In the 1950s, Lois and Herb Crisler raise seven wild-born wolf pups for the purpose of filming a documentary. The wolves are denied their freedom, and Lois laments the irreversibility of their condition: it is either death or captivity for the animals she loves. Decades later, a third option is explored by two other women. Their captive-raised wolves are rewilded: untamed, unnamed, and returned to the wilderness. One story begins in 2010 in Zoige Grassland, China, with a painter Li Weiyi and a wolf she names Green; the other is set in 1980s in the Pacific Northwest, where Teresa Tsimmu Martino, an artist and a poet, shares her life with the wolf Mckenzie. In the time of climate change and sixth mass extinction, their efforts pose a question: does saving an individual animal matter when the survival of so many species is uncertain? Is preserving the wilderness in its intact state—if it still exists—possible, or are animal captivity and wildlife management inevitable in the Anthropocene? This paper seeks the answers in the women’s memoirs, which not only describe their ambiguous relationship to the animals, but also reveal the changing attitudes of humans towards the wilderness.
Currently a doctoral candidate in English literature, Paulina Szymonek holds a master’s degree in English Philology from the University of Silesia. Research interests include animal studies, mythology, nature writing and wildlife conservation.