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What is the Wendigo? Part 1

Algonquian folklore tells many fascinating stories of spirits, the stars and how the world was made. They also speak of dark creatures that inhabit the earth and make sleeping comfortably rather difficult. The Algonquian people are one of the most widespread North American native language groups, many still identify with them today. They were situated along the Atlantic coast, into the coast around the great lakes and throughout much of Canada. The cold would have been a huge struggle to deal with, particularly throughout winter when the snows began. Due to the extreme conditions people would have to create larger camps and rely on cached food to survive. Some would practice going hungry for several days. Naturally, not all would survive and many would die hungry, but according to legend, a small few would turn to cannibalism and those that did would transform into a hideous beast; the Wendigo.

The Wendigo is usually described as having an extremely gaunt figure, with its skin pulled tightly across its bones. It is said to have a gray complexion, the color of ash and large but sunken glowing yellow eyes that are pushed deep into their sockets. Its lips are bloody and tattered and underneath sit large yellowed fangs and a long tongue. Occasionally they are also pictured with matted hair that covers their body and antlers protruding from their heads. They are said to be anywhere between the average height of a man and four and a half meters tall. The one thing all Wendigo’s have in common is that they dine on humans.

Though most beasts chase down their prey, the Wendigo has a different way of snaring its victims. It can mimic the sound of a human voice and it uses this to lure people away from their tribes and villages leaving them alone in the woods with nobody to help. Once the unwitting quarry is isolated, the Wendigo pounces and devours the poor soul.

Some stories say that the creature not only hunts and eats people, but it can also curse them. If there is a Wendigo near a settlement, it is said that its presence can infect the minds of its inhabitants, slowly turning them into ravenous cannibals as well.

As with most monsters, ghouls and spooky creatures, there are plenty of stories that tell of the Wendigo’s origins. One legend tells of a hunter, lost in the frozen forests during winter. With no food in sight he grew hungrier and hungrier until the pain became so strong that he turned to human flesh in order to survive. This act of cannibalism transformed him into a Wendigo, a crazed beast with an insatiable appetite for people.

Another popular tale is that of a brave warrior who feared he could not protect his tribe. In order to do this, he made a deal with an evil spirit, he sold his soul to become a fearsome creature that would destroy its enemies. When the battles were won and peace ensued, his monstrous form was no longer needed and the Wendigo was banished from its village to the wilderness. There it lived as an outcast feasting on anyone that crossed its path.

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