Mala leads a contented life as the best hunter in his Canadian Arctic tribe, providing meat, fish and birds with his great skill. When another tribe member returns from trading furs with the white men for items such as a gun and an iron needle, Mala’s wife, Aba, urges him to make the 500-mile trek across the frozen tundra to do the same. After the long night of winter, Mala does go with his family to the white man’s “floating house” in Tjarnak. The friendly captain makes trade for Mala’s excellent furs, but upsets Mala when he insists that Aba sleep with him that night. “He didn’t even ask me!” Mala complains. Afterwards, the captain suggests that Mala go whale hunting and promises not to touch his wife, so Mala agrees. But news of a successful catch spurs a celebration on board ship, and the captain has Aba forcibly removed from her tent, plied with liquor, and then he rapes her. In the morning, the still-drunk Aba staggers from the ship, but collapses in the snow, where she is mistaken for an animal by a hunter and shot and killed. When Mala returns from the whaling expedition, he learns that Aba “has swallowed sleep.” He is so enraged he harpoons the captain, packs up his dog sled team and leaves with the rest of his family. It takes some time to recover from his grief and take on two new wives including Iva, who has loved him all along. The newly formed Royal Canadian Mounted Police learns of the murder and dispatches two mounties to arrest Mala. Ironically, Mala finds them frozen in the snow, near death, and saves their lives reluctantly, since he now trusts no white man. But they convince him they are his friends and must go back with them or else they may starve. So he goes, leaving his family behind. At the RCMP base, Mala learns from a translator he may hang. With great effort, he slips out of his shackled wrist, injuring his hand, steals food and a dog sled team and heads back to his land. In the morning, the two mounties go after him.