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|Last appearance||Balto II: Wolf Quest|
Male (original film)Female (sequel)
|Family||Unknown Husky (mate), Balto (son), Jenna (daughter-in-law), Aleu (granddaughter), Kodiak (grandson), Saba (Granddaughter), Dingo (Grandson), two unnamed pups (Grandchildren).|
The White Wolf first appeared in Balto, serving to remind him of his wolf heritage after he had fallen down a cliff and given up all hope. They remained totally unidentified until Balto II: Wolf Quest, where they were given the name Aniu and identified as Balto's mother. There remains some dispute as to whether the great white wolf in the first movie was indeed Aniu. In the Junior Novel book, the wolf is depicted as a he. Phil Weinstein declared in an interview that Aniu is the white wolf in the original film. However, Simon Wells (director of the original film) confirmed that the White Wolf was never meant to be Balto's mother (he regarded Balto's father as the wolf parent while his mother was a working sled dog), but instead a manifestation of Balto's inner voice, telling him to take ownership and use that part of him that he has always been ashamed of.
Aniu appears to be a spirit. She has a tendency to appear and vanish in the blink of an eye, usually with the appearance that she is vanishing into the wind or the fog. She also possesses the ability to shapeshift, having been seen to take the form of a raven and a vixen. Since Balto was separated from her at an early age, he has few memories of her, save that she "was white as snow" and had a warm voice that always made him feel safe. In addition to being Balto's mother, Aniu is apparently a guide to Nava, the elderly leader of the wolf pack Balto and Aleu meet in the movie.
Aniu mated with a male husky (Balto's father) and they ran off together. It is also unknown how she met Balto's father, though it is known that he was a domestic Siberian Husky, mentioned by Balto himself when explaining his origins to his daughter Aleu. He was the leader of his sled dog team, dying at age of 10, 6 years after Aniu's death.
Aniu's exact age was never made clear in the films. Her name means "snow" in Inuit.
Role in Balto
The White Wolf played a very significant role in the first film, although only appearing twice to remind Balto of his wolf heritage; they are still part of one of the most powerful and emotional scenes in the movie. They are never mentioned by name, nor do they speak throughout the film, and appears to only be a mysterious figure who comes to Balto in his times of need to give him spiritual support and encouragement. It is hinted that they may be a spirit guide instead of a living wolf, though this is never directly made clear.
Role in Balto II: Wolf Quest
It becomes much more evident in the second film that the White Wolf, now named Aniu, is indeed a spirit and not a living wolf. She is known to have taken two forms along the way to help both Balto and Aleu:
- Wolf (Spirit, Guide, Lead, Conduct), her true self, the teacher.
- Raven (Dreams, Visions, and Nightmares), the dark bird that appeared in Balto's dreams.
These forms could possibly allude to the Raven and Wolf/Eagle moieties of the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska, and the portrayal of both moieties (also known as 'descent groups') through the same character could symbolize Balto and Aleu's mixed heritages.
It has also been suggested (although not confirmed) that she took various other forms, namely:
These animals matched up to those on a totem pole (suggesting that the story in the film may be influenced by Native American folklore) that Balto occasionally passed by. In a dream vision of Balto's, she explained the meaning of each totem animal to him. The pack of wolves that Aleu and Balto meet refer to Aniu as a legendary figure. At the very end of the film, Aniu is revealed to be Balto's spirit guide and mother.
- "Exclusive interview with Balto director Simon Wells". www.animationsource.org. Retrieved 2016-12-25.