The Two Wolves

I was working on a different blog for this month. But after reading Karen Kay’s beautiful post about Native American sayings, I remembered a story my neighbor gave me a few months ago. In the same spirit, I want to share it with you

First a disclaimer. I have no idea whether this is an authentic Native American tale or just a story somebody made up. If anyone out there knows where it came from I’d love to hear. If it isn’t really Native American I’ll be disappointed – but either way, the lesson is worth remembering. Another disclaimer – the story was given to me on a piece of paper I’ve since lost. So I’ll be retelling it in my own words, with a few embellishments. Please feel free to share this version.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 An old chief and his small grandson sat by the fire, gazing into the flames. From deep in the forest, a wolf call echoed through the dark night. “There is something I want you to remember,” the chief said. “Inside each person there are two wolves.”

“Do I have two wolves inside me, Grandfather?” the boy asked.

“We all do. And the two wolves are always fighting.”

“Why do they fight, Grandfather?”

“One wolf is good. The other wolf is bad. And they both want to win.

“The good wolf is love, hope, kindness, fairness, generosity, courage, unselfishness, gentleness, cheerfulness, wisdom, respect, honesty and responsibility.

“The bad wolf is anger, hatred, prejudice, cowardice, discouragement, laziness, jealously, selfishness, greed, dishonesty, disrespect, carelessness and cruelty. Every day of your life those two wolves will fight inside you.”

“And which wolf will win?” the boy asked.

The old chief replied, “The wolf you feed.”

Elizabeth Lane
I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.
Updated: September 9, 2011 — 4:19 pm


  1. Good morning, all. Yesterday we observed the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attack. I’m offering this little story in the spirit of peace and love. Did you do anything special to commemorate the day?

    The first reader who recognizes the Chief in the photo (so Fillies, if you guess, don’t let us know) will get their choice of books from my Harlequin backlist. I’ll give you one interesting hint. He lived to be 102.

  2. Good morning, Elizabeth.

    I’ve always liked that story whether it’s authentic or not it’s a good lesson and one to remember when the bad wolf is rearing its head.

    I believe the Chief in the photo is Washakie.


  3. Wow, I thought this would be harder. You just won a book, Kirsten. You can pick one out on my web site,, and email me with your choice at

  4. Replying again because my comment with the links is awaiting moderation.
    You just won a book, Kirsten. You know your Native Americans. You can link to my web site by clicking my name on the fillies list, and you can email me from the web site. If I don’t hear, I’ll contact you.

  5. Thanks Elizabeth!

    I grew up near Fort Washakie, so this is a Chief I’m very familiar with.


  6. Loved the story, Elizabeth. Such truth there.

  7. Elizabeth, I’ve heard this story before but I don’t know where it originated from. Sorry. It’s something we should all print out and keep by us. Sometimes we need a frequent reminder.

    This past weekend was so sad. I felt a deep sense of loss even though I don’t have a personal connection to the events. I don’t know when I’ve cried so much. I cannot imagine how the people felt who lost loved ones in the attack. It was hard enough for me to get through the days. Seems my heart simply can’t hold so much sadness.

    Your post was very fitting.

  8. Great story Elizabeth! We all need to be the good wolf it would make the world a better place.

  9. I did not know who the Cheif was, but i found this post most interesting… And I agree most fitting for this time of year. This cheif was very insightful and wise…

  10. Thanks, Karen. I love the story too, and hadn’t heard it before my neighbor gave it to me. It seems a lot of people have heard it before.

  11. Linda, from what little I know of you I’m not surprised that you would feel so much compassion and empathy for the 911 victims and their loved ones. Your emotions are a precious gift.
    Something tells me your good wolf is well fed.

  12. Thanks, Quilt Lady,
    Something we all need to remember. Have a peaceful day.

  13. Washakie, Chief of the Shoshone, was a fascinating man, Kathleen. A fierce warrior as a young brave, he was wise enough to make early peace with the whites in exchange for his people being able to stay on their tribal lands. It was a peace he never broke.

  14. This is a lovely tale, Elizabeth. I am really a fan of wolves, who mate for life, kill only to eat…what a fitting tale for 9/11. oxox

  15. I thought about you when I was writing the post, Tanya. And I’m guessing you’re the one who added that beautiful wolf photo to our Media Library where I found it.

  16. Lovely story!

    As a scripture reader in our parish, I was honored
    by sharing the readings yesterday which focused on forgiveness. As a choir member,our music selections also focused on peace, mercy and compassion. Our
    celebrant centered his homily on the events and
    losses of September 11, 2001

    Pat Cochran

  17. So much wisdom in that story – thanks for sharing it with us.

  18. What a beautiful way to remember the losses of 911, Pat. It must have been a comforting experience for the people in your church.

    And thanks for stopping by, Winnie. I loved that story the first time I read it and have never forgotten.

  19. Whether it is a true Native American story or not, the message it imparts is well worth hearing.
    The first thing I did after reading it was to make a copy and share it with my husband. I find myself doing that with a lot of the posts here. I am hoping I can talk a few of the groups I belong to into allowing me to do the devotion at the next meeting. I would love to use this.

    Thank you for another great Petticoats and Pistols post.

  20. Patricia, it’s wonderful that you are passing on this story. I was hoping people would share it.
    Thanks for doing your part and letting me know.

  21. I’m a day late, Elizabeth, but I wanted to tell you how I loved this post. So true! I enjoyed Kay’s post on the Native American sayings, too. There’s a lot of inspiration to be found in these old bits of wisdom, for sure.
    Cheryl P.

  22. Thanks, Cheryl. And it’s never too late to say nice things. I hope this story touched many readers, as it did me.

  23. Hey Elizabeth – that’s a really wonderful story with a good message. Short, sweet and to the point. Loved it!!

  24. Thanks, Charlene. So glad you took away something from the story. I hope many others did too.

  25. I love this Elizabeth. Would it be okay for me to repost this on my blog?


  26. Absolutely, Melinda. That’s why I gave permission to share.

  27. I love it! Thanks for posting, Elizabeth 🙂


  28. So glad you enjoyed the story, Cher. Thanks for stopping by to let me know!

Comments are closed.