Study Guide

Windigo Death and Vegetation

By Louise Erdrich

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Death and Vegetation

As we well know, the subject matter of this poem is anything but sunshine and daffodils. So, it makes sense that Erdrich's descriptions of the natural world do not incorporate a whole lot of said sunshine or daffodils. Instead, the dark tone of the poem is paralleled by the pervasive darkness of the winter in the north, and the seasonal death of the local flora.

  • Lines 11-12: In the "sour red" of the sumac, and metallic copper of the raw wood, Erdrich invokes the colors of dried blood. This imagery, in turn, invokes the imminent death we presume will occur at the hands of the Windigo. 
  • Lines 17-19: The Windigo, in his association with famine and depression in the long winter months, symbolizes the ruthless cold of the winter itself. It kills even the bushes as it passes, making this connection between the dark power of winter and the Windigo's death-bringing ability. 
  • Lines 21-22: The Windigo comes with the cold, dark night, and his reign of terror finally ends when day breaks and the sun comes back to warm the earth. Could the child symbolize the spring to the Windigo's winter?

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