The Chaunt of the Wolves

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There are many legends of the ending of the world. The Snavering Lavelwods tell one tale; the wolves another; and the humans have ten thousand.

And there is, of course, the tale the elephants tell.

That is a tale that shall not be repeated here. The elephants punish outsiders who recount it with a stern and loving trampling; stern, because it hurts quite a lot when one is trampled by an elephant, and loving, because it is the kind of trashy Chaos/Sky/Time slash that humanity is better off not repeating.

But we will speak of the wolves and their legend. And touch on the legends of others as well.

In each of these tales there is a victory. The peoples of the Earth will not succumb to entropy, their legends say.

They will make new meanings from the ruins of the old. The ending will not win entire.

And this much is so.

But when the world goes cold there shall also be a darkness, and a great shape like an angel that rises over every horizon. Its wings shall be as soot and its hands as fire; and many legends will end that day.

Shaggy Wolf stalks the streets.

Lean Wolf follows behind him.

Humanity is gone. The cities belong to the wolves. Yet Shaggy Wolf is not content.

He tells himself that he is happy, chatting with Lean Wolf about the weather and complaining about how hard it is to get a taxicab.

But he is not happy. It is a lie. And Shaggy Wolf is not the best liar of the wolves.

So he cries: “Liar! Liar! Speak to us!”

And Lean Wolf cries, “Liar! Liar! Speak to us!”

And the wolves of the pack take up the call, and it echoes over the empty towers, the empty parks, the empty public restrooms that humanity has left behind.

And in the distance, an old wolf answers, and this is the story that he howls across the empty lands.

“In the beginning there was no world.

“In the beginning there was only chaos, inchoate and empty. There was the firmament. There was the sky. There were things and there were states. But they meant nothing. They were not a world.

“And into that darkness splashed the sphere named Eden.

“And all around it, clinging to its sides, their noses pressed against the glass, were the makers of the world.

“The elephant. The hawk. The wolf. The spider. The goat.

“The cranium beaver. The unicorn. The platypus. The noid.

“The Great Gallumphing Uniplex, with its three proboscises and its bright red eyes.

“And each of them dreamed very well.

“It is through dreams that we make the world. Dreams and stories. Not the little lies but the large ones. It is through the gall of these first few dreamers that the world was made.

“‘I have a trunk,’ said the elephant. ‘I can use it to blow water at my enemies. Then they shrivel up with embarrassment and run away.’

“And it was so.

“‘I can fly, you know,’ said the hawk. It’s very casual about this. ‘It’s like jumping, only I stay up there. It’s because of Earth’s yellow sun. If there were a red sun, I would probably lose this ability.’

“‘Beeeee,’ agreed the goat. That’s the hawk’s tragic weakness!

“Then it was the wolf’s turn. ‘I am the hunter,’ said the wolf. The wolf’s tongue lolled out.

“Then they feared the wolf. All of them edged away, every last one, except the spider.

“The spider whispered, ‘You don’t want to eat me. I’d bite your tongue!’

“And it was so.

“‘Beeee,’ says the goat. The goat was not quite so good at worldmaking as the others, but it had a certain clumsy charm. ‘Beeeee.’

“And the greatest of these dreamers was the man named Adam. He strode through Eden, crying out, ‘So many animals! Where did you come from? Why are you here? I’d better name you all with my Animal-Naming Device!’

“Then everyone was very consternated. Everyone ran in circles and was much afraid. For to name a thing is to take power over that thing.

“But they could not escape the Animal-Naming Device.

“So that is why Adam’s children lived in cities, while we hunted caribou.

“Why Adam’s children built empires while we had a rudimentary pack organization.

“Why Adam’s children lived in riches while we ran on injured feet.

“That is how we lost the world. Because our dreams could not stand before the fire in Adam’s mind.

“But the Lavelwod burned in its own dark way. It said to the wolf, to the goat, to the spider, to the hawk: ‘Fear not. The time of man shall pass, and the world grow cold.’

“Then we knew that the wolves would take the world. Then we knew that we would remake it. That we would dream our dreams where once dreamed man.

“We had only to wait.”

Then silence follows on the ending of the Chaunting of the Wolves.

And when the world goes cold there shall also be a darkness, and a great shape like an angel that rises over every horizon, and its wings shall be as soot and its hands as fire; and many legends will end that day.

Shaggy Wolf and Lean Wolf wander.

“What will you dream?” says the Lean Wolf.

“Hm?”

“I mean, when we stop waiting around and get to dreaming. What will our angle be?”

“Ah,” says the Shaggy Wolf. “We will dream: ‘the things of man are ours.’ We will have their ships and their tailored suits and their situation comedies, but not, of course, their baths.”

“This is good,” says the Lean Wolf.

“And we will say: ‘we are the hunters,'” says the Shaggy Wolf. “When the sun grows weak we will eat its husk. When the stars grow weak we shall drive them from their constellations and hunt them down. The universe is great and vast and we shall know prey in every corner of its deepness. Also we shall have special sub-humans adapted to rub our bellies and make our legs do the thump-thump-thump thing.”

“That is especially good,” says the Lean Wolf.

There is a sudden horrid lurching in the world. There is a shifting and changing. The end is nigh.

“But is it true?” asks the Lean Wolf. “Will it really happen?”

Then the Shaggy Wolf is biting at the Lean Wolf’s throat, and the Lean Wolf is falling over, showing his belly, oblivious in his fear to the exact nature of his offense.

And when he has humbled himself, and the Shaggy Wolf backs away, the Shaggy Wolf says, “I know it is only a dream because I cannot bear it if it is not true.

“It must be a dream. A ‘truth’ is a thing that could possibly be false.

“This cannot be false. This is a dream that burns.”

On Saturday, July 16, at 11am, the world ends.

“Quickly!” says the Shaggy Wolf. “Howl!”

And there is a sound driving on the wind as the wolves, they claim the world.

And there is also darkness, and a great shape like an angel that rises over every horizon, its wings as black as soot.

“We are the hunters,” chaunt the wolves. “The things of the world are ours.”

“We’ll bite you!” cry the spiders, in their webs. “See if we won’t! Then we’ll inject you with venom and your insides will dissolve!

This has always been a lie. Spiders don’t have any such venom. It’s all done with mirrors.

“Sometimes we just find peanuts,” say the elephants. “Just, you know, laying about.”

And the Snavering Lavelwods sing the Snavering Song.

The wings of the darkness close around the world, and the rising chill whispers these words: “I am truth.”

And that is the moment that many legends end.

But the wings of truth are full of holes, through which some scattered legends shine.

Wait! Did we miss the end of Charles and Iphigenia’s story? Is it all over for humanity, or will the factory pull out a final surprise? Let’s back up to where we were and play out the final minutes of the world—when the Countdown to Annihilation! continues . . . TOMORROW!

8 thoughts on “The Chaunt of the Wolves

  1. Nice. I was reminded of perhaps half a dozen different myths and cosmologies throughout the course of reading this, which is usually the mark of some fine syncreatic re-imagining.

    Of course, White Wolf partly spoiled this for me, because I kept wanting to shout “When will you Rage?!”

  2. “Chaunt”: would old Dunsany have been happy with Chaos/Sky/Time slash?

    (I don’t know, but probably yes.)

  3. It’s good to see the spiders get their own participation in creation myths. Try Pharyngula for a link that has, well, everything to do with creationism and rational criticism thereof, the unfairness of spider exclusion, and even that ant story that Metal Fatigue linked to in comments.

    And while I’m linking to blogs, I might as well link to a recommendation of Countdown to Annihilation on Crooked Timber.

  4. Graeme, Lord Dunsany might have been happy with other people writing slash — he seemed like a pretty happy and tolerant guy — but he never wrote anything as derivative as fanfic. In his first couple of Pegana books (I don’t know how to write the accent mark over the a) he created an almost entirely new mythology, owing little to existing ones.

    I’ll quote a very minor bit of it, from “The Gods of Pegana”, just because it also has “Chaunt” in the title, and because it seems appropriate to Countdown To Annihilation in general:

    The Chaunt of the Gods

    There came the voice of the gods singing the chaunt of the gods, singing: “We are the gods; We are the little games of MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI that he hath played and hath forgotten.

    “MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI hath made us, and We made the Worlds and the Suns.

    “And We play with the Worlds and the Sun and Life and Death until MANA arises to rebuke us, saying: ‘What do ye playing with Worlds and Suns?

    “It is a very serious thing that there be Worlds and Suns, and yet most withering is the laughter of MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI.

    “And when he arises from resting at the Last, and laughs at us for playing with Worlds and Suns, We will hastily put them behind us, and there shall be Worlds no more.”

  5. There are no words. I mean, if I call it mythic, then it’s overused and a trite word for the WOAH WOW EEK MEEP WOW. If I call it miffic, then it’s cutesy and incapable of all the YOW EEK WOAH connotations.

    Have I mentioned the WOW?

  6. rpuchalsky,

    I’ve read Pegana, and it’s the only place I’ve ever seen “Chaunt” used. My first reaction was to wonder how Dunsany would have reacted to “The Chaunt of the Wolves”; then how he would have reacted to slash.

    This piece was just more explicitly Dunsanian than most, even those in the Gibbelin’s Tower.

  7. Graeme, thanks. I figured that you had read the Pegana books, but I didn’t know how many other people reading the comments might not have.

    I’m not really sure how Dunsanian this entry is. “Chaunt” was used by Dunsany a lot, but it was also used by Coleridge, Yeats, and Kipling (in the Jungle Book). Dunsany didn’t do that much dialogue, as I remember, and his humor was more dry. And there are parts of this that seem directly influenced by other authors, e.g. having the animals change the world through their dreams so that they are the rulers instead of humans was the plot of an issue of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”. I would guess that the use of the word chaunt is a Dunsany reference, rather than a reference to Darzee’s Chaunt in the Jungle Book or a word simply used without reference to anything, but there are enough other references and enough of Rebecca’s own style so that the end result does not to me seem to be particularly Dunsanian. Which is good; Dunsany’s style is notoriously difficult to imitate.

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