On one level, Julie of the Wolves is a book about survival in the wilderness. A young Eskimo girl, named both Julie Edward (her American name) and Miyax Kapugen (her Eskimo name), runs away from a traditional planned marriage that she finds intolerable. She becomes lost on the vast North Slope of the Alaskan Brooks Range, far away from even the most remote settlement. The long arctic winter is coming on and Julie must call on all her wits, her Eskimo skills, and her sensitivity to nature to find the food and shelter she needs to survive. Near her camp, she discovers a wolf den and determines that somehow she must find a way to make the wolves share their resources with her if she is to live.
On another, more metaphysical level, Julie of the Wolves is about being lost in a culture. Julie runs away from the Eskimo village thinking that she will go to live with her pen pal in San Francisco. Her experience alone on the tundra with the wolves, however, teaches her the value and beauty of the Eskimo ways. She learns to hate modern civilization, which she views as being out of touch with the natural world. She gives up the idea of San Francisco and almost decides to live her life alone on the tundra. A certain ambivalence, however, takes hold of her, and she journeys towards human settlement. At last she meets another Eskimo couple and learns from them that her father, Kapugen, whom she had thought dead, is not only alive but a leader in the nearby...
(The entire section is 384 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Julie of the Wolves Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Part 1 Summary
Amaroq, the Wolf
Miyax, a thirteen-year-old Eskimo girl and child bride, is in a "desperate predicament." She has just run away from a prearranged marriage in Barrow and is headed, alone, in the direction of Point Hope, across the vast northern tundra of Alaska. The distance Miyax must travel on foot is several hundred miles, but she had been confident that she would be able to reach Point Hope, where she had planned to board a ship to the home of her pen pal, Amy, in San Francisco. Somewhere on the vast expanse, however, Miyax has lost her way.
Miyax has learned to be at home on the land from her father Kapugen, the great hunter. Unfortunately, she had not considered that the natural signs that had always allowed her to maintain her bearings might not be the same everywhere. On the barren tundra, everything looks the same, and the North Star, the most dependable of her guides, will not be visible for another month in this location near the top of the world. Miyax is lost, without direction or food; her only hope is the family of wolves she has come upon.
There are four adult wolves and five pups in the pack Miyax has found. She calls the "regal black wolf" who is their leader "Amaroq," and the beautiful gray wolf who is his mate "Silver." The male wolf who appears to be second in command is "Nails," and the cowering, skulking creature who lives on the fringes of the pack is "Jello." One of the pups in the litter is clearly smarter and more fearless than the others, and he immediately catches Miyax's attention. She names him "Kapu," after her father.
Kapugen has taught Miyax that wolves are "gentle brothers" who have been known to share their food with humans under dire circumstances. Knowing that her very survival depends on them, Miyax observes the wolves closely from the sod house she has built near their den, trying to learn their language and to figure out how to gain their acceptance.
By watching the subtle nuances of the wolves' interactions, Miyax quickly discovers the basic signals through which they communicate. The leader asserts his authority by biting the others on the tops of their noses; a soft bite under the chin signifies devotion, ears flattened indicate friendship, and ears pointed forward show dominance. When the adult wolves run off for a time, leaving the pups with the ineffective Jello, Miyax, wiggling her hands on her head to represent...
(The entire section is 1041 words.)
Part 2 Summary
Miyax, the Girl
Miyax was barely four when her mother died. Her father Kapugen, overcome by grief, walked away from his job and possessions in the Alaskan village of Mekoryuk that day and retreated to seal camp with his young daughter. There, the two lived in a "little house of driftwood, not far from the beach." To Miyax, those years with her father had been "infinitely good."
The denizens of seal camp lived in close harmony with nature. Miyax was immersed in the "old ways," the traditional culture of the Eskimos. The seals sustained the people and were honored during the celebration of the "Bladder Feast," when the bladders containing the spirits of animals harvested that season were returned to the sea. In addition to teaching her about the seals, Kapugen, who was known as a great hunter and understood the ways of all wild creatures, told his young daughter stories about wolves he had known on the mainland, impressing upon her that
Wolves are brotherly...they love each other, and if you learn to speak to them, they will love you too.
Miyax's idyllic life with her father was cut short when Kapugen's aunt, Martha, appeared at seal camp one day. Martha spoke angrily and at length with Kapugen in English, a language which Miyax barely understood. The next morning, Kapugen gently broke the news to his daughter that she was going to have to go and live with Aunt Martha in Mekoryuk. Kapugen explained to Miyax that there was a law that said that she must go to school and that he himself would have to go to war somewhere for the government. He also told Miyax that if anything happened to him, she could leave Aunt Martha, if she chose, by marrying Daniel, the son of his good friend Naka. Miyax went to live in the village of Mekoryuk with her aunt, where she was called by an English name, Julie Edwards.
Julie was given a small cot at her aunt's house, and she attended school, where she enjoyed learning to speak English and to read. After a month had passed, a man from seal camp came to visit, and when he left, Aunt Martha told her that Kapugen had gone hunting in his kayak and had not returned. Julie ran down to the sea and called out to her father, but there was no answer.
As time passed, Julie was able to accept the loss of her father. She began to try to fit in with the people of Mekoryuk, who were quite...
(The entire section is 1022 words.)
Part 3 Summary
Kapugen, the Hunter
On the tundra, Miyax climbs up to the wolf den. Though the wolves are gone, she feels their presence. Returning to her sod house, she finds Jello raiding her store of meat. Overcoming her initial reaction of fear, she falls upon him angrily and cows him into submission. Gathering her remaining supplies, she then resumes her own journey to the coast.
After traveling many miles, Miyax stops for the night and makes her camp. In the distance, she hears the howls of wolves and recognizes the voices of Amaroq and his family. Suddenly, Jello appears again, baring his teeth threateningly; he then picks up her pack and runs.
Miyax is devastated, because her remaining food and tools of survival are in the pack. Unable to pursue Jello in the darkness, she slides back into her sleeping skin in despair, wondering how long it will take for her to die. Miyax sleeps, and when she awakens, she smells the scent of wolf urine and knows that Amaroq has been there. Setting out in hopes of retrieving her pack, she comes upon the torn body of Jello and understands instinctively that Amaroq had turned on him. Kapugen had once told Miyax that wolves will tolerate a lone wolf "until the day he [steals] meat from the pups."
Miyax finds her pack and continues on her journey, catching small game along the way. One especially cold afternoon, Kapu comes to her, carrying a leg of caribou. Miyax makes a stew, and gives the young wolf a large piece of cooked meat. When Kapu runs off happily, Miyax looks up to the sky and sees, at last, the North Star. That night, it begins to snow, but Miyax is secure, full and comfortable, in her sleeping furs. The wolves had known that the bad weather was coming and had brought food for her.
As Miyax continues on her journey and realizes that her destination is near, she realizes that she enjoys her simple life on the tundra, which is like that of her ancestors. One night, she encounters an enormous grizzly, but her wolves once again come to her aid, heading off the ferocious creature before it can get to her.
Forced to stop for a while during an extended whiteout, Miyax uses her ulo to carve an image of Amaroq from a piece of bone. As she is finishing, she hears a bird calling faintly in the darkness and discovers a young golden plover, clearly lost and starving. Miyax tucks the bird snugly into her sleeping skin and...
(The entire section is 1133 words.)