Why we fear the night

The Tree of Woe contemplates the time when orcs were real, and makes a case for the legends of orcs, goblins, trolls, and other monsters being atavistic human memories of Homo neanderthalensis:

Neanderthals were apex predators. Analysis of isotopes of bone collage has shown that Neanderthal diet was 97{cc08d85cfa54367952ab9c6bd910a003a6c2c0c101231e44cdffb103f39b73a6} meat. They are estimated to have eaten 4.1 lbs of fresh meat per day. Ample evidence exists to show they used stone-tipped wooden spears to hunt. From the bones littering their caves, we know Neanderthals hunted woolly mammoths, giant cave bears, woolly rhinos, bison, wolves, and even cave lions – the most dangerous and lethal animals on earth.

Neanderthals were cannibals. A number of Neanderthal sites reveal bones that have been cut and cracked open to extract the marrow. While this hypothesis was initially rejected a recent find at El Sidron in Spain revealed numerous Neanderthal skeletons with the unmistakable marks of butchery by cannibals wielding hand axes, knives, and scrapers.

Neanderthals had more robust bones and heavier musculature than Homo Sapiens. They weighed 25{cc08d85cfa54367952ab9c6bd910a003a6c2c0c101231e44cdffb103f39b73a6} more. They were so heavily muscled that their skeletons had to develop extra thick bones. “One of the most characteristic features of the Neanderthals is the exaggerated massiveness of their trunk and limb bones. All of the preserved bones suggest a strength seldom attained by modern humans…” (quoting paleoanthropologist Erik Trinkaus). “A healthy Neanderthal male could lift an average NFL linebacker over his head and throw him through the goalposts.” Neanderthals also evolved extremely thick skulls – “postcranial hyper-robusticity” — that protected them in close-quarter confrontation with prey. They all had kyphosis, with hunched backs, that gave them a distinct profile and gait.

Neanderthal teeth were twice as large as human teeth. According to 2008 anthropologist research, their mouths could open much wider than human mouths, enabling them to take extremely large bites. Judging by the size of the jaw, they had tremendous bite force.

Neanderthals evolved in Ice Age Europe and had specific adaptations to that climate. They had short limbs, large noses, and compact torsos. Most importantly, they were covered with thick fur!

Since no Neanderthal cadaver survives, this point cannot be proven. But Vendramini points out that every primate except Homo Sapiens is covered with fur, and that every cold-adapted mammal during the Ice Ages had thick fur, including mammals that were hairless in Africa, such as the elephant and rhinoceros. There is no reason to believe Neanderthals were hairless except for our desire for them to look like us. The only way Neanderthals could have survived in the Ice Age without fur was if they made thick, protective clothes. Archeologist Mark White points out “Neanderthal clothing would have needed to be more than the ragged loincloth… of popular depiction. Some form of tailoring would have been required…” But Neanderthal sites have yielded “no evidence of needlecraft technology.” They weren’t making clothes — because they had fur.

The Neanderthal that Vendramini describes is thus a terrifying creature: A hunched cannibalistic predator with large, shining eyes and an animalistic snout, covered by thick fur and massive muscles, built for close combat, hunting by night, with a brutish and guttural voice, and a huge mouth with huge teeth and powerful jaws. It didn’t look like Fred Flintstone. It looked like this:

That, my friends, is an orc. Or a bugbear. Or an ogre. Whatever it is, it’s been appearing in our myths and legends for thousands of years. It’s the great enemy.

Given how crazy the world has become in recent years, at this point, it wouldn’t come as a great surprise to learn that there are still Neanderthals living in caves deep under the Alps, running the World Economic Forum from Davos.