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The Willows

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The Willows

by Algernon Blackwood

Genre: Comic Horror, Ghost Story, Mystery, Suspense
Setting: America, Rural, Science Fiction
Format of Original Source: Novella
Recommended Adaptation Length: 45 Minutes, 60 Minutes, 90 Minutes

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


“I can’t disguise it any longer,” I said; “I don’t like this place, and the darkness, and the noises, and the awful feelings I get. There’s something here that beats me utterly. I’m in a blue funk, and that’s the plain truth. If the other shore was–different, I swear I’d be inclined to swim for it!”

The Swede’s face turned very white beneath the deep tan of sun and wind. He stared straight at me and answered quietly, but his voice betrayed his huge excitement by its unnatural calmness. For the moment, at any rate, he was the strong man of the two. He was more phlegmatic, for one thing.

“It’s not a physical condition we can escape from by running away,” he replied, in the tone of a doctor diagnosing some grave disease; “we must sit tight and wait. There are forces close here that could kill a herd of elephants in a second as easily as you or I could squash a fly. Our only chance is to keep perfectly still. Our insignificance perhaps may save us.”

I put a dozen questions into my expression of face, but found no words. It was precisely like listening to an accurate description of a disease whose symptoms had puzzled me.

“I mean that so far, although aware of our disturbing presence, they have not found us–not ‘located’ us, as the Americans say,” he went on. “They’re blundering about like men hunting for a leak of gas. The paddle and canoe and provisions prove that. I think they feel us, but cannot actually see us. We must keep our minds quiet–it’s our minds they feel. We must control our thoughts, or it’s all up with us.”

“Death, you mean?” I stammered, icy with the horror of his suggestion.

“Worse–by far,” he said. “Death, according to one’s belief, means either annihilation or release from the limitations of the senses, but it involves no change of character. You don’t suddenly alter just because the body’s gone. But this means a radical alteration, a complete change, a horrible loss of oneself by substitution–far worse than death, and not even annihilation. We happen to have camped in a spot where their region touches ours, where the veil between has worn thin”–horrors! he was using my very own phrase, my actual words- “so that they are aware of our being in their neighborhood.”

“But who are aware?” I asked.

I forgot the shaking of the willows in the windless calm, the humming overhead, everything except that I was waiting for an answer that I dreaded more than I can possibly explain.


Two canoers find themselves marooned in a terrifying wilderness; are they being stalked by malevolent creatures, or is it only their own encroaching madness?  So ripe for the adapting by changing the location and time period!  There is a lot of mood and atmosphere and psychology here, and it instantly lends itself to metaphor as well.  (Think Get Out.)   You might consider adding a layer of personal relationship as well, of course.  And/or a comic take would also be possible.  This is one of our favorite stories in the library, and we’re hopeful many musical adaptations can spin from it.


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