Wolves in German culture

If I’m not mistaken, somebody literally wrote a book on werewolves in German literature which also includes their link to witchcraft. If witches can become wolves themselves in addition to having wolves as familiars, then lycanthropy itself is a form of witchcraft which is confirmed in another study. This study also links lupine voracity to that of the evil witch in Hansel and Gretel. Wolves and dogs at some point were associated with greed. This is the same association that some scholars speculated with Dante’s she-wolf.

(Either that or various Italy fiefdoms and city-states were part of the Holy Roman Empire at some point or another so.)

Let’s not also forget that criminals were also associated with wolves that they were sometimes hanged along with the latter. In Swedish, the word for wolf is ‘varg’ (as in warg, another one of those words for criminal). (However Norwegian retains ‘ulv’.) The association of wolves (and dogs) with criminality and witchcraft (in fact it was considered a crime itself and Britain had the Anti-Witchcraft act before) is frequent enough to be included in various demonologies like ‘On the Discovery of Witchcraft’ and ‘Compendium Maleficarum’.

Another, that’s sometimes ignored by Anglophones (but one French, Dutch and German people know well) is the Reineke/Reynard stories. That’s the one involving a fox trickster where the wolf (named Isegrim) appears as a villain. Since the other French word for fox (goupil) was so stigmatised that the word ‘renard’ is now more predominantly used (though I do recall a Swiss website using goupil instead). This might also be true for Spanish language using zorro.

Or Portuguese utilising ‘raposa’ with Italian the only major Romance language to retain ‘volpe’. (I say ‘major’ in that there are likely some minor Romance languages that retain ‘vulpes’ to mean fox, most notably Romansh’s golp.) Keep in mind that even today, there are some Europeans (Germans included) still wary of wolves even though others think dogs are just as responsible for wildlife and livestock predation.

Underworld Wolves

The idea that dogs self-domesticated themselves through scavenging makes sense especially if/when toilets were practically nonexistent in prehistory that dogs would’ve come about by accident and highly unsurprised if they domesticated themselves by eating human poop a lot. (Canine coprophagy’s very much noted.) That and scavenging on corpses which suggests that trying to dispose of corpses is a hard thing to do and moreso if you don’t want animals digging up the body.

But if/when coffins hadn’t yet existed and when burying corpses in rivers was one of the only few viable options back then (it’s still a thing in India), that would’ve been inevitable. If I’m not mistaken, Greek mythology speaks of underworld rivers where the dead get sent. That and the underworld being guarded by dogs still resonates in the Hindu imagination to whatever degree if because it’s actually still a thing in real life.

Etruscan lore has an underworld god with lupine traits, which further hints at that wolves became dogs however through scavenging remains (poop and corpses). If dogs scavenge, likely wolves do it too and if wolves can hunt, so do dogs. (If I’m not mistaken, the Japanese used to be in the habit of breeding dogs with wolves and the line between dog and wolf’s blurry there then.)

The rather brooding association in tandem with witchcraft, paganism and prostitution* (prostitutes were also sometimes associated with wolves in the sense of being predatory and dogs are stated to be notoriously promiscuous as well as mating with their human owners) as well as warfare to some extent (especially for wolves though that maybe that my knowledge’s not that good) is enough to lend to the wolf’s shady reputation.

Though it can be argued their domestic counterparts weren’t far behind there either in addition to being associated with the moon.

*The association of she-wolves with female hypersexuality in Romance languages is so profound that it even doubled as the word for a hypersexual woman (at least in Portuguese, French and Italian, same with the word for bitch and slut also used to mean female dog too) and a sensual woman or vixen in Spanish.

The bad, bad dog

Though this isn’t always the case and wasn’t always the case before either, the idea of dogs as cruel or mean animals isn’t lost in history. In some foreign language dictionaries, the word for dog also doubled for what you call douchebag and jerk. (Think of it as a dog that barks at visitors, poops in public and attacks people and other animals, even other dogs.) I think I have a book on Yiddish and it says that the word dog was also associated with bad people.

That’s also true for some religious texts and sources to whatever degree. Though I do vividly recall the song ‘Bad, Bad Leeroy Brown’ having a line that says ‘meaner than a junkyard dog’ and some Africans (and African Americans) call people dogs if they’re shameless or promiscuous. (To be fair, there are studies on stray dog promiscuity and also dogs mating with their human owners so there’s that.)

It’s not that dogs were entirely hated before but if/when cat domestication came later, it’s parsimonious to assume that dogs were the original mean companion animals linguistically speaking.

They call feral dogs Fido

Or the odd etymology behind dingo. If I’m not mistaken, the word for dingo originated from a certain Aboriginal community’s word for dog or parsimoniously, ‘dingo’ is really that community’s word for ‘fido’ or owned dog (as not all Aboriginal communities are necessarily alike and much moreso if they live so far-apart from each other). This gets more complicated in some cases where the word dingo refers to a female dog and tingo for her male counterpart. That community’s actual word for dingo or more parsimoniously, stray dog, is warrigal.

Though not all Aboriginals necessarily have positive attitudes to dingo dogs, it’s not uncommon for them to own those. I even have the odd feeling that it’s more like white colonisers sneaking on Aboriginals and the way they own dogs. (There’s a study on white American dog owners spying on their Latinx and African American counterparts doing similar things and expecting them to hold up to their standards.) I also think they did the same thing to the Japanese before.

Especially when saying that their dogs are wolfish. Though it’s true that there are some dogs with wolfish tendencies, let’s not also forget the weird nature of linguistics where in some languages, their word for feral dog (especially Japanese and Chinese and sometimes Lithuanian, as my memory’s rusty) is used for what Anglophones call dingoes. Not to mention the word dingo actually originated from a certain community’s word for owned dog (or Fido) and the odd fact that Disney’s Goofy’s called Dingo in Francophone sources.

Calling stray dogs ‘Fido’

That’s the odd thing about the word dingo. It originated as a certain Aboriginal community’s word or equivalent to ‘Fido’ in that it’s used to call owned dogs (I say certain as the Australian Aboriginal communities likely aren’t homogenous and moreso if they’re sufficiently isolated) and their word for dingo’s ‘warrigal’. It’s actually not uncommon for Aboriginals to own dingo dogs even if their attitudes aren’t always positive.

If I’m not mistaken, there was a study on white people sneaking up on the way black and Latinx people raise their dogs sometimes thinking they don’t treat their dogs right. I even think they likely did the same thing to Aboriginals and even the Japanese at some point (especially when Westerners found Japanese dogs to be wolfish). Not to mention in some languages, the word for dingo is really ‘wild dog’.

As in feral dog. As to why dingo dogs seem wild, let’s not forget that Australia’s highly deserted so even well-intentioned dog owners would have a hard time watching over their dogs and moreso if the resources needed to stop it aren’t just expensive but also unavailable sometimes. (Harsh lifestyles can make it harder to spoil pets and there might be many more dogs, albeit owned by hunter-gatherers and the like, that can’t process starch well.)

Why learn a new language?

Like I said, the main advantage is to not only learn it for one’s sake but also to gain insight into what’s going on in other places. It’s like if you wanted to know more about let’s say dog predation on deer in Poland and Germany, you’d be better off knowing some amounts of Polish and German (moreso given one’s technological limitations though it’s possible to install programmes for more specialised language scripts like Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic and the like).

Same with almost anything else. But when it comes to learning new languages, that involves having to learn and memorise the vocabulary and grammar (to whatever degree) which may not be easy at first. But still worth it when it comes to finding out about what’s going on in let’s say Poland, Germany, Spain and Russia. It’s like if you wanted to know about dog predation in Poland and Germany, data would be scarce in English.

So you’re almost always going to be left with Polish and German language data instead, which necessitates learning and memorising some Polish and German words if one’s up for the challenge.

Learning new languages

Perhaps one of the big advantages of learning new languages is that you could find something you wanted but not so easily available in one’s native language. Especially when it concerns what’s going on in other places though Google Translate does help at times. It’s like if you wanted to know about dog predation in Mexico, you’d be better off learning some Spanish (whatever degree that is) to get what you want or need.

Ad infinitum. But that would involve having to memorise or familiarise oneself with those words that it would have to be practised until it feels like a reflex. It’s even that useful to immerse oneself in foreign language media (moreso with the Internet easing things) in case if/when one considers going to foreign countries at all. This even extends to learning about their own vices, however surprisingly painful (as I know from experience).

But it’s still useful to learn a new language, especially when it comes to obtaining stuff you wanted to learn about but not so easily accessible in the native language for anything and everything else.