Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

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Chapter 13 Summary

The night before she plans to go the place of the sea elephants, Karana does not sleep much. She worries about what might happen since she broke the tribal law and made a weapon, and she worries about getting injured by the huge creature and then falling prey to the dogs in her weakened position. She worries all night, but when the sun comes up she is on her way to the place where the sea elephants live.

By the time she arrives, the animals have gathered on the shore. The bulls, like giant gray boulders, are sitting on the pebbly shore while the cows and their babies, below them, play in the waves. Even the babies are as big as a man, though they do all the things babies do. The bulls are bad-tempered and jealous, so they sit some distance apart from one another, each one “like a great chief, watching his herd of cows and babies.”

Karana looks at the six bulls sitting along the beach and tries to determine which is her best choice. Five are virtually the same size and shape, but the one at the farthest end of the beach is a bit smaller. It is evident he does not have his own herd, and she thinks he might be less alert and less angry. The girl lowers herself down the cliff and prepares to walk behind them across the beach. While they are not afraid of anything and will not move if they see her, she prefers not to put them on their guard too soon. She carries her new bow, which is nearly as tall as she is, and five arrows.

She walks carefully across the stones, trying not to alert the cows to her presence, and settles behind a big rock near her target. As she fits the arrow to the bow, she remembers her father’s warning that any bow made by a woman is against the law and will break when she uses it. The distance between the animal and the girl is short, but she is not sure where it is best to place the first arrow—shoulders or head. Its skin is rough but thin, covering many layers of fat; though his body is large, his head is small, making it a more difficult target.

As she stands in indecision, the young bull begins to move. At first Karana thinks he has somehow heard her; however, she sees now he is moving toward the cows belonging to the old bull next to him. Though large, sea elephants move quickly. As the bull nears the water, Karana shoots her arrow at it. The arrow does not break and goes straight, but at the last instant the animal changes direction and the arrow flies harmlessly past him. While she was not looking, the older bull comes and rams himself into the invader; the young bull reels from the impact and lays in the water, stunned. The old bull bellows a loud blast, and all the cows and babies stop their play to watch the battle.

Two cows are in the bull’s way, and he waddles over them as if they are mere stones. With his tusklike teeth, the old bull rips a long gash in the side of the younger animal. When the wounded creature raises himself and turns his head, Karana can see his eyes shining “fiercely red.” As the old bull prepares to attack again, the young one...

(The entire section is 882 words.)