Using Amazon.com's "Search Inside the Book" feature, my friend and
colleague Leli found two books which contain variations of the story:
From "The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life," by Billy
"An Eskimo fisherman came to town every Saturday afternoon. He always
brought his two dogs with him. One was white and the other was black.
He had taught them to fight on command. Every Saturday afternoon in
the town square the people would gather and these two dogs would fight
and the fisherman would take bets. On one Saturday, the black dog
would win; another Saturday the white dog would win - but the
fisherman always won! His friends began to ask him how he did it. He
said, "I starve one and feed the other. The one I feed always wins
because he is stronger."
Amazon "Search Inside the Book"
From "Experiencing the Soul: Before Birth, During Life, After Death,"
by Eliot Rosen and Ellen Burstyn (1997):
"A Native American Elder once described his own inner struggles in
this manner: 'Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean
and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all
the time.' When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and
replied, 'The one I feed the most."
Amazon "Search Inside the Book"
My own experience of the story dates back to 1958. I grew up in
northeastern Oklahoma, very near the Cherokee Nation Tribal
Headquarters. One of my closest friends, a little girl named Billie,
attended a Cherokee Baptist Church. Occasionally Billie and her family
would take me to church with them on Sunday mornings. The church
services were in the Cherokee language, which I did not understand,
but Bible studies and Sunday school classes were taught in English. I
remember being very impressed by a simple parable told by the Sunday
school teacher, an elderly Cherokee man. The parable was about a young
Cherokee who is brought before the tribal elders, who are concerned
about his aggressive tendencies. One of the elders takes the young man
aside and tells him that his anger is understandable, since all humans
have within them two wolves. One wolf is good and peaceable, and the
other is evil and angry. The two wolves are in constant battle with
one another, since neither is powerful enough to destroy the other.
The young man asks the elder "But if they are of equal power, which
wolf will win?" And the elder replies, "The one you feed the most."
This does not, of course, prove that the story has a Cherokee origin.
But there are many, many citations of the story (usually with two
wolves, rather than two dogs) which link it with Cherokee tradition.
You can find hundreds of variations on the story by scanning through
the results of this Google search:
Google Web Search: "the one * feed" + "cherokee" + "two"
Here is a page that examines the tale and discusses its possible origins:
Story-Lovers: "THE WOLF I FEED" or "THE ONE I FEED" STORY
One rather bizarre source that is sometimes mentioned in connection
with this story is Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. It seems to
me very unlikely that Shaw would have circulated a story of this sort,
but many citations of the story give him the credit:
"Drum maker Wayne Manthey has a George Bernard Shaw quote on the back
of his business card. It reads, 'A Native American elder once
described his own inner struggles in this manner: 'Inside of me there
are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean. The other dog is good. The mean
dog fights the good dog all the time.' When asked which dog wins, he
reflected a moment and replied, 'The one I feed the most."
Lake Harriet Spiritual Community
Note that the "Shaw" version quoted above is identical to the quote
that appeared in the book "Experiencing the Soul" that Leli found.
Other mentions of Shaw as the source may be found with this Google
Google Web Search: "george bernard shaw" "the one i feed"
As is often the case with folklore, the true origins of this tale are
uncertain. The story was told by a Native American shaman in the 2003
film "The Missing," which seems to have given it new life. Wherever it
came from, it is a beautifully concise summation of the human
condition, and its wisdom is meaningful to almost everyone who hears
Thank you for an interesting question. I hope the material that Leli
and I have found provides a satisfying (if not definitive) response.
If anything is unclear or incomplete, please request clarification;
I'll be glad to offer further assistance before you rate my answer.