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Literature / Julie of the Wolves

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Julie of the BIG GIANT HEAD.

A young Inuit 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:

  • Aerith and Bob:
    • The Inuit family Julie goes to live with in Barrow: Naka, his wife Nusan, and their son Daniel. Inuits are said to have two names, one English and one Inuit, but whatever Daniel's Inuit name is supposed to be, it's never revealed.
    • Also the case with the wolf pack; we have names like Amaroq and Kapu, but there's also Silver, Nails, Jello, Sister, Zing, Zat, and Zit.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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... and it's fairly ambiguous whether the assault ended at 'attempted'.
  • 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 traditional Eskimo way of life is effectively over.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Alas, poor Amaroq.
  • Dead Guy Junior: In Julie, Julie gets a new baby half-brother who is named Amaroq, after the former alpha of the wolf pack.
  • 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.
  • Faking the Dead: Her father Kapugen.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: Most editions of the book are victim to this, as seen in our picture of the cover.
  • Head Pet: Tornait the Arctic tern likes to perch on Julie's head.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All three books of the series start with the word, "Julie".
    • Julie Of The Wolves
    • Julie
    • Julie's Wolf Pack
  • Immediate Sequel: According to the author's website, Julie picks up ten minutes from where the first book left off.
  • Marital Rape License: Daniel assaults Julie because he's getting teased by other boys for having a wife and not having sex with her.
  • Missing Mom: Miyax's mother died when she was four. This is what causes her father to leave his job and take Miyax to live at a seal camp. (At least until he is convinced to have his daughter with Aunt Martha and attend school.)
  • Moral Myopia: At one point, Miyax smugly thinks to herself that Jello deserves to die because "if you're not useful to the pack, you're dead." Never mind that, by wolf standards, she's an honorary pup who will never grow up and thus will always rely on pack hunting/babysitting for survival.
  • 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. Granted, she's been starving for weeks at this point.
  • 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.
  • One-Word Title: The second novel, Julie, which is also a Protagonist Title, Julie being her first name.
  • Parental Abandonment: Julie's mother is dead and her father places her with relatives so he can attend school.
  • Protagonist Title:
    • Julie Of The Wolves
    • Julie
  • 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: Daniel tries to rape Julie.
  • Rule of Symbolism: On the surface, it's a book about a young girl who joins a wolf pack. Underneath is a story of a young Inuit girl coming to terms with the cultural genocide inflicted upon her people. Much as she would love to live off the land and hunt seal like Kapugen or caribou like the wolves, events beyond her control have destroyed their way of life so much that both she and Kapugen have to adopt Westernized customs — like going to school and domesticating oxen — to survive.
  • Shoo the Dog: Almost literally. Miyax has to make the wolves leave at the end so they won't follow her to human territory and be killed.
  • Sleeps in the Nude: Miyax, who always strips before climbing into her sleeping skin. This endangers her late in the story when Jello steals her pack just as she's waking up ... while most of her clothes are in a separate bag, the pack contains her boots, which are vital to her survival.
  • That Man Is Dead: When Miyax leaves town, she declares "Julie is dead; I am Miyax now."
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: Miyax, the name given to Julie at birth.
  • Truth in Television: The Inuit and many other indigenous peoples all over the world really have undergone decades or even centuries of cultural genocide.
  • Tuckerization: Miyax names Amaroq's son after her father Kapugen, though she calls him "Kapu" for short. In the sequel Julie, Miyax names a new female pup after her pen pal Amy.
  • Xenofiction: Predominantly in Julie's Wolf Pack, which is told from the perspective of the wolves.