Folklore: The Wendigo

Nom, Nom, Nom

In todays letter about spooky folklore I want to talk about the Wendigo.

The Wendigo has appeared many times in popular culture, with it appearing in countless videogames, books and films. It is also a staple of the Creepypasta genre, popping up in an unexpectedly large amount of stories.

Sometimes in pop culture the Wendigo will be referred to by its name and other times it can be given a new name, or no name at all, but will still have the traits of the Wendigo of myth.

The name, Wendigo, has also been co-opted by the medical industry, Wendigo psychosis is a mental condition in which the sufferer has uncontrollable cravings for human flesh.

But where did this myth come from and what does it entail?

Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen on

The Wendigo originates in Canada, among the First Nations Algonquin tribes. It appears with a number of tribes, each one differing slightly but all of them describing the same basic appearance and behaviours.  

It is often depicted as humanoid in shape, standing unusually tall on two legs and with two arms often ending in human-esk hands with fingers and opposable thumbs. It’s head however is not human at all, it’s head is usually that of a monstrous deer, with antlers and a great deal of exposed bone. Some depictions have the head as being a completely exposed scull, others expose some of the bone and a few have the head covered in fur.

In the stories the origin of the Wendigo differs, for some it was and is a spirit on it’s own and in other stories it is a human who has been possessed by a spirit and warped into a monster.

The Wendigo is said to appear in particularly hard winters, during periods of starvation, scarcity and famine. It embodies all of these things and the malevolent nature that comes out in people during these times. It is strongly associated with cannibalism and greed.

The Wendigo was created by the tribes to explain several things, the most apparent being the change in people during times of scarcity. The idea that men could become possessed by an evil spirit was likely a far more comfortable idea than if your neighbour is desperate enough they might eat you. It offers an explanation of the personality shifts people can undergo when times get hard. But it also serves as encouragement for people to employ moderation in times of scarcity.

4 thoughts on “Folklore: The Wendigo”

  1. I LOVE legends like this! I’ve heard about the wendigo before but I learn something new every time I come across them (I never knew they tend to appear during harsh winters, but with the whole starvation and cannibalism it makes sense). I’m so glad I found this blog, I am a fan of horror and legends as well! 🙂

    1. I do love to explore where our ‘modern’ horror stories came from, looking into myth and legend really helps us understand how and why we built stories. It’s really fun to dabble with 🙂

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