St Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio
Natural Pigments on Hemp Paper.
Accompanying story to the painting.
The scene is set around 1200 in the Umbrian city of Gubbio. Many shepherds of this town were suffering at the hands of a wolf. Lots of their sheep were going missing and being eaten by a wolf, the situation got worse and worse until Shepherds also began to lose there lives to this wolf.
The mayor of the town said “we must resolve this situation immediately” so he sent two of his finest huntsman and a soldier into the forest to kill the Wolf and be done with it once and for all...However.. non of these men returned as they also got killed by this wolf.
The People of Gubbio grew increasingly fearful until the Mayor of the town ordered the gates to be locked and all citizens to stay in their houses.
People had heard there was a friar in the neighboring town of Assisi that had a way with animals, rumour had it that he could talk to them. A message was sent to Francis.
Francis heard of the towns suffering and said he would help. He arrived to the Town and went straight to the mayor and told him that he had nothing to fear and he assured the people of Gubbio ‘ ” Do not worry, I will resolve this situation completely.”
Mayor; “What are you going to do about it?”
St Francis, “ I will meet with this wolf in person and talk to him”
Mayor, “ I strongly advise against going into the forest, the beast is sure to kill you.”
St Francis, ” Please, have faith, I assure you it will be fine.”
St Francis left the city walls, passed the fields and into the woods to find this wolf.
As he got further away from the town and as the trees grew thicker he could sense the presence of the wolf.
The wolf saw this man coming straight towards him, so he adopted a hunting stance; with head down and paws ready to pounce.
St Francis saw the wolf straight ahead of him through the trees. He made the sign of the cross and calmly, with not one ounce of fear in him, with poise, peace and a general ora of complete benevolence, he approached the Wolf.
The Wolf was a little shocked and somewhat confused by the total lack of fear in the man. He froze and lifted his head.
St Francis stopped and said, “Hello Brother Wolf.”
( the Rumours were true, he could talk to the animals).
The wolf stood in silence. But understood this man meant him no harm.
St francis said to the wolf, “look I’ve come here to talk to you...
So, there’s a lot of people in Gubbio right now who are Really upset. Because you’ve killed all their sheep and their men, who were Brothers and Fathers, they’re scared and angry and to be frank, a lot of them want to kill you, but don’t worry that’s not going to happen, I’ve come to you, to hear your side of the story.”
The Wolf thought, what’s going on here? a talking Man?
“Look Mate, I’m a Predator, I eat other animals, it’s what I do. I don’t really have a choice in the matter.... Trust me, deer are far tastier than wooly sheep or bony humans but they are few and far between these days. Your farm lands and cities are getting bigger and bigger. So there’s less and less space for us.
Plus I’ve been in a bad way. A while ago I got injured I couldn't keep up with the rest of my pack, they are far away over the hills in other lands. Wolves are sociable pack animals, we need to hunt deer in group co-operation, on my own I am useless. I lost all my mates and I was starving, I resorted to eating the sheep as they were my only option at the time, they’re easier prey, I was hungry, they kept me alive.
It became almost impossible though because I was being attacked by the shepherds. I resorted to attacking them. Then I was tracked by some hunters, instinct kicked in and out of self defense I attacked first.”
St Francis heard the wolf and could see he was suffering. “ Ok Brother wolf, I hear you.
This is what we are going to do, I will sort this problem out completely, it’s a win win situation, but with some compromises.
First though you need to promise me, promise you are not going to eat any more sheep or humans, ok? I am going to explain to the people of this city your plite. And You’re going to have to show to them that you are sorry though. You are sorry right? You need to understand that they are pissed off, upset and angry because you have killed their family and friends and they're hurting bad.”
The wolf was sorry.
St Francis: “( just to let you know, They don’t speak wolf though so you may have to do really exaggerated body language,, you know head down tail between the legs sort of thing) ok?
Wolf : “yeah Ok. But, I’m not entirely sure where my win bit of the ‘win win’ comes into this yet.
St Francis: “ You will see” he said with a smile. “ trust me”
St francis walked up to him and stroked the wolf behind the ear like a pet dog. The wolf lifted his head up and enjoyed the contact.
On lookers who had followed St Francis from a distance looked on in astonishment. :o
“Right follow me, we’re going to Gubbio.”
The wolf trotted along side St. Francis all the way to the city gates. Crowds looked on in amazement. Some shouted “kill the beast!” But most were just amazed at how in control the friar was and how calm the wolf was.
They walked to the mayor. St. Francis explained the situation to him, the wolf displayed to the city how sorry he was.
St Francis said this wolf will no longer eat sheep, he will no longer kill men but will protect the city of Gubbio. All the city needed to do was collectively feed the wolf. Householders were asked to set a side a small amount of meet each for the wolf and all leftovers were to be given to him.
So for the rest of his days the wolf lived in Gubbio. The wolf was humbled and the people grew very fond of their wolf even the wives and children of those he had killed eventually began to enjoy feeding him. As he went from door to door, He forever reminded them of the spirit of St Francis and that miraculous day he came to Gubbio.