The Wolf-Leader

DUMAS, Alexandre. The Wolf-Leader.

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DUMAS, Alexandre. The Wolf-Leader. London: Methuen & Co., [1904].

8vo., publisher's limp decorated wraps printed in orange and black; cover showing stylised titles and author's name, along with a rather dramatic black-and-white depiction by Frank Adams of the 'Wolf Leader' brandishing a makeshift sword and being followed by a pack of ferocious wolves; lower cover printed with 'Plantol Soap' advertisement; pp. [viii, ads.], [v], 2-115, [i]; with the customary reams of advertisements for Whelpington's Purifying Pills and Swan Fountain pens preceding the story; very good, if not near-fine for such an ephemeral work; internally clean throughout; main defects being some chipping and creasing to head and foot of spine, an ink mark '35' to upper cover, else just some very light shelf-wear.
The Wolf Leader translated here into English for the first time by Alfred Allinson, was originally written by Dumas in 1857 under Le Meneur de Loups. An American edition did not appear until 1950.
Set in Dumas' home town of Villers-Cotterêts, the story is based around an experience Dumas had as a child. While out wolf-hunting with his father one day, they encountered an old, grey wolf who escaped their clutches under a barrage of gunfire, which led his father to claim; "That was Thibault's wolf."
In the tale, the shoe-maker of the town takes vengeance on a persecutor by making a pact with a giant wolf. For each of the hairs on his head, he is able to fulfil his darkest desires, commanding a pack of wolves in the process, and hence gaining the reputation of a werewolf.
The novella is rich in Gothic description, humour and provocative sentiment, full of unexpected twists and sudden horror: "As we travel nearer and nearer to the grave, do we again draw closer, ever closer to the cradle?".
Scarce.

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