Richard Freeman, of the Center for Fortean Zoology, has been busy, busy, busy lately. As well as having had his first full-length foray into the world of cryptozoological/horror-driven fiction published (Green, Unpleasant Land), he has also just penned a 315-page book on none other than the orang-pendek. Titled ORANG-PENDEK: Sumatra’s Forgotten Ape, the book is a fascinating and excellent study of what might justifiably be termed the world’s most famous “Littlefoot.”
The book begins in fine, scene-setting fashion with a Foreword from Adam Davies – author of Extreme Expeditions – who is himself hardly a stranger to the orang-pendek, having been on, and led, several expeditions in search of the creature.
Most people reading this post – I’m sure – don’t need any sort of background briefing on the nature of the orang-pendek. But, just to be safe and certain, Richard provides precisely that in the pages of his book, and clearly and graphically demonstrates the long history of the beast and its presence on Sumatra. Indeed, Richard regales us with accounts and case-histories dating back to the 1700s, thus demonstrating the longstanding body of reports that exist. Early 20th Century reports abound, too, and Richard provides in-depth data and on-the-record witness testimony as he delves deep into these later accounts.
But, for me, the most important part of the book is that which describes Richard’s four, firsthand expeditions to Sumatra – which began eight years ago and extend right up to last year.
As for why I think it’s this highly-detailed section of the book that is so important, the answer is very simple: While the Internet is a great resource tool, and books can provide valuable data, in my own personal opinion when it comes to Cryptozoology, the only way we are ever going to really solve the mysteries of the cryptids of our world is to go looking for them.
Without field investigations, not only are our chances of finding the beasts we seek massively diminished, but – in a worst case scenario – the creatures may even become extinct before they even stand a chance of being formally identified. Thus ensuring we never find hard evidence. Richard clearly realizes this and it’s typified by what we get to read about, and learn, in the particular section of the book dealing with his own, personal trips to the island of mystery.
I do not exaggerate when I say that this particular section of the book is absolutely vital reading for anyone and everyone who wants to get the very latest news, witness reports and data on the orang-pendek. We are treated to an entertaining picture of life for the expedition teams, and we are presented with a massive body of testimony secured by Richard and his comrades as they track down witnesses, are introduced to key players in the saga, and gain the trust of the locals in their quest for the truth.
And that’s how an expedition should be: on-site, leaving no stone unturned, and uncovering just about all there is to uncover – a living or dead specimen of orang-pendek aside, of course. Or, at least, so far…
Although, as many people will be aware, I tend to take the view that a significant number of the cryptids of our world have origins far stranger than mere flesh and blood, in the case of the orang-pendek, I really do believe this to be an unknown animal of definitive physical proportions, and one with zero paranormal or Fortean aspects attached to it. And, based on Richard’s revelations and information, I truly don’t think it will be at all long before we have that undeniable evidence in our hands.
Richard’s book also gives us a detailed look at some of the other “Littlefoot”-type creatures in our midst. They range from Britain to South and Central America, from North America to Asia, and from Africa to Australasia. Again, the detail here is wide, varied and massively extensive.
And, of course, the question is asked in the final chapter: What is the orang-pendek? It’s here that we get to the very heart of the puzzle, as Richard carefully takes us on a fascinating ride while detailing the theories and candidates for what the orang-pendek may really be.
But, we’re still not quite finished. The book also contains four appendices that are required and vital reading, too. For me, the most intriguing one was Evidence of new species of primate in Sumatra: Organic evidence that confirms existence of orang-pendek, written by Dr. Hans Brunner, Andrew Sanderson and Adam Davies.
Finally, there are the photographs. Any book on a subject-matter like this deserves to be extensively illustrated – and, fortunately, it is! As well as providing us with fine and captivating pictures and artwork from times long gone, Richard also presents us with a huge body of photos taken on his four trips to Sumatra, all of which provide great insight into the search for the orang-pendek, the people of Sumatra, the land itself, the nature of the expeditions, and a great deal more.
If the orang-pendek is a creature that fascinates, intrigues or interests you, then you should definitely get hold of a copy of Richard Freemans: ORANG-PENDEK: Sumatra’s Forgotten Ape.