Study Guide

Windigo Madness

By Louise Erdrich

Madness

In the hackles of dry brush a thin laughter started up (6)

We're pretty sure if you check the dictionary for a definition of "madness," this line is right there. Erdrich sets the scene with unsettling descriptions like this from the get-go, and it doesn't take long for us to get sucked into the dark, mysterious universe of the poem.

You saw me drag toward you.
Oh touch me, I murmured, and licked the soles of your feet (13-14)

Nope, nothing weird's going on here. The Windigo is just really into feet. We tend to doubt that, though. Erdrich's descriptions here invite images of something that's not quite human, not quite animal, but completely, decidedly, terrifyingly, off its rocker.

I would darken and spill
all night running, until at last morning broke the cold earth
and I carried you home,
a river shaking in the sun (21-24)

Are you still wondering what happens here? Did the Windigo have a breakthrough? Was the man inside freed by the child? Or did the child become Windigo as well? We have some theories, some of which we've shared already, and we bet you do by now, too. But we're too busy cowering in fear with the lights on to discuss them anymore.

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