I’ve noted previously that I listen to a podcast hosted by Shannon LeGro, Ryan Sprague and Sam Shearon called Into the Fray. The linked episode is the St. Patrick’s day edition of the podcast and features an appearance by well known podcaster Micah Hanks of The Gralien Report. The show ranges widely over a number of topics and is well worth a listen.
I was intrigued, however, by a question that Micah Hanks brought up during the course of the discussion. He asked, setting aside the ‘reality’ of Sasquatch and the hunt for evidence, even supposing that there was no actual physical creature that we could point to and call a Sasquatch, why is it that human beings have had some version of this creature in their folklore for literal centuries? I think that is quite a good question and it got me to thinking.
As with all good questions, this one does not have a single answer so follow along as I jump down this rabbit hole for a moment.
I think that Mr. Shearon has a valid point. Since the human being became more ‘civilized’ and spent less time being afraid of being eaten in the night, it seems that our species of hominid has delighted in scaring itself. From the ancient ‘fairy’ tales and ghost stories to big budget, epic scare-fests like Jurassic World, we seem to delight in scaring the beejesus out of ourselves and those around us. What better way to spice up a trip into the woods than inventing a creature that moves through the forest like a giant wraith and might just snatch you when you are not looking?
In relation to the idea that we like scaring ourselves, that fear can also serve a useful purpose as Sasquatch makes a terrific booger man. In cultures where human children do not spend all their time indoors, glued to video games or cell phones, stories often arise that are designed to prevent kids from wandering too far from home or going into certain areas. I suspect that Sasquatch, along with a host of other creatures serves this purpose in some societies.
I think that another factor that springs up, also related to fear, is the fact that the wilderness, particularly at night, can be a scary place. Even if there are no giant bipedal apes running about, there are still plenty of sounds and movements in the bush that get our attention and make our imaginations run wild. While our logical mind seeks an explanation for what we are sensing and for the creepy feeling of being watched that humans sometimes get, our story telling brain cannot help but invent monsters like the Sasquatch to fill the dark corners of our mind. Again, we circle back to the fact that we love to scare ourselves.
I think, too, especially amongst modern victims of the ‘we now know almost everything there is to know’ scientific establishment, there is a need for mystery, a driving need to have something that can not be easily explained, dissected, put in a box with a custom label, archived and forgotten about. I think that there is a strong desire, despite our apparent worship of science and technology, to thumb our noses at the establishment and what better way to do that then by believing in and developing lore about a creature that so-called science dismisses outright and with extreme prejudice?
Related to this idea, is the thought that, humans are explorers by nature. I see no reason why the species would have spread as it has if we did not have some instinctual chip in our heads that made us constantly ask, “I wonder what is over that hill?”. Linked to this desire to explore is a curiosity that makes us want to see what actually lives in the deep ocean and possibly even the vast reaches of space. Why would we be excited about going to Mars or some other planet unless we truly are a curious and exploratory organism? Unless we have been paralyzed by the instinct squelching ‘publish or perish’ atmosphere of academia, humans have displayed a talent for contriving reasons to go ‘over there’ and one of the reasons we see more and more today is the search for Sasquatch.
In short, I feel that there are numerous reasons why Sasquatch is found in human lore. The Hairy Man represents something visceral and real to us. In my own view, it is a representative of the very spirit of the forest and this is why, if there were no such creature and even if there were no such legend, I believe that people would have invented it.