I started reading Blackwood’s material quite some time ago. I started with his one short story, which I read once and never thought about it, let alone remember its name. I never knew I would need a prolonged exposure to Blackwood for genuinely grasping his excellence and mastery over the supernatural. Last week when I read The Willows, I immediately wanted another. Thus, I stumbled on this. I knew about it as an urban legend and there is also a movie of the same name, which made me pick up this one.
The Wendigo is a chilling story of five men of different origin and mindset lost in the Canadian wilderness where they find, it seems, they’re not alone. They got separated to form two parallel hunting parties to catch moose, little did they knew that they’re going to experience something totally otherworldly.
The best thing about Blackwood, which I noticed this in The Willows as well, is the ability to turn the wilderness into a human averse monster of some sort. His novels make you afraid of the surroundings rather than the main ghost. In other words, the build-up before the actual Thing comes is always on point. It starts with the personification of almost everything around the characters.
“A sky of rose and saffron, more clear than any atmosphere Simpson had ever known, still dropped its pale streaming fires across the waves, where the islands – a hundred, surely, rather fifty – floated like the fairy barques of some enchanted fleet.”
Now, who doesn’t love a description like that!
Then, a change of tone arrives, where the characters realise that this wilderness is not as it seems and they’re roaming around in an uncharted territory. Something which the things living here won’t like –
“Yet, ever at the back of his thoughts, lay that other aspect of the wilderness: the indifference to human life, the merciless spirit of desolation which took no note of man.”
The same theme was followed in The Willows and its very effective in building a hostile and suspicious attitude towards everything which moves around the characters. In such a short book, Blackwood managed to create the setting and effortlessly deliver a scary climax. Both of these books were successful in making me uneasy to just sit in the room alone at night. The Wendigo is a must for all horror fans. It is one book which does justice to the myth as well as is capable of sending a chill down your spine.