Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Book Review: White Fang, by Jack London

A savage half-breed conquers his tribe, is enslaved and tamed by the white man, and falls in love with a real bitch.

White Fang

, 1905, 224 pages

In the desolate, frozen northwest of Canada, a lone wolf fights a heroic daily fight for life in the wild. But after he is captured and cruelly abused by men, he becomes a force of pure rage. Only one man sees inside the killer to his intelligence and nobility. But can his kindness touch White Fang?

I never read White Fang as a kid, but I would have liked it. While Jack London wasn't writing primarily for children, it's very much a Boy's Adventure sort of novel, especially nowadays, when Alaska is no longer quite the unimaginable alien wilderness it was in London's day, and wolves are mostly consigned to lurking at the borders of civilization, and regarded more with pity (when not being exterminated) than fear. So the story of this half-dog, half-wolf who started out as an Indian sled dog and winds up the happy housepet of a judge in California reads as a quaint adventure from a bygone time.

White Fang tells the story of a wolf-dog born wild but eventually captured by an Alaskan Indian tribe and made to lead a sled. White Fang is the fiercest and most savage of his pack, and learns to fight and survive with greater cunning and skill than any of his kind. London imparts a great deal of willfulness and reasoning to White Fang that is probably more than could actually be attributed to a canine, but it reads almost believably, as if you're getting into the actual mind of this fierce, intelligent, savage creature who isn't quite a person and not quite fully sapient, but still has a definite personality and memories and motivations.

In many ways, White Fang is a Conan-like hero. He's a singular specimen of his kind, raised on hardship and brutality, genetically gifted, destined to become the most fearsome warrior in the land. He defeats dogs and wolves alike. He spends some time forced to become a fighting dog, at the hands of a particularly brutal white man, before he is taken by another white man who manages to earn his trust and loyalty and eventually (and improbably) bend him to domesticated life in sunny California.

White Fang's adventures are high-spirited and often bloody, but even when White Fang is being a real son-of-a-bitch, you're always rooting for the dog.

Also by Jack London: My reviews of The Call of the Wild and The Scarlet Plague.

My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: books, jack london, reviews

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