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…the Wolf boy doesn't know about demons, does he? Doesn't even know what they are! Ah yes, the Walker can always tell. The Walker knows about them. Oh yes, Before the flint bit him, he was a wise man himself.
~ The Walker giving one of the first hints to his past as the Otter Mage Narrander.

The Walker is a recurring character in Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, which takes place 6,000 years ago in stone-age Europe. He is an insane outcast from the Otter Clan who initially appears hostile, but he ends up giving the heroes useful advice several times. He is ultimately revealed to be Narrander, a former Otter Mage who was a reluctant member of the villainous Soul Eaters until the death of his son Narik drove him insane.

Appearance

The Walker is old and remarkably unclean. His ruined face is as rough as bark, and his matted beard and waistlong hair are tangled like beard moss. He is tall, and his scrawny limbs are as gnarled as roots. He appears like he is rotting in general; one of his eyes is missing and has a festering eyesocket in its place. He has lost all his teeth and his gums are black. He tends to have slime hanging out of his mouth and shattered nose. He has also cut most of his toes for having become frostbitten.

The Walker is always scarcely clothed even in winter. He uses as a loincloth and a jerkin hides he rips from carcasses without bothering to clean them. He wears in his first appearance a slimy and yellow cape made of reeds. He never uses boots and uses as foot-bindings mouldy wovenbark, lengths of animal guts or eel hide. His neck is tattooed with wavy blue-green lines to mark his membership to the Otter Clan. Like the other Soul Eaters, he had a three-pronged black fork tattooed over his heart, though he has presumably cut it off like Torak's father has.

Biography

Early life

Narrander was born to the Otter Clan and eventually became its mage. He also had a son named Narik who was born roughly twenty-one years before the beginning of Wolf Brother. Narik was eight years old when his father joined the Healers, a group of mages who wanted to help the Clans by healing the sick and warding off evil spirits. However, Narrander soon realized how evil the Healers were becoming and decided to leave them. When he proved to be too adamant to be dissuaded, the Healers' leader, Eostra of the Eagle Owl Clan, took Narik hostage and forced Narrander to remain with the Healers who started to be known as the Soul Eaters. He was also friends with Fin-Kedinn, the leader of the Raven Clan.

The Soul Eaters eventually went on Souls' Night to a hill (later known as the Burnt Hill) at the western edge of the Deep Forest in order to release and bind to their will the demons that were trapped there. Eostra also brought Narik with them, but she hid him from his father. Torak's father stopped the Soul Eaters' plans while inadvertently igniting a devastating forest fire that would be known as the Great Fire. Narrander managed to survive even though he lost one of his eyes, but Narik, unable to escape due to being bound, died. When Narrander found his son's body, he lost his sanity out of grief. The other Soul Eaters and nearly everyone else believed he had died as well thanks to Torak's father and Fin-Kedinn who covered the tracks of the former Otter Mage.

Narrander became a hermit outcast and started calling himself the Walker. He took up residence in a valley that is close to Lake Axehead, the traditional habitat of his clan. He made it a habit to make little animals such as mice, lemmings and voles his pets and call each of them Narik. Before settling in his valley, he entered a cave that was not far from it. He discovered inside a doorway to the Otherworld and took from the altar a claw-like stone which he used as a strike-fire.

Wolf Brother

Thirteen years following Narik's death, the Walker first meets Torak, Renn and Wolf when they are traveling through the Forest in search of the three parts of the Nanuak, their only hope of destroying the demon bear. He accuses the three young heroes of trespassing through his valley and leading the bear there, which he turns out to be correct about because the first part of the Nanuak they possess is irresistible to the bear that wants to snuff out the life it senses in it. Snatching Torak and Renn's bows and quivers, he threatens to damage them if they don't do as he says and throws Renn's quiver into a stream to prove he is serious. He then attempts to force the three heroes out of his valley while mumbling to himself that he needs hazelnuts for Narik.

When the Walker notices that Torak doesn't know about demons, he explains their nature to the boy and tells a bit about the crippled wanderer who created the bear while claiming that he told the man not to create it. This subject ends up upsetting the old man to the point that he attempts to snap the bows in two, and Renn, refusing to let her beloved bow be ruined, comes close to attacking him. Torak prevents this by offering hazelnuts for Narik, and the pleased Walker uses his claw-like stone to crack them. When Torak and Renn see the stone, they correctly guess that the second piece of the Nanuak, which they only know to be "oldest of all, the stone bite", might be in the same place the claw-like stone was. When they ask the Walker where he found it, he gives them directions and sends them on their way.

Soul Eater

When a year has passed since the events of Wolf Brother, the remaining Soul Eaters band together to take over the Forest once again. The Walker encounters Seshru the Viper Mage who steals his claw-like stone so that the Soul Eaters can use it in their efforts to find another doorway to the Otherworld inside the Eye of the Viper, a mountain in the Far North. It is unknown if the Viper Mage ever recognizes the Walker as Narrander. Angered by the loss of his stone, the Walker leaves his valley in search of a new strike-fire and another little animal to make his pet.

The Walker encounters Torak and Renn who are pursuing the Soul Eaters for capturing Wolf. He sneaks up on them and holds Torak at knifepoint until Renn relinquishes her strike-fire. He then gives them a bit of information about the Soul Eaters until he continues his search for a new Narik. Torak takes pity on the Walker and finds a lemming for him. The Walker then returns the favor by telling Torak and Renn where the Soul Eaters are going. He also tells them that they will learn more from the White Fox Clan and warns Torak that the boy will not be the same after he enters the Eye of the Viper.

Ghost Hunter

When it has been about three years after the conclusion of Wolf Brother, Torak prepares to face Eostra who is in addition to the Walker the only Soul Eater left alive. Fin-Kedinn seeks out the Walker and convinces his old friend to help Torak against the Eagle Owl Mage. They travel together towards the Mountain of Ghosts until Fin-Kedinn is forced to return to the Raven Clan. The Walker travels the rest of the way on his own. When he has nearly reached the Mountain, he encounters Wolf and Darkfur's last living cub Pebble. He gives the starving cub some meat before going on his way.

When Eostra is summoning the souls of the deceased Soul Eaters during the final fight in the Whispering Cave, the Walker appears and reveals his former identity as Narrander when the Eagle Own Mage tries to summon his spirit. His words help Renn realize that the Eagle Owl Mage is controlling the deceased Soul Eaters through their hairs, so she tells Torak to burn the hairs. The Walker himself is unable to reach Eostra when a chasm blocks his path, and Eostra's tokoroths knock him out. When the former Otter Mage recovers by the time Torak has shattered the last Fire Opal piece, he calls on the Hidden People of the Mountain to destroy Eostra. As the mountain trembles, Eostra and Torak fall down the chasm and die. The Walker carries Torak's body out of the Mountain before Wolf brings his pack-brother back to life by guiding Torak's souls back in his body.

The Walker is approached several months later by Fin-Kedinn and Torak. Fin-Kedinn offers the provide Walker a place among the clans, but the Walker turns him down. Before he is left alone, he tells Torak that like the Walker himself, the boy cannot settle down due to everything he has experienced.

Skin Taker

Two years following Eostra's death, a comet known as the Thunderstar destroys a large portion of the Forest. While Dark (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness), the new mage of the Raven Clan, is finding his way in the Crowwater Caves, he encounters the Walker. At one point, Pebble comes out of the cave he has been hiding in due to the trauma caused by the Thunderstar's strike to greet the Walker who also remembers the young wolf. The Walker meets with Torak, Renn, Fin-Kedinn and Dark to tell them that the First Tree (the aurora borealis) is gone because of the Thunderstar, and if it won't return, what is left of the Forest and all life in it will die. However, he reveals that only he remembers an ancient rite which can bring the First Tree back. He tells that four special arrows must be crafted from specific materials, and they must be launched to the sky in the dark of the ongoing month with the help of the "brightest souls in the Forest". However, he refuses to perform the rite himself with a claim that Dark can craft the arrowheads and Renn launch the arrows to the sky. He also tells Renn to keep an eye on Torak who is inwardly damaged because his spirit-walking has connected him to the destroyed Forest.

When the surviving clans are working together to release the river called Widewater as they wait to see if the rite worked, the Walker appears and instructs on how to lever boulders without causing further landslips. However, when the Otter Clan shows up alive and well, the Walker discreetly disappears.

Wolfbane

While Torak and Renn are searching for Wolf who is swept out to the Sea and pursued by Naiginn the ice demon, Fin-Kedinn's leg, which was scarred by the demon bear in Wolf Brother, keeps getting more and more painful. He tasks Dark with finding the Walker in hopes of the former Otter Mage's help. Though Dark is unable to find the Walker after days of search, he leaves in his wake pebbles with Fin-Kedinn's mark. The Walker finds one of them and makes his way to the Raven Clan's camp before Dark does. He takes a look at Fin-Kedinn's leg and assesses that Fin-Kedinn's marrow is being eaten and he will be rendered unable to walk. The Walker then leaves, but Dark, unable to accept that there is nothing that can be done to help Fin-Kedinn, runs after him. The Walker harshly brings to Dark's attention a bigger issue; even if Naiginn's human body is killed, his demon souls can find a new host. When Dark asks what he must do to prevent this, the Walker says that Dark already knows the answer and leaves him to figure it out on his own.

After Fin-Kedinn dies to ensure Naiginn's demise, the Walker appears at his funeral when it is time for Dark to sing the Death Chant. The old man has cleaned himself up to a great degree and painted his face with mourning marks in honor of his old friend. With Dark's permission, he sings the Death Chant to give peace to Fin-Kedinn's spirit.

Personality

The Walker is a deranged and ill-tempered old man who just wants to be left alone with his pets. He tends to jeer at people, but he treats his pets with great affection. He threatens to kill Torak and Renn several times, but he helps them out after they help him out. When they attempt to leave him after giving him a new Narik in Soul Eater, he runs up to them, angry that they are leaving before he can return the favor. When Wolf first sees him, he cannot make sense of the Walker's scattered thoughts. His ramblings are hard to make sense of, but they reveal some of the wisdom from his days as the Otter Mage. His traumatic experiences have left him unable to be rattled by anything. He has a habit of eating things most people would not dream of eating, like a rotting pigeon's wing. However, even he cannot stomach his frostbitten toes. He refers to himself and often others as well in the third person.

Most of his personality as Narrander is unknown, but it is made clear that he was a fair person since he joined the Healers due to their apparently noble cause and tried to leave as soon as they were turning to evil. He loved his son Narik so much that he stayed with the Soul Eaters when Eostra took Narik hostage. The grief over his son's death drove Narrander mad, and he later takes part in the final fight against Eostra in order to avenge Narik.

Powers and abilities

Narrander was a powerful mage before he became the Walker. He reveals at times some of his old wisdom and knowledge. He seems to have a special connection with the Hidden People, creatures that can appear only when no one is looking. He successfully calls them in Ghost Hunter to destroy Eostra. He knows how to hide from Eostra and her beasts.

The Walker has good survival skills that have helped him survive in the Forest on his own for over a decade in his mad state. He has sharp ears and is highly skilled in stealth. His weapons are a green slate knife and an ax.

Quotes

The sideways one. Not alone, oh no, oh no. Twisted legs and flying thoughts. Big as a tree, crushing the little creatures, the slitherers and scurriers too weak to fight back. Worst, the Masked One. Cruellest of the cruel.
~ The Walker giving brief descriptions of Seshru, Nef, Thiazzi and Eostra.
The Walker: Giving? Do they think they can just give, and wander off? Do they think the Walker has forgotten the old ways?
Torak: Walker, we're sorry, but –
The Walker: A gift looks for a
return! That is the way of things! Now the Walker must give back! Black ice, white bears, red blood! They seek the eye of the viper!
Torak: What's that?
The Walker: Oh, he'll find out, the foxes will tell him. To enter the eye, is to enter the dark! You may find your way out again, Wolf boy; but once you've gone in, you'll never be whole. It'll keep a part of you down there. Down in the dark.
~ The Walker repaying Torak and Renn with information for giving him a new Narik and warning Torak of what is to come.
Eostra: …Narrander… Come forth!
The Walker: Narrander comes. Your spell is flawed. It holds the hair of a living man.
Eostra: Narrander died. He died in the great fire.
The Walker: Another died! He should have
lived! The Walker ends it now!
Eostra: None can hinder the Masked One.
The Walker: He should have
lived!
~ The Walker confronting Eostra.
Hidden Ones. Hidden People of the Mountain! The Walker calls on you! Rid the world of this canker! The Walker calls on you! Let the jaws of the Mountain snap shut! Rid us of the Soul-Eater for ever!
~ The Walker calling the Hidden People to kill Eostra.
The wolf boy's troubled, eh? Bits of souls sticking to his spirit? The Great Wanderer, the Forest, the Masked One? He's like the Walker, yes, he got too close, so he has to keep moving!
~ The Walker comparing Torak to himself in their inability to settle down.
An ancient rite. No one remembers it but the Walker. Four arrows to bring back the First Tree. A bridge of light to fly beyond moon and stars… The Voice of Then becomes the Song of Now… If the brightest souls in the Forest can sing the arrows on their way, they will bring back the First Tree — and the world will be saved.
~ The Walker telling about the rite that is the only way to bring the First Tree back.
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