The call of the wild

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 May, 2006, 12:00am

THE STORY takes place 6,000 years ago. A 12-year-old boy learns to communicate with a wolf, and together they go on an epic adventure to save their forest.

It may sound like fantasy, but best-selling author Michelle Paver says it could happen.

For her first children's novel Wolf Brother, Paver spent time studying the wild animals at the Wolf Conservation Trust in England.

Wolves will feature prominently in all six parts of her Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.

'Having a wolf as your best friend and talking to him is on many people's wish list,' says Paver, who was in Hong Kong last week as part of a worldwide promotional tour.

'The research I did helps me to write parts of the stories from a wolf's point of view.'

Wolves cannot be tamed, although Paver, 45, says they are very sensitive creatures.

'You must talk softly around them, as their hearing is very sharp. They either like you or not. They remember your smell, so if they don't like you immediately, they never will,' she says.

'They are smarter than dogs, and more fascinating. There is lots of thought. They don't smell like dogs. Their fur smells like sweet hay.'

Wolf Brother earned her a British record advance payment of GBP2.8 million ($41 million) from her publisher.

The second book in the Chronicles series - Spirit Walker - is already on sale, and the next instalment, Soul Eater, is due out later this year.

Paver's research has taken her to extreme climates and mysterious locations in Norway, Lapland (in Finland) and Greenland. There, she absorbed herself in the hunter-gatherer existence similar to the one she so magically describes.

'I want the reader to smell, taste and hear the forest,' says Paver.

The former lawyer, who graduated in biochemistry from Oxford University, travelled to remote regions on horseback, met traditional clans, swam with killer whales and ate Stone Age food, such as whale blubber, fish eyes and seal liver.

'I think I rode for 300 miles [482 kilometres] on one trip there,' she says.

'I ride on the horse and think about the story. I make lots of notes, recording what I see, hear, smell, or touch.'

Paver was accompanied by a guide, who showed her the tricks of tracking, how to hunt, skin and eat wild animals, and how to keep an ember burning in a fungus. She now knows what reindeer hide smells like, has tried Stone Age chewing gum, tasted reindeer heart and discovered her favourite ancient food - linden berries.

'The research helps me make [my books] real. A lot of my readers tell me they feel like they are in the adventure with Torak and Wolf [the main characters in the series]. It's because I've been there so I can include these physical details.'

The Chronicles have been published in 37 languages, and Wolf Brother was a bestseller in Britain last year. Audio versions of the stories have been recorded by Lord of the Rings actor Sir Ian McKellen, and Wolf Brother will be turned into a movie by Hollywood director Ridley Scott.

Fans of the Chronicles series should visit