"A third said that the hunters who had brought the wolf down out of the sierras had been followed by other wolves who howled at night from the darkness beyond their fire and some of the hunters had said that these wolves were no right wolves"
Tyr and and the wolf Fenrir, illustrated by John Bauer (1911)
Public DomainTyr and and the wolf Fenrir, illustrated by John Bauer (1911) - Credit: Viktor Rydberg
Helmet and collar made by Tlingit tribe in honour of an animal they both feared and admired
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeHelmet and collar made by Tlingit tribe in honour of an animal they both feared and admired - Credit: Luis García
Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf engraving by Gustave Doré
Public DomainLittle Red Riding Hood and the Wolf engraving by Gustave Doré - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The mystical language McCarthy employs in the first section of the novel places his wolf within a long tradition of folkloric and mythological wolves from around the world. Often depicted as the epitome of evil and savagery, McCarthy’s treatment is closer to that found in many Native American cultures, where the wolf was both feared and admired in equal measures for its ferocity and strength. 

 

 

Woodcut depicting a werewolf, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1512)
Public DomainWoodcut depicting a werewolf, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1512) - Credit: Gotha, Herzogliches Museum
The most relevant wolf myth to The Crossing, though, is that of the werewolf, and elements of lycanthropy permeate the wolf section of the novel.

During his pursuit of the she-wolf, Billy follows in the footsteps of the wolf hunter Echols ('half wolf hisself') and consults the brujo Don Arnulfo (named after a wolf). Later, Billy will seek almost to change into the wolf; closing his eyes to see what the wolf saw and trying to imagine what the wolf smelled or tasted, wondering ‘had the living blood with which it slaked its throat a different taste to the thick iron tincture of his own’ [p.52].

 

German woodcut of werewolf from 1722
Public DomainGerman woodcut of werewolf from 1722 - Credit: Wikimedia Commons