So, in the mini-essay on wargs (wolves) in MR. BAGGINS, part one of THE HISTORY OF THE HOBBIT (2007), I did a little mythbusting:
"Wolves do not, of course, eat people. But legend and folk-belief has maintained otherwise from time immemorial, from Aesop's fable of 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' [sixth century BC] through fairy-stories like 'Little Red Riding Hood' [seventeenth century French] and 'Peter & the Wolf' to the modern day (Saki's 'Esme' and 'The Intruders', Willa Cather's My Antonia , Bram Stoker's Dracula, and any number of Jack London stories). Perhaps the most famous literary account of a wolf-attack prior to Tolkien's occurs in Defoe's Robinson Crusoe  . . ." page 216
". . . unlike wolves and eagles, bears really DO eat people -- a fact of which Shakespeare was well aware, hence his famous stage direction for one doomed character: 'Exit, pursued by a bear' (A Winter's Tale, Act III scene iii), followed by a gruesome off=stage mauling as the character is torn limb from limb. The largest land predators, bears maul people every year even today." page 256
I have recently heard that I may well be in error. According to French Tolkien linguist Damien Bador, and quoted from a recent email with his permission:
There is one point where I need to mention that I believe you’re clearly mistaken. On several occasions, you take pains to stress that wolves only attack people in fairy tales, not in reality. As far as I’m aware, this is quite true for the American wolf, but not so much for the European (and Asian) one. Wolf attacks have been rather well documented in Western Europe since the XVIIth century at least and up to the early XXth century (in fact, France is probably the country with the best historical records, stretching from the 1300s up to 1920 and involving nearly 7600 fatal attacks, according to Wikipedia). In a large number of cases, this was linked to the wolf being rabid (which entirely removes its fear of humans), but there were also a large number of non-rabid wolf attacks recorded. Most victims were isolated children and women, especially during the summer, when people encroached upon the wolves’ territories during their pastoral or agricultural activities. What is probably the most well-known series of attacks involved the “Beast of Gévaudan” in mountains in Central France, which involved roughly a hundred fatal attacks from June 1764 to June 1767. While they might have been caused by several animals, most specialists still consider they were performed by wolves, or possibly wolf-dog hybrids (see the very detailed WP page in French on this topic: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%AAte_du_G%C3%A9vaudan).
So, it seems that I may have overstated the case.
Unless Americans are just less tasty than Europeans.
Thanks to Damien for the corrective.