Out of the many creatures of Native American myth and folklore, there is likely no worse an abomination as a wendigo, a creature that is somewhat akin to the more famously known werewolf in some regards. Of course, that regard being that both are the result of a curse but in the case of the wendigo it is a curse born from one of the worst taboos of mankind.
Commonly associated with the frozen north, the bleakness of winter, famine, and starvation, the wendigo are said to be the result from consuming the flesh of a fellow human, whether it was done willingly or because the only other choice was death by starvation. The resulting transformation into a wendigo is neither swift nor slow and the victim is beyond all means of saving.
There are variations in the myth, primarily in popular culture such as Marvel Comic’s adaptation of the creature, wherein there is only one wendigo at a given time and that said creature is only be born in the regions of the far north. The curse of the wendigo can be passed on should someone else consume human flesh in the aforementioned area but that was never fully confirmed and was likely retconned as the case often is in comics.
Unfortunately, such is not the case in the actual myths told by the various native peoples of America and Canada. There is said to be no limit to the actual number of wendigo but thankfully are limited to being born from the consumption of human flesh.
There are two common interpretations of what a wendigo actually looks like though there are a few common traits between them. The first one interpretation I said to be ginormous creature of gluttony and greed whose stature is, at minimum, fifteen feet tall but will actually grow further in size equal to the proportions of its last meal.
While both interpretations of the wendigo are plagued with a constant state of starvation, it is this one that is said to grow even hungrier the larger it gets. This is also the variation that often depicts the wendigo with other animal traits and/or carcasses decorating its massive frame despite no legend of the creature in any media stating wendigo eating anything besides humans.
The second interpretation was given the spotlight treatment in the recent video game Until Dawn. This variation depicts the wendigo as being a gaunt creature of flesh and bone with said bones actually pushing through its desiccated skin. Its bears an ashen complexion with sunken eyes and lips forever tattered and bloodied. The wendigo, no matter the interpretation, is also said to give off an odor of decay and corruption.
Though a wendigo is capable of being killed, it is described as not being an easy feat by any means. In the case of Until Dawn, this is because the skin of a wendigo is impervious to virtually every known weapon. Knives and blades cannot pierce it, bullets just knock it back, but fire on the other hand burns them like fresh kindling. However, it said that the spirit of the wendigo, the source of the curse, cannot be slain and will forever awaits until the next time the taboo is broken.
While some creative liberties were taken with the story and mythos of the wendigo, I firmly believe that the video game Until Dawn is by far the best interpretation of the creature. While Marvel Comics version is more recognized, it was purposefully designed, and still often is, to be a creature capable of matching the Hulk. That and, being a part of a comics company that generally, not always but mostly, aims towards the PG-13 rating, the horror of the wendigo is never fully explored. Such is not the case for Until Dawn as one of the main side-quests focuses on learning the identity of the “alpha” wendigo and how that person became a wendigo in the first place.
Unfortunately for the wendigo, Marvel Comics and Until Dawn are likely to be the only true times in the spotlight that it will ever receive. Aside from being a creature born of a taboo that no one likes to really think about, there is an actual form of psychosis named after the creature that makes it even more of an uncomfortable subject to portray in most media.
The wendigo is also a creature of winter and the far north, not one that could be born at any time of year or in any given location either. That and let us be honest here, the wendigo is a creature that combines the best and the worst of many other Halloween horrors with the cannibalism of the zombies and the horrific transformation of the werewolf being chief amongst them.
Which, in hindsight, makes them a heck of a lot more terrifying…