Study Guide

Windigo Hot n' Cold

By Louise Erdrich

Hot n' Cold

No, we don't mean the Katy Perry song. The poem deals often with the juxtaposition between hot and cold, between the deep, dark winter as embodied by the Windigo, and the warmth of the food in the pot, the sun, and even the young child. And let's be sure to think about Erdrich's introduction. Does the young girl succeed in vanquishing the Windigo with hot lard? What imagery of melting and thawing can we find here?

  • Lines 7-8: The food in the pot cooking over the fire seems to suggest warmth, comfort, and lack of want—in other words, the polar opposite of the Windigo's ideal environment, whose very nature depends on the times of starvation in the cold winter months. 
  • Line 9: The child can hear the Windigo calling, ominously, chillingly, from the literal dark depths of the woods, in this case "the cold trees." 
  • Line 15: Is the Windigo's fur described as "melting" because of the young child's touch?
  • Lines 17-18: Even the leaves shiver as the Windigo passes, bringing cold, darkness and death wherever it goes.
  • Lines 20-24: The entire final stanza plays on this contrast of hot and cold. The warm hands of the child shoveling ice and snow, to morning breaking the cold earth, to the last metaphor of the river shaking in the sun. A river is just thawed ice, isn't it?

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