As winter snows encase our homes and icy winds sculpt the landscape, I am reminded of my favorite book as a child. Julie Of The Wolves was written by Jean Craighead George, published in 1972, and was the winner of the Newbery Medal. It is an incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking tale about survival on the arctic tundra, communion with nature and wolves, and the death of the Eskimo culture as the ways of the world change.
Miyax, or Julie as she is known in English, is an orphaned Eskimo lost on the arctic tundra after fleeing a child marriage. She knows she cannot survive the barren tundra unless she somehow convinces the nearby wolf pack to give her food as they would one of their own. Throughout her trials and travels, she remembers the old Eskimo ways and sees the impact of civilization on the wild land and on her beloved wolf pack. This story about culture, survival, nature, and civilization all culminates into a question of where she belongs in this new, ever-changing world. Is she Julie of the wolves, Miyax of the Eskimos, or someone else entirely?
Book Group Questions
- Even though she is human, the wolves consider Miyax to be one of their pups. And even though she is Eskimo, Julie adopts a more modern, American persona when living with her aunt. Describe the changes seen in Miyax and how they are caused by those she lives with and her environment?
- Even though wolves are animals, we see how the members of Julie’s wolf pack show personality and are like a family to her. Besides helping her survive in the wild, what impact do the wolves have on Miyax’s life?
- Miyax has many expectations for her future which all turn out differently than she hoped for: her child marriage with Daniel, her dreams of going to San Francisco, and her hopes in restoring her life with Kapugen. How have your own expectations for life showed different results, why, and how are your experiences similar to Julie’s?
- At the end of the story, Julie says that “the hour of the wolf and the Eskimo is over.” What are your thoughts about this? Is she giving up hope or changing with the tides?