Written by Olivia Chamberlain
This story is a folktale that comes from the Anishinaabe people during the Little Ice Age. This story is about a creature that was banished to the woods because they were too greedy and took too much from the rest of the community. This story was mostly told to small children to teach them how to behave and covers information about the Little Ice Age that took place in the 14th-19th centuries.
Keywords: Warming Period, Cooling Period, Little Ice Age, temperature
One winter night, it was so quiet that you could hear the beat of your own heart. The sky is blue but everything as far as the eye can see is white. There was recently a snowstorm that covered everything in snow and ice. Everybody is hungry but there is no food in sight. We eat very little day to day and share with our family members as much as we can.
When the wind picks up, I can smell more snow coming. It is starting to get darker outside and I start to make my way home. I can hear a howl behind me and I pray that it is just the wind.
I look around me in the snow tracks that are not my own. They are much larger than my small feet. My heart beat starts to quicken. I look around to see if I can spot any figures in the shadows but it has become too dark.
It’s nights like this that the Windigo is afoot. You are able to hear it shrieks and it wanders through the forest looking for anything to eat. Windigo lives in the North Woods. I have never spotted Windigo myself but I have heard the stories. People say that Windigo is the shape of a man and stands 10 feet tall. Windigo has frost white hair and arms the size of tree trunks. His feet are the size of snow shoes. Windigo has a hideous smell that can poison the clean snow. Windigo has yellow fangs and worst of all… a heart made of ice. Windigo is no natural beast. Windigo is a human being that has transformed into a monster. On cold winter nights, Windigo travels through the forest looking for something to eat. The thing about the Windigo is its bite will turn others into a monster.
I quickly make my way home and warm up by the simmering pot of soup. There were times when we didn’t always have food. When the snow would get too tall and we would be locked inside. These times were called Hunger Moon.
As you may have guessed the story of the Windigo is a fictional one. This was as a legend of the Anishinaabe people. They told the story of this villain on freezing nights while huddled around the fire. This story was told mostly to children to scare them into behaving.
During the winter months the Anishinaabe people would suffer from starvation especially in the era of the Little Ice Age which took place from 1303-1860. The term Little Ice Age refers to a time of cooling after the Medieval Warm Period, although this time was not a true Ice Age. This time lasted for several decades and temperatures dropped 1-2 degrees Celsius below the thousand year averages for those areas that were effected. Most of the affected areas include the European Alps, New Zealand, Alaska, and the southern Andes. Temperatures also dropped across the Northern Hemisphere. The Little Ice Age preceded the present day warming period that we are currently in that started in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Starvation was a harsh reality for many people at this time and the Anishinaabe people were forced to share rations of food.
This story of the Windigo was a cautionary tale to reinforce to people that sharing with others was essential to survival and acting greedy was dangerous to the entire group. During these times, individuals who endangered the community by taking too much were eventually banished. The Windigo story possibly arose from remembrance of someone who was banished and left to wander hungry and alone also looking to wreaking vengeance on those who banished them.
The tale of Windigo is of someone who is selfish and cares more about themselves than anyone else. Although this folktale is a very old story, it can be applied to behaviors of people today such as being greedy about resources from our environment. People that use too much water or electricity are not only hurting the planet, they are using up resources that others might not have available. The overall tale of this story is to share with others and think of the greater whole.