Civic Imagination

Yeti: The Abominable Snowman Lives On

Yeti is a powerful myth, which originated in the Himalayas. The yeti, also known as the abominable snowman, is believed to be a large, hairy, apelike creature that wanders the mountains. He visits villages in the night and is rumored to steal animals and small children for food. Though this existence has never been confirmed, reported sightings through out the years, have kept the Yeti narrative alive. Mountaineers reported seeing a hairy figure in high altitudes. Villagers report seeing footprints in the snow. Trekkers holidaying in the Himalayas report Yetis strolling through their camp grounds. Here is a description from a write up on Blum House:

"At the top of the world, in the frozen wasteland of the Himalaya Mountains, lurks a terrifying, towering, man-monster known as the Abominable Snowman! Locals still speak in hushed whispers of the creature they call The Yeti and their terrifying encounters with a giant man-like creature that would appear without warning – only to vanish in a swirling maelstrom of wind, ice and snow. And the villagers are not the only ones said to have witnessed the elusive frost giants that roam the perilous mountain range between Nepal and Tibet. According to lore, the monstrous Yeti, a towering fur covered creature may be some sort of “missing link” – some THING in the evolutionary scale between ape, man and demi-god – a force of unparalleled nature NOT to be reckoned with. And unlike its cryptid cousins, Sasquatch and Bigfoot, the Yeti’s secret origins may be discerned in ancient pre-Buddhist religious rites. In the glowing embers of warming fires, the mountain villagers once worshipped the Yeti as a supernatural entity – a god of the hunt. Depicted in totems festooned everywhere in villages, temples and shrines, the Yeti appears as a menacing ape-human hybrid. Illustrations portray the snow colossus brandishing a great stone weapon to slay both beast and man alike."

I grew up believing the story. I first encountered it when I was a small girl growing up in Nepal. My strongest encounter with the story came when I was trekking with my classmates. My friend and I woke up in the middle of the night and became aware of a creature walking around the campground. We both peaked out after seeing a shadow pass over our tent wall. We quietly unzipped our tent zipper to take a peak. To this day, we both swear that we saw a big hairy foot just outside our door before we both took a very speedy nose dive into our sleeping bags.We told everyone about our sighting in the morning, everyone laughed us off, but we know what we say. Yes, the Yeti story is very well known, and is one of the iconic tales in Nepal. This story resonates with me because it is so set in the mountainous region of Nepal. It reminds me of home. There is also a sense that the Yeti in some way protects Nepal.

I think this story could inspire people in Nepal around their cultural identity without falling into the religious and sectarian pitfalls that plague current discussions around what it means to be Nepalese. The Yeti is connected to nature, climate change, and to the ways in which Nepal's people co-exist with their environment. It is a story that is accessible to everyone. I could imagine a series of new stories inspired by the Yeti taking action on behalf or in partnership with Nepal and its people. He is our special Nepali super-creature. He has been used so much in stories outside Nepal - I think it time for Nepal to reclaim him as their own.

superhero, Nepal, Yeti, snowman

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