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What indeed? While she was walking through the forest, she saw a wolf strolling slowly towards her, humming something to himself. A minute or so earlier, the wolf had been watching her from behind a tree, and had thought to himself, 'She'd make a nice juicy meal'. But as he didn't want to frighten her off he had decided to play it nice and cool, and so the nonchalant walk.

I would like to know if past perfect continuous and past perfect are necessary as it is written a minute earlier, so that we know that this passage takes place before the girl saw the wolf. Would it have been possible to use past simple?

A minute earlier he watched her from behind a tree and thought.....

The Tragic Tale of Ruddy Wee Hoody random idea english

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    As an aside, I wonder why it is not "But as he had not wanted to frighten her off" – CowperKettle Dec 19 '15 at 8:19
  • @CopperKettle I think when they wrote it, it was clear that the fact that he decided was the first action before he didn't want to do something. — Regarding the question, I think is also possible to say the wolf had watched her but the continuous form emphasises better even if it was a minute or so earlier. Since the wolf was there first before the girl walked to the forest, the past perfect is used to tell about which actions happened first, that's why past simple is not used. – Alejandro Dec 19 '15 at 10:58
  • OK But as it is written a minute or so earlier it is obvious that all these actions watching thought and decided were before the girl saw him . – user5577 Dec 19 '15 at 15:39
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It's not a requirement but an artistic choice.

The author employs the PaPf here to present the wolf's earlier train of thought as the background to his current (past) action, his strolling. The series of perfects culminates in had decided to play it cool, and we pretty readily infer that the decision is still in effect: it is the motivation for his "nonchalant walk".

The perfects after the first one aren't necessary—the author could have used the first PaPf to shift the focus (the 'Reference Time') to that time a minute or so earlier. He could have written:

While she was walking through the forest, she saw a wolf strolling slowly towards her, humming something to himself. A minute or so earlier, the wolf had been watching her from behind a tree; he thought to himself, 'She'd make a nice juicy meal'. But as he didn't want to frighten her off he decided to play it nice and cool, and so the nonchalant walk.

But the author prefers to use perfects throughout and keep the original Reference Time in place, so the wolf's thoughts are in the background of the narrative and the encounter between the wolf and Red in the foreground. It's a classic 'temporal wide shot' to suspend the actual confrontation (that's why we call it "suspense", sense 3) and enhance the sense of threat.

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