Welcome to All Hallows' Eve, and to the penultimate episode of our current Tale for Our Time - Algernon Blackwood's 1910 novella of hunting and haunting in the Ontario wilderness. In tonight's installment of The Wendigo, our young divinity student finds that following the tracks of his guide has suddenly gotten rather more difficult:
Simpson, for the first time, hesitated; then, ashamed of his alarm and indecision, took a few hurried steps ahead; the next instant stopped dead in his tracks. Immediately in front of him all signs of the trail ceased; both tracks came to an abrupt end. On all sides, for a hundred yards and more, he searched in vain for the least indication of their continuance. There wasâ€”nothing.
The trees were very thick just there, big trees all of them, spruce, cedar, hemlock; there was no underbrush. He stood, looking about him, all distraught; bereft of any power of judgment. Then he set to work to search again, and again, and yet again, but always with the same result: nothing. The feet that printed the surface of the snow thus far had now, apparently, left the ground!
And it was in that moment of distress and confusion that the whip of terror laid its most nicely calculated lash about his heart. It dropped with deadly effect upon the sorest spot of all, completely unnerving him. He had been secretly dreading all the time that it would comeâ€”and come it did.
Far overhead, muted by great height and distance, strangely thinned and wailing, he heard the crying voice of DĂ©fago, the guide.
We always get questions about the music that accompanies our tales, and first off this time was Colorado Steyn Club member Paul Cathey:
Private Boob repo'ting as yoozual, Zir, wishing t' know of whut so't of music is a-playin' of in 'is 'ere sto'ry whut Yer Worship is a-readin' of, if 'ee could be zo kind.
Certainly, Paul. For this Tale for Our Time I chose Kikimora, a tone poem by Anatoly Lyadov composed in 1909, the year before Algernon Blackwood published The Wendigo. A kikimora is not a wendigo: the latter is a forest phenomenon of the Canadian wilds, the former a malevolent house spirit of Slavic mythology. But they are both supernatural predators, which seemed appropriate, and in Lyadov's conjuring of his kikimora I think I heard a little of Blackwood's wendigo. Perhaps long ago they met across the Bering Straits...
Please join me tomorrow evening for the conclusion of The Wendigo - and, if you're in the mood for more familiar beasts this Halloween, you can find a black cat here, and an even spookier feline here.