Study Guide

Windigo Tradition and Customs

By Louise Erdrich

Tradition and Customs

The Windigo is a flesh-eating, wintry demon with a man buried deep inside of it. (epigraph)

Erdrich provides this essential context to help us decipher the poem, and right from the get-go we as readers are aware that this poem draws upon other narratives.

In some Chippewa stories, a young girl vanquishes this monster by forcing boiling lard down its throat, thereby releasing the human at the core of ice. (epigraph)

Now we know exactly the source of Erdrich's inspiration: Native American folklore. "Windigo," the poem, is just one aspect of a still-unfolding storytelling tradition. With this introduction, Erdrich makes it clear that her poem is an individual story within a greater network of storytelling tradition.

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

As we've mentioned, this child knows what's going on, perhaps anticipating this creature that she's heard stories about. This suggests a sort of meta-narrative (or, a story within a story), as this child recognizes her own role in this traditional story, already part of a rich cultural storytelling tradition.

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