"The Dire Wolf" as written by and Paul Langlois Robert Baker....
In that September off Isle Aux Morts
The desultory sea grew more so through the night
And made one think of tawny ports
And aspen tremblin' in tomorrow's thorough light

And of Tallulah Bankhead and Canada Lee
Somewhere far-off, peaceful, sleeping and done with acting
Past the Dire Wolf's lair on a Newfoundland's paws
Close to nowhere, halfway across

Never more here, expanse getting broader
Though bigger boats been done by this water
Though better boats been done by this water
Though better boats been done by less water

In that September off Isle Aux Morts
Colourable seas grew more so through the night
And made one think of yawnin' shores
Gambier bleached in tomorrow's thorough light

And the Tallulah Bankhead and Canada Lee
Somewhere far-off, peaceful, sleeping they learned to love sleep
At the Dire Wolf's crest the Newfoundland paused
Desolate's best was gotten across

We were never more here, expanse getting broader
When better boats been done by this water

At the Dire Wolf's best the Newfoundland paused
So desperate as to be a lost cause

You were never more here, expanse getting broader
When better boats been done by this water
When bigger boats been done by less water

And better boats been done by this water
When bigger boats been done by less water
And better boats been done by this water


Lyrics submitted by narte31

"The Dire Wolf" as written by Paul Langlois Robert Baker

Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing,

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The Dire Wolf song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentThe song isn't about the Despatch as it sank in July 1828 and the song lyrics set it in September. The same Family that saved the 163 of the Despatch rescued 25 men of the Rankin in September 1838. Also, the dog was not a Huskie, it was a Newfoundlander, hence the line " on a Newfoundland's paws". The girls name was Ann Harvey. It seems this song may be a composite of these incidents and a tribute to the many shipwrecks in this dangerous area. I am not sure but the name Dire Wolf has to do with American mythology, the dire wolf is a menacing creature, lurking in the darkness, as the sea can be at times.

    Great Song.
    StolenShadowson April 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentnot only do the hip rock, but they rock Canadian style! and there ain't no better way! this song, with the powerful drum intro and sweet lyrics is - in my opinion - one of the hip's best. and, oh man, this song live is awsome!
    sohlgirlon September 26, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyea this is one of my favourites off IVL, sweet CD sweet song
    ProudesterMonkeyon June 16, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis one's about the wreck of a boat called The Despatch in the 1800's off Isle aux Morts, near Newfoundland. Even though the boat went down, a courageous islander, his daughter, and their dog saved many of the passengers lives'
    Unfortunately, the dog died while helping to save them. His breed was huskie, hence the name 'dire wolf'.
    Canada Lee and Tallulah Bankhead were actors in the 1944 movie Lifeboat, which adds further proof to the song's theme. This song is killer, a top notch Hip tune.
    Nick Chopperon January 02, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentStolenShadows-

    The dire wolf is not actually a mythical creature but a real one, that lived in north america during the ice age. It was similar to a modern grey wolf except bigger and more heavy-set, adapted to hunting the giant animals that existed at the time. Like the animals it hunted, the dire wolf went extinct at the end of the ice age, around 10,000 years ago.

    I don't know if there's any real connection between that prehistoric wolf and the song's subject matter. I do know that the modern newfoundland wolf, a subspecies of the grey wolf, was hunted to extinction in 1911. I doubt that was intended as a parallel though
    tweedwolfscreamon June 23, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSaw the Hip here in St John's Newfoundland back in 2002, right after this song came out, and before playing this song, Gord said that the entire song was written during the ferry crossing from Sydney, NS to Port Aux Basques, NL. Isle Aux Morts is just 16kms down the coast from Port Aux Basques. The dog in question was a Newfoundland, named "Hairyman". You can read the entire story of what happened on my blog, if anybody wants to check it out: newfoundlandseakayaking.blogspot.ca/2010/03/…
    newhook79on January 04, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentJust watched a live youtube video of them performing this, and in one of Gord's famous and awesome rants he likens the Dire Wolf to the menacing sea. He was on the nfld ferry, 8 hours at night, and on a stormy evening it can probably be pretty turbulent. ( he mentions lots of gravol and beer) Just a night a newfoundland dog, which were bred to save shipwreak victims, would be in it's element.
    polarmanon June 14, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationSo many of the Hip's songs have layered meanings to me. I hear Canadian history and politics.
    On one level this is about ships lost at sea. The "Lifeboat" reference with Tallulah Bankhead and Canada Lee is just one of the references. Those actors are no longer acting. That's part of it and leads to the next thing.
    The next thing is the changed words; THE Tallulah Bankhead and Canada Lee. These suggest fishing boats to me. They are lost but not necessarily lost at sea.
    Although none of the lyrics say so explicitly, I felt from the very beginning that it was a lost way of life. An extinction. The loss of the cod fishery and Newfoundlanders way of life.
    The dire wolf is extinct. The Newfoundlander dog isn't extinct, but like the fishermen, his way of life as a working dog is. He can't save the fishermen now. He's been paused. That's in there too.
    "Better boats done by less water". Doesn't matter how seaworthy the boat is.
    If I think about this song as political commentary, it all fits beautifully for me. I felt that way about it even before looking closely at the lyrics.
    Does anyone else feel this?
    NoraBon June 26, 2016   Link

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