History of the Village: The Shadow Monsters by Neve McSweeney
Long ago, the Forgotten Woods were not all shadowy and dark. Once they were lush, green and full of life. Deer, foxes, rabbits and other animals called the forest their home. The leader of the forest was a kind and wise wolf who treated all animals as equals. She was fair to all and kept peace in her territory, but that all changed one fateful day.
Jean awoke. The swaying movement of the boat had awoken her as it gave a small lurch. She got to her feet and walked up to the top of the deck.
“Are we almost there?” she asked.
“Almost,” replied the captain.
Jean nodded and walked to the front of the boat. She sat down, looking out at the ocean. The vast stretch of deep blue, rippling below her. She could make out land in the distance. The longer they sailed the bigger the land got until it stretched all around them as far as they could see. After a few hours of sailing, the boat bumped gently onto land. Everyone got out and started unloading luggage from the boat.
Then they moved deeper into the land, walking for hours until they reached a stretch of clear open land next to a forest. Sailors from the boat walked off, looking at the space and walking into the forest to find food. Jean sat on a small hill, looking out over what was soon to be her new home. Suddenly one of the sailors came running out of the forest, screaming. The captain ran over and Jean followed her father.
“What’s wrong?” asked the captain. Jean reached them, just in time to hear his answer. “A wolf…in the forest…attacked us,” panted the sailor.
“And the others, what happened?” asked the captain, desperately.
“They were attacked, they told me to warn you,” said the sailor.
“Dad, look out!” Jean shouted as a huge wolf flew out of nowhere, at her father.
Jean grabbed a big stick and swung it at the beast as her father jumped out of the way. The other sailors noticed something was wrong and ran to help. Together they managed to fight the beast off, but it wasn’t ready to give up yet. It bolted between their legs and landed hard on the captain’s back. Jean swung the stick at it, but it ducked and as it did, it sank its fangs into his neck.
“No!” screamed Jean as blood poured from the wound.
She and the sailors beat the wolf away and it fled into the forest. The sailors picked up her father and carried him over to a hill. They tried to clean and heal his wound but it was already clear to everyone that there was nothing they could do for him. Jean looked up and noticed the wolf watching them from the shelter of the trees. Rage boiled inside her like hot liquid. She grabbed one of the sailor’s spears and ran towards the wolf. As soon as she approached the wolf took flight, running into the foliage. She tore after it, determined to avenge her father. The wolf stopped in a small clearing, watching her approach. When she walked into the clearing, the wolf lunged at her. She swung the spear over her head and knocked the wolf back. She slammed it against the rocks. She raised the spear, ready to deliver the final blow, but was distracted by some movement nearby. She turned to look and the wolf seized its moment. It lunged forward straight for her neck. She pointed the spear upwards to defend herself and it sank deep into the wolf’s chest. Blood splattered all over the forest floor. The wolf lay, spluttering and dying at her feet. She looked down, triumph pulsing through her.
She heard tiny scuffling noises behind her and turned around. A tiny wolf cub came wiggling out of a hole. It walked over to the dead wolf and snuzzled it, making tiny yowling noises as it did. Grief flared inside Jean, where a moment before there had been jubilation. She hadn’t done a good thing at all, she had orphaned a child out of pure anger and grief. The cub was now homeless because of her evil, brainless actions. She placed her hand gently on the cub. It squirmed for a moment then stopped, looking up at her. She would care for this wolf, not out of determination to take it from its home but as a reminder of what she had done and what could happen if she ever let her emotions explode again. She picked up the cub and held it close to her chest. If no one helped it, it would die out here. She carried it back to the clearing. As she left she thought she could feel someone watching her. When she looked around she didn’t see anything but heard a small growl. She carried the cub back to the sailors. They had buried her father and were now talking to each other. They were talking about making a town around her fathers grave. Jean agreed absentmindedly and walked off to a hill. She lay down and cradled the cub in her arms.
That night, while she was asleep on the hill, surrounded by snoring sailors, she heard distant howling coming from the forest. Fear rippled through her. The cub in her lap wasn’t the only offspring of the wolf she had murdered. There were others and they didn’t sound happy, they sounded furious. The same kind of fury that had filled Jean after her fathers death. Grieving fury.
Years passed and the town was built, but each month on the full moon something strange would happen. Strange, smokey animals would come to the town and each time they did, someone died. Only Jean knew what was happening. They were wolves and they were avenging the wolf she had killed. She didn’t know for sure, but it was her guess and it scared her as nothing else had or ever would. The wolf she had saved continued to live with her, until her death, where it perished along with her. She had learned a valuable lesson in her life, ‘selflessness and not being blinded by grief can save many lives, yourself included’. She passed that message to her children and they passed it to their children, until it reached her final living descendant, a girl named Ray. Ray cherished her family motto and kept it in mind throughout her life. Those words saved hundreds of lives, herself included.