The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
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