Part 1 Summary
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1041
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 wolf ears, tries to interact with the little ones. To her astonishment, she finds that she can indeed communicate with them. When Amaroq suddenly returns, he sees Miyax and approaches her aggressively. Overcoming her natural inclination to show fear, she prances up to him and goes down on her belly before him as she has seen the puppies do. Summoning all her courage, she then pats him swiftly under the chin. Amaroq responds with a soft look and a tail wag, and Miyax knows she is one of the pack.
Miyax believes that Amaroq has accepted her because she is small and nonthreatening—a "lost child." She hopes that the pack will bring her food, but none is forthcoming. Miyax knows that the adult wolves go away somewhere to feed off game they have killed, but they never bring back anything for the pups, who do not appear to be nursing, but somehow remain fat and happy. The mystery is solved when Miyax sees Kapu stick his nose into the corner of Silver's mouth when she returns from the kill. Silver regurgitates a mound of well-chewed and partially-digested meat, and the pup falls upon it eagerly. The little ones, while being weaned from their mother's milk, will eat in this manner until they are ready to have fresh meat on their own. Following Kapu's lead, Miyax later approaches Jello, the least intimidating of the adult wolves. She cannot get him to regurgitate food for her, but Kapu, sensing what she wants, goes up to the cowardly creature and nuzzles his mouth, causing Jello to deposit meat for Miyax.
The food provided by the wolves saves Miyax for the present, but she understands that the animals will soon be leaving their summer den. Realizing that she cannot depend on them for her survival indefinitely, she begins to hunt and forage for herself. One night, a dense fog settles over the tundra, and Amaroq gathers his family together. Amazingly, he then approaches Miyax, and invites her to come too. Miyax spends many hours cuddled next to Kapu at the wolves' den site, and although the fog does not lift when their usual hunting times arrive, Amaroq and his family seem content. Miyax, however, becomes hungry, and eventually leaves the pack to forage for seeds and lichen.
When the fog lifts, the wolves hunt again, bringing down a caribou "practically at [Miyax's] door." Amaroq, Silver, Nails, and the pups feast first, with Jello slinking in to get his share when the others are done. When the lone wolf too has had enough, Miyax runs forward to cut strips of meat to dry. She also takes portions of the liver, which is like candy to her people, and the invaluable hide.
August wanes and autumn approaches, and the wolves continue to hunt. Miyax takes a share of their kills and stores dried strips of meat in a small cellar she has dug beneath the sod, constantly on guard against Jello, who repeatedly tries to steal her food. In the sky above, the Arctic terns have begun their migration, and Miyax knows that when she sets off for Point Hope once again, she will be able to chart her course by the direction of their flight.
As the temperature begins to drop, Miyax recognizes that her sojourn with the wolves is almost at an end, and steps up the pace of her preparations so that she can continue her own journey. One evening, their calls and howls communicate an exceptional wildness and urgency, and Miyax senses that Amaroq is summoning her. By the next evening, she is ready to go, but when she steps out of her house and calls for him, the wolves are gone.