Study Guide Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

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The Island of the Blue Dolphins is named after the island which is its setting. This island is also named San Nicholas. It is one of the Channel Islands, which are located just off the coast of California near Los Angeles. It is sixty-one miles from the California shore. The story takes place between 1835 and 1853.


Major Characters

A twelve year old Ghalas-at Indian girl at the beginning of the story. She is really the only main character. Through much of the tale she is the only person on the island. She has another name, Won-a-pa-lei. That means "The Girl with the Long Black Hair." Karana is her secret name, not often used. Although it is not often used in her community, it is the name the author uses as he relates to us her story.

Minor Characters

Chief Chowig
Karana's father. He is also chief of the Ghalas-at. The Ghalas-at is the tribe to which the people on the Island of the Blue Dolphins belong.

Captain Orlov
The Russian captain who arrives with the Aleuts to hunt for sea otters at the beginning of the story.

Karana's sister. She is unmarried. She is two years older than Karana.

The man who replaced Chief Chowig as the leader. He is very old, but respected.

Took Kimki's place leading the Ghalas-at when Kimki left to get help.

Brought a message to the group from Matasaip. He relayed to the Ghalas-at the news of the arrival of the ship that would remove the Ghalas-at from the island. Ulape was in love with him.

Karana's younger brother, only half her age. He is small for for a six-year-old, quick and frequently foolish. He is difficult to control. When he is the only male remaining on the island, he calls himself Chief Tanyositlopai. After he causes himself and Karana to be stranded on the island, he, with his belief that he is invincible, goes to get a canoe from the place that the tribe hid them, and is attacked by wild dogs. Although he kills two of them, he is also killed.

She is an Aleut girl who came with a ship of Aleuts hunting sea otters. She and Karana could not speak each other's language, but still enjoyed being together. She is friendly. She agreed with Karana that Rontu was Karana’s dog, even though Rontu had originally been left by the Aleut ship. She did not take the other Aleuts to see Karana.

Father Gonzales
He was at Mission Santa Barbara when Karana arrived there after being rescued.

Minor Characters - Animals

He was left on the island by the Aleuts. He became the leader of the wild dogs on the island and was their leader at the time of the killing of Ramo. Later, after Karana shot him and then helped him back to health, he became Karana's friend and companion. Rontu, the name she gave him when they became friends, means "Fox Eyes." He was grey and had yellow eyes.

He was obviously Rontu's son. Karana befriended him after Rontu died.

Was an otter who was injured by the Aleut hunters. Karana cared for her and, at first, named her Mon-a-nee, the masculine version of Won-a-nee. But, she changed her name when she found her nursing baby otters.

Minor characters - “The underworld”

One of two gods that ruled the world and quarreled. He wished people to die. He went down to another world taking his belongings. According to the story, because of this, people die. (See additional note below, after the Mukat entry.)

The other of the two gods who ruled the world and quarreled. He did not wish people to die. (See additional note below)

Note: These two gods, Tumaiyowit and Mukat, were in the beliefs of other California Indian tribes beside Karana’s tribe.

Character Groups

The Ghalas-at
The tribe that inhabited the island at the beginning of the story. It was Karana’s tribe. She thought of it as her tribe even when, at the end of the book, she was heading toward the mainland, not knowing that she was the only surviving member.

The Aleuts
The Aleuts originated on islands off the coast of Alaska called the Aleutian Islands. Russians had come to their islands about a century before Karana’s time. By Karana’s time, the Russians were in control of the Aleuts. Rather than using Russian hunters, the Russians used Aleut hunters. This was because the Aleuts were very good hunters. (Also, see additional information in Literary/Historical Information section.)

The white men
This is the term used by Karana to describe her tribe’s rescuers and her future rescuers. It refers to the men from the mainland and includes the men from the mission.


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