A young girl named Miyax attempts to escape from her former home and winds up lost on the Arctic tundra. She runs into a pack of wolves and rather than devouring her, she is adopted by them. The book deals with her struggle to learn how to communicate with wolves and her reasons for leaving.
The first novel, Julie Of The Wolves
was written by Jean Craighead George
in 1972, and two sequels, Julie
and Julie's Wolf Pack
, followed. The first installment is often studied in classrooms and is also one of the most frequently banned books in classrooms due to its portrayal of death, rape, violence and menstruation
This book provides examples of:
- Arranged Marriage: At thirteen, Miyax marries the son of her father's business partner to escape living with her well-meaning but no-nonsense aunt. The match had been set up for Julie at a young age, but the ultimate decision was up to her. Another character explains that marriages like Julie's are quite common in their town and until both spouses get a bit older they mostly live like brothers and sisters.
- Animal Talk: A more realistic version. Wolves don't communicate in words, but rather how we'd expect them to, with body language, touch and smells. Miyax spends a good third of the novel learning how to speak this new "language" and it's implied that other animals have their own set of signals like a flicking tail motion that shows that a ground squirrel is friendly.
- Attempted Rape: The catalyst behind Julie's decision to leave her home is when her husband Daniel tries to force himself on her. Keep in mind they're both barely teenagers.
- Bittersweet Ending: Sure, at the end Julie makes it out of the tundra and is reunited with her long-lost father, but Amaroq and Tornait are both dead and the Eskimo way of life is over.
- Death by Newbery Medal: Alas, poor Amaroq.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Certain foods and smells are described as being delicious or wonderful, but given that these items tend to be things like raw owl entrails and wolf piss, it's more Squick than anything. The former is an actual Eskimo delicacy, and the latter is due to Miyax's experience with wolves.
- Disappeared Dad: Miyax's father Kapugen disappears while kayaking and is presumed to be dead. He's not.
- Floating Head Syndrome: Most editions of the book are victim to this.
- Head Pet: Tornait the Arctic tern.
- Nausea Fuel: Invoked several times by the Deliberate Values Dissonance, but the scene that stands out is the one where Miyax eats caribou meat regurgitated by a wolf and enjoys it.
- Noble Savage: Played with. At first Julie is convinced of this herself, but it's shown that some of the old ways can be counterproductive, Harmful to Minors, or even plain cruel by modern standards.
- Noble Wolf: This story is about wolves as pack animals complete with their own language and family customs. Amaroq, the alpha male, is a particularly classic example.
- No Periods, Period: Implied to be a trope present in Eskimo culture. Miyax hasn't had her first period yet, but an Eskimo couple she encounters on the tundra guesses that her period is the reason she's out there alone. The woman recalls an old and mostly-defunct tradition to send young women into the wilderness by themselves when they are menstruating.
- Parental Abandonment
- Raised by Wolves: Kind of. She's not raised from infancy, but she is adopted by them as one of their own, at least for a while.
- Rape as Drama
- Science Marches On: Several decades after the book was published it's been discovered that wolf packs aren't so much a social structure based on dominance, but a nuclear family with the mother and father being the leaders.
- This Is My Name on Foreign: Miyax, the name given to Julie at birth.
- Xenofiction: Not so much the first two installments, but the last book, Julie's Wolf Pack, certainly qualifies