Miyax/Julie Kapugen is the main protagonist of the book Julie of the Wolves.
Miyax is a girl who has a split identity because she is confronted with two different worlds: the traditional Eskimo one and the modern civilized white America. She doesn’t know where she belongs to, whether she ought to live like an Eskimo or go back to civilization. Her two different names, the Eskimo one Miyax and the American one Julie, symbolize this inner conflict.
When Miyax lives alone with her father at seal camp in Nash Harbor she gets to know the Eskimo traditions. At the age of nine Julie has to leave this Eskimo world and live with her Aunt Martha in order to go to school. There she realizes that her classmates know things and names she has never heard about before, which she finds annoying. Later in the novel when Julie stays with the wolves, the identity of her Eskimo roots gets the upper hand again. Nevertheless, on seeing her mirror image in a pond, she is glad to look like “the gussak girls in the magazines” (George 28).
Despite her conflict she has got a really strong personality. She has not only decided to leave her aunt but also runs away from her husband Daniel because he has tried to rape her. She is left to her own devices in the Alaskan wilderness now and has to find a way to survive. Although Miyax doesn’t have enough food, she neither gives up nor panics, but stays very calm and sober-minded and rationally thinks of possibilities to get some. Therefore, in the beginning Miyax relies on a wolf pack to get help and something to eat. She is clever, strong and brave because she succeeds in getting in touch with the wolves. Her courage is also visible when Jello wants Miyax to obey him. She doesn’t show any fear and proves she is stronger than him. Also when Jello tries to steal her meat, she threatens him; so he runs away.
Miyax is rather intelligent and good with her hands. For example, she cuts a caribou the wolves have killed and uses the skin to make a mitten. She also stores her meat in a cellar she built, knows how to build a tent and how to make a sled and snowshoes. She is even capable of hunting small game. She gets more and more independent and stronger, so that she is able to survive totally on her own when the wolf pack moves on.
Miyax is also closely connected to nature. This way, when she is on the migration path she knows she should leave the place she stays in. Furthermore, by hearing migrating herds and birds she realizes that autumn is coming soon. In addition, she notices that she comes closer to the coast, where it is a bit warmer and wetter, when she sees a tiny forest.
Besides, Miyax is a responsible person and very deliberate in her actions because she pays close attention to find her way back to the camp.
What is more, she is helpful and empathetic, for instance, she rescues a bird, feeds him and even makes a small coat for him. Her kind-heartedness is also visible when she covers Kapu with snow to hide him from the people who want to shoot him out of an airplane. She looks after Kapu’s wound and offers him food until he feels better.
Amaroq is a black wolf and the leader of the wolf pack. The other wolves are loyal to him. Together with his mate Silver, he has got five puppies. Amaroq takes care of his pack because he always leads the hunt. Therefore he is very wise and experienced and helps the wolves in order to receive food.
Moreover, he is strong, brave and trustworthy because he protects Miyax from starvation and a grizzly bear. In addition, when Jello steals Miyax food, needles and a knife, Amaroq is reliable and helpful because he kills Jello so he cannot harm Miyax again. When an airplane comes to hunt the wolves, Amaroq wants to rescue the others and even tells Kapu to go away. He risks his life and dies in the end because of that.
Kapu is a black wolf puppy. He is the only puppy who isn’t afraid of Miyax when Miyax wants to get in contact with them in the beginning. Kapu even walks towards her. This shows he is fearless, strong and brave. That’s the reason why Miyax calls him Kapu after her father Kapugen, who is also really strong and courageous. Kapu is like a best friend and brother to her.
Kapu tells Silver when he wants to eat something and also decides who is allowed to eat with him. Zing, Zat, Zit are not allowed, Sister is. Furthermore, Kapu doesn’t listen to what the other wolves tell him to do; for example, when Jello calls Kapu back he just ignores him. These characteristics show that Kapu is the leader of the puppies.
In addition, he is hyper and plays a lot with the other wolves.
Moreover, he is caring and clever. For instance, as he knows it is getting winter, he brings Miyax some food to help her. Later Kapu becomes the new leader and leads the hunt because Amaroq has died.
Jello is the lowest member of the wolf pack. Miyax gives him the name “Jello” because he seems like a “quivering gussak dessert” (George 19) to her. So this can be associated with somebody trembling like a coward. When Jello and Amaroq want to fight, he gives up before even having started. He is insecure and weak and submits to the other wolves but is neither really accepted in the wolf pack nor taken seriously. He has to stay with the puppies and isn’t allowed to go hunting with Amaroq, Nails and Silver. He only can go to the kill when the others come back and isn’t allowed to eat with them but afterwards. In addition, Jello is completely powerless. Even the puppy Kapu doesn’t listen to him when Jello tells him to come home.
He is respectful to other wolves but not to Miyax. He wants to show her he is the boss. However, when she doesn’t give in he gets frightened and urinates. This shows that he is not strong.
He is really mean because he steals the meat Miyax has stored. He cannot be trusted.
The fact that he needs to steal food also shows he feels insecure and is not able to hunt and get food on his own.
Kapugen is Miyax’s father. He works as a manager of a reindeer herd in the beginning. He neither needs a lot of material things nor technology. He is an independent man who knows how to cope with life. For instance, he has no difficulties in finding food for his daughter and himself. He lives in a small house and leads a really modest existence in Eskimo tradition because he goes fishing and hunts seals. Therefore he is really close with nature.
Moreover, he is practical-minded since he knows how to make a coat out of sealskin for Miyax.
As his wife died he looks after his daughter Miyax and has no problems in taking up the role of a mother as well. So he is really strong and also very caring and a tender father. He teaches Miyax how to live an Eskimo life by telling her a lot of stories, for example about his experience with wolves and he explains her to understand them. Thus he awakens her love for nature and Eskimo life. But Miyax learns many more things from him, for example how to make clothes. Miyax looks up to her father; he is highly admired by her. Everything her father does is “absolutely perfect” (George 83) for her.
However, a great part of what the reader learns about Kapugen is derived from Miyax’s childhood memories. So part of it could also be nostalgia. According to Miyax’s aunt he does not only do good things. He also makes the mistake to choose an inappropriate husband for Miyax. Later in the novel he becomes less important for Miyax. Now she thinks more often of her adopted father Amaroq.
But Kapugen is intelligent. For instance, the town in which he lives becomes self-reliant and a lot richer when he brings musk-oxen so they can make mittens, sweaters and scarves from their fur.
Although he is wealthy and could therefore afford living in the city centre of the town, he prefers living in a little green house. Kapugen is kind-hearted and welcomes everyone he likes in his house.
In the end he changes and leads the life of a modern Alaskan. So, he is married to a white Alaskan, uses technologies in his house such as electric lambs, a radio-phonograph and china dishes. He has even given up his traditional way of hunting but shoots at the animals from an airplane.