November 30, 2014

Wendigo in Sleepy Hollow

A recent episode of Sleepy Hollow, titled And the Abyss Gazes Back (airdate: 10/27/14) featured a Wendigo, the legendary monster of Algonquian tribes. Here's the story:

‘Sleepy Hollow’ Recap: Ichabod and Daniel Boone, BFFs?The episode centered on Joe Corbin, the son of the deceased Sheriff Corbin, who was Abbie’s mentor. Just back from Afghanistan with an honorable discharge earned under somewhat mysterious circumstances, Joe turned out to be afflicted with a curse that causes him to change into a monster from time to time. He was, in short, the featured creature of the week, the Wendigo, a forest beast with an appetite for human flesh.Wikipedia provides more details about the Wendigo legend:

WendigoA Wendigo (also known as windigo, weendigo, windago, windiga, witiko, wihtikow, and numerous other variants including manaha) is a demonic half-beast creature appearing in the legends of the Algonquian peoples along the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes Region of both the United States and Canada. The creature or spirit could either possess characteristics of a human or a monster that had physically transformed from a person. It is particularly associated with cannibalism. The Algonquian believed those who indulged in eating human flesh were at particular risk; the legend appears to have reinforced the taboo of the practice of cannibalism. It is often described in Algonquian mythology as a balance of nature.

‘Sleepy Hollow’ recap: Downward Facing WendigoIt’s at this point we treated to yet another installment of “Ichabod’s Famous Friends.” This week, Ichabod name drops his good pal Daniel Boone, whose brother, Squire, was afflicted with a gnarly disorder following Valley Forge that led to cannibalism. Daniel, himself, fell victim to Squire, using his raccoon hat to hide the scars. The cause of the illness: a Wendigo, the Shawnee legend of a human/beast hybrid triggered by human blood.‘Sleepy Hollow’ Recap: Ichabod and Daniel Boone, BFFs?The best moment of Abbie and Ichabod’s pursuit of Joe the Wendigo was the discussion of Daniel Boone’s headwear. Ichabod apparently knew Boone—of course he did; they were contemporaries, and it was a small world back in the 1700s. Having hung out with Boone, Ichabod was able to correct Abbie and a two-century-old inaccuracy: Boone, he told her, preferred beaver pelts to the coonskin cap he is most identified with. And so we have a new entry for our Top 10 Lines Spoken by Abbie Mills in this series: “As much as I would love to debate the variety of rodent hats that existed in your day, can we please refocus?”Below:  Victor Gage as a Shawnee warrior.

Sleepy Hollow Recap: 'Even God Thought the Devil Was Beautiful'Enter Hawley, who’s brought in because he knows some Shawnee who might be able to help. But they kinda hate him. So Ichabod accompanies him to what looks like SAMCRO: Native American edition, and they succeed in securing a cure for what ails Joe.Big AshBig Ash is a Shawnee contact of Nick Hawley. He and his fellow Shawnee run a motorcycle repair shop. Ash was displeased with Hawley for selling off the tribal mask, as Hawley dishonored his agreement to keep the mask.

Hawley initially assumed that Ichabod Crane was too socially awkward to communicate with Big Ash. But Crane's mention of Squire Boone became the key for Big Ash to agree to help them find a Wendigo cure for Joe Corbin.
‘Sleepy Hollow’ recap: Downward Facing WendigoTheir only shot is to corner Joe before he kills and recite some Shawnee prose inscribed on a skull over the Wendigo’s blood. Simple enough. An alleyway standoff ensues and while it doesn’t look good for Joe for a second there, Abbie begs him to pull though and shed his husky Wendigo suit. Cured, he asks Abbie for her recommendation to Quantico, though I doubt a trainee who turned them down carries any sway.

Comment:  A few shadowy Shawnee appear briefly when Crane talks about the Boones. The Indians' primary appearance comes in the single motorcycle shop scene.

Actor Eddie Spears does a good job as the suspicious modern-day Shawnee. The only glitch comes when he refers to an older Indian as a "shaman." Once again, a shaman isn't an all-purpose Native wizard, and few tribes had shamans.

The "Shawnee prose" could be real Shawnee words written in the English alphabet, but it's probably not. Slightly more likely is that Crane uttered real Shawnee words when he supposedly read the curse--but again, probably not.

All in all, And the Abyss Gazes Back was a typical episode of Sleepy Hollow--nothing special. Add points for featuring genuine Native lore and Native actors. Subtract points because movies and TV shows have used the Wendigo dozens of times before. At this point it's totally unoriginal--practically a cliché.

For more on Sleepy Hollow, see Mohawk Shaman in Sleepy Hollow.

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