(This was first published in Le News 5 February 2015)
Did you know that the first full moon of the year was once known as the Wolf Moon? I picked this snippet up online and shared it with my older child one cold January night, as we had a magical mommy-daughter moment, holding hands and looking up at that moon. Perhaps I should have chosen my location more carefully, though: we were walking across a dark, empty parking lot at the time, and the setting may have worked against me. Instead of saying, ‘Gosh, how interesting,’ or ‘please tell me more,’ (she never does say these things to me but I live in hope), the child looked at me blankly for a moment and then screamed as if she’d just seen a shark.
‘Wolves!’ she shrieked. ‘Eek!’
‘No,’ I said quickly. ‘I’m wrong! I think that was in North America. And we’re in Europe. Silly me! Here, it was just called the Hunger Moon.’
But surprisingly, the juxtaposition of the concepts ‘hungry’ and ‘wolf’ did not bring her any comfort. Instead, she climbed me like a tree, wrapped her arms around my head and wouldn’t let go until we were in the car with all the doors locked.
‘There aren’t any wolves around here,’ I assured her as I prised her fingers out of my eyes. So, of course, the very next day we bumped into two, in Geneva. Okay, technically they were Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs, but still. That’s more wolf than I thought I’d see on the Quai du Mont Blanc on a Sunday morning. The pup was adorable but the adult … I’m sure he has a lovely personality, but he was looking at my smaller child as if she were a juicy pork chop, so we didn’t hang about to make friends.
Not long after that, the children became obsessed with werewolves, and kept on seeing them at the windows.
I tried to help them overcome this fear in a number of ways. First of all, I tried straightforward, sensible dismissal (‘There’s no such thing as werewolves’) which got me two blank stares and then two piercing shrieks of, ‘Look! A werewolf at the window!’
Then I tried the scholarly approach. ‘Girls,’ I explained. ‘The werewolf myth is an analogy for masculinity: think of the increased body hair and the great physical strength that a ‘normal’, ‘civilised’ man gains when, through the bite of the magical wolf, he is forced to acknowledge his extreme, wild masculine self.’
More blank stares and then the smaller child burst into noisy tears. ‘Daddy’s hairy and he’s not a werewolf.’
‘Look!’ cried her sister, by way of distraction. ‘There’s a werewolf at the window!’ and they both ran off screaming. Again.
The third time that this happened, it became clear to me that they didn’t actually want my weak attempts to comfort them. What they really wanted was to run around screaming. And they weren’t even that scared.
This was confirmed one night when I overheard them chatting as they lay reading in bed (my bed, obviously, because nobody in this house sleeps where they’re supposed to).
‘What will we do if there ever really is a werewolf at the window?’ asked the bigger, more anxious child.
The small one didn’t even look up from her book. ‘I’ll kick it to death. Don’t worry about that.’
‘Yes,’ her sister said, ‘good idea. Then we can skin it, and dye its fur purple, and use it for a carpet.’
Come werewolf, or wolfdog or whatever there is out there, under the hungry Wolf Moon, those little alpha pups will be just fine.