The mountains are home to multiple mysteries and pages after pages can be written about them whether it’s the spirits looming over hills to quirky customs that one might witness on a mountain top. And yet, arguably the biggest myth from the Himalayas is of the yeti. North American folklore has Bigfoot or Sasquatch, Russia has the Jungle Man and there’s a Chinese version as well. Meanwhile, the tall peaks in our side of the world have been telling tall tales of the yeti.
So, what is a yeti? A muscular bipedal creature, i.e., one who walks on two legs, has reddish-brown or grey hair and is approximately 6 feet tall in its height. Its aura has prevailed in the Himalayan air since centuries. Even Alexander the Great upon conquering the Indus Valley region had demanded to be shown a yeti in 326 BC. But the natives were unable to fulfil his request on account of the fact that the high-altitude inhabitant could not survive the lower temperature. Folklores could fill whole books with their various renditions of the yeti. They include one in which Sherpas drink and fight each other in order to somehow encourage yetis to fight and destroy one another, then another one mentions a horrible incident of a yeti raping a girl, and also that of a yeti growing and becoming more and more powerful along with the rising Sun! Parallels have even been drawn with a “Glacier Being” who resembled a massive ape-like creature and was said to be revered by the indigenous communities inhabiting the mountainous regions. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Today the yeti has become a star! With appearances in movies, comics and video games, calling it anything less than a star would be as a wise woman once said “not fair!”. ? This, however, comes as no surprise because naturally the yeti was not left alone after Alexander. Many went onto pursue it and continue to do so, even as many have debated its reality. Journalist Henry Newman interviewed a group of mountaineers in 1921 who were returning after climbing Mount Everest. You’d think climbing the world’s highest peak would alone be news-worthy, however, these folks took the news a notch higher as they had spotted massive sized footprints during their trek. The local guides credited these footprints to “metoh-kangmi” which means “man-bear snowman”. Newman mistranslated or misunderstood “man-bear” as filthy and gave the creature the name Abominable Snowman, thus, adding mystique to the legend even in the western world.
A mystery such as the yeti generated quite the excitement with biologists to mountaineers all seizing upon a chance to uncover this mystery. World famous mountaineer Reinhold Messner (who made the first solo ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen amongst a series of other achievements) authored a book titled “My Quest for the Yeti: Confronting the Himalayas Deepest Secret”. Over his decades of mountaineering Messner had first rubbished the legend completely, however, one night atop a mountain he saw a massive creature that he couldn’t name. He saw its huge torso and arms supported by tiny legs and a face with menacing eyes and teeth. This was when he realized he had come in contact with the yeti itself but his comment on the matter brought him a lot of ridicule back home. Thus, he spent over 14 years in tracking the creature down as proof. His quest brought him to witness huge footprints which the locals believe to be of the “metoh-kangmi” which is also called the chemo or dremo colloquially. Messner narrated how footprints of other massive bears have often been mistaken for this legendary Neanderthal being. He is of the opinion that the yeti is actually a combination between a bear and a wild animal, an animal that has lived far off in the alpine heights away from the prying human eyes. He denies it being a half-human creature and instead states that the yeti has become a making of two parts – half legends and half zoological. He stated, “The yeti, you see, is a monster created in the people’s heads from the reality. I am sure: the yeti will never die.”
On the other hand, hiker Anthony Wooldridge claimed to have clicked photographs of a yeti in 1986! He returned with two photographs which initially sent shockwaves as the world thought he had captured the reality. Before you get too excited though, the following year researchers went up the route taken by Wooldridge for better study only to rather embarrassingly discover that the photos were actually of a rock outcropping which looked vertical from the position they were clicked from.
Even so Wooldridge ought not to be ostracised for many have fallen short when it came to coming up with proof of the yeti. With Sir Edmund Hillary returning with a scalp believed to belong to a yeti, only to be discovered to be of a high-altitude goat’s; with Chinese hunters mistaking a civet to be a yeti and a Nepalese monastery claiming to house a yeti’s finger, only to have scientists declare it to be human, clearly the yeti has caused quite a furore.
While there is enough to suggest at its existence, there isn’t hard, concrete evidence. There isn’t actual proof before our eyes to unequivocally state that the yeti isn’t just the stuff of legends but an actual living and breathing reality. There’s also the gnawing fact that different regions of the world having their own version of such a creature, a half-human and half-animal creature of mammoth size who indulges in horrifying acts. This overlapping nature in varying geographical territories certainly begs the question that is the legend a creation simply to maintain the idea of a human vs abomination or simply a good vs bad balance in humanity? Some suggest it to be a legend intended to instil fear in the minds of young children to prevent them from sauntering off into the wild. And as they grow the same legend works to bolster courage for them to face the tough conditions of their surroundings. The ones who see the legend as such a carefully crafted one see the yeti as a wild animal. Meanwhile, there is a still a considerable number who believe in the humanoid creature one that is capable of sending shivers down the spine, i.e., the part ape and part man. So, tell me, curious reader, which one do you believe in?
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