The Willows by Algernon Blackwood (1907)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror October 16, 2018
What better story for the Halloween season than a haunted forest? A haunted river, perhaps? In Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows there is a prevailing secret in nature. Even the landscape here is haunted. In this story, our narrator takes on a canoe trip down the Danube River. Two men come upon a location of fierce desolation and loneliness and yet everything is alive here. Even the Danube is personified—and full of tricks. Once set up with tent and fire, the two friends settle in, until the first thing they see is something odd floating on the Danube.
“Good heavens, it’s a man’s body!” he cried excitedly. “Look!”
A black thing, turning over and over in the foaming waves, swept rapidly past. It kept disappearing and coming up to the surface again. It was about twenty feet from the shore, and just as it was opposite to where we stood it lurched round and looked straight at us. We saw its eyes reflecting the sunset, and gleaming an odd yellow as the body turned over. Then it gave a swift, gulping plunge, and dived out of sight in a flash.
This mystery lends its own power about nature, humanity, and good old-fashion fear. I challenge the readers here not to feel a high amount of dread in the reading. This is so evocative, so sinister—an excellent mix of terror. Classic ‘quiet horror’ for Halloween reading time!
Algernon Blackwood had a persistent interest in the supernatural and spiritualism. He is famous for his occult tales and a master at chilling you to the bone. He firmly believed that humans possess latent psychic powers. His writing soars with an acute sense of place. All his fiction is charged with hidden powers. He published over 200 short stories and dozens of novels.
“All my life,” he said, “I have been strangely, vividly conscious of another region–not far removed from our own world in one sense, yet wholly different in kind–where great things go on unceasingly, where immense and terrible personalities hurry by, intent on vast purposes compared to which earthly affairs, the rise and fall of nations, the destinies of empires, the fate of armies and continents, are all as dust in the balance” Blackwood. The Willows
Read the short story at Algernonblackwood.org
Listen to the audio on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QN_bbDrW7_M
More Blackwood short stories here at Reading Fiction Blog in the above INDEX.
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