Introduction Skadi Winter
It was my pleasure to interview Skadi Winter, an exciting author of MALIN AND THE WOLF CHILDREN. This is a story about a young German girl, Malin, who must survive alone in war-ravaged Germany and Poland in 1945. It is a journey of a young girl’s soul-searching for love and understanding to survive a time of violence, hatred, and prejudice to learn that even wars cannot change the eternal rules of crime and retribution.
Skadi developed a passion for learning languages and travelling at an early age, and read her first book at the age of five—the stories of Wilhelm Busch. She worked as a medical secretary in different sectors of the health service in Germany and England for over thirty years. Like many women of her generation, following dreams was more often not possible due to financial and personal circumstances and prejudice against a gender. Skadi is a grandmother of ten lovely grandchildren from mothers of four different nations. She is a storyteller that believes in the richness of prose and subtle poetry of words. She has completed another novel, Hexe.
I reviewed MALIN AND THE WOLF CHILDREN and gave it 5 stars. Not only is it thought-provoking story about a young girl’s journey of finding meaning in life during time of war, it is a beautifully written book that is rich in prose and symbolism.
Read my review on Apollo’s Raven: https://apollosraven.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/book-review-malin-and-the-wolf-people-by-skadi-winter/
Interview Skadi Winter
What was your inspiration for telling the story of Malin, a young orphaned girl in war-torn Germany during World War II?
When I grew up in a very little village near the French border during the early 1950ies, refugees from Eastern Europe settled at the outskirts of it. Those people were ‘outsiders’ and conspicuously watched by the natives; they had to live with jealousy and racism, were extremely poor as they had lost everything during their flight from the East. The worst thing was, they were Roman Catholics in a pure protestant community. Outcasts from a world then unknown to me. They spoke differently, dressed differently and seemed to be ashamed and hurt. They were my first encounter with people ‘from another, strange world’ to me. The more hurtful comments I heard about them, the more grew my interest in them. It still pains me thinking of their children whom I went to school with. I still can feel their loneliness, fear and irritation.
Is the reference to Wolf Children in your story from actual historical accounts of orphaned children who were forced to survive in the countryside during World War II? Although Malin is German, do the Wolf Children consist of all nationalities of orphaned children?
Later on in life, I stumbled across accounts of former Wolf Children when I met the sister of my mum’s second husband. Their family originated from Eastern Prussia. This was the first time I’ve actually heard of Wolf Children when this lady spoke about their flight from Eastern Prussia and children she had met. They all had been ethnic German children whose homes and land had been confiscated by Poland and Russia and on the long trek, through cruel circumstances, had lost their families, either through persecution, illness, hunger, cold and murder during their flight.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this story is how Malin tries to understand the calamity around her by reflecting back to tales told by her grandmother about Ancient gods and goddesses? What was your intention for including these ancient tales in this story?
Children often retreat into their own world of phantasy when they are unable to fathom the grown-up world around them. During those hard times in post-2nd WW Germany, children more often had to deal with day-to-day life on their own as mothers and fathers (if there were any fathers left) mostly had been pre-occupied to survive hunger, homelessness, their own experiences with the atrocities of war. Children were lucky if they had grandmothers, often a central figure in their lives, caring for them. I always felt and feel deep sorry for a world where grandmothers don’t seem to have a place in life any more. As I see myself today, my heart and soul developed during those times nourished by my grandmother; she was the one listening and responding with love to my questions and fears. I think, children and grandmothers have a special relationship due to both being not (yet/any more) productive in society. Children as innocent learners, grandmothers as a source of life’s wisdom and beyond.
The other characters that Malin meets on her journey reminds me of ancient mythology where a hero / heroine must survive a succession of trials. On the journey, Malin accepts help from other people who may become as evil as the vengeful soldiers stomping through the countryside. One of these characters is Lubina? Was she intended to be the alter-ego of who Malin might become if she does not learn how to renew her life from destruction?
Ancient mythology has a source. As have ancient folk tales. Humankind always had to live with destruction, evil and good. Each destruction in life eventually leads to re-construction and this is my point. If we do not, or are not willing to learn from the past, eventually the same mistakes will be made. It seems to me that this is what life is all about: to make the right choice where it matters. In this sense, yes, Lubina was intended to be the alter-ego of Malin.
Another quality that I enjoyed in your book was the symbolism of animals in the story. Would you provide an overview of the symbolism of the hare, crow and wolf?
The Wolf, a fearless predator, who sometimes kills more than he can eat. A warrior who, if approached with respect and knowledge, can turn into a pet dog. A pack animal, loyal, caring, protecting, nourishing, at the same time cruel in his persuasion. A fascinating animal, symbolizing man.
The Hares, born fully furred and with open eyes, can fend for themselves from shortly after birth. They live alone, their mothers only ‘visiting’ them until they are weaned. They don’t mate for life. They are promiscuous. They go crazy during spring equinox. They live in one area, usually all their life, seemingly bound to their land, at the same time free in spirit.
The crow, divine providence, wisdom. A mythical bird throughout most of the cultures of the world. Harbinger of death. Messenger of the Gods. A symbol of recreation.
Though your book describes the horrors of war, I was inspired by your theme of documenting memories through oral and written traditions so that future generations can learn from the past. Is there more you would like to add about your philosophy of story-telling of bringing hope to future generations?
Oral and written traditions are important, yet in our times more and more neglected and ignored, even laughed at. The people of ancient times drew their wisdom and knowledge from them and passed them on for future generations to learn, to be inspired and to prevent them from making the same mistakes over and over again.
Ancient myths formed our society as it is today. History of mankind started with tales being told. Words are the most powerful instruments of humans which differ us from the rest of animals. At the same time, the ability of making use of words has made us arrogant, god-like. I truly believe, there is magic in words.
Stories need to be told, by all of us. Traditions have to be passed on the same as myths. Grandmothers are a source of wisdom for future generations. I am writing because I believe, stories and tales, myths, magic, words are the most important tools to teach, to create, to nourish one’s soul, to inspire and to give hope. We are not alone, words connect us to each other.
Do you have any other books or projects underway that you would like the readers to be aware of?
Oh yes. I am writing on a sequel to Malin and Hexe. It might sound unusual as their stories are not directly connected but, both are based on one subject: How wars, political and social circumstances affect children’s souls throughout all times. There is a burning passion in me to write stories to give a voice to suffering and growing from it. I’d like to revive the old tales and ancient myths because they are there for a reason. If only to help us to survive, to give hope and make us understand the complexity of our history, leaving the actual facts to the historians. My intention is to look beyond the facts, to grasp the myths and pass the essence on. After all, meanwhile I’m a grandmother of 10 grandchildren J. They are my inspiration.
It has been a great pleasure to do this interview with you and that you and your books are a great inspiration to me, as a writer and a woman.
Order MALIN AND THE WOLF CHILDREN: http://www.amazon.com/Malin-Wolf-Children-Skadi-Winter/dp/1496999851
Customer Reviews MALIN AND THE WOLF CHILDREN: http://www.amazon.com/Malin-Wolf-Children-Skadi-Winter/dp/1496999851
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