Wild men are often found in myths, legends and folklore. Some live in snowy or mountain areas, such as the Yeti in the Himalayas, Bigfoot in North America and the Sasquatch in Canada. Other wild men live in the forests, such as the Russian Leshiy, Silenus of Greek mythology and Grendel in the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf.
In many old myths, wild men are violent and frightening. They steal away children and attack humans. However, in other tales, from the late 15th century onwards, the wild men are often gentle beings who look after nature. The wild man of Orford was not violent, just strange and different to the people that captured him.
Is the wild man of Orford like those in other stories?
Baltic Merman caught 1531 - by Johann Zahn, 1696
The wild man of Orford is like many other characters of folklore. He stayed away from people, was big and heavy and very hairy. He had a human face but could only make grunts or cries. Where the wild man of Orford is different, is that he came from the sea and was caught in a fisherman's net. This is why he is sometimes called a Merman.
A Merman is usually a character who is human from the waist up but has a fish's tale, such as Triton in the Greek legends. The Triton had a green beard and hair and played music using a seashell. Another merman, of Norwegian legend, was a monster of huge size that would rise up out of the water. These mermen lived in the sea and were able to sink ships by calling up great storms.
The Wild Man of Orford is sometimes shown in pictures with a fishes tail. Although there is nothing about him having any thing fish like, in the first writings about the event, later ones sometimes talk about webbed hands or feet.
So did the wild man really exist?
Dungeon in which the wild man was kept
Ralph of Coggeshall wrote down the tale of the Wild Man of Orford, in the Chronicon Anglicanum in 1200, some years after the events. The Cistercian monks at Coggeshall Abbey in Essex kept the document. At this time, Bartholomew de Granville, as in the story, was in charge of Orford castle.
It is likely that a strange man was captured and taken to the castle dungeon and tortured, and he later escaped. However, who or what he really was, is still a mystery. About the time of the story, people could not decide if this Wild Man was a merman, man, or even an evil spirit that lived in the body of a dead sailor.
Are there still sightings of wild men today?
Some people think that, because there are many wild men in folklore, it means that they must once have lived and were the last few of an ancient human species. Others believe that wild men may still live in remote areas of the earth today.
People still claim to see Wild Men. There was a report of someone seeing a wild man in Winstead, Connecticut, in the 1970s. He was described as naked, about six feet tall and covered with dark hair.
Over the years, investigators have studied areas where wild men have been seen. They have made 'casts' (moulds) of footprints, and thought up ways to capture the creatures. However, no final evidence that there are really wild men has been found. Others believe that people who think they saw a wild man were wrong; that, because they came from towns and cities, they did not understand what they were seeing when they were in a more natural, wild environment.