Collector (me): How were you introduced to Bigfoot when you were little?
Informant: Um… I’m trying to think. I think my parents told me about him… um, and he was probably in various picture books as well that I saw. So in downtown Seattle we have the Space Needle as an iconic landmark of Seattle. And there’s a picture book that my dad had when he was younger, and it was the thing in the early 70’s— they were trying to make a thing that Seattle had a mascot called the Wheedle. And it was like the Lorax, except huge, and orange and yellow, and there was a picture book called the Wheedle on the Needle, and it was this friendly monster dude that hung out near the Space Needle. And my dad tried to like get me into the Wheedle. And it was not a thing. It was like 35 years later, and I was kind of scared of him because he looked scary, the Wheedle, and my dad basically told me, “He’s not crazy, he’s a friendly dude, he’s like Bigfoot. He’s just like a friendly person,” and then I asked, “What’s Bigfoot?” And then he explained he was a creature that lived in the woods, and that he’s not hurting anybody, he just wants to be left alone. He doesn’t want to be bothered so everyone gives him his space and he’s a nice nice person. If you run into Bigfoot you’ll be fine, don’t be scared.
My informant is a 20-year-old student from Washington state, where the legend of Bigfoot is incredibly popular— to the point of airports selling Bigfoot merchandise such as hats and shot glasses. As my informant said, “he’s kind of a state treasure, like everyone loves him. In other places it’s more like a creepy legend, but around here Bigfoot’s a friendly guy.” Whether one actually believes in him or not, it’s part of Washington state culture to acknowledge Bigfoot’s existence.
When my informant was providing me with some Washington folklore for a separate post, I asked if she happened to know any lore about Bigfoot, since most of the legends I’ve heard about him take place there. She did, and I asked how she first learned about him, which she stated in the above piece.
This is the first version I’ve heard about Bigfoot where he’s been portrayed not as a monster, but a friendly creature. It’s very endearing, actually, and I think it’s a good representation of how attached a group can get to their legend. Even if Bigfoot is a well known legend across the U.S., this iteration of him could be considered a local legend because of how different he’s described as compared to the other versions where he’s shown as a creature out to cause harm. Since legends are just beliefs in narrative form, it also says a lot about how Washington people would rather view Bigfoot as kindly— as an icon of their state and culture. Furthermore, my informant’s point about Bigfoot’s popularity in Washington state indicates the notion that in order to become part of the surrounding folk group, there has to be an acceptance of this creature, or at least an acknowledgement. What’s also interesting to examine about this piece is how Bigfoot’s popularity has led to the development of a myriad of merchandise for locals and tourists alike, and could be seen as an example of cultural intimacy.