Meet Maurice Tillet, the Real World Shrek!

This may come to you as a surprise or a silly joke, but it’s nothing but the truth. The popular CGI cartoon Shrek actually existed! Rather, his ogre-ific head was modeled after a real person; he was called Maurice Tillet and he was actually a very intelligent person: a poet and writer who could speak 14 languages, and sure enough he did use plenty of colorful idioms (;)).

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Tillet was born in 1903, and as a teenager he manifested a rare disease called acromegaly, which caused his bones to grow uncontrollably. As result his body was disfigured, and he turned into what people back then referred to as “freak show”; do you think that put him down? Think again! He headed just the opposite of down, by going to the United States to actually take advantage of his condition, by turning into a pro wrestler called the “freak ogre of the ring”.

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Maurice Tillet reached the title of world champion of the American Wrestling Association in the 1st of August 1944, after defeating Steve “Crusher” Casey. Tillet used a few trademark moves, including the “Palm Strike” (his finishing move) and the “Bearhug”. Even though he was nick-named by shallow minded people as the “Freak Ogre of the Ring”, he was actually best known as “The French Angel“.

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He was a close friend to entrepreneur Patrick Kelly, whose home in Braintree (Massachusetts) Tillet regularly visited, for their routinely game sessions; both of them were enthusiast chess players.

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Tillet fought till the end – which arrived in 1954 when he was 51 years old – and he died with a heart attack. Not long before he died, a friend of his asked him to get a lifecast, and Tillet agreed. There were actually three casts, one of which ended up in Iowa (International Wrestling Museum); the second mask went to his friend, and the third one was sent to the York Barbell Museum, where it would allegedly be used as a model to design the popular cartoon character.

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Doubtlessly, Maurice Tillet was a very brave person who refused to be put down by his physical deformity; in a sense, I think he would have liked knowing the cartoon Shrek was modeled after him… after all there’s a positive message to this cartoon, which closely resonates Tillet’s own legacy of unwavering self-esteem and upbeat personality. He was the kind of person who learned to make lemonade, rather than complaining for getting only lemons out of life; his example should be inspirational for us all.

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