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WOLF ROLAND by Julia Cunningham

WOLF ROLAND

By Julia Cunningham

Pub Date: March 12th, 1983
ISBN: 0394958926
Publisher: Pantheon

Cunningham's latest medieval allegory concerns Tegonec, who makes his living with his donkey cart, and the talking wolf who materializes by the roadside and devours his donkey, Fanfare. An incensed Tegonec ("You shall pay dearly for Fanfare. I swear you shall!") commands the wolf to pull the cart in the donkey's place, and when the wolf obeys Tegonec christens him Roland and begins to dream of being made a saint for the "miracle" of taming the wolf. This thought determines the course of his travels, for "he needed Roland in order to fulfill his destiny. The knot of pride was strong in him." The wolf runs off a couple of times to fulfill his own nature but always returns. At one point the two help a group of starving orphans escape their prison-like institution. They leave the orphans at a ruined castle with the gentle young Countess Philomele ("What lovely faces to begin a new morning"), and go on their way with the liveliest orphan, Triggot--whom Tegonec then betrays by submitting the boy's correct answer to a riddle, accepting the rich life the king gives as a prize, and forgetting the boy. But that very night he is consumed by remorse and gives up his new life to find the wolf and the boy. At 108 pages the story is relatively short, with much dialogue to keep it flowing and elemental images for guaranteed effect. But like other Cunningham stories of medieval travels, orphans, and the like, it has a frozen, sanctimonious quality.