Island of the Blue Dolphins Chapter 17 Summary
by Scott O'Dell

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Chapter 17 Summary

Winter rain and wind storms come early to the island, and Karana stays busy making herself another dress and fashioning another spear, one which will help her catch the giant devilfish. She has seen her father make the spear and knows what it looks like and how it is used, so she is eventually able to recreate one of the spears after many errors and much work. Four of the sea elephant teeth are left, and she breaks all but one in her attempts to make the spear. That one she works down to a barbed point; it is connected to the shaft in such a way that when the spear is thrown and strikes the devilfish, the head comes loose from the shaft. It floats while the sharp point remains attached by a string to the thrower’s wrist. It is an especially good spear because it can be thrown from a distance.

The first day of spring on the island is always marked by the arrival of a flock of small black birds which come every year and hunt for food in the ravines for two days before flying off. Karana goes to the beach without Rontu; she had let him out of the fence earlier, and he has not returned. The wild dogs came to the fence many times during the winter, but Rontu had paid no attention to them; however, they came last night and he had started whining and pacing. It worried her to see him act so strangely, and when he would not eat she finally just let him out of the fence.

Alone, she pushes the canoe into the water and makes her way to the cave where the devilfish lives. The water is quite clear, and the sea ferns below her are moving as if a breeze is blowing through them. Among them hide the devilfish with their long arms. It feels good for her to be back on the sea after a long winter, but all she can think about is Rontu, wondering if he will come back or if he will once again become part of the enemy. She knows she can never kill him, now that he has been her friend.

When the sun is high, she hides the canoe on the rock ledge, for it is once again the time when the Aleuts might return. She carries the two small bass she speared—no devilfish—and starts the steep climb up the cliff. At the top she pauses to catch her breath and hears the sound of dogs fighting. The noise comes from far off, so she takes her bow and arrows and hurries in that direction. On the way to the spring, she sees the tracks of many wild dogs along with Rontu’s bigger tracks. Again she hears the sound of distant fighting.

On a grassy mound near the sea cliffs, with his back to the sea and facing Karana, is Rontu. In front of him, in a half-circle, are the wild dogs. At first she thinks Rontu has been cornered by the pack; however, she sees now that two dogs, both with bloody muzzles, are standing apart and facing Rontu. The rest have gathered to watch. One of the dogs is the new leader of the pack; the other Karana has never seen. None of them hear her as she moves to the edge of the meadow, for they are all sitting on their haunches, barking. She is sure Rontu has caught her scent because he raises his head and sniffs the air.

The two dogs are pacing at the foot of the mound, trying to figure out how best to attack since the cliffs are behind him. Rontu does not move except to occasionally lick a wound on his leg, but he never takes his eyes from his adversaries. Karana could easily have shot them or driven the...

(The entire section is 993 words.)