Wolf Quest = Vision Quest?

Wolf Quest = Vision Quest?

We all know that the mood and story of Balto II had a mystical connection to the Native Inuit people of Alaska, but do you know how similar Aleu's search of self really was to an actual vision quest?

The film "Balto II: Wolf Quest" followed the story of the heroic half-wolf Balto and his wolfish daughter Aleu as they discovered and learned of their proud, wild heritage, as we as Balto fanatics all know far too well. However, the main theme of this tale isn't just about accepting your destiny and reminding overprotective parents to let go of their children as they grow - the journey of discovery seems to be the more obvious theme, which is perfectly set within a world where the native peoples believe in the mysterious spirits of nature and the importance of a normal ritual in most Native American society - the vision quest.


Vision quests are considered as a common rite of passage for young members of a tribe or a group of Native Americans. The normal age for a person to go on one of these quests is usually around their preteens – probably around twelve or thirteen – but sometimes the spirits of the tribe may tell children as young as five to be summoned to intake this most important task. During these journeys, the person travels alone in the wilderness, leaving all family behind until they receive a vision of their guardian spirit, a creature or a person that will guide and assist the receiver for the rest of its life. They will possibly go without eating or drinking for days (they would have prepared themselves for this prior to setting off on their quest) and cannot return back to their home until they have met their guardian spirit in a vision. If they decide to eat while in the wilderness and they have yet to receive their vision and guardian spirit, they must return home immediately and wait a year before attempting another vision quest. The results of the person's visions or dreams during his or her quest may show that they are meant to do or be something great - like becoming a mighty warrior or future chief - or that they have special power - like to become the next shaman or medicine person within their tribe. Boys may have a ceremony once they return home to their tribes to receive a name more suited to the results of his vision quest, just like a young man could be given a powerful warrior name that better fits his achievements in combat or his personality at any time. Because of this, boys may go on many vision quests throughout his lifetime and receive numerous names; unlike boys, girls will usually maintain their birth name after returning from a vision quest, but depending on the situation and the vision, they may receive a new name to reflect their spirit or the meaning of their vision. Girls in some areas also go on vision quests themselves, but there are some tribes that limit vision quests to boys only.


This relates a lot to the events of "Wolf Quest" - not just because of the obvious thing that they are both quests.


Aleu, Balto and Jenna's daughter and the main focus of this story, runs away from home angrily after learning the truth that she is actually part-wolf and that, unlike her brothers and sisters, she looks more like a wolf as well. She naturally goes out into the wilderness without a clue of where she was headed. After many hours of traveling and thankfully having a moment of rest inside a mountain cave, she meets a small but wise mouse named Muru that teaches her that knowing what she is ("I am Aleu, daughter of Balto and Jenna . . .") is completely different that knowing who she is, but soon he vanishes into thin air and all seems as if it was only a dream. Her father catches up with her, and despite her seriousness of wanting to discover her true purpose in life ("I know what I am but not who I am, and I'm not stopping until I find out . . ."), Balto is willing to join her on her search. Before they can settle their unsteady relationship, she scuffles with a pack of wolves and after understanding the wolf pack's problem and the solution, she ends up realizing that she is meant to be the one to lead them to where the caribou herds have traveled to ( “ . . . but I do belong here – it’s my destiny.”).



Many of the events of 'Wolf Quest' resemble the ritual of the vision quest:


- Going into the wilderness on a journey:

Both Balto and Aleu do this - Aleu goes to be away from the protective eye of her father after she learns that she is part-wolf because of his mixed blood, and eventually Balto goes off into the wilderness to find her once her scent becomes detectable. Throughout their separate journeys, both Father and Daughter learned something about themselves, although they probably wouldn’t have realized it; when she met Muru, Aleu learned more about the wolf that was inside her through her singing and actions, while Balto was more focused on finding Aleu instead of just bringing her back to Nome. However, the only difference with this journey to the vision quests is that vision quests are meant to be journeys taken alone; when the bear attacks Aleu, Balto helps fight it off and soon joins her on her own quest. I don’t know whether the spirits of the Native Americans would punish those that don’t follow the rules of the vision quest, but I guess we’ll never really know.



- Meeting the spirit guardian:

When Aleu awakens inside a cave, she is drawn to Muru, a small mouse, and his sheet of prism crystals. Using them, he explains the basics of spirit guides to the quarter-wolf, although she is naturally curious by his knowledge. Eventually, through song and images, Aleu (as well as the viewers) is told of her destiny . . . but it’s up to her to interpret what she has learned from her guide to discover what she is supposed to do and how to learn who she is. Perhaps this is why Muru doesn’t answer her once things return to normal – spiritual guardians probably can say so much without interfering with the flow of one’s destiny. During this short amount of time with Muru, she grows wiser beyond her years, despite Balto’s memories of Aleu being young and naïve, and although she doesn’t start to show it until near the film’s climax, Aleu transforms into quite a strong heroine when she chooses to be brave.


- Having a vision:

During their first night with Nava's wolf pack, someone has a dream of the caribou crossing the ice across the water to another land - at first, we think it's Balto's dream, but Aleu awakens because of it as her father remains asleep. Apparently this is one of her first longer and more clearer visions of caribou crossing the water, for she had caught a glimpse of caribou earlier that day when Nava was speaking with Balto on his strange dreams and what they may mean. She was more confused after the glimpse, but by the end of her longer dream, she wanted to learn more about the motives of Niju and why he thought the pack was better off where they were. Because of her visions, she grew wiser and eventually learns her purpose. Also, Nava's prior words to Balto seemed to be more toward Aleu when you think about it: "Each of us has a unique gift - perhaps your dreams show us the way."


Strangely, there is something odd: Balto also receives visions in his dreams that haunt him throughout the film, so one may think that he too is on a vision quest. I believe that this may be correct, despite the fact that Balto's visions span through over a year - from the day of his children's birth until the morning after Aleu's escape - and that he had a connection with the spirits from the get-go. As mentioned above, he did go on a search for his daughter, but he ended up meeting the spirits that were mentioned to him through his last dream after Aleu ran away.


- A new name:

Or in this case, a title . . . because Aleu chose on her own to complete the journey of the wolves. She knew that Nava lacked the strength to swim to the pack (also because he told her this after she offered to help him: "Only my spirit is strong now.") and since Balto returned to save his daughter, I guess he didn't seem worthy of leading them (especially if your own child is more important than your pack). Once she realized this aloud, Nava knew his automatic judgment of Balto was wrong as well: "Aniu told me it would be the one who is wolf but does not know. I believed it was you, but I was wrong - it is your daughter." After a final farewell to her father, Aleu leaps into the water and swims to her new family and the title of Alpha that both awaited her. Although the title is not officially given to her, she still receives this new responsibility and proudly accepts it with a howling chorus once she arrives to her pack.


I suppose that by now you’re wondering: "If Balto was on a vision quest, wouldn't he have a spirit guide too? I mean, Aleu met hers in the form of Muru - why not Balto?"


He did - I believe that the white wolf Aniu was actually his spirit guardian. She leads him to the different animal spirits (which she was seen the most often as the Raven, but also she was most likely all of the other animals he encountered - the Fox, the Wolverines and the Bear) to test his strength and willingness to press onward to find his child. Several times in the film, Balto tells the spirits exactly what he wanted: "How did you know I was looking for my daughter?" - Balto to the Fox; "I'm afraid for my daughter, and I have to find her - so get out of my way!" - Balto to the Wolverines; "Okay, but only if you help me find my daughter." - Balto to the Raven - and each time, they helped him by drawing him closer and closer to where they would eventually meet.


I also feel that she actually meant for him to reunite with Aleu, but he was not meant to follow her the entire way – just like it was shown in his dreams, he was constantly blocked off by an ice barrier. Perhaps that is why the ice bridge was created - to allow Balto to remain in his world with the rest of his family and the life that he chose (because we all know, Balto could have probably followed the wolf roots from his mother instead of the dog-sledding genes from his father when he was young) and let Aleu realize and accept the fate that was meant for her by going on where he could not. And in the end, of course, Balto learned that Aniu was his mother, the one with the same warm voice that he had remembered when he was young (as well as the voice he heard in both his dream describing the animal totems that he would meet and once he eventually encountered each spirit), as well as the dark Raven that he and Aleu had seen both in dreams and reality.


In conclusion, the writers of “Wolf Quest” may not have meant for the story to have so much more  than just the journey of Father and Daughter following their wild heritage in the Alaskan wilderness. However, we as fans can no longer deny the obvious similarities with the Native American ritual of the “vision quest,” as well as the many other Inuit cultural notes and facts that lie right underneath our noses - but alas, those things will have to wait until the next article . . .



Screenshots - taken by Juuchan17

Information about Vision Quests from the book,'North American Indian Ceremonies' by Karen Liptak

(Article written 4/16-17/08 by Juuchan17)

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July 01, 2010
Usa Female Is not currently on the site
Alaskan Spirits Omega
WOW!! What an amazing and moving article! It really makes you think y'know...:howl:

March 17, 2010
Is not currently on the site
Awsome article!!!!!!!!!! :wink:

November 16, 2009
Is not currently on the site
When I first watched the 2nd balto, I said "interesting movie". but when I read this article, I watched wolf quest again seeing it in a different look on my face. This made me feel like that I was watching it the first time again, But with a AMAZED look. I felt like you changed the effects of what i thought about the movie. Nice find!

January 15, 2009
Usa Is not currently on the site
The MCR-my!
That was very interesting! I never really studied Native Americans so much, but that was a good find! I don't really believe in all those Native American Gods and stuff, but whatever ░x░ Cool article!

November 24, 2008
Usa Female Is not currently on the site
wow cool good article.wolf quest is cool i like balto movies

May 25, 2008
Female Is not currently on the site
I agree 1000%.
Genetics is a crazy thing, but is it possible
Aleu could have gotten her marks from Balto's father, or Jenna's
parents? We don't know who they are, and huskies in the movie have
that marking, the nose bridge?...(Dusty, Kaltag, even though he's not
really a husky.)

May 04, 2008
Female Is not currently on the site
love it, it is 100% true. Even though I am not finished reading, I
know it is great! LOve how it is long and explains everything clear
and straight.

May 08, 2008
Usa Male Is not currently on the site
I have never seen anyone make any connections like this before, but it
does make sense.

May 03, 2008
Uk Male Is not currently on the site
I would like to point out that Aniu was his mother. And gatherd from
here she must of been mother and sprit guide. Because at the end they
say. "Only The way Home my son" "Aniu your my.." Than Aniu nodded than
dissappeard "GoodBye Mother" And that was the end of that.

April 30, 2008
Usa Is not currently on the site
Say wut?
I'd read about those "vision quests" some, but I never thought about
it pertaining to Balto 2! Great article!!

April 23, 2008
Usa Female Is not currently on the site
WQ > Balto > WoC
Gemmawolf: You're very welcome! I actually enjoy WQ more than the
other two. I at least try to give credit to the better qualities of
WQ instead of the bloopers, inconsistencies and the such, so I'm glad
I'm not the only one that think WQ needs more love.

DariusWolf: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed reading it!

halfbloodwolf93: Yeah, I think so too. WQ had promise to be a
worthy sequel, but you have to give the story development team some
credit for trying! (IMO, WoC lacked the riskiness of WQ . . . and that
is why it failed a bit. WQ, however, tried something new and despite
not-up-to-par animation and flaws, I believe it succeeded where WoC
did not.) Thanks for reading!

- Juuchan17

April 23, 2008
Usa Female Is not currently on the site
WQ > Balto > WoC
Rhapsody: I guess so. Genetics is a crazy thing. Look at Aleu - she
looks nothing like Jenna and nothing like Balto, but she has both of
them in her. But good point there.

Ileu: Thanks. Well, I
think the method of Vision Quest that you're talking about is a
specific tribe's version. The info I got from the book I used only
described them generally, but I suppose each group of Native Americans
have their own way of discovery their purposes in life. Glad you
enjoyed it!

Wolf_Bassist: Neither would I. She just
didn't know, that's all (but then again, neither did Balto . . . and
he's more wolf than Aleu is!). Cut her some slack, right? XD

April 21, 2008
Brazil Male Is not currently on the site
very good point, but i think it would have been more evident in the
movie if Universal had really worked hard on it. they didn't take it

April 21, 2008
Panama Male Is not currently on the site
Democratic Change
It has logical points. Ok it looks like its accurate. Good Job

April 20, 2008
Uk Female Is not currently on the site
FANTASTIC! Many of us think that wolf quest was one of theose soppy
films with bad songs and no interesting meaning. We were so wrong.
Thanks for pointing that out.

April 20, 2008
Is not currently on the site
It would not surprise me at all if what Aleu went on really was a
vision quest.

April 20, 2008
Is not currently on the site
Yup, you are right. But a Vison Quest is when you stay in ne spot in
the forest for 3 days, without food or water. And you have to stay in
the same exact place. Then, you are soppesd to see your totem animal.
Wierd, yes, but I loved how you pointed that out!

April 19, 2008
Is not currently on the site
Wow! That was very interesting. I think you're 100% right. But, is it
possible for one puppy to look more like their father instead of their
mother? Great article.

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