A Wolf in the Nursery: Freud, Ethnography, and the History of Russian Childhood



I dreamed that it is night and I am lying in my bed (the foot of my bed was under the window, and outside the window there was a row of old walnut trees. I know that it was winter in my dream, and night-time). Suddenly the window opens of its own accord and, terrified, I see that there are a number of white wolves sitting in the big walnut tree outside the window. There were six or seven of them. The wolves were white all over and looked more like foxes or sheepdogs because they had big tails like foxes and their ears were pricked up like dogs watching something. Obviously fearful that the wolves were going to gobble me up I screamed and woke up. My nurse hurried to my bedside to see what had happened. It was some time before I could be convinced that it had only been a dream, because the image of the window opening and the wolves sitting in the tree was so clear and lifelike. Eventually I calmed down, feeling as if I had been liberated from danger, and went back to sleep.
The only action in the dream was the opening of the window, for the wolves were sitting quite still in the branches of the tree, to the right and left of the tree trunk, not moving at all, and looking right at me. It looked as if they had turned their full attention on me. – I think that was my first anxiety dream. I was three or four at the time, certainly not more than five. From then on until I was ten or eleven I was always afraid of seeing something terrible in my dreams.[1]
This famous description of an extraordinarily vivid and haunting dream forms the centrepiece of Freud’s essay ‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis’, better known as ‘The Wolf-Man’ (originally dating from 1914, and revised in 1918). In Freud’s analysis, the dream does not occur – as it does here – at the beginning point, but is buffered by a long preamble describing the doctor’s first encounters with his patient. The narration of the dream comes at a critical point in the ‘talking cure’, as the patient’s resistance begins to break down. And equally, the dream itself is placed by Freud at a crucial point in the child’s development. ‘The period of childhood with which we are particularly concerned can be divided into two phases, a first phase of difficult behaviour and perversity which lasted from his seduction [by his sister] at the age of 3 ¼ until his fourth birthday, and a longer, subsequent phase dominated by the signs of neurosis’ [W 226]. Thus, the chronology of the case study essentially mimics that of the putative childhood to which it refers (or, to put it another way, fabula is in tune with syuzhet). The narration of the dream appears at the mid-point of Freud’s exegetic narrative, wherein it acts as the interpretive crux.
Within psychoanalytic tradition, the ‘Wolf-Man’s’ dream is as renowned as Hamlet’s encounter with his father’s ghost is to readers of English literature, as is the interpretation placed on it by the master. For Freud, the scene constituted an inverted recollection of a time when the Wolf-Man was about eighteen months old. His parents had retired for the afternoon on a hot summer’s day, and had placed the child in their room because he was unwell. Assuming he was safely asleep, they started behaving as though he were not present at all, but the child woke up, and ‘witnessed “coitus a tergo” repeated three times’ [W 235]. This incident, combined with his father’s habit of affectionately threatening to gobble the child up [W 230], was – to put Freud’s analysis in a walnut shell -- at the root of an anal-erotic complex of desire and terror, involving both the wish to have anal intercourse with the father, and the fear of castration should this occur [W 234, 305].
This summary may catch the gist, but it considerably simplifies the narrative organisation of ‘The Wolf-Man’. In the case-study itself, the patient’s first admission is that he was afraid of wolves generally, and used to ‘scream furiously’ whenever his sister showed him a picture-book with an illustration of ‘a wolf standing on its hind legs and stepping out’ [W 213]. This book was also his own primary association with the dream of the six (or alternatively, five, or seven) white wolves sitting in the tree:
He always related this dream to the memory that in those childhood years he would express a quite monstrous anxiety at the picture of a wolf that was to
be found in his book of fairytales […] Why are the wolves white? That made him think of the sheep which were kept in large flocks quite near the estate. His father sometimes took him to visit the flocks of sheep and he was always very proud and happy when this happened. Later on – inquiries suggest that it could easily have been before this dream took place – an epidemic broke out among the sheep. His father sent for one of Pasteur’s disciples, who inoculated the sheep, but after the inoculation they died in ever greater numbers than before.
How did the wolves get up in the tree? A story occurs to him that he had heard his grandfather tell. He cannot remember whether it was before or after the dream, but the content of the story strongly supports the first possibility. The story goes as follows: a tailor is sitting in his room working when the window opens and in leaps a wolf. The tailor hits out at him with his measuring stick – no, he corrects himself, he grabs him by the tail and pulls it off, so that the wolf runs away, terrified. Some time later the tailor goes into the wolves and suddenly sees a pack of wolves coming towards him, and so he escapes from them by climbing up a tree. At first the wolves do not know what to do, but the maimed one, who is also there and wants his revenge on the tailor, suggests that one should climb on another’s back until the last one can reach the tailor. He himself – a powerful old wolf – will form the base of this pyramid. The wolves do as he says, but the tailor recognizes the wolf who visited him, the one he punished, and he calls out suddenly, as he did before, ‘Grab the grey fellow by the tail.’ The wolf who has lost his tail remembers what happens and runs away, terrified, while the others all tumble down in a heap [W 229].
In later stages of the analysis, the patient remembered – prompted by Freud -- that the picture of the wolf that had terrified him was almost certainly an illustration to the tale, The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, where the wolf gobbles up six of the seven kids while the last one hides in a clock. In this tale, the wolf disguises himself by getting the baker to white up his paws with flour [W 229], thus becoming, for a time and in part, ‘a white wolf’.
As usual with his patients’ own ratiocinations, Freud regarded the interpretations offered by the ‘Wolf-Man’ as ‘screen’ or ‘cover memories’ (Deckerinnerungen). So far as deeper, more ‘authentic’, memories were concerned, these were reconstructed by inference, rather than cited direct from the patient’s own discourse. Moving from a thought on the ‘Wolf-Man’s’ part that the opening window in the dream stood for his own opening eyes as he woke up, Freud then proceeded to his interpretation of the dream as a repressed memory of the child, aged about 18 months, witnessing his parents enjoying sexual intercourse repeatedly on a sultry summer afternoon.
This revelation is presented for maximum shock effect, as a coup de théâtre, with Freud anticipating, and thus heightening yet disarming in advance, the resistance of his reader. In the words of the analyst: ‘We are now approaching the point at which I must abandon my attempt to draw on the actual course of the analysis. I fear that it will also be the point at which the reader will abandon his faith in what I have to say’ [W 234]. And faith is indeed expected, because the dream and its interpretation are presented en face, as in the juxtaposition of a text and its translation, or as with montage in the cinema. The detailed textual analysis – where Freud argues that the wolves are white because of the white underwear worn by the child’s parents, and that they are watching him tensely because the dream reverses the scene actually witnessed (where the boy himself was watching the ‘wolves’ copulate) is relegated to the margins of discussion – to footnote 13 following the given chapter [W 244].
Freud’s interpretation of the Wolf-Man is reductive in several different ways. To begin with – the aspect of Freud that receives particularly cogent criticism in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s L’Anti-Oedipe – the child’s universe is reduced to family psychodrama. Certainly, it is acknowledged that the tree which the child witnessed could also have ‘topical’ significance, relating to the ‘anticipation of Christmas’: ‘The content of the dream showed him his presents, the gifts that were intended for him[,] hanging on the tree’ [W 233]. But this significance is reduced to the general status of giving as part of the anal-erotic complex. Voiding of the bowels and spending in the economic sense (spending money) are understood to be related [W 273]. Equally, a relationship is drawn between the act of giving and defecation – such that the child’s act of voiding his bowels in order to draw attention to himself and interrupt his parents’ act of sex during the primal scene is glossed as expressing the essential ambivalence of emotional attachments, being both an insult and a tribute [W 279]. Therefore, it is clear that the gifts on the Christmas tree are also part of the central psychodrama. Indeed every event in the Wolf-Man’s remembered childhood, from his fear of butterflies to his relationships with the servants, is drawn into the developmental master-plot.
By extension, all anxiety is reduced down to sexual anxiety. Central is the later episode where the child’s terror of the butterfly, which the adult patient remembered as coming from an association between the creature’s wings and a woman opening her legs, is approved by the physician with the additional comment that the shape also recalled the Roman number five (V), the hour at which he had putatively witnessed his parents having intercourse [W 289, 292]. To put the point theoretically, as Freud himself did in his analysis of ‘Little Hans’ (properly known as ‘Phobia in a Five-Year Old Boy’), ‘For libido that has been released from the pathogenic material by means of repression is not converted – drawn off from the inner sphere and channelled into physical enervation – but allowed to exist freely in the form of anxiety.’[2]

This set of assumptions in turn leads to a particular attitude towards the patient, who, where not acknowledging the primal origins of neurosis – the rational goal of analysis -- is assumed to be concealing or ‘covering’ (to cite the original term) these behind, or under, layers of resistance. By extension, the main purpose of the nurturing culture, in Freud’s interpretation, is to provide culturally acceptable forms in which the taboo may be expressed. Folklore, in particular, is a storehouse of symbology that can be used to express the agony (in the Greek sense of ‘intellectual conflict’, as well as the ordinary one) of an individual subject/patient. For the child, the main narratorial repertoire comprises the images drawn from fantastic tales (Märchen: the German word can refer to literary versions of popular tales as well as to the orally-transmitted forms). So, the various other wolf tales to which the ‘Wolf-Man’ had, according to his memory as represented in the case history, been exposed in childhood, are taken in this interpretive direction too:
He had been told the story (from Reineke Fuchs [Reynard the Fox] where the wolf tried to catch fish in winter and used his tail as bait, whereupon his tail froze in the ice and broke off. He learnt the different names used for horses depending on the intactness of their sex. He was thus preoccupied with the thought of castration without believing in it or being frightened by it. Other problems relating to sexuality were posed by the fairytales with which he became acquainted at this time. In “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Seven Little Kids” children were pulled out of the body of the wolf. Was the wolf female, then, or could men also carry children in their bodies? [W 223].
Freud’s case history of ‘the Wolf-Man’ was not his only piece addressing the dream of six white wolves. In his essay, ‘Material from Folk Tales in Dreams’ (1913), written a year earlier than the first version of his case history, he had already set out an interpretation of the dream. Here, the Wolf-Man’s primal fantasising is set alongside the dream of a young, newly-married woman, whose vision of a dwarfish, gambolling, Rumpelstiltskin-like manikin with a bald head, and wearing a dark jacket and grey coat (the woman herself saw this as a version of her father-in-law), becomes in Freud’s analysis a fantasy of her husband’s penis, and of her fear that intercourse might lead her to conceive.[3] This interpretation is repeated almost word-for-word in the case history of ‘the Wolf-Man’ itself.
Yet within the wider case history, things are not so simple. To begin with, the dream stands out generically. Other memories are more fragmentary, and the subject himself was less sure about their likely meanings and associations. The further exemplifications of ‘the Wolf-Man’s’ neurosis serve, therefore, not so much to amplify the sense of primary causality, as to induce a sense of dislocation, a feeling that the dream is a unique case of чужое слово, ‘the discourse of the other’, that stubbornly resists (in the ordinary as well as Freudian sense) the hermeneutic ambitions of the psychoanalyst. One is reminded of Tolstoy’s return to the material of The Kreutzer Sonata to explain that he really had meant what he said. Tolstoy’s double vision worked in the opposite direction – he was trying to simplify what had been presented originally in more elaborate form. Yet in each case, the insistence on the validity of a previous interpretation acts as an unspoken acknowledgement that the material returned to was at some level not amenable to that previous interpretation. An exegesis that is not controversial and troubling does not require reiteration.
It is instructive to compare the narrative mechanisms in ‘The Wolf-Man’ with those in a later case-history by Freud, ‘Little Hans’(1922), whose subject was analysed while he was still a small boy. The child’s preoccupation with what the latest English translation calls ‘his widdler’, and with ‘pooing’ and ‘plopping’, and his desperate fear of draught-horses were brought together in a narrative of sibling hatred whose central drive is the subject’s association between the (unwelcome) arrival of his younger sister, his desire for his mother, his fear of ‘body boxes’ bringing new, human, arrivals, and his childish association of defecation and procreation (or, to be more accurate, parturition). The analysis here is much more straightforward, organised round excerpts from the diary of Hans’s father, who understands most (but providentially, for the authority of the psychoanalyst, not all) of his son’s metaphorical world. In this smooth, generically homogeneous, document, there is no stretch of the text that has the revelatory quality of the Wolf-Man’s dream.
At the same time, it was Hans (rather than the Wolf-Man) who voiced, in a delightfully revealing passage, what might seem – to a sceptical observer – one of the main problems with the psychoanalytic narrative: the possible suggestibility of patients:
I: ‘If you’d rather Hanna [the sister] had never been born, you can’t be very fond of her at all.
Hans: ‘Mmm’ (agreeing).
I: ‘That was why you thought that if Mummy let go when she was giving her her bath, she might fall in the water…
Hans (finishing the sentence): ‘— and drown.’
I: ‘And you would be all alone with Mummy. And a good boy wouldn’t want that to happen.
Hans: ‘But he’s allowed to think it’
I: ‘It’s not a good thing, though.’
Hans: ‘If he does think it, it is a good thing, though, so that we can write and tell the Professor.’
[H 57: the alternation of italics and roman follows the original text.].
Here Freud’s own note adds: ‘Bravo, little Hans! I could not hope for a better understanding of psychoanalysis from an adult.’ [H 82, n. 31].
Equally, one wonders whether part of the Wolf-Man material might come from desperation to provide the Herr Professor with what he so patently wants – a move from silent resistance to resistance of a kind susceptible to analysis. The former mood is explicitly recorded by Freud:
The patient I am concerned with here maintained an unassailable position for a long time, entrenched behind an attitude of submissive indifference. He listened and understood but would allow nothing to come anywhere near him. One could not fault his intelligence, but it was as if it had been cut off by those involuntary [triebhaft][4] forces that determined his behaviour in the few human relationships left to him. He had to be educated for a long time before he could be persuaded to take an independent interest in our work and when, as a result of our efforts, the first moments of release occurred, he suspended the work immediately to prevent any further possibility of change and to maintain the comfortableness of the former situation. His timidity at the prospect of an independent existence was so great that it outweighed all the hardships of being ill [W 208].
Freud does not directly confront the possibility of non-co-operation being replaced by invention, or to put it in a less loaded way, collusion, on the patient’s part. His aetiology goes back exclusively to direct personal experience – the wolves being sheep that all died in an epidemic. But in fact, the Wolf-Man’s tale is saturated with literariness. Lermontov appears on at least two occasions.
A few months after his sister’s death he had himself made a journey to the region where she had died; there he sought out the grave of a great poet whom at that time he idealized, and shed hot tears over the grave […] An error in his narrative had given me another indication as to the true meaning of this homage apparently paid to the poet, which I was able to draw his attention to at this point. He had repeatedly told me earlier that his sister had shot herself and then been obliged to correct himself, since she had taken poison. The poet, however, had been shot, in a duel. [W 221]
Less obviously, ‘a poor day-labourer’ remembered by the Wolf-Man from his childhood, who was unable to speak, ‘supposedly because his tongue had been cut out’ [W 285], has a literary antecedent – the Malayan servant in Turgenev’s lush late story, ‘Pesn’ torzhestvuyushchei lyubvi’ (The Song of Triumphant Love), where one of the heroine’s rival lovers turns up after her marriage to the other accompanied by a mysterious, sad, Malayan servant, whose tongue has been cut out to silence him.
Of course, none of this would actually invalidate the psychosexual drama that Freud sketches. For any subject who wanted to escape a diagnosis of homosexuality and anal eroticism, Lermontov and Gogol’ would be positively the last authors who would provide a loophole. Turgenev’s Malayan is easy to gloss as a castration fantasy (the ‘third unnecessary person’ in the love affair, the hapless male left outside the love triangle and beyond the heroine’s attention). The fact that the Malayan is placed at one remove, by being placed ‘in quotation marks’, would be neither here nor there. No doubt Freud himself took the same attitude as Karin Obholzer, a journalist who interviewed ‘the Wolf-Man’ in his old age, and felt that literary chatter was a diversionary tactic: ‘He had always made a stiff, almost wooden impression on me and seemed to feel more secure when he could talk in a somewhat superficial way about belletristic matters.’[5]

More important are the hitches in chronology that the Freudian narrative lays bare. For example, the tale of the wolf and the seven little kids is included in Ushinsky’s Native Word (Rodnoe slovo), a standard pre-1917 reading primer.[6]
It is possible, therefore, that the Wolf-Man encountered the story this story (?) much later than the primal scene. If dreams can reverse relationships, cannot memory as well? Is it possible that the memories about when the boy was no longer afraid of wolves actually refer to a time before he was afraid of wolves? Commonsensical observation would suggest that children in the age range five to eight or nine are much more gleefully macabre than children a few years older. And, when the Wolf-Man was around nine or ten, his family moved to Belorussia, where, as he remembered, ‘Primeval forests, ponds, lakes large and small, and many bogs impressed one as a remnant of nature still untouched by man. There were wolves in the forests’. [7]
Whichever way, must his fear of wolves have derived only from one experience? Is this likely with a fear that is – in Europe, anyway – a cultural universal?
Freud himself was conscious of the possibility that he had misinterpreted the tale:
Aspects of personality, a national character which is alien to our own, made it difficult to empathize with him. The contrast between the patient’s charming and responsive personality, his sharp intelligence and refined way of thinking, and his complete lack of restraint at the level of the drives made it necessary to spend an excessively long time on the work of preparation and education, thus rendering any kind of overview more difficult.
[W 303].
One might add that the heavy dependence of Freud’s method of analysis on linguistic elements, in particular puns, made his conclusions vulnerable when dealing with a patient whose native language was not Russian. For instance, an important part of SP’s later anxiety complex was his painful encounter with a schoolteacher named ‘Wolf’. But in what language was the man called ‘Wolf’? Presumably in German, in which case the effect of recognition would be less immediate, more self-conscious, than if he were called, say, Volkov. Similar ethnolinguistic problems have been taken up in Aleksandr Etkind’s fleeting comments on the ‘Wolf-Man’ in Eros nevozmozhnogo. Etkind takes up the image of the ‘walnut trees’, and links this to the customary nursery threat to a child, ‘poluchish’ na oreshki!’ The phrase can be translated literally as, ‘I’ll give you the money for nuts!’but in context, it stands for a beating. As Etkind points out, phonetically the phrase is indistinguishable from ‘poluchish’ na oreshke!’ (you’ll get it on the nut tree) – hence the presence of the tree in the anxiety dream.[8]
Etkind’s purpose in citing this detail, though, is not to undermine Freud’s analysis, but rather to take it in a different direction – away from the parents and towards the Wolf-Man’s nanny, who appears here as an instrument of castration fantasy, and as an asexual force: ‘Asexual in the manner of an elderly woman, she lacks the erotic attractiveness of the mother and the libido of the father, which stimulates development and provokes a sense of competitiveness.’[9]
The case history therefore becomes representative of an entire generation, not just because of the Wolf-Man’s neurosis, but also because it represents the flight away from sexuality, the avoidance of the conventionally masculine/machismo in favour not of an eroticised feminine, but of ‘grandmotherly asexuality’.[10]
Etkind’s, then, is a revision of Freud’s text that modifies details of the interpretation, but leaves at the centre both the ‘family drama’ and the sexual anxiety that formed the crux of the original text. And certainly, one has to recognise that Freud’s analysis is unassailable in its own terms, because of its completely hermetic character, its non-dialogic treatment of hypothetical formulations. There is no such thing as a ‘fact’ that does not fit the central interpretive drive. In this respect, the procedures are provocatively contrary to those of the science, or more broadly, Wissenschaft or nauka, of the day (and later generations too), where the measure of accuracy or objectivity would be a willingness to modify one’s hypothesis as new material is absorbed.[11]
Freud was indeed aware that his relationship with the scientific was at best ambiguous. In his 1914 history of the psycho-analytic movement, he had explicitly distinguished the neuro-physiological interpretive line of Breuer, for whom hysteria resulted from non-communication of the working consciousness and other layers of mental activity, and his own, which posited repression as the central organisational drive in hysteria and neurosis generally.[12] He thereby recognised a move away from classification and the study of relationships between fixed domains in consciousness to a model of consciousness that depends on the interaction of certain key dynamics, not locatable in a materialist or determinist way by relation to contemporary models of neuro-physiology.
Freud’s interpretive line is less ‘scientific’ in the sense of bio-medical, then, than social-scientific or anthropological. To point this out is not meant as a debunking manoeuvre. His case studies – intimately related to the central modernist project of defamiliarising the known, as in the poetry of Mallarmé or Cubist painting, while conversely literalising the fantastic[13] – went some way towards assailing the mind-body dichotomy of post-Enlightenment Western medicine. And in rhetorical and imaginative terms, they were much richer, more suggestive, than mainstream medical histories of the day. This is brought out vividly by comparison of ‘the Wolf-Man’ with the narrative of Klavdiya Ba---lina, as printed by the Russian journal Detskaya meditsina in 1901. Kladviya, the case-history related, was suffering from somnambulism:
По ночам (изредко вскоре после того как заснет) девочка встает с открытыми, но мутными и безумными глазами, спускается с постели, обходит комнату, не задевая порадающихся по пути предметов. Снова ложится на постель, ловко минуя крестную мать, с которой она обыкновенно спит на одной постели, затем садится и начинает что-то несвязно говорить и шептать, перебирая при этом постоянно волосы. На вопросы в это время никогда не отвечает, повидимому не замечая никого из окружающих, «совершенно как мертвая», по словам родителей, но если ее закладывали спать, то она не сопротивлялась и скоро засыпала. На другой день она ничего не помнила о приключениях предыдущей ночи. В начале эти хождения случались не более 1 раза в неделю, в последнее же время она встает несколько раз в ночь. Родители не замечали, чтобы страдания усиливались в известное время года или находилось в связи с фазами луны.[14]
[At night (or more rarely just after falling asleep), the little girl would get up with eyes open, but cloudy and crazed, and wander round the room, but without stumbling into any of the objects she encountered on her way. She then lay down again, neatly avoiding her godmother, whom she usually shared a bed with, and then sat down and started muttering and whispering something, playing with her hair all the while. She gave no reply to any questions, and apparently paid no attention to her surroundings, “just like a dead person”, in her parents’ words, but if she was put back to bed, then she would not resist, and would soon fall asleep. The next day she remembered nothing about the adventures of the previous night. At first, these perambulations occurred not more than once a week, but more recently she was getting up several times a night. Her parents did not observe that her sufferings increased at a certain time of year or in connection with the phases of the moon.]
The time-honoured link between phases of the moon and sleep-walking could be empirically disproven, then: the aetiology of Klavdiya’s affliction, as explained by Detskaya meditsina, lay elsewhere. She had been a normal baby, so congenital damage could be ruled out. But there was bad heredity: a nervy mother and a father who had previously drunk to excess. Most important, Klavdiya’s diet left much to be desired, and had done even when she was being breast-fed (from 0 to 17 months). The prescribed cure – bromide powders, better diet, and a more effective hygienic regime (no details of this were given) soon produced what the doctors considered good results: Klavdiya ceased sleep-walking, and after that did no more than sometimes sit bolt upright in bed during the night, before returning to the ordinary sleeping position.[15]
The case history here shows no attempt to understand the individual circumstances of Klavdiya’s case, or the nature of her distress (which, one suspects, continued, the bromide having simply masked its most egregious symptoms). Freud, by the 1910s had, by contrast, come to understand that children, too, could have complex inner lives.[16] He treated his patients, whether children or adults, as ethnographical informants,[17] reaching into their cultural backgrounds in the broadest sense, as well as into their personal backgrounds. The cost of this was that he partook of the flawed universalism of the ethnography and anthropology of his day. On the one hand, he applied a totalising model to child psychology: the mechanisms of neurosis were the same whatever the national context. On the other, he allowed room to ethnic stereotyping of a frankly unreflective kind. In ‘The Wolf-Man’, Russian culture comes across as anally erotic in the expansive (rather than retentive) sense, as expressed particularly in passive homosexuality, masochism, and financial imprudence.[18] These are traditional traits in Western depictions of Russian culture, and they have a moral overlay that vitiates the pretensions of Freud’s representation to analytical neutrality. One is reminded of a point in the 1913 essay about dreams in folk-tales that Freud co-authored with Ernst Oppenheim. Here the authors, having worked through a range of different comic stories in which people wake up after dreaming of themselves shitting to find they actually have soiled the bed, comment, ‘One should not be deterred by the often dirty and repulsively indecent nature of this popular material from seeking in it valuable confirmation of psycho-analytic views.’[19]
The material presented by the ‘Wolf-Man’, comparably, is both ‘valuable’ and abject: like money in the desire system of the anal erotic, it is valuable precisely because it is abject, yet finally to be kept at a distance lest it lay bare the inner fantasies of the observer (desirer) him- or herself.[20]
That the ‘Wolf-Man’ is also at some level a psychoanalytical study of Russian culture has been widely recognised, and at this level, reaction to the text has been polarised. On the one hand, some orthodox Freudians in Russia and elsewhere have seen the ‘Wolf-Man’ as an accurate diagnosis, and sometimes also a warning – an identification of Russian culture’s need for psychoanalytical treatment and/or of the pervasiveness of faulty procedures in upbringing.[21]
On the other hand, the case has been seen as an example of how Freud missed the point, either because his own stereotypes about ‘the other’ made him draw fantastic conclusions (as Alexander Etkind has argued), or because, in Vladimir Medvedev’s words, ‘the Russianness of wolf-men cannot be cured’.[22]
Both Freud’s case-study, and more particularly, secondary interpretations of it, can accordingly be seen as contributions to a rather dubious tradition according to which some so-called oddity in the raising of Russian children – whether this is the tolerance for precocious contact with adult sexual practices, or the habit of swaddling small children – are seen as explanations for the peculiarities of the national character later on.[23]
To argue this line, one needs to accept the conviction of a direct and straightforward link between childhood experience and adult experience. That hurdle crossed, one then comes to the problem of extrapolating ‘national character’ from a single case, one where the informant was not only in a deep state of psychological collapse, but had been transformed into ‘a foreigner’ by the process of analysis and by his daily life. Within psychoanalysis itself, these would be non-issues – the acceptance that ‘the child is father to the man’ is a foundation stone of the technique, as is the assumption that people reveal themselves most truly when in a state of mental disintegration. More problematic, even from the point of view of the discipline, would be the way that the issues of ‘national character’ relate to, and expose, the tension between the imaginary and the real, which underlies Freud’s procedures. According to Freud’s own appreciations (as set out, say, in ‘The History of the Psycho-analytical Movement), it did not matter whether a patient’s recollections were invented, or based on fact. Yet the evidential procedures of psychoanalysis takes for granted the existence of a further authentic reality, as blocked out by ‘screen memories’ and other repressive mechanisms. The entire therapeutic process is preoccupied with the breakthrough to this reality, and the patient’s recovery is taken as proof that such a breakthrough has happened.[24]
In other words, subjective and objective truth are distinguished (the routine defence of psychoanalysis is that it deals only in the former), yet also identified (the patient’s recovery ‘demonstrates’ the objective veracity not just of the deductions, but of the local details, that precede the cure). There are serious conceptual problems in using the insights gained by such methods in order to generate further cultural-historical conclusions – to put it simply, to move from the subjective reality of the patient to the objective reality of an entire nation.
We can easily accept that the Wolf-Man need not have witnessed the primal scene in order to have developed anxieties related to it. But it is perhaps more detrimental to Freud’s case that the child’s whole relationship with his parents – as recollected by Freud’s former patient in his old age – seems to have been different from the one projected during analysis. As Sergei Pankeev, the real man behind the analysis, recalled in an interview dating from the 1970s, it was his nanny who was the real source of emotion and tenderness in his life, as opposed to his rather distant mother, with whom he exchanged two ritual kisses a day. It was the nanny’s room where he slept till he was seven or eight; he could not remember ever being put to sleep in his parent’s room.
Pankeev was, by socio-economic criteria, unambiguously ‘bourgeois’ in a way that many other Russian subjects who might have been counselled by Freud would not have been. His father was a lawyer, his grandfather a businessman who had bought, rather than inherited, the family’s country estate.[25]
However, this was quite a different bourgeoisie from, say, the social layer of the parents of Little Hans, regularly letting the child in their bedroom, and conscientiously recording his feelings about his widdler and doing plops for the august physician. This physical and emotional intimacy was something that Sergei Pankeev – like many Russian children from the social elite right up to 1917 – shared with women who were not relations -- his nurse, and before that his wet-nurse, rather than with his natural mother. Common sense would therefore suggest that these women, and particularly his nanny, who was present in his conscious memory, should have played a far larger role in Freud’s analysis than they did. Once again, it is the central psychodrama to which the nanny (like the Wolf-Man’s sister and her governess) is related in the narrative of the case-study: the crucial incident is one in which, rebuked by Nyanya for fiddling with his penis (and warned he’d ‘get a wound’ there), he became spiteful through his sense of rejection, acquiring a habit of torturing her verbally until she burst into tears [W 222, 224].
But the nanny would, one may suppose, have played a far larger role in Pankeev’s life than this, imposing on him her views about the entire physical and metaphysical world. While the upbringing of a child in an elite household by a peasant nanny was not a ‘traditional peasant upbringing’ in the full sense, it was certainly not the ‘rational upbringing’ then being visualised by child-care manuals – and indeed presupposed as the norm by Freud (the great historical leap forward of Freud’s work, vis à vis Locke, Rousseau, Froebel, Montessori, and others, being to underline that ‘rational upbringing’ did not necessarily always guarantee rational results).
My own ambition here is to ‘re-Russianise’ the Wolf-Man in a different, and quite specific sense, from that hitherto attempted: to write him back into historical ethnography.[26]
I should emphasise two things. To begin with, I would stress that this should not be seen as a quest for the ‘truth’ about Sergei Pankeev, for what his dream ‘really’ meant about his state when he dreamt it as a child (if he ever had such a dream, which is of course unverifiable to begin with). More importantly, I am (as will already be obvious) not embarking on a search for the ‘Russian national character’ in a general sense, since I am firmly convinced that ethnic identity, even in small, relatively homogeneous cultures (Ireland, Norway) is fluid over time and diverse at any given era. Nor will I be attempting to recover some mythic ‘further truth’ in the dream, as Carlo Ginzburg has done in an essay interpreting the Wolf-Man’s dream as a phylogenetic memory of shamanistic initiation ritual.[27]
It is not ethnography’s traditional links with the primal and mythic on the one hand, or on the other hand the ethnically particular, that attracts me, but rather, the status of the discipline in its post-revisionist manifestation. In recent years, ethnography has turned into perhaps the most self-conscious, studiedly ‘dialogic’ discipline of any. Writing about fieldwork is profoundly sensitive to the possibility of scripting informants’ responses in advance, to the nuances of performance that take place in interviews or, more generally, encounters, and to the concealed objectives and unrealised promptings of both investigators and those investigated. The ideal form is acknowledged to be a kind of ‘palimpsest’ of different layers of interpretation, registering the variability of individual responses (including the possibility of different responses from the same person) and the diversity of the different sources from which these are retrieved. A popular genre is the return to the site of former fieldwork carried out by a famous predecessor (Malinowski, Evans-Pritchard), but one can of course never step in the same river twice, and the best that can be achieved will be a questioning of the unitary and classificatory authority of the original description and interpretation.[28]
Unlike psychoanalysis (in its classic variants), then, recent ethnographical practice not only recognises its mistakes (as Freud, to be fair, was also willing to do), it also recognises its own limits, being fundamentally concerned with the autonomy – the capacity to evade – expressed by the subject (the individual, the culture) under study.
I want, then, not only to introduce ethnographical material that might suggest Sergei Pankeev’s childhood had more to it than Freud suggests, to produce a kind of ‘reading in three dimensions’, but also to introduce an ethnographical perspective to the discussion. Part of this might be described as a project of restitution, a dissolution into the typical of a case that has acquired the status over the years of an exhibit in a psychoanalytical freak-show. If anthropology and ethnography (particularly but not exclusively recently) have been concerned with preserving the anonymity of their subjects, of making these impossible to recognise, Freud’s text did away with disguise from the start. Laying bare the patient’s inner self, the case history also provided enough authentic detail about his background to make identification of him easy. From the mid-twentieth century, Sergei Pankeev had become post factum public property, a walking historical artefact – as most disgracefully shown by the interviews with Karin Obholzer, who found herself constantly frustrated by Pankeev’s inability to ‘dish the dirt’ quickly enough: ‘Although this was difficult for me, I had to adapt to the slowness of an old man and live in perpetual fear that he might die.’[29]
Her belletristic-loving interlocutor might have been reminded of the ‘editor’ in Lermontov’s Hero of Our Time who, conversely, rejoices that Pechorin has died because now he will be able to publish his private diary.
Where a vulgarised notion of someone’s individual personality has been bruited to posterity, according the anonymity that goes with the ethnographical gaze might carry a kind of ethical charge. Less pompously, one might say that (recent Western) ethnography’s concern with the surface of things as well as with deep meanings (which meanings it in turn constructs in a very different way from psychoanalysis, or indeed from ethnography of the ‘Golden Bough’ kind still widely favoured in Russia) is helpful against the background of a historiographical tradition dominated, for the last century, by nuance-effacing ‘grand narratives’, above all Marxism-Leninism. In particular, the recently-evolved genre of auto-ethnography (i.e. interpreting cultural material according to patterns of association current with a given culture at a given historical moment)[30] does appear to offer a new approach to a text that has traditionally been seen as a key to things about Russian culture that Russians themselves do not understand.

Wolves and the nursery

Nothing can be of greater value to a young person than a love of nature and understanding of natural sciences, particularly animals. Animals played a large part in my childhood also. In my case they were wolves.[31]

So how might we write about the Wolf-Man in a more contextually sensitive way, one located in a broader perception of late imperial Russian society, and especially of childhood at the time? In order that discussion does not dissipate entirely, I have decided to concentrate on the issues raised by the dream, and especially on childhood anxiety and the possible meanings and sources of this. In doing this, I certainly wouldn’t want to deny the importance of childhood sexuality in Russia, and particularly not at the era when Pankeev was growing up, a point when experience of this could be relatively explicit. To begin with, lower-class Russians with whom children might come into contact could be strikingly direct about physiological matters. The writer Olga Forsh, the daughter of a general, learned when she was seven from her father’s batman how to tell female dogs and male dogs apart (as well as about how to polish top-boots to a shine), though relaying this information at a formal dinner meant she was fearfully punished.[32] And there were parents who took their own duties to enlighten children seriously – even if, generally, at a later stage of childhood than the one at which Pankeev was supposedly ‘enlightened’ by his, and usually with reference to printed texts, rather than to first-hand demonstration.[33]
Yet memoirs and oral history alike would suggest that exposure to sexuality might be exaggerated as a force in Russian childhood experience. There is plenty of evidence that parents – including those from the peasantry – went to considerable lengths to ensure that their children did not witness the ‘primal scene’. A point sometimes mentioned by peasant women petitioning for separation from violent husbands was the fact that they had been forced into sex in front of their children, which indicates that this was not the norm. By and large, it seems, parents retired to an outbuilding during the daytime in order to engage in conjugal relations (a thoroughly practical way of ensuring privacy when it was customary for each parent to share sleeping accommodation with one or more children of the same sex).[34] During the Soviet period, elaborate precautions were taken by parents sharing rooms in communal flats with their children in order to ensure that sexual relations were concealed, even if the child's bed was not screened off with a partition and a curtain (as became an increasingly common practice in the 1960s). 'They must have waited until we were really soundly asleep,' a lorry-driver's daughter from Leningrad, born in 1969, and both of whose brothers, 5 and 15 years younger than her, had been conceived in the single room shared by the family until 1984.[35]
If sexuality has been over-emphasised in Western accounts of childhood, insufficient attention has been paid to another side of emotional development – exposure to fear and anxiety. In the interviewing project that I have organised with the support of the Leverhulme Trust, we have a question about ‘childhood fears’, which informants normally answer readily and in detail. Two typical examples run as follows:
Я помню машину, которая называлась черный ворон. И все мы с
ужасом... детям передалось это, мы друг друг показывали, «Вот черный ворон приехал, вон он, он сюда едет!» Мы знали, что у нас было здание суда на углу, на углу... улиц Гоголевской и Писемского, и это здание суда […] В нем возили узников, заключенных, задержанных. И иногда было вот, даже слышала, «вот черный ворон приедет и тебя заберет!» […] Кто-то говорил, «Но это же враги народа!» Все совершенно успокоились.[36]
[I remember a thing called “the black crow” [Black Maria, police wagon]. And we’d all [look] with horror… it got passed on to us children, we’d point it out, “Here’s the black crow, there it is, it’s coming over here!” We knew there was a court-room on the corner… of Gogolevskaya and Pisemsky streets, and that was where the court was […] Prisoners got taken there, arrestees, people being banged up. And sometimes I even heard, “The black crow’ll come and it’ll take you away! […] But then someone would say, “But they’re enemies of the people!” And everyone would calm down.]
Как-то родители, я им верила всегда, один раз мне рассказали какую-то страшную сказку про мальчика, выдуманную, который вышел, и его кто-то... украла баба-яга, и кто-то за ней пришел еще, и года в четыре мне так это в душу запало, что до сих пор помню! (Смех) Я ужасно боялась темноты! И даже если мне ночью нужно было в туалет, я будила маму...[37]
[Once my parents – and I believed whatever they told me – told me some dreadful story about a boy, a made-up story, and he went out one day, and someone… Baba Yaga stole him away, and someone came after her too, and when I was about four this just sank right down, I remember it all to this day! [Laughs]. I was so afraid of the dark! And even if I had to go to the toilet at nights, I’d wake my mother…]
These reminiscences date from the 1950s and from the 1980s respectively; however, fear was just as persistent a motif in early eras as well. A collection of autobiographies by peasant children written in the early 1900s includes many that begin with something dreadful happening. A ten-year-old boy, for instance, remembered:
Я стал помниться с шести лет, когда я пошел купаться то чуть ли не утонул а другой случай когда я слез на хату посмотреть высоко или нет тогда я как упал с хаты и чуть не убился.[38]
[I started to have a memory of myself at six, when I went for a bathe and nearly drowned, or another time I climbed on top of our hut to see how high up it was and I really plummeted down off it and nearly got all smashed up.]
These recollections, to be sure, are affectless: the experiences are fearful, but whether those who lived through them were afraid is more difficult to state (perhaps the memories constitute a kind of boasting). But other autobiographers were explicit about the fact that unpleasant events generated fear as a reaction:
Я начал себя помнить с пяти лет. Однажды я сидел на диване в кухне и мне захотелось воды пить. Вода была в сенях. Я прыгнул с дивана и не замечая ничего под ногами пошел к двери, но не доходя до дверей я увидел гадюку, которая ползла ко мне. Я испугался и бросился назад.[39]
[I can remember myself from five years old. Once I was sitting on a divan in the kitchen and I wanted a drink of water. The water was in the porch. I jumped off the divan and without paying any attention to what was underfoot went to the door, but before I reached it I saw a viper, which was crawling right up to me. I got really frightened and rushed back.]
Both these recollections describe chance occurrences, but traditional Russian upbringing also placed quite a lot of emphasis on induced fear. According to material collected in Vladimir Province during the late nineteenth century: «Начиная с 2 лет детей пугают всякими страстями, причем наряду с букой, домовым и лешим пугают доктором и попом.»[40] (One might note that both the modern reminiscences cited above evoke situations where the child had been deliberately frightened: ‘И мы все с ужасом... детям передалось это… я даже слышала’; ‘один раз мне рассказаликакую-то страшную историю’.) (‘it got passed on to us children… I even heard people say’; ‘once my parents… told me some dreadful story’). Even before the child reached two, lullabies might evoke scary monsters, conjuring up an image of a ravening beast in order to drive it away:

Бай-бай, баю-бай,
Поди, бука, не мешай!
Поди, бука, на повить,
Там кошку дерут,
Тебе лапку дадут. (DPF 13). [41]
Lullaby, lullaby!
Bugbear, away you fly!
Bugbear, go to the hayloft,
They’re tearing a cat apart,
They’ll give you a paw.

Such texts, recited to a child that could not yet speak, were more likely to create an atmosphere of security through intonation than to daunt a child by creating nightmares. But there was an edge of aggression and threat in them, and older children might be intimidated directly. In an eyewitness account dating from around 1903, a boy of about ten recalled how he had been ‘cured’ of his ‘babyish’ attachment to his cradle:
В младенчестве моем я очень любил кататься в зыбке. Мне шел уже 4 год, а я все еще не мог расстаться с ней. Наконец, в то время, когда я играл во дворе, ее вынесли из избы и спрятали на вышке. Возвратясь со двора и не видя свою подругу (зыбку), предварительно спросив у родителей: где моя зыбка и получив ответ, что ее украли, стал безутешно плакать. Тогда родители мои, желая унять меня, стали пугать меня каким-то татарином, который, если я буду плакать, утащит меня к себе и станет кормить соломой. Я конечно испугался и тотчас-же перестал плакать и мало по малу примирился с своей потерей.[42]
[When I was little, I used to love rocking in my cradle. Even when I was as old as four, I didn’t want to part with it. But then one day when I was outdoors playing, they took the cradle out of the house and hid it in the loft. When I got back and couldn’t see my friend (my cradle), I asked my parents where it was and when they said it had been stolen, I started crying inconsolably. Then my parents tried to stop me crying by telling me a frightening story about how, if I didn’t stop, some Tatar would turn up, drag me off, and feed me on nothing but straw. Of course, I was really scared and immediately stopped crying, and gradually adjusted to my loss.]
Children themselves quickly internalised this ‘sadism’ (if one wishes so to term it), or – speaking less loadedly -- preoccupation with the uncanny and unmanageable. Another early twentieth-century boy memoirist recalled a friend launching into a story:
«Однажды мой отец ночью проезжал мимо кладбища. Вдруг с кладбища бежит за ним покойник, в белом саване. Волосы у отца на голове встали дыбом. Он ударил свою лошадь кнутом и, сотворив крестное знамение, упал вниз лицом в сани.» Мальчик хотел продолжать, но мы его остановили. Этот рассказ был нам не по сердцу.»[43]
[“One day my father was going past the cemetery at night. Suddenly a corpse came running towards him, wearing a white shroud. My father’s hair stood on end. He gave his horse a whack with his whip, made the sign of the cross, and fell face-downwards in his sledge.” The boy wanted to go on, but we stopped him. We didn’t like that story one bit.]
We see here the critical role played by other children, as well as adults, in disseminating fears. Here, certainly, the group stepped in to censor the creepy material that had been put forward, but this was not the only possible reaction. The role of the juvenile community could be (as with teasing) to use fright as an instrument of initiation – those scared by such a tale would then be the objects of mockery.[44]
Children’s ambiguous relationship with the uncanny had plenty to feed on. Not only were they routinely intimidated by adults, but, though carefully protected from ‘primal scenes’ of certain kinds – copulation and birth – they were not kept remote from funerals, as was famously illustrated by Tolstoy’s pseudo-autobiography Detstvo, where the hero’s horror and disgust at his mother’s obsequies forms an emotional turning-point in the text. Tolstoy was regularly given to children as suitable reading, so this ‘primal scene’ was likely to be encountered at second hand, if not at first hand.[45]
Freud’s early work was characterised by dissatisfaction with the emphasis placed on anxiety by behaviourists such as Stanley Hall. This in turn led him into a degree of polemical over-statement about other conditioning forces, particularly the libido. But what if anxiety were – as Freud in his later writings, for example ‘Das Unbehagen in der Kultur’, took aggression to be – an autonomous instinctive drive, which attached itself to sexual objects simply because they were an obvious area where a sense of threat and vulnerability might manifest itself? The primal fear may well be, as Melanie Klein argues in ‘Love, Guilt, and Reparation’, ‘the anxiety about the death of the loved person’, or ‘separation anxiety’, in the later term, which then generates ‘the wish to make reparation’, as expressed in various creative activities.[46] But this leaves the possibility that traces of this original fear might be realised differently in different historical or cultural conditions.
Certainly, there was nothing peculiar about childhood fears generally, or a fear of wolves specifically, in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Russia. A child who was sent alone into the forest to take cows to pasture, or to check game snares or hives, had no need to stoke up fear artificially, when the thought of marauding bears and wolves, or indeed human predators such as bandits, lay constantly in the back of its mind.[47] Whether wolves were a likely danger in a given area or not, they were insistently present in folklore directed at children. Riddles emphasised the wolf’s aggression, especially where directed against children:

По полю рыщет,
Телят, ребят рыщет. (DPF 1747)
It roams the fields,
Preys on calves and children.

In myths, wolves were represented not just as denizens of the steppe, but as antagonists vis-à-vis the domestic setting. In one riddle, wolves are what stops farm animals getting home, camped out as they are in the barrier zone of the woods: ‘За лесом, пролеском/Жеребята ржут,/Домой не идут’ (DPF 1749). In another, the wolf attempts to gain entrance to the farm, only to be rebuffed:

Спускается кто-то
В наши ворота,
Спрашивает что-то
У нашей лебеды:
«Лебеда, лебеда,
Дома ли ваша помбра?»
Отвечает лебеда:
«Уходи от двора!» (DPF 1750) [48]
Someone is creeping down
Through our gates,
Asking a question
Of our goosefoot:
“Goosefoot, goosefoot,
Is your help at home?”
The goosefoot answers,
“Get out of the yard!”

Lullabies also suggested that this was one of the bogies lying in wait in and around the household:

Баю, баюшки, баю!
Не ложись на краю:
Придет серенький волчок,
Схватит тебя за бочок,
Он утащит во лесок
За маленький кусток,
Там положит на пенек
И разрубит поперек.
Придет кошечка играть,
Будет крепко тосковать,
Станет Ванюшку искать, -
Нужно детке крепко спать.[49]

Пойди, бука, под сарай.
Под сараем-то волчок,
Схватит Нину за бочок. (DPF 9).[50]

Lulla, lullaby,
Bogey, go under the barn,
Under the barn is a little wolf,
He’ll grab Nina by the side.

In folk tales, the wolf was often an insatiable aggressor, forever eating other animals, especially small defenceless ones. The seven little kids about which Pankeev had read (in Russian folk versions of this tale, the last of them hides in the stove, not the clock) are one set of victims, but there were others. The wolf could display a strange ability to get hold of prey simply by wheedling for this. In one common folk-tale, for example, he would come and sing to an old man:

Жил жилец
На кусочке дворец;
У него пять овец,
Шестой жеребенок,
Седьмая телка.
A man did once live,
His palace was on a chip,
He had five sheep,
The sixth was a colt,
The seventh a heifer.

The wolf would be rewarded for the beauty of this song by being given everything he mentioned, and sometimes the old man’s wife into the bargain. [51]
This primary sense of the uncanny – the wolf as an animal that could get into domestic space if it felt like it – was also underlined in apocryphal tales. The great-grandmother of a friend of mine, born into a Russian gentry family around 1890, had a childhood memory – I think probably an imaginary one – about riding in a sleigh on a dark night and suddenly seeing the lights of a village close by. Her relief was soon dispelled when the horses started, the coachman said, ‘It’s wolves’, and she realized that what she thought were friendly lights were actually the eyes of the creatures shining as they were caught by the sleigh lantern. [52]
In Russian folklore, as in traditional belief internationally, then, the wolf was dangerous because of its voracity. It was the key example of how scary beings are, in Marina Warner’s words, ‘ravenous, and ravenous for the wrong food’. [53]
But this was not all. Wolves could dissimulate, as well as confront, and wheedle, as well as attack. They were not so much real animals, as chthonic beings, who could pass as easily into domestic space as they could into the underworld. Indeed, they could cross the divide not just into human territory, but into human identity – as most clearly signalled by the tradition of the werewolf (volkodlak or oboroten’), a being magically able to slip from one species to the other, often by recourse to the aid of a tree or bush. [54]
While the Wolf-Man was undergoing analysis with Ruth Mack Brunswick, in the 1920s, he had a dream which was highly traditional in terms of these wolf beliefs:
In a broad street is a wall containing a closed door. To the left of the door is a large, empty wardrobe with straight and crooked drawers. The patient stands before the wardrobe; his wife, a shadowy figure, is beside him. Close to the other end of the wall stands a large, heavy woman, looking as if she wanted to go round and behind the wall. But behind the wall is a pack of grey wolves, crowding toward the door and rushing up and down. Their eyes gleam, and it is obvious they want to rush at the patient, his wife, and the other woman. The patient is terrified, fearing they will succeed in breaking through the wall. [55]
Here, the wolves want to attack the human subjects, and the wall that blocks them is only a temporary obstacle: the chances that these creatures, with their greedy, glittering eyes, will break through seem overwhelming.
The wolves in the original dream, however, have a more ambiguous status. To begin with, they are stationary, fixed on the tree, so that it is simply not clear why they should seem so threatening. The Wolf-Man himself felt compelled to provide a retrospective gloss ‘Obviously fearful that the wolves were going to gobble me up, I screamed and woke up’ [W 225]. But there is no overt manifestation in the dream that the wolves actually do intend such an act – unlike the picture that so terrified the Wolf-Man when his sister held it up. In this way, the wolves in the dream are unconventional. They fit better with another folk association of the wolf – its capacity to punish wrong-doing. As a proverb recorded by the great folklorist Dmitry Zelenin in Vyatka Province in the early twentieth century put it, ‘На сердитых волки срать ездят’ [Wolves ride out to shit on cross-patches]. [56]
Moreover, the wolves differ from the usual stereotypes because they are white. What could be the significance of this – trying now to reach into folklore, rather than into possible reminiscences by the young Sergei Pankeev of his parents’ white underwear?
If wolves generally are chthonic beings, white wolves, in their unnaturalness, would be likely still more to evoke otherworldly associations, particularly given that white was the established colour of mourning in late imperial Russia. A 1909 memoirist who was a near-contemporary of Pankeev’s (he was born in 1884) remembered what a shock his first visit to hospital had been on precisely these grounds:
Меня привели в огромную комнату с большими окнами. В ней стояло семь коек, шесть были заняты, а седьмую назначили мне. Комната эта представляла весьма грустный вид. При виде грустной обстановки, в сердце закрадываются грустные мысли. Как только я вошел в комнату и взглянул на койки, с белыми одеялами, у меня в памяти тотчас встала картина напоминающая похороны моего отца. Те же белые одеяла, а на койках лежит люди изнуренного болезнью, похожие на мертвецов. […] Меня начали утешать, когда же я успокоилась, с меня сняли мою собственную одежду, и надели казенную. [57]
[They took me into a huge room with big windows. There were seven beds there; six were occupied, and I got the seventh. The room looked really sad, and seeing how sad
everything looked, sad thoughts came stealing into my soul. As soon as I went into the room and looked at the beds, with their white blankets, I remembered my father’s funeral. The same white blankets, and the people were lying in their beds, worn out by their illnesses, looking like dead people […] They started comforting me, and then when I had calmed down, they took off my own clothes, and put the hospital clothes on me.]
No doubt the effect of whiteness was that much stronger in peasant households, where the colour was generally avoided in ordinary circumstances. A child from Pankeev’s background would have seen sheets, pillowcases, nightshirts, in the course of ordinary routine. But there is still a strong possibility that white wolves had funereal associations.
More significant, though, is another possibility of identification. In East Slavonic folk belief, ‘white wolves’ figured in the roles of power figures. In Smolensk Province, for example, it was believed that the ‘Wood Tsar’ could take the shape of a white wolf:
По мненю крестьян Краснинского уезда [Смоленской губернии], волки находятся под властью Честного Леса или лесного царя, который часто принимает вид белого волка. [58]
[According to the beliefs of the peasants of Krasninsky district [Smolensk province], the wolves are subject to the power of the Honest Forest or the Wood Tsar, who often takes the shape of a white wolf.]
These beings, the ‘Honest Forest’ or the ‘Wood Tsar’, had the authority to punish those who offended against the moral code of the wolves, both by driving wolves themselves who were in breach of group rules from the herd, and by punishing those who treated wolves cruelly or inconsiderately. Shepherds would sacrifice lambs to them in some places [Ibid. 135-6]. They were, then, arbiters of morality, their predatory instincts transformed into a punishment drive.
It was, in any case, not just the threatening, aggressive nature of the wolf that was invoked in folklore. Proverbs and sayings also evoked its capacity for dissimulation. The Biblical phrase, ‘волк в овечьей шкуре’ [wolf in sheep’s clothing], [59] to become a key term in the arsenal of Stalinist political denunciation, was only one of many such sayings. More germane to Pankeev’s dream is the saying, ‘не бывает же волк с лисьим хвостом» [there is no such thing as a wolf with a fox’s tail]. [60] The wolves with foxes’ tails in the dream are proverbial impostors: they represent both the terrifying force of the Wood Tsar’s gaze, and the wolves who are to be driven from the herd because they are not wolves at all. Such wolves – not just impostors, but inept impostors -- take on another traditional attribute of the wolf in folklore. In traditional tales, particularly, the wolf is often the fall guy, the foil to the ever sharp-witted vixen. In the traditional version of the story about the wolf fishing with his tail that Pankeev knew, it was the vixen who persuaded him to try out this silly version of fishing; in other stories, the vixen gobbled up the wolf (and other animals) after having lured them into a trap. Sometimes the wolf does get the better of the vixen, but the victory is short-lived. For instance, in a long, involved narrative recorded in Vyatka Province by D. K. Zelenin in the 1910s, the wolf hitches a ride on the vixen’s sleigh, and when she worries about the creaking sound, reassures her, ‘I’m just chewing nuts.’ Eventually the sleigh breaks apart, and while the vixen is fixing it, the wolf eats the guts out of the horse and replaces them with sparrows and straw. When the vixen comes back, and the sparrows fly out, she vows revenge -- and here the motif about persuading the wolf to fish with his tail follows. [61]
Pankeev’s troubled relationship with his sister, who constantly mocked him and yet did her best to stimulate him erotically, ‘lead him on’, comes to mind.
So far as the wolves in Pankeev’s dream are concerned, the wolf’s identity as the target and the originator of contempt seems much more important than its role as a voracious aggressor. The wolves in the dream disapprove; they are also the victims of disapproval. The subject, while being looked at by the white wolves, whose number adjusts so that he both is and is not one of them, has himself become a ‘white wolf’ in one particular meaning of the term – a freak (compare the standard term ‘white crow’, belaya vorona, for a social misfit); at the same time, he is subject to disapproving scrutiny from those who have the right to arbitrate whether he belongs or not. The dreamer’s own primary association with the dream, we remember, was the story about the wolf who had lost his tail and who, when exposed, made a run, collapsing the entire pyramid that the wolves had built in order to escape danger – in other words, he saw this as a narrative about failure and disgrace.
The aggressive animal reduced to a fool, a victim, is an especially miserable figure. Sometimes in folklore, it was the wolf himself who was the joker:
«Ночью он часто бросается к человеку под ноги и валит его, единственно для того, чтобы пошутить и позабавиться над страхом оторопелого человека» ([t night he'll often run up to a person and topple him over just for a joke, and have a good laugh at how frightened and shocked that person is]. [62]
But more often, it was the wolf who was the victim, the target of the punchline, and often the punchbag too. So, the story about the tailor was a version of ‘the biter bit’ like Little Red Riding Hood – but with a different kind of reversal taking place: the socially dominant were transformed into the socially abject, rather than the killer ending up slaughtered himself.
Folklore allowed for the prospect that the wolf might be bought off or averted. It was traditional for shepherds to offer sacrifices to the ‘Wood Tsar’ as a placatory move. And the boundary-crossing propensity of the creature was not always bad.According to folk tradition, wolves could be placated if they were spoken to directly. «Уверяют, что если поговорить с волками по-хорошему, то они не тронут – свернут с дороги и пойдут сторонкою» [They’ll assure you that if you speak to wolves nicely, they won’t touch you – they’ll turn off the path and pass by on one side]. [63]
As with the leshii [wood demon], another dangerous being with whom tracks in the forest might be contested, there was the possibility of a successful challenge to the non-human presence. But the Wolf-Man’s dream, on the other hand, offers neither prospect of escape. The wolves themselves, sitting in the walnut tree/Christmas tree, are the only ‘gifts’ symbolically present; the dreamer seems (as traditionally in nightmares) to be temporarily speechless, so that he can scream only when waking up. And the wolves remain threateningly silent, their disapproval endless because it is never precisely articulated.
The primary emotion inspired by the dream of the white wolves, then, was fear – and the final effect is mixed fear and shame. Under analysis with Ruth Mack Brunswick, Pankeev was prompted by the shining eyes of the wolves in his adult wolf dream to remember how ‘for some time following his dream at four years he could not bear to be looked at. He would fly into a temper, crying, “Why do you look at me like that?”’ [64]
Wolves in folklore are capable of provoking both emotions – fear and anger -- in extreme degrees: they can also punish both manifestations, eating those who flee (and do not speak to them), defecating on those who are angry.
Of course, the question of how Pankeev might have learned about this – of cultural transmission -- is left open. While Pankeev remembered his early contacts with German culture in great detail, he was surprisingly uninformative about the ‘Russian’ elements in his background. We do know that his nanny came from a peasant background, though whereabouts is not clear; however, she appears to have been a native speaker of Russian, rather than Ukrainian, so may have come from one of the provinces bordering Ukraine – perhaps Rostov or Kursk, or perhaps even Smolensk Province, the source of the wolf beliefs recorded by Dobrovol’sky, and lying between Ukraine and Belorussia, where the family settled when Pankeev was nine or ten years old. To be sure, Pankeev’s recollections of her in connection with folk tales record only that she was fascinated by the readings of Grimm in the Russian language which his governess Miss Elisabeth (a Russian of Bulgarian origin) would organise in the nursery. [65] But it is hard to believe that a woman who enjoyed folk tales would not have provided fantasy material of her own when entertaining the small Sergei in the nursery, including, no doubt, material about wolves, the standard characters in creepy stories and low farces alike.

Frightened children, frightened adults: a coda

Material from folklore and folk practice during the last part of the nineteenth century would suggest that the scary and haunting character of the Wolf-Man’s dream is unlikely to stem from its links with the primal scene. This is not to deny the importance of the physical, telesnost’,in children’s discourse – elsewhere, the case history of the Wolf-Man himself provides plenty of evidence of this, whether in his fascination with the family maid, or in his early experiments with masturbation. But the development of sexuality – and of a guilt/shame/distress/revulsion complex around it – was only part of the emotional legacy that the Wolf-Man took from his childhood. The question of whether, as a ‘basic instinct’, fear or sex is more important, cannot be resolved: both are essential in evolutionary terms, guaranteeing the survival of the individual (in the first case), the species (in the second). And it is interesting, and ironic, to note that, after his treatment with Freud, the Wolf-Man suffered not just from traumas that could be glossed in terms of sexual neurosis (for instance, an episode where he became convinced that there was something disgusting and morbid about his nose), but also from episodes of paranoia, or extreme fear, of a different kind. As he remembered the years immediately following the end of the Second World War:
One day I took my paint-box and canvas and went out into the suburbs of Vienna, to the meadows near the canal. Suddenly the scene reminded me of Russia and my boyhood, and I was quite swept away by nostalgia […] I wanted to capture this scene on canvas, and took out my paints and equipment. The first thing that happened was that my painting stool broke – this was the first of several bad omens. But still nothing could stop me, and I began to paint. Clouds came up, the light changed; I painted like one possessed, not noticing anything but the scene and the mood. After a while two figures approached from behind the building; I paid no heed. Then five men approached me; they were Russian soldiers. I could only have been so unaware because I was living not in the present but in the past; but by the time the soldiers had seen me it was too late. And would you believe it, Frau Doktor, although I realized it only much later, this day was the anniversary of my sister’s death?
I had wandered into the Russian Zone, the Russians were using this bakery as a military station. The soldiers took me inside, took away my belt and shoelaces and my glasses and began to question me. It was at once clear they suspected me of espionage. In vain I tried to tell them I was just painting for pleasure; they had no understanding of this. The soldiers themselves were mostly simple and decent people, but the terrible thing was that they brought in officers of the secret police, and these men know how to confuse you, torture you, and break your spirit. ‘But you have a real Russian name,’ the officer in charge said to me. ‘How is it possible that a real Russian can work against his country?’ I felt horribly guilty – a displaced guilt, no doubt, because I had never done any such thing, but they made me feel as though I had betrayed my country. At this moment I understood perfectly how the many victims of the trials in Russia signed confessions of crimes they had never committed. […] At length [the officer in charge] told me I might go home and return with the paintings. I thought he would ask me to bring them the following day, or at latest in two days. But no! He ordered me to come back in twenty-one days. Can you imagine what that period of waiting was like for me? I think I developed delusions of persecution; I thought people were talking about me or watching me when they certainly were not, though I never had the feeling that anyone was following me. But I simply could not think of anything else. It was like that time with my nose when I went to Dr Brunswick – only then I feared a physical deformity (Entstellung) and this time a moral deformity. [66]
Here, emotions not dealt with by Freudian psychology – guilt and loyalty – resurfaced with a vengeance; the conventional psychoanalytic tradition had nothing to offer on this occasion. One notes also the Wolf-Man’s own conviction that this experience was somehow fated – it happened on the anniversary of his sister’s death, and he had failed to notice bad omens. He had, then, been ‘fooled’, had allowed himself to be seen (the importance of visual contact is again striking). And once again, the stupid wolf was subjected, in his imagination, to punishment and disapproval, the scorn of the mysterious watching figures: ‘I thought people were talking about me or watching me when they certainly were not.’
Freud’s interpretation of the Wolf-Man’s dream, then, was in many respects a simplification of the subject of the analysis and the culture from which he came. In particular, it vastly underestimated the place of fear in the early training of Russian children during the late Imperial era, and the effects that such early training could have on perfectly rational individuals when terror was employed against them. The success of Freud’s treatment was in turning a deeply unhappy individual into a person who could hold down a modest job for many years, enjoy dabbling as an amateur painter, and have a reasonably happy marriage, albeit one that was eventually interrupted by tragedy. [67]
The limitations in the analysis were in providing the Wolf-Man with only some of the resources that he needed to survive. Pankeev was reduced to ‘delusions’, or close to that point, by his confrontation with the military detachment in the Russian Zone. He was still obsessed with the secret police when Muriel Gardiner encountered him in 1956, five years after the incident. [68]
Without her common-sense advice, devotion as a correspondent, and interest in his writing, the Wolf-Man’s last decades might not have been as stable as they were. Like Mikhail Zoshchenko – with whom he shared a pervasive sense of impotence and humiliation -- the Wolf-Man was distinguished by his capacity to rationalise and place himself at a distance from the traumatic experiences he had gone through – the positive result of psychoanalysis. But this benefit, in the Wolf-Man’s case, came at the price of a celebrity not desired or created by him, and resting on a simplified and distorted version of his early life, in whose composition he himself had (unlike Zoshchenko) played the role not of author or of co-author, but of catalyst, inspiration, nothing more than the starting point. And, if psychoanalysis did much to mitigate his visceral malaises and purely sexual neuroses, it did little to alleviate the potentially crippling fears that persisted from childhood. Throughout his life, the Wolf-Man remained in many ways a frightened child – looking for consolation and counsel to his acquaintances, and deeply ambivalent about relationships with adult women, with the exception of psychoanalysts and the elderly maid, Fräulein Gaby, with whom he, Oblomov-like, seems to have tried to recapture some of the magic and security of youth, safe in the care of a latter-day version of his beloved nanny. [69]
At the same time, the Wolf-Man’s fears when he encountered the Russian soldiers in Vienna were, one should remember, perfectly rational. He could have been arrested and repatriated to the Soviet Union, where his fate, as an émigré who had had contact with psycho-analysis, an interpretive method detested and vilified under Stalin, would probably have been dreadful (most likely, a ‘re-educative’ spell in a labour camp). [70] Yet his collapse into naked fear – unmitigated apparently by any sense of possible salvation through his Western connections – is striking. We might be pushing in the direction of the following hypothesis: Could the readiness of educated and privileged Russians to believe the charges laid against them during the political purges of the early Soviet era be traceable to the socialisation through fear that they received? We would not be talking here about an explanation for why the purges happened – a considerably more complicated question – but with an explanation for why protest against them, among the social class of what was described in the 1920s as ‘former’ people, was so limited. Could the combination of fear and love inspired by the peasant nanny translate into a later view, among the educated ‘graduates’ of the nanny’s care, that the (usually poorly educated and plebeian) representatives of Soviet power, no matter how ‘uncultured’ they might be, still had an uncontestable force of moral authority in their hands? One might then set up a secondary hypothesis which attempted to construct a correlation between the declining use of fear in the socialisation of small children, and growing confidence among older children and adults in asserting themselves. And it does indeed seem that the late twentieth century saw a move away, at least among educated parents, from the habit of chastening and disciplining through the use of fear and shame that had been so widespread in the late nineteenth century, on the one hand, and a growing unreadiness among children of over nursery age, to respond unquestioningly to authority, on the other. [71]

New College, Oxford
August 2007


[1] ‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis [The ‘Wolfman’], Chapter IV (The ‘Wolfman’ and Other Cases, trans. L. A. Huish, London: Penguin, 2002), p. 227. Future references to this edition will be placed in square brackets in the main text, as [W 227] etc. The alternation of italics and roman follows the original text. My thanks to the audience at the Davis Center, Harvard University, for their useful comments on an earlier version of this paper. The larger project on which this paper draws, ‘Childhood in Russia, 1890-1991: A Social and Cultural History’, is supported by the Leverhulme Trust under grant F/08736/A (see http//: www.ox.ac.uk/russian/childhood/htm).

[2] Freud, ‘Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy’, The ‘Wolfman’ and Other Cases, p. 95.

[3] ‘Märchenstoffe in Traumen’, 1913 (translated as ‘The Occurrence in Dreams of Material from Fairy Tales’), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. J. Strachey, vol. 12 (London: The Hogarth Press, 1958), 281-7.

[4] lit driving [CK].

[5] Karin Obholzer, The Wolf-Man: Sixty Years Later, trans. Michael Shaw (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982), p. 247.

[6] K. D. Ushinsky, Rodnoe slovo dlya detei mladshego vozrasta. God pervyi. Pervaya posle azbuki kniga dlya chteniya (4th edn.; St Petersburg: tip. M. Merkusheva/Shmidt, 1912).

[7] Gardiner (ed.), The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud, p. 12.

[8] Aleksandr Etkind, Eros nevozmozhnogo: Istoriya psikhoanaliza v Rossii (St Petersburg: Meduza, 1993), p. 111.

[9] 'Старчески бесполая, она лишена как эротической привлекательности матери, так и отцовского либидо, стимулирующего рост и вызывающего к соревнованию.' Etkind, Eros nevozmozhnogo, p. 113.

[10] Etkind, Eros nevozmozhnogo, p. 114.

[11] As, for example, in the famous ethnographer D. K. Zelenin’s essay on the ritual of ‘warming up the dead’ current in parts of rural Russia: ‘I began the present study with the idea of discovering in [this ritual] traces of the former custom of consigning corpses to funeral pyres. […] But my study adduced nothing to substantiate this idea.’ Zelenin’s conclusion was that the link of this ritual with the dead was in fact a late incursion into a ritual that had originally been a straight fertility rite, with the figure of the ‘house spirit’ at its centre. ‘Narodnyi obychai “gret’ pokoinikov”’, Izbrannye trudy: Stat’i po dukhovnoi kul’ture, 1901-1913 (Moscow: Indrik, 1994), pp. 164-78.

[12] ‘Die Geschichte der psychoanalytischen Bewegung’ (1914) as ‘The History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement’, The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. J. Strachey,vol. 14 (London: Hogarth Press, 1958), p. 11.

[13] My thanks to Svetlana Boym for the former point.

[14] ‘Sluchai sonambulizma u devochki 6 let (iz ambulatorii Detskoi bol’nitsy sv. Ol’gi)’, Detskaya meditsina 4 (1901), 306-7. This quotation pp. 306-7. My English version, unlike the Russian version, is narrated in the past, rather than the historic present, thus losing some of the suspense of the original.

[15] Ibid.

[16] In The Interpretation of Dreams, on the other hand, Freud saw children’s dreams as transparent and not very interesting. He had himself undergone a huge evolution over less than two decades of clinical practice and public discussion.

[17] For the general point about Freud as anthropologist, see also the excellent introduction by Ritchie Robertson to The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. J. Crick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

[18] Cf. also the arguments of Vladimir Medvedev, ‘“Russkost’” na kushetke. Opyt prikladnoi supervizii sluchaya Cheloveka-Volka’, VAPP (Vserossiiskaya assotsiatsiya prikladnogo psikhoanaliza), http://vapp.ru/projects/imago/2001/08/ Accessed 21 October 2004.

[19] S. Freud and E. Oppenheim, ‘Träume in Folklore’ (1913), as ‘Dreams in Folklore’, The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 14, p. 203.

[20] I am not here referring to Freud’s own likely over-identification with the ‘Wolf-Man’ in a biographical sense (as argued convincingly by e.g. Medvedev, or James L. Rice, Freud’s Russia: National Identity in the Evolution of Psychoanalysis (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishing, 1993), p. 105, but to his relationship with the material of the case-study in a more abstract sense – its status as a manifestation of an alternative culture.

[21] For a non-judgemental reading of this kind, where Freud is seen as having identified the ‘ambivalence’ of Russian culture, though not its capacity for ‘love/hate’, see Rice, Freud’s Russia, pp. 116-7; for more normative assessments, see e.g. the interview with Nataliya Arkad’evna Kholina, ‘Puskat’ li detei v spal’nyu roditelei?’, Roditel’.ru, http://parent.fio.ru/news.php?n=5860&c=2 (accessed 21 October 2004); Daniel Rancour-Laferriere, The Slave Soul of Russia: Moral Masochism and the Cult of Suffering (New York: New York University Press, 1995), pp. 155-6, where the ‘primal scene’ is taken as something that any Russian of the day would have been likely to witness in childhood.

[22] Etkind, ‘Eros nevozmozhnogo’, p. 106; Medvedev, ‘“Russkost’” na kushetke’, p. 13.

[23] On swaddling small children, see Geoffrey Gorer, 'Some aspects of the psychology of the people of Great Russia', American Slavic and East European Review vol. 8 no. 2 (1949), 155-66. A rather more sophisticated study in ethnic particularism is Herschel and Edith Alt, The New Soviet Man: His Upbringing and Character Development (n.p.: Bookman Associates, Inc., 1964), which applied the typology of R. F. Beck et al., The Psychology of Character Development (1960), in order to suggest that while the goals of Soviet education were the same as in the West (‘to achieve a rational-altruistic character’), ‘the immediate effort in the Soviet Union […] is focused on the conforming who often becomes the expedient character.’

[24] In the ‘Wolf-Man’, this point occurred when the patient’s bowel problems started to clear up after Freud had laid bare the connection between defecation and money: [W 274].

[25] Obholzer, The Wolf-Man,p. 36 (sleeping in nanny’s room), pp. 73-4 (more on sleeping in nanny’s room: she was very tender, his mother undemonstrative), p. 75 (bourgeois antecedents).

[26] Etkind’s reading (Eros nevozmozhnogo, p. 112-4) contains some material on the nyanya, but from the point of view of ahistorical speculation: ‘the nanny makes every generation begin its search from the starting point – from the zero degree of frozen peasant tradition’ [няня заставляет каждое поколение начинать свой поиск сначала – с нулевой точки замороженной крестьянской традиции].

[27] See ‘Freud, the Wolf-Man, and Werewolves’, in Myths, Emblems, Clues, trans. J. and A. C. Tedeschi (London: Hutchinson Radius, 1990), pp. 146-64. Ginzburg extrapolates from common Slavic beliefs about people being born with the caul having the capacity to turn into werewolves to read the dream as a shamanistic vision. However, these beliefs were obscure in Russian folk culture by the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, as is suggested by the usual gloss of rodit’sya v sorochke (to be born in a ‘shirt’, i.e. a caul) to mean simply ‘born lucky’ (V. Dal’, Tolkovyi slovar’ zhivogo velikorusskogo yazyka, 4 vols. (Moscow, 1880-1882, vol. 4, p. 236). Which is not to detract from Ginzburg’s contention that ‘myths think us up’ (i.e. that pre-existing beliefs, sometimes lying unrecognised in a culture, may shape attitudes and behaviour), or equally, the view that Pankeev, who suffered greatly in his own historical context on account of his visions, might have been celebrated for his magical powers in another context.

[28] See e.g. James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988); James Clifford and George E. Marcus (eds.), Writing Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); Paul Rabinow, Essays on the Anthropology of Reason (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Paul Willis, The Ethnographic Imagination (Oxford: Polity Press, 2000); and the discussion on objectivity and subjectivity in Antropologicheskii forum 2 (2004).

[29] Obholzer, The Wolf-Man, p. 7. Cf. the commodification of the Wolf-Man’s trauma later in his life, when he developed a profitable line in selling paintings of his white-wolf dream to psychoanalysts who wanted a souvenir of this famous patient: Muriel Gardiner (ed.) The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud (London: Hogarth Press, 1972), p. 353.

[30] As espoused by e.g. Katherine Verdery in What Was Socialism and What Comes Next? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

[31] Sergei Pankeev, quoted by Muriel Gardiner in Gardiner (ed.) The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud, p. 316.

[32] SPA vol. 1.

[33] On the whole issue, see the published ‘mother’s diary’, 'Mat'', 'K voprosu o polovom vospitanii detei', Svobodnoe vospitanie 1 (1910), 51-62 (though, to be sure, the ‘enlightenment’ offered here was mainly in the form of warnings about disease).

[34] Petitions: Ludmer; sheds: Anna Dubova in Engel and Posadskaya (eds.), A Revolution of Their Own; sharing of beds by sex: Kabo.

[35] Oxf/Lev SPb-03 PF 15A, p. 38.

[36] CKQ-Ox-03 PF6B, pp. 4-5 (woman b. 1949).

[37] CKQ-Ox-03 PF 10B, p. 5 (woman b. 1975).

[38] RGIA f. 803 op. 16 d. 2770, l. 42 Ivan Lyubomyshchenko, b. 1893 (peasant farmer’s son).

[39] RGIA f. 803 op. 16 d. 2770, l. 44. Petr Polyakov, b. 1894 (a deacon’s son).

[40] Б. М. Фирсов, И. Г. Киселева. Быт великорусских крестьян-землепашцев: Описание материалов этнографического бюро князя В. Н. Тенишева (на примере Владимирской губернии).
СПб, Изд. Европейского дома. 1993. С. 266. On corporal punishment and scoldings (побои и ругань) see ibid., p. 216 (begins at around 6), p. 267 (declines as the child approaches maturity).

[41] DPN = A. N. Martynova (ed.), Detskii poeticheskii fol’klor (St Petersburg: Dmitry Bulanin, 1997); citations are to the numbered texts collected in this anthology.

[42] РГИА ф. 803 оп. 16 d. 2370, л.130. The practice of scaring children by referring to a ‘bogey’ from some ethnic minority was widespread. Our interviewing project in Russian villages indicates that this was often a gypsy (see e.g. Oxf/Lev V-04 PF17A, p. 5); in parts of Leningrad province, in the post-war years, the scare figures were Finns (Oxf/Lev V-04 PF5B, p. 19).

[43] RGIA f. 803 op. 16 d. 2372, l. 57 rev. For more recent examples of such scary stories, see e.g. M. Yu. Novitskaya and I. N. Raikova (ed.) Detskii fol’klor (in the Biblioteka russkogo fol’klora series) (Moscow: Russkaya kniga, 2002); A. Belousov (ed.), Russkii shkol’nyi fol’klor (Moscow: Ladomir, 1998).

[44] On the other hand, there does not seem to be evidence that scary tales existed as a set genre around 1900, in the way that they did from the mid twentieth century onwards, when strashilki (horror stories) became common on school playgrounds and in other situations of enforced peer-group association, such as the ‘dead hour’ (mertvyi chas) at Pioneer camps, when, instead of taking an afternoon nap, as they were supposed to, children would engage in competitive rounds of such stories. See also below.

[45] In the Soviet period, it was common for children to attend, or hear about, or re-enact, funerals as well, including the funerals of other children. ‘The Funeral of an Octobrist’ is on the activities schedule for a Sverdlovsk province Pioneer troop in 1925: ‘Otchet o prodelannoi rabote otryada pionerov No. 1 im. tov. Zinov’eva Tavdinskogo raiona Irbitskogo Okruga s 7go po 20e Maya 25 g.’, TsDOO SO f. 1245 op. 1 d. 12, l. 44. Bella Ulanovskaya’s story ‘Puteshestvie v Kashgar’ (1989) provides a fictional account of such a funeral in the early 1950s.

[46] See ‘Love, Guilt and Reparation’ (1937), in Melanie Klein, Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works 1921-1945 (London: Vintage, 1988), 306-43, esp. p. 336. This essay is more useful for historical/ethnographical purposes than e.g. ‘The Oedipus Complex in the Light of Early Anxieties’, ibid. pp. 370-419, an exercise in neo-Freudian reductionism.

[47] See Starzhinsky, Vzrosloe detstvo: zapiski syna raskulachennogo (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1991), e.g. p. 90. That said, adults did also use the (in real life possible) presence of wolves as a scare for children: cf. the recollections of a woman born in Pskov province in 1937: ‘Int. And did they try to frighten you, maybe? So you didn’t run off there [to the woods]. Inf. Well, they used to use wolves to frighten us. So.. Don’t go off to the woods. Don’t go off to the woods. There are wolves there’ (Oxf/Lev V-04 PF17A, p. 5).

[48] The word pombra is obscure – it is listed neither in Dal’, nor in the multi-volume dialect dictionary Slovar’ russkikh narodnykh govorov, which does however give pomga as a dialect word for ‘help’, hence the translation here.

[49] A. N. Sobolev, ‘Obryady i obychai pri rozhdenii mladentsa i kolybel’nye pesni Vladimirskoi gubernii’, Svedeniya po etnologii Vladimirskoi gubernii: Trudy Vladimirskogo Obshchestva lyubitelei estestvoznaniya vol. 3, no. 2 (1912), p. 52. Андрей Коротков, д Старого Сельда, Аргуновская волость.

[50] This was a particularly popular rhyme in later generations too: cf. the recollections of a woman born in 1938, and brought up in a rural area of Leningrad province: Oxf/Lev V-04 PF6B, p. 63; Svetlana Boym (b. 1959) has informed me that she remembers it from her own childhood in 1960s Leningrad.

[51] See ‘Volk’ in A. F. Afanas’ev, Narodnye russkie skazki, 3 vols. (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaya literature, 1957), vol. 1, nos. 49-50.

[52] Personal inf.

[53] Marina Warner, No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock (London: Chatto and Windus, 1998), p. 36. See further, pp. 37-8, on how eating and the bogey are inextricably linked. In Russian folklore, on the other hand, even the wolf’s ‘teeth’ can be primarily glossed in terms of his place in the moral universe: according to one tradition, as a thief had a good hand and a bad hand, so a wolf had a good tooth and a bad tooth – if he ate with the former, the stock would prosper, rather than be devastated.

[54] See Dal’,Tolkovyi slovar’, vol. 1, p. 233 (volkodlak) – a person could turn into a werewolf by sticking a knife into a tree-stump, and pulling the knife out was a way to keep him stuck in that role); vol. 2, p. 611 (oboroten’). For a useful summary of international beliefs on wolves, see V. V. Ivanov, ‘Volk’ in Mify narodov mira, vol. 1 (Moscow: Sovetskaya entsiklopediya, 1980), p. 242; this article, and some other snippets, are also posted on Peter Greif, Simbolorum/Opyt slovarya simvolov, http://www.apress.ru/pages/greif/sim/v/volk.htm. A more specialised study, dwelling particularly on the wolf’s chthonic associations, is V. V. Ivanov, ‘Rekonstruktsiya indoevropeiskikh slov i tekstov, otrazhayushchikh kul’t volka’, Izvestiya AN SSSR: Seriya literatury i yazyka vol. 34 no. 5 (1975), pp. 399-408.

[55] Gardiner (ed.), The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud, pp. 288-9.

[56] D. K. Zelenin, Izbrannye trudy: Ocherki russkoi mifologii (Moscow: Indrik, 1995), p. 56 note 20.

[57] RGIA f. 803 op. 16 d. 2772, l. 46 rev.-47.

[58] V. N. Dobrovol’sky, ‘Sueveriya otnositel’no volkov’, Etnologicheskoe obozrenie 4 (1901), 135-6 (this quotation p. 135).

[59] As suggested by Pankeev’s own association of the wolves with sheep.

[60] Dal’, Tolkovyi slovar’, vol. 1, p. 232. As a matter of fact, foxes’ tails and wolves’ tails are – both in reality and schematised representations – more or less identical: so this is a saying about concealed difference.

[61] D. K. Zelenin, Velikorusskie skazki Vyatskoi gubernii. Petrograd: Tip. A. V. Orlova, 1915, p. 383-5, no. 120. Other stories about wolves recorded here include ‘Volk, medved’ i lisa’, no. 119 (the wolf goes to the fox so he can exact revenge on the bear for having munched him up in a break from hibernating – the bear later belched the wolf up through his mouth); ‘Udaloi batrak’, no. 34 (the wolf eats a peasant man’s horse and ends up dragging the cart himself, then dragging round the barrel the peasant man is trapped inside until it breaks apart – the man uses his tail as a ‘rein’ and sticks a knife in its backside as a goad). Stories in Afanas’ev’s Narodnye russkie skazki include ‘Ovtsa, lisa i volk’, where the wolf tries to persuade the sheep that her coat should be his own, but ends up being lured into a trap; ‘Volk-duren’’, where the wolf is rebuffed by several animals he wants to eat, being told he should wait till they get fatter, and then gets shot by a hunter ‘who prepared a couple of nice walnuts for him’ (prigotvoil dlya priyatelya paru khoroshikh orekhov) (vol. 1 p. 56).

[62] Dobrovol’sky, ‘Sueveriya’, 135.

[63] Dobrovol’sky, ‘Sueveriya’, 135-6.

[64] Gardiner (ed.), The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud, p. 289.

[65] Gardiner (ed.), The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud, p. 8.

[66] Gardiner, The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud, pp. 326-7.

[67] Therese, the Wolf-Man’s wife, committed suicide in March 1938, in a state of extreme anxiety following the annexation of Austria by the Third Reich (the Anschluss). See Gardiner (ed.), The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud, pp. 116-31. The Wolf-Man himself could not understand the reason for her fears – ‘“We aren’t Jews.”’ (p. 119). It seems possible, given that Therese’s anxiety was heightened when she and her husband were discussing the need to acquire certificates of ‘Arian’ racial identity (p. 120), that she was in fact partly of Jewish descent, as the Wolf-Man’s memoir in fact hints, but never directly states.

[68] Gardiner (ed.), The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud, p. 328.

[69] See Gardiner (ed.), The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud, pp. 324-5. Pankeev also remembered (ibid., p. 18), that his nurse became senile in her old age, and treated Pankeev himself as the child he had once been – in other words, she moved into cyclic time from linear time, and hence beyond transcience, as Pankeev himself, obsessively harping on his childhood, was also to do in his last years.

[70] The insensitivity of the Wolf-Man’s psychoanalytical counsellors, from Freud onwards, to this point is striking – but it was not until 1956, after all, that many Westerners came to realise how pervasive terror had been in the Soviet political system.

[71] The importance of not exposing children to fear was already being argued in the early twentieth century. The neurologist and psychologist G. I. Rossolimo, a pioneer of intelligence tests in Russia, argued in 1897 that unresolved childhood fears persisted into adulthood, and listed large numbers of common phenomena that children were afraid of – darkness, death, ghosts, wind, the end of the world, water, bandits, machines, blood, heights, ‘themselves’ (soznaniya samogo sebya) [not wolves, though!]. With charming statistical pedantry, he calculated that girls had on average 3.55 fears each, and boys 2.21. The key ages for fear were 7-15 (boys) and 4-18 (girls). It was important that teachers demonstrate the irrationality of fear and try to overcome it. But it was also essential that those raising children should avoid threats, public humiliations, punishments, and the use of school marks, all of which inculcated the condition. (G. I. Rossolimo, Strakh i vospitanie. Rech’, chitannaya v godichnom zasedanii Obshchestva Nevropatologov i Psikhiatrov pri Moskovskom universitete, 22-go oktyabrya 1897 g. (Kiev: Tip. Vysochaishe Utverzhdennogo Tov-va pechatnogo doma i torgovli I. N. Kushnerer i Ko., 1898). N. N. Bakhtin’s inventory of plays for the children’s theatre, Obzor p’es dlya detskogo i shkol’nogo teatra (St Petersburg: Izd. zhurnala “Russkaya shkola”, 1912), p. 11, cautions against using frightening fairy tales such as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. In the early Soviet period, calls not to use fear in socialising children were raised loudly. For example, M. Kh. Sventitskaya wrote in the inaugural issue of Na putyakh k novoi shkole: ‘Fear is the most unpleasant [tyazheloe], the saddest feeling, and should not be allowed into children’s souls at all’ (‘Zhizn’ doshkol’nikov v detskikh domakh “Detskogo gorodka imeni III Internationala” pri Narkomprose’, Na putyakh k novoi shkole 1 (1922), 69).In the Stalin era, when the emphasis in normative sources shifted to the need to inculcate discipline, there was more stress on teaching children to overcome fears than on preventing them from enduring frights. For instance, a ‘class supervisor’ in one prestigious Moscow school organised hide-and-seek with her charges outside school as a pedagogical measure (CKQ-Ox-03 PF1B, PAGE). However, by the late twentieth century, the balance had shifted back again. Interestingly, wolf texts got adapted in line with the sense that it was bad for children to be afraid. In Boris Zakhoder’s poem, ‘Volchok’, Nedelya 9 (1977), 19, the aggressive wolf, with his song of ‘Ukhvachu-u-u!/Ukushu-u-u!/Utashchu-u-u!/Udushu-u-u!/I s”em!’ (I’ll grab ’em tight!/I’ll eat ’em up I’ll drag ‘em off!/I’ll smother ’em!/And EAT!’ runs round and round in circles until he turns into a harmless little volchok (circular rusk). (The motif is likely borrowed from the British nursery classic Little Black Sambo, where the fierce tigers run round and round till they turn into ghee.) An earlier example of ‘demystification’ of this kind is, of course, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.Cf. the first-hand account by a worker in a Soviet baby home (Dom rebenka) on how she and the orphanage staff put on a performance of Little Red Riding Hood for the children, but decided that the original plot was too threatening. Instead, the heroine met a bunny on her way to tea with her granny, and arrived to find a whole group of nice animals there, including a wolf, ‘but a very kind, good wolf’ (Oxf/Lev SPb-04 PF57A, pp. 13-14). On increasingly cynical attitudes to authority, cf. my study of the Russian schoolroom in the post-Stalin era, ‘“Shkol’nyi val’s”: Povsednevnaya zhizn’ post-stalinskoi sovetskoi shkoly’, Antropologicheskii forum 1 (2004). On the other hand, one should not over-simplify post-Stalinist culture too: there were other voices: see e.g. N. Berezina, ‘Veseloe i grustnoe’, where it is argued that it is important to let children have encounters with sad things (i.e. what would in the West be called ‘traumatic experiences’): Nedelya 34 (1969), 21.