Welcome to the final installment of our Halloween Week Tale for Our Time - published in 1910, Algernon Blackwood's supernatural tale of The Wendigo. The Mark Steyn Club has members all over the world, from Norway to Nauru, so it is no surprise to find First Week Founding Member Bart Nielsen just off the Windigo Ranger Station on Isle Royale, the largest island in Lake Superior, in Michigan waters but a stone's skim from Thunder Bay, Ontario:
As usual, your timing is perfect. The cold has come early and severe to Lake Superior. I am listening to your tale just a short distance from Windigo as we shiver in the cold during a slow load punctuated by power outages and equipment breakdowns brought on by the cold.
I have sailed past Windigo on Isle Royale many times, but never knew the story behind it.
I take long bike rides between watches when in port. I'll be watching for wendigoes when I go out today.
Stay safe, Bart. The spelling is inconsistent - Windigo is near the Wendigo mine - but the creature isn't. Nevertheless, in tonight's concluding episode, around the campfire Dr Cathcart and his guide Hank are keen to rationalize what's happened:
"The legend is picturesque enough," observed the doctor after one of the longer pauses, speaking to break it rather than because he had anything to say, "for the Wendigo is simply the Call of the Wild personified, which some natures hear to their own destruction."
"That's about it," Hank said presently. "An' there's no misunderstandin' when you hear it. It calls you by name right 'nough."
Another pause followed. Then Dr Cathcart came back to the forbidden subject with a rush that made the others jump...
But young silent Simpson understands the purpose of all this talk:
What these two men, each strong and "experienced" in his own way, dreaded more than anything else was—silence. They were talking against time. They were also talking against darkness, against the invasion of panic, against the admission reflection might bring that they were in an enemy's country—against anything, in fact, rather than allow their inmost thoughts to assume control. He himself, already initiated by the awful vigil with terror, was beyond both of them in this respect. He had reached the stage where he was immune. But these two, the scoffing, analytical doctor, and the honest, dogged backwoodsman, each sat trembling in the depths of his being.
Thank you so much for your various reactions to this latest of our radio serializations. Nancy Wenlock, a First Day Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from Colorado, has especially appreciated it::
Thank you, Mark! Once again, you've brought to life a superb story.
And the music? Well, you led me on a merry dance to find it. Last night it was so fun to search. The piece was so familiar! I'd heard it as a child but had no idea of its title nor its composer. I vaguely thought it had been on an album which included The Sorcerer's Apprentice and the Danse Macabre. After some searching, I finally found it! And listened to the familiar rendition: Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra. And then I enjoyed hearing different performances of it. The Kikimora. This was before you mentioned it of course. (And as an aside, remember when NBC actually had a wonderful symphony and invited marvelous conductors?) Sigh.
Ah, indeed, Nancy. The last network orchestra on this continent was Canada's CBC Radio Orchestra, which survived until 2008. That's very clever of you to work out we'd gone Kikimora - I thought Danse Macabre et al were all a bit too obvious.
As it happens, Algernon Blackwood has a connection with the composer of our Tales for Our Time theme tune, the Imperial March by Edward Elgar. Five years after writing The Wendigo, Mr Blackwood collaborated with Sir Edward on The Starlight Express - not the blockbuster Andrew Lloyd Webber choo-choo musical of more recent decades, but a 1915 children's play with music adapted from a Blackwood novel. It should have been a smash on the scale of Lloyd Webber's monster hit, but it eked out barely a month at the Kingsway, mainly because (per the authors) the designer made the show look absolutely hideous.
If you enjoyed our week with Algernon Blackwood, I hope you'll join me later this month for a brand new and very different Tale for Our Time. And, if you've yet to hear any of our Tales, you can enjoy the first two-plus years' worth of audio adventures - by Conan Doyle, Kafka, Conrad, Gogol, Dickens, Baroness Orczy, Jack London, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stevenson and more - by joining The Mark Steyn Club. For details on membership, see here - and, if you're seeking the perfect present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, don't forget our Steyn Club Gift Membership. Sign up a pal today and he or she will be eligible to attend a trio of special Mark Steyn Show tapings in Montreal coming up in a couple of weeks.
Do stick with us over the weekend for a full panoply of attractions, including a brand new live-performance video edition of Steyn's Song of the Week. Before we part, please allow me a quick plug for our Tales of Our Time home page in its handy Netflix-style tile format. It's super-easy to pick out whatever tickles your fancy of an evening - sci-fi, thriller, historical romance - and Timely Talers from around the world seem to like it.