Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is already considered to be his magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2016


Green-tinted version of 'Family Tree', by Robert M. Williams, chanced upon and purchased by me as a large-sized print in a charity shop at Warwick, England, in c.2012 (© Robert M. Williams – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)

One of my favourite races of being in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy are those animate trees known as ents, but I always assumed that they were totally fictitious. Thanks to some fascinating if thoroughly perplexing information received by me recently, however, I'm no longer quite so sure!

On 16 August 2016, Portuguese correspondent Tiago Cardoso kindly brought to my attention and also translated into English for me a short item from Vanessa Fidalgo's book Seres Mágicos em Portugal [Magic Beings in Portugal], published in 2014, but which I have not previously seen mentioned in any English-language publication. The item concerns a mystifying being known locally as the homen-galho or twig man, and here it is:

I will tell a story that was told to me by my grandfather, about a creature that lives in the forest near the village of Pessegueiro, in northern Portugal.

According to my grandfather, when he was a young man, that is, about 40 years ago, during an autumn night there in the village of Pessegueiro a group of friends of which he was part spotted a naked creature that moved as a man (i.e. on two legs), but the head appeared to bear tree twigs. It was exceptionally tall and thin. When it noticed them, the creature was perplexed to see them, a situation which gave the impression that its eyes were human, but also allowed them to see that it had something that looked like moss on its face. My grandfather and his friends chased the creature, entering into the forest, throwing stones at it, but when they entered the densest areas of the grove, they lost sight of it.

Then, they heard animal-like noises, and dragging of vegetation, which, in the exact words of my grandfather: "stopped everything, until the animals became afraid and fled".

At that moment, they also fled, in panic, to the village cafe, where they told what had happened. Obviously at that time no one believed their account, but, over the years, people here have heard more accounts of sightings of this creature. It seems that the descriptions were continuing until six years ago.

Front cover of the novel L'Aurore des Chrysalides written by Yanis Taieb, which features an entity reminiscent of twig man descriptions (© Yanis Taieb – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)

It was six years ago when it was last reported, by a group of young people...They were in the street when they heard a strange noise, similar to the noises made by the dragging of something very heavy. They came to see what was there, and that was when one of them saw a very thin, strange figure, and he exclaimed: "Look that man, he looks like a twig!".

Then, they all remarked about the man having tree-trunk-like structures on its head, and they associated this immediately with the description that they had heard from old men. Like the group containing my grandfather, they ran to the nearest cafe to find people and to claim that they had seen the 'twig man'.

At first, no one understood what they were talking about, but after a more detailed explanation everyone ran to the place of their sighting, but there was no longer anything there. Only a total silence.

Since that day, no 'forest creature' or 'twig man' has been seen, but in the village the story never died and everybody knows that in the forest exists something that is not human.

When I first read this, I wondered about wild men or woodwose, as such entities have been reported in Spain right into modern times, but the repeated claims that Portugal's twig man has tree-like twigs or trunks projecting from its head are certainly very difficult to explain via this identity. Having said that, moss on its face is less problematic, so might the twigs simply be vegetation caught up in the hair on the creature's head?

Yet even if this is so, its extreme thinness and tallness does not recall wild man reports, in which their dimensions tend to be little different from those of modern, civilised humans.

'The Takkenman', a life-sized Dutch bronze statue by Henk Vos that mirrors descriptions of Portugal's twig man (© Henkvosb/Wikipedia CC SA 3POINT0 Unported)

Conversely, what the twig man does closely resemble is the LOTR ent, typified by the stately Treebeard, and who knows, perhaps this fictitious yet famous entity has indeed directly inspired and coloured the twig man reports. Yet it seems unlikely that such a blatantly invented creature as an animate tree would do this. So at present, the Portuguese twig man is a notable enigma - a legend come to life, or even a fictional entity made factual.

If any ShukerNature reader knows anything about the twig man, I’d love to hear from you. Meanwhile, my thanks to Tiago Cardoso for alerting me to this incongruous Iberian.

Treebeard, an ent, depicted in spectacular fashion by world-renowned fantasy artist Rodney Matthews (© Rodney Matthews – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)


  1. Amazing! I didn't know of any crypto in my country, I will try to explore that remote forests and see if I have any results!

      Olá, Pedro! Fui eu que dei a conhecer ao Dr. Karl Shuker esta estranha criatura. A sua descrição está em SERES MÁGICOS EM PORTUGAL, escrito pela jornalista do CORREIO DA MANHÃ Vanessa Fidalgo (a nível de criaturas do folclore português, esse livro e BESTIÁRIO TRADICIONAL PORTUGUÊS, da EDIÇÕES ESCAFANDRO, são bastante recomendáveis na minha opinião). :D
      A meu pedido, o atual FÓRUM PORTUGAL PARANORMAL abriu um tópico sobre o assunto - http://portugalparanormal.pt/index.php?topic=1006.msg4748%3Btopicseen -, mas infelizmente têm escrito de tudo... Menos da criatura em causa! -.-'

      Hello, Pedro! It was me I made known to Dr. Karl Shuker this strange creature. Its description is in SERES MÁGICOS EM PORTUGAL, written by CORREIO DA MANHÃ journalist Vanessa Fidalgo (at level of Portuguese folklore creatures, this book and BESTIÁRIO TRADIOCIONAL PORTUGUÊS*, of EDIÇÕES ESCAFANDRO, are quite recommendable in my opinion). :D
      At my request, actual FÓRUM PORTUGAL PARANORMAL opened a topic on the subject (link above), but unfortunately they have written everything... Less of the creature concerned! -.-'

      * Newly published book, aimed at both children and adults, about more or less 40 Portuguese folklore creatures

    2. Desculpe pela resposta tardia..
      Incrível este avistamento, onde se situa exatamente esta aldeia do pessegueiro? Já fui a várias regiões remotas do norte de Portugal incluindo o Gerês, mas nunca ouvi falar dessa aldeia.

    3. Tenho história de criaturas incríveis no nosso país, incluindo um morcego de grande envergadura que eu avistei na margem sul em 2015 e o pai de um primo meu aos 17 anos (há 23 anos) avistou um homem gigante numa zona escura encostado a um muro. Alguma maneira de "espalhar" estes avistamentos?

      Sim, Pedro, podes, por ex., mandar um e-mail ao Dr. Karl Shuker a contar esses casos criptozoológicos. Informo desde já que o Dr. Shuker é uma pessoa simpática e acessível, e em princípio te responderá. ;)
      Quanto à tua história sobre o morcego gigante, tenho uma teoria: era uma raposa-voadora que, por qualquer motivo, saiu de um cativeiro qualquer - penso que isso ocorreu há alguns anos para os lados de Torres Vedras. B|

      Yes, Pedro, you can, for ex., send an email to Dr. Karl Shuker to tell about these cases. I inform you right away that Dr. Shuker is a nice and accessible person, and in principle he will respond you. ;)
      As for your story about the giant bat, I have a theory: it was a flying fox that, for some reason, came out of any captivity - I think this happened a few years ago near Torres Vedras (Central Portugal). B|

    5. Sim penso que seria uma raposa-voadora, é o mais provável.
      Tenho uma outra história bastante interessante.
      I have another amazing history, check

      I have a very interesting story told by an 83 year old lady who told my grandmother and then me. This 83-year-old lady, when she was five years old when she was grezing a flock of sheep with her 7- or 8-year-old sister in a remote area in the Serra da Estrela,Portugal spotted two naked men speaking a totally strange language, in the next day, they follow where the mans went. They were accompanied by their star-dog and only the 5-year-old girl wanted to go there, the 7-year-old was constantly asking to go back, when they reached the cave she said she sniffed fire from inside the cave, she tried to go further inside, but the dog did not let her and growld at her, so they went back home. After some time, the girls told this story to their father, he was very annoyed with them and forbade them to go to that area anymore. The father said that he already knew of the existence of these people and said that they were the original peoples who survived in a few numbers and still living as primitive state, he said that they were only half a dozen individuals. According to my grandmother, the woman seemed to be very credible and swore by all that was true. If it is true, the 83-year-old woman would have 5 years in 1939, which means that in the late 1930s wild people were still living in Portugal.

      Uau! Esse relato é fantástico!! Tribos pré-históricas a viver na Serra da Estrela até à 1º metade do séc. XX?!? Inacreditável!!! :O
      Mas tenho a teoria de que esses homens selvagens tenham sido ciganos: estes em Portugal até há poucas décadas eram na sua maioria, pelo menos, seminómadas, passando grandes períodos de tempo fora das localidades, e os seus hábitos de vida eram (e ainda são, verdade seja dita!) tão diferentes dos da população geral, que esta via-os como selvagens, primitivos; além disso, a «língua totalmente estranha» poderia ser o dialeto dos ciganos ibéricos, o kalon. ;)
      Mas se calhar aquelas pessoas eram uma comunidade qualquer de estrangeiros que se instalou no meio da Natureza na Serra da Estrela há uns tempos, e a população local via-os como selvagens (lol)! :P

      Wow!! This report is fantastic!! Prehistoric tribes living in the Serra da Estrela up to the first half of the 20th century?!? Unbelievable!!! :O
      But I have a theory that these wild people was Gypsies: these in Portugal until a few decades ago were for the most part, at least, semi-nomads, spending large periods of time outside the localities, and their habits of life were (and still are, truth be told!) so different from those of the general population that they saw them as wild, primitive people; in addition, the «totally strange language» could be a Gypsy dialect. ;)
      But maybe those people was a community of foreigners who settled in the middle of nature in the Serra da Estrela a while ago, and the local population saw them as wild people (lol)! :P

    7. Sim, sem dúvida que pode ser ciganos ou estrangeiros como disseste, é difícil povos pré históricos conseguirem durar até à década de 30 e continuarem a viver nos mesmos modos em Portugal. Mas mesmo assim, para esses ciganos ou estrangeiros estarem a viver naquele estado primitivo, ao ponto de fazerem fogueiras e viverem em cavernas como verdadeiros selvagens, é muito estranho. Penso que a idosa deu a exata localização dos acontecimentos +à minha avó, se conseguir obter a localização, o melhor era fazer mesmo uma expedição ao local para ver se encontro algum vestígio, quem sabe talvez um dia. Mas sendo comunidades de pessoas modernas ou não, sem dúvida que mesmo na 2º metade do século xx trata-se de uma estrema raridade

      In english:

      Yes, possible it may be gypsies or foreigners as you said, it is difficult for prehistoric peoples to last until the 1930s and to continue to live in the same ways in Portugal. But even so, for these gypsies or strangers to be living in that primitive state, to the point of making campfires and living in caves like real savages, it is very strange. I think the old woman gave the exact location of the events to my grandmother, if she can get the location, it would be best to make an expedition to the place to see if there is any trace, maybe one day. But being communities of modern people or not, no doubt that even in the second half of the twentieth century it is a rarity

  2. I love ents! I'd love to think they have some (even small) basis in fact!