The first sight I had of her was at the 27; the 45-minute mark of The Rise of Black Wolf by Bob Landis, which was the first wolf documentary I had ever watched, later followed by two more appearances in Landis’ Wolf Pack, and In The Valley of the Wolves, familiar favorites which I watch to this day. Even as a child, I was struck by 42’s story. Being an aspiring writer, hearing the name “‘Cinderella’ wolf” definitely got my attention, but it was seeing how Landis portrayed her story on film, how she was bullied and beaten by her sister, the alpha female known as 40 that really made me empathize with her. As a former bullied kid, myself, I knew what it was like to feel like an outcast among one’s own kind, and to that effect, I was surprised 42 did not leave her pack to go off on her own as is the case with many other wolves who find themselves in similar situations. It wasn’t until I read Rick McIntyre’s The Rise Of Wolf 8 and The Reign of Wolf 21 that I understood.
Seeing and understanding 42 through McIntyre’s eyes leaves one with the image of a wolf bound to her pack through the bond of family. McIntyre describes how unlike her domineering sister 40, 42 was kind and playful to her packmates, and actually made the effort to establish a bond with them. A bond, that I believe, would not let her run away and leave her packmates at 40’s mercy, even after 40 actually killed her sister’s pups in 1998 and 1999. This bond would later become an alliance that would lead to the unification of 42 and her nieces against 40 in 42’s most desperate hour, when 40 would attempt to kill her sister’s pups for the third time, an attempt that resulted in her own death at the paws of her packmates.
Upon 40’s death, 42 succeeded her sister as the alpha female of the Druid Peak Pack. Now, as an alpha female, she could have followed her late sister’s example and killed her nieces and nephews, for more mouths would mean less food for her own pups. But she didn’t. Instead, 42 adopted her sister’s pups and raised them alongside her own litter, as well as those of her nieces. Moreover, during the course of her reign, not once did she make an attempt to kill any of her nieces’ and later, her daughters’ pups. Indeed, she did the opposite and helped her nieces and daughters raise their pups alongside her future litters. It’s incredible to even believe that 42, a wild animal, was capable of such a thing, to be capable of behavior that is almost exclusively human.
Reading how the two were attracted to each other from the first scent, and then first sight is the sort of thing that defines true love in fairytales. Moreover, reading of how 42 defended 21 just as fiercely as he had defended her during an attack by a rival pack (McIntyre, The Reign of Wolf 21) is essentially what we all wish for in a mate, that being love that is not only true but real. Indeed, I would even claim that 21 & 42 set the standard for what most couples should aspire to.
42 truly was an incredible wolf. Not just a mother, sister, mate or packmate but a role model in so many ways. She was a true leader to her family, and she inspired me in many ways, from her loyalty to her pack, to compassion towards pups that weren’t her own, to being there for her packmates when they needed her…Traits that I see in my own mother which is why I believe I was so drawn to 42, and also why I believe we as humans and as a society need to embody those traits more in ourselves.In the end, all I can say is that though I didn’t know 42, from the bottom of my heart I wish I had.