Akela (occasionally called The Lone Wolf or Big Wolf) was an Wolf, chief of the Seeonee wolf pack and presided 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 became one of Mowgli's mentors. Akela means "alone" in Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi. Nine or ten years after Mowgli's adoption, his enemy Shere Khan the tiger, with the aid of some young wolves he had persuaded to support him, planned to depose Akela so that he would no longer be able to defend Mowgli. A wolf who became too old to hunt was traditionally driven out or killed by his pack. Akela was far from decrepit, but the young wolves deliberately drove a young, healthy buck deer toward him knowing that he would not be able to catch it. When the council met to depose Akela, Mowgli defended him with a blazing branch and drove Shere Khan and his allies away.
After Shere Khan's departure the remaining wolves begged Akela to stay, but he refused to remain pack leader and decided to hunt alone. Phao became the new pack leader, Mowgli returned to humanity, at least for a time, and Akela hunted alone. During this period Akela helped Mowgli to kill Shere Khan with the aid of the human village's water buffalo herd.
Some years later, when Mowgli had been rejected by humanity and the pack was threatened with extinction by a rampaging pack of dhole Akela joined the battle and fought to the death, finally dying in Mowgli's company. Akela's death was a major factor in Mowgli's decision to finally return to human society at the age of 17.
In the Disney adaptation of The Jungle Book, Akela only has a brief role at the beginning of the film, when the council of wolves meet after Shere Khan's return to the jungle to decide what to do about Mowgli's future. Acknowledging that the pack is not strong enough to stand up to Shere Khan on their own, they decide to send Mowgli away, with Bagheera volunteering to take Mowgli back to the man-village.
A younger Akela also appeared with his mate, Leia, in an episode of the prequel cartoon Jungle Cubs, looking at the animal characters in their youth. In this episode, Akela and Leia run away from their old wolf pack as the pack leader wants Leia for himself, forcing the two younger wolves to escape and retreat to the old temple that serves as the groups' 'Cubhouse'. Although Shere Kahn initially objects to their presence, when the rest of the pack arrives, the young cubs agree to help Akela and Leia, driving the rest of the pack away. At the conclusion of the episode, Akela and Leia become the parents of a group of wolf cubs, with the rest of the characters being appointed the cubs' godfathers. Despite their evident closeness to the other cubs in this episode, Akela and Leia never appeared again in the series.