Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
In the third part of the novel, as Miyax settles into a steady rhythm on the tundra, she starts to carve a comb out of a bone she picked up from the deserted wolf den in Part 1.
Only it turns out to be something quite different:
As she carved she saw that it was not a comb at all, but Amaroq. The teeth were his legs, the handle his head. He was waiting to be released from the bone. Surprised to see him, she carved carefully for hours and finally she let him out. His neck was arched, his head and tail were lifted. Even his ears had a message. "I love you," they said. (3.106)
Wow, what a moment. It's pretty obvious that Miyax thinks of Amaroq as a father throughout much of the novel. But this particular scene is a true indication of their bond. Check out how Amaroq literally emerges from the bone, as if he were there all along. Miyax is the one to set him free. The carving, to Miyax, represents the love Amaroq has for her, his adopted daughter, and she carves it in such a way as to express those feelings.
This carving pops up again, after Amaroq's death. Let's take a look at that scene, too:
"Amaroq…" She took her carving from her pocket, and got down on her knees. Singing softly in Eskimo, she told him she had no bladder for his spirit to dwell in, but that she had his totem. She asked him to enter the totem and be with her forever. (3.158)
Suddenly, the carving doesn't just represent Amaroq's fatherly love for Miyax. It comes to mean much more. For Miyax, the carving-turned-totem contains the spirit of the wolf himself. Though he's dead, Amaroq lives on in the totem Miyax made.
Typically, a totem is a trinket of some sort that represents a person's heritage or ancestry. So it's fitting that Miyax now calls her carving a totem, because it's a symbol of her wolf-father, Amaroq.
While Miyax has asked Amaroq to enter the carving, and its only then that it becomes a totem, it almost seems as if his spirit has been there all along. Remember, Miyax was the one to set it free with her artistry. So even though Miyax, and we readers along with her, mourn the death of awesome Amaroq, we also feel a little bit better knowing he'll always be around.