White Fang
Jack London
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Part 2 - Chapter 4

As the cub's mother begins to leave the cave regularly to hunt, he knows he cannot leave. His mother taught him well, and he will not go near the wall of light. Besides his mother's punishments, he is beginning to feel fear. "Thus it was that in obedience to the law laid down by his mother, and in obedience to the law of that unknown and nameless thing, fear, he kept away from the mouth of the cave." Part 2, Chapter 4, pg.51

When is mother is gone, he sleeps. While lying there, he hears the cry of a wolverine. Although he doesn't know what the sound is, he knows it is terrible, and hides out of instinct. He is relieved when his mother returns.

"But there were other forces at work in the cub, the greatest of which was growth. Instinct and law demanded of him obedience. But growth demanded disobedience....In the end, one day, fear and obedience were swept away by the rush of life, and the cub straddled and sprawled toward the entrance." Part 2, Chapter 4, pg. 52

As he leaves the cave and sees the forest around him, he is very afraid. He wants to explore, but he has lived his whole life on the level floor of the cave, and does not know what a fall is. He steps into the open air, and falls downward on the slope. When he finally reaches the bottom, he wails and licks himself. However, he soon finds that the hurt is over, and he wants again to explore.

He finds many things. He snarls at a squirrel, and meets a woodpecker and a moose-bird, who pecks at him when he approaches. He travels in a clumsy manner, running into sticks and twigs. He is not used to the pebbles and stones.

By sheer luck, he falls into a nest of ptarmigans. Walking on the trunk of a fallen tree, the rotten wood gives way, and he is in among seven chicks. He decides to eat one, and is soon attacked by the mother-ptarmigan. In his first battle, he forgets all about his fear, and attacks, biting and holding her wing. Eventually the ptarmigan stops struggling. She starts pecking him on the nose, hurting him and making him run away. As he hides in a bush, a hawk swoops down from above, barely missing him, and finally taking the ptarmigan. He is very afraid, but learns a lesson. He stays in his shelter for a long while.

The urge to hunt and explore overcomes again, and he goes looking for another ptarmigan hen. He comes across a stream and, because it looks solid, he steps out into it. It is very cold, and the water is rushing into his lungs. Finally he comes up for air, and starts swimming as if he had been taught. Going for the bank, he is swept downstream by the current, and is caught in the small rapids at the bottom of a pool. He is spit out into a second pool, where the current bears him gently to the shore.

"His conclusion was that things were not always what they appeared to be. The cub's fear of the unknown was an inherited distrust, and it had now been strengthened by experience. Thenceforth, in the nature of things, he would possess an abiding distrust of appearances." Part 2, Chapter 4, pg. 58-59

He remembers his mother, and wants to be with her. He begins to look for the cave again, and comes along a young weasel. He turns it over with his paw, and immediately feels a blow from the sharp teeth of the mother-weasel. He yelps, and the mother-weasel disappears with her young into the thicket. She returns, slowly this time, without her young. He sees her snakelike body as she comes closer and closer. Finally, she leaps and buries her teeth in his throat. He struggles a little, but is soon overcome. He can't escape, and would die. His mother then bounds through the bushes and breaks the weasel's hold on her son. She closes her jaws on its body. Nuzzling him, the she-wolf licks her son's wounds. They eat the weasel, and then go back to the cave and sleep.

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