wolf

A story of finding your voice, acceptance, and friendship told in the style of a Native American fable.

Many summers ago when Wolf was young, he was padding through the forest on a fine day when he heard a beautiful song coming from the treetops. He stopped to listen, and as he gazed up at the canopy above he saw a mockingbird perched on a branch.

“Mockingbird!” Wolf called. “Your song is so lovely! Won’t you teach me to sing it, too?”

Mockingbird was pleased at Wolf’s praise for he knew he could sing beautifully, and he quickly agreed to teach Wolf what he knew.

“Of course!” he said, flying to a lower branch so Wolf could hear better. “First, try this.”

Mockingbird trilled a pure note into the morning air. Wolf was impressed and immediately tried to imitate Mockingbird’s sound.

“Aaaaooooooooooo!” he ventured.

Mockingbird cringed at the harsh sound, but fluffed his feathers and tried again with a different note. Again, Wolf tried his best but could not match the loveliness of Mockingbird’s song.

“No, no no,” Mockingbird admonished. “You’re putting far too much throat in it. Sing from your belly! Try again!”

Over and over all through the morning, Wolf tried as best he could to match Mockingbird’s effortless music but was never able to utter anything other than a high-pitched howl. As the day wore on, Wolf noticed that many other animals had gathered to watch the failing lesson. He began to feel ashamed of his terrible voice.

At length Wolf said to Mockingbird, “It’s no use. I will never be able to sing like you.”

Mockingbird felt bad for Wolf. “Maybe you just need more practice?” he said.

“With a voice like that, practice won’t do any good!” Rabbit announced, and all the other animals laughed.

“Yeah, why don’t you just give it up now?” Badger said, in his typically sour way.

Wolf was embarrassed and slunk away from the other animals to hide his shame in the forest. He walked and walked, thinking as he went. He loved Mockingbird’s song and felt desperate to learn how to sing exactly as his bird friend had done. He began to wonder if Mockingbird was right about needing more practice. He stopped next to a stream, and after a drink to wet his throat he tried again.

“Aaaaooooooooooo!” he howled.

“Gahhh, can you not make so much noise, please?” came a voice from behind a nearby bush. Wolf jumped in surprise. A few moments later, Tortoise came ambling into view.

“Hello, Tortoise,” Wolf said. “I’m sorry if my singing disturbed you.”

Tortoise snorted in derision. “Sonny boy, if that’s what you call singing I suggest you find another hobby,” he said, and Wolf watched as Tortoise turned and made his lumbering way along the trail.

Wolf was more dejected than ever. He kept walking, stopping every little while to try his song, but always there was an animal nearby that heard and complained, or even worse, laughed.

At last Wolf came to a tall hill and climbed up to the very top. When he reached the peak, he looked around and saw that it was full night. He had been walking and trying to sing for the entire day and he still had not made a single noise that sounded like Mockingbird. Wolf was so sad that he raised his muzzle to the sky and let out one long, final howl.

“Hello there,” a kind voice said, and for the second time Wolf was surprised. He looked all around but could see no other animals.

“I like your singing very much,” the voice said.

Wolf was beside himself. He looked and looked for the source of the voice, but could not locate any animal that had spoken to him. At last the voice told him to look up.

There in the sky hung Moon, silent and bright and alone. She smiled kindly at Wolf and he found himself smiling back.

“Will you sing for me again?” Moon asked.

Wolf felt his smile fade. “I can’t sing,” he said. “You’re just being nice.”

“Not at all,” Moon said. “I think you have a fine voice. It’s very strong! Listen how it carries over the hills!”

Wolf could indeed hear his howl echoing across the land. “It may carry a long way, but it doesn’t sound like Mockingbird,” he sighed.

“Well who says it has to?” Moon asked. “You’re not a mockingbird, so why would you want to sound like one? They make a lovely song, but your song is lovely, too. Just different. There’s nothing wrong with sounding like yourself!”

This was an idea Wolf had not thought of before. As he considered Moon’s words, he began to feel much better about his voice. She was right: a wolf is not a mockingbird. There was plenty of room in the forest for both of them, so perhaps there was plenty of room in the world for their different songs, too.

“I am very glad you climbed this hill to sing,” Moon said. “It gets lonesome here in the sky, night after night, with nobody to talk to. Most of the animals are asleep, and the ones that aren’t sleeping are quiet and secretive. It’s so hard to make friends.”

Wolf was sad for the lovely, lonely Moon. He resolved to become her friend and keep her company through the long nights. Smiling at his new friend, Wolf raised his nose and let out the longest, loudest howl he had ever tried. Moon laughed in delight and Wolf joined in. He had learned that the world is large enough for all kinds of voices, and no matter how you sing, someone out there will love your music.

-by Julie Jones
Family Jules
juliejones