As if being lost in a spooky forest wasn't bad enough...
"Best stay here in town - those dire wolves can rip your anus apart in mere seconds!"
As alpha predators and clever pack hunters, wolves have often been feared and hated by humans. They frequently preyed on human livestock and, in Europe, humans themselves to the extent that serious efforts were made to wipe them out of the region. This reputation bled over into fiction where wolves were portrayed as nasty, savage and rapacious predators seemingly bent on devouring everyone they could. Give them some intelligence and they'll be cruel, nasty and sadistic.
Because wolves are pack hunters, this makes them even more dangerous. One wolf is easily capable of killing an unarmed human, but bring out a dozen or so and suddenly they can devour anything in their path, especially the ill or weak humans we want to protect most like women, children and the elderly.
Note that while this trope usually comes in the form of a pack of wolves, it can equally apply to a lone one. Bonus points if it's much more dangerous and persistent than a single wolf has any right to be.
Compare and contrast the more recent trope Noble Wolf
, which features wolves as noble
, proud, reasonable or even outright heroic. When the two tropes intersect, they will still be very dangerous and not to be underestimated or disrespected.
See also The Big Bad Wolf
. Compare animals that share similar reputations, such as bears
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Anime and Manga
- One Piece:
- Subverted when the crew was in Upper Yard. The wolves appear menacing at first, but after their leader is impressed by Nami's ferocity, they join the campfire.
- Played straight when the crew invades Impel Down. There are wolves guarding the fifth floor and they were moved from Level 2 so they wouldn't kill all the other beasts there!
- Ginga Nagareboshi Gin: Some of the wolves are bad but it's averted with those who help Gin and his pack go to the Underworld to save Cross and her puppies.
- In The Tibetan Dog, a pack of wolves attack the sheep Tenzing is herding, but they're driven away by Big Damn Heroes Tibetan Mastiffs.
- In Arashi No Yoru Ni, Gabu and his wolf pack start out as this. Gabu eventually changes when he meets and befriends Mei, but his pack doesn't.
- One episode of Pokémon portrays a pack of Houndour like this. However, it becomes Subverted when it's revealed why.
- The Wolf in Chirin No Suzu. Ruthless and vicious, he kills whatever he can sink his fangs into — including Chirin's mother. Subverted because Chirin soon grew fond of the Wolf, seeing him as a father. In fact, near the end, after killing Wolf, he soon felt sad and realized that revenge wasn't satisfying.
- In an early storyline, the normally friendly wolf youkai Royakan is unwillingly transformed into a monstrous, berserk beast that can vomit up packs of equally vicious normal-sized wolves.
- A later storyline introduces a whole tribe of wolf youkai, infamous for eating humans and destroying entire human villages in the process. Led by the humanoid wolf youkai Kouga, these wolves destroy three human villages (including Rin's, killing everyone there including Rin herself) before encountering Inuyasha's group. By the end of this first encounter, however, Kouga becomes enamored enough of Kagome that he forbids his tribe from attacking humans and they become Noble Wolves instead.
- Zettai Karen Children, Hatsune doesn't have to transform to be feral.
- The Nasuverse has one in the form of the white wolf, Primate Murder. Though it's never directly appeared in any of the franchise's main works, the beast is easily one of, if not the, most dangerous creatures in the setting thanks to its signature ability: The absolute authority to decide whether a human lives or dies. Ranked as #1 of the Twenty-Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors, the only thing keeping Primate Murder from enacting a mass genocide is the fact that Altrouge Brunestud has somehow bent it to her will.
- The wolf shown in the beginning of the film/comic 300 is depicted as demonic and threatening.
- Kyle Abbot from 52 and Batwoman. A werewolf shape-shifter who worships crime. He becomes disillusioned by his peer's interpretation, and breaks off into his own sect, the true believers. He's an occasional ally of Batwoman.
- A Dracula Lives story featuring Solomon Kane has Dracula saving the man from a pack of wolves before inviting him to his castle.
- Idées Noires: One gag has a man lost in the snow wandering around thinking he is doomed. Then he sees lights in the distance and thinks it's a city, but it turns out to be the Glowing Eyes of Doom of a group of wolves.
- Fenris from the Lucifer comics manages to take revenge for his fellow mythologies by stomping into a story arc almost entirely populated by Judeo-Christian characters and instantly becoming one of the most threatening antagonists. When one challenges him for this he points out that before humanity cowered before demons they feared the wolves beneath the trees, proceeding to become the Big Bad through raw Badassery.
Film - Animated
- Beauty and the Beast: The wolves are a danger to Belle and her father and even manage to injure the Beast.
- Kung Fu Panda 2: Lord Shen's henchmen are wolves.
- The Secret of Kells, when Aisling sics her wolves on Brendan as he's traveling through the forest in search of oak galls. Later inverted when Aisling sics them on the Vikings that are about to kill Brendan and Aidan in a Big Damn Heroes moment.
- Frozen has one sequence where Anna and Kristoff's sled is ambushed by a pack of hungry wolves that chase after them. They only escape by flying over a chasm (although Kristoff's sled gets destroyed).
Film - Live Action
- White Fang - For a Disney film, the scenes where the characters are being hunted by a pack of wolves in the opening 20 minutes or so is almost downright terrifying.
- In Never Cry Wolf, another Disney film, Tyler is at first afraid of the wolves and has a nightmare about being chased by them. Subverted when he actually meets the wolves, and they're nothing like that.
- A pack of mystic wolves are the main antagonists in Wolfen.
- The Grey: The survivors of a plane crash in Alaska not only have to survive the elements, but survive the pack of wolves that is chasing them down.
- Frozen: Wolves take predatory interest in Dan after he jumps from the ski lift and breaks his legs.
- Look Who's Talking Now featured a group of wolves during the final act of the film.
- The name of the eponymous protagonist of Lone Wolf McQuade is clearly supposed to invoke this.
- In the third Riddick movie, a wounded Riddick wakes up after being left for dead on a barren planet by the Necromongers. He is quickly sighted by a pack of alien wolf/dog creatures who pursue him. Subverted later on when he discovers a lone pup, whom he eventually raises to become a loyal companion.
- A theme in The Company of Wolves too.
- As the cast of Day of the Animals sleeps peacefully after their first day of backpacking, a lone wolf suddenly attacks Mandy and scars her face badly. This forces her and her husband Frank to split up from the others to get to the local forest ranger point.
- The Day After Tomorrow features a pack of wolves that menace some of the main characters in New York City.
- Snow White A Taleof Terror. They even have glowing yellow eyes, and eat at least one human.
- Transformers: Age of Extinction: The main antagonist, Lockdown, keeps a pack of alien wolves (aka Steeljaws) on his ship and sets them loose on the human protagonists at one point.
- Inverted at first in The Fifth Elephant then played straight after the wolf who's keeping them in line dies and they revert to their natural instincts, which include killing any werewolves they come across, (even Angua). She doesn't begrudge their hostility though, she knows and accepts that they have some pretty good reasons to hate werewolves.
- J. R. R. Tolkien liked this one. Packs of intelligent wolves (called Wargs) threaten the main characters of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. However, Tolkien does make a distinction between regular, rarely dangerous wolves, and the decidedly more monstrous Wargs, who always directly serve the bad guys in his legendarium.
- In The Silmarillion the father of werewolves Draugluin (Sindarin for "Blue Wolf") appears, as does their most terrible offspring Carcharoth. Sauron briefly takes the form of a werewolf to fight the wolfhound Huan.
- In a story by Saki, two men, the heads of feuding houses, are badly injured and trapped in the woods. No sooner do they decide to put their differences aside do they hear a rustling in the bushes. One man can see their presumed rescuers coming. When the second man asks if they are his men or the other man's men, the first man answers with one word. "Wolves."
- The Dresden Files: While he's watching the Alphas in action Harry notes that, in this age of guns and helicopters, humans have forgotten why we used to be afraid of wolves, and that there are several very good reasons.
- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase: Im an alternate England where packs of wolves roam the 19th century Yorkshire countryside, the young heroine is almost killed when one such pack attacks a train. She's only saved when the man sharing her carriage stabs the wolf that's got in with them to death.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, most wolves are considered Savage Wolves, but the direwolves adopted by the Stark children vary according to the personality of their owner and how well they're trained. Among the most savage are:
- Shaggydog, Rickon's direwolf. He is untrained and is as feral as his owner. He is known to attack unprovoked, and bites Maester Luwin and pounces on Big and Little Walder when they hit Rickon during a game.
- Nymeria, Arya's direwolf. She was originally well-trained, but since being driven off early in the first book, she has gone feral and now leads a huge pack (numbering in the hundreds) of ordinary wolves which threaten both livestock and man throughout the Riverlands.
- There's also Grey Wind, who belongs to Robb. While not wild or uncontrollable, he rids beside Robb into battle. He quickly becomes The Dreaded, with people talking about a huge wolf tearing men and horses apart.
- In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, most wolves are evil. The White Witch has a pack of wolves that serve as her secret police. The pack's Alpha, named Maugrim, even acts as her second-in-command. It's sequel Prince Caspian has a werewolf that is downright demonic.
- In Bryan Miranda's The Journey to Atlantis,
- The boys go hunting for food, and run into a wolf. You'd think it would easy for four of them to take down one single wolf, but it's not. They are helpless until the dog, Maxie Jr., shows up to distract the wolf, at witch point they gain the upper hand and kill it. Later on, when they need wolf pelts to survive the snow, they go looking specifically for more wolves, and find a whole family in a cave. Although three of them plan to take on the entire cave (which would have been suicide), some Divine Intervention from Sol comes in the form of a lightning bolt that kills most of the wolves, leaving only three for the humans to fight.
- The antagonist, Loki, also takes the form of a crimson-colored wolf. He is not seen with any other wolves, but attacks Mickello directly once every year in an attempt to kill him or injure him.
- A theme in Angela Carter's "The Bloody Chamber" (filmed as The Company of Wolves).
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, Gaunt remembers how Colm Corbec would tell stories of wolves circling "the stranded, the unlucky, the lost" to bring them down; his current situation, being stalked by an unseen Chaos creature, reminds him.
- Aesops Fables
- In "The Boys Who Cried Wolf", wolves are depicted as a major threat to shepherds flocks.
- In "The Wolf and the Lamb" the titular wolf invents false accusations against the titular lamb in order to justify eating him.
- In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Satan's approach to Eden is like this.
As when a prowling Wolfe,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where Shepherds pen thir Flocks at eeve
In hurdl'd Cotes amid the field secure,
Leaps o're the fence with ease into the Fould:
- In White Fang, wolves are presented as harsh and savage, but the hero, being part dog, eventually rises above his instincts to become "tamed"... After being forced into dog-fighting along the way, although "fight" is not accurate - "execution" comes closer. It got to the point where they had to tie him up for the start of the fight, otherwise he'd kill the other dog before it had finished its preliminary snarl-and-threaten routine. Once the dog had finished its routine, it would almost certainly not be any more merciful.
- A Wolf In The Soul contains extensive descriptions of wolves on the hunt. Greg vs. geese is one somewhat graphic example; another is Greg's wolf's pack vs. its father's pack.
- The eponymous villain in Brokenclaw keeps caged wolves at his mansion so that he can feed people who have disappointed him to them.
- In Willa Cather's My Ántonia, a couple of Russian immigrants narrate an incident from the old country, where a bridal party driving sledges at midnight in winter was attacked by a large pack of ravenous wolves, with extremely horrific results.
- Zigzagged with Alpha for three books in Survivors despite him being part wolf. He rules over the Wild Pack with a strict yet firm paw on one hand, but he's also a bully and racist towards pets and Fierce Dogs on the other. Finally, this trope gets played straight in The Endless Lake, where Alpha fakes his own death and joins the Fierce Dogs as their Omega, thus betraying his pack.
- In the Doctor Who episode In The Forest Of The Night, a pair of wolves hunt Maebh. Then they catch up with the gang... and run past them, ignoring them. Turns out they weren't running after her, but away from the tiger!
Mythology and Folklore
- Norse Mythology
- Fenris, the giant wolf fated to devour Odin himself.
- Fenris' sons, Hati and Skoll, who are destined to devour the moon and sun.
- The negative perception of wolves is directly responsible for the modern Swedish name for wolves: varg, meaning "killer" or "strangler". Folklore had it that saying wolves' proper name (ulv) would call them, or at least cause bad things to happen, which lead to wolves being called what they were seen as (murderous brutes). Problem was, this became so wide-spread and went on for so long that varg ended up as the proper name for a wolf, and the folklore about speaking their name being bad remained.
- One of the symbols of Ancient Rome was the wolf. This grew out of legends that Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, were literally Raised by Wolves. However, contrary to modern perceptions, they didn't adopt the wolf because of any inherent "specialness" attributed - they hated the animal just as much as everyone else around them. Rather, the story is symbolic of how vicious the Romans saw themselves to be.
- In Inuit mythology, the Amarok/Amaroq is a giant wolf who hunts in solitude, specifically picking off people foolish enough to hunt alone at night. Sometimes an Amarok plays the role of a Noble Wolf instead, but is usually treated as a villain.
- "Peter and the Wolf" depicts the titular wolf as a the primary antagonist, with him eating one of the other characters and attempting to eat the rest.
- Wolves in Magic: The Gathering are green most of the time. The pack aspect tends to get played up on wolf-related cards too, often with some ability leading to more wolves joining the fray.
- While Dungeons & Dragons depicts wolves themselves are depicted as morally neutral and they are even available as companions for heroic characters, the monstrous Worgs (taken from Tolkien's "Wargs") and Winter Wolves are invariably evil and dangerous.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse,
- Traveller The Vargr are wolves and other canines genetically engineered by the Precursors . They are great merchants and pirates, but they are incapable of organizing and so aren't as effective in a straight fight as humans.
- Madfang Ragewolf from Patapon 3 is one of the main antagonists of the game. He is linked to an archfiend and represents the Deadly Sin of Rage.
- Spiral Knights has Wolvers. They are quick, depending on the breed can inflict status effects, and if they're accompanied by an Alpha, their attack increases. Players will often be killed by a pack of Wolvers at least once in their in-game life.
- The Note had wolves as early encounters.
- Vagrant Story: wolves are early enemies.
- In Red Dead Redemption, wolves are tough, highly aggressive, persistent, have a knack for showing up precisely when you don't need them do, love to kill your horses, and attack in waves. You gun down four or five of them, look around, and the coast seems clear, only for another batch to arrive just as you put your gun away.
- Friday the 13th: Wolves act as enemies in the forested areas.
- In Dragon Age: Origins you'll occasionally run into packs of wolves as enemies. There's even one specific encounter on the overworld map that can be especially vicious on higher difficulties, a rare form of That One Random Encounter.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition carries on in Origins' footsteps with huge wolves roaming around the Redcliffe Hinterlands and Emprise du Lion areas as enemies.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it's not uncommon for a player to find themselves attacked by two or three wolves at once. They're easy to kill, but they can become Paranoia Fuel if you can hear the howls but are unable to see them or know the direction the howls come from. The worst part of the wolves is that they may infect you with Rockjoint plague which severely reduces your fighting ability.
- Cataclysm: Wolf packs are one of the worse non-zombie threats roguelike. They're made all the worse by the fact that their letter color can make them very hard to spot before they're on top of you.
- In Minecraft, wolves normally mind their own business, and can even be tamed and used as guard animals but if you attack a wolf, it and its whole pack go berserk and try to kill you.
- MediEvil: Latter portion of the cemetery stages feature wolves. In order to leave the cemetery, you have to fight two stone wolves which guard it.
- In Age of Empires II, Age of Empires III, and Age of Mythology, wolves are the archetypical wild predator of the wilderness. If Age of Empires II is played without the expansion, wolves are the only predator in a game, that ranges geographically from Europe to the Middle East, to Asia. Age of Mythology is also the only game of the series where wolves can be hunted for food, otherwise they are just a menace deadly to villagers.
- In Assassins Creed III,
- Wolves will attack Connor whenever they can get to him.
- Connor's Animal Motif - besides the eagle that all Assassins identify with - is that of a wolf, to indicate his predatory hunting style. The name "Connor" even means "lover of wolves".
- In Heroes of Might and Magic V, wolves are one available type of neutral monster. Their individual stats are average, comparing poorly with the human soldiers one level below except for their VERY high initiative, but their two special abilities are this trope done in a very dangerous form. Not only can each stack summon an equally large stack once per battle, but when one wolf stack attacks the enemy, ALL wolf stacks able to attack that enemy will do so as a free action. This is as painful as it sounds.
- Back in I and II, wolves were one of the Barbarians' recruitable creatures (stronger than both goblins and orcs). In both of those games, Barbarians were defined as an Evil town...
- Gothic: Wolves, and other creatures in the wolf family, can be dangerous depending on your level, because unlike with most other enemies, it is difficult to lure them to you one at a time, so you'll usually have to deal with entire packs.
- Tomb Raider (2013) often features packs of wolves attacking you. Even worse, one level has you enter their den to get supplies.
- The early stages of Tomb Raider also had packs of wolves trying to kill you.
- The final boss of Suikoden II, the beast rune, which is shown to be the embodiment of feral and murderous evil, is presented in the form of a massive, two-headed wolf.
- Mega Man
- The wolves in Metal Gear Solid will attack you (but not Meryl, they seem to like women) on sight, unless you have Sniper Wolf's handkerchief or use a trick that involves Meryl.
- World of Warcraft:
- Many Wolf-type enemies have an ability that causes them to howl and alert other nearby wolves of the player's presence, effectively swamping you if you're not very careful.
- There's the Worgen, such as the Sons of Arugal, original members of the Druids of the Pack, and the Gilnean Worgen (which are playable). Heck, one such Gilnean Worgen picks up a STAGECOACH and starts BEATING PLAYERS WITH IT.
- Goldrinn...goddamn, Goldrinn. Goldrinn revered as a minor god for good reason. Even the Orcs respect the Wolf-God (though they call him Lo'Gosh). The guy is best known for possessing King Varian Wrynn, being utterly wrathful, being the source of the Worgen curse, and tearing out the throats of legions of Burning Legion demons.
- The Warlords of Draenor expansion introduced the Garn, huge black wolves capable of "tearing a man apart in seconds" and they always hunt in packs. Even on Draenor, a planet where Everything Trying to Kill You very much applies, these things are considered some of the most dangerous predators around.
- Arcturus Mengsk in Starcraft wants people to see the wolves on his family crest as Noble Wolves. This is a complete lie, and "cruel, nasty, and sadistic" isn't even a start on his true nature. (Although both his father and son, under the same crest, were much nicer people. Maybe he's a fluke?)
- As shown in the above quote, South Park: The Stick of Truth has Dire Wolves which riddle the frozen kingdom of the north that is Canada. They're like wolves, but dire.
- Played with in Tasakeru, where wolves are one of the eight sentient species. The other species think they're scary, primitive, carnivorous savages, but they're just following very old traditions.
- The Insanity Wolf meme.
- Neopets - While the pirate Captain Scarblade is a savage pirate, not all Lupes, a wolf-like species, are evil or vicious.
- The Wolf Apocalypse in Gunshow, which was caused by God who had forgotten Jesus's birthday, and was trying to make it up to him.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, the woods are known to house wolves, which is why Perrault refuses to believe that November came through the woods alone. However, the actual wolves appear only as skins in Red's cottage.
- Supernormal Step:
- The main enemy of Chapter Three is an Eldritch Abomination named Fenris, whose form is a Wolf with Glowing Eyes of Doom and poisonous breath.
- Reynardine falls under this indirectly, even though he's actually a fox. Since possessing Annie's wolf doll, he seems to be undergoing a slow Heel-Face Turn - in particular, he's noticeably less of a "jerkface" when he takes the form of a full-sized wolf, rather than his usual pint-sized plushy form.
- Vorg from Cwen's Quest is a Wolf Man with the personality of a corperate shark plus ax crazy
- Metalocalypse - the band's therapist tries to attack them but falls out a window. He survives the multi-story fall, but then gets his arms ripped off by wolves who live in the compound (though he survives that and gets a new pair of mechanical arms).
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- Disney's own Big Bad Wolf?
- Speaking of Disney, the wolf that threatens the flock in Lambert the Sheepish Lion frightens the lion protagonist as badly as his sheep buddies. That is until Lambert's adoptive mother becomes the target. Big mistake on the part of the wolf.
- In the episode of The Simpsons called "Cape Feare", grandpa Simpson is in front of the Simpson house and says "I'm cold and there are wolves after me" (cue scary howl... in the middle of the day). Also, in one episode, Groundskeeper Willy goes mano-a-wolf-o with an escaped Alaskan timber wolf, "Whose jaws can bite through a parking meter." He beats it.
- It's been widely reported that in WWI two armies of German and Russian soldiers signed a temporary ceasefire in order to fight off hundreds of wolves that tried to eat them. It's unknown if this is true but there were some incredibly violent wolf attacks during the Great War caused by all the environmental destruction happening at the time.
- While very few wolf attacks have been verified in the US and Canada, wolves in Europe and Asia are far more aggressive, particularly in Europe after the 13th century when the buildup of dead bodies caused by the Black Death allowed them an easy source of food, giving many a taste for human flesh and a habit of frequenting villages, city outskirts and major roads in the process. Special structures were reportedly built along highways for travelers to take refuge from roving packs in.
- And of course, rabid wolves are exactly as dangerous as their domesticated counterparts.