The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Frederick Marryat

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“What matters it to us, whether we are tried by, and have to suffer from, the enmity of our fellow-mortals, or whether we are persecuted by beings more powerful and more malevolent than ourselves?”

This week for my 2014 Deal Me In Sort Story Reading Challenge I drew the ten of Diamonds, which I had assigned to the Fredrick Marryat story, “The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains.” Diamonds are my suit for stories recommended by others, and I first learned of this story via Paula Cappa’s excellent blog and its weekly feature “Tuesday’s Tale of Terror” (see here for her post on this story.

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(Above: not the rampaging werewolf of this story, but perhaps its equal in gruesome-ness)

This is a werewolf tale, and apparently one of the earliest of that genre. It is contained within an almost (almost!) incidental framing story, where two mariners, “Philip” and “Krantz,” have lost most of their crew and are attempting to sail back to “civilization.” What a perfect opportunity for Krantz to tell his story:

“I take it for granted, that you have heard people speak of the Hartz Mountains,” observed Krantz.
“I have never heard people speak of them, that I can recollect,” replied Philip; “but I have read of them in some book, and of the strange things which have occurred there.”

It seems Krantz is the only surviving member of a small Transylvanian family whose history has been marked by violent death. A family whose father murdered the mother, after catching her in an act of infidelity, then fled north to the Hartz Mountains (Germany) of the story’s title. There they live a harsh and lonely existence that settles into routine until, while hunting one day, the father sees and pursues a white she-wolf. Just as he draws a bead on it and is preparing to fire his rifle, however, it mysteriously disappears. On the way back to the family’s cabin, though, he encounters a man and daughter, half-frozen, looking for shelter which he, naturally, offers.

(Below: a view of the Hartz Mountains)

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The man tells him that they too are fleeing Transylvania “where my daughter’s honour and my life were equally in jeopardy!” As one might expect, Krantz’s father falls for this young girl (Oh, I forgot to mention that she was beautiful 🙂 ) and they eventually marry. The strange girl’s father, oddly, insists on the vows being exchanged not including the phrase “by heaven” but instead “by all the spirits of the Hartz Mountains.” Reluctantly, the storyteller’s father agrees – but wouldn’t that be a red flag? Anyone?

The beautiful young woman becomes an “evil stepmother” to the storyteller and his siblings. The oldest brother begins to note her strange nocturnal disappearances where, upon returning, she invariably goes to wash herself. What could she be doing out there? Many of these nights of her absence are also marked by the howl of a wolf, seemingly just outside the window of the children. Hmm… Slowly, as the evil deeds of this “woman” mount up, young Krantz’s fear of her transforms: “…but I no longer felt afraid of her; my little heart was full of hatred and revenge.”

Since I’m providing a link to the text of the story, I won’t reveal the additional events that transpire at and around the cabin, but will say that as a result, Krantz lives under a curse. A curse that includes as part of his fate that “His bones will bleach in the wilderness…” Will he escape it, or will it find him even half way across the world. Why not read the story and find out?

Read the book free online here:

The CBS Radio Mystery Theater also produced an audio version of this tale that is available here:

This was the first story I’ve ever read by Fredrick Marryat. I enjoyed the almost fairy tale-like feel that it retained in spite of being somewhat gruesome. It seems that Marryat was something of a Renaissance Man as well, excelling in many fields (he also invented a flag-based signaling system for seagoing vessels and was in command of the ship the brought the news of Napoleon’s death back to Europe). What about you? Have YOU encountered him in any of your reading?

My roster of stories for DMI 2014:

(Below author Fredrick Marryat)

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