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“Savage and formidable Potencies…..instinctively hostile to humanity”

I was steered towards Algernon Blackwood’s The Wendigo by someone who read my admiring review of The Willows, another creepy, wonderfully written novella or long short story by Blackwood.

And I must say that I found The Wendigo an even more unsettling read, though also showing Blackwood’s particular interest and strength – the wild, wild, natural world, far from civilisation, and how that ancient world might be at best, indifferent to the puny biped who so often despoils and abuses it, but, sometimes, unleashes a power which might be felt as malevolent towards us

I suspect one reason that The Wendigo worked even more powerfully on me, especially as a long, chilly dark nights winter read, is its own dark, chilly, Northern wintry setting

A small group of moose hunters set forth in Northern Canada. There are a couple of friends, rational men, one a doctor, one a younger Scottish man, more imaginative perhaps, a divinity student. They are accompanied by two guides, also friends of each other, one of whom, a French Canadian, is prone to an occasional dark melancholy. They also have a cook, probably Algonquian, North American/Canadian Indian

Algoquian folklore recounts the presence of a much feared, malevolent spirit, The Wendigo, which inhabits the dark forests.

Rituals of the Sleepless Dead – Dark Art by Dehn Sora

Blackwood’s story explores this. There is, of course, that tension between those who dwell in cities, more or less free from daily exposure to the great wild, and those who are more used to, and both more respectful, and perhaps more fearful, of its power.

Like The Willows, the trajectory of the story begins with a love and an appreciation of the wild, a delight in being far from cities, healthfully experiencing the majesty and awe of nature. And begins, bit by bit, to sow seeds of doubt and terror in the minds, in the imaginings of the characters in the story. Not to mention in the minds and imaginings of the reader.

The forest pressed around them with its encircling wall; the nearer tree stems gleamed like bronze in the firelight; beyond that-blackness, and so far as he could tell, a silence of death. Just behind them a passing puff of wind lifted a single leaf, looked at it, then laid it softly down again without disturbing the rest of the covey. It seemed as if a million invisible causes had combined just to produce that single visible effect. Other life pulsed about them-and was gone.

It may be a while before I walk in forests again, unless the sun is brightly, brightly shining

The Wendigo Amazon UK
The Wendigo Amazon USA