Kipling portrays Akela with the character of an English gentleman. This is shown by his recurring references to the honour of the pack. He is large and grey and leads the pack by virtue of his strength and cunning.
Akela, the great gray Lone Wolf, who led all the Pack by strength and cunning, lay out at full length on his rock, and below him sat forty or more wolves of every size and colour
Nine or ten years after Mowgli's adoption, his enemy Shere Khan the tiger, with the aid of some young wolves he has persuaded to support him, plans to depose Akela so that he will no longer be able to defend Mowgli. A wolf who becomes too old to hunt is traditionally driven out or killed by his pack. Akela is far from decrepit, but the young wolves deliberately drive a young, healthy buck deer toward him, knowing that he will not be able to catch it. When the council meets to depose Akela, Mowgli defends him with a blazing branch and drives Shere Khan and his allies away.
The death of Akela after his battle with the dholes, as illustrated in page 280 of the 1895 edition of The Two Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
After Shere Khan's departure the remaining wolves beg Akela to stay, but he refuses to remain pack leader and decides to hunt alone. Phao becomes the new pack leader, Mowgli returns to humanity, at least for a time, and Akela hunts alone. During this period Akela helps Mowgli to kill Shere Khan with the aid of the human village's water buffalo herd.
Some years later, when Mowgli has been rejected by humanity and the pack is threatened with extinction by a rampaging pack of dholes, Akela joins the battle and fights to the death, finally dying in Mowgli's company ("Red Dog", in The Second Jungle Book). Akela did this for the love of Mowgli and his death is a major factor in Mowgli's decision to finally return to human society at the age of 17.
In the animated 1967 Disney adaptation, Akela only has a brief role at the beginning of the film, when the council of wolves meet after Shere Khan's return to the jungle to decide what to do about Mowgli's future. Acknowledging Shere Khan on their own, they decide to send Mowgli away, with Bagheera volunteering to take Mowgli back to the man-village.
A younger Akela also appeared with his mate, Leah, in an episode of the prequel cartoon Jungle Cubs, looking at the animal characters in their youth. In this episode, Akela and Leah run away from their old wolf pack as the pack leader Cain wants Leah for himself, forcing the two younger wolves to escape and retreat to the old temple that serves as the group's Cubhouse. Although Shere Khan initially objects to their presence, when the rest of the pack arrives, the young cubs agree to help Akela and Leah, driving the rest of the pack away as Akela battles and defeats Cain. At the conclusion of the episode, Akela and Leah become the parents of a group of wolf cubs, with the other animals being appointed the cubs' godfathers. Despite their evident closeness to the other cubs in this episode, Akela and Leah never appeared again in the series.
Akela plays a bigger role in the live-action Disney movie Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story. In this adaptation, he is also the father of Mowgli's adopted family and mate of Raksha. He was voiced by Clancy Brown.
In the 2016 live-action film, Giancarlo Esposito voices Akela. In an interview, Esposito describes his character as the wolf pack's fierce patriarch and as "strong and hardened" as well as "a great leader and wise teacher", welcoming of Mowgli into his pack, but at the same time, worried that Mowgli may compromise the pack's safety in the future. In the film, Akela adopts Mowgli into his pack after Bagheera rescues him. However, years later, Shere Khan threatens the wolf pack upon finding Mowgli at a gathering at the watering hole during a drought. This causes disagreement to break out on whether Mowgli should leave the pack, but Mowgli decides to leave to protect them before a decision is reached. Upon Shere Khan's return, the wolf pack tells him that Mowgli has left. Shere Khan then kills Akela by throwing him off a cliff and assumes command of the wolf pack. Akela's death has far-reaching effects, spreading through the jungle until Mowgli hears of his murder from King Louie and decides to avenge him. Akela is finally avenged when Mowgli kills Shere Khan by causing him to fall into a pit of fire beneath a tree. Afterwards, Raksha takes Akela's place as the new leader of the pack.
Akela is also a major character in the Japanese-produced Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli. He was voiced by Yuzuru Fujimoto in the Japanese and Walter Massey in the English dub. Akela is the leader of the wolf pack but, as he is growing old, he agrees to pass the leadership onto a worthy successor. When Alexander beats Vermillion in a contest, Akela passes the leadership onto Alexander while Vermillion leaves the pack. However, after Alexander's death, Akela takes back the role of the leader. Briefly, during the series, Vermillion returns to take the leadership of the pack but later leaves to lead another wolf pack on the plains. Therefore, Akela assumes the leadership of the pack once more. But since he had become too feeble and old to be an active leader, he stayed in his lair for most of his day. Subsequently, Luri takes over the leadership of the pack from Akela but he stays on as an adviser and is given the title of "The Wise Old Wolf". At the very end of the series, Akela gets severely injured in a battle against a pack of jackals and, although he manages to recover from the wounds, he is severely weakened from the fight and soon dies.
In Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, Akela was voiced by Peter Mullan.
Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting, based aspects of Cub Scouting on Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli Stories. In Cub Scouting, the terms "Law of the Pack," "Akela" (the leader of a group), "Wolf Cub", "Grand Howl", "den," and "pack" all refer to Kipling's work. He wrote The Wolf Cub's Handbook, in which he compares scouting to a wolf pack and scout leaders to the character of Akela. The cubs usually chant in their pack meetings, "Akela, we will do our best".
This is a list of wolves in fiction, including normal wolves and anthropomorphic wolf characters. For werewolf characters see werewolf fiction.
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