Anecdotes of Wolves in Scandinavia by Lewis Lloyd 1830
Wolves not unfrequently destroy people in Scandinavia. Many lamentable instances of the kind have occurred within the last few years. Wolves that have once tasted human flesh are said to be more dangerous than others. In the year 1819 those ferocious animals destroyed no less than nineteen persons in a very confined district of country. This was at no great distance from Gefle, situated on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. The poor sufferers were, however, almost all children. It was supposed to have been the same drove of wolves that committed this dreadful devastation. “Wolves,” Mr. Nilsson says, “only attack the human race when dying of famine.” He farther observes, “that in those parts of the country where they abound, it has often happened, even in the daytime, that they have suddenly come into houses, and killed and carried away children that were alone.” The following circumstance, related to me by Captain Eurenius, will go far to corroborate this statement. The occurrence took place in the vicinity of Frederickshall, in Norway, near to which place that individual was then residing, In the year 1799 a peasant was one day looking out of his cottage-window, when he espied a large wolf enter his premises, and seize hold of one of his goats. At this time he had a child of about eighteen months old in his arms; this he incautiously laid down in a small porch fronting his house; when, catching hold of a stick, the nearest weapon at hand, he attacked the wolf, who was in the act of carrying off the goat. The ferocious animal now dropped the latter, but, getting a sight of the child, almost in the twinkling of an eye he seized hold of the little innocent, threw it across his shoulders, and was off like lightning. The poor father was driven almost distracted at this horrible sight; but his sorrow was unavailing, for he was unable to overtake the wolf, who, together with, his prey, quickly disappeared in an adjoining thicket.
About twenty years ago, during a severe winter, and when there were known to be many wolves roaming about the country, a Captain Nordenalder, together with several companions, started off on a hunting excursion. The party were provided with a large sledge, such as are used in Sweden to convey coke to the furnaces, a pig, and an ample supply of guns, ammunition, &c. They drove on to a great piece of water which was then frozen over, in the vicinity of Forsbacka, and at no great distance from the town of Gefle. Here they began to pinch the ears, &c. of the pig, who of course squeaked out tremendously. This, as was anticipated, soon drew a multitude of famished wolves about their sledge. When these had approached within range, the party opened a fire upon them, and destroyed or mutilated several of the number. All the animals that were either killed or wounded were quickly torn to pieces and devoured by their companions. This, as I have observed, is said invariably to be the case, if there be many congregated together. The blood with which the ravenous beasts had now glutted themselves, instead of satiating their hunger, only served to make them more savage and ferocious than before; for, in spite of the fire kept up by the party, they advanced close to the sledge with the apparent intention of making an instant attack. To preserve their lives, therefore, the captain and his friends threw the pig on to the ice; this, which was quickly devoured by the wolves, had the effect, for the moment, of diverting their fury to another object. Whilst this was going forward, the horse, driven to desperation by the near approach of the ferocious animals, struggled and plunged so violently, that he broke the shafts to pieces. Being thus disengaged from the vehicle, the poor animal galloped off, and, as the story goes, succeeded in making good his escape. When the pig was devoured, which was probably hardly the work of a minute, the wolves again threatened to attack the party; and as the destruction of a few, out of so immense a drove as was then assembled, only served to render the survivors more blood-thirsty, the Captain and his friends now turned their sledge bottom up, and took refuge beneath its friendly shelter. In this situation, it is said, they remained for many hours, the wolves in that while making repeated attempts to get at them, by tearing the sledge with their teeth. At length, however, assistance arrived, and they were then, to their great joy, relieved from their most perilous situation.
The following circumstance, showing the savage nature of the wolf, and interesting in more than one point of view, was related to me by a gentleman of rank attached to the embassy at St. Petersburg: it occurred in Russia some few years ago. A woman, accompanied by three of her children, was one day in a sledge, when they were pursued by a number of wolves. On this she put the horse into a gallop, and drove towards her home, from which she was not far distant, with all possible speed. All, however, would not avail, for the ferocious animals gained upon her, and, at last, were on the point of rushing on the sledge. For the preservation of her own life and that of the remaining children, the poor frantic creature now took one of her babes, and cast it a prey to her blood-thirsty pursuers. This stopped their career for a moment; but, after devouring the little innocent, they renewed the pursuit, and a second time came up with the vehicle. The mother, driven to desperation, resorted to the same horrible expedient, and threw her ferocious assailants another of her offspring. To cut short this melancholy story, her third child was sacrificed in a similar manner. Soon after this, the wretched being, whose feelings may be more easily conceived than described, reached her home in safety. Here she related what had happened, and endeavored to palliate her own conduct, by describing the dreadful alternative to which she had been reduced. A peasant, however, who was among the bystanders, and heard the recital, took up an axe, and with one blow cleft her skull in two; saying, at the same time, that a mother who could thus sacrifice her children for the preservation of her own life, was no longer fit to live. This man was committed to prison, but the Emperor subsequently gave him a pardon.
This gentleman related to me another curious circumstance regarding wolves: it happened at no great distance from St. Petersburg, only two years previously. A peasant, when one day in his sledge, was pursued by eleven of these ferocious animals; at this time he was only about two miles from home, towards which he urged his horse at the very top of his speed. At the entrance to his residence was a gate, which happened to be closed at the time; but the horse dashed this open, and thus himself and his master found refuge within the court-yard. They were followed, however, by nine out of the eleven wolves; but, very fortunately, at the instant these had entered the enclosure, the gate swung back on its hinges, and thus they were caught as in a trap. From being the most voracious of animals, the nature of these beasts, now that they found escape impossible, became completely changed: so far, indeed, from offering molestation to any one, they slunk into holes and corners, and allowed themselves to be slaughtered almost without making any resistance.