The history of the “Two Wolves/Two Dogs” story.
I have been receiving many messages questioning my statement that the “Two Wolves” story is not Cherokee, nor is it Native American/First Nations in origin. In response to my credibility being questioned, I have done some fairly extensive research that will conclusively prove that this story does not originate from any Native American legend.
This story seems to have begun in 1978 when a early form of it was written by the Evangelical Christian Minister Billy Graham in his book, “The Holy Spirit: Activating God’s Power in Your Life.” This version of the story can be found in Chapter 7: The Christian’s Inner Struggle on Page 92 and it is as follows:
“AN ESKIMO FISHERMAN came to town every Saturday afternoon. He always brought his two dogs with him. One was white and the other was black. He had taught them to fight on command. Every Saturday afternoon in the town square the people would gather and these two dogs would fight and the fisherman would take bets. On one Saturday the black dog would win; another Saturday, the white dog would win - but the fisherman always won! His friends began to ask him how he did it. He said, “I starve one and feed the other. The one I feed always wins because he is stronger.”
Billy Graham continues by explaining the story. I will now provide a few excerpts to show the connection between this story and the later versions as well of how it’s grounded in Christianity. “This story about the two dogs is apt because it tells us something about the inner warfare that comes into the life of a person who is born again. We have two natures within us, both struggling for mastery. Which one will dominate us? It depends on which one we feed.” (Page 92)
Continuing forward in time, we find that the story has been published in a 1997 book written by Eliot Rosen and Ellen Burstyn titled, “Experiencing the Soul: Before Birth, During Life, After Death.” This version of the story is on page 15.
“A Native American Elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: “Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, “The one I feed the most.” (Page 15)
Now I’ll move on to films. I found two films which either reference or re-tell the story in a shortened form. The first film that I’ve located is the 2003 movie “The Missing” which is set in 1885 New Mexico and features Apache characters. Starring in the movie are: Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett and Evan Rachel Wood. It was directed by Ron Howard and was based on a 1995 novel by Thomas Eidson. The screen play was written by Ken Kaufman. The story as told in the movie is as follows:
“Inside you are two dogs. One is evil, the other is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” “Which one wins?” “I don’t know. Whichever one I feed the most.”
The next film that I found a reference to the Two Wolves story in the 2007 film, “Pathfinder.” IMDb describes the plot as: “A viking boy is left behind after his clan battles a Native American tribe. Raised within the tribe, he ultimately becomes their savior in a fight against the Norsemen.” Starring in the movie are: Karl Urban, Clancy Brown and Moon Bloodgood. The director is Marcus Nispel and the writers are Laeta Kalogridis (2007 screenplay) and Nils Gaup (1987 screenplay). The story told in the movie is as follows:
Starfire: “There are two wolves fighting in each man’s heart. One is love, the other is hate.”
Ghost: “Which one wins?”
Starfire: “The one you feed the most.”
I’d like to now invite you to discuss the implication of the origin of this story, beginning with Billy Graham and evolving to it’s current form. For those of you who are indigenous people, I would especially like to ask that you help me to touch on the concept of race, whether or not this story is an example of Cultural Appropriation. I’d also like to point out that the black wolf/dog is evil and the white wolf/dog is considered to be good. Please re-blog this post if you found it important, educational or interesting.
Amazon Search Inside “The Holy Spirit: Activating God’s Power in Your Life” by Billy Graham, Page 92.
Amazon Search Inside “Experiencing the Soul: Before Birth, During Life, After Death” by Eliot Rosen and Ellen Burstyn, Page 15.
IMBd “Memorable Quotes for Pathfinder, 2007”
Script-o-Rama “Script of The Missing, 2003”
Wiki Answers - “Who wrote Two Wolves words of an old Cherokee Indian?”