Book Cover
Title The Willows
Series ---
Author Algernon Blackwood
Cover Art ---
Publisher ---
First Printing 1907
Category Gothic Horror
Warnings None

Main Characters

Two unnamed travellers

Main Elements Gods

Two friends are midway on a canoe trip down the Danube River. Throughout the story Blackwood personifies the surrounding environment—river, sun, wind—and imbues them with a powerful and ultimately threatening character. Most ominous are the masses of dense, desultory, menacing willows, which "moved of their own will as though alive, and they touched, by some incalculable method, my own keen sense of the horrible."

"The Willows" is one of Algernon Blackwood's best known short stories. American horror author H.P. Lovecraft considered it to be the finest supernatural tale in English literature. "The Willows" is an example of early modern horror and is connected within the literary tradition of weird fiction.

If I hadn't known better I would have thought I was reading Lovecraft. The story starts plainly enough, a couple of companions in a boat floating down the Danube. They stop for a night on an island populated only by small stunted willows. A few unusual things occur during the night, both experiencing the atmosphere a little differently. The next morning however it is clear something wants them to stay, their boat is damaged and they are forced to spend another night while the repairs set. Our narrator then has a vision of strange beings climbing each other to reach the sky. Are they gods? Demons? Spirits? Creatures that are part of the very being of the Earth? Either way, you don't want to attract their attention.

It was a little long but it did capture a very eerie atmosphere, what with the willows appearing to mysteriously come closer to the tent when they were sleeping, of strange noises, of unknown things floating down the rising river, the moaning of the wind. Just as in the Centaur there were strong ties to the unknowable power of the Earth itself and its elements, so here too.

Posted: October 2016


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