Dressed in tree bark and leaves while munching on a rat caught in a complicated jungle trap, this guy looks a little different than Alexander Skarsgård, the Swedish actor who stole hearts in the new Tarzan movie.
But this “real-life Tarzan” is credited with skills that are “superhuman.”
Building tree houses, fashioning tools out of discarded bombs and catching a bat quicker than you can Google, Ho Van Lang, 44, spent 40 years living like a “slave” in isolation in the jungle.
And now, Lang has been forced to re-enter civilization despite his love affair with the wilderness.
Lang spent much of his life in the deepest jungles of Vietnam, in the Tay Tra district of Quang Ngai province, after his father, Ho Van Thanh, 85, fled civilization during the Vietnam War in 1972.
Lang’s father, an army veteran, decided to flee with his two sons after a US bomb killed his wife and two of their children.
They built wood houses and sourced water from rivers, using a variety of jungle delicacies for dinner, including fruit, honey and a host of meats like monkey, snake, lizard and frog.
Along with his brother, Lang spent most of his life eating and living off the jungle until 2013, when locals found the family, alerted authorities and forced them to re-enter civilization.
According to Alvaro Cerezo, who tracked Lang and his family down in November 2015, Lang’s father suffers from 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.”
In a new documentary that follows Lang throughout his reintroduction into modern society and which tracks his past as a hunter and gatherer, Cerezo convinced Lang to return to the jungle for the first time since his capture and spend a few days teaching him jungle survival techniques.
The footage follows the full-day trek to Lang’s former jungle sanctuary while revealing the techniques he used to stay alive for so long.
His trapping skills are particularly impressive, capturing and eating both a rat and a bat during Lang’s five-day homecoming. His favorite part of the rat? Its head.
Lang’s isolation from the world has made it especially difficult to adapt to modern society; he cannot understand Vietnamese, has no concept of time other than from the sun, and struggles to understand the concept of electricity.
Until he was found, Lang never knew of the existence of the female sex, as his father never told him.
“More surprising still is that today, despite being able to distinguish between men and women, he still doesn’t know the essential difference between them,” Cerezo said.
“I can confirm that Lang has never had the minimum sexual desire and his reproductive instinct has never shown its head in any of its many facets.”
Credited as a “baby in a man’s body,” Lang’s brother, Tri, said, “Lang doesn’t understand many basic social concepts.”
“Lang has spent his whole life in the jungle. So his brain is just like a baby,” his brother said.
“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.”
“If I asked Lang to stab someone with a knife, he would do it without thinking and that person could die.”
Yet Cerezo says Lang, despite his intellectual inability, is one of the most peaceful people he’s met.
“Lang was probably the most adorable human I have ever met in my life, he just doesn’t know what is good or bad.”
But despite fears Lang could “kill anyone” on request, Cerezo said Lang is “happily adapting to his new life.”
He thinks the modern world is “noisy,” but he was particularly impressed by his first ride in a car (he was driven to a hospital when he was first discovered) and he loves seeing “animals being friendly with people.”
“In the jungle animals always ran away from me,” he said.
Cerezo says Lang is living a productive life and enjoys it “mainly for the freedom he now enjoys. He lived almost like a slave of his dad during his life in the jungle.”
“The first year was the most difficult for Lang because of health problems from a virus and bacteria new to his system.”
Lang’s father, though, is sadly not doing so well. Believing the Vietnam War is still going on, he sits alone in a squatting position in a corner of his room.
“His major obsession is to return to the jungle one day,” said Cerezo.