The Call of the Wild
Air date 1903
Written by Jack London
Episode Guide Full chapter
Chapter III: The Dominant Primordial Beast
Chapter V: The Toil of Trace and Trail

Who Has Won to Mastership is the fourth chapter in the The Call of the Wild



The next morning, Francois discovers Spitz missing and Buck covered with wounds. The dog-driver harnesses the dogs. Buck trots over to the space Spitz used to occupy, but Francois does not notice him and harnesses Sol-leks to the lead position. Buck lunges at Sol-leks, but Francois drags him away by the scruff of the neck. Sol-leks shows that he is afraid of Buck and does not mind giving up the position, but Francois comes back with the club. Buck retreats but then refuses to take his old position—he is making it clear, Francois realizes, that he thinks that he has earned the lead position and will be satisfied with nothing less.

Perrault tells Francois to throw down his club, and Buck trots to the lead position and is harnessed in. He takes up the job easily and shows himself to be superior even to Spitz. He is a born leader and excels at making the others live up to his expectations. Two native huskies are added to the team, and Buck breaks them in quickly. The team, at this point, is ahead of their record, and they cover the Thirty Mile River in one day, even though it took them ten days to cross before. Averaging forty miles a day, they reach Skaguay in record time, a remarkable journey that makes them extremely popular for a short while.

However, Perrault and Francois soon receive official orders that take them elsewhere, and they exit from Buck’s life. The team then travels back to Dawson under the command of a Scotsman, carrying a heavy load of mail to the gold miners in the North. With such a load, their speed slows, and life becomes monotonous and laborious for Buck. Occasionally, he thinks about his life in California, but he is not homesick. His inherited instincts are growing stronger within him, and everything he encounters in the wild seems strangely familiar. The men he is with remind him of men from another, more primitive time, and sometimes at night he has visions that seem to come from an earlier era, when men wore animal skins and lived in caves.

The dogs are tired when they reach Dawson, but they are allowed little rest and are soon on their way out with another load. They are treated well, attended to even before the men. However, one of the dogs, Dave, is suffering from a strange illness that no one can diagnose. The men decide he is too weak to pull the sled and try to pull him out of his position, but he protests until they put him back into his rightful place. They realize that he wants to die working and harness him into his usual position. The next day, he is too weak to travel. He tries to crawl into his position but collapses on the ground and howls mournfully as the team moves away. The Scotsman retraces his steps, the dogs hear a shot ring out, and London writes that “Buck knew, and every dog knew, what had taken place behind the belt of river trees.”