However, if a malcadh pup does survive, and finds a clan, they will be taken in, given a name (with the exception of Faolan; he had a name before he became a pack member) and become a gnaw wolf which is the lowest ranking wolf in a clan.
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This article contains plot details from one or more of the books.
Malcadhs are wolves who were born deformed or sick, who arrive too early, or too late.
Meaning of Word
In the wolf language, malcadh means "cursed one".
A she-wolf of the MacDuncan clan, Morag, attempts to go by-lang, as she feared her third and second-last litter would not be the same as the others. She gives birth to three pups, two tawny females and a silver male. However, the silver pup has a splayed paw, along with a spiral marking on the pad, thus making him a malcadh.
Within a few hours, the MacDuncan clan's Obea, Shibaan, comes and takes the pup. She abandons him at an icy riverbank, and leaves. However, the pup manages to hold onto a chunk of ice as the thrashing river carries him down. The pup is rescued by a female grizzly, who he calls Thunderheart. Thunderheart names the pup Faolan, and takes care of him until she goes into hibernation, and is later killed in an earthquake.
After Shibaan is killed in one of the Earthquake's aftershocks, the she-wolf Lael is chosen as the new MacDuncan Obea. While on his Trail of Shame, Faolan sees her passing by with a malcadh pup in her mouth. Although not physically deformed, the pup was born early. Faolan sees Lael abandon the tawny pup on a moose trail.
Practices and Traditions
Sometimes, she-wolves who are pregnant go by-lang. Others stay in the pack. Where ever the she-wolf chooses as a birthing den, the clan Obea will come to check for any malcadhs. If she does find a malcadh, she takes the cursed pup to a tummfraw, where the pup is expected to die of starvation or hypothermia and/or be eaten by another animal, such as an owl. The Obea returns and the she and mother carry the surviving pups back to a pack, where the surviving pups are nursed and raised by another she-wolf. The news of the malcadh is announced, and if the mother and father are to survive, they must seek seperate and new clans never to mate with or see each other again.
Gnaw WolvesIf the malcadh does survive, it may be allowed back into a clan and pack, and be named, it then however becomes a gnaw wolf. But the life of a gnaw wolf is hard. They are the lowest-ranking and most abused member, becoming a living symbol of bad blood. If they win a gaddergnaw, their life is changed, and they become part of the Sacred Watch.
Types of Malcadhs
Malcadhs have deformities, like:
- Missing an eye (Edme, Banja, Winks, Briar)
- Missing their tail (Heep)
- Crooked throat ("The "Whistler" )
- Missing a paw (Creakle)
- Missing their ear(s) (Tearlach, Colleen)
- Splayed or backward paw (Faolan, Twist, Finbar)
- Born too early, and sometimes when she-wolves are late with pups (The Little Pup)
- Twisted leg (Hamish)
- Three legs (Leitha)
- A forked tongue, like a snake's (Snowdon)
- Crooked hips (Malachy)
- A missing paw with claws sticking out of the stub (Jasper)
- One ear, eye and a missing paw (Padraigh)
- Born blind (the first pup Shibaan took away)
There are, of course consenquenses about the birth of a malcadh. If a malcadh mother puts up a fight with the Obea trying to protect her pups, there is immediate death to all pups. "No fuss, no muss. The mothers of a malcadh never did put up a fight."
- Malcadh could come from the Irish word "mallacht" meaning cursed.