The Two Wolves Inside

Folklore Piece

 “Ok so, there’s this young uh kid who’s talking to his Grandpa. This is a Native American proverb. So he’s talking to his Grandpa and he’s having a really hard time kind of, uh, with life and making certain decisions and his Grandpa says ‘Well listen there are two wolves inside of you. When you face hard times, when you’re facing hard decisions, I see it as there are these two wolves constantly battling inside of you. You have one wolf that represents, kind of, the evil and represents anger and has all the negativity that’s bottled up the way that you could react to things by looking at it cynically. But there’s also this other wolf that’s fighting for happiness and its fighting to work as hard as you can to enjoy life and for positivity and for love and compassion.’

So you have these two wolves that are constantly battling. So the kid says to his grandfather, ‘Well Grandpa, but which one wins?’ and he responds ‘The one that you feed.'”


Background information

The informant said that he really liked this piece because it helped him get through some tough decisions. He thinks about it often when he’s faced with a lot of stress or negativity in his life. He first heard it at his camp in northern wisconsin. He has no Native American heritage.



 The informant often tells this to people when they’re going through a tough time, and to all of his campers during the summer that he is a camp counselor. He really identifies with it, and so shares it with many people that he is close to.



This was a very hard piece of folklore to categorize because it’s a piece of meta-folklore. The whole story is in narrative form, and would best be described as a legend. However, the essence of this folklore is embedded within the story, regarding the two wolves constantly battling and the fight between good and evil.

Native American tribes often use animals to describe the natural world and humanistic nature. I believe that this story about the two wolves is originally in a mythical format, describing the origin of conflicting ethical dilemmas. It is both outside this world, in that it features spiritual wolves, and helps explain the origin of one facet of human nature.

Another thing I found interesting was that the informant learned this story at a summer camp in the woods of northern Wisconsin. While he is from the suburbs, he would spend every summer out in this area. The woods, and natural American landscape is associated with Native Americans. Therefore, it is interesting that he would learn this story in that context; he is still removed from the Native American heritage, but experiencing their sacred truths in an environment that they would inhabit.