The Law of Life

the law of lifeJack London, who wrote “The Law of Life”, is said to be one of the best authors in a writing style called “naturalism”. Such stories describe the unstoppable power of nature and mankind’s struggle for survival. The life of Koskoosh, the old Indian in this story who is left by his to die in the snow, is one of the best ever examples of naturalism.

English Learner Vocabulary Help / General Comments on the Story

The story takes place in the Klondike, part of the Arctic region of northwestern Canada where gold was discovered in 1896. It is a hard, dangerous place with long, cold winters where temperatures can be up to fifty degrees below zero. Much of the story is a about what happens in the life of an American Indian tribe as it moves from place to place with the changing seasons. The correct name for these people is the “Inuit”.

At the beginning of the story Koskoosh, an old man who was once chief of the tribe, is left by them to die in the snow. Koskoosh is so old that he can no longer see. Because of this, the author uses many “sound” words to describe what is happening around him. In literary terms, the use of such words in a story is called .

Most of these words are not commonly used in English. We would normally take out or change words like these when we are simplifying a story. However, in view of the importance of sound to this story we have decided to leave the following sound words in the story: , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

This should provide readers with good practice at trying to identify meaning from , which is an important reading skill. Look at this line from the story:

A child whimpered, and a woman tried to quieten it by singing soft, crooning gutturals.

Without knowing all the words, you can see that a “whimper” must be some kind of noise (because the woman is trying to make the child be quieter) and that “soft, crooning gutturals” must be some kind of song (because she is singing them). This is all that you need to know to understand the sentence and continue reading the story. You don’t need to know the exact meaning of the unknown words, and so should not stop to look them up.

Many of the other words in our Simplified English story which are not in our Intermediate level 1800 word list have to do with Arctic animals. These are (the name of one of the Indians), , , , , and . Other words and expressions not in our list are , , , , , , , , , , and .

wolves fighting mooseA central part of the story is where Koskoosh remembers a time when he watched some wolves attack an old moose which was too old to keep up with its . Some s suggest that while Koskoosh is the in the story, the moose is the . Can you see why?

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tribe(n: tribe pl tribes) A group of people that includes many families and relatives who have the same language, customs, and beliefs. (เผ่า เผ่าพันธุ์) 6000

(n: onomatopoeia, noncount) A literary technique where words are used that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to. Examples are words like hiss, murmur and sizzle.

(n: bark pl barks) 1. The outer covering of a tree. 2. The loud sound made by a dog when it is angry or excited.
(v: bark, barks, barked, barking) 1. To make a loud sound like that made by a dog when it is angry or excited. The dog barked at the stranger. 2. To shout or say (something) in a loud and angry way. The captain barked orders to his men. 5000

tree bark barking dog

(n: crack pl cracks) 1. A split or break in something that creates lines in its surface but does not separate it into pieces. (รอยแตก) 2. A sudden loud, sharp sound, such as when ice breaks or lightning strikes. (เสียงแตกเปรี้ยง)
(v: crack, cracks, cracked, cracking) 1. To make or cause a crack in something. The mirror cracked when she dropped it. (แตกร้าว) 2. To hit or press (something) so hard that it breaks apart or opens suddenly. He cracked open the eggs. (กะเทาะออก) 3. [of a voice] To change sharply in tone or pitch, especially because of strong emotion. Her voice cracked as she told them about the accident. 2000

cracked cup cracking eggs

(v: crackle, crackles, crackled, crackling) To make a series of short, sharp noises, like paper being crushed or a wood fire burning. 8000

(v: croon, croons, crooned, crooning) To sing in a soft, low voice. 4000

(n: crunch pl crunches) The loud sound made by something being crushed or forced out of normal shape by great pressure. 4000

(v: grunt, grunts, grunted, grunting) To make a short, low, rough sound that shows anger, disapproval, or heavy effort. 7000

(adj: guttural) Describes sounds made in the back of the mouth or throat. 14000

howl(n: howl pl howls) A long, loud, high-pitched cry as made by a dog or wolf.
(v: howl, howls, howled, howling) To give off or make a long, loud, high-pitched cry. 5000

(adj: shrill) A very loud, high-pitched, ear piercing sound. 11000

sizzle(v: sizzles, sizzled, sizzling) To make a hissing sound like the sound water makes when it hits hot metal or the sound of bacon cooking in a pan. (ทำเสียง ซิด ๆ) 7000

snarl(v: snarl, snarls, snarled, snarling) To make a deep, rough growling sound with the teeth showing (like an angry dog). (ขู่คำราม ใส่) 10000

(v: whimper, whimpers, whimpered, whimpering) To cry softly in a way that stops and starts from time to time. (ร้องคร่ำครวญ) 13000

(v: whine, whines, whined, whining) To cry continuously while complaining about something or due to suffering. (ครวญคราง) 7000

(n: context pl contexts) 1. The words that are used with a certain word or phrase and that help to explain its meaning. 2. The situation in which something happens; the group of conditions that exist where and when something happens. 2000

beaver(n: beaver pl beavers) A small animal that has thick, brown fur and a wide, flat tail, that cuts down trees with its teeth, and that builds dams and underwater houses with mud and branches. 9000

caribou(n: caribou pl caribou or caribous) An large Arctic deer with antlers in both sexes; called 'caribou' in North America and 'reindeer' in other parts of the world. 14000

grizzly bear(n: grizzly bear pl grizzly bears) A very large, powerful and dangerous brownish-yellow bear of the uplands of western North America.

moose(n: moose pl moose) A large deer with very large flattened antlers in the male. Called 'elk' in Europe and 'moose' in North America. 9000

mosquito(n: mosquito pl mosquitoes) A small flying insect that bites the skin of people and animals and sucks their blood. 7000

salmon(n: salmon pl salmon) A large fish that is born in streams but lives most of its life in the ocean and is commonly used for food. 4000

squirrel(n: squirrel pl squirrels)) A small animal with soft fur and a long bushy tail that lives in trees. (กระรอก) 6000

(n: ancestor pl ancestors) 1. A person who was a member of one's family a long time ago and from whom one is descended. 2. Something in the past from which something else has developed. 6000

fold(v: fold, folds, folded, folding) To bend one part of something such as cloth, paper etc. over or against another part. 3000
To fold your arms or hands means to put one arm or hand over the other arm or hand in a way that keeps them together.

(n: missionary pl missionaries) Someone [(usually a priest] who travels to another country or place to tell people about their religion. 3000
Often missionaries will also do things to try to help local people such as opening a school or a hospital.

(n: resting place) A euphemism for the place where a person's body is put or buried after they die. Often when someone dies, especially after a long illness, the family will say that he or she 'is at rest'. This sounds much nicer than just saying that he or she 'is dead'.
A euphemism is an expression commonly used in place of words which may upset the reader or listener.

(n: sap pl saps) The watery juice inside a plant that carries the plant's food to its various parts. 6000

(n: shaman pl shamans) A person who is believed in some cultures to be able to communicate with spirit worlds and use magic spells to cure people who are sick, to tell or control future, etc. 13000

sled(n: sled pl sleds) A small vehicle that has a flat bottom or long, narrow strips of metal or wood on the bottom that is used for moving over snow or ice. (เลื่อนหิมะ รถลากเลื่อนหิมะ) 8000

(n: species, plural) A group (of animals etc) whose members are similar and so closely related as to be able to breed (have young) together. (สายพันธุ์) 3000

(n: task pl tasks) A piece of especially hard work or a job or duty that must be done. (งานหนัก) 4000

animal tracksbush track(n: track pl tracks) 1. A mark left on the ground by a moving animal, person, or vehicle. (ร่องรอย) 2. A path or narrow, rough road that is made by animals, people or vehicles traveling through a field, forest, etc. (ถนน) 3. A pair of metal bars that a train, tram, or subway car rides along. (รางรถไฟ) 4. An often circular path or road that is used for racing. A race/running track. (ลู่)
(v: track, tracks, tracked, tracking) 1. To follow and try to find (someone or something) by looking for its tracks and other signs that show where it has gone. He tracked the deer for a mile. 2. To follow or watch the path of (something). The ship can track incoming missiles with radar. (ตามรอย) 2000

whip(n: whip pl whips) A long cord or piece of leather attached to a handle, used for driving horses and forcing farm animals to move or work. (แส้) 3000

herd(n: herd pl herds) A group of animals of one kind that live or are kept together. a herd of cattle/elephants 8000

(n: critic pl critics) Someone, usually an expert, whose job it is to give opinions about books, movies, or other forms of art. 2000

(n: protagonist pl protagonists) The main character in a story, play, movie, etc. whose conflict starts the plot in motion. Often but not always the hero or "good guy". 12000

hero(n: hero pl heroes) A person admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities. Although the term 'hero' is now commonly used to refer to both men and women, it strictly should used only for men. The word for a woman who is admired for being brave is 'heroine'.
(adj: heroic) Used to describe a hero or the brave acts that heroes do. 3000

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