It gives me great pleasure to introduce this story by Cliff McNish. I was privileged enough to see it whilst it was being fine tuned and it is wonderful to see it complete – and accompanied by beautiful illustrations.
It is a tale about a wolf, tortured with grief over the death of his youngest cub. The young animals of the forest hear his cries but keep away because of the stern warnings from badger and their parents. But one brave squirrel is drawn to the desolate howls and offers to keep the wolf company during the night.
Each night, the squirrel gets closer and closer. It is only when he feels the wolf’s hot breath on his neck that he remembers what badger said……
But the wolf does not mean to harm him and the squirrel looks on as his friend is united with the ghost of his son.
It is a moving tale and the language is beautiful. It reminds me of Eastern European folk tales – and has a touch of the Oscar Wilde about it (I’m thinking of his stories for children), with its maudlin feel. My daughter in particular was captivated throughout and was hugely animated during the telling – ‘He ISN’T bad Mummy, the other animals have it wrong’, ‘Oh the poor wolf, he is so sad’. When the squirrel is close to the wolf she suddenly grew very worried – her hands were clenched into tight fists, pressed under her wide eyes as she breathed out ‘Oh no!’. ‘Phew!’ she said, when she realised the squirrel was safe. I was particularly pleased about her reaction as that is the part of the story I saw being developed – the build up is spot on, and the lovely reunion just after is such sweet release.
It was such a pleasure to read it out loud and I would love it if a drama company took hold of it – I think this would make a fantastic production and I could see it being lapped up at primary schools. It certainly deserves to be performed.
I know this story means a lot to Cliff. He is being incredibly generous and is allowing anyone who is interested to download it for free – so please do take up him on that. And if you don’t know his work then get reading! You are in for a treat if you do. Go to his website to access it: http://www.cliffmcnish.com/the-winter-wolf/