The Tale of

The Man, The Ape, The Legend

Contrary to popular belief, the legend of Sasquatch is not a modern idea. Nor did it start with the wildly controversial Patterson-Gimlin film. The truth is many cultures and societies throughout history have their own tales about wildmen and ape-like creatures who interacted with humans.

Earliest Writing:

The earliest known reference to a Wildman can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. This is the tale of a king and his beast-like companion, Enkidu. It describes a man made by a god out of clay yet born from man. He was covered in hair, ate with gazelles, and drank from the same ponds as water buffalo. It tells of Enkindu roaming with wild cattle and eating plants. A theme of the epic was that this creature was first completely wild then becomes more civilized: taking a woman, eating human food, and drinking beer. Although the story begins with the Wildman being the enemy of man he fights alongside the king and the two become allies.

Greek and Roman Period:

Around 450 BC Herodotus wrote about a race of beings called the Arimasapians. He stated they were shaggy with hair covering their bodies, raised livestock, and were excellent warriors. The one big difference in appearance with modern day sasquatch is these beings were said to only have one eye. They did possess human characteristics of greed and the need for battle as their stories revolve around the Arimasapians fighting griffins for gold.

Throughout ancient times the tales of wildmen continued. Most notable comes from the cultures of the ancient Greeks and Romans. They were usually depicted as half man and half animal with hooves and horns. Typically referred to as Satyrs. In Greek myths they are creatures who roamed mountains and woodlands, often carrying a pinecone rod in one hand. Satyrs were depicted as males although later poets would add female satyrs. In the early Greek these creatures were wildmen and not half goat. (as the Greek relief to the left shows a satyr on a mountain goat, he is shown as a Wildman with human characteristics) The characteristics of goats would be added later by Romans. They were described as very instinctual beings with a great desire for physical pleasures. Although some of these legends do not depict what we generally think of as wildmen it shows the idea has been around as long as written language.


Another notable depiction comes from African islands and are known as Gorgades. These creatures had both human and ape characteristics. Only the women were seen as the men were so fast that they were able to get away. An excerpt from 1st Century AD Roman encyclopedia reads " the women had hair all over their bodies, but that the men were so swift of foot that they got away; and he deposited the skins of two of the female natives in the Temple of Juno as proof of the truth of his story and as curiosities, where they were on show until Carthage was taken by Rome". Some believe these to be a species of ape but the descriptions use words associated with human females showing how closely they resembled their human counterparts.

Middle Ages:

It was then during the middle ages, in Europe, when the descriptions of these wildmen became more like a hominid and less like a mythical creature. No longer were they described with the features of horns and hooves. Now the wild men or "woodwose" as they were referred to had very human characteristics with more hair and bigger builds. Also noted was their super strength compared to that of a human male. Many countries throughout Europe during this time period have tales about interactions and sightings. Artwork of wildmen were seen in places such as churches and noble estates. In fairness it should be noted that while wild men can be seen throughout literature and art of this period there is little in the way of official documents, historical descriptions, or letters.  

Age of Explorers:

This brings us to the age of explorers. Not that their information was new to the native people of the lands they were in but the legends became well documented and circulated.

Leif Erickson

It has been said that the first documented report of a sasquatch encounter came from explorer Leif Erikson somewhere between 986 and 1000A.D. On many internet sights you can find the description of these creatures as "monsters that were horribly ugly, hairy, swarthy and with great black eyes". Also attributed to the creature is a horrible sounding howl or screech. And although I do love the subject of sasquatch I also believe in history and historical evidence. The sagas of Erikson are actually easy to read and understand. Since I wanted to know more about the first "American" bigfoot encounter I read up on them. As it turns out the term Skrelling (or Skellring) is used when talking directly about the native people. The Skrelling trade pelts, use weapons, speak native dialect, and build both boats and dwellings. I don't personally think these things combined are very sasquatch-ish. When it comes to the physical descriptions of hairy creatures, both the original translations as well as internet translation sources translate that phrase as "bad hair on their heads" and later on "ill looking and dark skinned". Other words taken directly from the sagas show that what the Vikings thought were that the natives were quite ugly to them. When I read the sagas I looked for wildlife references and found very few. Salmon are noted by name and said to be large. Other than that wildlife is virtually left out all together. In fact there is only one English translation that leads to the conclusion of a possible Sasquatch which translates to Skrelling being of course hair. In the other versions I read the translations all are very clear that Erikson is talking about the native people.

Jose Mariano Mocino

Jose was a naturalist from Spain. He loved ecology as well as anthropology and held the most impressive collection of natural history items of his day. Jose loved to explore hard to get to places and spent time in the Americas, specifically the  Pacific Northwest. In1792 he noted in his book on exploration that the native people of the Pacific Northwest were scared of a creature who lived in the woods. They referred to it as Matlox. Jose states: "I do not know what to say about Matlox, inhabitant of the mountainous district, of who all have an unbelievable terror. They imagine his body as very monstrous, all covered with stiff black bristles; a head similar to a human one, but with much greater, sharper, and stronger fangs than those of the bear; extremely long arms; and toes and fingers armed with long curved claws. His shouts alone (they say) force those who hear them to the ground, and any unfortunate body he slaps is broken into a thousand pieces.


Native People

Native tribes of he Americas each had their own legends about a large creature that lived in the woods and had characteristics of both man and ape. Stories often times attribute mystical qualities to the creature. Depictions of this can be found in their artwork. Most notable masks and totem poles.                                                                 


Modern Day:

 Modern day Sasquatch is a very interesting topic. The first sight of the modern era was in 1811. A man in Jasper, Alberta, Canada had seen a large hairy man-like creature. The first reported Bigfoot attack came from the state of Washington in 1924. Sightings then died down until the 1950's which saw the first casts of feet as well as the coining of the phrase Bigfoot. Since then there have been hunters, organizations, science, and literature devoted to the topic of the existence of the creature.                                                        

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