Akela (occasionally called The Lone Wolf or Big Fox) is a fictional character featured in Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli stories collected in The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book. He is a wolf, chief of the Seeonee wolf pack and presides over the pack's council meetings. It is at such a meeting that the pack adopts the human cub Mowgli as one of its own and Akela becomes one of Mowgli's mentors. Akela means "alone" in Hindi.
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.
After Shere Khan's departure the remaining wolves beg Akela to stay, but he refuses to remain pack leader and decides to hunt alone. "Akela" is a Hindi word meaning "solitary". 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 buffalo herd.
Some years later, when Mowgli has been rejected by humanity and the pack is threatened with extinction by a rampaging pack of dhole Akela joins the battle and fights to the death, finally dying in Mowgli's company ("Red Dog", in The Second Jungle Book). Akela's death is a major factor in Mowgli's decision to finally return to human society at the age of 17.
Scouting Use of the Name Akela
In Cub Scout Cub packs, Akela is a symbol of wisdom, authority, and leadership. Akela is generally accepted to be the leader of the Pack and the title Akela is generally understood to be reserved for use by the adult who is the leader in charge of the Pack. Baden-Powell chose Kipling's Jungle Book as a source of symbolism and allegorical framework for the youngest members of the Scouting movement. Many references are made to this story in the Cub Scout section, including the "Council Rock" for discussions and planning, and the "Grand Howl" to express a sense of belonging and team spirit.
In the United Kingdom, where nearly all of the links with the Jungle Book have been taken out of the Cub Scout programme, the names of Jungle Book characters are still used for Cub Scout Leaders. Akela is still reserved for the leader of the Cub Pack, but is not universally in use (i.e., other character names can be held by the leader, usually to avoid confusion when there is a change of leadership).