A Tale of Two Wolves

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While sorting through some papers recently, my husband came across the following Native American legend that he had saved. He thought I might enjoy.

After reading it, I realized it was not one I was familiar with. But the wisdom it contained certainly resonated with me and left me feeling that it was worth sharing.

One evening, a Cherokee elder was teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. This battle that goes on between the two wolves is inside us all.

One wolf is Evil. He is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is Good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

Wisely, the grandfather simply smiled and replied, “The one you feed.”

Similar Parables

Since I suspected that other variations on the same theme existed, I did a Google search and had my assumption confirmed with parables of both wolves and dogs figuring as key players. It seems everyone from Billy Graham to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw has been touched by the ideas in this legend. One site noted that Graham even included a variation on it in one of his books.

In his version, the story tells of an Eskimo fisherman with a black dog and a white dog. The two dogs fight each other weekly while the fisherman accepts bets on the outcome and always manages to win. Some weeks, the black dog would triumph. On the other weeks, the white dog would be the champion. When the fisherman was asked how he was able to sustain his winning streak with such regularity, he essentially replied: “It’s easy. I just feed the dog I want to win and starve the other dog. The one I feed always wins because it is stronger.”

In whatever language or culture it may have appeared around the world, the point of the message seems to have remained the same and has continued to be meaningful to a wide cross-section of people.

According to one internet site, the “Tale of Two Wolves” was included in a 2003 film titled, The Missing. While I have not seen the movie to confirm that, I can say with certainty that a variety of videos are available online, and they bring the parable to life. You can easily search for them on the web.

Gail Jokerst ( is a frequent contributor to Montana Senior News and its sister publication Idaho Senior Independent. She makes her home in West Glacier.

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