Be A Wolf

The advantage of a large enough family is that a mis-directed Christmas gift can still find an appropriate recipient.

Case in point: in the annual exchange this year, a slightly out of touch uncle gave his five-year-old nephew a book that would have been better assigned to someone much older. But someone very much older saw it and found it fascinating.

The book is Be a Wolf, a re-telling of the Beowulf saga aimed at teen-agers. The hero of the tale is a Jack Russell terrier named Wishbone who daydreams himself into the role of Beowulf. As one more than slightly interested in the Beowulf saga, I picked it up and was delighted with it. Before the day was over, even with all the comings and goings of Christmas Day, I had finished it. It’s a very good re-telling of the tale and even manages to sneak in a little instruction in the structure of Old English poetry.

I found a review on line, however, that suggested it was stretching things a bit to imagine a tiny Jack Russell terrier ripping the arm off the monster Grendel. That shows how much the reviewer knows about Jack Russells. The well-intentioned uncle’s older brother once owned a Jack Russell and when it came to visit it would chase deer out of the orchard. It was a silly sight: this tiny dog harassing a deer many times its size. I used to wonder what would happen if the deer would just stop and say, “OK, I give up; what are you going to do about it?” But I think the deer might have been rightly afraid that the Jack Russell would indeed tear its leg off.

So if you want to choose a dog to stand in for Beowulf, I actually can’t think of one much better suited to the role.

And if you know a teen-ager who finds Beowulf hard to get into, get a copy of Be a Wolf. You might even enjoy it yourself!

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