“Growls, whines, and barks are all bluffing tools – it is the quiet wolf that will kill you.”
– Mercedes Thompson, from Moon Called
Mercy Thompson series, by Patricia Briggs
It’s always the quiet ones, as they say, and there’s a reason they say it.
I take some personal pleasure in saying that because, as my friends and family can attest, I am one of the quiet ones. …generally speaking, at least, until you get me talking about something I’m passionate about, and then I may never shut up. Witness: this entire blog. 😉
When Mercy makes this comment, as she tells the story in first-person, she is commenting on the behavior of wolves in particular, but it also extends to most other animals and to humans as well. When a wolf makes its presence known, it is for a reason. When its territory, its pack, its cubs are endangered, a wolf will look and sound as threatening as possible, to try and convince any aggressor to go away before there is bloodshed. When it makes more carefree sounds, it’s showing how at ease it is, and therefore how secure it feels, which is a different sort of warning for any would-be interloper. When it whines, its trying to draw attention to itself, maybe because it’s been hurt. But when a wolf is quiet, the only concern it has is survival. A wolf is quiet when it simply doesn’t want trouble, and it goes really quiet when stalking something it means to kill.
Lions do the same thing: they are loud in the face of battle, but silent as the grave when on the hunt. A preying mantis will make itself look as large and obvious as possible when faced with a threat, but it goes completely still when waiting for its prey. Across the spectrum of animals, you have this general pattern of behavior. Sounding a threat, in some way, makes a statement, either “this is my territory” or “there is danger here” or “I am a good mate,” but stealth and quiet abound alongside the intention of killing.
Silence means, “this is too crucial to mess up with noise.” Silence means, “I’m getting down to business now.” Silence means, “I am focused on the important task at hand.”
…or, it could also mean “I’m in my own little world and not paying attention,” but that’s more automatic than deliberate. So, perhaps it’s more accurate to say, “Deliberately quiet wolves will kill you.” 😉
Or maybe not.
I mean, among humans, there can be absolute loudmouths for whom their noise is just another way of being quiet. It’s a facade, sometimes even an outright mask, something for people to see and hear, cloaking whatever may lie unseen beneath. I wonder which is more quickly dismissed: the one who is quiet, and therefore less visible and more overlooked, or the one who is so loud that their greater strengths and intentions are hidden like a tree in a forest. It’s certainly a very effective disguise, then. After all, how often in books and movies do we see the big, boastful bullies get bushwhacked by people who actually use their wits?
What I know is that when I am quiet, it’s because I am thinking. Sometimes I am collecting data and simply have nothing to add to a conversation at the moment. Sometimes, especially when I’m engaged in a task or some sort of contest, I am calculating what to do next, and how to destroy my enemies, so to speak. Sometimes, in particular situations, I am concealing what I think and feel, and that, too, can be useful, but also dangerous when done too much. How many times have we heard of people who went on murderous rampages after having withdrawn from the world for whatever reason?
Not that I intend to do anything like that, of course, but the difference is that I know I have people I can open up to later, after a more volatile moment has passed, and they help me be stable. Others don’t have that, or refuse it, and so they bottle everything up until they explode, often in tragic ways.
Quiet wolves have more need of silence than noise. Quiet people are usually the same, but sometimes, every once in awhile, they need to let themselves make noise and be heard, rather than stay silent.
Sometimes silence is harmless, and sometimes it is dangerous. Sometimes it’s natural, and sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it’s an ally, and sometimes it’s an enemy.
Either way, the power of silence, be it a quiet enemy or a quiet friend, shouldn’t be underestimated.
Keep an eye on the quiet ones. 😉