Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sir Walter Raleigh's Blemyes

Blemyes, the headless creatures with eyes in their chests. From [3]

While writing my previous post I came across several “copy – paste” blogs and websites that are all mirror images in their content and just repeat the same thing again and again without any of their “authors” bothering to check if what they are posting is true.

An example of this is the following phrase, which I invite you to google:

In his writings, Sir Walter Raleigh made brief note of reports of large monkey-like creatures in South America

You will see that it appears 631 times! In different websites.

And what is worse, is that it is FALSE.

The truth of what Sir Walter Raleigh reported

We have all heard about Sir Walter Raleigh (c. 1554 - 1618), he was a master of many trades: warrior, sailor, explorer, courtier and, a writer who jotted down is expeditions to America.
He is well known for his role in defeating the Spanish Armada and as a close friend to Queen Elizabeth I.

He sailed to South America several times starting in 1594 and he popularized the legend of “El Dorado”, the city of gold. He sailed on his last voyage in 1616, and after returning to England was executed by King James I.

He wrote about his South American voyages while in prision in the Tower of London (1596), and in his book [1], we come across a strange reference to a group of peculiar natives known as Ewaipanoma:

likewise a most beawtifull countrey Next vnto Ami there are two riuers Atoica and Caora and on that braunch which is called Caora are a nation of people whose heades appeare not aboue their shoulders which though it may be thought a meere fable yet for mine owne parte I am resolued it is true because euery child in the prouinces of Arromaia and Canuri affirme the same they are called Ewaipanoma they are reported to haue their eyes in their shoulders and their mouths in the middle of their breasts and that a long train of haire groweth backward betwen their shoulders [1]

Below is the text, once again, from the book:


So, there is no reference to any monkey-like creatures. Instead he talks about:

  • a nation of people
  • whose heads appear not above their shoulders
  • they are called Ewaipanoma
  • They have their eyes in their shoulders and their mouths in the middle of their breasts
  • a long train of hair grows backward between their shoulders

Odd creatures but not uknown.They are the Blemmyes

Pliny mentions them [2] : “ blemmyis traduntur capita abesse, ore et oculis pectori adfixis", which means something like the “Blemmyis” lack heads and have their eyes placed on their chests.

And so does Sebastian Munster in his Cosmographia, placing them in India, beyond the Ganges. [3]

They are also mentioned in the epic poem Beowulf (from the tenth century AD), [4], in a place beyond the Brixontes River (which I have not managed to place on the map):

Then there are other islands south from the Brixontes on which there are born people without heads, who have their eyes and mouth on their chest. They are eight feet tall and eight feet wide[4]

Interestingly, the Blemyes were real, but not necessarily monstrous: Strabo, The Greek Historian (63 BC – 23 AD), mentions that among the tribes that lived south of Egypt, were the Blemyes. They inhabited along the east bank of the Nile and were subjects of the Ethiopians. He based his account on an older one by Eratosthenes c. 196 B.C.

Later Pliny would refer to them as headless beings (he lived between 23 and 79 AD), perhaps demonizing the enemies of the Roman state.

They were a bellicose bunch these Blemyes, as they would later invade Egypt and fight the Romans in the Fourth and Fifth centuries AD.

The following image shows a medieval depicton of a Blemye. And it looks rather harmless doesn't it?

Could they be a mistaken representation of a Neanderthal or some other hominid? Or, did Raleigh hear about Neanderthals in Guyana and associate the native's description with the Blemye (he must have read Beowulf and known about Pliny's work being a learned nobleman).

My next post shows a Blemye on Admiral Piri Reis' map.


[1] Sir Walter Raleigh, [1596] (1848). The discovery of the large, rich, and beautiful empire of Guiana: with a relation of the great and golden city of Manoa... etc. performed in the year 1595, by Sir W. Ralegh, knt... Reprinted from the edition of 1596, with some unpublished documents relative to that country. Ed., with copious explanatory notes and a biographical memoir, by Sir Robert H. Schomburgk (Google eBook). Printed for the Hakluyt Society. Pp.85
[2] Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia. Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, Ed. Liber V.
[3] Sebastian Munster (1552). Cosmographia. Basel. Pp. 1080.
[4] Beowulf English & English (Old English), R. D. Fulk. Harvard University Press, 2010. Parra. 55. Pp 23.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

1 comment:

  1. The first thing that comes to mind is a people who are all brawn and no brains.


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