Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 24th, 2010
Are these the real Wildmen? If you dare, click on the image for a larger version of Jeffrey Vallance (on the right) and Loren Coleman. Taken in June 2006.
Since the Christmas season of 2002, I’ve been mentioning that people might wish to read the LA Weekly’s entertaining and insightful article by artist Jeffrey Vallance. (Here’s another, backup version over at The Fortean Times).
Arriving to be an art professor for three years at Umea University in northern Sweden, Vallance wrote that he “was puzzled by the enigmatic heraldic symbol of Lapland, the Wildman — a hairy, reddish, bestial character dressed in leaves, wielding a gnarled club.”
He reflected: “To me he looked like a typical prehistoric caveman or the Jolly Green Giant. I collected vague reports of an actual Swedish Wildman (Snömannen), a Yeti-like creature believed to inhabit the remote areas of the forest. One day when wandering through the wilds of Lapland, I beheld an astonishing thing: a colossal statue of the Wildman painted bright red with a snowy white beard. From a distance it looked like Santa Claus. As I stood at the base, staring up at the Herculean statue, it hit me like a hunk of red-hot ejecta from Mount Hekla: Santa Claus, the Wildman and Snömannen must spring from the same ancient source. I determined to find the connections between these enigmatic characters.”
Vallance is a friendly and funny fellow, whom I met for the first time in 2005 at the Bates Cryptozoology Symposium and whose art was featured in 2006 in the traveling art exhibition in Kansas City. His LA Weekly essay is a merry discovery chase through the Lapland woods in pursuit of how the old stories of the Wildmen and Snowmen (Snömannen) are interwoven into those of Santa Claus.
“The Wildman of the Middle Ages was described as a grotesque, bestial, ape-like creature, dark, filthy and bearded. Its body was covered in thick, matted hair and gave off a foul odor,” he continues. “The habitat of the wildman was the northern woods where he lived in a cave or den. His traditional beast of burden was the reindeer. The Wildman shares all these traits with the Yeti….Over the ages, the brutal Wildman figure evolved into a character more like a clown or holiday fool. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss follows a classic Wildman scenario: The Grinch is a hairy, Bigfoot-like creature that lives in an alpine cave in a mountain similar to the Matterhorn.”
In the 2000 motion picture adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Director Ron Howard has Jim Carrey, as the green Grinch, pose like Bigfoot in the classic Patterson-Gimlin 1967 film position. The Wildman is drawn full circle in art, folklore, fiction, legend, and popular culture.
Enjoy Vallance’s article and reflect on how Santa Claus and Wildmen are interrelated. Read elsewhere about what I’ve written on Wildmen and cultural icons, and for an especially thoughtful examination of this topic, devour the wonderful book, Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years by Phyllis Siefker.
Happy Wildman Yule Days.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.