A journey in France with story books, a donkey and in the company of wolves

Ruth Hartley Storytelling, Books by Ruth Hartley2 Comments

Two grey wolves sniff the gound

Siberian wolves at the wolf park

Companionable books and dangerous travels in the wild

One of the greatest pleasures that anyone can have is that of making a journey with good companions.

Some of the best travelling companions are pages of paper stitched and bound into storybooks – or the wizardry of a Kindle! One of the delights of both travelling and books is discovering that those magical places that you experienced as a reader are also the wonderful and extraordinary places that you are visiting.

Magical Realism and Cuba

In 1987 I went to Cuba and the Havana Biennial on a very long and roundabout journey from Lusaka to London to Madrid to Shannon to Gander, Newfoundland and finally to Havana in the company of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García  Márques and was transported to a world of magical realism and artists all the time I was there. I have posted a video from a later Biennial because there was no video of the earlier one but it has the same spirit.

The bottom half of an immense brick tower

Albi Cathedral 12th century

Moulin Rouge

Last week we went to Albi to see the art of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and of course I thought of Guy de Maupassant and his often sad and bitter tales of Gay Paris. Albi has the most wonderful brick cathedral and palace

 Land of wolves and myths

Also on this trip across France we visited the Wolf Park of Gévaudon and found ourselves in the land of wolves. So we remembered Little Red Riding Hood – Le Petit Chaperon Rouge by Charles Perrault and then of course Angela Carter and that terrifying and marvellous film of her stories by Neil Jordan – The Company of Wolves.

Of course there are many fables as well as children’s stories about wolves from The Jungle Book to  The Three Little Pigs. I am sure all my readers can think of a story or a film about wolves that made them laugh or scream. Please put them into the comments so we can enjoy them too.

Ah I ask – why are wolves so threatening – why are the monsters that live inside us even more terrifying than the ones we meet each day in the press and on TV. There is advice to girls about wolves in the Charles Perrault poem below translated by RS Littlewood in 1912. Is it meant to be tongue-in-cheek? There are after all many different versions of the tale of the little girl and the wolf.

A man with a warm hat rests under a tree while his saddled donkey grazed beside him

Stevenson in his sheepskin sleeping bag and Modestine

Modestine the donkey

Of course we were close to the Cevennes where one of the favourite authors of my childhood, Robert Louis Stevenson, made a dangerous expedition across wild mountains where wolves and bandits lurked. His companion and solace was a small, slow-going, female donkey the colour of a mouse, who was called Modestine. Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes is a lovely and funny book – do not miss reading it!

Little girls, this seems to say

Never stop upon your way

Never trust a stranger friend

No one knows how it will end

As you’re pretty, so be wise

Wolves may lurk in every guise

Now as then tis simple truth

Sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth.

2 Comments on “A journey in France with story books, a donkey and in the company of wolves”

  1. Christine Haworth-Staines

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I shall reflect on this next time I travel.

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