In Vietnam, a 44-year-old man named Ho Van Lang has been dubbed the real-life Tarzan after spending 40 years living in the deep jungles of Quang Ngai province in Tay Tra district. For almost his entire life, Lang has lived among jungle animals, stayed in tree houses he made himself, and used tools made from discarded war bombs.
Vietnam’s real-life Tarzan, however, was recently forced to return to civilization for the first time in decades, according to a new documentary by travel company Docastaway.
During the Vietnam War in 1972, Lang’s father, Ho Van Thanh, fled civilization after his wife and two of their children were killed by an American bomb. The army veteran, now 85, hid in the jungle with his two other sons.
For decades, they have grown accustomed to sourcing their food and water from mother nature, drinking from rivers and eating fruit and meat from a variety of animals.
Locals near the jungle however, found the family in 2013 and alerted government officials. Despite living a peaceful life away from civilization, they were forced to return.
Alvaro Cerezo, the man tasked to track Lang and his family in 2015, explained that Ho Van Thanh has a “profound phobia of returning [to civilization] as he did not believe that the Vietnam War was over.”
“They always escaped when they saw people from a distance.”
Lang’s return to modern society was documented by filmmakers, with Cerezo also taking Lang back to the jungle for the first time since his family left.
For five days, Lang taught Cerezo the ways of the wild, showing him how to survive in the jungle by devouring what was available. The footage showed Lang expertly catching bats and rats and demonstrated his preferred way to eat them.
For a human who grew isolated away from modern society, Lang was not able to learn the Vietnamese language, has no concept of modern time measurements, lacks social skills and finds it difficult understanding modern technology. He didn’t even know what the female gender was until they were found as his father did not tell him about it.
Lang’s brother, Tri, who had spent more time in civilization before being brought to the jungle, acknowledges that his brother is like a “baby in a man’s body.”
“If I asked Lang to beat someone, he would do it severely. He doesn’t know the difference between good and bad. Lang is just a child. He doesn’t know anything. Most people know what is good or bad in life, but my brother doesn’t,” said Tri.
Cerezo, however, found Lang to be a very peaceful man and said that the Vietnamese Tarzan has been happily adapting to his new life, “mainly for the freedom he now enjoys. He lived almost like a slave of his dad during his life in the jungle”.
“Lang was probably the most adorable human I have ever met in my life, he just doesn’t know what is good or bad,” Cerezo said.
While he did not understand most of it, he is reportedly fascinated by modern technology and also found people with pets interesting.
Lang’s father, unfortunately, is not adapting well as he thinks the Vietnam War is still ongoing, and just sits in a squatting position in a corner of his room, hoping to return to his jungle-home.