40 years ago, during the Vietnam War, Ho Van Thanh was seen running into the woods with his then-infant son Ho Van Lang. They hadn’t been seen since, until a few days ago when two villagers accidentally stumbled upon their bamboo hut deep in the forests of Vietnam’s Quang Ngai province.
No one imagined Ho Van Tranh could have survived for 40 years, after he disappeared into the jungle in 1973. A bomb exploded in his home during the war with the United States, killing his wife and two other children, and eye-witnesses reported seeing him grab his two-year-old sun Ho Van Lang and running into the forest. But just a few days ago, the impossible happened. Two villagers from the Tay Tra district who had ventured 40 kilometers into the lush jungle looking for firewood noticed a strange bird-nest-like hut built in a small clearing, near a stream. Curious about its origin they decided to investigate and found two men living inside. The weak 82-year-old man could communicate in the in the Cor ethnic minority language, but his 41-year-old son, who was wearing a loin cloth made from tree bark, only spoke a few words. The villagers alerted the authorities who later confirmed the two mysterious jungle dwellers were indeed Ho Van Tranh and Ho Van Lang.
According to Thanh Nien News, Ho Van Tri, Tranh’s youngest son, who was left behind on that fateful day in 1973 and rescued by relatives, first found his father and brother 20 years ago, but he couldn’t persuade them to come home. He brought them salt and oil every year after that, but they never accepted him, and whenever he came with other villagers to convince them to come home, they ran into hiding. Their daily diet included cassava, corn, and wild leaves, but the villagers also found a one hectare field planted with sugar cane, near their six-meter high wooden hut. The two real-life Tarzans also made their own knives, axes and arrows for hunting.
Ho Van Thanh and his son have been taken to the Tra Kem Village, where his other son is taking care of them. However, Tranh’s nephew, Ho Ven Bien, told the local press they are very sad and clearly want to go back to their forest home. “My uncle doesn’t understand much of what is said to him, and he doesn’t want to eat or even drink water. We know he wants to escape my house to go back to the forest, so we have to keep an eye on him now,” Bien said. The two men have had very little contact with the outside world during the last 40 years, and they’ve both forgotten the mainstream Kinh language. Efforts will now be made to slowly reintegrate them in society.