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The story of Two Old Women is a persuasive fable that tells about a tribe trying to survive in snow-capped Alaska. The action is set in the earliest times when the Europeans had not set foot in America and the only tribes that inhabit the Americas and Alaska in particular are the cannibal nomadic tribes. The book is a story of survival in a harsh environment without the benefit of technology as well as a story of family, trust and forgiveness.
The story begins in one cold winter when a nomadic family chooses to leave behind two old women as the tribe moves on in search of food. The leader does this in order to make the tribe more conformable to the living environment and thus increase the chances of survival because staying with the old women would make it more difficult for the group to travel and hunt.. Once the announcement has been made, the daughter of one of the women gives her mother an elk’s skin and leaves with the rest of the group. The tribe moves on to seek after better living conditions.
When left in the harsh snowy environment to die there, the women decide that they would die fighting for their lives and survive for as long as they can. One of the women kills a squirrel with a hatchet that was given to her by her grandson as he left with the rest of the tribe. They make a good meal of broth and revitalize themselves with it. This gives them more energy and hope of fighting for survival. They set animal traps and go to sleep, having made a shelter from animal skins and snow. The following day the women are woken up by squeal of animals that tells them that they were lucky with their traps. There were two rabbits caught in the traps which provide them with food for more days as they continue to fight for survival. They decide to look for better places to spend the winter in as the places they are in would not be habitable if the weather is colder. They make snowshoes from animal skin to help them cross the snow-laden landscape. Throughout their journey, they continue hunting, preying for even bigger animals every time. Finally they arrive to the banks of a river where their tribe hunted successfully some time ago. They set a camp here and go in for fishing, and as it is summer, they manage to catch a lot of fish. They preserve the fish by smoking and drying them for future use, realizing that time will come when there will not be enough food, for example in winter.
However, as they stay there, they must be careful so as not to be spotted by some people from other tribes for fear of being cannibalized. They live a happy life here and have enough food and a comfortable shelter in summer, having survived a harsh winter and traveled to a better place in the snow-covered lands.
During the same summer, the tribe returns to the lands where they had left the two old women in winter. They find out that there are no signs of the women or their remains. Therefore the leader of the tribe concludes that they must have survived the winter and so they can tell how they endured such harsh conditions and teach the tribe how to do it.
The leader sends a tracker together with a few men to go and trace the two old women and bring them back. However, it turns out that the two women don’t want to leave with the men. The tracker finally convinces them that the tribe means no harm to them and while the women don’t leave with them at first, they give the food they have been preserving and hoarding to the tracker and bid him go and give it to the folks who are already starving. Eventually, the two women visit the tribe but the daughter who gave her mother a skin is ashamed to see her mother at first but later she does.