Eriklook and the Wolves


Eriklook huddled close behind the oil stove. The canvas walls of the tent flapped in and out with a sharp snapping sound as the Arctic wind blew fiercely outside.

Quiet as a lemming, the Eskimo boy listened from his hiding place as the men talked. They were herders who guarded the village reindeer against danger. Ahsanna, the chief herdsman, had called them to his tent for a special meeting.

“I saw wolf tracks this morning,” Ahsanna was saying. “We must keep a careful watch.”

“Aye,” agreed the herdsmen.

“One wolf can do much damage,” observed Saganna, “but many wolves could destroy the herd.” He was a great hunter and knew much about the cunning ways of the wolf.

The herdsmen were worried. Reindeer were the main source of food for their village, and any threat to them was a serious matter.

“We could put up a scarecrow to help keep the wolves away,” suggested Sovalik, a younger herdsman.

“No,” said Ahsanna, “the wolves are smart. They would probably chew the scarecrow to pieces.”

The thought of this made Eriklook giggle. Suddenly the men became still, and all eyes turned toward the stove where he was hiding.

“Young boys do not have the right to laugh at the talk of men,” Ahsanna said loudly. “Come out and explain yourself, boy!”

Eriklook crept from behind the stove. He tried to talk, but he was so frightened he could only stutter.

“You must leave the tent,” ordered Ahsanna sternly, “and return to the village. Because you have done wrong, you will not be allowed to visit the herd again until permission is granted.”

Eriklook sadly left the tent without saying a word. Outside he made his way toward the reindeer for one last look.

There were several hundred animals of all ages and sizes in the herd. Eriklook liked to watch them as they grazed. The animals were thin, but by fall they would be fat again.

It’s a wonder, thought Eriklook, that there is enough grass to go around. The reindeer eat continuously!

As Eriklook turned and started for the village, he suddenly caught a glimpse of a flash of gray. Then he saw another and another. A large band of wolves was coming across the Arctic prairie.

Eriklook knew they must be driven off at once or they would harm the herd.

He quickly grabbed his wolf chaser from his parka pocket and began whirling it as he ran toward the herd. The chaser was made from a piece of whalebone about ten inches long and one-inch thick. There were notches cut along both edges, and a sealskin thong was attached to one end.

As he ran through the center of the reindeer straight toward the wolves, Eriklook whirled the wolf chaser above his head in a circle so that it made a loud humming sound. The noise hurt the ears of the wolves so they stopped moving.

“Get away!” shouted Eriklook. “Get away!”

But the big fierce-looking animals growled and flattened their ears to show they weren’t afraid. Then they began to creep on their bellies toward the boy and the herd.

Eriklook was frightened, but he didn’t dare turn away. The pack would be on him in seconds if he turned his back. He continued moving toward the wolves, whirling his wolf chaser until it sang.

“Go away!” he shouted. “Get out of here!”

The wolves circled, baffled and uneasy. Snarling, they retreated a little.

This gave Eriklook courage.

“Go!” he commanded. “Go!”

Suddenly a shot boomed out from behind the boy, and the wolves fled across the tundra and were soon out of sight behind the low hummocks.

“Well,” exclaimed Ahsanna, lowering his gun, “I don’t think they will return for quite a while.”

He caught Eriklook under the arms and swung him around.

“Because of your bravery you have saved many reindeer,” he said. “Without your shouts we would not have known the wolves were here until it was too late.”

The chief herdsman looked at his helpers who had gathered around.

“Eriklook was punished because he foolishly broke a rule,” said Ahsanna, “but what about us? We too were foolish for leaving the herd unguarded. I think we have all learned a lesson today!”

“Aye,” they said, nodding their heads at the boy.

Ahsanna looked at Eriklook and smiled. “We all thank you for what you have done for us today,” he said. “And soon you can visit the herd again!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robert Everton