The young orphan Markussi lives with his little sister Mipoulok in an Inuit clan. Markussi can talk to animals and has some special powers unique to shamans. He does not want to be a shaman though and mainly keeps his powers a secret because he fears being a shaman would make him like the clan’s shaman Croolik. Croolik grew selfish and unjust after the deaths of his sons, who died along with Markussi’s father in an accident on a hunting trip. Croolik blames his sons’ deaths on his now-separated wife Saya (whom he accuses of having let their sons go hunting at too young an age) and Markussi’s father; by extension, Croolik also hates Markussi.
At the beginning of the film, Croolik secretly turns away from the goddess Sedna and tries to call on the spirit of darkness. In punishment, Sedna takes all animals away from the clan’s lands, provoking a dangerous food shortage and lack of tradable pelts.
Desperate, the clan decides to search for Sarila, a legendary land where animals are said to be plenty. Under Croolik’s influence—who intends Markussi to die on the quest—three young Inuit are selected: Markussi, along with his two friends, Putulik (son of the clan chief), and Apik, who were promised to each other when they were children. Saya, who now lives on her own as a healer, offers to take care of Markussi’s young sister and her dog Kajuk in his absence.