Literature / The Wolf Chronicles

What is the promise of the wolf?
Never consort with humans.
Never kill a human unprovoked.
Never allow a mixed-blood wolf to live.

The Wolf Chronicles is a trilogy by Dorothy Hearst, consisting of the books Promise of the Wolves (2008), Secrets of the Wolves (2011), and Spirit of the Wolves (2014).

14,000 years ago, the promise mentioned above is what the wolves of the Wide Valley believe. Many thousands of years before their time, however, wolves and humans formed a bond with each other, and this changed them. The Ancients nearly killed both species, until the wolves made the promise.

Young wolf Kaala is a mixed-blood wolf, with her mother having taken a mate from outside the Valley. Her littermates are killed because of their birth, but her life is spared by a pair of Greatwolves - a large species of wolves that enforces the rules of the valley.

Kaala's mother is banished from the Valley as punishment, and so Kaala must find her own way in the pack, growing up with the leaders' pups and trying to be accepted by the leaders. As she grows, she proves to be a strong, capable wolf, but they are uncertain about her because she was born with a crescent-moon-shaped mark on her chest, signifying that she is either very good or very bad luck.

Kaala does her best to be accepted by the pack, but as she learns about the humans, she feels drawn to them... With her adopted littermates Marra and Ázzuen, and a feisty raven named Tlitoo, Kaala begins to learn that perhaps wolves and humans being apart isn't the best way to go, and that perhaps the Greatwolves have some secrets of their own...

This trilogy provides examples of:

  • Arranged Marriage: TaLi's tribe leader and aunt/caretaker want her to marry DavRian, because he can bring more expensive gifts and because he does not believe that the tribes should listen to krianans and follow the old ways anymore, even though TaLi wants to marry BreLan.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The pack leaders are generally the best fighters of the pack, since they must be able to withstand direct challenges to their leadership (which are typically done by fighting). One big reason that the packs cannot defy the Greatwolves is because the Greatwolves are so much bigger and impossible for a normal wolf to defeat in battle.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For Kaala, it's TaLi being threatened.
    • Ázzuen gets pissed when another male wolf asks Kaala to be his mate.
  • Canis Major: The Greatwolves are almost twice as large as a regular wolf. They may be a reference to the prehistoric dire wolves, if not a fictional version of the real animal (though dire wolves were only found in the Americas, and this book is set in Europe.)
  • Clever Crows: Ravens are tricksters. When they're being especially mischievous, they tend to speak in haiku.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Ázzuen is named for his grandfather, Ruuqo's father.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The climax of Promise of the Wolves turns around one of these: the characters were so focused on the coming battle between the wolves and humans that nobody noticed the elkryn were also planning something. In retrospect, they should have: the humans had been hunting more and more elkryn since settling, and the wolves hadn't been letting up either. It was only a matter of time before they were backed into a corner and lashed out.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention: Both wolves and humans have name patterns. Normal wolves' names have a double letter in them - Kaala, Rissa, Trevegg, etc. Greatwolves' names end in -dru or -dra, as an homage to their ancestor, Indru. Humans have compound names such as TaLi and MikLan; the last half signifies their gender and which tribe they are from (for example, TaLi's tribe is the Lin tribe, so all males have the ending "Lin" and all females have the ending "Li").
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Kaala has a chance to kill DavRian, the human who's been nothing but trouble and a danger to the wolves for the whole book: he'd fallen down a hill and gotten pinned by debris on the edge of a cliff, and all Kaala would need to do is push him and Make It Look Like an Accident. When the opportunity is offered, she refuses because it would go against the Promise and it's just wrong. He repays her by killing TaLi's grandmother and framing the wolves for it.
  • Fictionary: The wolves' and humans' language. There's a common, universal language that all others are based on, and that's how the wolves understand the humans (though not vice-versa); Trevegg insisted they be taught it.
  • Gray Eyes: Kaala visits the spirit world in the second book and meets Indru himself, noting that he has strange silver eyes. He shows her a memory of him first making the Promise, and he has yellow eyes in the memory; therefore, silver eyes represents the spirit world.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. In Kaala's first chapter she witnesses the deaths of her siblings and is nearly killed herself.
  • I Was Named "My Name": Played with. Kaala's name is wolf-speak for "Daughter of the Moon". Her human friend names her Silvermoon, and Kaala is surprised and pleased that it's so close. It's a minor case of Fridge Brilliance: Kaala has a birthmark on her pelt in the rough shape of a crescent moon, and that was how the pack chose her name when she was born. It makes sense that TaLi would also see it and think the same way.
  • Legacy Character: The ravens have a special raven called the Nejakilakin that is born whenever there is need, who can travel between life and death and can see the memories of others. Likewise, whenever there's a Nejakilakin, there's also a Moonwolf - a wolf with the mark of the crescent moon. Nejakilakin can travel in the spirit world alone, but he cannot view memories without Moonwolf, and Moonwolf cannot go into the spirit world without Nejakilakin. Tlitoo is the current generation's Nejakilakin, but he doesn't like it when other ravens call him that by name - even "Neja" bothers him - and Kaala is the current Moonwolf.
  • Letter Motif:
    • All regular wolves' names have a double letter in them - Kaala, Rissa, Trevegg, Ázzuen, etc - but the Greatwolves' names, however, do not. (Their names, actually, end in either "-dru" or "-dra" as an homage to their ancestor Indru.)
    • Also, all humans have compound names such as TaLi and MikLan; the last half signifies their gender and which tribe they are from (for example, TaLi's tribe is the Lin tribe, so all males have the ending "Lin" and all females have the ending "Li").
  • The Promise: Ancient wolf Indru made a promise that wolves would not come into contact with humans, but that they would still guide humans, in order to keep the Balance. As Kaala grows older and learns more about herself and the Greatwolves, this promise is called into question many times.
  • Secret Test of Character: Pups must pass several tests - the crossing to their summer home, the first hunt, and the first winter - in order to be accepted into the pack. Yllin tells Kaala that sometimes the leaderwolves will help a pup through the tests because they don't like to see pups die, but that they might deny any help if they wish to challenge a pup and test their strength, as Ruuqo did with Kaala during the crossing.
  • Settle for Sibling: Rissa was originally going to be mates with Hiiln, and the two would lead the pack. When Hiiln was banished, it was up to Ruuqo to lead, so Rissa became Ruuqo's mate instead. He'd always had strong feelings for her even before his brother left, and Rissa grew to love him as well.
  • Shout-Out: According to the author, NiaLi and Trevegg's deaths are a shout-out to Little Red Riding Hood: NiaLi is the grandmother that gets killed, and Trevegg is the wolf that gets killed by the huntsman.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: NiaLi. It is mentioned that all krianans used to be able to speak to animals, but that ability has been lost, with TaLi being the last.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The third book reveals that Kaala is a wolfdog. This comes as a surprise, as she has been mocking them the whole trilogy.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Kaala says that wolves hate seeing pups come to harm and that they'd rather chew off their own paws than hurt a pup, but in order to follow the rules of the Promise any mixed-blood pups cannot live. Ruuqo kills her siblings in front of her, and nearly kills her, but Kaala said he was only doing his duty.