Bigfoot, mythology, and you



Bigfoot:  The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality, John Napier, Dutton, 1973

One of the first scientists to seriously investigate the Bigfoot phenomenon, primatologist John R. Napier published Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality in 1973.  It seems to be out of print, which is a shame, but is readily available for reasonable prices online.  I’ve recently read the book — or most of it; sorry Yeti, I kinda skipped most of your chapters (let’s be honest.  I live in the U.S. so might encounter Bigfoot at some point, but I’m probably never going to be in Nepal).  It’s well worth a look not only for its examination of the infamous cases of the “Cripple Foot,” Minnesota Iceman, and Patterson-Gimlin film, but especially for its discussion of the role of legend and mythmaking in human society.  Napier gives all the evidence a very fair shake, but he also values myth for myth’s sake, as do I.

Food for thought time.  Which is more valuable in the 21st century, the Bigfoot legend and all that it encompasses, or the (theoretical) animal?  Following is an excerpt from the concluding pages of Napier’s book.

I am convinced that the Sasquatch exists, but whether it is all that it is cracked up to be is another matter altogether.  There must be something in north-west America that needs explaining, and that something leaves man-like footprints.  The evidence I have adduced in favour of the reality of the Sasquatch is not hard evidence; few physicists, biologists or chemists would accept it, but nevertheless it is evidence and cannot be ignored.

I have suggested that myth and legend have survival value for mankind, and are therefore subject to natural selection like all physical and many behavioural characteristics of man.  We are far from understanding exactly what the role of a hypothetical myth-gene could be, but perhaps it is connected with man’s highly socialized state.  Bonds and allegiances are the bedrock of our society, as they are of many nonhuman primate societies.  There is the pair-bond of husband and wife, the family-bond, the village-bond and the national-bond; to say nothing of the sex-bond, school-bonds, club-bonds and innumerable, unclassifiable religious and ideological-bonds.  But mankind needs more than bonds, and the comforts of grooming they involve; we need to experience feelings of awe.  Husbands, fathers, elders, statesmen, dictators, presidents, chairmen and grand masters are all very well as god-figures, but they are inadequate because they lack the essential ingredient of remoteness.  Man needs his gods — and his monsters — and the more remote and unapproachable they are, the better….

Perhaps by the time this book is published somebody will have discovered a Bigfoot.  I hope so; but if not, I will happily settle for the myth.


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