Island of the Blue Dolphins Chapter 26

Instructor: Ian Matthews

Ian teaches college writing and has a Master's in Writing and Publishing

In Chapter 26 of ''Island of the Blue Dolphins'', Karana mourns the loss of her beloved Rontu. To ease her loss, she attempts different ways of capturing a new companion. Here's how it all happens.

Winter of Sadness

The winter after Rontu's death, Karana tells us she barely leaves the house at all. She's got plenty of food stored up, so she doesn't have to go down to gather abalone at the reef -- and even if Rontu was still around, the winter brings storms that are too violent to paddle the canoe in. All Karana really leaves the house for is to get fresh water.

Instead, she spends her time making a few snares, or rope traps. The wild dogs get pretty brave without Rontu standing guard over Karana's house, approaching the fence fairly often. Among them is a younger dog. He's got Rontu's shaggy fur, he's big like Rontu was, he runs gracefully like Rontu did, and he's even got the yellow eyes. Karana is certain that this little guy is Rontu's son, and she's determined to catch him.

Setting Snares

Later in the winter, the storms settle down, and Karana starts setting the snares out to catch the dogs. She snares a few of the regular dogs, but she's still afraid to keep them around -- she lets them go. When she baits the next set of snares with fish, she has no luck. The dogs are smart enough to stay away.

Karana does catch a little fox, which she gives some fish. The fox hangs around for a little while, but she steals too much food to be a permanent companion. Karana sets her free in the ravine nearby, and the fox is content just to come and visit occasionally. In the meantime, Karana's thinking about other ways to catch the son of Rontu.

Dog Drugs

Karana remembers a weed called toluache. Her tribe used the weed to catch fish. It's a sedative, not a poison, and Karana thinks it might knock the dogs out so she can sneak in and grab Rontu's son. She harvests some of it and drops it into the dogs' watering hole, but nothing happens after they drink it. Back to the drawing board.

There's another thing her tribe used to do that might help, she remembers. The men of the tribe used to drink a concoction called xuchal, made by grinding seashells and wild tobacco and soaking the mixture in water. Yes, she's going to get the dogs drunk. Karana dumps a batch of xuchal into the dogs' water; they drink it, and they all suddenly go to sleep. Karana sneaks in and grabs the dog and takes him back to her house.

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