The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin, a review

The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin
Published 2010 by AMG Publishers, 272 pages
Genre: fantasy/allegory

“A young blacksmith must undertake a perilous journey to the four ends of the world to rescue his wife, who is held captive by the Moon. Along the way, he befriends a powerful wolf who encourages, protects, and ultimately sacrifices his life to save his human friend. A stirring allegory of God’s love in classic fairy tale tradition.” This is the short summary of the book used for publicity, and it’s a good summary, except for the God part.

The tale is very well told. Lakin has masterful control of the writing craft, developing her characters and drawing the reader to see the world through their eyes. Her protagonist, Joran, lives in a world where the line blurs between waking and dreaming. “Joran’s wife, Charris, is trapped in a dream that is manifested and upheld by Joran’s anger.” (from C.S. Lakin’s blog) His wife is taken captive by a nightmare, and he is tasked with traveling to the four ends of a flat earth to be able to rescue her. Joran is no hero-type. He bumbles, stumbles, and misunderstands situations, and in fact he needs no end of rescuing himself. Joran’s rescuing is provided by a large white wolf who becomes his traveling companion, and whom Joran can communicate with in thought. The wolf often spouts wise sayings from a variety of sources. As the story progresses, Joran gains courage.

What do I think?

I guess I am comfortable calling this a fairy tale, which is what the author calls it. It definitely has fairy tale elements.The wife was kidnapped by the Moon; the Moon is a person living in a strange little house; the hero has task to complete to free his wife; and so on. But it isn’t told in classic fairy tale fashion; it is shown, as a modern novel is. That’s good. It’s very readable.

However, I don’t care for the blurred line between waking and dreaming. I want my fantasy heroes to be dealing with predictable events, not nightmares. I found the dreaming in waking and waking in dreaming to be too unsettling.

There’s another issue too. Actually it’s not with the book but with what the author says about it. The author calls the book “A stirring allegory of God’s love in classic fairy tale tradition.” The wolf, who gives his life for Joran, is the root of the allegory. But this wolf is no Christ figure for me. It’s behaves like a human, dressed as a wolf. In the author’s words, “a ponderous, funny, exasperating wolf.” Not a majestic, holy God who is reaching out to me with nail-pierced hands.

Examining C.S. Lakin’s blog, it’s clear to me that she and I have different ideas of God. For me, Jesus is more like Aslan, C.S. Lewis’s Christ-figure in the Narnia tales. For Lakin, Jesus is more like her dog, always with her, only better.

“… I had a problem with Aslan, the lion. A big problem.

“OK, we know he’s not a tame lion, but he also rarely shows up in all the books of the series. He makes an occasional appearance, and yes, he does give his mortal life to save humanity. That’s powerful. That’s essential. But I felt it lacking, for the God I know isn’t like that. He is, well, more like my dog, but better. I saw God as someone who stayed right by my side–through trials and joys, through fears and confusion. Watching over my while I sleep, keeping me fed and warm, and teaching me all along the way the things I need to know, even things I really don’t want to know about myself. So that is Ruyah, my wolf.” For her, Jesus is a teacher and provider, always there.

This wolf as Jesus just doesn’t resonate with me. Jesus for me is so much bigger than this wolf. More like Aslan.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Check out what others are saying too:
Noah Arsenault
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
John W. Otte
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

10 thoughts on “The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin, a review

  1. Robert Treskillard

    You have some really good points … I hadn’t looked at the author’s blog to see that. To me, Aslan is as present with the characters in the Narnia books as God himself is in the real world. I don’t think Aslan had to be physically present to be “present”.

  2. Pingback: CSFF Blog Tour – The Wolf of Tebron, Day 1 « A Christian Worldview of Fiction

  3. Fred Warren

    Great review, as always, Phyllis. In defense of Ms. Lakin,
    I think it’s not that she gets God wrong, but she’s chosen to
    focus on certain aspects of his work and nature, and not all
    those aspects are localized in Ruyah’s character. Reference
    Rachel Thomson’s and Shannon McDermott’s posts for more on
    this issue.

  4. Jeff Chapman

    Hi Phyllis,

    Great post and excellent research. I agree with you regarding Aslan.
    As Lewis notes, Aslan is not tame and neither is Christ. I also
    disagree with the Ruyah as Christ idea for a different reason and this
    comes from the internals of Lakin’s story. Yes, Ruyah sacrifices
    his heart/life for Joran and Charris and is then resurrected. However,
    we learn afterward that Ruyah’s sacrifice is not without benefit to
    him. He receives a pure heart which will enable him to use the
    sunstone that Joran has unwittingly acquired for him. We also learn
    that Ruyah was on a quest to obtain a sunstone and has essentially
    hijacked Joran’s quest to do it. Ruyah acted in a very human/dishonest
    manner, concealing his true intentions. That’s hardly the way Christ
    or Aslan for that matter would act.

  5. Editor Post author

    Good points, Jeff! I hadn’t thought that far about the wolf Ruyah in the story. I am thinking it’s a pretty good book, provided you don’t read Christ into the wolf.

  6. Julie J

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I tend to lean more infavor of Jeff’s viewof Ruyah. I found his character to frustrate me. I did enjoy this book though! 🙂

  7. Meredith Leigh Burton

    What an interesting-sounding book. I love the comments and different viewpoints.

    I think it is interesting that the author chose to use a wolf for her God-like character when one stops to consider what wolves usually represent. (Little Red Riding-Hood, anyone?) I commend the author for taking this creative approach, yet I think caution should be exercised in these instances as well.

    As an author of allegorical fiction, I know it is very difficult to effectively portray a Christ figure. Jesus is so much bigger than our minds can truly comprehend, yet He is also extremely approachable; our brother and our Savior, (Hebrews 2). Authors have the responsibility to tell the truth about Christ, yet they simultaneously want to create characters who are engaging and relatable to readers.

    I loved your comments about Aslan. Lewis was a master at creating a Christ figure who was always present yet often overlooked by faltering human and animal characters. Just because Aslan wasn’t physically in every section of the books, that doesn’t mean he was absent. Christ’s accessibility and justice is most effectively portrayed in Lewis’ “The Horse and His Boy,” and “The Silver Chair”: “I have swallowed up girls, boys, women, men, kings and emperors, cities and realms”. Despite this frightening statement of Aslan’s justice, Jill must decide whether to approach him in order to fulfill her thirst.

    God bless you all.

  8. P. Clark

    I like your points. The story was beautifully written and i loved Bryp, the bird who accompanies Joran. I like the idea of Ruyah giving his life for Joranbut the part about him nott actually being a wolf confused me. Compare this to The Horse and His Boy, when Bree says that Aslan cannot be a real lion, only as brave or fierce as one. But Aslan shows that he is really a lion. Just thought I’d oint that out.

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