The Willows (1907) By: Algernon Blackwood
Two men canoe into a remote and treacherous section of the Danube river. The narrator begins to personify the surrounding area. They stop on a small island that is due to be engulfed by the rising tides. He and and his friend soon spot what appears to be a body in the surf, but rationalize that it must be a river otter. What strange forces lie in the far reaches of nature and are they coming to get the pair?
"'The gods are here, if they are anywhere at all in the world.'
'The elements are always the true immortals,' I replied."
This story is gorgeously written and has some of the best and most terrifying descriptions in horror. The slow build from a travel story into a full on ghost story is awesome. We are offered several good and creepy suppositions by the narrators and left to decide on our own what happened. The idea of paranoia is present, but not overwhelming or obvious. It has moments where you doubt the characters, but more moments where you're just as scared as they are.
The main character is an Englishman who constantly feels a strange presence in the area around him. He sees the area as malevolent, but questions whether he is projecting his feelings or not.
The Swede is our secondary character who is initially described as an imaginationless dullard, but becomes more interesting as the story moves on. The two mention a shared history, but acquire a more mutual respect over the course of the story.
The atmosphere is the real antagonist in this story and thanks to the beautiful writing it manages to feel quite menacing and omnipresent. Despite the horror it made me really interested to visit the Danube delta area.
In the End
The end could've used a bit more punch, but certainly had its creepy factor. The way it wraps around to the beginning is excellent and it does provide an effective cliffhanger.
A creepy and chilling tale that I think that everyone should read. I highly recommend it. Be sure to read it at night possibly with some creepy music to enhance the feeling. Check it out!
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