It stalks the woods during the coldest and harshest months of the year,
plagued with an insatiable hunger.
Of immense size and speed,
the Windigo monster of Native American lore
has become one of the most notorious flesh-eaters of all time.
The Windigo legend teaches us about Native American spiritual beliefs and social values,
and has three major symbolic interpretations:
the incarnation of winter, the embodiment of hunger,
and the personification of selfishness, both spiritual and physical.
And thennnn there’s cannibalism.
I am Dr. Emilly Zarqa. And this is Monstrum
The Windigo has clawed its way into popular culture,
appearing in TV shows like Supernatural
and Charmed, and Marvel comics.
It’s terrorized audiences in movies
This…Indian scout…told me a curious story. Windigo.
It’s an old Indian myth from the north
and video games.
and even a My Little Pony episode.
What is that… thing?
It must be Windigos!
I feel confident saying that this creature’s gone mainstream.
But almost all of these portrayals fail to capture the complete history
or even the original traits, of the Windigo.
The Windigo legend originates with indigenous people
who belong to the Algonquian language family.
They say it’s a giant humanoid cannibal
who can move at an incredibly fast speed.
The Windigo is astonishingly tall, with razor-sharp teeth and claws,
and lips that are often chewed ragged, or gone completely.
They have a heart made of ice
and despite their unending hunger for human flesh, they remain emaciated.
It shrieks, and can run across tree tops
and its presence may be preceded by a foul odor,
or a sudden snow storm.
Almost all Windigos begin as humans,
and once transformed it has no gender
But how does one become a Windigo?
The most common way is by eating human flesh,
but there are others, including dreaming of the Windigo.
It is also believed that you can become a Windigo without physically transforming.
Someone who is in a state of inner turmoil might be at risk of becoming one.
Some communities believe it can be caused by a spiritual imbalance,
or by choosing to prioritize the self over the community.
Since the lore of the Algonquian peoples is largely shared through oral tradition,
there are several variations of the Windigo.
But the origins of the legend undoubtedly began with the indigenous tribes
that lived in the northern woodlands, Atlantic Coast, and Great Lakes regions .
The Algonquian language family is one of the largest native linguistic groups in North America
and includes these groups among others.
Because of this widespread distribution,
the Windigo has many names, spellings, and pronunciations.
There are more than 37 names for it that begin with “w”.
Here we use the spelling that more accurately reflects the Cree and Ojibwe pronunciations,
and the one that appears more commonly in indigenous-authored texts.
Regardless of how it’s spelled,
there is something that can help explain the Windigo legend—climate and geography.
All of the communities that share the Windigo myth experience long, harsh winters.
With heavy snowfall, freezing temperatures, and a lack of resources,
the fear of starvation was a very real thing.
This encourages people to stick together
both a practical and necessary means of survival.
The Windigo, on the other hand, thrives in the winter and can travel in blizzards.
反观温迪戈 既能冬天蓬勃生长 也能暴雪中穿行
It hunts for those who are separated from the group or who leave the safety of their homes.
The threat of cannibalism is embodied by the Windigo.
Fear is a powerful motivator,
and this story spooked people into sharing food resources during the winter,
and preparing adequate food storages during the rest of the year.
So, ya know, you wouldn’t have to venture out into that blizzard
因此 你懂的 你就不必冒险进入暴风雪
and get eaten by a shrieking Windigo.
The first written mention of the Windigo occurred in 17th-century Jesuit records
which coincides with Europeans entering into the fur trade.
The North American fur trade boom in the 18th and 19th centuries
meant even more trappers were traveling to present-day Canada.
The claws and vicious appetite of the Windigo,
along with the idea that a human could transform into one,
reminded the Europeans of a similar legend of their own—the werewolf.
Through trade, community, and marriage,
a cross-cultural exchange of ideas, including monsters, occurred.
A Jesuit priest compared the European monster to the windigo’s similar canine hunger
saying it, ” makes them so ravenous for human flesh that they pounce upon women,
children, and even men, like veritable werewolves, and devour them voraciously. “
孩子甚至男人 像真正的狼人一样 贪婪地咬噬他们
With associations like that, it makes sense how these two legendary creatures overlap today.
And why most modern depictions of the Windigo vary wildly from the original.
You might have seen the Windigo depicted as a stag-human hybrid,
a human with antlers, or even with ram horns for ears.
There is no evidence of this in all the Algonquian [AL-gon-ki-en] peoples versions.
The only animal the Windigo is associated with in some stories is the owl.
In fact, ” windigo” can translate as ” owl” or ” cannibal” depending on the dialect.
事实上 根据方言 “温迪戈”可以被译作“猫头鹰”或“食人者”
Which kind of makes sense given that owls do eat flesh and are often seen as omens of death.
The image of the antlered-windigo seen in Hannibal
and Pet Sematary
actually originates in the film Wendigo.
The director Larry Fessenden merged a story he was told as a child
with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark version of the Windigo,
itself adapted from another author’s interpretation.
Fessenden admits that he didn’t even do research on the Windigo until after he made the movie.
But the image is so foreign and striking
it continues to appear in movies, art, and other pop culture texts.
The Windigo has also appeared in another venue—the courtroom.
In 1897, a ” windigo killing” trial became a landmark case for early Canadian law when
an Ojibwe man was found guilty of manslaughter
for shooting someone he believed to be a Windigo.
In his culture, killing a Windigo was acceptable.
But his court conviction confirmed that Canadian common law applied to indigenous communities,
even if they had no knowledge of its existence.
In the late 19th and early 20thcenturies, a handful of other indigenous people were
similarly convicted of murder for killing people they deemed windigos.
Windigos showed up in another unlikely place—psychiatry.
In the 1920s and 30s,
” windigo psychosis” , a ” cultural-bound mental illness”
was said to be a disorder that drove people to cannibalism or cannibalistic thoughts.
But in the 1970s this diagnosis was brought into question
and no subject with the supposed condition has ever been studied.
Today most scholars reject it completely.
Like all monsters, we need to recognize the origins of the creature
even as it continues to change and grow in other traditions.
Whether it’s the Hulk battling a Yeti-esque Windigo in the woods,
or finding the cure to tuberculosis in human flesh
greater significance, and arguably enjoyment,
can be found by recognizing the creature’s original purpose.
The Windigo is largely popular today because it represents a violation of a human code
don’t kill one another, and certainly don’t eat them if you do.
But it’s more than that.
The Windigo is a warning about what could happen
when an individual forgoes the collective for their own survival.
The Windigo is above all a lesson in excess and a manifestation of the anxieties
that emerge in the harsh realities of winter—and how to survive it.
Hint, don’t eat other people.
Do you have a favorite monster?
Let me know in the comments!
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It stalks the woods during the coldest and harshest months of the year,