Monstrous Myths: Wendigo


This monster hails from the upper northeast of the North American continent, a tradition from the Algonquian nations. As ever, with monsters, the image of them varies, more than likely because only one man ever saw this creature and warned all the others. the story grew, was told and retold, and thusly, we have several separate descriptions, bound by land and migration patterns, but to me it is clear. I am a wendigo. Or perhaps I should say, a wendigo is me.

Let me give you the most common description: gaunt and emaciated, stretched, grayish skin, large dark eyes, and an insatiable hunger for human flesh. They are believed to be masters of dark magic, with heightened senses, ability to petrify people with terror, manipulate their thoughts, or sometimes mimic their voices. Some reports have him with antlers, and some claim that men can be possessed by wengiowak, however, knowing which came first is a bit challenging, due to the fact that there was little recording of the stories or of the practices with which they were retained, or if any alterations were made when the stories migrated (so far as I am aware). Some reports have a foul smell, while some associate the monsters with blizzards or food shortages. Both of these make great sense to me.

There have been times in my life, of which I am not proud, that I have allowed myself to slip back into that terrible cesspool of irrationality. Most often when it was impossible to hunt, as it is during a blizzard. It almost always ends in a bloodbath and then a newly conscious and disgusting me, looking around at the carnage with an awkward feeling in the pit of my stomach. But this is not important.

No, really.

What I find fascinating, is that to these peoples the condition was contagious. Cannibalism was thought to cause it, and in the early days of the colonies, they would even send death squads out to execute people they believed to be wendigowak. They could not, would not, see us as separate entities. They embraced us as peers, possessed of a demon that could only be extinguished in death. Or perhaps I am being optimistic. Perhaps they were really using our myths to justify their carnage against one another — “Yes, let us go and murder Sam, as he is surely a wendigo…with a very pretty widow-to-be.”

Whatever the reason, they truly did fear wendigo sickness, such that when the Ojibwe eventually did cross paths with me, they paid me to stay away — in the flesh of their enemies. They performed dances upwind from my dwelling to ward me off their innocent children. They sent a poor old man to wave herbs at me. I sent him back staggering with rum for his trouble. They positively cowered at the sight of me, such that I could walk amidst the waginoga, sit down, and even the most staunch warrior would do nothing more than pretend I was invisible.

It made supplying myself very simple, as you can imagine, and though their offerings were made from fear, I repaid them. During the war — the Seven Years war, as they called it, that village was very well protected, especially at night.

But again, all this is immaterial — it was a very long time ago and it did not last long. Someone eventually became tired of my constant lurking and organized a death squad…that did not end as planned.

I left.

And the vicious wendigo continued its rampage through folklore, augmented by my stupidity.

It was the last time I ever did such a thing. Forever more, I was a human, no matter where I went.

Please do not misunderstand me: I am not the first wendigo. I took advantage of the myth in order to live a relatively luxurious existence practicing my knack for trapping and skinning things, and thriving without the need for the exhaustive and risky hunt. The myth pre-dated me, and indeed was pervasive. Everyone in the region knew the tale, the warding songs, the precautions. Which tells me that before I ever journeyed to the New World, my kith and kin had done their devilish best.

One response to “Monstrous Myths: Wendigo

  1. Of all the monster I have ever read about, a wendigo is about the closest thing that describes you (except for the part about manipulating thoughts or whatever.) That, or El Comegente (not the Venezuelan cannibalistic serial killer but rather the monster that is said to roam the Dominican Republic). Obviously, as the name suggests, he is a monster that eats people. There’s also El Cuco but I wouldn’t compare you to him, seeing as he’s a shapeshifter who kidnaps children roaming the streets at night.

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