Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Abominable Bushman

Another famous mystery has been making the news, so it’s time to visit its local cousin.

Earlier this month Doctor Who fans received a special fiftieth anniversary gift when two stories long assumed lost were recovered in Nigeria.  One of these was a tale long-coveted: Web of Fear, which not only introduced Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart for the first time, but brought back Doctor Who’s terrifying interpretation of the Yeti.  This was one of the very first target novelisations I ever read back in the late ‘70s (all but the first episode were believed gone forever even then), so I’m very much looking forward to finally seeing it.
  Then a couple of days ago Oxford University Geneticist Bryan Sykes announced that DNA tests on unidentified hair samples from the Himalayas have brought us closer to identifying the Yeti.  In a strange case of life imitating art, Sykes doesn’t present the familiar image of the man-beast most immediately identified with the mysterious creature, but, like the Doctor Who story mentioned above*, speculates that it could be a “more aggressive, more dangerous…bipedal” bear-like creature!
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time in the Himalayas, including a memorable night in a valley infamous for a ‘yeti attack’, and was also able to speak to a close friend of Sir Edmund Hillary about his 1960 Yeti expedition, while researching the graphic below.  Although Tenzing was convinced, Sir Ed remained sceptical, and in respect to Professor Sykes’ recent discovery, it seems to me that Himalayan people have always spoken of more than one type of creature.
 However, the New Zealand equivalent, the Maeroero, or Moehau, makes for a wonderful camp fire story.  Regrettably, I had to rely on some reports of a decidedly ‘tall’ nature for my timeline, and would have preferred to focus on pre-European Maori myths of ‘other races’ living in these islands.  Alas the time to give this subject the respect and detail it deserved wasn’t available to me.  One day, hopefully!  
*Yes, of course I know they were really fur-covered robots!

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