The Wendigo: Algonquian Folklore


I recently read Dangerous Spirits: The Windigo in Myth and History so I'm in a mood to talk about it. There's a lot of flak in modern culture about the Wendigo. I was interested in more historical, non-hollywood accounts of interaction with Wendigo. I think this book is a good place to start.

In popular culture, the Wendigo is a gaunt, hungry, canibalistic creature that consumes and consumes until there is nothing left, then it goes to look for more to consume. I discovered that the wendigo tales told for centuries by the Indigenious Peoples of North America provide a much more varied story.

Some wendego stories were scatological, sexual or simply difficult to interpret. They often had aspects of sexuality or even sexual violence, sometimes obscured by symbolism.

The stories were ostensibly about transformation by (and into) cannibalistic spirit being. Madness, and the fear of madness was as important a motif as cannibalism.

What ultimately results is the breakdown of the family and social order, of which women were an essential part. WOmen were absolutely integral to these traditions, but the scholarly and hollywood interpretation of these myths have not always made this apparent. Women were not always the focus of these narratives, but they were sometimes depicted as successfully destroying wendigos after their husbands failed.

Pretty solid book. Oddly funny at times. Would reccomend.