There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold”
Robert W. Service
We all have that friend who loves a complicated brunch. The sort who’d make you wait in line for hours because the place had twenty grain toast and a clever menu. The sort sustained as much by the hunger and frustration of their hungover pals, as they are a proper meal. I have been that hungover pal, standing in the endless cold, my good nature worn thin by thoughts of food denied. I was neither killed nor eaten, but in that moment I could feel a whisper of the Wendigos hunger.
The Wendigo, depending on who you ask, is a spirit, or demon, or psychological compulsion, that results in the consumption of human flesh. This physical embodiment of Hangry cannot be sated; like murderous Pringles, once popped the urge for flesh cannot be stopped. To be clear, this is supported by more than legend.
One of the more famous cases of Wendigo psychosis reported involved a Plains Cree trapper from Alberta, named Swift Runner. During the winter of 1878, Swift Runner and his family were starving, and his eldest son died. Twenty-five miles away from emergency food supplies at a Hudson’s Bay Company post, Swift Runner butchered and ate his wife and five remaining children. Given that he resorted to cannibalism so near to food supplies, and that he killed and consumed the remains of all those present, it was revealed that Swift Runner’s was not a case of pure cannibalism as a last resort to avoid starvation, but rather of a man with Wendigo psychosis. He eventually confessed and was executed by authorities at Fort Saskatchewan.
A man confessed to being a Wendigo, and the evidence at hand strongly supported it. Do you know how hard it is to eat six people? I get that five of them were children, but he still ate several hundred pounds of fruit off his family tree. Even if he was at it for a week he is still the Joey Chestnut of cannibals. I suspect they caught him because he couldn’t stop bragging about it in bars.
Country of origin: Canada
Am I proud that we have a monster this twisted on the home team? Absolutely. But, predictably, we stole this myth from the indigenous population and then made it all about us. In fairness, a ravenous spiritual hunger that causes you to consume without regard for cost or consequence does have a white colonial feel to it, but I am not sure that’s a win.
Is it scary
On every level, absolutely. A gaunt, antlered revenant devouring the flesh of loved ones is downright unsettling. I don’t want to get eaten by a werewolf, but if you ignore the tattered pants, it’s not that different that being mauled by a dog. Wendigos, on the other hand, are deeply unhappy, and hate me for my warmth and joy. In either case I am getting devoured, but a werewolf is not calling my wife on the phone so she can hear me weep and beg as I die. A Wendigo might.
What does this say about Canadians:
“Another well-known case involving Wendigo psychosis was that of Jack Fiddler, an Oji-Cree chief and medicine man known for his powers at defeating wendigos. In some cases, this entailed killing people with Wendigo psychosis. As a result, in 1907, Fiddler and his brother Joseph were arrested by the Canadian authorities for homicide. Jack committed suicide, but Joseph was tried and sentenced to life in prison. He ultimately was granted a pardon but died three days later in jail before receiving the news of this pardon.”
For all of the backhanded blandishments about Canadians being “nice”, we don’t huddle in our sod huts and hope the monsters go away, we call up the Fiddler brothers to to jersey those fucking Wendigos back to the spirit realm. Now some might say “Can we be sure they were only killing Wendigos? This whole thing seems pretty sketchy. Maybe they were indiscriminately killing people with low blood sugar”. I would direct those folks to the end of the news snippet I cribbed from Wikipedia.
“He ultimately was granted a pardon but died three days later in jail before receiving the news of this pardon”
You don’t get a pardon for serial homicide unless you can convince a judge that at least one of those victims was plausibly a Wendigo. I don’t know the specifics the evidence presented, but it was compelling enough to get a mulligan on multiple murders. I suggest you let that one marinate.
What is the lesson
On the surface, try not to starve so badly that you decide to eat your family, but is anyone lining up on the other side of that issue? I feel like even staunchly pro-cannibalism people would still be anti-starving.
On an philosophical level it speaks to the brutality lying dormant within us, held in check by a hot meal and early spring. Tough to consider, but I’ve for sure fish hooked a kid’s face during a snow fort war, and that was on a day where I’d had a healthy breakfast.
 The Wendigo would need its own cell phone as I do not have one. I guess it could take the change from my pocket and use a payphone, but that seems like a long walk for a farewell bit.
Terrible Monsters Series
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