I enjoy watching and reading horror stories. I was vaguely aware of the myth of the Wendigo because I had seen an episode centered around it a long time back. That’s the reason I excitedly picked up this book when I read the title and the blurb. The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood is a short horror story. It follows five characters in the Canadian wilderness where they’re not alone as believed to be.
The story follows a small hunting party that sets out on an expedition in the Canadian wilderness to track moose. When the party splits up into pairs, they encounter bizarre events. The creature they are being hunted by is The Wendigo. From what I researched, this creature, according to the legend is a cannibalistic spirit. It possesses people, who have succumbed to consuming human flesh due to some or the other hardship they faced. This spirit transforms such individuals into cannibal-werewolf, which is apparently a thing I wasn’t even aware of it. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what happens in the story because it can’t be summarized with the same atmospheric narrative the story holds.
The group has two Scottish, a theology student Simpson and his psychologist uncle Dr. Cathcart, who studies mass hysteria, an indigenous cook Punk, Davis and Defago, the two Canadian guides. The moose are scarce in these parts, so the group decides to split up, which makes Defago uneasy. After everyone goes to sleep at night, Punk is awake, he smells an unfamiliar odor that worries him, but he doesn’t share this with anyone. After breakfast, the group splits up. Defago and Simpson head in one direction, Cathcart and Davis in the other direction. They decide to meet back at the camp in a few days. This is where the horror element of the story really starts coming into play.
I haven’t read anything written by Algernon Blackwood before, so The Wendigo is my introduction to his works. The story sets a good pace right from the get-go and maintains it till the end. The way the wilderness and events have been described is very atmospheric, it completely sucks you into the story and its world. The Wendigo in this story is not exactly similar to the legends I read about; there are no allusions to cannibalism in this version. I kept waiting for the monster to show up, but the build-up to it was the actual terrifying part for me.
Even though it is a short story, it has a complete story and narrative structure. The story starts off a little light-hearted in its tone, but as the characters go deeper into the wilderness, the intensity starts building up. The composition of the characters is very unique. Simpson is the youngest of the group, and his experience with Defago instills terror in him. On the other hand, Dr. Cathcart, the rationalist amongst the group, finds it difficult by the end to rationalize their experience. As I said, the build-up to the climax is scary enough, but the climax delivers too. It takes such an unexpected turn but is the perfect way to end it.
I enjoyed reading the story of The Wendigo. I especially liked the writing and I will get to other works of Algernon Blackwood after this. The story keeps you curious and scared throughout. As a reader, you experience the events along with the characters because of the way it is been written. The Wendigo is a must-read for horror genre fans.
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