Cultural Geography Workgroup

Metaphors of the wolf

Metaphorical production in human-animal relations regarding the return of the wolf

M. Sc. Sebastian Ehret


The return of the wolves in Germany is a widely discussed issue in recent public debate. Since wolves have resettled in Eastern parts of Saxony in 2000 and have later expanded to other regions in Germany, they have triggered both negative and positive emotions from inhabitants of these regions and from different stakeholders. Two aspects come into play when one tries to explain these responses: the centuries-old cultural representations of the wolf and their newly established material presence.

It is precisely the tension between these two aspects that makes the return of the wolf a promising topic in cultural geography. Especially the emerging field of animal geographies is concerned with animals‘ social and cultural representation as well as with post-humanistic and other non-representational aspects of animals‘ agency and its influence on human-animal relations.

This research project uses metaphor theory in particular to further investigate current human-wolf relations. In doing so, metaphors are not merely understood as figures of speech, but as structural principles of our cognitive system with which we think and act on an everyday basis. Hence, metaphors are based on a knowledge transmission from one cognitive concept to another. Often the concept of the transmission’s origin is concrete and mundane, whereas the transmission’s destination is abstract and complex. Applied to symbols and meaning of the wolf this approach provides detailed insights into the mechanisms of cultural representation underlying current responses to the return of the wolf. Since people tend to use metaphors when faced with the unknown, metaphor theory can be used to investigate the impact of the wolves‘ spatial co-presence on peoples’ everyday life in inhabited regions in Germany, too.

As a whole, this research project wants to contribute to a better understanding of current human-wolf-relations in Germany.

.Gustave Dorés Rotkäppchen



Gustave Doré (1867): illustration to Charles Perrault's Le Petit Chaperon rouge