Category Archives: Literature

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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The World of the Mysterious (3)

I said last time that I would take my trailcams back into history and legend to see if I could find any suggestions that creatures similar to Bigfoot were mentioned over the course of the last 5,000 years or so. I told you of Enkidu, the creation of the god Anu, and the companion of Gilgamesh, who was one third human and two thirds beast, very hairy and very wild:

The most obvious place to continue the search, of course, is the Bible. In the Book of Numbers, Moses sends out his Twelve Spies to have a look at the land of  Canaan. They return and say that they have seen fearsome giants there. They tell him:

“The land, through which we have gone to search, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

What I will freely admit though, is that in another version of some of the quotation above, the translation is given as:

“And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

I don’t know what’s happening here or how it is possible to translate a word as “giant” and then on another occasion as “Nephilim”. What I did find out, though, is that the proper name ‘Anak’ is the Hebrew word for “giant” (ענק). Here’s a picture I found of the Twelve Spies, recounting the size of the giants in Canaan. It looks like the recreation of a Bigfoot sighting in “Finding Bigfoot” when Bobo stretches his hand over his head and Ranae says “But that makes it fifteen feet tall!”:

Because of this idea that there were giants in Canaan, I also looked at the possibility that the famous Goliath was not a human being but some kind of Bigfoot. In actual fact this proved not to have been a very likely thing to have occurred. The general feeling seems to be that successive translators have just added a cubit here and a cubit there and that is why the Big Man  is nine feet tall rather than just over six feet, which was not desperately taller than King Saul himself. There are also a great many other details about Goliath known from other sources which prove that he was a human being rather than a member of another species:

According to Wikipedia, the exaggeration of his height is relatively easy to trace:

“the Dead Sea Scrolls text of Samuel, the 1st-century historian Josephus, and the 4th-century Septuagint manuscripts, all give his height as “four cubits and a span” (6 feet 9 inches) whereas the Masoretic Text gives this as “six cubits and a span” (9 feet 9 inches)”.

When I was a little boy around nine or ten years of age, our entire class, forty or so of us, all helped to make a two dimensional Goliath with paper and cardboard. He was actually dressed as a Roman soldier with armour of tinfoil and a red curtain for his little kilt. He was six cubits and a span tall and, trust me, he was extremely large!

Just for comparison, here is Robert Pershing Wadlow, who was almost nine feet tall:

Sadly, I couldn’t find any pictures of Robert with nine or ten year old children. Don’t forget though, that Goliath would have been at least a foot taller than the famous American, allegedly.

 

 

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The World of the Mysterious (2)

I said last time that I would take my thermal imaging camera into history and legend to see if I could find any intimations that creatures similar to Bigfoot were mentioned over the course of the last 5,000 years or so:

Have you ever read “The Epic of  Gilgamesh”? It is a fantastic tale of adventure, demons, despotism, eternal life, physical beauty, the secrets of the gods, sex, temple prostitutes, a twin-peaked mountain and bull wrestling. And that’s only about two thirds of the plot. It makes “Lust in the Dust” look like Jane Austen. No wonder there’s a statue of him at Sydney University:

The hero of the epic, Gilgamesh, was probably a real king who came from Sumeria, present day Iraq, in around 2800-2500 BC. He has a companion called Enkidu who, for me, is based on knowledge of a Bigfoot type ape. Enkidu was deliberately created by the god Anu as one third human and two thirds beast. He was suckled by the animals and he is portrayed as being brawny, “endowed with strength”, hairy and he wears animal skins as garments. Wearing tattered clothes is a frequent epithet in many early reports of Bigfoot from North America.

But why does Enkidu bother with animal skins? We know from other descriptions of him in the book that he was completely covered in shaggy hair, all over his body. He must have looked fairly terrifying because when an ordinary human, an animal trapper, first meets Enkidu, the author says that the “trapper’s face was stark with fear”. This is a common element of Bigfoot encounters, not surprisingly, perhaps! Here is Enkidu vanquishing the bull of Heaven:

Enkidu has responsibility for protecting the animals, but he also lives among them as an animal himself. This is the reason that he is portrayed with what look to be cows’ horns and ears, and in the next illustration, hooves:

Much more like Bigfoot are his hairy legs. Don’t miss the hooves:

One interesting feature of Enkidu is that he was fashioned entirely from clay and he has no soul. Man, of course, is fashioned from clay but he does have a soul, given to him by the breath of God during his creation process. No soul, of course, and you might become a Golem, another gigantic creature from, very roughly, the same part of the world.

The only detail lacking with Enkidu is the huge stature but it must not be forgotten that a very high proportion of Bigfoot encounters in the early days of the USA concerned beings of the same size as a man.  Very often they had the remnants of tatty clothes on them but there always was that covering of fur. I just can’t get over Enkidu’s hairy legs! :

The descriptions of Enkidu certainly tick a lot of boxes for his being based on a Bigfoot type creature, something which, thousands of years ago, roamed, perhaps, forests now long cut down, or even the marshes of Iraq. These now largely drained areas were once the largest wetlands in Western Eurasia.

“The Epic of Gilgamesh” is available for free at :

https://archive.org/details/TheEpicofGilgamesh_201606

I selected the Pdf and then right clicked and went to “save target as” which means that I could choose which folder to put it in.
The book is also available at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/18897
Here, I right clicked on “Read this book online: HTML” which again allows me to decide where it goes.
This version is not as good as the previous one, which is excellent, and I’m not sure that it is complete, but it does have text in Ancient Sumerian , transliterated into English form. So…….

it-bi-e-ma iluGilgamiš šu-na-tam i-pa-aš-šar.
iz-za-kar-am a-na um-mi-šu
um-mi i-na ša-a-at mu-ši-ti-i̭a
ša-am-ḫa-ku-ma at-ta-na-al-la-ak
i-na bi-ri-it id-da-tim
ib-ba-šu-nim-ma ka-ka-’a ša-ma-i
ki-?-?-rum ša a-nim im-ku-ut a-na ṣi-ri-i̭a
áš-ši-šu-ma ik-ta-bi-it e-li-i̭a
ilam iš-šu-ma nu-uš-ša-šu6 u-ul el-ti-’i̭
ad-ki ma-tum pa-ḫi-ir7 e-li-šu
id-lu-tum ú-na-ša-ku ši-pi-šu

which means

“Gilgamish arose interpreting dreams,
addressing his mother.
“My mother! during my night
I, having become lusty, wandered about
in the midst of omens.
And there came out stars in the heavens,
Like a … of heaven he fell upon me.
I bore him but he was too heavy for me.
He bore a net but I was not able to bear it.
I summoned the land to assemble unto him,
that heroes might kiss his feet.”

It’s certainly something for the kids to think about for “Show and tell”.

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The World of the Mysterious (1)

I believe in Bigfoot. Or rather, insofar as I think that Bigfoot is an undiscovered ape which still lives in the immensity of North America’s forests, rather than a deity, I think that he exists. I do hope for his own sake, however, that he is never found:

I believe that Bigfoot is just one relict population of several around the world. The North American species is one of a number of very large ape-like humans (or human-like apes) that, at one time, lived in all of the forests and wild places of the northern hemisphere. He has been called by many names…I found quite quickly the alma, the almasti, the menk,  the omah,  the sasquatch,  the yeren, the yeti and the yowie, an inhabitant of the forests of Australia. All of them are very similar creatures, although they have been reported by different people in different isolated places in the world, separated by thousands of miles. One thing for definite is that the people could not possibly have collaborated with each other, particularly before around 1850:

Just try reading the old reports from the 19th century. The oldest I have found so far dates from 1818 in New York State. One of my favourite Bigfoot books carries a large number of similar reports for the whole of North America. They portray many details about Bigfoot which are still witnessed today, such as Bigfoot’s whistling. How could these people have possibly got together so long ago to invent tales which are so similar to each other? The Native Americans often depict Bigfoot as a creature who whistles. That is probably their most frequently encountered evidence of his existence. Look at this totem pole:

In my personal opinion, what has happened is that the people of many different parts of the world have lived calmly and quietly together in small numbers, either hunting or farming their land, for hundreds and hundreds of years. During that time, as fairly harmless inhabitants of a largely virgin landscape, they have come into regular contact with creatures which were very much like the Bigfoot of today. These beings were big, hairy and quite often, smelly. Sometimes they were fierce but usually they did relatively little damage. Here’s a Menk, out in the unexplored woods of the eastern Urals in Russia:

It’s my belief that the literature of the distant past reflects the existence of these denizens of the forest. Hundreds of years have elapsed between these different works of literature and because of that, and the geographical separation between them, they will not all have the same details, but they will have some of them. These details might include the creatures’ enormous size, their hairiness and their fierceness. Being thought fierce goes with the territory, though, when you’re ten feet tall:

Next time we’ll take the Bigfoot trailcams into ancient literature.

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Victor Comic and me (3)

I would be the first to admit that Victor could sound a little clichéd on occasion:

But the British always overcame every problem. Only two British guns and 132 German tanks. Don’t worry! We’ll get ’em all! And make sure you don’t miss any!!

Tank recognition classes can now put their knowledge into practice. The men who drew these tanks had probably seen them for real:Disaster strikes. But the British are used to recovering from disaster and muddling through. Norway. Dunkirk. HMS Hood. Greece. Malaya. Singapore. Tobruk. Countless cricket matches against Australia. Penalty shoot outs in football. God knows, we’ve had the practice:Let’s be honest. A great many of the comic’s drawings  have something hackneyed, or even ridiculous, hiding away inside them. Not to mention exaggeration. Whoever saw a hole in a ship that big?Still, at least the German officer in the next frame doesn’t say “to ze vaterland” :Contrast the British approach below. In the kayak, two commandos, who are perfectly well aware that Hitler’s personal order was that if they were captured, they would be shot. This was the “Kommandobefehl” which you can read about here. The man on the submarine, though, might as well be offering to take their letters to the Post Office for them. “Right! Thank you! And could you see if they are still selling those cough sweets I like? Just get me a couple of packets, would you, old chap?”

More irreverence next time.

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Victor Comic and me (2)

Victor Comic normally began with a war story in full colour on the outside covers of the comic. The story was always true, although I don’t think that that ever really registered with me:

This particular story may not have been 100% true but I think that this is because Douglas Bader was still alive at the time and they didn’t want any law suits:

And anyway, what’s an arm or a leg between friends?

Good Old One-Armed Mac was back doing what he did best. Killing Germans:

Good Old One-Armed Mac used to fly a Hawker Hurricane, but the squadron leader chose to ignore totally the aircraft’s fuel tank capacity when he announced one day that they were going to go and attack Germany. Perhaps they went just a little way up the Rhine on an aircraft carrier:

No, I don’t see an arrestor hook there. But they’re very good, aren’t they?

Victor always had completely 100% fictional wartime characters such as Sergeant Matt Braddock VC. He usually flew a Lancaster or a Mosquito but he could turn his hand to anything. Nobody knew that Matt and his navigator George were the adopted sons of Biggles and Ginger:

Here’s the text if you can’t read it:

Given the hair brained nature of some of the things they did, I’m not too surprised that Matt and George were based at the fictional RAF Rampton. Here’s the Terrible Twosome and a nice illustration of what they do best:

Braddock might have been a double Victoria Cross winner, but he was not cut out for training young recruits:

He was not very good either at passing on the idea of “the calm pilot who was always in control” :

He was never really very interested in the concept of patience and understanding:

Occasionally, in the stories featured in Victor Comic the odd cliché would crop up. The clichés were never really a genuine source of negativity though and they were never meant in a nasty way.

And race hatred was something that just did not ever crop up. No higher respect could have possibly been paid, for example, to those great warriors, the Gurkhas or indeed, any other non-white soldiers in the British Army.

Characters from the Middle East could even star in their own series. And, yes, the hero does look a little bit blonde haired with possibly a hint of blue eyes:

But what about “the traditional Jesus” ?  Very few people will ever have been struck by the markedly Jewish appearance of Jesus in illustrations . Here’s Jesus the Viking:

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Victor Comic and me (1)

When I was just a lad in the early 1960s, I read comics at every opportunity.
To be honest, I eventually decided that a comic with only pictures in it was too quickly consumed and for that reason it didn’t give a great deal of value for money. Eventually therefore, I settled on “Wizard” as my comic of choice, because it had only text stories inside and it therefore took a lot longer to read. My favourite characters included “The Wolf of Kabul” a ripping yarn about English intervention in Afghanistan involving a man armed with a cricket bat:

Political correctness was not first and foremost in anybody’s mind in these stories, but at least they did always win:

I also recollect “The Scarlet Skull”, a series about a First World War pilot in a Bristol Fighter who was armed with a Mauser revolver and who brought German aircraft down with just one bullet through the pilot’s head:

There wasn’t anything that he couldn’t do. He inspired me. If there’d still been an RFC in 1962, I would have joined it.

This cover mentions “Wilson the Wonder Athlete” but given my attraction to ice buns and chocolate bars, I wasn’t particularly interested in stories about running around very quickly or about living in a cave on the Yorkshire moors eating nuts and berries:

Another favourite story of mine was about a tree in Kenya that was so high that it had whole tribes of people living in it. No, really, I do remember it, but nobody else seems to!
I did buy other comics with my pocket money though. I can still remember waiting impatiently for a new comic called Victor to come out on February 5th 1961. I went up to the newsagent’s in High Street, Taylors, and asked Albert Taylor to make sure he saved me one. I even returned to his  shop on several occasions to make sure that he had not forgotten what I’d asked him to do:

There was a “Super Squirt Ring” as a free gift, but I just don’t remember that:

What I do remember was the edge of the comic where a machine had cut it. It was heavily and stiffly serrated and very, very tactile as you rubbed your finger across it. Ten years later, I would have a university lecturer telling me about French novelist, Marcel Proust and his madeleine cake but this famous literary event didn’t even come close to Victor Comic around 9.30 am on February 5th 1961.
The free gift from Victor Comic, which I  do definitely remember, was the plastic wallet which would eventually contain more than 20 postcard sized pictures of the ‘Star Teams of 1961’. This is a wallet like the one I had, but I can’t find an exact match:


The Star Teams included England, Tottenham Hotspur and Ipswich and Scottish teams such as Glasgow Celtic, “The Rangers” and Kilmarnock:

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There were also Northern Irish teams such as Glenavon and Portadown whose results, in those days, were featured on BBC TV on Saturday afternoons. Rugby League was not forgotten with Wigan and St Helens. The England and Scotland Rugby Union XVs were there as well. This is Wigan:

Nowadays, the Star Teams of 1961 are almost permanently on sale on ebay, but that’s not the same thrill as going up to the newsagent to buy the comics with them in, straight after breakfast.

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