Friday’s Essay – Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

I am thinking of wild things and wild places these days.  I have a story I want to tell.  I’m going to Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in August and will write about werewolves.  Last November I woke at four o’clock one morning with a fragment of a werewolf story in my head.  I put it to paper and there it has languished.  I’ve recently picked it up again and have been rolling it around my mind.  It started as a pretty straightforward coming of age story.  In her fourteenth year Melissa goes through her Awakening – the months-long transformation by which a cub becomes a werewolf.  Cubs are unaware they are werewolves and part of the Awakening involves the cub coming to terms with his or her werewolfishness alone.

As I rolled this around in my mind I stumbled upon another theme that appealed to me – the wild.  I started with the idea of ‘the monster’ – what is monstrous to us? So, I read a whole book – an academic monograph – about monsters, because that’s just how I roll.  Werewolves and stories about werewolves tend to be examinations of ‘the beast within.’  How close are we, humans, to ‘the beast’, ‘the monster’?  Of what depravities are we capable and why?  The actual psychiatric condition ‘lycanthropy’ – when a person actually believes himself to be a werewolf – seems to manifest in people under a great deal of stress.  Becoming a wild animal is an escape from the strict rigours of one’s modern life.  To me these ideas and themes made me think of the wild – wild places, wild things.  And, I wondered what was so frightening about this wildness? In terms of the wildness within, I suppose humans become frightened by the possibility of being out of control of their bodies, emotions, and their environments. However, unless one is actually psychotic, a few wild events are probably good for humans.  The wild of nature, however, is a bigger issue.  Its destruction by humans is an ancient phenomenon.  Its domination has been practically demanded by successive generations of people based on some (in my opinion) misguided idea that it is the god-given right of humans to dominate all aspects of their world and environment.  But, why should we fight the wildness at all costs?  I have yet to be given a convincing argument.  Why should we write horror stories about the wild things?  The wild is worth preserving – the wild is beautiful.  There are many who find more beauty in wild things than made things.  There is a structure to the wild – just because we may not understand it doesn’t make it ugly.  Perhaps it is because we don’t entirely understand it that makes it frightening to some humans.

So, what if I wrote a story about a girl who discovers she is a werewolf and all her relatives and ancestors are and were werewolves?  She is a regular girl, a regular kid, like all of us.  Yet, she is more – her wildness doesn’t diminish her.  This wildness inside her makes her more.  It has been the responsibility of her clan since time immemorial to protect the wildness.  In the twenty-first century we are losing our wildness at an unfathomable rate.  The questions for my heroine and her clan are: Why is the wild worth preserving? How do we keep the wild within us and in our environment? And, how do we live with the wildness and not let it scare the shit out of us?

As I said, this is my August Camp NaNoWriMo project,so I’m not certain of all the answers yet.  I am, however, looking forward to taking my journey to Where The Wild Things Are – let the wild rumpus begin!




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