THE WALKER ON THE WINDS
Fox's Illustration from Famous Fantastic Mysteries,
Derleth has been praised or reviled as an editor and posthumous
collaborator of H. P. Lovecraft but I think Mythos fans
often forget he was also a collaborator on the Mythos,
creating his share of new books, monsters and ideas. One
of these ideas was the Walker on the Winds, Ithaqua. Like
HPL before him, he looked to the stories of yesteryear
for inspiration and found it in "The Wendigo"
by Algernon Blackwood. This tale appeared in his collection
The Lost Valley and Other Stories (1910). Twenty-three
years later, Derleth would write a sequel to Blackwood's
story, mentioning the author.
Wendigo" follows Simpson, a neophyte to the Bush,
on a moose hunt with Dr. Cathcart and their hired guides.
Simpson is paired with Defago, a French Canadien who blanches
when Cathcart decides he should take Simpson to Fifty
Mile Lake. Once the two men arrive at the lake, the guide
becomes even more nervous. The reason becomes clear to
Simpson when he finds the man sleeping with his feet sticking
out of the tent and whimpering in his sleep. A great wind
rises, calling the man, who plunges off into the wilderness,
leaving Simpson alone. The hunter tries to find his guide
but only finds impossible tracks that get wider and wider
apart. He also hears Defago's voice on the wind cry in
esctacy about his burning feet. Simpson returns to the
other camp and gets Carthcart and his guide, Hank. They
return to the spot where Defago disappeared. The wind
monster reappears, shaking Cathcart's scientific philosophy.
When Simpson yells at the wind to return Defago he appears.
The man is horribly changed, his flesh hanging like a
mask and his feet weirdly misshapened as if by fire. The
wind takes him again and the three men return to their
first camp. When they arrive, they find Defago already
there, his mind blasted. He dies shortly after for he
has "seen the Wendigo".
before Derleth would do this, another writer would pen
a tale for Hugo Gernsback that played an important intermediary
step. This was "The Thing From -- Outside" by
George Allan England. England was a Science Fiction writer
best known for his trilogy Darkness and Dawn (1912-14).
This story appeared first in Gernsback's Science and
Invention (April 1923), a magazine devoted to non-fiction
with one or two stories in it, but was reprinted in the
very first issue of Amazing Stories (April 1926),
the first Science Fiction magazine ever. A. Merritt, H.
P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Manly Wade Wellman,
Lilith Lorraine, Kenneth Sterling, Frank Belknap Long,
even Derleth himself, would all be published by Gernsback
in the decade to come.
R. Paul's illustration "The Thing From -- Outside"
Thing From -- Outside" follows a group of five people
who are traveling in the wilderness. Their native guides
abandon them when they see a strange circular footprint
in a rock. Their death screams are a prophecy of what
is to come. The party finds the strange tracks around
their camp. The monster is following them. When water
is placed in the track it freezes and can't be remelted.
The first victim is Professor Thorburn's wife. She dies
of a paralysis, with fear-filled eyes. They bury her body
and continue to flee. The men argue as to the nature of
the monster but can't agree. The birds and the black flies
can no longer be found. The leaves on the trees fall off.
The party finds an old cabin and hide there for a while.
Jandron the geologist wakes up to find the professor dead,
like his wife, and Marr and Vivian missing. The ground
is covered in snow despite it being summer. All sources
of heat no longer work. There is a love triangle of sorts
between Marr, Vivian and Jandron. jandron wants to flee
with the girl but Marr goes crazy. Marr tries to shoot
Jandron but his bullets won't ignite. Marr returns to
the cabin where the thing tortures him. Jandron manages
to get the injured man and the girl into a canoe and heads
out into lake Moosawamkeag. They are rescued. Marr is
dead but Jandron and Vivian escape. Vivian has no memory
of what happened. Jandron lies and tells her that the
others died in a boat capsizing. They marry but Jandron
can never wear a ring as he has an aversion to all things
is easy to see how England's story inspired Derleth's
version of the Wendigo. Where Blackwood is etheral and
vague, England is far more brutal if just as unclear.
You can feel the terror that the captives are suffering,
the weird paralysis, the fear of the unknown. Derleth
borrows this version of a thing from outside our reality
for his wind-walker. In many ways his story is more frightening
than most Lovecraft tales because of its directness. Lovecraft
worked hard to use M. R. Jamesian indirection in the forms
of journals and letters in his stories. England does none
of this, just tells it directly. Only the weak ending
of "The Thing From -- Outside" marrs it as a
masterpiece of horror. Strangely, I hadn't heard of this
story until recently. It seems an odd story to find in
Science and Invention.
Thing that Walked on the Wind" (Strange Tales,
January 1933) is Derleth's first attempt at using the
Ithaqua monster. A Mountie named Dalhousie reports about
a strange case at Navissa Camp, Manitoba and the town
of Stillwater, where everyone mysteriously disappeared.
The local doctor discovers three bodies that fall from
the sky. The first, a woman, has been frozen solid. The
other two are men and still alive. One wakes and mumblesof
the terrible things he has seen while on his aerial travels
with Ithaqua. Both men die from the warmth of the room,
their bodies now conditioned to live in extreme cold.
From the pieces, Dalhousie figures the two men were strangers
who has come to Stillwater. The woman had come to them
for help since the townsfolk planned to sacrifice her
to ithaqua, the Wind-Walker. While the three escaped they
were taken by the monster, who took all the townsfolk
as well in retaliation. When the Mountie looks into these
terrible details he sees the creature, a weird purplish
snow cloud with burning eyes. After that he feels something
is watching him and he must escape. The report ends there.
first installment in the Ithaqua story features some details
that will be later stories. First off, if you see Ithaqua
he will come back and get you. This is Derleth's version
of "seeing the Wendigo", though less subtle
than Blackwood's manic esctacy. Secondly, he uses the
Lovecraftian format of a report filled with Mythos references
and tidbits from the Tcho-Tcho people of Leng to Cthulhu
in R'yleh. This story and those that follow have some
creepy ideas but suffer from over-exposure. Where Blackwood
and England leave things largely unseen, Derleth describes
to his detriment.
"Ithaqua" (Strange Stories, February
1941) returns to the same area along the Olassie Trail.
Another Mountie reports of a man who has disappeared,
Henry Lucas, leaving some mystifying tracks behind. The
man walked out of door and virtually disappeared. Constable
French investigates. the local priest directs him to the
hinted at altars and fires in the woods. He finds three
strange circular stone altars and evidence of large bonfires.
He also sees Ithaqua before fleeing back to the town of
It's strange to think only the last Ithaqua story, "Beyond
the Threshold" appeared in Weird Tales (September
1941), the place where the majority of the Mythos was
born. This tale begins like a Deep One story then gradually
changes into an ithaqua tale. Because of this, it is structurally
different than the two previous Derleth tales. Anthony
Alwyn comes to the home of his grandfather at his cousin
Frolin's behest. It seems the old man has been acting
strangely and weird music has been eminating from the
study. The two cousins slowly learn that their grandfather
has discovered old evidence from their ancestor leander
Alwyn that tells of Ithaqua and a hidden "threshold"
that the old man wants to cross. When he finally does
he ends up like all those who see Ithaqua, carried off
and frozen to death, dropped mysteriously far away from
home. The tale adds little to the Ithaqua idea except
describing the Great Old Ones as elementals such as air
ementals, ithaqua, Lloigor and Hastur, water elementals
like Cthulhu, etc. This would be the branch of the Mythos
that Brian Lumley would exploit when he created his Titus
Crow novels. Like Derleth, Lumley over-explains, over-exposes
all the horror that Blackwood and England created, maing
the wind-walker more rounded but far less frightening.
Less famous Matt Fox illustration from
"The Wendigo". This picture shows when Defago
returned after being with the Wendigo.