The Wendigo (novella)
|Published in||The Lost Valley and Other Stories by Algernon Blackwood|
In the wilderness north of Rat Portage in Northwestern Ontario, two Scotsmen – divinity student Simpson and his uncle, Dr. Cathcart, an author of a book on collective hallucination – are on a moose-hunting trip with guides Hank Davis and the wilderness-loving French "Canuck", Joseph Défago.
While their Indian cook, Punk, stays to tend the main camp, the others split up into two hunting-parties; Dr. Cathcart goes with Hank, while Défago guides Simpson in a canoe down the river to explore the vast territory beyond.
Simpson and Défago make camp, and it soon becomes clear that Défago senses – or at least thinks he senses – some strange and fearful odour on the wind. That night, Simpson wakes to find Défago cowering in terror from something outside the tent. Later Défago runs off into the night, forcing Simpson to go and look for him. He follows his footprints in the snow for many miles, realising that Défago's are not the only set of tracks. The larger set of footprints are not human, and gradually it seems that Défago's own tracks have metamorphosed into smaller versions of the larger set. Eventually, both sets of tracks vanish, and Simpson believes he hears Défago's distant voice calling out from somewhere in the sky above:
"Oh! oh! This fiery height! Oh, my feet of fire! My burning feet of fire ...!"
Simpson finally manages to make his way back to the main camp, where he is reunited with the others. Dr. Cathcart and Hank go back with him to search for Défago, and when camping once more out in the wilderness, Défago – or some hideous parody of Défago – appears before them before vanishing once again into the night.
Conflicted and disturbed about what they have witnessed, they return to the main camp to find that Défago – the real Défago this time – has made his own way back, suffering from delirium, exposure, and frostbite. The poor guide dies soon after, and the three men are left in a state of bafflement and uncertainty about what has occurred. Punk alone could have explained it to them, but he fled home as soon as he caught the terrible odour that Défago carried with him. As an Indian, he instantly understood that Défago had seen the Wendigo.
Reception and influence
- Grace Isabel Colbron remarked in her 1915 essay, Algernon Blackwood: An Appreciation that: "For sheer naked concentrated horror, unexplained and unexplainable, such tales as "The Wendigo"... may be said to lead among the stories of the supernatural.
- H.P. Lovecraft said of The Wendigo: "Another amazingly potent though less artistically finished tale [than Blackwood's The Willows] is The Wendigo, where we are confronted by horrible evidences of a vast forest daemon about which North Woods lumber men whisper at evening. The manner in which certain footprints tell certain unbelievable things is really a marked triumph in craftsmanship."
- August Derleth based his eponymous Cthulhu Mythos entity in the short story Ithaqua on The Wendigo.
- A loose adaption of The Wendigo by Alvin Schwartz appears in his horror anthology Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
- The 2015 PS4 survival horror game Until Dawn features wendigos as its monsters, and is set on the fictional Blackwood Mountain, Alberta, in reference to both the author and this tale.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Joshi, S.T. Encyclopedia of the Vampire: The Living Dead in Myth, Legend, and Popular Culture, p.12, Greenwood, 2010. ISBN 978-0313378331
- Colbron, Grace Isabel. Algernon Blackwood: An Appreciation, The Bookman, 1915. Reprinted in Jason Colavito, ed. A Hideous Bit of Morbidity: An Anthology of Horror Criticism from the Enlightenment to World War I, p. 306, McFarland, 2008. ISBN 978-0786439683.
- "Price, Robert M. (Editor). The Ithaqua Cycle: The Wind-Walker of the Icy Wastes, p. 1, Chaosium, Inc., 2006. ISBN 9781568821917.
- Price, Robert M. (Editor). The Ithaqua Cycle: The Wind-Walker of the Icy Wastes, p. xi, 'As Derleth himself would freely admit, Ithaqua is hardly original with him. All he did was coin a Lovecraftian name for Blackwood's Wendigo, and of course the Wendigo is not Blackwood's invention either.' p. xi Chaosium, Inc., 2006. ISBN 9781568821917.
- Schwartz, Alvin (October 1981) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Harper & Row p.49.
- IMDb. Until Dawn (2015 Video Game). Trivia.