Now I am not a folklorist nor am I knowledgeable about old European myths. I honestly only feel comfortable speaking about something I have personal experience with. However, having had a very brief sighting of an “upright hairy biped” myself near Seneca, Illinois in 2005, I do know that “hairy wildmen” do in fact exist in North America. It is my belief that the “hairy wildman” myths of Europe are based on the real flesh & blood animal commonly known in the North America as bigfoot / sasquatch. As such I think the wildman fits the description ofÂ ogres andÂ trolls.
Illustration by Gystave DorÃ© (1832-1882), the French artist andÂ engraver.
But what about “The Big Bad Wolf”? InÂ medieval timesÂ Â Europe did have wolves and big problems at times with rabid wolves. The recently released movieÂ Red Riding Hood (2011) proclaims that it is “Set in a medieval village that is haunted by a werewolf”. Â There are similarities in the dialog of Red Riding Hood to old Norse myths which describe the animal as a giant, not a wolf.
It is my conclusion that it has always been difficult for witnesses to come to grips with what type of animal the “hairy man” is. Being confronted with an 8 foot hairy creature standing behind a tree many have included it must be a wolf standing on it’s hind legs. And if it is a wolf, which doesn’t stand on hind legs, then it must be an upright walking wolf, the werewolf.
Note – for an excellent resource to the origins of Â the myth of Â the “hairy man” in Europe read the in-depth book entitled ‘Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years’.