Most monsters tend to call out and emphasize features that bring terror to a person all the while leaving an ever lasting impression; Vampires with their gaunt and pale features, werewolf’s with their snarling muzzle a hybridized face between man and wolf, and Medusa that with one look into its face turns man into stone. The Wendigo monster origins come from the Northern Algonquian culture which was a mix of many different cultures. What a wendigo looks like is up for debate, but the portray that we will be going on of is that of the Native American legend which depict the monster as “human-like…becomes a giant…chews its lips off” (Mccauley). Over time this image has changed over time that even the movie Wendigo by director Larry Fessenden depicts the monster with a stags head, which has had a chain effect of having the horned version of the wendigo in numerous other medias such as movies, art and texts; this image has invaded so profusely our interpretation of the monster that a simple search of it on the web offers a variety of image that many have one thing in common, horns. The ‘original’ version of the wendigo is that of a monster that is: humanlike, large in size, has sharp teeth with long extremities, and also “The Witiko’s hunger instinct is believed to be so insatiable that it has consumed its own lips”(Carlson, 359) . We will be first analyzing what makes the original Wendigo a monster then we will be rating how well the “Mordeo” pays tribute to the OG monster.
Dr. Jeffery Cohen has written several theories on Monster Culture, his first theory that of “The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body” states “The monster’s body is quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy, giving them life and an uncanny independence” (Cohen, 4). With this theory, it is considered that based on the time frame, location, and events occurring, the monster exists as an explanation to various aspects of the unknown. This seems to ring true as during the time that the wendigo came into fruition, the origins came from the people of the northern regions of Alberta, Canada; and these people still lived in tribes. Why is it important that the people lived in tribe? Well the answer lies in what the wendigo used to represent to the Indigenous people of the time, and that would be: “ the spirit of winter…symbol of the dangers of selfishness” and also “punishment for dishonorable or taboo activities such as engaging in cannibalism due to starvation” (Mccauley). The culture of the tribe is that of sharing and the community is above the self, this is why the wendigo was created, in hopes of deterring selfish behavior that can harm the community.
The next theory of Dr. Jeffrey Cohen is that ‘The Monster Always Escapes’. This in true is as there have been numerous remakes of the wendigo both in stories and in film a few examples being that of as mentioned The Wendigo directed by Larry Fessenden and Pet Sematary both the novel by Stephen King and the movie, appeared in the show Supernatural like many mythological monster do, also seen in an episode of My Little Pony, and what we are interested in is the adaptation of the wendigo by Crypt TV . That is what this theory is about that as mentioned that “the monster’s body is both corporal and incorporeal; its threat is its propensity to shirt” (Cohen, 5). This variety of the same monster tells us that even though they might have been killed in one such as in Supernatural the wendigo continues to live on in another story possibly even in another form because that is what happens to monsters in many stories, defeated in one, but it reappears in another, as in the indigenous version the monster has “many name-variations, including Weedigo, Wittako, Windagoo, and thirty-four others all beginning with W and having three syllables” (Margret), yet it is the same monster.
Among the theories of Dr. Jeffrey Cohen his fourth is that ‘The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference’ on which is about how monsters are not only described in an unfavorable manner but also their actions and choice are what separates them from “us” further highlighting the separation between the two groups making it into a “us and them” scenario. In relation to our monster there are a few differences that can be made. The first one happens to be that the wendigo of the Northern Algonquian culture is used to explain why some people are different than the others in the tribe. This happened to cause the tribe to come up with the term “Wendigo Psychosis”, which was when the person was possessed by the wendigo spirit after having consumed human flesh, or the other ways that one becomes a wendigo. This view that people must be different because they are not acting in the matter that we do is what this theory is about and how this monster was a was for this to happen.
Another theory that the wendigo embraces is that of ‘The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible” by Dr. Jeffrey Cohen. Monsters are created to keep people from going outside of certain boundaries to “enforce a strict notion of group sameness”(Cohen, 15), as if everyone is the same then there is no reason for conflict to occur, it is only when differences arise that conflict emerges. The wendigo is a representation of the consequences if you go outside the boundaries that have been established; you ate another person because you were starving, you become a wendigo; you are doing things that benefit you and not the whole, you become a wendigo, so on and so on. Monsters come into existence when one crosses a boundary, when crossed you can never go back to what you once were.
These are all the categories that the ‘Mordeo’ is going to be compared to and will allow us to form an opinion of how well this version of the wendigo stacks up to the original. The first theory that “The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body” applies to the Mordeo, but now it reflects just the aspect of the taboo that is cannibalism. Obviously, ‘The Monster Always Escapes’ is one that will apply because ‘Mordeo’ is another version of the wendigo that has reemerged to conform to our current views. Another point for this monster would be that ‘The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible” applies very well to this monster as we clearly see the consequences of eating human flesh on the mountain. The thesis that ‘The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference’ does not apply to ‘Mordeo’ very well and so that is a point against this monster. What this monster bring to the table is that can include another thesis of Dr. Cohen and that would be that ‘The Monster is the Harbinger of category Crisis’ as it states in the thesis that the monster form is “a form suspended between forms that threatens to smash distinctions” (Cohen, 6). Overall, this monster deserves a 4 out of 5 for its usage of the original elements such as cannibalism and the consequences associated with it, the spirit of winter that is seen my the warm clothes being worn, the insatiable hunger, and its unique take of the monster by adding horns to the monster which emphasized the hybrid aspect, and the possession of a person by a spirit, although it lost some of the points because of the lack of long limbs associated with the monster and it did not show that it is large in size.
Atwood, Margaret. “Cannibal Lecture.” Saturday Night, vol. 110, no. 9, Nov. 1995, p. 81. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=9511075372&site=ehost-live.
This source provides information that will support the characteristics of what makes a monster. It will be used as support to the idea that monster never die with its mentioning of the numerous ways to spell the name wendigo by tribes. This is a secondary source and it is reliable because it comes from EBSCO.
Carlson, Nathan D. “Reviving Witiko (Windigo): An Ethnohistory of ‘Cannibal Monsters’ in the Athabasca District of Northern Alberta, 1878-1910.” Ethnohistory, vol. 56, no. 3, Summer 2009, pp. 355–394. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1215/00141801-2009-001.
This source provides information on what the ‘witiko’ is, how it looks like, and its habits. It is a source to help support how the original monster is being portrayed. It will be used to support the habits that the wendigo has. This is a secondary source and it is a reliable source as it is from EBSCO.
Crypt TV. “MORDEO | “Insatiable Hunger” | Crypt TV Monster Universe | Short Film.” YouTube, 28 April.2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1W0fRWA3aw.
This source provides information about the monster that will be evaluated in comparison to its origins and see if it does justice to them. It is a short video on their interpretation of the monster, but in a recent form. It will be used in the last paragraph to break down the monster. This source is a primary source as its monster is being used to compare it to the original monster and how well it sticks to the fundamentals of the monster.
Jeffery Jerome Cohen. Monster Culture: Seven Theses. Excerpt from Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1996 http://www.englishwithtuttle.com/uploads/3/0/2/6/30266519/cohen_monster_culture__seven_theses__3-20.pdf
This source provides information that will be key in determining if our monster has the characteristics of what makes a monster a monster. It will be used throughout the essay to explain what makes out monster a monster and the characteristics associated with that title. This is a secondary source and is key for our understanding of monsters.
Mccauley, Elizabeth. “The Mythology and Misrepresentation of the Windigo.” BackStory, Backstory, https://www.backstoryradio.org/blog/the-mythology-and-misrepresentation-of-the-windigo/.
This source provided information about the original monster that the newer one was being compared to. It discusses the attributes and features of the origins of the wendigo. It will be used to support how the original wendigo looked like. This source would be a primary source as it is an article about the monster I will be referring to through the essay in hopes of determine what makes it a monster.