Tag Archives: Moses

The World of the Mysterious (5)

I said last time that I would take Cliff Barackman, James “Bobo” Fay, Ranae Holland and Matt Moneymaker back into history and legend, to see if I could find any creatures, perhaps based on 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, and I described Grendel who, although I thought he was possibly not as dangerous as he has been portrayed, I thought was not necessarily armless.

This time, I would like to touch upon the story of Jean Grin, a subject which I have explored before. It all took place in early 19th century France  in the wonderfully picturesque and unspoilt region of Lozère, which is here:

This time the situation is a little more complex in that Jean Grin was, supposedly, a historical figure who was active as recently as 1800. He lived in a mountain ravine, in a crude cottage of stone with what is now a collapsed roof, surrounded by pine trees and dry scrubland. Inside, against the very rock itself, there is the oven where he roasted children to eat. Outside are several piles of stones covered with soil, supposedly the burial places of his victims:

Jean Grin was living here because of his inability to get along with his neighbours. They called him an ogre, and considered him an ambiguous being, “mi-homme mi-bête”, half way between animal and man. Soon after his arrival in the ravine, he seemed increasingly to take on the attributes of a savage, brutal, wild person that no social norms could restrain:

Young shepherds and shepherdesses began to disappear in the surrounding region. At the time, in a neighbouring area, there had been severe problems with some kind of mystery animal, either a very large wolf or a canid of an unknown species. It had been termed the “Beast of Veyreau” or “La Bête de Veyreau” and I have already written about it:

Whatever the killer in Lozère was, it only attacked weak people or children. In just six months, from June-December 1799,  three victims were killed and eaten.

Physically, Jean Grin was by now dreadful to look at. He supposedly wore just animal skins and he could run extremely fast across the countryside and up and down slopes:In the dark, his eyes gleamed bright, shining red and you could see him coming from far away. Jean Grin too has been given the attributes of a Bigfoot. Memories from centuries ago have been added to his story. He had luminous red eyes.  He possessed prodigious speed both going up and coming down mountainsides. He had an appearance generally thought to be “mi-homme mi-bête”. In addition, photographs show that he lived in exactly the same kind of dry, rocky environment where Bigfoot lives nowadays in the Sierra Nevada of California:

It is my contention though, that the story of Jean Grin is obviously much, much older than a mere 200 years. Indeed, I think that quite a complex process has therefore come about here.

Firstly, the people had a dim memory from centuries previously of Bigfoot type creatures in the forest and in the mountains. Secondly, there was an eccentric and unpopular man called Jean Grin who lived in the area. He was big and ugly. Thirdly, an unknown animal,  the “Beast of Veyreau”, was attacking, killing and eating the young children who were left on their own to guard the flocks of sheep.

And what has happened is that these three elements, of Bigfoot, of gory deaths and of weird loners have all been melded together to give us the present legend. There are no Bigfoots in France nowadays, but in the centuries when the east of the country, in particular, was covered in extensive thick forest, I think there were, and recent enough for memories to linger on.

Next time, England’s Bigfoot.

 

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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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A twitch to west Norfolk

(An extract from my old birdwatching diary “Crippling Views”)

As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, I used to be a “twitcher”, the sort of birdwatcher who might travel hundreds of miles to see a species which is rare in whichever country he lives. A hardcore British twitcher, therefore, would travel vast distances without any hesitation to see a Common Grackle or a Red-bellied Woodpecker in Great Britain.

An American twitcher would react equally strongly to news of a Northern Lapwing or a Eurasian Siskin in his own country.
Twenty five years ago, I kept a diary of where I went in search of unusual birds. So, on Sunday, August 21st 1988, I know exactly where I was, and what I was doing…

“A minibus trip to North Norfolk this time.”

transit zzzzzz
“Not a lot on Birdline to chase, but one half decent bird is a Ruddy Shelduck.”

ruddy 8 zzzzzz

 

Here’s a short, but lovely, film taken by “paulboyish”

“This beautifully plumaged waterbird will be, hopefully, still at Lynn Point, just a few miles north of north of King’s Lynn.”

“I try to persuade the minibus driver to hotfoot it out there straightaway but he’s very reluctant. He thinks the bird must be one of those from a zoo that you can never hope to count, one of those wonderfully colourful birds that is almost by definition an escape. Something along the lines of Golden Pheasant, Mandarin or Carolina Wood Duck. Or Red-breasted Goose.”

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“O Ye of Little Faith. The mood of the passengers is one of optimistic keenness to go and see a new bird. When the minibus driver poses the hoary old question of how many people would actually like to go and see the Ruddy Shelduck, in an effort to prove once and for all that there will not be enough to fill a minibus, and therefore, we ought not to bother going, his effort at token democracy turns out all wrong. Absolutely everybody wants to go to Lynn Point to see this stunning bird, no matter how dubious the tick might be.”

“I navigate for the first bus, and Alan navigates for the second. We have a short diversion around the docks at Fisher Fleet, which was the scene of my first ever Mediterranean Gull, only a year or so previously, watched at close range as it fed from the wagons full of steaming hot shellfish waste which emerged at regular intervals from the factory.”

med gull

 

“We eventually find the mud-bath that rejoices in the flattering title of car park and set off along the seawall, out towards Lynn Point. It is throwing it down with heavy rain, and I begin to get very nervous indeed at the mood of the other birdwatchers, as we gradually get wetter and wetter. They seem to walk terribly slowly and not at all to like the idea of leaving the car-park. One woman actually says within earshot, “We’re a very, very long way from the bus.”, obviously racked with terror at the prospect being any distance whatsoever from her preferred method of vehicular transport. I begin to understand what Moses must have felt like.”

moses
“Things are not helped one little bit by having to make a gigantic detour inland to the concrete bridge which allows you to cross one of the many enormous drainage ditches that are met with so frequently in this sodden landscape.
To be honest, it isn’t pleasant marching into driving rain, but on the other hand, for a new bird it’s obviously worth it. Suddenly catastrophe strikes. We are faced with a bright green electrified fence that the farmer has erected across the path. We all stand there like a flock of lost sheep, milling around, not knowing what to do. Several people wring their hands and talk seriously of turning back. No chance. In for a penny, in for a pound. With a loud cry of “Twenty years in an SAS Suicide Squad taught me this one”, I step over the fence, followed by Alan, and then, with his trousers at their usual go-faster low-slung crutch height, Paul. The fun really starts when Paul’s wife makes the attempt to get over the fence, and gets electrocuted. Not badly, but just enough to make her squeal loudly with surprise. It’s all Alan’s fault of course. As always, it’s the husband who gets the blame. We all want to dissolve into unsympathetic howls of laughter, mostly at Alan’s attempts to smooth things over, but none of us dare.”
“Off we go again, into the hurricane and the sleet and the slight rain of volcanic ash and the radioactive nuclear fallout that has just started to come down. Eventually, we decide to walk to a certain spot in the distance, stop there and then take a good look around the saltings. If there is no Ruddy Shelduck on view, we will all come back and not pursue the quest any further. We do this, and, sure enough, Alan, who has a wonderful talent for finding specific targets, locates the Ruddy Shelduck within less than thirty seconds. It’s with a flock of twenty or so ordinary shelducks, swimming about thirty yards off shore, slowly making its way towards the opposite side of the estuary, then finally reaching the muddy bank and striding ashore. It’s at fairly long range, but would seem to me to be a female. A prime candidate for genuine vagrancy I would say, particularly as it’s in the correct part of Britain, at the right time of year, with exactly the required winds, namely, gentle warm south easterlies. Indeed, Paul reckons that there are several other birds from roughly the same part of Europe and the Middle East, present in Britain at the same time.”

“On the other hand, we are also in exactly the right place for one of the Dutch feral population to have made landfall across the North Sea. King’s Lynn may not be exactly Amsterdam, but it’s not that different for a Ruddy Shelduck in a storm. Soooo… overall, it’s not a complete tick, well, only if you’re either unscrupulous or plain desperate. Still, at least, it’s a moral victory.”

This short film is by Peiselkopp

“On the Long March back, we see a Marsh Harrier, and we are treated to one of Kevin’s by now legendary live commentaries on the bird’s progress, delivered in his fantastic foghorn of a voice. He sounds like a reversing bus….MARSH HARRIER… MARSH HARRIER… MARSH HARRIER… OVER THE BANK… BEHIND THE TREES… MARSH HARRIER… MARSH HARRIER… FLYING AWAY… IT’S FLYING AWAY…IT’S NEARLY GONE… IT’S REALLY GOING NOOOOOW… IT’S GONE”

This lovely film is by Thomas Harris

and this one, equally atmospheric, is by John Watson, and was taken  on the Norfolk Broads in East Anglia.

“Nobody on any of the three shores of the Wash could have been in any doubt whatsoever about what was happening at that stage in the development of Kevin’s universe.

As we cross the huge dyke, a couple of waders fly up, and whirr off along the edge of the water.”
wood sand zzzzz
“Closer inspection reveals them to be Wood Sandpipers, two very decent birds indeed to see almost as an afterthought. Indeed, I can’t remember ever finding a completely wild Wood Sandpiper for myself before. All the others were plastic dummies carefully placed by the Warden out on the marshes at Cley-next-the-Sea to attract middle aged visitors.”

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