Theme of uncertainty in the Wolf Brother series

Garrett writes…

Why did you intertwine the theme of uncertainty into the Wolf Brother books, where the main characters are always confronting the unknown and the dangers of the forest, without any warning or certainty of events?

I recall the brief dialogue between Fin-kedinn and Torak in the book Oath Breaker, in the beginning of chapter 39, pg.231, on the idea of accepting uncertainty.

The uncertainty of events/nature seems to me to be a core tenant or theme in the series, and is a strong antagonistic force to the hero's cast in their journey, often eclipsing the efforts made by the villains themselves, yet just as easily becoming the villain's downfall.

I think this is what makes the series so good, as a reader I never know what to expect next, or how certain elements will intertwine their meanings into the story's resolution. Even the most powerful characters are yielded to the circumstances which they are powerless to influence, towards nature's unpredictability, and often towards the will of their own people, adding to a already endless struggle of righting the wrongs of the past and fighting against malevolent forces, or just for survival. The character's mistakes are often impossible to fix and become part of the character's growing maturity, which I think is great for character development and the story's moral theme.

That idea has stuck with me, as I reflect onto current world events, and from what I have read of philosophy.
So I must also ask:
– What influenced you to use this theme of uncertainty, and is it deliberate in the design of the plot?
– What helps you to deal with uncertainty, in our current times? What helps you to voluntarily confront uncertainty to then take action?
– What would you recommend for other people to read from literature or history, that would help people accept uncertainty?
– Are there any books which you hold favor that uses the opposite theme in them, instead of having constant uncertainty, the narrative provokes a theme of certainty, which the protagonists attempts to overcome in their own way? (As I would associate in dystopian books, or example)

Personal notes:
Thank you for writing this series, I first read both Wolf brother and Spirit Walker at a very young age, at around 6 to 7 years old. And I actually remember asking the school library (2-3 years later) for the books in the series, but they could not find the ones I had read previously, and I had forgotten the names of the books by then. I was dissapointed for a while, apparently enough to keep it in the back of my mind many years later. I finally re-found the name of the book in my early twenties while doing a internet search trying to pin it down, and have since read the entire series.

I must admit it is somewhat eerie looking back in retrospect to notice how reading those books at such an early age effected my mental attitude towards nature and how I tended to silently reflect on people's sociability in terms of tribal-social affairs. I also remembered the plot point in Spirit Walker where Torak 'spirit walks' into a fish or seal, which was one of the most intriguing aspects of any book I read at that time, which as a kid was the most creative thing I had come across at that point in my life.

I must admit that re-reading Wolf Brother's plot decades later made the hook/sinker effect at the beginning less effective overall, but still the best I have ever read, and the ending to that book felt rushed and less than what it could have been. But re-reading Spirit Walker and the remaining books in the series more than made up for that.

My society is in desperate need of a return to nature, great stories, and heroic figures to look up towards. I appreciate that you helped to fill such a gap in my life, as in many others. And in my case, that goes twice over. Thank you, for helping bring people's attention to a better narrative, and into a different world.

Michelle Replies…

Dear Garrett, I’m so pleased that you’ve enjoyed the books, both as a child and adult, and thank you for such heartfelt and perceptive comments.  For me, themes tend to arise naturally, without conscious thought, and I don’t realise what they are until I’m well into the writing.  I think uncertainty forms such a big part of the Wolf Brother stories because uncertainty is inherent in the natural world, and hunter-gatherers know that.  Indeed, they’re probably more aware of it than we are.  This was obvious to me from the start, when, to make Torak’s world real, I began to research the ways of life of people who (at least until recently) still lived in traditional ways, such as Indigenous Australians, the Inuit, certain Native American peoples, and the Ainu of Japan.

You also asked what helps me deal with uncertainty, and that’s much harder to answer.  I suppose like most people, I try to impose order on what I can around me – such as my house, my work and so on – while trying to accept that most of life is beyond my control.  It’s not easy and I often fail and have to try again.  But that’s just life.  As for books about this, I’ve never liked stories with messages, or ones that make things too cut and dried.  When I was a teenager, and subsequently, the novels of Dostoyevsky helped me, because for me they show how mixed peoples’ motivations can be, and how essentially unknowable each person is.  They’re also terrific stories.  I hope this helps a bit, and thank you for asking a question which I don’t think I’ve ever been asked before.  I’m also delighted that you mentioned the scene when Torak spirit walks in the seal, as that was one of my favourite passages to write.   With very best wishes, Michelle