The second in our series of true biographies of famous “monsters,” showing how they have been misinterpreted and misunderstood throughout the years.
Harry Wolf (yeah, I know, why do you think they changed it for the movie
?) was born to an East Coast middle-class suburban family in the early 20th century. When he was 18 months old, the family went for a vacation in the Adirondacks, and as will happen, they left him there, with nothing more than–no, not a blanket, not a compass, not even a Very pistol–a tattered copy of Tarzan of the Apes
Young Harry was quickly adopted by a family of wolves (who were also, as it happens, on vacation). He went home with them and grew up quickly in the Canadian woods. Although completely untouched (some would say unspoiled) by a conventional education, he taught himself to read through constant study of his only book. (Which, if you’ve read Tarzan, is hilariously funny.)
Of course, Tarzan is a primer for surviving in the wild, and it kept Harry alive–until winter arrived. Canada is not the same as Equatorial Africa. It gets cold there; a loincloth made out of zebra skin isn’t going to cut it (although points for finding a zebra in Canada). Harry quickly learned he had to suit up or chill out–permanently.
He tried imitating Tarzan and using available materials, covering himself with pine needles glued on with pine sap. This had the twin disadvantages of (1) being itchy, and (2) the wolves laughed at him. After a brief stint as mascot for the Stanford University Cardinal
, he looked for another solution.
“Harry,” the wolves said. “Harry, Harry, Harry.” After first he simply assumed they were being laconic, as wolves are, as well as condescending, but then he realized he was misunderstanding their accent: They were saying “hairy.” As in, hairy like his brothers. Harry gathered up all the shed wolf hair he could find, glued that to his body with pine sap, and soon was as cozy as could be. (It still itched, but it was better than wool.)
About this time, Harry (being a slow reader) finally reached the part of his book where the hero meets other humans. Harry followed suit…with predictable results. The Legend of the Wolfman was born.
Harry still goes into town on occasion, but only at night, and then only during the full moon, because otherwise it’s just too dark to see. He has never attacked anyone, but he did break into a used bookstore once and steal their entire collection of vintage Tarzan novels. He’s selling them on Ebay in hopes of booking passage to Africa where he can meet his hero–and finally get out of the damned wolf-hair suit. It still itches.
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