Torak is the protagonist of Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, which is set 6,000 years ago in stone-age Europe. He is an adolescent hunter who can communicate with wolves and enter other creatures' bodies as a spirit walker. He is destined to put an end to the Soul Eaters, a group of villainous clan mages who killed his father for turning against them. He is aided in his quest by his pack-brother Wolf and Renn, his love interest.
For the first twelve years of his life, Torak has lived by traveling across the Forest. The only person he knew was his father, the former mage of the Wolf Clan. They kept away from the clans because Torak's father was hiding from the Soul Eaters, a group of corrupted mages who aspire to rule the Forest and seek revenge on the former Wolf Mage for leaving them and stopping them before Torak's birth. Torak, however, knew nothing about the Soul Eaters or his father's past. His mother, a woman from the Red Deer Clan, died when he was an infant, so his father placed him in a wolf den to be taken care of by a female wolf until he could raise him by himself three months later. This made Torak able to communicate with wolves.
When father and son are setting up a camp, they are attacked by a bear that is possessed by a demon. It wounds Torak's father mortally, leaving Torak alone for the first time. Guided by his father's last instructions, he travels north to try and find the Mountain of the World Spirit and ask for the Spirit's help in destroying the bear. He soon finds a lone wolf cub whose pack has been killed by a flood. The cub known only as Wolf becomes Torak's guide and pack-brother. He also becomes acquainted with the Raven Clan, especially with their chieftain Fin-Kedinn and his niece Renn. They start off on the wrong foot, but as he and Wolf work together with Renn, they learn to trust her and Fin-Kedinn.
Torak is revealed to be the prophecized Listener who is destined to not only stop the demon bear, but also its creators, the Soul Eaters who created the bear specifically to kill Torak's father. After managing to reach the Mountain of the World Spirit, he succeeds in convincing the Spirit to destroy the bear by offering the three strongest pieces of the Nanuak (a flowing life-force that every living creature has) and Wolf to the Mountain. Torak then lives with the Raven Clan for the following three years.
A half-year following the demon bear's demise, the clans are plagued by an unnatural sickness. Believing that the Soul Eaters are responsible, Torak sets out alone to find a cure. He ends up making acquaintance with the Seal Clan from which his paternal grandmother originated from. At first the Seals intend to punish him for offending the Sea Mother, but he apparently manages to make them spare him by conversing with their mage Tenris. As they work together to prepare the cure, Torak becomes fond of Tenris and gradually warms up to the three Seal boys who captured him, especially Bale. He reunites with Wolf who has grown into an adult and left the Mountain of the World Spirit to be with him.
Torak discovers through several strange instances that he is a spirit walker, a creature whose souls can enter the bodies of other creatures. He ends up being captured by Tenris who reveals himself to be a Soul Eater and the creator of both the sickness and the demon bear as well as the brother of Torak's father. After Tenris fails to steal Torak's spirit walker power by eating his heart, he is killed by an orca whale for killing its young kin. Renn figures out how the sickness was spread and how to get rid of it, but Torak, haunted by Tenris' dying words, ends up learning from Fin-Kedinn that his father used to be a Soul Eater.
Another half-year later, Wolf is captured by the remaining Soul Eaters who intend to sacrifice him and several other predators in order to create charms against the demons they intend to release from the Otherworld. Torak and Renn pursue the Soul Eaters all the way to Eye of the Viper, a mountain in the Far North. Torak infiltrates the Soul Eaters by taking the place of the White Fox boy whom they have taken in as their apprentice and one of the sacrifices. He and Renn manage to rescue Wolf and foil the Soul Eaters' plans, with Nef the Bat Mage providing some unexpected assistance by destroying the first Fire Opal piece at the cost of her own life as repayment to Torak's father for saving her life. Unfortunately, Seshru the Viper Mage tattoos the Soul Eaters' symbol on Torak's chest by force.
Torak has been able to hide his Soul Eater tattoo for two months, but Seshru's machinations lead to it being exposed. The clan laws dictate that anyone who carries the Soul Eaters' mark must be banished from the clans as an outcast who must be killed on sight and cannot be helped by anyone under the threat of being cast out as well. Only Torak's clan can vouch for him in this situation, but it turns out his father had let him believe he is a member of the Wolf Clan when he is actually clanless. This leads to him being exiled.
Torak lives for two months on the run. During this time, he turns fourteen years old and has a growth spurt. He removes his Soul Eater tattoo in a ritual that is sabotaged by Seshru. As he hides at Lake Axehead, the Viper Mage uses her spells to make him succumb to soul-sickness that causes him to lose his skills and knowledge as well as drive Wolf away from him. Renn is able to initiate his recovery by using her Magecraft to send aid to him in the form of Rip and Rek, two raven siblings he has to take care of. He then reconciles with Wolf after he saves from a lynx wolf cubs from the pack Wolf is staying with.
Torak eventually reunites with Renn and Bale who have decided to help him regardless of the clan laws. However, Seshru temporarily drives a wedge between himself and Renn by revealing that Renn is her daughter. However, after Renn finds out that a flood is threatening the area, Torak warns the clans, allowing them to retreat to safety in time. The clansmen still want to kill him, but when he reveals the Fire Opal piece his father had hidden in the hilt of his knife, Seshru appears to demand it for herself. Torak smashes the Fire Opal just as Seshru tries to attack him and is shot by Bale. Her fading life-force is used to destroy the Fire Opal's power. Torak is accepted back by the clans, and Fin-Kedinn fosters him out of the unrequired love he felt towards Torak's mother. The Raven Leader also divides his outcast tattoo, a black circle on his forehead, into four differently colored sections — green for the Forest, blue for the Sea, white for the Far North, and red for the Mountains — to make Torak belong to all the clans. His relationship with Renn also starts developing into a romantic one.
About nine months later, Bale is murdered by Thiazzi the Oak Mage. Torak feels responsible for it because he was supposed to keeping watch with Bale, but he stormed off in anger after Bale told him that he planned to ask Renn to become his mate. Torak swears to avenge Bale by killing Thiazzi and chases him all the way down to the Deep Forest. Haunted by Bale's spirit because he did not wait for five years before saying his name, Torak makes several mistakes in his single-minded quest to find and kill Thiazzi. After he inadvertently causes Renn to be captured by the Oak Mage, he breaks his oath in a futile effort to make Thiazzi let Renn go free.
After Thiazzi's death, Torak learns from the Red Deer Mage Durrain why he became clanless and a spirit walker. Torak was born on Midsummer Night inside the Great Yew that is situated in the sacred grove of the Deep Forest. As his mother was getting ready for the birth, the World Spirit appeared in a vision. He decreed that Torak's destiny is to fight all his life to destroy the evil his father had helped to create. Torak's mother begged the Spirit to help her son with such a burden, so the Spirit made him a spirit walker. However, his mother had to do two things in exchange; she had to declare her son clanless because no clan must have power over the others, and she herself had to die.
About three years since the events of the first book, Torak prepares to face the last Soul Eater, Eostra the Eagle Owl Mage. He ends up facing her inside the Mountain of Ghosts, defeating her and her minions with the help of Renn, Wolf, a boy named Dark, and even The Walker, a mad outcast he encountered twice before without knowing that he is the former Soul Eater Narrander. Torak ends up dying as he falls down a chasm with Eostra. However, Wolf brings him back to life by leading his spirit back into his body. With the Soul Eaters gone, Torak returns to his nomadic lifestyle at the age of fifteen. Renn chooses to become his mate and come with him along with Wolf, Rip and Rek as well as Wolf's mate Darkfur and cub Pebble.
Two years after the downfall of the Soul Eaters, Renn is tricked into thinking that she is subconsciously trying to hurt Torak, so she sets alone on a journey to the Far North in search of a solution, only to end up being captured by Naiginn, her demon-possessed half-brother whose father happens to be Torak's evil uncle Tenris. Torak and Wolf chase Naiginn to the Island at the Edge of the World and manage to defeat him and rescue Renn.
Having grown apart from all human contact except that of his father, Torak is a loner and not very good at socializing. He is impulsive and short-tempered, traits that often get him into trouble. However, he is also clever, strong-willed and protective of his loved ones. He hates being a spirit walker and destined to defeat the Soul Eaters, but he nonetheless fights hard to put an end to the Soul Eaters' evil disrespect for the life of the Forest which he loves. The entire series is essentially Torak's maturation story.
Torak holds an immense amount of adoration for his late father, even after he learns about the mistakes he made. He also believes in freedom and gender equality, for he is aghast to witness the misogynistic way the men of the Narwal Clan treat their women. He ends up buying the little girl Shamik from them, only to make her a free person. He also hates the Soul Eaters for their evilness and killing his father. He particularly hates Thiazzi for being a sadistic bully, giving Wolf a necrotic tail tip, and murdering Bale. He grows to like Tenris and is devastated by his betrayal, especially since he is Torak's uncle and the murderer of his father. He pities Nef who tried to commit suicide for losing her son, only for his father to rescue her. After she sacrifices herself to return the favor to Torak's father, Torak cries for her.
Powers and Abilities
Torak has been trained by his father to use his gift at tracking (which he inherited from his mother) to the point that he can track better than adults. He gets better at surviving in the Forest and fighting as he grows older. He can also communicate with wolves rather well. Since he is a spirit walker, his souls can leave his body and enter those of other living beings. He can feel and think like the creature he is in while still remaining himself. If he is sufficiently strong-willed, he can take control over the body of said creature.
- While giving Torak his name, Michelle Paver believed it was all her imagination. She later learned that it means, ironically enough, "perfect" in Greenlandic.