Who are the main characters in Gary Paulsen's collection of memoirs titled Woodsong?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Since Gary Paulsen's Woodsong is his own autobiographical narrative of his runs with dogs, especially during the Iditarod race in Alaska, and all he learned from nature, Paulsen actually does not name any of the human characters. We know that Paulsen is the narrator, and he briefly mentions his wife, young son, and friends but never names them. Instead, the characters who are given names, as well as personalities, are the animals, especially his teams of dogs.

According to the first couple of chapters, Paulsen began learning to run dogs while living with his wife and son, "almost completely broke ... in a small cabin in northern Minnesota with no plumbing, no electricity, and no real prospects" (p. 9). During this time, he was trying to make it as a writer. In the meantime, since Minnesota was being overcome by beavers, the state began paying citizens to trap beavers. Paulsen was given a team of old dogs and a sled with broken side rails by some friends so that he could set up a trapline to provide for his family. Though we don't learn the names of the friends, we learn that the dogs' names were Storm, Yogi, Obeah, and Columbia.

Storm was the lead dog of his first team and one dog that impacted Paulsen the most. One night, "so bitterly cold as to freeze anything," after having collected some beavers from his traps about 20 miles out from home, he decided to let the dogs run home instead of set up camp. Storm pulled so hard that he began to bleed internally. Even when Paulsen tried to tie him down to the sled, he continued to pull until they made it all the way home. Storm taught Paulsen a valuable lesson about animals' powerful will to move forward and to live.

Observing Columbia pull a prank on the mentally slower dog Olaf in which he pulled a bone out of Olaf's reach also taught Paulsen that animals have more abilities than we give them credit for. He reached the conclusion that animals other than dogs must be capable of intelligent thought, so he stopped trapping beavers.

Other characters include Hawk, a banty hen; Fred, his Labrador; and Cookie, another lead dog.

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