Yesterday's post about Scotland's cannibalistic past kept me thinking. I'm rather inclined to believe that these tales, if true at all, are highly exagerated. Consider the source: Sawney Bean, at least, is a tale with English origins:
While the tale undoubtedly had currency around Ayrshire as a bogeyman type tale, the story first appears in print in pamphlets printed in Eighteenth Century England. This was the time of the Jacobite risings and Scots were regularly portrayed in a bad light in the English press at this time, either ridiculing them or giving a sinister edge to the Scottish character.Hardly the most authoritative source one could ask for, given the circumstances.
Historically, crying 'Cannibal!' has been one of the easiest and most-effective ways to dehumanize and demonize an opponent (also popular is 'Godless.)' The Vietnamese claim it against the Cambodians (as some US troops have claimed against the Viet Cong.) As it turns out, it's' probably a damn hard claim to refute, or deny. Of course, societal anomalies exist, and cannibalism does occur to this day (for a truly disgusting read on modern-day psychopath cannibals, follow this link. Or don't - I recommend don't.)
Even Disney is getting in on the act. The sequel to 2003's Pirates of the Carribean is currently in production and is rumored to prominently feature Carib Indian cannibals. A fact that does not make current Carib descendants very happy at all. They are supported in their protest by many scholars, who doubt the validity of the cannibal claims:
In the historical record, one finds a letter from a Dr. Chanca, who accompanied Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the Caribbean. Chanca speculated that some young men held prisoners by a Carib group were being fattened to the slaughter for feasting.
Neither the wanton killing and rape by Spanish colonists of the first group of Caribs encountered - recorded during the same trip by others on the ship - nor the Caribs' fierce, valiant defense of their territories and people are apparently proper subjects for a Disney movie.