“The Wendigo” Horror Novella Review

This horror story by the prolific English author Algernon Blackwood is very loosely based on his experiences as a hunter in the icy backwoods of Canada. I heard about him because of my interest in the writing of Lovecraft, I was looking through cosmic horror forums and I kept coming across Blackwoods name. Upon finding out he had written a story about the terrifying Wendigo I had to check it out. This is going to be a heavy spoiler review so if you don’t want the ending ruined you might want to just go read the novella yourself.

In the cold wilderness of Northwestern Ontario a group of men are hunting moose. One of the men is a young student Simpson, another is his uncle Dr. Cathcart and the others are Hank Davis and a Frenchman named Joseph Défago. Their aboriginal cook Punk tends the camp while the hunting expedition split up into 2 separate groups, Dr. Cathcart goes with Hank and Défago heads off with Simpson in a canoe down the river.

Simpson and Défago make camp on the shore. Défago becomes visibly disturbed and insists he can sense a terrifying odor on the wind. Later that night Simpson wakes up to find Défago freaking out about something outside the tent. Défago ends up running off into the dark woods and Simpson heads off to find him. Simpson follows his footprints for many miles before coming to the realization that Défagos tracks are not the only ones showing up in the snow. The larger tracks are not human and over time it seems like Défagos tracks have transformed into smaller versions of the larger set. After awhile both sets of tracks disappear. Simpson hears Défagos voice calling out from somewhere far off in the sky above-

“Oh! oh! This fiery height! Oh, my feet of fire! My burning feet of fire…!”

Simpson eventually finds his way back to the main camp where he is reunited with the other hunters. Hank, Dr. Cathcart and Simpson go back to search for Défago. After traveling many miles they set up camp for the night. Suddenly Défago (or some frightening fascimile of Défago) appears before them, only to once again dissappear into the night.

The men are extremely disturbed by what just happened and decide to return to base camp. The real Défago is there waiting for them, suffering from frostbite, exposure and complete madness. He dies soon afterward and the hunters are left completely bewildered by the whole thing. The cook Punk ran home once he smelt the horrible odour coming from from Défago. Cook was a local and he had immediately recognized that Défago had seen a Wendigo.

The story wasn’t all that scary compared to a lot of the material that’s out today, but I suppose I could see how somebody at the turn of the 20th century might have found the story chilling. It kind of made me think of the movie “The Blair Witch Project” from the 1990s with its plot of being isolated in the middle of the woods stalked by a strange unseen presence. In Wendigo folklore the creature is described as a large boney spirit that takes over a person and causes them to turn into a cannibal. When I saw the title of the story I thought that’s where the author were going with it. If you want to read an older horror story you might enjoy “The Wendigo”.- Zwahk (Image from wyrdwordsandeffigies.com)

Published by Zwahk Muchoney

I'm an eclectic author who hails from the city of Seattle.

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