The Fifth World

Encyclopedia

Tracking

Tracking means following the trail of tracks and other signs that an animal leaves behind by moving through the landscape. Often such a trail leaves significant gaps. A tracker can only bridge these gaps and find the next sign if they can put themselves in the animal's mind, understand their motivations, and see the world as the animal sees it. This allows them to guess which way an animal would go (for example, heading uphill to find food or downhill to find water). If she can put herself in the animal's place, she can guess correctly, and find the next sign. If not, she will frequently go the wrong way and lose the trail.

The signs that an animal leaves can tell an experienced tracker a great deal about her. The size of the tracks can give you a sense of the animal's size. The distance between tracks can tell you how fast she moved. Subtle hints can even tell you about its state of health and even its frame of mind. An animal that walks slowly and avoids open areas may feel nervous or cautious. An animal that leaves deeper tracks with its right hind leg may have some sort of pain in her left hind leg.

A proficient tracker in the Fifth World uses these clues to enter the animal's frame of mind, allowing her to follow gaps in the trail. At the moment when the tracker finds her quarry, she has reached the height of this exercise in empathy, creating an emotionally fraught moment when the tracker feels most connected to the animal, and uses that connection to kill her. Most trackers do not consider this an act of violence, and would consider the use of violence at such a moment completely unforgivable. Nonetheless, the inescapable fact remains that trackers kill animals at the very moment that they have come closest to them, both physically and emotionally. This creates a tension that every family must find a way to deal with.