The World of the Mysterious (4)

I said last time that I would take my Syma X5C-1 2.4G HD Camera RC Quadcopter RTF RC Helicopter with 2.0MP Camera back into history and legend to see if I could find any hints of creatures similar to Bigfoot mentioned over the course of the last 5,000 years or so. I spoke of Enkidu and Moses’ Twelve Spies in the land of  Canaan. I also  rejected Goliath, an obvious candidate, but not a valid one. Here’s Enkidu’s pal, Gilgamesh again:

In my researches, however, I did find “Beowulf”. This is an Old English epic poem written between 975-1025 AD. It concerns Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, who has grave problems with the fact that his feasting hall is repeatedly being attacked by a monster known as Grendel:

Here’s an old illustration of the creature:

Wikipedia describes events from the point of view of Grendel:

“Grendel is “harrowed” by the sounds of singing that come every night from the hall. He is unable to bear it anymore, and attacks. Grendel continues to attack the Hall every night for twelve years, killing its inhabitants and making this magnificent hall unusable. Beowulf arrives to destroy Grendel. He is welcomed with a banquet. Beowulf and his warriors bed down in the hall to await the creature. Grendel stalks outside the building for a time, spying the warriors inside. He makes a sudden attack, bursting the door with his fists and continuing through the entry. The first warrior Grendel finds is asleep, so he seizes the man and devours him.”

There are so many similarities here with the behaviour of Bigfoot. Active at night, attracted by noise, stalking round the building, looking at the people inside, smashing in through the door, and, certainly according to some of the tales of the Native Americans, eating one of the humans.

Grendel’s exact appearance is never directly described by the original Beowulf poet, except that he is “man-like”. He is referred to as a “sceadugenga”, which means “a shadow walker, a night goer”. This latter phrase, “night goer”, is a good fit for Bigfoot.

I’ve already shown you an older illustration of the monster. More modern sources such as films seem to just do what they feel like on the day:

Mind you, Grendel is big. So big, in fact, that when his head is finally cut off, it takes four men to move it. This is Goliath’s head, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea and that you’ll forgive me, especially when you notice the stone shaped hole in the Big Man’s forehead :

Back to the story. Having seen what he was dealing with, Beowulf decides to fight Grendel without using any weapons because he thinks he can match him. As Grendel comes into the hall, Beowulf leaps up and grabs his hand. Beowulf’s retainers come to help but their swords are unable to pierce Grendel’s skin. Beowulf then rips off Grendel’s arm and Grendel flees to the marsh where he lives and, indeed, dies.

Some excellent similarities there. Grendel’s size, his home in a watery place such as a marsh and his impenetrable skin.

A translation of the poem by Seamus Heaney in 1999 describes Grendel’s arm which gets ripped off in the struggle:

“Every nail, claw-scale and spur, every spike
and welt on the hand of that heathen brute
was like barbed steel. Everybody said
there was no honed iron hard enough
to pierce him through, no time proofed blade
that could cut his brutal, blood-caked claw.”

The Iroquois, a Native American tribe of the eastern Great Lakes area, described a whole race of giants twice as big as men, with bodies covered in rock-hard scales that repelled all of their weapons. Here we are:

Modern man has also repeatedly been baffled by the apparent ability of Bigfoot to escape both rifle and shotgun fire.

I’ll finish with three quick references to literature and legend of roughly the same period. Firstly the “kelpie” of Celtic folklore which is often seen as a water horse, but which could change shape and become a “rough, shaggy man who leaps behind a solitary rider, gripping and crushing him… tearing apart and devouring humans”.

Secondly a tale comes from Norway (not that far from Beowulf territory) called “Konungs skuggsjá” or Speculum Regale or “the King’s Mirror”. It was written around 1250 and describes a “wild man”

“It once happened in that country (and this seems indeed strange) that a living creature was caught in the forest as to which no one could say definitely whether it was a man or some other animal; for no one could get a word from it or be sure that it understood human speech. It had the human shape, however, in every detail, both as to hands and face and feet; but the entire body was covered with hair as the beasts are, and down the back it had a long coarse mane like that of a horse, which fell to both sides and trailed along the ground when the creature stooped in walking.”

The mane on this unknown, hairy creature…is that the origin of the confusion about the shape-shifting Kelpie which was both a “rough, shaggy man” and a water horse?

Perhaps it looked a little bit like the fake documentary made recently:

The third detail involves the Long Man of Wilmington who adorns a hillside in East Sussex. He is 235 feet tall and he is cunningly designed to look perfectly in proportion when viewed from below. He dates from, apparently, the 1600s and he carries two large sticks, and, even allowing for the effects of perspective, he does have enormously long arms, just like Bigfoot:

And next time, “ce sera une visite en France”.

 

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24 Comments

Filed under Cryptozoology, History, Literature, Personal, Science, Wildlife and Nature, Writing

24 responses to “The World of the Mysterious (4)

  1. “Beowulf then rips off Grendel’s arm”. Is there an explanation as to exactly how he did that?

    • Not that I’m aware of. An animal such as a chimpanzee or a gorilla can pull a human’s arm off at the root (and it has been done) but I’ve never heard of a human being doing it to anybody or anything. I would have to confess that I’m not an expert on these ancient poems but I wonder if it might be some attribute that is applied to past heroes on a regular basis, as a measure of their strength. That is my only bright idea, and it is pure guesswork.

  2. Whoa! Grendel was quite the menace, a formidable enemy for any kingdom!

    • He certainly was. The Saxon and Viking stock market must have plummeted whenever traders heard that Grendel was on the rampage. As far as I remember, though, Grendel was just the beginning. Once Grendel is dead, his mother, not a happy monster, comes to the hall to make a determined effort to rip Beowulf’s head off. The tale finally comes to its end after Beowulf battles a dragon. Wikipedia has everything you need, and it is actually quite interesting
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf
      This is the book itself, completely free, which you can download, or, easiest of all, just “Read this book online: HTML” at the top of the list.
      http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/50742

      • Jeff Tupholme

        Could Grendel’s mother reflect in some way the bigfoot family groups we sometimes read about? Beowulf was the first book we studied at the High School (with Miss Pennington)!

        REPLY: I’d never thought of the idea that Grendel’s mother might be part of a Bigfoot family group. Thanks for that. Perhaps, along with the Norwegian one, there were more of these things about than we might imagine.

      • Thank you for that, John. I’ve heard about Beowulf and have seen old movies referencing him, but never actually read it.

      • It’s a great text GP. Studied it at uni. Its 3 acts so has some great stuff about aging, heroism and complacency. I’ve never heard them but heard audio books done by an irishman are quite good.

      • Thanks, Lloyd, for another opinion!! I appreciate it!

  3. atcDave

    Always fascinating. Although I think the complete lack of description of Grendel is problematic for IDing him as anything in particular. At least beyond saying a belief in monsters goes way back.
    Enkidu is even more intriguing. And of course the general appearance of “wild men” of one sort or another. There is at least a good circumstantial case for saying there is more than we know to this world.

    • Yes, I think you are right to use the word “circumstantial” but what is interesting to me are the similarities between what is reported by different groups of people separated by thousands of miles. The “Yowie” of the Australian aborigine is very close to the Bigfoot of the Pacific North West, for example.
      It’s just a pity that the creatures of the past were described so briefly. “Half man, half beast” is hardly an exhaustive description for Enkidu, although to suppose that he was covered in fur is a reasonable assumption.

  4. Interesting to see a ‘wild man’ was said to have been caught in Norway, yet there are only scant remarks (unless you know better John) to this. You’d have thought that over history, this would have been made into something far more and therefore given stronger credence to the Big Foot theory. Fascinating none the less.

    • No, there’s no more to the Norway report than I have quoted, as far as I know, It could be that the local population back then lived in their own world, populated by gods with huge hammers, trolls, goblins and such like, so that one more strange beast was nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
      The problem there, though, is that when there are so-many strange creatures populating that world of so long ago, the tendency for the modern person is to dismiss all of them as supernatural rather than accept that just one may be a report of a Bigfoot.

  5. This excellent series is developing well

  6. Thank you, Derrick. If I had my time over again, I would have included in the Bible section, the rather peculiar Esau. He must have been very, very hairy indeed if Jacob could pretend to be him by putting a lambskin over his forearm.
    The series has just a couple of episodes to go, I think I’ve found something quite original to end on, although if you think that I’m going to finish with my video of the Sherwood Bigfoot sitting in our garage drinking beer and watching the rugby, you may be a little ,disappointed.

  7. The Long Man of Wilmington is definitely my favourite.

    • Ironically, he is probably the most famous one that I’ve never seen. He’s in East Sussex which is a long way from Nottingham, with nothing much else to see in the area. That “long way” of course, is a stroll to the corner shop for many Australian country folk!

  8. Jan

    The vikings reached North America at the end of the 10th Century. I can’t help but wonder if the Iroquois’ giants were in fact norsemen wearing body armour.

  9. I find your fascination with Bigfoot fascinating, John. There’s got to be something to this. I applaud you for hanging on to keep the search going. I really enjoyed this post. Thank you!

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts, Amy. I’m afraid that continually writing about young men dying before their time can have its effect after a while. Trying to find a new angle on Bigfoot has made a pleasant change,

      • John, I totally understand how writing about those young men would effect you. I know personally how hard it is for me to read some of your posts. I’m happy for you that you are determined to find Bigfoot!

  10. Great post mate, much appreciated.

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