Ho Van Lang, dubbed as ‘real-life Tarzan’ passed away at the age of 52 from liver cancer. Lang, who had lived in the Vietnamese jungle for over four decades, died eight years after he returned to civilisation. Some friends and observers believe Lang’s death was hastened due to the poor diet and stresses of the modern world.
Lang had fled into the jungles of Vietnam with his father Ho Van Thanh in 1972, after a US bombing killed half his family during the Vietnam War. Thanh and Lang escaped into the jungle, where they lived by farming corn and foraging. The father-son duo wore loincloths made of bark and had built a timber hut five metres above the ground.
They were discovered by some villagers who were collecting firewood. According to news sources, the duo was convinced to return after Thanh’s health deteriorated. The pair underwent medical check-ups and was slowly integrated into modern society. When the two men came back to the modern world, they thought the war was still going on.
While Thanh could communicate in the Cor language with locals, his son only knew a few words. Decades of living in isolation in the jungle had also led to Lang being unaware that women existed. According to his friends, Lang was a child in a man’s body, being unaware of many social concepts.
In July 2016, Lang was taken back to his childhood home, which was bombed by the US. Thanh passed away due to unknown causes in 2017.
Explorer Alvaro Cerezo, a friend of Lang said that coming back to modern civilisation had fatal results for Lang, who began “eating processed foods and sometimes even drinking alcohol”. Cerezo said he was sad at his friend’s passing but was also glad that Lang would not suffer any more like he had in the last few months.
Cerezo, who had returned to the jungle to live with Lang for a week, had also written a book on his friend’s life. He called Lang "a little kid with the skills of a super human".