Inspired by a true story, this limpidly written account of an American grey wolf’s journey of more than 1000 miles in order to find a mate makes compelling reading. His mane is Swift, whatever the title may suggest, and he starts his epic travels after the rest of his family has been wiped out by a larger wolf pack. Leaving his former lair in the Oregon Mountains, two-year-old Swift has to use all his skills in order to feed himself and also evade attacks from other wolves. Humans, driving their ‘noisemakers’ (cars) along ‘black rivers’ (roads) pose another threat, especially when firing ‘lightning sticks’ (rifles) during hunts.
Swift has therefore to employ all his formidable skills, from wet-marking his temporary boundaries to working in tandem with a raven, who shows him where to find food in return for a taste of it herself. He talks to himself human-style when articulating thoughts and memories. But in every other way he is a proper one of his kind, salivating over the prospect of killing and eating a new-born foal, although in this he is thwarted. When he finally finds his mate-to-be Night, who has also travelled over the same distance in order to be with him, their sex life is not mentioned as such, much though he admires her beauty. Three cubs duly follow with Night receiving a well-earned nose-touch in recognition of her maternal success.
They deserve their hard-fought domestic harmony, as do by implication all those other migrants, humans and animals currently in search of a home and to whom this fine story is dedicated. Beautifully and copiously illustrated in black and white by the Spanish artist Mónica Armiňo, it is well in the tradition of the Jack London school of tough realism mixed with a compassionate understanding of the animal world. Some notes on wolves after the story is finished complete an excellent package.