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Chapter Fifteen: Winter Animals
The frozen ponds open up new routes and wonders to Thoreau, since he is able to walk on the solid ice. Thoreau immensely enjoys the experience of traveling over the frozen water on foot. He even lets his imagination run free and pretends he is in Alaska; he pictures Eskimos ice fishing on Walden Pond.
In the quietness of winter, Thoreau was more attentive than ever to the sounds around Walden Pond. The most noticeable and unusual were the loud sounds of cracking ice as it shifted in the pond. At night he would listen to the sad sounds of the screech owls. During the day he would notice the honking of the last of the geese heading South. At times he would hear the sounds of a distant hunt, with the barking hounds in pursuit of a fox. Thoreau then remembers a time when wildcat, deer, and moose were plentiful in the area, before the hunters and encroaching civilization drove them away. Now only field mice, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, and partridges seem to inhabit the area around his cabin. Thoreau watches for them and often leaves food on the snow for them to eat.
In this chapter, Thoreau's mood seems to drift from enthusiasm to melancholy. At first he is fascinated with the frozen landscape, which changes his vision of the natural environment and allows him to explore new and faster routes by crossing the frozen ponds. But the isolation of the cabin and the quietness of the setting lead him to moments of sad reflection. When he hears the barking of the hunting hounds, he thinks how the previous wild inhabitants of the woods - the wildcats, deer, and moose - have been driven away by humans. He also watches out his window for any sign of life, hoping to see a fox, squirrel, or rabbit. To encourage them to come close to his cabin, Thoreau leaves them food on the snow.