The Wolf’s Carol by N. R. Jackson; Published by the Barbarian Press

The Wolf’s Carol is a delightful allegory written and illustrated by Nancy Ruth Jackson and published by the Barbarian Press in 2006. I was hoping to get this done a little earlier in the holiday season but maybe it is apropos that it is Christmas Eve. I may even make a point to read this aloud to the family gathering after Christmas Dinner.

“It was the animals who first welcomed The Christ into this world, who first knelt to their maker in the manger…” So starts this beautiful Christmas story. And like all great allegories, there are layers upon layers of learning to take away from the story. The use of animals is the simplest of symbolic devices, and one that usually hooks children and adults alike. With the current vampire craze amongst our “culture”, I’m sure the use of a werewolf will make the story of interest even to the twenty-somethings.

For me, the barnyard full of animals represents the diversity of Christian peoples within society. But there are other “Christians”, the forest animals, that are different and do things in different ways. They are feared, misunderstood, and not trusted because they are different and maybe for the very reason that not very much is known about them. So imagine the shock when a wolf shows up one Christmas Eve on a mission of mercy.

“A wolf on a mission of mercy?!”

He makes a strange request: that the animals allow the werewolf to visit their manger and nativity scene on the next Christmas Eve, which happens to be a full moon. This creates a great debate based on fear, ignorance, and hurt. It’s bad enough for the barnyard animals to host a wolf in their barn. But to host a werewolf? Why them? Why doesn’t he stay among the wolves he most resembles? The wolf answers:

“I will repeat: he is none of ours, except that he is a fellow creature who has been hunted and hounded with every weapon humans ever invented. We of the forest know too well what that means & for that reason alone I agreed to this meeting. We have already met and have consented to suffer his presence—being, after all, more used to his depredations than you. But we do not keep the holy day as you do and we do not have this…” The wolf lifted his chin towards the manger. He almost growled, “It is the manger he most desires to see.”

In the end, they realize that they cannot really keep the werewolf out, not with the barn door, or their anger, indignation, or fear. As the wise cat states:

“Least of all our fear. If The Christ will not prevent him we cannot prevent him.”

So the next Christmas Eve, the wolf shows up with the rest of the forest animals who could not be kept away either, despite their common fears. The werewolf (man with the weight of his sins looking for redemption?) appears at the door and is let into the circle to face the manger. And in that confrontation the animals once again see a vision of the living Christ child.

As usual with Barbarian Press publications, Jan and Crispin have done a marvelous job of integrating text with illustration. I absolutely love when time and thought is put into this aspect of book design, instead of just placing illustrations randomly within a page. The use of multiple colors and different type sizes adds to the charm of this book. The use of blue thread to sew in the text block is a nice little touch as well, matching it to the blue patterned paper on the cover and the endpapers. This one is well worth seeking out.

AVAILABILITY: Published in an edition of 130, this probably went out of print long ago. My copy was picked up second hand on eBay and I suspect you can find a copy somewhere if you keep an eye out. I did a quick search and don’t believe that the story is available from any other publisher.

This entry was posted in Fine Press Book Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *