A Dr. Cathcart and his nephew Simpson go hunting for moose in the Canadian wilderness, accompanied by two Canadian guides and a native American cook.
On the surface this classic horror story by Algernon Blackwood revisits the sort of set-up that worked so well in The Willows. There are other similarities but they feel quite different; the other worldly eeriness of the Willows is quite different than the overall tone in The Wendigo. The first half of The Wendigo is very powerful, with the characters having their differing world views challenged by the perilous vastness of the natural world. The focus at this stage is more on Simpson as he sets out with Defago, one of the guides, to explore 50 Island Water in search of those elusive moose. These are the most powerful scenes as he contemplates the wild space about him and Defago starts to be broken down by his own superstitious knowledge. Blackwood characterises Simpson as being a 'student of divinity' counterpointing Cathcart's rationalistic adherence to science and the bulwarks of civilisation. Blackwood also describes one of the guides as being 'nearest primitive conditions' by which I believe he means that he (Hank) is the most in-tune with nature. It's a challenging and atmospheric read that pitches human instinct against rationalism, superstition against science and the awe of nature against the human social constructs of civilisation. The weakest part of the story is The Wendigo itself or more accurately Blackwood's choice to focus so strongly on one of the more absurd elements of the legend. I'm talking about the flaming feet. It's still a great story full of Blackwood's beautiful contemplative descriptive prose. It's not quite in the same weird horror league as The Willows but then again, what is.
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