Vietnam's jungle man dies of cancer, eight years on

By Pham Linh   September 6, 2021 | 03:46 am PT
Vietnam's jungle man dies of cancer, eight years on
Ho Van Lang in May 2021 when was suffering liver cancer. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Linh
Eight years since he returned to social life after decades of isolation in the jungle, Vietnam’s “Tarzan” died Monday of liver cancer. Ho Van Lang was 52.

"He passed away at 7 a.m. this morning," Ho Van Tri, Lang’s younger brother confirmed.

Nearly 50 years ago, Ho Van Thanh, father of Lang and Tri, was a soldier fighting the American army. One day, he heard bombs fall on his village and rushed home in Quang Ngai Province’s Tra Bong District only to see his mother and two older sons dead.

Besides himself with grief, Thanh lost his mental balance and became violence prone. He took his wife and two younger sons, Tri and Lang to a safer place, but she was not safe from his violent tendencies.

One day, unable to control himself, he beat her up till she fainted, gathered Lang, not quite two years old then, and set off to the forest.

Thanh returned later, looking for his wife, but the villagers, fearful that he might assault her again, lied that she had died.

Since then, the father and son led a completely isolated life in the forest in Tra Xinh Commune, Tay Tra District (now part of Tra Bong District). Initially, they’d stayed near the edge of the forest, but moved deeper as people cleared forest land for farming.

Many years later, Tri, 12 years old then, went on a long trek into the forest with his uncle, looking for his dad and older brother.

Thanh could not recognize his son at first, but after the reunion, Tri visited them in their tree house twice a year. He would take some rice, salt, oil and other basic items with him.

In 2013, as Thanh’s health deteriorated with age, Tri and his uncle, along with local authorities, decided to bring the father-son jungle men back to the village.

Their return to society made national and international headlines.

Thanh and Lang lived next door to Tri. As Thanh remained quiet and spent most of his time indoors, Lang learned to adapt to a new life and got along well with his brother’s family and other villagers. He also worked hard on the farm.

In 2017, Thanh died of old age. Missing his father, Lang relapsed into loneliness and missed the jungle. He built a hot to live alone on the edge of a mountain near the village, meeting his brother Tri and the villagers during the farming seasons.

Last November, Lang felt some pain in his chest and abdomen; and was diagnosed with invasive liver cancer, which doctors said had reached an incurable stage.

"I am very sick now. My only wish is for my brother and his wife to find a cure for me so that I can live longer and see their children grow up," Lang said.

Lang was surrounded by his brother, sister-in-law, their children and other relatives when he breathed his last.

The family plans to hold his funeral Tuesday morning.

Ho Van Lang cooks and works on the farm in 2020. Video by VnExpress/Pham Linh

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