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Aniu is a fictional character in Universal Studios' 1995 animated film Balto and its direct-to-video sequel Balto II: Wolf Quest. She is Balto's mother. Her name means "snow" in Inuit.

Aniu first appeared in Balto, serving to remind him of his wolf heritage after he had fallen down a cliff and given up all hope. She remained totally unidentified until Balto II: Wolf Quest, and 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.[1] Dev Ross, the scriptwriter of Balto II: Wolf Quest, also declared in interview that Aniu is the white wolf from the original movie (she also said that it was exactly her idea to make the white wolf to be Balto's mother, because she liked the character from the original film and wanted to develop more, i.e. she made Balto's mother to be his wolf side). 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.[2]

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 accidentally separated from her at an early age, he has few vague memories of her, saying 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 a revered spirit guide to Nava, the elderly leader of the wolf pack Balto and Aleu meet in the movie. Also she's a legendary figure among wolves, hence Niju refers to her as the Great Aniu. In interview Dev Ross mentioned some details about Aniu's nature. After death and joining in with the Great Guardian Spirit, Aniu became the white wolf and is now the Great Mother of all wolves, who serves to them as a guide, helping to find the true self and symbolizing the call of the wild[3]. While Balto already remembered her as white, it means that she already was a spirit long time, making Balto a half-spirit.

Aniu mated with an unknown male husky and later birthed Balto. Dev Ross regarded Balto's father as a stray dog, who is "like a human father, who begets a child and then never even knows it", meaning that there was no love between Aniu and the husky, and that Balto's father just mated with Aniu and then abandoned her and even doesn't know about Balto.[4] In addition to this, in the third film, Balto himself confirms that he never had a father.

Aniu's exact age was never made clear in the films. However, Aniu is depicted on a totem pole, hinting that she is pretty ancient spirit.

Role in Balto[edit]

The White Wolf played a much less significant role in the first film, only appearing twice to remind Balto of his wolf heritage. He is never mentioned by name, nor does he 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 the wolf may be a spirit guide instead of a living wolf, though this is never directly made clear.

Role in Balto II: Wolf Quest[edit]

It becomes much more evident in the second film that Aniu is indeed a spirit and not a living wolf. She takes 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.

Fan fiction[edit]

Aniu has proven to be a very popular figure in Balto fan fiction, with her fan-given attributes far outnumbering those she displayed in the movie. Various writers have depicted her as everything from a mortal wolf to a ghost (and even occasionally something in between), with some stories casting her as an angel or even a goddess. Many have also proposed theories as to how she met Balto's more mysterious father.


  1. Phil Weinstein interview! - Balto 1 articles - Balto Source
  2. "Exclusive interview with Balto director Simon Wells". Retrieved on December 25, 2016.
  3. "Exclusive interview with Balto 2 Writer Dev Ross". Retrieved on April 19, 2022.
  4. "Exclusive interview with Balto 2 Writer Dev Ross". Retrieved on April 19, 2022.