In the decades that followed, Peter the Wild Boy would become a living representation of an age-old debate: what exactly makes us human? Is it something we’re born with, or can it be taught? And in the process, it demonstrates humanity’s ancient fascination with an area of folklore that expresses our fears, highlights our flaws, and begs us to question whether or not we’ve evolved as a species. Stories about creatures that shouldn’t exist–stories about the Wild Man.
In the latest episode of the Lore podcast, host Aaron Mahnke leads listeners beyond the pale of civilization and into the woods, where dark folklore easily takes root. Mahnke tackles the subject of the Wild Man by first ranging far back in history (invoking texts like the Epic of Gilgamesh and the writings of Herodotus and Pliny the Elder), but focuses primarily on the North America of the past few centuries. The stories he shares grow progressively more sinister, crossing a spectrum from unnerving glimpse to grisly murder. All the talk of encounters with a feral, hairy humanoid naturally points the discussion towards Bigfoot, yet Mahnke thankfully doesn’t settle on recounting familiar tales of the popular (if elusive) creature. I do wish that Mahnke had taken a step back to consider why the Wild Man is such a prominent figure in the folklore of so many cultures, but that is my lone criticism of an otherwise entertaining episode.