“Abominable! Can you believe that? Do I look abominable to you? Why can’t they call me the Adorable Snowman or…or the Agreeable Snowman, for crying out loud? I’m a nice guy!”
~ The Yeti, Monsters Inc.
Historically thought to be fearsome, dangerous, and well…abominable, the Yeti is one of the more misinterpreted creatures of folklore. Originating in Nepalese folklore, the Yeti, Metoh-Kangmi, or Dzu-Teh is rumored to inhabit the Himalayan mountains, content to live apart from human settlements unless someone intrudes upon their territory. It is often mistaken for beleived to be related to the indigenous wildlife, so most of the names above refer to different kinds of Himalayan animals:
Yeti- “rocky” and “bear”
Metoh-Kangmi- “wild man of the snows’
Dzu-Teh: “cattle bear”
Yeti stories would certainly be classified under the “Cautionary Tales” subgenre of myths and folklore, as they were often used as warnings for travelers against venturing into the wilderness alone. While their main victims were the yaks they would carry away into the mountains, the idea of a towering, ape-like beast stronger and faster than any human was enough to make the lessons stick.
Western interpretations got a few things wrong over the years, giving the Yeti it’s trademark, white “Abominable Snowman” fur when original tales described it as being covered in brown or reddish hair. Even the name “Abominable” derived from a mistranslation of the original Tibetan name. It is thought that, before becoming a feared monster, the Yeti was actually the physical form of a pre-19th century God of the Hunt, a spirit of the glacial mountains who was worshipped by the Lepcha people.
Today, many of the representations we see vary dramatically from frightening to downright comical: from the Abominable Snowmen of classic Doctor Who, to the lovable and misunderstood “Humble Bumble” from the Rudolph movies, known for befriending reindeer and crazy prospectors while bouncing down the mountain.
Numerous expeditions have been conducted over the years, with the goal of finding some evidence of the Yeti’s existence. Each one ended with little to no tangible proof, placing the Yeti firmly in the category of myth alongside Cousin Bigfoot and Nessie. We’re left wondering if they really exist, or if they’ve just mastered their hide-and-seek skills over the years.
I think I would get pretty good at hiding too if these “scientists” kept barging into my home uninvited 😉