What’s a Woodwose?

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The Woodwose, a humanoid mythological character, is depicted in medieval European literature and artwork, often carrying a club and accompanied by the Green Man. It was inspired by ancient deities, biblical stories, and historical accounts of wild men. In cryptozoology, it is similar to Bigfoot. JRR Tolkien’s legendarium also refers to the Woodwose.

Also known as the “Pilosus” or “Wildman of the Woods,” the Woodwose is a humanoid mythological character featured in medieval European literature and artwork, especially engravings and coats of arms. Woodwoses are often depicted carrying a club, to symbolize the wild side of man, and are often accompanied by images of the ‘Green Man’, a humanoid character covered in green.

The woodwose is thought to have been inspired by deities in ancient mythology, such as Silvanus, the Roman god of the countryside; Maia, the Greco-Roman goddess of fertility and the earth; and Orcus, the Roman and Italian god of death. Woodwose mythology was particularly influenced by Nebuchadnezzar II in the Book of Daniel of the Hebrew Bible. In the story, the Babylonian king is exiled from the kingdom after going “wild” with madness, and goes off to live in the woods as a wild human. The connection between madness and madness in relation to the woodwose is echoed in other stories as well, such as the 9th century Irish tale, “Buile Shuibhne” (Sweeney’s Madness), which describes how a pagan king is cursed with madness and resigned to living the his days traveling naked through the forest, writing verses.

In addition to mythological and biblical influences, the character of woodwose can also be traced to historical accounts of those who had traveled abroad. The stories that came from India in particular featured fantastical beings and creatures. Greek traveler and geographer, Megasthenes described two different types of wild men in accounts of his travels in India, including a tribe of people with backward toes and another tribe without mouths. Some of the less majestic tales of woodwose-type creatures are known today to be early tales of apes such as gibbons and gorillas.

In the modern study of cryptozoology, the woodwose is similar to Bigfoot, a hairy, bipedal hominoid creature said to most commonly inhabit forest regions. “Wild men” is another term that is virtually synonymous with woodwose in Cryptozoolgy; however wild men generally refer to global reports of bipedal humanoids that are more human than Bigfoot.

In popular culture, JRR Tolkien’s legendarium refers to the woodwose, sometimes shortened to “Wooses” or “Drúedain”. According to the legendarium, the woodwoses were mistaken for goblins and other forest-dwelling creatures by the Rohirrim, and hence called Púkel-men (Goblin-men).

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