Monsters. They’re Us, Man: Crash Course World Mythology #36


Hi there, I’m Mike Rugnetta, this is Crashcourse
Mythology and today is the first of a few episodes focused on one of the greatest aspects
of myths-in-general: Mythical cvreatures. More specifically: monsters. And today: one, terrible, international monster
in particular. But don’t worry Thoth, I’ll protect you. Uuhh… as long as you also promise to protect
me. HEY! WHERE YOU GOING? NO WE DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT ‘SPLIT UP TO
COVER MORE GROUND’ INTRO
What do we mean by the word “monster”? Well, quite a lot! In English we use “monster” to describe
something or someone outside the bounds of acceptable form or behavior. Monster comes from the Latin word that means
“to show,” and we see its root in words like demonstrate. But, monsters don’t just act monstrously,
their monstrosity is usually pretty visible without much action. Almost any mythical creature could technically
qualify as a monster, but from our studies you probably get a sense it’s trickier than
that. Unicorns, for instance, are way outside normal
appearance and behavior… but no one calls them monsters. The sphinx provides another way to think through
this. There are actually a number of sphinxes – but
most applicable here are the Egyptian Androsphinxes, with a male head… like the Great Sphinx
at Giza, and the Greek Sphinx, with a female head. The Egyptian Sphinx was mighty, and powerful
– but mostly considered benevolent, guarding entrances to temples and pyramids. While the Greek Sphinx was considered FEROCIOUS
… and would mercilessly eat those who were not able to answer her riddle. So we might ask – in that duo – which is the
creature? and which… is the monst er? Beyond some naturalistic boundary, to get
labeled a “monster,” a mythical creature usually has to transgress some kind of social
boundary, as well. If you consider it from a psychological perspective,
particular brands of monstrosity often embody particular human fears. Shapeshifters aren’t automatically “monstrous”
simply because they change forms–think of Professor McGonagall, or even The Doctor–but
because often that ability can be used to DECEIVE–think Mystique–or lead to UNCONTROLLABLE
URGES, like with werewolves. Vampires are another example: they may be
a human-bat combo… but that’s not REALLY why they’re monstrous. Vampires are bad because of their thirst for
human blood – which is a pretty serious transgression of social norms. Often some naturalistic transgression is simply
an outward sign of what makes monsters TRULY evil: what anthropology professor David Gilmore
calls, an “unmotivated wickedness towards humans.” This can take … different forms. The most common version is: monsters eat people. But sometimes that wickedness is more complicated,
and has more to do with the person who is afraid than the thing doing the scaring. But why do monsters even exist? Well, lots of reasons! Monsters are often sent by gods to punish
humans for some transgression. One of the most common images of a monster
in western art for example, is the sea monster sent by Poseidon to devour Andromeda. Why? Because her mother Cassiopeia had bragged
that she was more beautiful than the Nereids. Humans, just… don’t brag when gods are
around. It never goes well. Luckily, Andromeda was saved by Perseus. And hey, that’s another reason to have some
monsters around: you gotta give heroes something to fight! Our friend Joseph Campbell, among otshers,
has identified the basic pattern of hero vs monster stories. It’s a three-part, repetitive cycle where
the monster mysteriously appears from a dark shadow world to menace some previously-peaceful
locale. After the monster brings death and destruction,
the besieged community calls upon a hero who saves them. The community rejoices, only to have the monster,
or one of the monster’s kin, return and re-start the cycle. A classic example of this is Beowulf. Grendel shows up, Beowulf defeats him, and
just when he thinks he’s all done, Grendel’s MOM shows up, and Beowulf has to get all heroic
all over again. Today, however, we have a monster even more
terrifying than Grendel’s super mad momma. This incredibly frightening monster comes
from… Canada. Sorry, Thoughtbubble: this one’s for you,
eh. Once upon a time in the late 19th century,
a first nations group is living in a camp on the Berens River. One day, a hunter is driven by hunger and
leaves camp to go trapping. A few days later, people in the camp hear
the trapper screaming and howling in the woods. Everyone knows what’s happening. The trapper has become a Wendigo, a terrifying,
man-eating ogre. But wait. It gets worse. A brave group goes to look for the trapper
and find his family, all dead. And hey, worse still, half eaten. They return and tell their story, and panic
runs through the camp. The people know that soon the Wendigo will
come for them, and they don’t feel like being eaten. So they call a council. At the council an intrepid young warrior named
Rotten Log stands up and volunteers to fight the Wendigo. That night they go to the forest and build
a fire. Sure enough, a huge monster arrives, This…
is almost certainly the Wendigo. The Wendigo attacks Rotten Log, trying to
slash his throat and eat him, but Rotten Log has a guardian spirit he calls on to save
him. The spirit gives Rotten Log supernatural strength,
and after a long battle, he finally defeats the Wendigo. The hunters bring the creature back to the
camp and the people rejoice. But the Wendigo isn’t dead. Not yet. The only way to kill a Wendigo is to melt
its icy heart. So the peoplethrow him on a raging fire. The flames heat the beast, his heart defrosts,
and the Wendigo finally dies. Thank you Thoughtbubble. Yeah, as far as ogres go, I think I prefer
Shrek. As I mentioned that this story was from Canada,
but there are countless others. According to Gilmore, the Wendigo has the
distinction of being the monster whose mythology has the greatest geographical reach in the
world. Wendigo stories, and the hysteria that accompanies
them, have been reported all across Canada and as far south as…North Dakota. They are common among most of the Algonquian-speaking
native tribes, but especially the Ojibwa and Salteaux Manitoba. The Wendigo is, in many ways, the quintessential
monster. It’s big, it has superhuman strength, and
it’s really mean to people. Wendigos are humanoid in appearance, with
two legs, but almost everything else about them is misshapen and grotesque. Their hands are paws with twelve inch long
claws, and their feet, each a yard long, have a single toe with one long, sharp nail. Wendigos have huge yellow eyes, like an owl,
and a giant mouth and no lips, because their cannibalistic hunger causes them to devour
THEIR own flesh. Their breath is so powerful and loud that
it seems like a windstorm, and their howling sends those who hear it into a panic. Think you can hide from a Wendigo? Maybe in the river? Nope. They can walk on water or swim beneath it
like a seal. They can subsist on mushrooms, rotting wood,
moss… basically anything you find on the forest floor. But their favorite food is people, and THAT…
really, is what makes them MONSTERS. There are both male and female Wendigos and
when a male and female meet, they fight until one of them dies. But … if male and female Wendigos would
rather fight than breed, then where do new Wendigos come from? A monster stork maybe? As the story makes clear, they come from us,
the ranks of the desperate and hungry. Ordinary humans, often driven by hunger, can
become possessed by the spirit of the Wendigo and turn to cannibalism. These metamorphoses are often brought on by
the starvation that can occur in cold winter months. In many of the stories, this Wendigo possession
is accompanied by incredible physical changes. A person who has “gone Wendigo” will grow
in size and their appearance will become coarse and wild. As the Wendigo’s heart freezes, the urge
to eat human flesh grows, eventually becoming irresistible. This idea that anyone can transform into a
Wendigo is found in the most typical Wendigo origin story. That very first, ancient Wendigo was a Native
North American who was transformed into a monster by overpowering hunger. This story is so real to many who hear it
that it has caused actual Wendigo panics in Canada up through the twentieth century. How do we understand the endurance of the
Wendigo legend? Well, I think just about all of us can agree
that cannibalism is a pretty terrifying and taboo thing. The Wendigo represents a fear of cannibalism
and a fear that we might lose control of ourselves and violate, perhaps violently, some set of
social norms, like… not eating your neighbor. People usually don’t grow three-foot monster
toes, but they do sometimes lose their grip. Which is to say, the “monster legend”
is alive and well… although maybe more as a metaphor than as a real yellow-eyed creature. All humans have the capacity to become monstrous. Even me… and maybe even… Thoth. Thanks for watching. We’ll see you next week… unless this guy
sees you first.

100 thoughts on “Monsters. They’re Us, Man: Crash Course World Mythology #36

  1. Monsters and dragons are real. They are not imaginary or the product of hallucination. They are demons that have crossed dimensions from Hell to Earth, either as a result of sin or of God's willingness to allow the courage of humans to be tested. See the 14th Chapter of the Book of Daniel for an example of this.

  2. The devil himself has walked the Earth. His footprints have appeared in England on more than one occasion. This is well-documented. There are also demons that take the physical form of people and of animals well enough to fool all five senses. Some may scoff, but you would be a "religious nut" too if you had seen what I have.

  3. This isnt fully true, I'm Abenaki and Passmaquoddy, the Wendigo was a symbol of greed spawed by a member of a small nomadic band who was starving so in turn killed and ate the rest of the band. Wendigos are created when a person turns cannibalistic. The flesh is adictive causing them to hunt for more humans to slaughter and then feast upon

  4. I don't call unicorns monsters because that would tarnish the title, which is why I get upset over people calling other people monster, none of them deserve the title, even most classic monsters don't deserve the title, were-creatures for example.
    Vampire's do fall under the banner though, kind of hard NOT to be a monster when you're undead.

  5. I came here because I am a gamer, and Youtube thought that maybe because I like God of War and wanted to know about Norse Mythology I'd be interested. Youtube was right, but then I find so interesting knowing what a monster really is. This knowledge has trascend not only in leyends but also videogames. There is even a whole modern videogame about Wendigos. And another of a fantasy-medieval setting about a kind of a Monster killer by contracts called Witcher, but as he is forced to kill people he says "I am killing monsters". So, fear and the moral of what is right and not is often the origin of monsters. The fear to uknown, and why the dark is related to evil.

    Was so interesting.

  6. People fail to realize that some of these monster stories..are just serial killers. >.> fooling most of mankind.

  7. but didnt the wendigo also exist in this story:
    workers somewhere in north america were trapped underground for days, and also driven by hunger were forced to eat each other and myth has it that they turned into wendigo's and after that story went viral no one went to that area bc of the myth being true…idk i heard this story somewhere cant remember tho..

  8. you said the Windago was the most widespread monster, but dragons and Phoenix's are shared through out the world.

  9. Thats the reason the wendigo is terrifying is because of the loss of humanity, this is what truely terrifies people, the death of sanity in themselves.
    Also its theorised that the story was made to stop people from preforming cannibalism

  10. An issue I have with stories of "monster slayers" is for one like beowolf…they're so boring, bland, overpowered…for no reason, also for when they slay dragons, perhaps the dragon's child got killed by humans and they're only seeking to take back what's theirs, causing them to destroy towns, yet the evil ones are the ones who killed their kids, Alduin in the elder scrolls too isn't evil he wants peace by consuming the world to restart, and then ruling humans because as you can tell by dictators and democratic issues both, a much higher smarter creature to rule over the messy humans would be much more peaceful

  11. You really should not say the word wendigo out loud, as according to certain stories simply burning a wendigo only kills its body, not its spirit. when its body dies and its spirit is released it will search for a new body to poses and turn into another wendigo, usually going about so in dreams, or in severe cases when a person is very hungry and/or starving. When someone says their name it is one of the more prominent ways to attract a wendigo's spirit to them.

  12. The term Monster that we use in English comes from the Latin word that means "to show." This is literature, nobody is born evil by Western thinking (innocent until proven guilty); therefore, what happens is the creature becomes evil, and it is done by doing evil deeds, by living in evil conditions, evil events happen around them, and by having evil henchmen. By example, Dastardly and Muttley from Hannah Barbara are found not born evil, but they are evil-doers and surround themselves with evil events, and all for entertainment for children: This is literature, where the environment and deeds creates the evil characters. In a real life example, the Nazi death camp guards were all enlisted soldiers and by oath required to obey the commissioned officers over them, and those officers have no humor, and it is the death penalty to disobey officers in war-time conditions; therefore, the common soldiers weren't born evil and cannot legally take the blame, because the officers created the conditions, but those common soldiers served an evil event and they became monsters to the public eye for over twenty million deaths including political outcasts, free thinkers, writers, publishers, political opponents (the famous Night and Fog decrees of political voices being arrested and disappear in the middle of the night), women, men, and children. Meaning, being associated by living with evil also makes monsters: I say this, because some people claim only driving the car (the getaway car) used to rob banks makes them innocent of murder that occurred during the armed robbery, and they are just as guilty as the men who went into the bank, as if they pulled the trigger themselves, because they made it possible to rob a bank by willful aiding and abetting the crime.

  13. On the topic at hand; in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, the HUMANS seem more monstrous than Frankenstein's creation itself.

    All IT wants is to find love and be accepted by society. But instead; humans hurt it and wish death upon it, the moment they see the Monster's face.

    Which seems to reflect how shallow and superficial we humans can be

  14. Anyone else picture in their mind the Wendigo from the TV series 'Hannibal'? I remember being terrified everytime that thing showed up in the show, all black with it's antlers and expressionless face… (shudders)

  15. It’s almost as if we are living on stolen land the was once covered in indigenous blood🤔 no wonder windigo are piss tf off lol

  16. The wendigo itself is a harsh winter storm, starving arctic peoples and leaving them no other option than to eat their own friends' corpses. Only when the winter's heart thaws does its monstrous threat die.

  17. You had it in the first 10 seconds. Monster means to show or reveal. Monsters are things that live without masks.
    Whereas all normal people wear a mask to fit in with social norms a monster does what they please without hiding their true nature.
    Alternatively monster meant 'warning' specifically in the case of birth defects. Early medicine noticing the warning signs in infant livestock and people that they knew to detect later physical or mental problems.

  18. Interesting thing about the lack of lips, maybe that's a representation of frostbite but also that you can no longer cover up your teeth and therefore your hunger.

  19. Does anyone on CrashCourse know that Windigo aren`t ONLY founded in Canada but are also found in eastern United States near the great lakes right near the Canadian/US boarder???

  20. How dare tote (or whatever his name is maybe i misheard the name) steal the mystery machine from Shaggy, he/she shall be smited by our lord and savior shaggy.

  21. Surely Dragons have more geographical reach the the wendigo? There's stories of Dragons from Europe to Asia…

  22. Bruh, is nobody really going to mention Rotten Log just got a smash item? LOL, I knew as soon as I saw that Windego was going DOWN.

  23. From moneō (“advise, warn”) +‎ -trum (suffix forming instrument nouns).Egyptian Sphinx is smth between Imset and Aker (deity) , the greek one Σφιγγός came from alliteration of Egypt name and meant constrict .They appeared in Greece maybe at the same time when Alexander the Great appeared , Cleopatra was his sister . Whatever it was a funeral cult.

  24. So according to something or other. Wendigo May take the form of the wind. The ethereal nature of mans taboos and fears etc. along with just telling a spooky or meaningful lesson in a captivating way is interesting. Nobody ever says this about the legend when they use it nor do they often employ the detail, but they really should.

  25. We hate monsters so much because they are reflections of the most hedious and immoral parts of ourselves and psyches. We hate them because we sympathize and rationalize their logic, but can never express it and still remain humane.

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