Algernon Henry Blackwood, CBE (14 March 1869 - 10 December 1951) was an English short story writer and novelist, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre. He was also a journalist and a broadcasting narrator. S. T. Joshi has stated that "his work is more consistently meritorious than any weird writer's except Dunsany's" and that his short story collection Incredible Adventures (1914) "may be the premier weird collection of this or any other century".
The Willowsby Algernon Blackwood
"The Willows" is an example of early modern horror and is connected within the literary tradition of weird
The Willows is a novella by English author Algernon Blackwood. It is one of Blackwood's best known works and has been influential on a number of later writers. 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. 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." At one point the two men see a man in a "flat-bottomed boat". However, the man appears to be warning the two, and ultimately crosses himself before hurtling forward on the river, out of sight.
During the night and into the next day and night, the mysterious, hostile forces emerge in force, including large, dark shapes that seem to trace the consciousness of the two men, tapping sounds outside their tent, shifting gong-like sounds, and the appearance that the willows have changed location. In the morning the two discover that one of their two paddles is missing, there is a slit in the canoe that needs repair, and some of their food has disappeared.
A hint of distrust arises between them. The howling wind dies down on the second day and night, and humming calm ensues. During the second night, the second man, the Swede, attempts to hurl himself into the river as a "sacrifice," "going inside to Them," but he is saved by the first character. The next morning, the Swede claims that the mysterious forces have found another sacrifice that may save them.
They find the corpse of a peasant lodged in roots near the shore. When they touch the body, a flurry of living presence seems to rise from it and disappear into the sky, and later they see the body is pockmarked with funnel shapes as had been formed on the sands of the island during their experience. These are "Their awful mark!" the Swede says.
The body is swept away, resembling an "otter" they thought they had seen the previous day, and the story ends.
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Lovecraft recommends this story as the greatest Weird Tale ever told. While I believe Lovecraft himself is the king of the Weird Tale, readers will not be disappointed by The Willows. I can't wait to read more Algernon Blackwood stories.
A great work of weird fiction, and a big influence on H.P. Lovecraft. A horror classic.