend, nursed the founders of Rome – Romulus and Remus. Surprisingly, she was sculpted some time before the twins, and her 5th Century Etruscan heritage may in fact be 13th Century medieval. Italy isn’t the only place a wolf was put on a pedestal, but it wasn’t always as welcome!
Meant to represent ‘the birth of the Romanian nation’, Vasile Gorduz’s bronze depicts a rather bizarrely proportioned Roman Emperor Trajan and a ‘levitating’ Dacian wolf.
© Peter Parkorr, Travelunmasked.com
Unveiled before a less than enthusiastic audience outside the Bucharest National History Museum, it’s since been satirised as a ‘monument to Romania’s stray dogs’. Strangely, it’s not the only statue linking oddly-shaped wolves and ownerless dogs.
© Anastasia Kozlova, Lifebeyondtourism.org
This laden fellow in Tomsk, Russia is from a famous Soviet short called Once Upon a Time There Lived a Dog, about a selfless old wolf who helps a dog regain favour with his master. As a reward, the dog lets him sneak into a banquet. Apparently touching the wolf’s tummy will bring you happiness, but our next statue from Japan inspires quite the opposite!
© “Katuuya”. Wikimedia Commons.
Inscribed with the mournful haiku: “I walk with the wolf that is no more”, Toshio Mihashi’s sculpture in Higashi-Yoshino honours the last Honshu wolf (canis lupus hodophilax). The subspecies became extinct in 1905, but some local cultures believe it still exists. Happily, some sculptures celebrate the wolf that’s still among us.
American artist Malvina Hoffman, known for the controversial collection The Races of Man, crafted the bronze St. Francis and the Wolf, which is displayed outside Saint Mary’s Hospital in Minnesota and shows St. Francis of Assisi standing side by side with the animal. The story goes that after the wolf attacked a village, St. Francis spoke with it and found it was only trying to survive. By preaching forgiveness, he convinced the villagers to help.
These wolf statues show our appreciation of their cunning, nobility and strength, and in some cases, regret at how we’ve treated wolves throughout history. Sadly it was more than giving them an oversized belly or mysterious floating powers, but by placing them on a pedestal, especially beside a human, we raise their profile and may give people ‘paws’ for thought!
1. BBC News. 2012. “Howls of derision in Bucharest as Romanian statue unveiled.” 3rd May. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17936412
2. The Field Museum. N.d. “Malvina Hoffman.” https://www.fieldmuseum.org/malvina-hoffman
3. Internet Movie Database. N.d. “Once Upon a Time There Lived a Dog”. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0216434/?ref_=tttr_tr_tt
4. Kozlova, Anastasia. 2010. “Monument of Happiness in Tomsk.” Life Beyond Tourism. http://www.lifebeyondtourism.org/photoblog/photo/138/Monument-of-Happiness-in-Tomsk
5. Parkorr, Peter. 2015. “Beautiful Snowy Bucharest in 33 photos”. Travel Unmasked. travelunmasked.com/peterparkorr/2015/new-years-eve-snowy-bucharest-photos/
6. Squires, Nick. 2011. “Romulus and Remus symbol of Rome could be medieval replica.” The Telegraph, 22nd November. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ italy/8907425/Romulus-and-Remus-symbol-of-Rome-could-be-medieval-replica.html
7. Walker, Brett, L. 2005. The Lost Wolves of Japan. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
8. Wentz, Margaret R. 2012. “St. Francis and the Wolf by Malvina Hoffman”. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 87(10): e75.
9. Wildlife Extra. 2008. “Gone but not forgotten: the Honshu wolf.” http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/world/The-Honshu-wolf%20.html#cr