A to Z: Wendigo

Published April 26, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

I’m sure I had lots of other choices for “W”.  Well, some other choices, anyway.  But Wendigo is the only one who ended up in my list as I went through the games where I could easily access the compendium.

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

Aside from the horns, he seems more like a yeti than a wendigo, really.  But he’s a suitable sight for the terrified central trio of Devil Survivor, who meet him at the beginning of the game, before they’re used to seeing demons everywhere, and the next morning are given the prediction by their future diaries (lol, anime inside joke) that they’re going to be killed by him that day.

Anyway, this is what his compendium entry says in four of the five games available to me:

An abominable snowman of Canada.  Its height is over five meters.

It has a face that looks like a skull and its thick fur lets it run quickly in the snow.  It appears in villages and eats humans.  Sacrifices are common to avoid being attacked.  It is also said to be a type of spirit that dwells in mountains.

(The fifth, Persona Q, doesn’t feature wendigo.  He doesn’t seem popular in the Persona sub-series, which is odd, because you’d think he’d fit right in.  Though actually, the last sentence was only in two of the four games.  The rest was in all four.)

As with some of the other demons I’ve looked at (yesterday’s, for example), the description of the wendigo seems to be based on something very specific, something that isn’t the original belief, but I don’t know what, precisely.  Since it was made the title character of a 1910 short story by Algernon Blackwood, the wendigo has taken on an entirely new and ever-changing life outside of the culture in which it originated, to the point that some people probably don’t even realize it started out as a native monster from before the arrival of Europeans on this continent.  But a lot of that is in horror fiction and/or horror movies, all of which I avoid, so I’m gonna skip the wendigo’s second wind as a monster (even though that’s the one that seems to be the game’s real point of reference) and go instead to the original one.

The beast we call the wendigo actually has a lot of names, coming from the Ojibwe, Algonquin and Cree languages.  As that might indicate, the original belief was widespread across what is now the northeast United States and eastern Canada.  The wendigo is a man-eating beast that symbolizes gluttony, and the insatiable results of simply giving in to gluttony and greed:  every time a wendigo ate a human, they grew proportionately by the amount of meat they consumed, meaning that next time they fed, they would need even more meat, in an endless cycle, which is why the uncontrollable glutton was also always emaciated and starving.

The actual, supernatural wendigos are not cannibals (despite usually being labeled as such) because they don’t eat each other.  However, a human being could become a wendigo if they gave in to their greed too readily, or if they spent time with real wendigos.  Those human wendigos were cannibals, eating whatever humans they could.  The Wikipedia page on the wendigo mentions several documented cases of cannibalism that were said to be humans becoming wendigos, one of them dating back to 1661!  Of course, the only cure for a human who became a wendigo was death.  Thankfully, such cases dwindled in the 20th century.



I feel like there was more I needed to say here.  Probably shouldn’t be trying to write at midnight.  Maybe I’ll remember later and edit this.  (Or maybe this nonsense will still be here when the post goes live in five — er, four and a half — days.)

In any case, I wanted to close this post with a link to another (long completed) enamel pin Kickstarter (yes, I’m obsessed) that has a very different take on a wendigo.  The pins are cute little faces of monster girls, but there’s also non-SD art of the first three, which is, well, not quite NSFW, but very close to it.  (So probably don’t click the link if you’re at work…)  And yes, if you were wondering, the wendigo pin is one of the ones I’m getting.  (Hey, be glad I didn’t do this on Mothman, too.  I had one there I could have linked to, too…)

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