Most monsters tend to play on your visual experiences of them as a instill fear: Frankenstein’s monster is the collection of various previously dead human remains sewn into one body, Zombies are dead corpses roaming around still rotting, and Vampires are once human creatures whose bodies appear to slowly be drained of healthy features as they progress. The Wendigo which originated from Northern Algonquian culture uses its effects on a person’s mind and actions along with its appearance to display how terrifying it truly is. The Wendigo is commonly described as a, “…cannibalistic humanoid monster or spirit entity that preys upon people to satisfy a compulsive hunger for human flesh.” (Carlson 359) in its Algonquian origins. Its appearances shift through various retellings, but they all seem to center around that of a tall creature usually with some human-like facial features and is usually described in a way that portrays a being that is in a state of severe hunger. The goal of the Wendigo is usually to feed on human flesh which is either done directly, like in Algernon Blackwood’s “The Wendigo”, or through actually possessing a human where they then go through what has been called the Wendigo Psychosis which results in that person actually developing an unstoppable craving for human flesh as told through a various collection of articles from indigenous cultures that resided in the Athabasca District in Canada. Particularly the Wendigo used in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary displays the mental aspects of the Wendigo’s abilities effectively.
Dr. Jeffery Cohen has written several theories on Monster Culture, once such theory states that, “The monster’s body is a cultural body…an embodiment of a certain cultural moment-of a time, a feeling, and a place.” (Cohen, 4). With this theory, the belief is established that the monster’s that cultures create are created from specific times, places, and events. With the Wendigo it is, in most cases, used an explanation for people who had been living in the northern regions of Alberta Canada that suddenly gone through a drastic violent change mentally. Nathan Carlson, an Algonquian descendant, discuses that many of the cited Wendigo, or Witiko, cases described those accused of having symptoms of, “emaciation; awry or glazed-looking eyes; swelling of the face, trunk, or limbs; and violence and shouting—in some cases with unusual vocal sounds.” (Carlson 2) from what is now termed the Wendigo Psychosis.
Algernon Blackwood’s book The Wendigo, is a strong demonstration of Dr. Cohen’s second monster theory. His belief that, The Monster always escapes… [it] turns immaterial and vanishes, to reappear someplace else. “The Wendigo” describes the journey of two Scottish men, Simpson and Dr. Cathcart, on a moose-hunting trip. During their expedition, their guide Joseph Defago mysteriously disappears into the forest one night after struggling in his sleep and waking to his, “…feet of fire! My burning feet of fire!” (Blackwood, 10). As Simpson briefly searches the surrounding woods, he notices a set of footprints described as, “… big, round, ample, and with no pointed outline as of sharp hoofs” (Blackwood, 11) accompanying Defago’s tracks. Later the men begin to search for him and after a few days worth of searching they are sitting around a campfire discussing what could have happened to the man, when on of their fellow travelers by the name of Hank Davis describes, “the Wendigo is simply the Call of the Wild personified, which some natures hear to their own destruction…[that the Wendigo targets the]… most vulnerable points, moreover, are said to be the feet and the eyes; the feet, you see, for the lust of wandering, and the eyes for the lust of beauty. The poor beggar goes at such a dreadful speed that he bleeds beneath the eyes, and his feet burn.” (Blackwood, 17). Although this is a slightly different representation than the Algonquian Wendigo, this Wendigo is described as feeding off its victims while taking them through the tops of the trees. The party later finds Defago accompanying them around the campfire, devoid of his previous appearance and speaking of how he met, “…that great Wendigo thing.” (Blackwood, 17). After spiriting away Defago, The Wendigo returned what it didn’t find a need for and disappeared into the night without a trace.
“The Monster dwells at the gates of difference”, is Jeffery Cohen’s 4th theory on monster culture which establishes that monsters are not only described as a grotesquely different being but their actions and choices are what makes them more terrifying due to the differences between them and their culture of origin. The two aspects of that the Wendigo displays are the various types of greed that people experience when under its influence, and the developed acts of cannibalism. Stephen King focuses on the Wendigo’s aspect of greed in Pet Sematary, as the dead buried in a Micmac burial ground behind the Creed’s house bring the dead back to life. The main character chooses to first bring back their cat, but even after the horrific retelling of a previous person, buries his son there as well. The first burial with his cat only summons the Wendigo in the story from, “a shrill, maniacal laugh came out of the darkness, rising and falling in hysterical cycles, loud, piercing, chilling. (…) it reached the pitch of a scream, then sank into a guttural chuckling that might have become sobs before it faded out altogether” (King, 128). The second event, when he buries his son Gage, Louis Creed comes face to face with the Wendigo where they have their first physical meeting, “its eyes tilted up like the eyes in a classical Chinese painting, were a rich yellowish gray, sunken, gleaming. The mouth was drawn out in a rictus, the lower lip was turned inside out, revealing teeth stained blackish-brown and worn almost to nubs. But what struck Louis were the ears, which were not ears at all, but curving horns…they were not like devil’s horns; they were ram’s horns.” (King, 371). It lets him pass without any difficulty because it knows what his intentions are, to bring back his recently dead son so he won’t have to part with him. Although it was based on good intentions, this act of greed committed by Mr. Creed is the one that fully allows the Wendigo to get what it seeks, human flesh. Gage quickly makes the Creed’s neighbor Judd his first victim brutally attacking and the eating parts of his body leading to Judd’s demise.
Stephen King’s form of the Wendigo seems to be the one that
instills a greater amount of terror over the other two that were introduced.
Its manipulation of Louis Creed’s want to keep his family together is an easily
relatable concept for most people. Not many people are ready to part with their
loved ones at the time of their deaths and may easily succumb to the slight level
of greed like Louis creed did. But just be warned for there could be a great
and evil creature lurking in the shadows ready to feed on those who would be
foolish enough to commit those acts of self-greed. Its name is the Wendigo.
Blackwood, Algernon. “The Wendigo.” The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wendigo, by Algernon Blackwood., 2011, algernonblackwood.org/Z-files/Wendigo.pdf. This source is a literary interpretation of the Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood. It provides his beliefs and thoughts of how the Wendigo would be and how it would go about possessing those it seeked out. I will hopefully be using this source to provide insight on a certain time period’s version of the Wendigo.
Carlson, Nathan D. “Reviving Witiko (Windigo): An Ethnohistory of ‘Cannibal Monsters’ in the Athabasca District of Northern Alberta, 1878-1910.” Ethnohistory, vol. 56, no. 3, Summer 2009, pp. 355–394. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1215/00141801-2009-001. This source is the collection of various documented literary sources and written down versions of the oral folktales that described the Wendigo and its actions. These sources are originated from parts of south-eastern Canada from the indigenous tribes that lived in those areas. I intend to use this source to establish the as close to original characteristics of the Wendigo as well as its actions.
Jusiak, Katarzyna. “The Embodiment of the Taboo: the Images of Wendigo in Literature and Their Rendition in Modern Media.” The Embodiment of the Taboo: the Images of Wendigo in Literature and Their Rendition in Modern Media, Adam Mickiewicz University, 2015, s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/39343332/KJusiak_BA_thesis.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1556616461&Signature=oyOya3oxoekWiJ4zD4bYruY439A%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DThe_embodiment_of_the_taboo_the_images_o.pdf. This source is a thesis paper that analyzes some of the various literary interpretations of the Wendigo. Hopefully I will be able to use this source to shed some light on the reasons behind the Wendigo’s use in literary works. Also, it will help me determine the purpose of the Wendigo’s origin.
King, Stephen. Pet Sematary. Sperling & Kupfer, 2016. This source is a modern literary source of the Wendigo. Stephen King is a prominent horror author who uses the Wendigo as the main antagonist in this book. This source is my modern-day interpretation of the Wendigo. By analyzing this story, I will be able to not only see the ways the Wendigo is used for modern day themes, but also as a point to compare how the monster has changed over time.
Sherman, Melodi S., “In Love with the Boogeyman: Compulsion Desire and Heisenbergian Literary Uncertainty in Stephen King’s “Pet Cematary”” (1997). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 9329. This source is a thesis paper that analyzes Stephen King’s novel Pet Sematary. It provides an in-depth analysis of the book and its themes. I plan to use this source to assist me in analyzing King’s book and the themes and use of the Wendigo in his story.