Valikko Sulje

The wolves came at midnight

Rural landscape.

Kuurmanpohja in Joutseno had permanent habitation as early as 10,700 years ago. Digs in recent years have provided evidence that the people settled on the ancient lake hunted and even quarried on a small scale, to procure material for tools and weapons. There is also evidence that they had dogs as companions.

The cooling stretch of open lake shimmered in the moonlight, when the air was filled with howling, gradually getting louder. The chilly sound started low. We gazed at each other fearfully, me and Takkutukka. The sound had woken us and all semblance of sleep had left us.

Someone added slightly damp sticks to the campfire, which smoked and stung the eyes. The men gathered up their sharp-honed spears and anything else they could lay their hands on. Moose-skin capes and leg protectors were donned and everybody was in a great hurry. The voices of the wolf pack seemed to come closer all the time. Their howling mingled with the barking of the village dogs. They almost seemed to be talking to one another, the wolves and dogs.

Whiptail, curled up asleep until now, also began a restless whine. I stroked and tried to calm him, but the dog couldn’t stay still. Trembling and hesitant, he got up on his paws and raised his muzzle to sniff the air. A growl rose from deep within his throat.

Now the men with their weapons rushed out, leaving us in the smoky hut. The walls of the hut exuded a chill brought by the seemingly endless rain. The rains had also softened the terrain, and hunting was hopeless. The food stores were dwindling, but there was still something: a piece of moose carcase and some beaver meat. The steaming lake, preparing for winter, yielded a few fish every now and then.

Whiptail started sniffing and clawing at the ground by the doorway. Something was happening. Outside, the howling had stopped. The men’s voices were now a little more distant. They had got as far as the quarry. Were they fetching extra weapons from there, I don’t know. But now I heard clearly something sneaking alongside the wall. Whiptail was shaking. His whole body trembled like he was afflicted by fever. I grabbed his dark fur tightly and thought: I’m not letting go, I’m not giving you back to them. Takkutukka looked at me with fear in his eyes.

Outside, the soft earth squelched with the weight of the slowly moving creature. Through the wall, I could hear the heavy breathing and thought I caught the smell of the wild beast. Suddenly, Whiptail dropped to the ground as if hit by something. I flung myself over him and pulled Takkutukka next to me. Eyes shut tight, faces hidden in the dog’s coat, we waited and feared the worst.

Text: Pekka Vartiainen
Pictures: Hiski Hämäläinen
Translation: Annira Silver
Location on map

The story and the pictures are a part of Tarinajoki book (River of Stories), made in Rural Explorer project. As part of a culture tourism project, stories arising from the body of folk narratives and history also have a function in relation to the productisation of tourism. The stories are linked to real locations.