With this review we come to the end of our file of book reviews that never quite made it into the pages of MUFOB or Magonia. However our team of highly-trained library elves and archival Sasquatches will explore the back files of those magazines for reviews of interesting books - and one or two lemons - which we would like to draw to your attention - and possibly encourage you to add them to your own collections, using the handy Amazon link beneath each entry. JR.
Phyllis Siefker. Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years. McFar1and, 1997.
A book which prompts the thought is Santa Claus a distant relative of Bigfoot, the descendant of the ritual wild man, symbol of fertility and the untamed wilderness without and within? Siefker's thesis is that Santa is derived not from Saint Nicholas himself but from a devil-figure servant which used to accompany him in the Yuletide ceremonies in Holland, and chastise naughty children. This Dutch Black Peter was equivalent to the German- American Pelznichol or 'Furry Nicholas', the descendant of the medieval Wild Man. While dealing with the Wild Man Siefker says much of interest, but in trying to take the story back into the mists of antiquity she falls into the classic folklorists trap of uncritically quoting old and long superseded authorities rather than the latest research. Thus, on the authority of forty-year-old books by Joseph Campbell, themselves quoting old books, we get the Neanderthal bear cult dragged in, though paleoanthropologists have long since discounted the evidence on which the myth of that cult was built.
This book did set me thinking as to the possible role of various European Wild Man traditions might have played in the early genesis of the Bigfoot legend, which in the 1950's, under the then influential theories of the late Franz Weidenrreich who believed that humanity went through a giant ape man stage of evolution, as typified by gigantopithecus - now known to be a large relative of the orangutan - became transformed into a giant apeman, as seen on the covers of books. etc. -- Peter Rogerson