Walking with Wolves: Children's Responses to the Wolf Tradition in Stories

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The wolf has existed alongside humans for centuries, both in reality and through literary and cultural representations. Consequently, the mere mention of the word 'wolf' evokes a response within most people. Traditional stories passed down through generations embody stereotypical images of the wolf as we know it today. More recently, postmodern picturebooks present renewed representations of the wolf. Such books employ metafictive devices, which provide opportunities for the development of reader-response in older children, encouraging them to adopt more active positions when interpreting the text. Drawing on reader-response theory, this paper analyses the responses of six children in upper key stage 2, as they read and discussed a variety of postmodern picturebooks featuring the wolf. Their discussions built upon their initial awareness of this animal in folk and fairytales, fables, legends and in reality. During the project, the influence of popular culture and film became evident as the children drew on their shared funds of knowledge to respond to the wolf character in the stories. To contextualise the children's responses, this chapter offers a concise history of the representation of wolves in literature, and how this has been affected by the changing attitudes of humans towards this creature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond the Book: Transforming Children's Literature
EditorsJane Harding
PublisherCambridge Scholars
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • children
  • wolves
  • wolf
  • reader response
  • traditional tales
  • picturebooks
  • popular culture

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