Ottway was dead the entire time.
He was sent back in order to do a job like try to save those people or he is just stuck here.
How would he really know what dying feels like? "First it gets warm the it just slides over you like a blanket." Because he's done it before. He was attacked by that wolf in the beginning of the movie, he got bit in the leg and the chest i think. Yet he show no ill effects or even limping. There was also that thing where he went flying out of a damn airplane and landed 50 yards away from the rest of the crash. He survived all this because he can't be killed. note
Maybe it wasn't even his wife that died but him, that scene where she says "Don't be afraid." He was about to die.
Ottway not only survived.
He inadvertently became the alpha male. Simple logic, kill the alpha male, and you are leader of the pack.
Not actually possible or even a thing according to wolf biology and social hierarchy. There are no 'alpha' wolves-the leaders of the pack are the parents of the rest of the pack. Killing one of the parents will cause the pack to fracture while it waits for an unrelated adult of the same gender as the dead individual to move in, but there are no 'alpha' fights. The movie got the social structure of wolves WAAAY wrong.
Ottway survived and became Henri Ducard / Ra's al Ghul from Batman Begins
Known facts about Ducard and Ottway:
- Their wives are dead
- They are skilled, tenacious warriors
- They have nihilistic streaks
- They look exactly like Liam Neeson
Ottway won his fight with the alpha male, escaped to civilization, started a new life and eventually became secret head of the League of Shadows. Now imagine Ra's' final scene with the poem going through his head: "Once more into the fray / Into the last good fight Iíll ever know / Live and die on this day / Live and die on this day..."
(Mind, this was all invalidated by The Dark Knight Rises
but it was a fun few months.)