Chapter 13 Summary

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Brian is standing at the edge of the lake with his spear, trying to catch one of the “foolbirds,” the type he once almost stepped on. As he waits motionlessly at a spot where he knows a flock of them lives, he is suddenly overcome with a sense of danger. Brian does not yet perceive what constitutes the potential threat, but he knows his feeling is real. It has happened before that “something had come into him from outside to warn him”; Brian has never known the sense of unease that engulfs him at these times to be unfounded.

Waiting patiently for the danger to reveal itself, Brian remains unmoving, his senses acutely focused. Finally, he sees a wolf halfway up the hill, regarding him with “wide yellow eyes.” Brian has never seen a wolf before but this one is much larger than he had imagined them to be. He is momentarily afraid but then recognizes the wolf for what it is—a part of nature, “another part of all of it.” The wolf is claiming him, and Brian acknowledges it by nodding at it and smiling. After watching him for a while longer, the wolf turns and walks away. Three other wolves, “equally large...and beautiful,” follow, and Brian nods to each of them in turn. The wolves trot effortlessly back up the hill.

In an inexplicable way, Brian has “completely changed” in the forty-two days since the plane flew by without seeing him. Initially, he had let despair overcome him; he had forgotten to eat and had even let his fire go out. Brian had wanted to die, and in the dark of night, he had gone up on the ridge and attempted to take his own life by cutting himself. Inflicting wounds deep enough, though, had been impossible for him to do, and he had finally just fallen to the ground, wishing for death.

In the morning, Brian had found that “he was still there.” When the sun came up and he saw the cuts on his arm, he had been filled with loathing for what he had attempted. Two things, new and true, came into his mind. First, Brian realized that the disappointment he had experienced had made him stronger. Correspondingly, he had known that he would “not let death in again.”

Brian had made a lot of mistakes in the succeeding days, but he had learned from them. The bow he had carved was beautiful, but when he had tried it the first time, the wood had shattered and sent splinters into his face and almost blinded him. He had made a second bow but found that he still could not hit a fish. Upon reflection, he had remembered that water refracts light and that if he intended to catch a fish in the water, he would have to aim slightly below his target.

When Brian had caught his first fish, he had been filled with pride. He had “exulted in it, in the bow, in the arrow, in the fish, in the hatchet, in the sky.” He had cooked the fish over his fire then picked the flaky, tender meat off the bones carefully with his fingers. He had feasted in celebration of being alive. Although he no longer had much hope that he would be rescued, Brian had faith in his own capabilities and “hope in the fact that he could learn and survive and take care of himself.”

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Chapter 12 Summary


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