Sunday, January 15, 2006

Julie of the Wolves

My stolen copy has a child's name scrawled on the front. (This child is now around 30 years old and living somewhere in Europe, I think; he's not missing it.) The story reminds me of Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins both books I loved when they were age-appropriate. I loved the idea of living in nature, of survival, of being creative with what you've got. (I loved those ideas in practice, I love central heating and synthetic fibers.)

Julie, or Miyax, is an Eskimo girl who's been orphaned and then ran away from an unfavorable situation. She plans to head for San Francisco, where her pen pal is waiting with welcome. But it's an arctic summer, when the sun doesn't set, so she has no geophysical compass and is soon lost. She realizes her only hope is to make friends with a family of wolves who adopt her, give her part of their kills, and later protect her from danger. Once the sun sets and autumn begins, she can find her way to civilization, but the wolves follow, and hunters appear. For their own safety, she must say goodbye to the wolves. Near the end, she's conflicted about how to live her life: she doesn't feel right about living in civilization, where hunters kill her animal family for money or sport, but she is too lonely to live alone as an Eskimo. Sadly, she returns to the village, and gives up the life of an Eskimo.

How sad! I wanted her to explore, adventure, discover San Francisco, and THEN return to the arctic, where she was at home. I understand and agree that she would never feel at home with things like telephones and electricity, but I wanted her to be more independent than she ends up being. Through this experience, she should have gained the confidence to travel on her own and try new things. Even toward the end, she's hopeful that she can live alone in her igloo and wait for an Eskimo boy to appear so they can live together in the old ways. But then her bird companion dies and she gives up. So sad.

It reminds me of The Last Bit Bear, a book I bought at Yellowstone. It's a story of last Bit Bear left. He goes out searching for more Bit Bears, but there just aren't any left. He makes friends of other species, but there are no Bit Bears to be found. When he dies, there will be no more. It's sad like that. It's one of those environmental hippie books that say, "See!? See what we're doing to the world?!" And it makes me feel guilty for loving my central heating and synthetic fibers.

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