Julie of the Wolves – Literature – Plot

The story is set in contemporary Alaska.
The Inuit girl Miyax lives with her father Kapugen at a seal camp in Nash Harbor, Alaska. When Miyax turns nine, her aunt Martha comes to the seal camp to get her as it is time for her to go to school and she cannot attend school in Nash Harbor. So, Miyax leaves the camp to live with her aunt. In Mekoryuk, where her school is, she becomes more familiar with Western culture and gets a Western name: Julie. Nevertheless, Miyax is not really happy in Mekoryuk. She does not really get along with her aunt and she worries about not being able to attend a higher school. When she becomes pen pals with the girl Amy, who lives in San Francisco, she dreams of visiting her some day because she imagines that life there is better. When Julie turns 13, she leaves her aunt by marrying Daniel, the son of her father’s friend. She moves to Barrow to live with her family-in-law, hoping that she would be happier there than in Mekoryuk. However, as both are still very young and not in love, Daniel and Julie act rather as brother and sister. Julie makes a living by sewing for the tourists and is rather content with her new life. However, when Daniel gets nagged because he cannot mate Julie, even though they are married, he almost rapes her. Therefore, Julie runs away and heads towards Point Hope to finally reach San Francisco. She cannot go back to her father because she has learned from her family-in-law that he has died by this time.

With that, Miyax’ adventure in the Alaskan wilderness begins. When she runs out of food, the only chance for her is to join a pack of wolves. She learns their language by observing them and finally gets accepted by the leader of the wolves, whom she names Amaroq. Her closest wolf friend becomes a cub, whom she names Kapu. Thanks to the wolves, Miyax is saved from starvation. However, when she cannot rely on her animal friends any longer because they will finally head for a new home when winter comes, Miyax is forced to finally stand on her own feet. She learns how to hunt and dry meat to take with her. Finally, she moves on despite several successful attempts on the part of Jello, the outsider of the wolf pack, to steal Miyax’ food, which almost thwarts her plan to trek through the wilderness.

When Miyax reaches civilization near Point Hope, she also finds a lost bird, that she names Tornait, and takes him with her. The wolf pack has been following Miyax all the time from some distance and she regularly is visited by them, especially by Kapu, who has grown up meanwhile. But tragically, Amaroq is soon shot by Americans, who have been flying their planes above the wolves to kill them. Despite Miyax’ attempt to prevent this, she could not help Amaroq. When she understands that the Americans have killed the wolf without reason, just for fun, she associates the whole Western civilization with senseless killing. This leads her to the resolution not to go to San Francisco anymore and she decides not to speak English any longer. After Kapu has been hurt by the Americans, she cares for him and pays her last tribute to Amaroq. Then she starts to make herself a home in the wilderness. But when she meets Eskimo people and hosts them, she learns that her father is not dead after all and that he lives in the next village, Kangik. So she goes there and finally reunites with her father, who has married again. Miyax stays at his house for a while, but when she realizes that his living style has become more Western, she leaves him again to lead a real Eskimo life.

Yet, when Tornait dies a short time after, Miyax reflects her real identity again and ponders about who she wants to be. She is torn between wanting to be a real Eskimo and reuniting with her father to live a life which could be a mix between Eskimo and Western life. The open ending does not reveal her resolution.