- "The time has come," the Walrus said,
- "To talk of many things:
- Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
- Of cabbages--and kings--
- And why the sea is boiling hot--
- And whether pigs have wings."
-- Lewis Carroll, "The Walrus and the Carpenter"
Cannibalism was widespread in the past among humans throughout the world, continuing into the 19th century in some isolated Australasia|South Pacific cultures; and, in a few cases in insular Melanesia, indigenous flesh-markets existed. Cannibalism has been well-documented around the world, from Fiji to the Amazon Basin to the Congo Basin|Congo to Māori New Zealand. Neanderthals are believed to have practiced cannibalism, and they may have been eaten by modern humans.
Cannibalism has been practiced as a last resort by people suffering from famine and has occurred in modern times. A famous example is the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, after which some survivors ate the bodies of deceased passengers. Also, some mentally ill individuals obsess about eating others and actually do so, such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish.
The theme of cannibalism has been featured in religion, mythology, fairy stories and in works of art; for example, cannibalism has been depicted in The Raft of the Medusa by the French lithographer Théodore Géricault in 1819. It has been satirized in popular culture, as in Monty Python's Lifeboat sketch.
Unsubstantiated reports of cannibalism disproportionately relate cases of cannibalism among cultures that are already otherwise despised, feared, or are little known. In antiquity, Greek reports of cannibalism, (often called anthropophagy in this context) were related to distant non-Hellenic barbarians, or else relegated in Greek mythology to the 'primitive' chthonic world that preceded the coming of the Olympian gods: see the explicit rejection of human sacrifice in the cannibal feast prepared for the Olympians by Tantalus of his son Pelops. All South Sea Islanders were cannibals so far as their enemies were concerned. When the whaleship Essex was rammed and sunk by a whale in 1820, the captain opted to sail 3000 miles upwind to Chile rather than 1400 miles downwind to the Marquesas because he had heard the Marquesans were cannibals. Ironically many of the survivors of the shipwreck resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.
However, Herman Melville happily lived with the Marquesan Typees (Taipi), rumoured to have been the most vicious of the island group's cannibal tribes, but also may have witnessed evidence of cannibalism. In his semi-autobiographical novel Typee, he reports seeing shrunken heads and having strong evidence that the tribal leaders ceremonially consumed the bodies of killed warriors of the neighboring tribe after a skirmish.
- please add to project if not hyperlinked
- In colonial Jamestown, Virginia|Jamestown, colonists resorted to cannibalism during a period known as the Starving Time, from 1609-1610. After food supplies were diminished, some colonists began to dig up corpses for food. During this time period, one man was persuaded to confess to having killed, salted, and eaten his pregnant wife before he was burned alive as punishment.
- The accounts of the sinking of the Luxborough Galley in 1727 reported cannibalism amongst the survivors during their two weeks on a small boat in the mid-atlantic.
- In the US, the group of settlers known as the Donner Party resorted to cannibalism while snowbound in the mountains for the winter of 1846–47.
- The last survivors of Sir John Franklin's expedition 1848 were Rae-Richardson Arctic Expedition|found to have resorted to cannibalism in their final push across King William Island, Canada towards the Back River
- A more recent example is of leaked stories from Cannibalism in North Korea|North Korean refugees of cannibalism practiced during and after a famine that occurred sometime between 1995 and 1997.
- Lowell Thomas records the cannibalisation of some of the surviving crew members of the ship Dumaru after it exploded and sank during the First World War in his book, The Wreck of the Dumaru (1930). Another case of shipwrecked survivors forced to engage in cannibalism was that of the Medusa (ship)|Medusa, a French vessel which in 1816 ran aground on the Arguin Bank|Banc d'Arguin (English: The Bank of Arguin) off the coast of Africa, about sixty miles distant from shore.
- In 1972, the survivors of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, consisting of the rugby team from Stella Maris College (Montevideo)|Stella Maris College in Montevideo and some of their family members, resorted to cannibalism while trapped at the crash site. They had been stranded since 13 October 1972 and rescue operations at the crash site did not begin until 22 December 1972. The story of the survivors was chronicled in Piers Paul Read's 1974 book, Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, in a 1993 film adaptation of the book, called simply Alive (1993 film)|Alive, and in a 2008 documentary: Stranded: I Have Come from a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains|Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains.
Themes in mythology and religion
Cannibalism features in many mythologies, and is most often attributed to evil characters or as extreme retribution for some wrong. Examples include the witch in Hansel and Gretel and Baba Yaga of Slavic folklore.
A number of stories in Greek mythology involve cannibalism, in particular cannibalism of close family members, for example the stories of Thyestes, Tereus and especially Cronus, who was Saturn (mythology)|Saturn in the Roman pantheon. The story of Tantalus also parallels this. These mythologies inspired Shakespeare's cannibalism scene in Titus Andronicus.
Hindu mythology describes evil demons called "asura" or "rakshasa" that dwell in the forests and practice extreme violence including devouring their own kind, and possess many evil supernatural powers. These are however the Hindu equivalent of "demons" and do not relate to actual tribes of forest-dwelling people.
The Wendigo (also Windigo, Weendigo, Windago, Windiga, Witiko, Wihtikow, and numerous other variants) is a mythical creature appearing in the Native American mythology|mythology of the Algonquian peoples|Algonquian people. It is a malevolent cannibalistic spirit into which humans could transform, or which could spiritual possession|possess humans. Those who indulged in cannibalism were at particular risk, and the legend appears to have reinforced this practice as taboo. The name is Wiindigoo in the Anishinaabe language|Ojibwe language (the source of the English word)
a little mood music for your dining pleasure
Cannibal films are a sub genre of exploitation film made mostly by Italian filmmakers through the 1970s and 1980s. This sub genre is a collection of graphically gory movies that usually depict cannibalism by primitive, Stone-age natives deep inside the Asian or South American rain forests. Even though not all cannibal films show cannibalism on screen, all the movies are connected with the genre by stating that the tribe is cannibalistic. While cannibalism is the uniting feature of these films, the general emphasis focuses on various forms of shocking, realistic, and graphic violence, typically including torture, rape, castration and/or animal cruelty. Similarly to Mondo films, the main advertising draw of cannibal films was the promise of gore, exotic locales, and cruel behavior, and eventually became a popular aspect of Grindhouse culture. The peak of the genre's popularity was from 1977 to 1981, a period that has come to be known as the cannibal boom.
Due to their graphic content, the films of this subgenre are often the center of controversy. Many of the films include genuine slayings of animals, making them a common target of censors around the world. The inclusion of graphic gore and sexual violence has also landed the films in censorship problems.
Eating Raoul, a great movie
"I believe that when man evolves a civilization higher than the mechanized but still primitive one he has now, the eating of human flesh will be sanctioned. For then man will have thrown off all of his superstitions and irrational taboos." —Diego Rivera
"one calls 'barbarism' whatever he is not accustomed to." -- Michel de Montaigne, "Of cannibals"