The legend of a mysterious tree-creature is part of the lore of the Maidu Indians living in Butte County in Northern California. Butte County, by the way, has had several reported sightings of Big Foot over the years. Anthropologist D.L. Spencer gave this account of the Chamlakhu:
"Chamlakhu was an old man living in the trees, differing from human beings only in the fact that his hands and feet were armed with long bearlike claws. Although not known to commit injury, he was greatly feared. The sight of him was sure to cause a run to camp..The Chamlakhu rarely ran on the ground, and then only in a shambling way, with his arms fanning the air like wings. He could spring a long distance from tree to tree. He had a long beard, and hair that reached to the ground."26
Some supernatural powers were linked to him indirectly, such as illness being the result for the person seeing him during the spring when vegetation was in bloom, but the description of a "shambling way" appears to be more a straight-forward and factual observation than anything else.
The Salish tribes who lived on the east side of Puget Sound in Washington State have tales of the "Steet-athls." These creatures were said to live in caves in the mountains and communicate with each other by whistling and, again, often carried off the Indian children. The legend of the Steet-athls goes on: "as recently as 1912 a party of loggers near Chehalis, Washington, fought a pitched battle with some wild, hairy men of the forest."27
A 1904 newspaper article concerning several "wild man" sightings near Myrtle Point, Oregon gave this account of the "Sixes Wild Man": 28
At repeated intervals during the past ten years thrilling stories have come from the rugged Sixes mining district in Coos County, Oregon, near Myrtle Point, regarding a wild man or queer and terrible monster which walks erect and which has been seen by scores of miners and prospectors..
24. Wherry, Joseph H. Indian Masks & Myths of the West. New York: Bonanza Books 1969, 121.
26. Spencer, D.L. "Notes on the Maidu Indians of Butte County" in Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 21, 1908, pgs 242-245.
28. "Sixes Wild Man Again: Visits the Cabins of Miners and Frightens the Prospectors" in The Lane County Leader, Cottage Grove, Oregon April 7, 1904, Vol. XV, No. 51.
A report says the wild man has been seen three times since the 10th of last month. The first appearance occurred on "Thompson Flat." Wm. Ward and a young man by the name of Burlison were sitting by the fire of their cabin one night when they heard something walking around the cabin which resembled a man walking and when it came to the corner of the cabin it took hold of the corner and gave the building a vigorous shake and kept up a frightful noise all the time — the same that has so many time warned the venturesome miners of the approach of the hairy man and caused them to flee in abject fear.
Mr. Ward fired at the creature, which ran quickly away. The newspaper goes on to note, "Many of the miners avow that the 'wild man' is a reality. They have seen him and know whereof they speak. They say he is something after the fashion of a gorilla and unlike anything else either in appearance or action. He can outrun or jump anything else that has ever been known; and not only that but he can throw rocks with wonderful force and accuracy. He is about seven feet high, has broad hands and feet and his body is covered by a prolific growth of hair. In short he looks like the very devil."
Another newspaper account from May 9th, 1851, entitled "Wild Man of the Woods," was published in the Memphis Enquirer:
During March last, Mr. Hamilton, of Greene county, Arkansas, while out hunting with an acquaintance, observed a drove of cattle in a state of apparent alarm, evidently pursued by some dreaded enemy. Halting for the purpose, they soon discovered as the animals fled by them, that they were followed by an animal bearing the unmistakable likeness of humanity. He was of gigantic stature, the body being covered with hair, and the head with long locks that fairly enveloped his neck and shoulders. The "wild man," for so we must call him, after looking at them deliberately for a short time, turned and ran away with great speed, leaping from twelve to fourteen feet at a time. His foot prints measured thirteen inches each.
"This singular creature," the article goes on to say, "has long been known traditionally, in St. Francis, Greene and Poinsett counties. Arkansas sportsmen and hunters having described him so long as seventeen years since A party was to leave Memphis in pursuit of the creature."
Algonquin legend tells of "narrow faced, hirsute creatures who live shadowy lives in the sub-Arctic scrub and forest" 29 — a very similar description to other Native American accounts of these Wild Men.
Reports of wildmen captured or killed have been made in such locations as Transylvania, China, Panama and North America. A "hairy, speechless 'fellow'" reportedly was caught in 1661 in a forest in Lithuania. According to researcher John Green, 'the creature lived there for a long time as a domesticated helper in the court of Polish kings.'"30 Some, however, like the famous "Jacko" capture of 1884 near Yale, British Columbia, are clearly examples of urban legend.
29. Krickeberg, Walter & et al. Pre-Columbian American Religions. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1968, 158.
30. Green, John. Year of the Sasquatch: Encounters with Bigfoot from California to Canada, Agassiz: Cheam Publishing Ltd., 1970, 36.
Philpot noted, "The idea of a wild man of the woods also exists in Brazil. The Indians call him Curupira, and attribute to his agency all such forest sounds as they cannot understand."31 Nearby in Belize, a small form of "Big Foot" lives, called the Dwendis. Said to live in the jungles in the southern part of this small nation this humanoid creature is described as being between three feet six inches and four feet six and is covered in short brown hair. The name "Dwendis" comes from the Spanish word "Duende" which means "goblin."32
One Wild Man in particular did not dwell in the wild forests but rather in the sea. Known as the Wild Man of Orford, it is said that several fishermen caught this creature in their nets during the reign of Henry II. Taken to Or-ford Castle in Suffolk, he was reported to be "completely naked and had the appearance of a man. The hair of his head seemed torn and rubbed, but he had a bushy beard and was shaggy about the breast."33 This Wild Man would eat most anything it was given, but preferred fresh fish that he would squeeze between his hands until all of the moisture was drained out. According to Westwood, the Wild Man of Orford could not speak even though the local authorities hung him up and tortured him. He stayed at Orford for several months until one day he was able to slip by his guards and disappeared in the waves. At the time, it could not be decided if this Wild Man was a merman, man, fish, or evil spirit that inhabited the body of a dead sailor although fins and other fish type characteristics were never mentioned in the chronicle. An 1870 edition of Murray's East Anglian Handbook states, "A tradition of this monster, known as 'the wild man of Orford', still exists in the village."34
Reports of such sightings have become rare in England since then, but in Dartmoor sightings of a creature referred to as "Hairy Hands" have been made periodically since 1921. One account related by Ruth St. Leger-Gordon tells of a woman who was sleeping along side a road in a caravan: ".she woke to see a large hairy hand clawing up and down the window, beneath which her husband lay asleep. Sensing that evil was threatening him, she slipped from the bunk on to her knees and made the sign of the cross, whereupon 'The Hand' vanished."35 According to St. Leger-Gordon these reports became more frequent from the 1950s to the 1970s, when she wrote about these mysterious sightings, "demonstrating that a new twentieth century superstition seems to be gradually building up along this particular Dartmoor road."36 Some psychics have suggested that the "Hairy Hand" is an "elemental" being, a creature "nebulous and semi-formless" whose appearance is more ape-like than anything else. Other, slightly different creatures were seen along a road
33. Westwood, Jennifer. Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain. London: Paladin Grafton Books 1985, 186.
35. St. Leger-Gordon, Ruth E. The Witchcraft and Folklore of Dartmoor. New York: Bell Publishing Company 1972, 121.
near Crediton, in the Colebrook district. As St. Leger-Gordon noted, "a creature described as 'looking something like a red monkey' would jump out upon a passer-by, following him as far as the village, when it would disappear."37
Sightings of these Wild Men are not restricted to any great degree, but reported worldwide. The "Winstead (Connecticut) Wild Man" has been observed off and on from 1895 through the 1970s and perhaps beyond. First reported in a local newspaper on August 21, 1895, a witness described his account thus: ".a large man, stark naked, and covered with hair all over his body, ran out of a clump of bushes, and with fearful yells and cries made for the woods at lightening speed, where he soon disappeared."38 The witness, a Selectman by the name of Riley Smith, added that the "man" was at least six feet tall and ran upright.
The creature was seen again in 1972 and 1974. Both times witnesses described it as being six feet in height, approximately 300 pounds and covered with dark colored hair. Both times the witnesses were terrified.
As noted, however, it is not only in North America or in Britain that stories of these mysterious wood-folk abound. Among the Yupa Indians, living in Colombia and venezuela, a similar nature spirit is spoken of. Called the Mashlramu, or "Bush Spirit," he is described as being covered with hair with its feet turned backwards. This creature, regarded as a "devastating demon," is to be greatly feared.39 Another Yupa spirit is the Karau, the Spirit of the Night. It too is covered with hair, has very large teeth and very cold hands. The Karau is said to rape women and to kill and eat his victims.40
The Wild Man and Wild Woman were also known among the Nehalem Tillamook Indians in Oregon. "The Wild Woman," wrote ethnographer Elizabeth Jacobs "was one of the most important of the supernatural beings. She was a large woman and lived in the forest."41 Described as having "long beautiful hair and wearing lots of dentalia," Wild Woman was believed to be spiritually connected with the spruce tree. She could make people sick and die, cause insanity, or simply make a tree fall on you. Should you be on her good side however, she would grant you supernatural powers to diagnose illnesses and cure them or endow you with the skill to make beautiful baskets.
Similarly, the Wild Women of old Germany were not only kindly but "they are beautiful," writes folklorist Thomas Keightley, "have fine flowing hair, live within hills, and only appear singly or in the society of each other."42
38. Philips, David E. Legendary Connecticut. Willimantic: Curbstone Press 1992, 175.
39. Wilbert, Johannes. Yupa Folktales. Los Angeles: Latin American Center, University of California 1974, 139.
41. Jacobs, Elizabeth D. The Nehalem Tillamook: An Ethnography. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press 2003, 190.
42. Keightley, Thomas. The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves, and Other Little People. New York: Gramercy Books 1978, 234. A reprint of the 1878 edition titled Fairy
According to local lore, the Wild Women began to appear near the German village of Grodich around the year 1753. The Wild Women would give bread to the boys and girls of the village who watched over the cattle. One day their kindness was extended to kidnapping a small boy, saying to the father, "He will be better with us, and have better care taken of him than at home."43 Reportedly, the boy was seen by woodcutters a year later in the forest, clothed in green. He was never seen again.
In Russian folklore, the Wild Women again are regarded as "handsome females, with fine square heads, abundant tresses, and hairy bodies."44 These Russian Wild People, both men and women, lived in communities in mountain forests and could be either dangerous (they were said to like to tickle people to death who happened upon them) or helpful. If people ventured into those mountain forests and left offerings of food, the Wild Women would harvest their grain for them; tend their children and even tidy up their homes. In addition, like the Fairies, the Wild Women could become invisible by applying certain herbal remedies and would sometimes leave golden leaves to village girls they favored.
While Wild Women were considered handsome, if not beautiful (although hairy), the Wild Man, on the other hand, is an ugly giant who lives in the forest, is known to cause sickness, but also to grant certain powers and skills.45 Clive Hicks, however, noted that the Wild Men and Wild Woman "are not necessarily malevolent and are depicted as helping humanity in some cases The wild man represents an asset in each of us, the whole reservoir of qualities with which each of us is endowed."46 Again, we are faced with a paradox and one that is not likely to be resolved soon.
Similar tales of these large hairy ape-men are found in such diverse locations as the Pacific Northwest, Europe, Canada, southern Mexico, Belize, Guiana, Ecuador, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, parts of Africa, and of course the Himalayas and Central Asia.
The Wild Man in Chinese lore was said to have "long, thick locks, fiery red in colour, and his body is covered with hair."47 "Many" of these wild men were said to live in the mountainous regions of China although by 1922, as the people of China began to be a bit less isolated in the world, only a few were reported to still be in existence.
These Chinese Wild Men were said to be powerful creatures, able to break large rocks with a single blow of the fist and capable of pulling up trees by their roots. Nearby villagers were fearful. "These wild men kill and
Mythology published by G. Bell, London.
44. Campbell, Joseph. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. New York: MJF Books 1949, 79.
46. Hicks, Clive. The Green Man: A Field Guide. Helhoughton: COMPASSbooks 2000, 7.
47. Werner, E.T.C. Myths and Legends of China. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1994, 392. A reprint of the 1922 edition published in London by George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd.
eat all human beings they meet," wrote Werner, "and other hill tribes live in terror of meeting them."48
Wild men are also part of Hawaiian lore. Like other wild men, the Hawaiian Patu-pai-a-rehe live in the mountains, have reddish skin, golden hair and eyes that are black or blue. The Hawaiian wild men, however, are peaceful and are regarded as guardians of sacred places.49
The first "Wild Man" appearing in the world's literature was Enkidu, in the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Created by the goddess Aruru (also known as Anu) to answer the prayers of the subjects of Gilgamesh, who tired of his iron hand rule, Enkidu was made to match the strength of Gilgamesh and to do battle with him — although he actually became Gilgamesh's closest ally. Historian Fred Gladstone Skinner wrote that Enkidu was "a valiant god of battle, whose entire body was covered with hair, shaggy as a woman's head. His clothes were of animal skins and, like an animal, he grazed in the fields and fought with the wild beasts for a place at the water holes."50 According to Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge, Aruru "washed her hands, took some clay, spat upon it, and made a man, who was covered with hair; he lived in the forests with the beasts, which he ruled by reason of his mighty stature and strength."51 Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, G.S. Kirk asks an important question about Enkidu: "We find that the main unexplained element is the insistence on Enkidu as a wild man from the desert. This at first sight arbitrary theme, inconspicuous in the Sumerian versions, is emphasized, not only in the earlier part of the poem, but also by reminiscence up to Enkidu's death. What is its point, does it serve any real purpose in the epic as a whole, and how did it become so prominent a motif in the Akkadian elaboration?"52
What are we to make of these hairy Wild Men and Women? Some researchers believe that they are common images to the human psyche and they represent man's psychological desire to throw off the restrictions imposed by his society or culture. An ancient and universal mythic icon, if you will, of our desire to become once again "savage."
The psychic importance of the Wild Men is clearly seen in the architectural ornaments that include his image. According to anthropologist Dr. Myra Shackley, "His image permeates every form of medieval art, from architecture to heraldry, and in the latter he is often shown as a supporter of an armorial shield. Over 200 European families have wildmen as heraldic emblems.. There is little variation in the way they are portrayed, leafy deco
49. Beckwith, Martha. HawaiianMythology. Honolulu: University ofHawaii Press 1970, 335.
50. Skinner, Fred Gladstone. Myths and Legends of the Ancient Near East. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 1970, 27.
51. Budge, E.A. Wallis. Babylonian Life and History. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 2005, 71.
52. Kirk, G.S.Myth:ItsMeaning&FunctionsinAncient&OtherCultures.London:Cambridge University Press 1970, 145.
rations and a club being the rule."53 Similar heraldic symbols were common in Germany, and became more so with the rise of German nationalism during the 16th century.
Coat-of-arms depicting 'Wild Men'
Speaking of Big Foot, Sas-quatch, etc. Shackley notes, "Until proven otherwise the European Wildman, whether he is called a wodewose,54 a green man, a satyr or anything else, remains a creature of legend. It is possible that genuine relic hominids were sighted from time to time somewhere in the world during the Middle Ages," she writes, "but verbatim descriptions have not survived. The European Wildman is a myth."55
One final bit of information may shed a completely new light on the Wild Man subject. The following appears in a book titled Strange Stories Amazing Facts: "Transformed, the creature appears either as an extra-large wolf, moving on all fours, or as an extremely hairy biped, retaining recognizable, although repulsive, human facial features and clawed hands."56 The description is that of a werewolf — see Chapter 10.
53. Shackley, Myra. Still Living? Yeti, Sasquatch and the Neanderthal Enigma. New York: Thames and Hudson 1983, 25.
54. "wodewose" is derived from an Old English word meaning "a woodland being".
56. Anon. StrangeStoriesAmazingFacts. Pleasantville: The Readers Digest Association, Inc. 1976, 434.
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