People really seem to have a fascination with wolves.
There have been countless legends and folklore written about wolves.
Humans love wolves so much, they domesticated them and brought them into their homes.
Every breed of dog, the world’s most popular pet, is a descendant of the grey wolf.
That’s right, even Paris Hilton’s army of teensy pooches have wolf DNA deep inside.
Wolf tattoos are one of the most popular tattoo designs, and can be drawn in any style.
But how did we get so fascinated with wolves and what meaning does a wolf tattoo have?
What do Wolf Tattoos Mean?
Wolf legends have meant many things to many people throughout the ages.
Wolves are intelligent and loyal. They protect and serve their pack.
Some people get wolf tattoos to symbolize their dedication to family.
A lone wolf is a wolf that has been cast out of the pack.
This can happen for multiple reasons and sometimes it is even for strategic breeding.
Lone wolves often end up joining new packs, but humans have embraced them as a symbol of “otherness.”
Many people with wolf tattoos identify with the idea of a lone wolf, living on the fringes of its community.
Some cultures see the wolf as a deeply spiritual creature, but in other legends, it seems to represent pure evil.
When you decide to get a wolf tattoo, it’s best to decide on an intention going in.
That way you know what your wolf means to you.
Let’s explore the symbolism of wolves in different cultures, throughout the years!
Why Are There So Many Wolf Fables?
Since people learned to read and talk, they have told stories.
Fables have existed for longer than we can possibly know.
They started as an oral tradition, and were collected and written down by various storytellers.
Aesop was a Greek storyteller who compiled some of the most famous fables in the mid-sixth century BCE.
These stories have been imagined and re-imagined countless times, and are still inspiring children’s books to this day.
Much later, the brothers Grimm would compile their own 17th-century collection of morality stories.
There is some overlap between Aesop’s fables and the Grimm’s fairy tales.
The Grimm’s stories were often quite gruesome, much different from the fluffy kids’ books of today.
Fables usually have a moral or message, particularly for children.
In these stories, wolves often feature as a threat to our protagonist.
In a time when the world was wilder and children were often left to their own devices, these stories served to frighten them into good behavior.
Wolves were likely chosen as a villain because people lived in fear of wolf attacks.
Wolves are cunning hunters, and they move skillfully in packs.
There is a myth that wolves do not attack people.
That may be true today due to the wolf population being smaller and most people living in cities, but it wasn’t always this way.
In the middle ages, France in particular had a huge wolf problem.
Wolves are predators and will kill humans if they need to.
They are pack animals and will always serve their pack.
Fables About Wolves
In fables and fairy tales, wolves often represent danger and our most primal desires.
They act as reminders of the evils of the world, lest we stray from the moral path.
Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood is one of the most famous fables in history.
It has been re-imagined hundreds of times, and translated into at least 11 languages.
In Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf symbolizes sexual corruption.
It is said that Red’s Hood is vaginal imagery, and represents menstruation.
Wolves are drawn to the scent of blood, just as predatory men are drawn to a woman’s burgeoning sexuality.
Red gets herself into trouble when a wolf convinces her to stray from the path to her grandma’s house.
While Red is distracted picking flowers, the wolf kills Red’s grandmother and lays in wait for Red to come by.
In one of the original telling of the tale, the wolf prepares Red’s grandmother as a meal.
He uses his cunning to trick Red into eating her own grandmother, then asks her to take off her clothes.
Each time she removes an item of clothing, the wolf says “throw it in the fire, you won’t need it anymore.”
He then asks Red to climb into bed and ‘devours’ her.
In some stories, Red gets away and even saves grandma from the belly of the beast, in others she does not.
No matter which version of the tale you’re familiar with, the wolf represents the ‘slippery slope’ of morality.
When he can use his charms to convince Red to stray from the path, he can convince her of anything else.
The story is a bit problematic by today’s standards.
But the symbolism can be useful.
Taken in this context, a wolf tattoo may represent your primal desires.
Are you trying to remind yourself to stay on the moral path?
Perhaps you deal with issues of anger or addiction.
Maybe this will remind you of the dangers of listening to our inner wolf.
The Three Little Pigs
Trying to remind yourself to work hard and not take shortcuts?
The three little pigs may be an important story for you.
In this tale, three pigs are building homes for themselves.
Two of the pigs want to get the task done quickly so they can play and have fun. But the third pig takes its time.
The third pig builds a proper house out of bricks, even including a fireplace.
Of course, when it comes time to defend themselves from a big bad hungry wolf, the hastily put together houses get blown down.
That leaves the third pig to provide shelter for everyone.
The wolf is unable to blow the bricks down and even burns his tail trying to climb in through the fireplace.
This fable shows us the consequences of always taking a shortcut.
You may have a responsible friend who can bail you out trouble, but eventually, you’re going to have to work and think for yourself.
In this case, a wolf tattoo would represent your dedication to hard work.
It could also represent an agreement to make sacrifices, and your resolve to not give up so easily.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
In this famous tale, a boy continues to prank his town by yelling “wolf, wolf!”
Then laughing when everyone comes running.
The joke is not so funny anymore when, one day, the boy is actually attacked by a wolf and no one comes.
The meaning of this wolf tattoo would be similar to the three little pigs.
Are you someone who constantly asks for help and attention from the people you love?
A design with this fable in mind could remind you to save your favors for when you really need them.
Wolves in Indigenous Culture
Wolf legends vary from tribe to tribe but, overall, Aboriginal peoples are known for their reverence of nature.
Indigenous spirituality is similar to paganism in that it encourages a connection with and respect for all living things.
The wolf is one of many sacred spirit guides within the culture.
Different spirit guides may present themselves to a person throughout their life to teach them lessons or bring forth a message.
In the traditions of the First Nations peoples in the Pacific Northwest, a totem pole may be carved to represent these animals.
Totem poles can represent your individual spirit guides, or they may represent the lineage of a family.
A wolf totem represents living in a balance between community and independence.
It represents the importance of working together as a community, with everyone having a role.
Because many Indigenous people hunt their own meat, they may call upon the essence of a wolf to encourage a successful trip.
If you have an Indigenous background, a wolf drawn in the traditional style of your people may be a beautiful homage to your roots.
The Wolf in Norse Mythology
The binding of Fenrir is an epic tale in Norse mythology.
Fenrir is one of the children born from the giantess Angerboda and Loki, the trickster.
Fenrir was a monstrous wolf with demonic red eyes who grew large at an alarming rate after his birth.
The gods grew frightened of his increasing size and strength, so they tried to chain him up.
Telling Fenrir they were playing a game, they tried to restrain him with various chains.
He broke through every chain, and became dubious of the game’s intentions as time wore on.
After trying every chain they could forge, the gods commissioned a chain from some dwarfs.
The chain was enchanted, made from strange ingredients like the sound of a cat’s footsteps and the breath of a fish.
When Fenrir the wolf saw this chain, he became immediately suspicious.
He said he would only play the game if someone volunteered to put their hand in his mouth.
Finally, Tyr volunteered for the task. This relaxed Fenrir somewhat, as Tyr was someone he trusted.
When Fenrir was unable to break through the chains, he was furious at having been deceived and betrayed.
He bit off Tyr’s hand, and the god was praised for his sacrifice to keep the community safe.
In some versions of the tale, the gods live in fear of Fenrir.
He continues to grow larger than his chain, and it is said that when he frees himself, he will swallow the sun.
So, what does the story of Fenrir symbolize?
It could be a fear of mortality. Try as we might, we cannot escape our inevitable destruction.
But we all have our ways of staving off death.
Does the story of Fenrir resonate with you? Maybe your wolf tattoo design could be inspired by the tale.
For people with Norse ancestry, it may be a cool way to pay homage to one of the many epic legends in this tradition.
The Wolf in Occult Traditions
Wolves have an association with magic and the moon.
Wolves are nocturnal and turn their faces to the sky to produce a howling sound, so they often seem to be howling at the moon.
This has given them all kinds of mystical associations, and is likely where the werewolf legend stems from.
On the tarot card “the moon,” a wolf and a dog stand on either side of a body of water and howl at the moon.
This card represents the conscious and unconscious, the seen and unseen, the wild and tame aspects of our personality.
A wolf can represent your primal instinctual nature.
During the witch trials, wolves became linked with witchcraft.
Many people believed that members of their community could turn into wolves, and would blame them when their property was attacked by one.
An occult leaning wolf tattoo may symbolize the connection you have with your instinctual side.
It may also represent the symbolism of wolves in witchcraft: loyalty and perseverance.
The Greek Legend of Lycaon
It is believed that the first werewolf story comes from the Greek myth of King Lycaon.
You may have heard the word ‘lycanthropy’ used to describe werewolves.
This comes from the Greek ‘lukos’ meaning wolf, and ‘antropos’ meaning man.
There are a few versions of the Lycaon myth, but the one with the werewolf is perhaps the most influential.
Lycaon ruled over Arcadia, but he wasn’t thought of as a particularly good King.
He was known to act superior, even making child sacrifices at times.
To see if he really was such a cruel King, Zeus came to earth disguised as a mortal man.
The people of Arcadia noticed Zeus’s godly nature right away, and became enamored with the man.
Lycaon wanted to know which god was lurking around the Kingdom, so he set out to enrage the man.
This, Lycaon thought, would force the god to show his true colors.
Lycaon made another child sacrifice (some say his own son,) and prepared the meat for Zeus.
Upon discovering this despicable act, Zeus threw a lightning bolt at Lycaon.
Acting quickly, the King was able to escape.
Luckily Zeus caught Lycaon as he was running away, and punished him by turning him to a wolf.
The moral? Some say this story was written because the people of Arcadia participated in acts of cannibalism to honor Zeus, and scholars wanted to put an end to it.
It may also be about staying humble, knowing your rank, and respecting your elders.
Lycaon may not be an honorable subject for your next wolf tattoo.
But if you’re a fan of werewolves, it may be a fun idea to pay homage to the story where it all began.
Wolf Tattoo Designs
Wolves have different symbolism depending on the story, so it’s up to you to decide what your wolf tattoo means.
Whether you decide to get a portrait, new or old school design, there are so many stunning ways to capture a wolf.
Trying to decide on your perfect wolf tattoo? Check out our gallery for some big bad wolves!
Black and Grey Wolf Tattoos
Graphic Wolf Tattoos
American Traditional Wolf Tattoos
One Line Tattoos
Illustrative Wolf Tattoos
Geometric Wolf Tattoos
Realistic Wolf Tattoos
Neo-traditional Wolf Tattoos
Sketchy Wolf Tattoos
Trash Polka Tattoos
Watercolor Wolf Tattoos
Single Needle Tattoos
New School Tattoos
Contemporary Wolf Tattoos
Wolf Tattoo Ideas
Small Wolf Tattoos
Wolf Tattoos For Women
Wolf Tattoos For Men
Horror Inspired Wolf Tattoos
Simple Wolf Tattoos
Large Wolf Tattoos
Forearm Wolf Tattoos
Ornamental Wolf Tattoos
Wolf Tattoos On The Hand
Wolf Sleeve Tattoos
Wolf Tattoos On The Shoulder
Wolf Tattoo Artists
- Lion Tattoos
- Eagle Tattoos
- Tiger Tattoos
- Phoenix Tattoos
- Hummingbird Tattoos
- Bear Tattoos
- Skull Tattoos
- Panther Tattoos
- Butterfly Tattoos
- Cat Tattoos
- Octopus Tattoos
- Compass Tattoos
- Hourglass Tattoos
Wolf Tattoos FAQ
Wolf legends have meant many things to many people throughout the ages. Wolves are intelligent and loyal. They protect and serve their pack. Some people get wolf tattoos to symbolize their dedication to family. A lone wolf is a wolf that has been cast out of the pack. This can happen for multiple reasons and sometimes it is even for strategic breeding. Lone wolves often end up joining new packs, but humans have embraced them as a symbol of “otherness.” Many people with wolf tattoos identify with the idea of a lone wolf, living on the fringes of its community. Some cultures see the wolf as a deeply spiritual creature, but in other legends, it seems to represent pure evil. When you decide to get a wolf tattoo, it’s best to decide on an intention going in. That way you know what your wolf means to you.