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Sea Wolf

The Sea-Wolf is a novel written in 1904 by American author Jack London, regarded by some as his greatest novel, gives us Wolf Larsen, the most powerful and memorable character in all of Jack London's fiction. Like The Call of the Wild, it tells the story of a soft, domesticated creature forced to become tough and self-reliant by exposure to cruelty and brutality. In this case, the creature is human: a literary intellectual named Humphrey van Weyden. Onboard a San Francisco ferry which collides with a ship in the fog and sinks, he is picked up ("rescued" is not the word) by Wolf Larsen. Larsen is the captain of the seal-hunting schooner Ghost, bound for Japan. Larsen forces van Weyden to become a cabin boy, do menial work, and learn to fight to protect himself from a brutal crew.

The name "Wolf Larsen" was that of a real sailor Jack had known. Nevertheless, Jack was called "Wolf" by his close friends, used a picture of a wolf on his bookplate, and named his mansion "Wolf House." One may be excused for imagining that the autodidact sailor Wolf Larsen bears some resemblance to the autodidact sailor Jack London. (Hump's experiences also doubtless bear some resemblance to experiences Jack had, or heard told about, when he sailed on the Sophia Sutherland). Jack London insisted that The Sea-Wolf was "an attack on Nietzsche's super-man philosophy." But somehow Wolf Larsen gets all the good lines, and he, not Hump, is the hero of the book. (Star billing is given to the actor playing Wolf Larsen in seven motion pictures adapted from the book).

Unfortunately, the last quarter of the book, when Wolf Larsen has left the stage and we are left only with Humphrey and Maud, is weak and ludicrously prudish. (Two acknowledged lovers, literally cast away on an island, go to enormous effort to build two separate huts). The prudery may have been dictated by commercial considerations, but modern readers are likely to agree with London's contemporary, Ambrose Bierce, who wrote

The love element, with its absurd suppressions, and impossible proprieties, is awful. I confess to an overwhelming contempt for both the sexless lovers.

Bierce also complained that "London has a pretty bad style and no sense of proportion." Nevertheless, even he acknowledged that

the great thing—and it is among the greatest of things—is that tremendous creation, Wolf Larsen... the hewing out and setting up of such a figure is enough for a man to do in one lifetime.

Table of contents
1 Motion Picture
2 Submarines
3 Zoology and Cryptozoology

Motion Picture

Jack London's novel has been adapted for motion pictures many times:


The name Seawolf has been used for four U. S. Navy submarines:

The "Seawolf (SSN-21) Class also includes the USS Connecticut (SSN-22) and the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23).

See also United States Naval reactor.

Zoology and Cryptozoology

There is no animal known to science named the "sea wolf."

Some websites on the occult mention a legendary animal of the Pacific Northwest coast called the sea-wolf, haietlik, sisiutl, or wasgo.