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The Wendigo

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Algernon Blackwood's classic tale, The Wendigo. An influential novella by one of the most best-known writers of fantasy and horror, set in a place and time Blackwood knew well. A coordinated edition of Blackwood's The Willows is available. Copper Penny Press books are in an easy to read and easy to read aloud sixteen-point format.


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Algernon Blackwood's classic tale, The Wendigo. An influential novella by one of the most best-known writers of fantasy and horror, set in a place and time Blackwood knew well. A coordinated edition of Blackwood's The Willows is available. Copper Penny Press books are in an easy to read and easy to read aloud sixteen-point format.

30 review for The Wendigo

  1. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    a rainy, windy, chilly night with nothing to do but gaze lovingly at my overly full bookcases. so why not reread one of my favorite classic horror novellas? this one is about, wait for it, The Wendigo and its prey du jour (du nuit?): some hunters and their guides. but is the story really about this so-called "wendigo" or whatever... or is it more concerned with the awful beauty of uncharted nature, its allure and its dangers? knowing the author, probably the latter. third time down, the tale is s a rainy, windy, chilly night with nothing to do but gaze lovingly at my overly full bookcases. so why not reread one of my favorite classic horror novellas? this one is about, wait for it, The Wendigo and its prey du jour (du nuit?): some hunters and their guides. but is the story really about this so-called "wendigo" or whatever... or is it more concerned with the awful beauty of uncharted nature, its allure and its dangers? knowing the author, probably the latter. third time down, the tale is still flavorful. Blackwood clearly loves the natural world. he knows how to write about the deep dark woods and lakes and the wind and the sounds you hear around a campfire. or better yet, the sounds you hear when no one is awake around you as you lay huddled in your tent with a sleeping buddy. or perhaps even all on your lonesome, your nervous and don't-want-to-admit-you're-scared lonesome. he can write about wonder and terror all at once. he paints a mighty attractive picture of the great outdoors. makes me want to go camping, all by myself! the wendigo itself is marvelously obscure - an ambiguous monster that flies through the trees, creeps upon sleepers, that somehow knows them, takes them on a terrible journey, transforms itself and its victims, perhaps even releases them. this is no tacky, familiar bugaboo - it is a mythic, unexplainable creature. listen to the cry of its victim: "Oh, oh! My feet of fire! My burning feet of fire! Oh, oh! This height and fiery speed!" although this is mainly a straightforward tale of horror, Blackwood's obsession with transformation remains intact. he has a thing for it, the idea of moving beyond ourselves and this finite mortal coil, and the many variations of transformation have been at the heart of nearly everything i've read by him. often it is a source of a bizarre kind of epiphany. in The Wendigo, transformation equals terror. but an awe-inspiring kind of terror, unknowable and indescribable. a wilderness forever uncharted by prosaic humans. makes me not want to go camping?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Dark and thrilling. This demonstrates the narrative power of a short story. Blackwood is able to hold a tingling sense of unease and supernatural awe throughout this tight prose and tell a riveting ghost story at the same time. His language is evocative and murky, making the forest come alive and the stillness of the far north broods like a monster. Reminiscent of Jack London and Joseph Conrad at their best.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Maciek

    Algernon Blackwood had an interesting life - before he began to write weird stories he taught the violin, was a bartender, reported for the New York Times, operated a hotel and worked as a farmer in Canada; only in his late thirties did he return to England and started to write stories, using his many personal experiences for inspiration and combining them with his vivid imagination. First published in 1910 The Wendigo is one of Blackwood's early stories, and also one of his most famous. In the Algernon Blackwood had an interesting life - before he began to write weird stories he taught the violin, was a bartender, reported for the New York Times, operated a hotel and worked as a farmer in Canada; only in his late thirties did he return to England and started to write stories, using his many personal experiences for inspiration and combining them with his vivid imagination. First published in 1910 The Wendigo is one of Blackwood's early stories, and also one of his most famous. In the length of a short novella, Blackwood managed to craft a story which not only is eerie atmospheric to this day, but continues to influence contemporary writers of horror and weird fiction. The Wendigo is a creature enshrined in the myths of various Native American tribes that inhabited the area of the Great Lakes, today located on the American/Canadian border - most notably the Ojibwe. A Wendigo is mostly associated with the vast and cold spaces of the North, where it hunted down those unlucky to stumble on its path. Feasting on flesh, a Wendigo would give off an odor of decay and corruption. The tribes believed that humans could be possessed by the spirit of a Wendigo while dreaming, and become obsessed with eating human flesh, or be turned into Wendigos when they resorted to cannibalism on their own, even when they were forced to do so to survive a particularly harsh winter or a famine. Blackwood employs the legend of the Wendigo to create a mother of all horror stories which feature a group of people lost in the woods. He sets his story in the Canadian Far North, and its vast unexplored wilderness where enormous, thick forests stretch seemingly without end. Two Scotsmen - a Dr. Cathcart and Mr. Simpson, his nephew - travel there to hunt moose, accompanied by a Native cook named Punk and two guides: a man named Hank Davis and Joseph Défago, a Quebecer fascinated by the North and its many mysteries. To cover more groundand catch more game the party decides to split up - Cathart goes with Davis, and Simons with Défago - and the vast, lonely and yet uncharted country starts to get to them,; they begin to hear strange sounds and smell strange smells. Unexpectedly, Défago takes off on his own, and is so swift that the surprised Simons cannot catch up with him. But as he ventures after Défago, Simons discovers that the tracks he left cannot possibly match his movement, and smells a lingering, horrible odor. Blackwood really excells at setting the mood and atmosphere in the few pages of this novella: the reader feels as if he were right there in the cold, unfamiliar country, where the vastness of empty and uninhabited space silently stretches out across the horizon. The setting and its utter indifference to human life is a major part in building up fear, where the festival of strange noises and scents and the oppressive feeling of endless lonely forests and their unrelenting cold can drive one mad. In this story, the land itself is a force acting upon those who tread it; and it's neither kind nor unkind, merely indifferent, which is perhaps the most horrifying thing of all. This is a classic and influential story which can be easily read in one sitting, and since it's in public domain it's also available as a legal, free download from many sources. I read a copy from Feedbooks which provides both a well-formatted EPUB and a Kindle version. Both can be downloaded here: http://www.feedbooks.com/book/1063/th...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I read this short novella as part of a Halloween group reading – and I’m glad I did. Algernon Blackwood was completely unknown to me until now. The author can create a good, which in this case means uncomfortable, atmosphere with fairly simple means. Even though I didn’t lie in the corner in foetal position, jittering and trembling, I have to admit that the story struck some nerve with me. Blackwood apparently knows how to expose his protagonists to varying degrees of concrete fear and diffuse an I read this short novella as part of a Halloween group reading – and I’m glad I did. Algernon Blackwood was completely unknown to me until now. The author can create a good, which in this case means uncomfortable, atmosphere with fairly simple means. Even though I didn’t lie in the corner in foetal position, jittering and trembling, I have to admit that the story struck some nerve with me. Blackwood apparently knows how to expose his protagonists to varying degrees of concrete fear and diffuse anxiety that somehow transfer to the reader, in my case even overcome the language barrier that normally protects me from such things. For me it’s not the woods I’m afraid of, or anything in it, and I don’t believe in Wendigowak (which I learned is the plural of Wendigo) or other such creatures from folklore; yet this story from the infinite wilderness of Canada and the haunting creature which can only be recognized by its smell at first, has triggered similar reactions in me as sometimes a recurring unpleasant dream does. (view spoiler)[It’s a strange mixture of a ghastly parking structure with many levels and an old fashioned hotel in which I either cannot recover my car or, once I found it, cannot find my way out. (hide spoiler)] Now that I have experienced this kind of feeling in a waking state and have been able to analyse it in some way, I finally might get rid of this stupid dream. Thanks, Wendigo! I’m also glad I not only bought The Wendigo, but Blackwood’s Complete Supernatural Stories . There are certainly some more “nice” pieces in there for me to “enjoy”. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  5. 4 out of 5

    ᴥ Irena ᴥ

    Even better this time. *** I think nature can be terrifying and creepy even without creatures that cannot be explained. A hunting party of five men are on their way to find the elusive moose. They leave their cook Puck to guard their main camp while the rest split into two groups to cover more ground. Dr. Cathcart and one of the guides, Hank Davis, go westward and Défago and Simpson eastward. The story follows Défago and Simpson. The way nature is depicted only confirms that I could never be a scou Even better this time. *** I think nature can be terrifying and creepy even without creatures that cannot be explained. A hunting party of five men are on their way to find the elusive moose. They leave their cook Puck to guard their main camp while the rest split into two groups to cover more ground. Dr. Cathcart and one of the guides, Hank Davis, go westward and Défago and Simpson eastward. The story follows Défago and Simpson. The way nature is depicted only confirms that I could never be a scout. While it is breathtakingly beautiful, it is more than scary. Add a supernatural element of a creature that can take a shape of your companion and you get a terrifying combination. Don't expect to 'see' the Wendigo in its actual form. Its presence, or a hint of it, is used to terrify the men because the Wendigo is the unknown.

  6. 5 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    This 'horror classic' was such a strange mixture of psychological terror and late-night campfire yarn that it never really came together. He starts setting the mood in classic Blackwood fashion--slow, deliberate, and philosophical: "The silence of the vast listening forest stole forward and enveloped them. ". . . that other aspect of the wilderness: the indifference to human life, the merciless spirit of desolation which took no note of man." "When the seduction of the uninhabited wastes caught th This 'horror classic' was such a strange mixture of psychological terror and late-night campfire yarn that it never really came together. He starts setting the mood in classic Blackwood fashion--slow, deliberate, and philosophical: "The silence of the vast listening forest stole forward and enveloped them. ". . . that other aspect of the wilderness: the indifference to human life, the merciless spirit of desolation which took no note of man." "When the seduction of the uninhabited wastes caught them so fiercely that they went forth, half fascinated, half deluded, to their death." But then, just as he's building this slow-burn terror of strange noises, of things brushing against the tent, of a queer and unsettling scent on the wind, we get our first victim, torn away into the woods at 'furious, rushing speed', and as he disappears, he yells "Oh! Oh! My feet of fire! My burning feet of fire! Oh! Oh! This height and fiery speed!" And so, in one line, all the tension was deflated and I couldn't help but laugh out. The same line gets repeated several times over, which is what reminded me of a campfire tale--that there is a sort of repetitive motif that ties the thing together. Yet it really seemed to be in conflict with the general tone of the piece. Other than that, and as usual for Blackwood, there were some quite disturbing and effective images, and some unpleasant implications. It really is a thoughtful and well-constructed story, I only wish he had found a voice for the victim's terror that wasn't so oddly specific in observing and reporting on the details of his predicament.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Semjon

    I have to admit, that I had never heard anything from the author before our group reading. Actually, I also thought that the figure of Wendigo is unknown to me, but when the creature appeared for the first time, it reminded me of Pet’s Cemetery of Stephen King, where the cat also emerged from the grave with a strong smell of earth. Odors and sounds play an important role in this little story. The author's language is full of sensory impressions that you get in a dark forest. Dark forests have al I have to admit, that I had never heard anything from the author before our group reading. Actually, I also thought that the figure of Wendigo is unknown to me, but when the creature appeared for the first time, it reminded me of Pet’s Cemetery of Stephen King, where the cat also emerged from the grave with a strong smell of earth. Odors and sounds play an important role in this little story. The author's language is full of sensory impressions that you get in a dark forest. Dark forests have always awakened primeval fears in humans and have become a subject in legends, fairy tales and nowadays in horror novels. The plot itself is rather unspectacular for our time. The writing style and the language make the book something special. I liked it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Empress Reece (Hooked on Books)

    One of my favorite classic horror shorts. Perfect story to read around a campfire on a cold winter night.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Algernon Blackwood has been on my list of classic horror/weird fiction writers since I discovered my fascination with these old, and often lost, gems that fell in the cracks of classic literature. I have read his biography on Wikipedia.org, and he seemed like an interesting fellow. I bought a couple of his volumes for my collection, and added more to my Kindle. A few years ago, I attempted to read The Willows in an anthology, and it just wasn't our time to get acquainted. Thankfully, the Classic Algernon Blackwood has been on my list of classic horror/weird fiction writers since I discovered my fascination with these old, and often lost, gems that fell in the cracks of classic literature. I have read his biography on Wikipedia.org, and he seemed like an interesting fellow. I bought a couple of his volumes for my collection, and added more to my Kindle. A few years ago, I attempted to read The Willows in an anthology, and it just wasn't our time to get acquainted. Thankfully, the Classic Horror Lovers group voted on reading this short story as a group. For, I found it to be a very good story. Nature fascinates as much as it terrifies. I'm a nature girl. But, let's face it, I'd be almost helpless were I stranded in the wild. I like to watch "Man V. Wild" and "Survivorman", and I collect my survival guides to prepare for the coming apocalypse, the 'what if' scenario in which I have to live on the land. But, this surburban girl would be in for it, were she in the shoes of these men in this story, which is why I stay my butt at home. Intrepid fellows (or nowadays gals, as well) who venture into the wilderness may face a mental crisis in which they lose their reason when faced with the powerful force of the uninhibited, unclaimed isolation of the wild. They may start to go crazy, and think they see things, which cannot be real. But, why, I ask, did it happen to a seasoned woodsman first, and not the naive, inexperienced young Scottish student who had accompanied him? The reason is, there is a force that lurks in the wild. The natives know to fear it. It is the Wendigo. I admit I laughed at a few parts. Not because the writing was bad or because it was cheesy. I think I needed the release of a pressure valve. Also because, It seemed terribly bizarre to think that some wild force could essentially kidnap you, force you to run so fast your feet caught on fire, and your eyes bled. So fast, your feet burned away, to be replaced by the animal-like ones that it has. A force that could assume your very form and masquerade as you to your companions--perhaps waiting for its chance to snap them up too. Okay, it makes me shudder just writing that. This story is pretty creepy in parts. Algernon Blackwood uses language in such a way to evoke this emotion. He paints a clear picture of the beauty of the wild, and the sinister creature that lurks within. The erudite would try to dismiss its existence, like Simpson, and his uncle, Cathcart. But the deeper part of a man, the pure, instinctual survivor, knows better than that. To know and to understand is to fear that force, the primal creature that defies explanation: The Wendigo. A word of warning to those who like to venture into the unknown wilderness: Take great care when you go into the wild. Guard your eyes and your feet well. Don't let that fire go out for one second. Look carefully into the face of your companion. The Wendigo lurks out there. I'm glad to have read Mr. Blackwood, and I am eager to explore more of his singular tales.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tristram

    “[A] Little Child, Crying in Mid-Atlantic” Or aware of looming forces of indifference in the dark and yet having no other choice but to go on, like the poor French soldier in Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Chasseur im Walde, this is probably what the individual boils down to when he suddenly finds himself torn out of the everyday web of civilized life, whatever that is, and is confronted with Nature Unmasked. Algernon Blackwood’s novella The Wendigo, published in 1910, seems to have been inspir “[A] Little Child, Crying in Mid-Atlantic” Or aware of looming forces of indifference in the dark and yet having no other choice but to go on, like the poor French soldier in Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Chasseur im Walde, this is probably what the individual boils down to when he suddenly finds himself torn out of the everyday web of civilized life, whatever that is, and is confronted with Nature Unmasked. Algernon Blackwood’s novella The Wendigo, published in 1910, seems to have been inspired by a moose-hunting expedition in Canada the author undertook in 1898, and it was probably the impression of the seemingly boundless primeval forests which might hold creatures no human has ever set eye on that haunted Blackwood and prompted to him the story of a handful of men facing the Demon of the Wilderness: ”’I—I was thinking of our little toy woods at home, just at that moment,’ stammered Simpson, coming back to what really dominated his mind, and startled by the question, ‘and comparing them to—to all this,’ and he swept his arm round to indicate the Bush. A pause followed in which neither of them said anything. ‘All the same I wouldn't laugh about it, if I was you,’ Défago added, looking over Simpson's shoulder into the shadows. ‘There's places in there nobody won't never see into—nobody knows what lives in there either.’ ‘Too big—too far off?’ The suggestion in the guide's manner was immense and horrible. Défago nodded. The expression on his face was dark. He, too, felt uneasy. The younger man understood that in a hinterland of this size there might well be depths of wood that would never in the life of the world be known or trodden. The thought was not exactly the sort he welcomed.“ Interestingly, it is not young Simpson, a student of theology, who has been invited to this moose hunt by his uncle Cathcart, a doctor of medicine and a skeptic, who will be carried away by the Wendigo but one of the guides, who is described as becoming “imaginative and melancholy” when too long exposed to the constraints of civilization. Blackwood does not give the reader too clear an idea of what the Wendigo actually is; instead it is both intrusive and elusive, its most conspicuous quality being a particular smell: ”And even this was now rapidly disappearing in its turn. In spite of his exceeding mental perturbation, Simpson struggled hard to detect its nature, and define it, but the ascertaining of an elusive scent, not recognized subconsciously and at once, is a very subtle operation of the mind. And he failed. It was gone before he could properly seize or name it. Approximate description, even, seems to have been difficult, for it was unlike any smell he knew. Acrid rather, not unlike the odor of a lion, he thinks, yet softer and not wholly unpleasing, with something almost sweet in it that reminded him of the scent of decaying garden leaves, earth, and the myriad, nameless perfumes that make up the odor of a big forest. Yet the ‘odor of lions’ is the phrase with which he usually sums it all up.” The little qualification of the Wendigo’s smell not being altogether unpleasing might probably be a hint at how the author himself felt when exposed to the untouched wilderness of the Canadian forests. Did he feel allured or awed by what Jack London called the Call of the Wild, or was he rather worried by the remoteness of any trace of civilization and security? One of the strongest scenes in this short story is probably that in which Simpson wakes up in the middle of the night and hears his experienced guide Défago, who is stricken with terror, cry like a helpless child about being at the mercy of unfeeling Nature: ”And, long before he understood what this sound was, it had stirred in him the centers of pity and alarm. He listened intently, though at first in vain, for the running blood beat all its drums too noisily in his ears. Did it come, he wondered, from the lake, or from the woods?... Then, suddenly, with a rush and a flutter of the heart, he knew that it was close beside him in the tent; and, when he turned over for a better hearing, it focused itself unmistakably not two feet away. It was a sound of weeping; Défago upon his bed of branches was sobbing in the darkness as though his heart would break, the blankets evidently stuffed against his mouth to stifle it. And his first feeling, before he could think or reflect, was the rush of a poignant and searching tenderness. This intimate, human sound, heard amid the desolation about them, woke pity. It was so incongruous, so pitifully incongruous—and so vain! Tears—in this vast and cruel wilderness: of what avail? He thought of a little child crying in mid-Atlantic....” Were it not for the element of the supernatural that is constantly hinted at in this story, one might even suppose that one was reading a Joseph Conrad story – with certain reservations depending on Conrad’s superiority in style –, a story which deals with civilized man fighting his darker impulses when he suddenly finds himself plunged into primordial chaos. Blackwood deftly leaves the supernatural in the dark, whence it stares at the reader out of its red eyes, not deigning to step into the light and showing us its real shape – and this leaves the reader with the question whether there is a Wendigo outside in the dark forests, or whether there are not rather some people carrying the Wendigo inside themselves. The skeptical Dr. Cathcart would definitely prefer the latter solution, but his nephew has gathered some evidence to the contrary he might find it hard to defy. Readers of this intriguing tale might feel themselves left in the dark, and enjoy it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    While starting out pretty slow and somewhat dated it really picked up and the chill factor increased right up until the end. Definitely one of the better "classics" that I have read. I can see where this story in particular had a bigtime influence with authors that came after. Nicely done and has stood the test of time incredibly well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nickolas the Kid

    Combination of horror and mystery!! If you want to see the "Wendigo", you have to visit either the wild nature or to read this story...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    (1910) A hunting party that ventures into forbidden territory has a run-in with a creature out of legend. This horror classic has some very well-done elements. I like how the 'rough' talk of the huntsmen and their guides is contrasted with the lovely and evocative descriptions of nature. Blackwood does an excellent job of conjuring up the vastness and mystery of the untamed North American wilderness. Unfortunately, it does contain a few racial slurs and depictions which, while they may serve to (1910) A hunting party that ventures into forbidden territory has a run-in with a creature out of legend. This horror classic has some very well-done elements. I like how the 'rough' talk of the huntsmen and their guides is contrasted with the lovely and evocative descriptions of nature. Blackwood does an excellent job of conjuring up the vastness and mystery of the untamed North American wilderness. Unfortunately, it does contain a few racial slurs and depictions which, while they may serve to contribute to the setting of the story, are quite jarring to a modern reader. There are also elements of the 'horrific' in this story that came off as... well, just a bit silly. But overall, the juxtaposition of small blustering (but strangely vulnerable) men against the unknown is quite effective. It does indeed evoke "savage and formidable potencies lurking behind the souls of men, not evil perhaps in themselves, yet instinctively hostile to humanity as it exists..."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    Fairly disturbing novel that draws from Native American folk lore. A group of Canadians and Americans go camping into the Canadian wilderness. One man, a guide seems to be fearful of something, as though he is being stalked by some unseen thing. What happens is both suspenseful and perplexing. I won't say more, except to say that this short story is very much worth the read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    I really enjoy wendigo stories, so it was only a matter of time till finally I read this classic. With many works of classic horror literature, there tends to be a matter of pacing and datedness and language that can detract from sheer reading enjoyment. Not the case here. It took a while to get going, but once it did this story was great, exceptionally well written and eerie. Wendigo here is a fear of the wilderness personified and all the scarier for it. Seems this tale was inspired by author' I really enjoy wendigo stories, so it was only a matter of time till finally I read this classic. With many works of classic horror literature, there tends to be a matter of pacing and datedness and language that can detract from sheer reading enjoyment. Not the case here. It took a while to get going, but once it did this story was great, exceptionally well written and eerie. Wendigo here is a fear of the wilderness personified and all the scarier for it. Seems this tale was inspired by author's experience of hunting in backwoods Canada. For fiction that's over a hundred years old, this one has kept remarkably well. This makes a great introduction to the master, definitely showcases Blackwood's talents as a writer. Recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    A tale of men in the wilderness on the trail of something else. "For the panic of the wilderness had called to him in that far voice-the power of untamed distance- the enticement of the desolation that destroys. He knew in that moment all the pains of someone hopelessly and irretrievably lost, suffering the lust and travail of a soul in the final loneliness. A vision of Defago, eternally hunted, driven and pursued across the skiey vastness of those ancient forests fled like a flame across the dar A tale of men in the wilderness on the trail of something else. "For the panic of the wilderness had called to him in that far voice-the power of untamed distance- the enticement of the desolation that destroys. He knew in that moment all the pains of someone hopelessly and irretrievably lost, suffering the lust and travail of a soul in the final loneliness. A vision of Defago, eternally hunted, driven and pursued across the skiey vastness of those ancient forests fled like a flame across the dark ruin of his thoughts..."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    One of the best horror stories ever written. Man, Wilderness, and Something Else. That IS (IMHO) the ultimate formula for Extreme Horror. I may write some more later, but I will probably revisit Blackwood in a collection that includes this story (novella) along with others. If you want more details about the story, Lady Danielle's review is worth checking out. Also, check out the discussion thread(filled with spoilers) in the Classic Horror Lovers group. http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/4...

  18. 5 out of 5

    A.N. Mignan

    Definitively a read for your next camping trip in the forest. It’s X-Files in Walden where the pitch line is that “these woods you know are a bit too big to feel quite at home in - to feel comfortable in…” In space, heu in forest, no one can hear you scream...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Review from Badelynge A Dr. Cathcart and his nephew Simpson go hunting for moose in the Canadian wilderness, accompanied by two Canadian guides and a native American cook. On the surface this classic horror story by Algernon Blackwood revisits the sort of set-up that worked so well in The Willows. There are other similarities but they feel quite different; the other worldly eeriness of the Willows is quite different than the overall tone in The Wendigo. The first half of The Wendigo is very powerf Review from Badelynge A Dr. Cathcart and his nephew Simpson go hunting for moose in the Canadian wilderness, accompanied by two Canadian guides and a native American cook. On the surface this classic horror story by Algernon Blackwood revisits the sort of set-up that worked so well in The Willows. There are other similarities but they feel quite different; the other worldly eeriness of the Willows is quite different than the overall tone in The Wendigo. The first half of The Wendigo is very powerful, with the characters having their differing world views challenged by the perilous vastness of the natural world. The focus at this stage is more on Simpson as he sets out with Defago, one of the guides, to explore 50 Island Water in search of those elusive moose. These are the most powerful scenes as he contemplates the wild space about him and Defago starts to be broken down by his own superstitious knowledge. Blackwood characterises Simpson as being a 'student of divinity' counterpointing Cathcart's rationalistic adherence to science and the bulwarks of civilisation. Blackwood also describes one of the guides as being 'nearest primitive conditions' by which I believe he means that he (Hank) is the most in-tune with nature. It's a challenging and atmospheric read that pitches human instinct against rationalism, superstition against science and the awe of nature against the human social constructs of civilisation. The weakest part of the story is The Wendigo itself or more accurately Blackwood's choice to focus so strongly on one of the more absurd elements of the legend. I'm talking about the flaming feet. It's still a great story full of Blackwood's beautiful contemplative descriptive prose. It's not quite in the same weird horror league as The Willows but then again, what is.

  20. 5 out of 5

    August Is Azathoth HPL 129 August 20!

    Review: THE WENDIGO by Algernon Blackwood Lately much has been made of the bigotry of H. P. Lovecraft: whether it was ingrained, or an externalisation of his rampant fear of the unknown, and whether modern readers should overlook it or eschew his writing entirely. Here in this short piece by Algernon Blackwood, a similar bigotry arises, perhaps even more clearly defined. The omniscient narrator downs African-Americans, North American Indians (the next thing to wild animals, it seems), and even a Review: THE WENDIGO by Algernon Blackwood Lately much has been made of the bigotry of H. P. Lovecraft: whether it was ingrained, or an externalisation of his rampant fear of the unknown, and whether modern readers should overlook it or eschew his writing entirely. Here in this short piece by Algernon Blackwood, a similar bigotry arises, perhaps even more clearly defined. The omniscient narrator downs African-Americans, North American Indians (the next thing to wild animals, it seems), and even a Quebec-born French Canadian! The civilized members of the hunting party in the Canadian wilderness are clearly and specifically delineated as "white men," who are out of touch with the wilderness and its paranormal elements, while the Indian cook, by nature of being "almost animal," is attuned, and he and the French Canadian are aware of danger in a certain region; though the Indian, of course, is the most aware. The prose is glorious and the spooky element is frightening, but the bigotry is jarring. I give high praise to the story for its content and excellence in prose. Yet the author sounds that tired ethnic bigotry again at the end. (I must admit that he levels condescension against Scotsmen as well.)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Blackwood constructs in this story a haunting atmosphere just by the description of the Canadian outback and the loneliness of the human being in this relentless environment. The Bush (in capital letter!) is almost a living being. "The shadows of the woods, hitherto protective or covering merely, had now become menacing." The horror is rather a result of the human imagination than from the "Wendigo" creature. Maybe it is true that "the Wendigo is simply the Call of the Wild personified"?

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jay Little

    A Chilling Pre-Cursor to Lovecraftian Horror This past weekend, I finally found a quiet place to sit down and do something I’ve been putting off for too long. Read. I am a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft and his unique vision of horror. I have read and studied Lovecraft’s work for decades. In college, I wrote short fiction modeling Lovecraft’s style for Creative Writing, and my senior paper for Honors Lit focused on Lovecraft’s contributions to modern horror fiction, specifically Cosmic Indifferentiali A Chilling Pre-Cursor to Lovecraftian Horror This past weekend, I finally found a quiet place to sit down and do something I’ve been putting off for too long. Read. I am a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft and his unique vision of horror. I have read and studied Lovecraft’s work for decades. In college, I wrote short fiction modeling Lovecraft’s style for Creative Writing, and my senior paper for Honors Lit focused on Lovecraft’s contributions to modern horror fiction, specifically Cosmic Indifferentialism. However, in all this time, I had not read any works by those that inspired Lovecraft, aside from a few Edgar Allen Poe pieces. But there are so many other authors who inspired Lovecraft, or who later were inspired by Lovecraft, that I had failed to take the time to read. So while skimming the Amazon book marketplace on our Kindle, I came across The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood. The Wendigo is a short novella written in 1910, which could easily be seen as Lovecraft’s formative years. Algernon Blackwood definitely presents a structure and story telling style that can easily be seen as a precursor to Lovecraft’s style. Story Overview WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS The Wendigo follows the harrowing adventure of a group of hunters exploring the vast, untouched forests and climes of northern Canada as they search to claim a prize bull moose. Two “civilized” gentlemen, Doctor Cathcart and his nephew Simpson, a divinity student, hire the services of two rough, toughened Canadian outdoorsmen, Hank and Defago. The band of hunters forge their way north, into the pristine, arctic stillness of the Canadian wilds. The four men split up into two smaller parties, each outdoorsman taking one of the other men in search of moose. The story follows the exploits of the divinity student Simpson and his guide, the French-Canadian Defago. As they venture north, they come across a massive lake which they decide to cross in search of their quarry. As they make camp on the far side of the lake, Simpson notices that usually self-reliant and taciturn Defago seems nervous and uncomfortable. At one point while preparing dinner, around their campfire, Defago startles and jumps to his feet, scanning the encroaching darkness and sniffing the air. This concerns Simpson some bit, as he does not see, hear or smell the strange sensations Defago seems to be experiencing. Eventually, the two men grow more comfortable with each other, or perhaps Defago simply feels the need to share his concerns to lessen his own anxiety, the French Canadian hunter shares a story -- the local Indian legend of the Wendigo. In Defago’s telling, the Wendigo is presented as part beast, part force of nature -- a horrifying foe to face in the lonely solitude of the frozen tundra of the remote Canada. The tension is heightened as the two men bunk for the night and Defago continues to show signs of anxiety growing into fear. In the middle of the night, Simpson wakes up to find Defago sobbing and shaking in terror. Then he notices something amiss, then realizes that Defago seems to have moved during the night -- his legs are outside the tent and the flap pulled back... as if something had started to drag Defago out of the tent. The following day, Defago dismisses his fear, but Simpson suspects the man is even more terrified than he first thought. Regardless, they continue their hunt for moose, but to no avail. They can find no trace or track of their quarry. But during the hunt, Defago continues to exhibit strange behavior and asks Simpson if he smells the same odd, pungent, yet somehow fecund scent. The men return empty handed from their foray, and once more Defago speaks of the Wendigo. Defago seems to be speaking more to himself than to Simpson, an aside to the reader to better describe the Wendigo and its lore. That night, Defago... vanishes. Frightened but resolute the following morning, Simpson searches the area, desperate to find the outdoorsman. After a day of searching, he realizes his attempts are futile as he lacks the proper skills to perform an effective search. He needs the help of the rest of the party. Simpson heads back to the group’s original camp, traveling back across the lake by himself. There, he meets back up with his uncle Doctor Cathcart and Hank, both of whom also failed in their efforts to find a bull moose. Back at camp, Simpson shares his story with the others, focusing on Defago’s disappearance without sharing details of the man’s growing fears or tales of the Wendigo. The three men cross the lake, and together search the area more thoroughly for Defago. Finally accepting the fact that Defago is surely dead by now, having been lost in the freezing, barren forest for several days, the party heads back to their original camp. When they arrive, warming themselves by the fire, Defago comes shambling out of the darkness. The men are amazed, and wrestle with the fact that it would be nigh impossible for Defago to have survived, let alone cross or circumnavigate the lake, yet somehow arrive when the rest of the party did. Defago’s return is a dramatic crescendo, and at this point I’ll end the summary, not wanting to spoil the events that unfold and the eventual conclusion of the story. Style I was surprised by how easy to read and contemporary this novella felt. Written more than one hundred years ago, I expected a more compact, clinical, scholarly style of writing, relying on more technical, complex language. As much as I admire Lovecraft, his writing is dense and verbose. The Wendigo reads like Hemingway compared to Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness. It seems that Blackwood’s themes and concepts were far more influential on Lovecraft than his writing style. Blackwood also did an excellent job using an almost pidgin-like language for the Canadian outdoorsmen, which conveyed their uncouth, uneducated manner and style. Some of the language required a brief re-read to make sure it was understood, especially when some of the idioms or curses were written phonetically. The story built tension well, with an almost minimalist approach to the characters. Very little detail is provided about Doctor Cathcart or Hank, leaving much to the reader to assume analogues between Doctor Cathcart and his nephew Simpson, and likewise Hank and Defago. The Wendigo is presented in a first person perspective. The story is told to the reader by Simpson, as if recalling the account for a memoir or psychologist. It is also prefaced with the narrator discounting the validity of his own account, dismissing the oddities he is about to disclose as most likely delusions, hallucinations, or other tricks of the mind. This approach is something Lovecraft used frequently with great effect, and is something I consider a signature element in some of my favorite Lovecraft pieces. Horror Elements The story plays on horror and fear in a number of ways. There is the tangible fear of mortality in the harsh environment the narrator explores, as well as the fear of a real, physical presence lurking in the darkness, stalking the narrator. The former fear affecting Simpson while the latter fear eventually unhinges Defago. The intangible fears are presented to be even more horrifying to the reader than the characters. The narrator introduces one of these fears during his introduction - the fear of not being able to trust your own senses. His uncertainty and anxiety over whether or not what he experienced was real colors the entire story. The other intangible fear is what I see as the pre-cursor to Lovecraftian horror. Fear of a great, uncontrollable, unknowable force that the character is hopeless against. This force is both the building legend of the Wendigo as well as the vast, unexplored expanse of the wilderness. In fact, the wilderness and its unknowable depths, relentless cold, and detached disregard for mortal life is a very close parallel to Lovecraft’s development of Cosmic Indifferentialism. In Cosmic Indifferentialism, the wilderness is substituted for some eldritch horror from beyond the stars, or some unfathomable, sanity-destroying power that is callous and indifferent to mankind; ants are to humans as humans are to this force. The force has no regard, acknowledgement or care as it pursues its cosmic schemes. Humanity often finds itself underfoot, like the ant, with the threat of being crushed ever-looming. Summation Wow. The Wendigo really blew me away. Like H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, it seemed well ahead of its time, and written in a manner that is easily accessible today. It also preys on fears that still persist -- despite advances in science and technology, there are still primal, unmapped parts of the world and harsh environments much like the vast wilderness in the novella. I really enjoyed The Wendigo as both the story and the literary structure. I can see why it is regarded as a key, influential piece of horror literature. The story also presents elements, more narrative than structural, that definitely seem to have influenced Lovecraft as he refined his writing. The Wendigo is a quick read, I’d guess most readers would finish the story in a lazy afternoon. It’s influential, eerie, and interesting. I’d strongly recommend it to any fan of horror stories or literature.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Marvin

    The Wendigo is an excellent example of how a writer can prolong tension and build the story up to a horrific climax. It's what Algernon Blackwood does best. Add to this Blackwood's gift in communicating a sense of mystery and awe regarding nature and the wilderness and you have one of his best tales. A classic of horror literature.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cphe

    A novella length slice of horror that reads surprisingly quickly. A well written, atmospheric and spooky tale. I haven't read this author before but this would be a great story to read around the campfire.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    An absolutely strange force lurks in the wilderness, a force that can alter, a force stealing sanity... And four companions decide to go hunting...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Winkelmann

    Like many others before me, I discovered this author after reading H.P Lovecraft's glowing review in his horror essay. And so, I sat down with the decidedly favorite stories of his, and spent a good number of hours in a thorough sense of unease that is often quite hard to achieve in me. Blackwood blends what seems to be a stoic, almost Pantheist adoration for all things Nature in the germ of a horror story. On an aside, it seems to be the exact opposite in the way that Arthur Machen achieves it. Like many others before me, I discovered this author after reading H.P Lovecraft's glowing review in his horror essay. And so, I sat down with the decidedly favorite stories of his, and spent a good number of hours in a thorough sense of unease that is often quite hard to achieve in me. Blackwood blends what seems to be a stoic, almost Pantheist adoration for all things Nature in the germ of a horror story. On an aside, it seems to be the exact opposite in the way that Arthur Machen achieves it. While Machen suggests that nature is evil, sinister, occult, or even bewilderingly "anti-human", Blackwood presents a different side of theory: that nature is utterly indifferent and devoid of even recognition for the human species. Indeed, there is no surprise as to why Lovecraft loved both authors. The plot to Wendigo, like the other Blackwood stories I've read so far, is quite simple. A group of huntsmen and their guides go into the deep, lonesome forests to hunt moose and the like, only to be in pursuit -- or pursued -- by the titular creature. Things take a turn for the worse as the guide(s) go missing, stranding the thoroughly ordinary citizens-with-guns out hunting for the sport stranded in the godforsaken wilderness. It is at these moments that the author champions some of the best prose I've read, crafting a sense of sinister dreadfulness almost as quickly as you can turn the pages. In particular, the description of the Indian Guide visiting the lake while the camp is asleep and sniffing/predicting the "wind" that is coming, or how the Doctor was so unsettled by the particular facial expressions of the helplessly doomed Defago, are some of the best foreshadowing techniques I've ever come across. Beside for some uncharacteristically racist remarks by the author (which Lovecraft would have loved, sadly,) I will agree that there is some unintentional silliness in the prose here, probably due to the difference in culture and localization of language. "Burning feet of fire" is meant to be dreadful and shocking -- a revelation that the legends are true, -- but in general it is no less comical here than it is in the Wendigo distillation in that "Scary Story to Tell in the Dark" book everyone read in their childhood of horror. But overall I need to rank Wendigo near the top. The sense of isolation and unease is built expertly, and many times I've had a hearty self-realizing laugh or forehead slap at just how perfectly it was all put together. Pay attention to the first 40-60 pages, as the little details and nuances that seem to be one-shots are actually vitally important in deducing what precisely went down in the story.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Franky

    I was first introduced to Algernon Blackwood’s work awhile back when I read his brilliantly creepy tale, “The Willows.” Much like that classic story, “The Wendigo” takes us far into the mysterious natural world, where humans are pitted against the unknown. “The Wendigo” concerns a group going out hunting. When the party of men splits up, the story then shifts its focus on Simpson and his fellow guide, Defago. As they move further and further into the wilderness, Simpson notices an odd change in I was first introduced to Algernon Blackwood’s work awhile back when I read his brilliantly creepy tale, “The Willows.” Much like that classic story, “The Wendigo” takes us far into the mysterious natural world, where humans are pitted against the unknown. “The Wendigo” concerns a group going out hunting. When the party of men splits up, the story then shifts its focus on Simpson and his fellow guide, Defago. As they move further and further into the wilderness, Simpson notices an odd change in the mannerisms of Defago. Not only that, but a mysterious sound is heard far off in the distance which has a sharp effect on both men. After a night at camp, Defago suddenly and mysteriously bolts away and into the wild. Simpson confused, and upset, is now forced with the task of bringing Defago back, all the while dealing with his own fears… At the center of this tale is the legend of a Wendigo, a grotesque creature known to inhabit the region, hunt down its prey, and, in some cases, possess those near it. Blackwood puts you right into unchartered and mysterious regions where humans are at a disadvantage against a force beyond their comprehension. Much like “The Willows”, “The Wendigo” builds with a sense of foreboding atmosphere, where humans must try to deal with the unexplainable. While “The Wendigo” is a little more straightforward of a tale compared to “The Willows”, it is nonetheless eerie in its own right, and creepy enough to make you think long after reading it. The brilliance of this work is Blackwood’s mastery of building tension and not giving all away, leaving the reader to unearth the mysteries of this story. Is the supernatural really at play, or what is to account for the mysteries that happen? Sometimes the unknown is far scarier than what is right in front of us. I think “The Wendigo” would be an appropriate camp fire story, told late at night among friends.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    This was my first experience with Algernon Blackwood. I just got a Kindle, and it was one of the many free books that I downloaded. I selected it because the "wendigo" is a type of supernatural force/creature that is a legend of my native tribe (Chippewa) and nearby tribes. The wendigo of Blackwood's story didn't conform to the things I'd read about in literature connected with my tribe, but I haven't read a lot about it. It's a taboo topic. Whether Blackwood's interpretation deviates entirely f This was my first experience with Algernon Blackwood. I just got a Kindle, and it was one of the many free books that I downloaded. I selected it because the "wendigo" is a type of supernatural force/creature that is a legend of my native tribe (Chippewa) and nearby tribes. The wendigo of Blackwood's story didn't conform to the things I'd read about in literature connected with my tribe, but I haven't read a lot about it. It's a taboo topic. Whether Blackwood's interpretation deviates entirely from legend and is completely fruit of his imagination with the "wendigo" label slapped on it, whether it fits the legend from history that I simply know nothing about, or whether it could be considered an accurate depiction from the point of view of "the white man" visiting a vast wilderness, I will discover with further research. Since I can't judge the writing's accuracy in adherence to legend, my first impression of the story is that "H.P. Lovecraft would have appreciated this!" It has many Lovecraftian elements: vast and unknowable landscapes, sinister atmosphere, inevitable insanity and some character sketching via racial attributes. Its language is not so flowery. Upon further research, I found that "H. P. Lovecraft included Blackwood as one of the "Modern Masters" in the chapter of that name in Supernatural Horror in Literature" (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algernon...). I wasn't surprised.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna Burnett

    Really loved this short story! Absolutely fantastic horror mystery; reading this as research for a design project I'm currently doing and very glad I did!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sienna

    "It was so easy to be wise in the explanation of an experience one has not personally witnessed." Once I got past the overwhelming outrage of the of-its-time, really-I-ought-to-have-expected-this racism, I appreciated The Wendigo's shivering, shuddering, claustrophobic descent into madness. For all its flights of fancy, the writing doesn't quite reach the magnificent heights of the other two Blackwood novellas I read this weekend, but I'd still recommend it unreservedly to anyone interested in my "It was so easy to be wise in the explanation of an experience one has not personally witnessed." Once I got past the overwhelming outrage of the of-its-time, really-I-ought-to-have-expected-this racism, I appreciated The Wendigo's shivering, shuddering, claustrophobic descent into madness. For all its flights of fancy, the writing doesn't quite reach the magnificent heights of the other two Blackwood novellas I read this weekend, but I'd still recommend it unreservedly to anyone interested in myths and legends, the relationship between beauty and terror, and the history of horror. Here's a taste of his style; if it whets your appetite, head to your ebook purveyor of choice for a free out-of-copyright download. The two men lay down, without undressing, upon their beds of soft balsam boughs, cunningly arranged. Inside, all was warm and cozy, but outside the world of crowding trees pressed close about them, marshalling their million shadows, and smothering the little tent that stood there like a wee white shell facing the ocean of tremendous forest. Between the two lonely figures within, however, there pressed another shadow that was not a shadow from the night. It was the Shadow cast by the strange Fear, never wholly exorcised, that had leaped suddenly upon Défago in the middle of his singing. And Simpson, as he lay there, watching the darkness through the open flap of the tent, ready to plunge into the fragrant abyss of sleep, knew first that unique and profound stillness of a primeval forest when no wind stirs... and when the night has weight and substance that enters into the soul to bind a veil about it... Then sleep took him... Sleep? Good luck with that, dude.

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