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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Jackal and Wolf
by Shen Shixi
Age Range: 12+
When Flame, a fine red jackal’s young pups are killed by a wolf she is distraught, but it is not long before an opportunity presents itself that allows her to wreak her revenge. Finding her adversary caught in a trap she spies its helpless offspring. After quickly despatching one of the pups Flame finds that she cannot bring herself to kill the remaining pup. Against her better judgement, she carries the wolf pup back to her cave high up in the mountains of the remote west of China close to the Tibetan border. Gradually Sweetie, as she is named, comes to regards Flame as her mother. Although Flame adopts the young wolf as her own she has difficultly reconciling her maternal instinct with the fact that this is the natural offspring of her sworn enemy. Can a jackal and wolf really live side by side?
Prize-winning Chinese author Shen Shixi is well-known for his animal stories in his native China and the portrayal and understanding of these animals and their habit is extraordinary. The descriptions of their fight for survival is often graphic with nothing censored and may come as a shock to some younger readers. Shixi’s lyrical language, (owing to an impressive translation by Helen Wang), captures every minutia of the wildlife and bleak terrain where Flame lives.
The only reservation with this novel of 281 pages, is what age to pitch it at and that possibly there is not enough of a storyline for an English audience. As descriptive as it is, there is a vast amount of text dealing with the hunting and fighting scenes, which may not appeal to everyone. Having said that, Jackal and Wolf is a touching animal fable about two mortal enemies that will give an insight into the wildlife existing in a remote part of China together with their concepts of nature and morality.