One question that has come up a number of times when chatting with readers about Guardian of Giria is why I made wolves the “bad guys”. And my answer is this – the wolves are not the “bad guys,” they are the antagonists. And those are not the same thing. Let me explain. (Please note that this post contains slight spoilers as to the content of the book.)
In Guardian of Giria, the two wolves, Nox and Indigo, are predators – they kill and eat other animals. But they are not the only animals to do so. There are several scenes where the foxes are hunting mice and voles. There is also a scene with owls hunting rodents. There is a flashback scene where Tula, the motherly fox vixen, tries to make off with a piglet, only to be thwarted by the piglet’s mother and her friends. But I don’t think anyone would consider Tula to be a “bad guy” in the story. On the contrary, she is a sensitive and caring mother who is devoted to her partner and children. We understand that foxes need to eat and are not concerned that they are killing and eating other creatures. In fact, we’re almost rooting for them, especially near the start of the book, where Tula is teaching her cubs how to hunt.
The difference with the wolves is that their hunting behaviours threaten the lives of characters we have grown to love. We aren’t introduced to any of the rodents who are taken by the foxes and therefore feel no affinity towards them. We do, however, feel a strong affinity to Felix, Patinas, Tula and the other characters of the story. We don’t want them to be killed. We’re on their side. So, while the behaviour of the wolves is really no different from that of the foxes, we are rooting for the foxes because we care about the foxes.
The same is true for many stories. Take The Fast & The Furious franchise, for instance. The main characters (the protagonists) in the films are major criminals. Dominic has been in prison for aggravated assault. His main occupation, along with his crew, is theft – sometimes of very high-value targets. In one haul, they steal $100 million. However, the man they steal from is the leader of a major drug cartel, so we don’t feel much sympathy for him. As Reyes has tried to harm Dom and his crew, we feel the heist is justified. On the other hand, we feel little affection for Hobbs, the DEA agent sent to arrest Dom. To us, the criminals are the “good guys” and the cop is the “bad guy” because we have grown to know and care for Dom and his crew.
In the same way that TFATF does not set out to demonise DEA agents, so I have not set out to demonise wolves. As it happens, I love wolves. I think they are fabulously interesting animals and am very happy that their numbers have been rising across Europe in recent years. But every story needs an antagonist, and in a forest full of large mammals, the obvious antagonist is an apex predator. (I could also have used man, who is a minor antagonist in the book, but I wanted the story to be almost exclusively about the animals in their own natural habitat.) Because wolves are making a recovery in this area of Lithuania, it made sense to make them the antagonists. But they are not the bad guys. While I have not described the characters of the wolves in as much detail as some of the other characters, I have given readers an insight into their backstory and their relationships. A number of readers have told me how they were drawn to Indigo, one of the wolf brothers, almost as much as they were to Felix and his cohorts, and in the end they felt sympathy for the plight of the wolves.
My main aim in writing Guardian of Giria was to tell a realistic story from the perspective of the wildlife that inhabits our forests. I want readers to develop an affinity towards all of these creatures. To make it interesting and exciting, there does need to be an antagonist, which in Guardian of Giria is the wolves. But I hope I have given enough insight into their mindset that, by the end of the story, you see the wolves as more complex characters than simply the “bad guys”.