The White Wolf of the Matterhorn

It was actually Christmas Eve when I wrote this ballad. We were in Zermatt in Switzerland and friends were coming for dinner. We had some gifts under the Christmas tree, but I wanted to give them something a little more personal – so I woke early that morning and wrote about a shepherd boy and a wolf. So many wonderful tales are written for Christmas, mostly for children, but at this time of year it’s probably fair to say that those of us who celebrate Christmas all reveal something of the child in us.

I wrote the story in less than a few hours before sunrise – it came easily and one only has to look at the Matterhorn to be inspired. This mountain is probably the most beautiful in the world especially looking up from the valley leading from the Swiss town of Zermatt. Sitting there so majestically as it has for millennia it brings both beauty and sadness. So many people have died on its slopes and rocky crevices. The hero in this tale though is the wolf, its strength and beauty matching that of the mountain and in the end as you will see they become one.

Each Christmas Eve, the furry mice that live in Old Zum See
Gather around the fireplace to talk about the day
When long ago, a shepherd boy quite lost in winter snow
Lay dying in the cold night air beneath a moonlight’s glow.

He had struggled up the valley, in search of one lost goat
But as the night grew colder still he shivered in his coat
Climbing slowly ever higher he feared his father’s scorn
If he went home without it alone on the Matterhorn.

Yet he could go no further, falling deeper in the snow
With his faithful dog beside him and urging him to go
Back to the warm village fires, to his mother and his home
Waiting in the kitchen with a hot supper and a bone.

The bitter cold and tiredness dragged him closer into hell
Until he sent his dog away towards the old church bell
To find the help he knew he must to save his sorry soul
And off she ran down to the church intent to make her goal.

They say that from the Matterhorn, a grey wolf found him there
Sleeping in a snow drift, barely breathing the freezing air
She walked up to him quietly and nudged him in the arm
And seeing him slowly dying, lay down to keep him warm.

It was many hours later when the moon was laying low
Rescuers came up the mountain to see a horrid show
Above the boy a mighty wolf with fangs close to his throat
Lay over him, her thick grey fur covering like a coat.
They shouted “No”, as the boy’s father raised his gun and cried
“Leave him beast, I’ll hunt you forever if my son has died”
And with a roar like cracking snow, the bullet left his gun
A fatal blow which struck the wolf, too frightened now to run.

The father rushed towards his son the gun above his head
Ready to strike the wolf to make sure she was really dead
But then she turned and ran away, licking the boy once more
Her only crime to keep him alive on the snowy floor.

And when she ran across the snow, she seemed to disappear
The greyness of her bloodied fur then turning white with fear
In shock men stared in disbelief hiding tears in their eyes
The grey wolf morphing into white with tortured howling cries.

As they circled the shepherd boy, his father crouched above
Taking his father’s hand whilst his dog wagged her tail with love
The boy told how the wolf had come and kept him warm all night
And thanks and peace were needed now with no more need to fight.

Each Christmas Eve, the furry mice that live in Old Zum See
Sit listening to the noises that bring the Christmas Day
If you listen carefully you will hear the Matterhorn
It’s the howl of a white wolf, mighty, lonely and forlorn.