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Mythology and Folklore

Aborminable Snowman

Gilgamesh Epic, Sherpa guide, Abominable Snowman, Silenus, satyrs

Abominable Snowman or Yeti, legendary wild man of the Himalayas. Reports of sightings have come from Nepal (where the creature is known as Yeti) and from parts of China, Siberia, and other areas in Asia. Sightings have also been reported in North America, where the Abominable Snowman is called Bigfoot in the United States and Sasquatch in Canada. These creatures are said to be elusive; to be heavily built, apelike, hairy, and malodorous, with facial features resembling those of a human being; and to communicate by grunts, cries, or whistles.

The “wild man of the woods” is a familiar figure in folklore. References to such a figure include the Russian leshiy, Enkidu of the Gilgamesh Epic, Silenus and the satyrs in Greek mythology, and Grendel in the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf. Contemporary reports of the Abominable Snowman, therefore, are regarded by some as little more than modern variations on an ancient mythological theme, and some sightings have indeed proved to be hoaxes. However, it has been argued that the widespread presence of these creatures in folklore indicates that they have actually existed since ancient times and may still inhabit remote regions of the earth. Some theorists propose that the sightings are of an unknown species of ape or of isolated surviving Neandertal specimens. Other theorists associate sightings of these creatures with the activity of extraterrestrial beings.

Over the years, investigators have reviewed the local folklore of areas where sightings of the Abominable Snowman have been reported, collected casts of footprints, and devised schemes for the capture of the creature. The alleged physical evidence—footprints, body parts, and indistinct photographs—nevertheless remains ambiguous. In 1960 the renowned mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand undertook to investigate reports of the creature, including one made by the father of Tenzing Norgay, Hillary's Sherpa guide; Hillary found no evidence of it.

Skeptics doubt the existence of the Abominable Snowman and its counterparts because conclusive physical evidence has not been found. Also, because the sightings often occur in remote areas and from a considerable distance, the chances of mistaken identification are great. Skeptics interpret the Abominable Snowman sightings as a reflection of the modern fascination with the wild and the popular sense that a few pockets of wilderness remain in a world dominated by civilization.


Brunvald, Jan Harold, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.

Professor of English, University of Utah. Author of "The Study of American Folklore" and other books. Author of syndicated newspaper column "Urban Legends".

Article key phrases:

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