Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Wendigo

by Algernon Blackwood

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.

The Wendigothird time down, the tale is still flavorful to the taste. 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 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.

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