The novel begins somewhere in the frozen tundra. Two men, Bill and Henry, are out in the wild with their dog sled team. However, their team is rapidly dwindling because the wolves, which are experiencing a famine, are preying upon them. The men have run out of ammunition, and are left with only three bullets. Bill tries to save one of the dogs from the wolves, but misses his shot. The wolves not only kill the dog, but also kill and eat Bill. Henry is then left alone in the wilderness with just the two dogs. He builds a fire to keep the wolves away, but they continue to come closer, and it appears that Henry is going to suffer the same fate as Bill. However, a group of men who pass nearby saves Henry.
The novel then changes perspective to the wolves. They are suffering from a famine. A she-wolf is one of the leaders of the wolf pack, and she is instrumental in luring away sled dogs so that the wolves could feed upon them. She breeds with a wolf named One Eye after he kills his two rivals, and has a litter, but only one pup, White Fang, survives. It is then revealed that the she-wolf is named Kiche and is not actually a wolf, but a wolf-dog hybrid. Moreover, she has a master, though their relationship is not a benevolent one. When she comes close to his village, Grey Beaver, her master, catches her. He does not manage to catch White Fang, but White Fang stays nearby.
When Grey Beaver sells Kiche to someone else, White Fang attempts to follow her, but Grey Beaver beats him severely, forcing White Fang to stay with him. Without his mother there, the other animals take advantage of White Fang and bully him. The most vicious of the bullies is a dog named Lip-lip. Grey Beaver does not protect White Fang from the other dogs, but capitalizes on the viciousness the other dogs evoke in him. White Fang begins to kill other dogs, and Grey Beaver encourages his vicious behavior. White Fang’s vicious tendencies bring him to the attention of Beauty Smith, a cruel man who engages in dog fighting for money.
Grey Beaver has a drinking problem, and Beauty Smith uses...
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