Among the supernatural creatures that crowd the Indian imagination, one of the most terrifying is certainly the Wendigo, a gigantic cannibal monster with hideous features. The mythology of the Native Americans living along the east coast of North America and in the Great Lakes region, on the border between the United States and Canada, relates the existence of this disturbing entity, shrouded in the mists of superstition. A monster with many names The Wendigo (also called Windigo, Witigo, Witiko or Wee-Tee-Go) is a demonic creature that can have typically human characteristics or the features of a vaguely anthropomorphic monster.
For the Algonquians, whose nightmares and traditions are populated by the figure of this frightening being, it would be a man who turned into a monster after practicing cannibalism (by desire or compulsion). According to the Indians, in fact, if a man eats the flesh of his fellow man, he can turn into a Wendigo, a cursed creature condemned to wander eternally on Earth in search of prey that can satisfy his insatiable hunger for human flesh.
Like many mythological beings, the Wendigo also has a not very precise and defined appearance. Its characteristics vary according to stories, places and tribes, but in all cases it is an evil creature, devouring men. It is said that he was born from the union between the spirit of Winter and that of Hunger, and that he has a skeletal and curved body, more or less hairy, with enormous claws and lips so thin that they cannot cover the fangs that grow in him. mouth. His eyes are fiery and devoid of pupils, and it is not uncommon for him to be described or depicted with large deer antlers or, in some cases, with a deer skull instead of a human one.
Another peculiar feature of the Wendigo is the disproportionate length of its tongue. The height is also considerable, certainly over 2 m, but some stories even speak of it as a giant 5 or 6 m high. Further sign
particular is the speed of the step, so high that it burns his feet in friction with the ground (once worn, they fall and are replaced by new ones). To lure its victims into a trap and feed on their flesh, the monster is able to imitate the human voice and the sounds of animals.
Wendigo: an excellent hunter
During the day the Wendigo is an excellent hunter but during the night, thanks to its keen and incredibly developed senses, it doesn’t miss a beat. It is able to chase its prey for miles without ever getting tired, tormenting them with the terrifying hiss of its breath, until they go mad with fear and their feet heat up until they catch fire. At that point, he drags them to his lair and still devours them alive. It is said that the hideous creature has a heart of ice (or that it is entirely made of ice) and that a good way to get rid of it is to melt its heart with the heat of the fire.
Beliefs related to other creatures of the night, such as werewolves and vampires, converge in the figure of this monstrous being. Of the werewolf, the Wendigo has a shaggy body, clawed hands and the ability to run for a long time, in addition to size and voracity. With the vampire, however, he has in common the weak point, the heart, which must be struck to be able to annihilate the creature. Also, like the vampire and werewolf, the Wendigo is a degenerate man. The dramatic human-to-monster mutation can happen for several reasons. As in the case of vampires, it is the consequence of the bite of another Wendigo, but it can also happen if you are possessed in your sleep by an evil spirit, or if you feed on human flesh for a long time. The transformation into Wendigo, however, can also be caused by a curse or magical intervention, or be dependent on a shaman.
In most cases, the men affected by the frightening metamorphosis are hunters. The Wendigo, in fact, is a being of the woods and forests, solitary and watching, which attacks above all those who enter its territory. The elderly Red Indians and many shamans believed that he roamed the woods of Minnesota, the forests of Canada and Ontario. However, according to another version, the Wendigo was originally a hunter (Indian or white, without distinction), who during a particularly harsh winter, having remained isolated and without food, was forced to become a cannibal to survive. According to some Indian beliefs, in fact, eating human flesh would give man the typical characteristics of the creature: speed, strength and immortality
According to the tales of the Algonquian Indians, the Cree and other tribes, the Wendigo would be a creature half man and half moose, covered with a yellowish skin with roots or other plant elements attached to the body. What his actual powers are is difficult to say. It is certainly known that they are extremely developed and have supernatural strength. But it is also said that he possesses an extraordinary knowledge of the area. Moreover, according to some shamans, this creature is able to manipulate time and move faster thanks to the use of magic.
Wendigo: a real creature? Theodore Roosevelt’s Tale
It is not excluded, as some scholars of cryptozoology (science that studies hidden and not yet discovered animals) believe, that behind the legend of the Wendigo there is a really existing being. Someone has come to hypothesize that the myths concerning him can be superimposed on the stories that speak of the sasquatch (or bigfoot), the legendary ape-like creature that roams the forests of North America. The similarities between the two beings, however, are limited to the size, the hair that covers the body of both and the fact of having a habitually shy and cautious behavior.
In all likelihood, all the legends concerning the Wendigo originated as a deterrent against cannibalism among the tribes who frequently faced extremely cold winters and long periods of famine. The Cree Indians even boasted professional monster hunters: the Indian Jack Fiddler, for example, claimed to have killed as many as 14 Wendigos in his lifetime. President Theodore Roosevelt, on the other hand, a famous hunter, in one of his books told of having talked to an old mountaineer, a certain Bauman, who told him of an encounter with a Wendigo who would have killed one of his comrades.