Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Touching Spirit Bear can help.
At.óow Symbol Icon

The blanket (at.óow in the Tlingit language) that Garvey gives to Cole represents trust and friendship. As Garvey explains, according to Alaskan culture, no one truly owns an at.óow; it’s tribal property, and whoever possesses it is merely a caretaker of the object. Giving his at.óow to Cole is a major demonstration of trust on Garvey’s part, especially since there’s little evidence at this early stage that Cole is worthy of that trust. At this point, Cole sees the at.óow as a symbol of his overbearing caregivers. However, during Cole’s long recovery after he’s attacked by the Spirit Bear, the at.óow begins to take on new meaning for him. While Garvey seemed overbearing at first, now, Cole welcomes Garvey’s care and concern. Especially during Cole’s second stint on the island, the at.óow serves as a reminder that Cole has people in his life who love him, care about him, and want him to succeed. Paying their care forward by giving the at.óow to Peter at the end of the novel represents the boys’ shift to becoming friends who care about each other.

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At.óow Symbol Timeline in Touching Spirit Bear

The timeline below shows where the symbol At.óow appears in Touching Spirit Bear. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
...head back to the shelter. Garvey offers Cole a small bundle. He says it’s called at.óow: it’s a blanket that’s been handed down in Garvey’s family for generations. Nobody owns it—the... (full context)
Chapter 3
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
...looks away and stops laughing when the fire starts to slow down. He notices the at.óow is unharmed and flings it toward the fire before heading for the shore. No one... (full context)
Chapter 5
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Cole catches sight of the at.óow when he turns back around. It’s still not burnt. Cole throws it around his shoulders... (full context)
Chapter 7
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
...or Edwin and Garvey will return to check on him. Cole settles in under the at.óow to watch the tide, though it’s hard to see given the weather. (full context)
Chapter 9
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
...it does nothing for the pain. Exhausted, he finally falls asleep and dreams of the at.óow. (full context)
Chapter 10
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
...his right arm. His arm, however, is covered in mosquitos. Cole wishes he had the at.óow for protection, but he doesn’t know where it is. Cole sleeps, and when he wakes... (full context)
Chapter 12
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...his eyes: the island is gone. There’s a blanket over him, but it’s not the at.óow. He realizes he’s in the bottom of Edwin’s boat and that Garvey is leaning over... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...clean him up and tuck him in. When Cole opens his eyes, looking for the at.óow, Garvey and Edwin step forward. Garvey says plainly that the fallen tree must’ve gotten Cole,... (full context)
Chapter 13
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...Rosey, the best and only nurse in Drake. When Cole shivers, Garvey passes Rosey the at.óow. Rosey rejects it because it’s wet, but Cole grabs at it. He then grabs Garvey’s... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...morning, Rosey gives him another painkiller and brings a bag of Cole’s clothes with the at.óow on the top. Edwin arrives with two boys Cole’s age to help carry Cole to... (full context)
Chapter 14
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...At the detention center, the guard escorts Cole and his small duffel bag—which contains the at.óow—to a room. Cole hangs up the at.óow as a reminder and wonders if he can... (full context)
Chapter 20
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...special supper to celebrate Edwin and Garvey’s last night. He even makes biscuits, spreads the at.óow over a plywood table, and lights a candle. When they’re done eating, Cole hands out... (full context)
Chapter 23
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
...That night, he builds a huge outdoor fire, cooks his spaghetti ceremonially, and uses the at.óow as a tablecloth. Cole thinks that tonight is special—tonight, he’ll dance the dance of anger.... (full context)
Chapter 26
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...and explains how Garvey taught him that life is a hot dog. He spreads the at.óow on the table to make it a feast. Everyone but Peter eats. Peter blurts out... (full context)
Chapter 28
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...is a bit nervous, but he agrees, and Garvey lets them go. Cole slips the at.óow into his backpack and leads Peter along. Peter follows angrily. At the pond, Cole holds... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...themselves, which allowed them to become invisible and see the Spirit Bear. Cole pulls the at.óow out of his backpack and explains its significance. He says he trusts Peter and hopes... (full context)