Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, October 3, 2011

"The She-Wolf" by Saki

Supernatural Saki?

"The She-Wolf" (1912-7 pages)  is a really well done twist ending story by Saki (Hector Munro-1870-1916-UK).    I have been having a lot of fun reading and posting on older paranormal short stories for Carl V's RIP paranormal reading event.    Many people, including myself until recently, never associated Saki with the paranormal.   Most all of his many short stories are gentle satires of the follies and vanities of the upper class of his day.   

Russian "gurus" were very much in fashion in England in the first two decades of the 20th century.  "The She-Wolf" is in part a satire of that vogue.   Just imagine great hairy Rasputin like figures spewing forth mystical profundities at tea parties and you get the setting.   

As the story opens we meet Leonard Bilster.   Leonard finds the "real world" uninteresting and has taken refuge in an "unseen world".    Of course Leonard knows his views are only for the very few, those few being any who will listen to him explain the occult wisdom he acquired while on a trip to Siberia.   Here is a very representative sample of Saki's prose (some like me love his prose style but some do find it too mannered):

In company with a friend, who was interested in a Ural mining concern, he had made a trip across Eastern Europe at a moment when the great Russian railway strike was developing from a threat to a reality; its outbreak caught him on the return journey, somewhere on the further side of Perm, and it was while waiting for a couple of days at a wayside station in a state of suspended locomotion that he made the acquaintance of a dealer in harness and metalware, who profitably whiled away the tedium of the long halt by initiating his English travelling companion in a fragmentary system of folk-lore that he had picked up from Trans-Baikal traders and natives. Leonard returned to his home circle garrulous about his Russian strike experiences, but oppressively reticent about certain dark mysteries, which he alluded to under the resounding title of Siberian Magic

When Leonard gets back home he begins to tell others, reluctantly of course, of his great new wisdom.   He gets very peeved when no one really seems interested in his remarks so he states at a party that he can turn a woman into a she-wolf.   Of course people are very skeptical nearly laughing at him. Leonard goes to a friend who has a very large private zoo and asks if he has a tame she-wolf he could borrow for an evening.   Remember this is Saki so there is a twist coming.    

At a party Leonard does the magic he knows is fake and plans to substitute the wolf for one of the ladies at the party, getting her out of the room on a ruse.    Then it appears the lady has really vanished and a snarling she-wolf is in the midst of the party.  Maybe  Leonard really had invoked dark powers?   I will leave the ending unspoiled but it is very clever and leaves you wondering what really happened.    

In a way Saki may be telling us that a lot of the interest in the paranormal really comes from boredom and a wanting to feel you are important because of some occult knowledge you and only a few others possess.   It is hard to see him as wrong in this.

"The She-Wolf" is for sure worth reading.    

You can read it HERE.

Mel u


Suko said...

This does sound good!

Kevin Faulkner said...

Well of course Saki is very sarcastic about many, many things which he found worthy of satire in early 20th c. British society, but I didn't know that extended to his debunking of popular interest in the esoteric before and after the Great War. So interesting to read a short story upon that topic by him.

But actually even highly respectable thinkers such as the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and more recently, Frances Yates, considered the occult worthy of study, not so much as an exercise in intellectual one-up-manship but in terms of study of symbolism and comparative study of religion.

Mel u said...

Suko-it is one my favorite Saki stories so Far

Hydriotaphia-thanks so much for your visit and comment-I have read a bit of Jung a good while ago

Read Philippines said...

Hi Mel u! We're happy to let you know that we've included The Reading Life in the list of Pinoy book blogs at Read We'd love to have you join our fast-growing community of Pinoy readers!

Mel u said...

Read Philippines-thanks so much for stopping by-I registered at your web page just now and will begin to study it in more detail soon-I love to know of other book blogs based in the Philippines

@parridhlantern said...

I need to read some Saki & if my memory serves me correctly Penguin mini classics have had one out recently so I've no excuses, oh 7 congrats on being added to Read, will check it out myself.