The wendigo (or windigo) is a supernatural cannibalistic monster believed by several Algonquin tribes – including the Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Cree, Naskapi, and Innu – to reside in the forests of the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes regions of North America. Appearing with some human characteristics, or according to a minority of interpretations an evil spirit possessing a human into monstrosity, a wendigo is typically created through human cannibalism or by an individual overcome with avarice and greed. Described as extremely gaunt and emaciated, with grayish skin, sunken eyes, tattered lips, and possessing a deathly odor, the wendigo greedily feeds on human flesh. However for each person it consumes the monster grows ever larger, so that it is always hungry and hunting; as such the legend is generally associated with stories of insatiable gluttony and gratuitous murder.
It is increasingly considered by anthropologists that the wendigo existed as much as a metaphor as a literal monster within native mythology, with the concept described as an early depiction of “social cannibalism” and applicable to any individual or idea which expresses a relentless drive towards unnecessary consumption and greed; in so doing, the story didactically encourages cooperation and moderation and discourages the taboo activity of cannibalism during harsh winters. Threatening the stability of a tribe’s existence and exhibiting a destructive nature, the allegory, coinciding with the ongoing eradication of native populations and the emergence of an early consumer capitalistic society in North America, is evident and telling, with the violent and unnatural wendigo symbolically representing the exclusion and forced assimilation experienced by disregarded natives via encroaching and expanding American colonialism in pursuit of Manifest Destiny.
15. Two-Face is a monstrous being who murders his victims with his razor-sharp elbows
Existing among the Sioux, Plains, and Omaha tribes, Two-Face (also known as Sharp Elbows) is a two-faced monster who enjoys preying upon natives populations, torturing and gruesomely disfiguring his victims before murdering them. As typically depicted in folklore all who gaze upon either of the twin visages of Two-Face become paralyzed by fear, or in some cases die instantly, and he utilizes his extremely sharp elbows to stab his frozen victims to death. As with several Native American monsters Two-Face is widely considered to retain a preference for children and female victims, especially pregnant women.
According to Lakota mythology Two-Face was once a woman who was turned into the creature as punishment for attempting to seduce the Sun god, with one beautiful face and one hideous; an alternative origin story includes a similar background, albeit with Two-Face being born from such an adulterous woman. This duality, as with several native stories seeking to impart a didactic lesson, is widely regarded as representing a disconnection from and disharmony with nature as an allegorical advocation of traditional conformity within the tribe.
16. The Perverted Merman hides in rivers and watches women as they bathe
N-dam-keno-wet (also known as The Perverted Merman) is a creature which recurrently appears in Algonquin mythology, specifically that of the Abenaki people. Described as half man and half fish, with a child-like human face, N-dam-keno-wet lives in streams and lakes where women regularly wash themselves. Unlike other native “monsters”, N-dam-keno-wet does not seek to harm these women or to scare them, merely to voyeuristically watch them; some traditional stories do include attempted molestation, but for the most part the “perverted merman” is just that: a pervert.
Mermaid-like creatures are a staple within Native American mythology, with several Algonquin tales including characters who disobey their parents being turned into similar creatures. Consistent throughout these depictions in native legend, the theft of a merman’s or mermaid’s clothing strips the being of their magical powers and renders them unable to swim.
17. Similar to the Wendigo, the Wechuge is a giant cannibalistic monster from Northwestern Canada
A wechuge, similar but not identical to a wendigo, is a cannibalistic monster stemming from the stories of the Athabaskan people of Northwestern Canada. According to legend the wechuge is a person who has become possessed or overpowered by the spirit of a great animal, in so doing devolving into a giant bestial form. Some versions of the wechuge depict the creature as being physically made from ancient ice come to life to hunt humans, invulnerable to harm and only defeated when melted over a campfire; this rendition of the wechuge is notably similar to that of the Wabanaki’s “Chenoo”: an ice giant who was cursed by the gods for his crimes, his heart turned to ice and his spirit trapped inside a troll-like monster that feasts upon humans. Described as giant animals, both intelligent and physically powerful, the wechuge hunts humans and attempts to ensnare and devour its prey through cunning deception.
As with the wendigo, certain tribes adhere to a less spiritual origin of the creature but instead a product of human indulgence in taboos resulting in the physical corruption of the depraved individual. The Dane-zaa of the Peace River region in Western Canada for instance contend a wechuge is the product of breaking a strong cultural taboo, such as having a photograph taken with flash, listening to guitar music, or eating meat with fly eggs in it.
18. The Underwater Panthers lived in the Great Lakes and could control the waters of their domains
The Mishibizhiw (also known as the Underwater Panther or Great Lynx) is a legendary creature belonging to the mythologies of native inhabitants of the Great Lakes region of North America. A monster from the underworld the panther resides in creeks and rivers, hiding in wait to drown unsuspecting prey. Described by the Sioux as possessing a body shaped like a buffalo, albeit with paws allowing for rapid swimming, the Mishibizhiw has just one eye, horns – either a single horn in the center of its forehead, or a pair – dorsal fins, a spiked tail, and is covered in scales; because of the latter characteristics, it has been speculated that the Mishibizhiw is in fact derived from a prehistoric stegosaurus.
Feared by the Ojibwa as the cause of waves, whirlpools, and rapids, it was considered within tribal folklore that each lake might be inhabited by its own Mishibizhiw who controlled its conditions. Despite being mortal enemies of the Thunderbirds some native communities revered the creatures as symbols of great power and hunting prowess, whilst at least one tribe fearlessly employed Mishibizhiw as part of a children’s game similar to “tag”. According to an ancient Chippewa tale, the Mishibizhiw lived on an island of mud situated between two lakeside villages. Avoided by locals for fear of an evil spirit, two girls crossing one day encountered the monster. Cutting off the beast’s tail with an oar, the severed limb transformed into a solid piece of copper and became a talisman for good luck in fishing and hunting for their tribe.
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