Myth knows only one shade; that of darkness. It is from that darkness of the realm of legend that a figure arises, pervasive throughout legends worldwide, that has become so common, and yet remaining obscure enough that most overlook it.
High among the caved cliff tops of China, there are tales of a beast called the Yeren that lives apart from humans, but with a form not unlike that of man. Elsewhere, similar legends have described a beast in the Himalayas called Yeti, purportedly with feet oriented backward on the ends of its legs, to aid it in climbing along steep slopes. In the Americas, the Sasquatch is said to haunt the lonely back roads of the country’s more remote portions; and even in the proverbial underworld of Oz, the Australian outback is riddled with tales of a manlike beast called Yowie that stalks the bush by night.
For many, this narrative begins, and ends, by the remote tales of man-monsters that seem to haunt the legends of people all over the world. How familiar a beast, it would seem, and one so much like us; arguably, if any such creature could truly exist, it would be more like us than any other living animal. Stepping over the line of distinction between the thinking, feeling man and his beastly opposites of the wild, this proverbial thing we have called the “wild man” might very well be human, to some extent.
But the story untold here is one that reaches much further back than the scattered reports and retellings of “monsters” said to be in our midst. There is, in fact, a cultural concept that has emerged many times, interweaving itself between our storied legends and mythic representations much like that shadow said to lurk between the trunks of tall trees in the forest. From within the man, the darkened wood, and his woes, a beast emerges… and yet, something that may not really be so much a “beast” at all.
It is, instead, a strange green man, clad in hair all over.
Stemming from old English forms such as wudu, the prefix of the term seems to clearly depict an etymological precursor to "wood", or that which comes from within the forest. The rest of the term (possibly of the ancient Anglo-Saxon meaning to be alive) seems to flesh out the term in a way that could be interpreted today as essentially meaning “forest dweller” or perhaps “man of the wood.” Hence, the notion of the man coming from the wood may literally have contributed to a man that is also of the wood, bearing not only the beastly traits of his forest familiars, but also the literal coloration of his leafy surroundings: a literal “green man”, as it were.
Among the most famous tales to tell of this Green Man of folklore, there is the tale of Arthur’s loyal Sir Gawain, whose meeting with a Green Man is featured in writings dating back to the late fourteenth century. Here, the Green Man is described thusly:
Sanderson similarly pondered the significance of the Woodwose’s accessories, namely the clubs they tended to wield, which he compared with modern reports of Abominable Snowmen:
The idea of studying a legend in order to perceive its modern, realistic counterparts may seem counter-intuitive; but in truth, at the essence of the Bigfoot mystery may one day be resolved—or perhaps at least broadened—by seeking to understand its requisite components. These must include the earlier myths from parts of the world where the literal existence of an animal the likes of our “Bigfoot” seems far less plausible, when compared with the remoteness of the greater American wilds. Indeed, it seems impossible that such a creature would inhabit Europe, or that it ever could. Why, then, the prevalence of such legends?