Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

In Native American tradition – especially among the Algonquins – an evil Spirit; it is also called Weedigo, Weetigo, Whittico, Windago, Windigo, Witiko, etc., and is variously portrayed as a giant skeleton of ice or, more so in Supernatural Fiction than in Legend, as a spirit of the winds. Native Americans believed you could be possessed by a Wendigo (> Possession) and thereby turned into one, a psychosis usually manifested by way of devouring. Its main attribute is that it eats people and can transfer that affliction to any it bites – the parallels with European myths concerning Vampires are obvious. The Wendigo has been likened to the call-of-the-wild personified – perhaps most recently by Margaret Atwood in Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1995), where she describes it as the embodiment of the spirit of the Canadian North.

The primary supernatural story is "The Wendigo" (in The Lost Valley coll 1910) by Algernon Blackwood, in which a member of a hunting party in northern Canada is abducted by the Wendigo and spiritually drained. Blackwood thus converted the Wendigo from a physical man-eater to a form of psychic or spiritual vampire. This aspect was further developed by August Derleth, who linked the Wendigo to his Cthulhu Mythos writings in "The Thing that Walked on the Wind" (1933 Strange Tales) and "Ithaqua" (1941 Strange Stories). This has been further explored by Brian Lumley in "Born of the Winds" (1975 F&SF), which is more true to the legend than Lumley's later use of the creature in his Titus Crow novels, where the Wendigo more closely resembles an interplanetary Abominable Snowman. Elements of the legend occur also in The Wabeno Feast (1973) by Wayland Drew, and it has been used as a motif in stories by Thomas Easton (1944-    ) and Thomas F Monteleone. The direct-to-video movie Wendigo (1978) was based very loosely on Blackwood's story, although the spirit evidently drained any lifeforce from the moviemakers. A detailed anthology of items historical, fictional and psychological is Windigo: An Anthology of Fact and Fantastic Fiction (anth 1982) ed John Robert Colombo. [MA]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.