Warning: Article not recommended for those 11 or under.
As the spooky season has finally arrived this year, let’s dive into some mysterious myths and legends that have been passed over throughout the years. The legend of the wendigos, or sometimes spelled the windigos, originate from beliefs held by Indigenous peoples who inhabited large parts of the region around the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. In today’s day and age, the wendigo has gained great recognition in film and literature, but North American pop culture has often stripped away the meaning and belief of the creature and simplified it for the use of media.
A wendigo is a supernatural being belonging to the spiritual traditions of Algonquian-speaking First Nations in North America. The legend of the wendigo is associated with more human behaviors such as greed, selfishness, and violence. The tale begins with a lost hunter whose intense hunger during a harsh winter led him to eat another human’s flesh, transforming him into a crazed creature hunting for more people. In some traditions, humans turn into wendigos for engaging in dishonorable activities such as cannibalism. Other traditions say that humans overpowered by greed and selfishness can turn into wendigos, encouraging cooperation within society.
The wendigo, said to be a cold-weather creature, haunts the northern forests of the US and Canada looking for humans as their meals. The majority of sightings were reported between the 1800s and the 1920s, however in 2019 eerie howls in the Canadian wilderness led some to think if the beast had resurfaced. The legend has existed since long before Europeans arrived in North America through the Algonquian oral history. For some, the legend is a reminder of the importance of a community and the consequences of isolation. It is also seen as a symbol of greed in modern society, within capitalism and corporate consumerism.
While he may not be the largest or most muscular beast, wendigos definitely have qualities to scare the modern person. His 15 feet height, everlasting hunger, and sharp claws are enough to instill fear into humans. Some stories describe him as unusually fast and can endure walking in harsh winter conditions for elongated periods of time, while others say he walks in a more haggard manner almost like he is falling apart. Another trait a wendigo possesses is his ability to mimic human voices, to lure their prey into being alone, and then capture them.
Doesn’t matter what version of the tale you believe, you definitely don’t want to encounter this creature while adventuring the woods!
Anglis, Jaclyn. “This Cannibalistic Monster from Native American Lore Will Haunt Your Dreams.” All That's Interesting, All That's Interesting, 26 Aug. 2021, https://allthatsinteresting.com/wendigo.
McCauley, Elizabeth. “The Mythology and Misrepresentation of the Windigo.” BackStory, 23 Nov. 2016, https://www.backstoryradio.org/blog/the-mythology-and-misrepresentation-of-the-windigo/.
Pitt, Steve. “Windigo.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 9 Sept. 2012, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/windigo.
BunnyStegian, 'Wendigo' DeviantArt
Weiser, Kathy. “Wendigo - Flesheater of the Forests.” Legends of America, Feb. 2020, https://www.legendsofamerica.com/mn-wendigo/.