I am reading Lack London’s arctic novels right now. The Call Of The Wild at first, and it’s companion, White Fang, right now. When I read these books first, many years ago as a teenager, I didn’t understand much beyond the adventure, but I now appreciate the superb story-telling and writing Jack’s done. He wrote this stuff around 1900, give or take a few years.
There was no David Attenborough to explain it all, and neither Heinz Sielmann or Professor Grzimek were born at the time (Professor Grzimek was close, being born in 1909, but he wasn’t born as a professor or a natural world TV presenter). There were no tiny or remote controlled cameras to be send inside a wolf’s den in Jack’s days. Watching modern wildlife documentaries makes us think that all this knowledge is only just emerging thanks to modern technology and brave cameramen, but if you think this is so, you should read Jack’s books.
The description of events inside the den and the details of the wolves’ awareness show a great deal of knowledge, imagination and “educated guessing” on Jack’s part. It’s quite something.
The most revolutionary part, in my opinion, is the fact that he never humanizes the animals. He describes them as beings aware of their surroundings, as beings with intelligence, decision-making facility, the capability to learn and that of a consciousness, but he never presents a dog’s or wolves’ thoughts in human terms. There is no trivializing here at all, and a great deal more of realism, and a great deal less of adventure than what I remembered from my youth.