Study Guide

Windigo Man and the Natural World

By Louise Erdrich

Man and the Natural World

You knew I was coming for you, little one (1)

The child must be tuned in, or connected to something greater than just herself to anticipate the coming of the Windigo. This notion reminds us of the connectivity between man and the natural world in Native American tradition, but something is different, a little stranger, here. The Windigo represents perhaps the corruption of this connection, the dangerous, even cannibalistic result of what happens when we lose touch with this connection.

and the dog crept off, groaning,
to the deepest part of the woods (4-5)

Even the dog knows something is up. This seems to be an instance of the natural world recognizing through intuition that something is out of balance. We definitely trust the dog on this one.

Steam rolled from my wintry arms, each leaf shivered
from the bushes we passed
until they stood, naked, spread like the cleaned spines of fish (17-19)

These bushes—green, growing elements of the natural world—respond to the Windigo's chilling presence… by dying. With the Windigo comes the imagery of winter, of death; what is green, alive, and growing, simply turns to ashes in its hands.

until at last morning broke the cold earth
and I carried you home,
a river shaking in the sun (22-24)

Morning light arrives and begins to melt the icy earth, and we are left with this final metaphor likening man to nature, a river shaking in the sun. Is it possible that the Windigo has finally thawed, its wintry darkness melted in the warm, spring hands of the child?

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