A Wolf in Salem

Howard Pyle is one of my favourite artists. There’s a palpable energy to his work which starts the gears to turning in my head – there’s a story in every brush stroke. I first encountered his work as a kid, which probably helps explain the ever-present frisson it generates in me, but I tend to revisit it when I need a bit of inspiration.

Of his work, the one I return to most often is ‘A Wolf Had Not Been Seen at Salem for Thirty Years’ (1909). I find it endlessly fascinating, for reasons I can’t adequately articulate, especially around this time of year. There’s a pathos to it, and an element of the macabre. It’s by turns sinister and engaging.

Pyle’s depiction of the wolf is simultaneously monstrous and pitiable, and you can spin a web of implications from the title of the piece alone. There’s a story there, trying to catch your attention.

Now, given Pyle’s body of work, this is likely an illustration for a story – though I’m not aware of what that story might be, or where it can be found.

That said, I don’t particularly need Pyle’s story. I can come up with my own. And I probably will, at some point.

EDIT 12/10/20: Shout-out to John Power Jr. for finding the story! It was apparently in an issue of Harper’s Monthly in 1909 and is now available on the Internet Archive. I quite enjoyed it, but if you’d like to read it for yourself, I’ve added the link below.

“The Salem Wolf” By Howard Pyle, Harper’s Monthly, December 1909.

A Wolf Had Not Been Seen at Salem for Thirty Years, Howard Pyle (1909)