Compiled by:

Marion W. Copeland
128 Amherst Rd.
Pelham, MA 01002



      My inquiry into the role apes play in the imagination of humans began when I asked a group of my students to consider why novelist Daniel Quinn had chosen a gorilla as the mentor and main character in his 1992 novel Ishmael.  His choice may have been partially the result of emerging theories about the relatedness of the great apes to that other large primate, the human.  Philosopher Barbara Noske, in Beyond Boundaries: Humans and Animals (1997), reinforces primatologist Donna Harroway’s observation “that among the animals themselves the primates are preeminently the boundary animals, and the discipline of primatology is really about the simultaneous and repetitive constitution and breakdown of the boundary between the human and the animals: that it [primatology] can be viewed as an exercise in boundary transgression” (80). 

      In The Monkey as Mirror: Symbolic Transformations in Japanese History and Ritual, Ohnuki-Tierney explains that throughout Japanese history, the monkey/ape has been seen as both mediator between and “threat to the human-animal boundary” (6).  He contrasts the Judeo-Christian belief that “transgressing the demarcation between humans and animals is ... blasphemy” to the acceptance of “metamorphosis between humans and animals” in most other religions (21).  No animal is more “intimately involved in the Japanese deliberation upon the crucial distinction between humans and nonhuman animals” than the monkey, who “presses hard at the borderline, constantly threatening human identity and forcing such questions as ‘Who are we?’ and ‘How do we differ from animals?’” (21-22).  Significantly, the monkey is the only animal “addressed and referred to by san [the address used for humans] ... in adult language” in Japan (25n).

      That association seems consistent in Western traditions as well, explaining why the majority of literary works in which apes other-than-humans figure large are also exercises in boundary transgression and self-examination--in other words, satires.  Yet even in these, the most recent example being Will Self’s 1997 novel Great Apes, the ape characters, protagonists and narrators, are never simply stand-ins for humans.  Instead, through the magic of imagination, they become the subjects of stories that reveal “how the animals themselves experience the world and how they organize this experience and communicate about it” (Noske 144), allowing them to become both Other and kin for their human readers. 

      Work after work reveals as well how the ape has been valued or devalued in human cultures and how those human ideas about apes have changed the history of all the great apes.  Hans Biedermann’s Dictionary of Symbolism tells the reader that:

Various species of apes (Greek pithekos, Latin simia) were known in the ancient world and were occasionally trained and exhibited in theatrical performances.  “Ape” was a pejorative epithet, and the animal was a symbol of malice and physical ugliness.  Nevertheless apes were often kept as exotic pets.  It was popularly believed that an ape’s eye rendered its possessor invisible, and that an ape’s urine, spread on the door of an enemy, would make that person generally hated.  In ancient Egypt, apes (long-tailed monkeys and especially caped baboons) were viewed with great respect; Nubian tribes had to provide them as tribute, and it was said ... that they understood human speech and could learn better than many schoolchildren.  The screeching of baboons at dawn was interpreted as the pious animals’ prayer to the sun-god coming over the horizon.  Thoth (Djhuty), the god of wisdom, though usually portrayed with the head of an ibis, also appears as an old white caped baboon, sitting behind a scribe and overseeing his transcription of important texts.  The ape was a holy animal in ancient India as well, as is seen from the worship of the apogee Hanuman, who appears in the epic Ramayana as Rama’s powerful assistant and emissary.  He is the symbol of strength, loyalty, and self-sacrifice.  Although Indian farmers suffer from plagues of apes, they eagerly celebrate the festival of Hanuman-Jayanti, Hanuman’s birthday.  The ape was revered in China as well.  In South China and Tibet families proudly trace their ancestry back to simian forefathers who abducted women and had children by them.  The ape Sun Wu-k’ung is famous for the acts of bravery and the many pranks he is said to have carried out while accompanying the Buddhist pilgrim Hsuan-tsang on his journey to India....  In the Chinese zodiac the ape is the ninth sign.  The ape is a calendar symbol in ancient Mexican cultures also, lending its name (in Aztec Ozomatli, in Mayan Ba’tz) to the 11th day of the month.  The ape was a god of dance, and those born under this sign were expected to become jugglers, pranksters, dancers, or singers.  In ancient Mexico the ape has a not entirely explicable symbolic connection to the wind.  In the ancient Mexican myth of periodic “ends of the world,” the second era or “sun,” the wind-sun, was ended by devastating tornadoes, and the humans of this era were transformed into apes.

            In Christian symbology the ape is seen negatively, as a caricature of the human and as an emblem for the vices of vanity (with a mirror in its hand), greed, and lechery.  Apes in chains symbolize the Devil vanquished.  They also stand for uninhibited, filthy humans, a metaphor probably derived from the early Christian text Physiologus, where the ape is portrayed as wicked but also as prone to imitation. The hunter pretends to rub glue into his own eyes, then hides; the monkey descends from the tree and, “aping” the hunter, glues its own eyes shut, and thus can be easily snared.  “Thus, too, does the great hunter--the devil--hunt us.  With the glue of sin he dazzles the eyes, makes our spirit blind and sets a great snare, ruining us body and soul.”  In the psychology of the unconscious, the ape is taken to be a symbol of insecurity and doubt about one’s own role, as well as of immodesty.  In the language of dreams, any species of ape is “that which is like the human without being human” but which seeks to attain humanity; “a person who dreams of an ape approaches this possibility from a starting-point held in contempt” (Aeppli).  Asian sculptures now sold widely portray three monkeys with their hands over their mouths, eyes, and ears.  Although in some countries this is widely taken to mean that it is better to see, hear, and say nothing, this is of course incorrect; it is precisely evil that one is to avoid seeing, hearing, or speaking.  These monkeys supposedly originate with simian spies that the gods sent among humans to get information about their actions; charms to ward off this spying supposedly portrayed the monkeys as blind, deaf, and mute.  In Japan the three monkeys are also explained by the homonym of the word saru, which means both “monkey” and “not do,” thus symbolizing conscious abstinence from evil.   (Biedermann 14-16)

From the Renaissance, artists were symbolized as apes, after the animal’s cleverness at imitation, and they even devised singularities, ornaments and images and furniture that mischievously accepted and played with this identity.  But the devil is also the ape of God, mimicking divine creativity with his perverse works. (Warner 247)

The devil was called ‘the ape of God,’ by no less an authority than Augustine, because he imitated the divine blasphemously, through inversion and parody.  The word simius, ape, was related by Isidore of Seville in his fanciful etymologies to similis, like, stressing the animal’s powers of mimicry.  In French, le singe was seen as a meaningful anagram of le signe, and the animal’s copycat powers of signifying inspired pleasure, awe and fear: it did not need Darwin to notice the closeness of humans to apes.  Naughty monkeys frolic in the margins of medieval manuscripts, playing tricks and filching from unwary travelers, apparently participating in that mark of the human, Baudelaire’s satanic mirth.  The animal’s cleverness at imitation made it a symbol of representation, the symbol for art itself [The point,  I believe, of Will Self’s 1997 novel]….  In the 17th century a fashion for monkey pictures, developed in Italy and Holland, showing monkeys dressing up, reading, painting: the chimpanzee’s tea party at the London Zoo, which was a feature of children’s treats in the city until 1972, is the direct successor of this comic anthropomorphism.  It still continues in television in Britain in the advertisement for PG Tips tea [and in the US in the 1999 sitcom about a TV station run by apes]. (Warner 335-336)

            Understandably, apes figured large in the consciousness of Western cultures after Darwin’s theories began to work on the human imagination.  As Boria Sax points out,

What bothered people was the idea of an ape for a grandfather, an animal that long had had a reputation as amoral and contemptible.  The ape was rather an unromantic animal.  Fables tended to stigmatize apes for trying to imitate human beings, while legends sometimes made them degenerate people.  Apes had a reputation for lacking dignity and morality.  Long before Darwin, the essayist Montaigne, chastising human pride, had observed that of all animals the apes, “those that most resemble us,” were “the ugliest and meanest of the whole herd.” (“Evolution” 3-4)

            Although we may not be as upset by the open sexuality of the great apes as were our Victorian ancestors who reveled in rumors “about young ladies being abducted by apes,”  there is still reluctance to acknowledge how close the kinship is between orangutan, gorilla, chimp, and human.  Nonetheless, increasingly, the scientific evidence makes it impossible not to acknowledge, as Marian Scholtmeijer points out in her essay on nonhuman characters in the work of Flaubert and Kafka,

In a post-Darwinian world, all stories are stories about apes told by other apes—or at least primates.  Implicitly, all stories are about the struggle of a particular species of ape to invent and preserve a nonanimal identity for itself. (“What Is ‘Human’?” 139)           

As she goes on to write, “Only a few writers consciously incorporate that struggle into the bodies of their texts.  Gustave Flaubert and Franz Kafka are foremost among them” (139).  But they are far from the only writers conscious of the significance of that struggle to the survival of humans and other species.  The ape narrators in Flaubert’s Quidquid volueris and in Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy” were given voice in order to help readers see that their culture had conditioned them to deny their animality, their essential primate nature, although “one sign of difference between Kafka and Flaubert—and, I would argue, of cultural progress on thinking about animals—is that Kafka’s ape is not a biological hybrid of ape and human, as [Flaubert’s] Djalioh is, but an ape who has decided to become human” (Scholtmeijer 128).

What the Western human culture story defines as human seems to the ape in Kafka “a series of tricks suitable for the vaudevillian stage, a kind of overlay willed onto animal nature.”  The text itself consists of his “explaining to a group of scientists how he became human” (Scholtmeijer 129).  Like most of the works of the human imagination included in this bibliography, the tone of “A Report to an Academy” is ironic and the literary mode it most closely fits is satire, but it is the human animal who is the butt of the joke—and only humans who deny their animal nature.  In Flaubert and Kafka, as in the other writers who have created related ape characters, “the animal does not represent limitation, lumpish materialism, stupidity” as they often do in works by human primates intended to bolster rather than challenge the culture story.  Instead, the ape characters stand “as a reasonable ontological alternative to the human state,” with “the power to challenge [human] metaphysical values and thoughts” (Scholtmeijer 129). 

This is precisely the power the American novelist Daniel Quinn gives to his gorilla mentor in Ishmael (1992) and My Ishmael (1997) and the British Will Self gives to his chimpanzee characters and narrator in Great Apes (1997), marking these novels as the latest in the line that begins actually even before the contributions of Flaubert and Kafka.  And just as Kafka’s vision suggests an evolutionary leap beyond Flaubert’s, Quinn’s and Self’s suggest the continuing process of growth in our cultural thinking about animals and about our own animality.  What follows is a brief annotated bibliography, arranged chronologically, of the stories told in texts and films relevant to this growth.  The importance of story in establishing and changing the attitudes of a culture make understanding the status of an animal in literature particularly important for students of animal/human relations attempting to better the lives of nonhumans and humans alike.  As Robert Michael Pyle puts it “In the Shadow of Jane Goodall”:

Children’s [and adult’s] stories about animals are often faulted for being “anthropomorphic,” or mere human projections.  The danger of this lies in reducing animals to our own amplitude of motive by giving them human traits—“big bad” wolves, “wise owls.  But I believe that children [and, he might add, adults touched by Ishmael’s teaching] relate to these fabulous animal characters more than to plain descriptive accounts.  Because they’re more accessible, these compelling stories can teach more of how real animals might behave.  In Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, Rat and Mole have human speech, but behave like their animal namesakes.  Thornton Burgess’s Grandfather Frog may have worn a waistcoat, but he also did what frogs do.  After all, emotion, play, and intelligence did not arise with us.  Jane’s work with the chimps demonstrated this conclusively.  In giving them names and viewing them as personalities, which they patently possess, she mortally punctured the self-serving view of the world as a human-centered place.  Maybe imagination is as good a way as science for individuals to discover this for themselves. (43)


Primary Sources Arranged by date


Aesop’s Fables

Nicholas Howe includes fables among “other troubling works that cross adult distinctions between the comforting and the frightening, between the human and the animal”--works like Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Self’s Great Apes (645-646).  “The fable as a form explores those regions where human and animal overlap” (Howe 648).  Indeed, Aesop is said to have been an animal, probably a baboon, granted speech by Isis and art by the Muses because of an act of kindness he had displayed (Howe 649). 

12th century, English--Worshop Bestiary, fol.19v (Morgan Library, New York

“...among the jungle animals in the bestiaries is the ape or monkey.  The Worshop Bestiary depicts a mother ape who is attacked by an archer as she carries her babies, one blue and the other green.  The bestiaries explain that if a monkey gives birth to twins, she strongly prefers one over the other.  If she is pursued, she holds the one she loves in her arms while the one she detests clings to her back.  But when she becomes too tired to run on only her back legs, she must abandon the one she loves and is left carrying the one she hates.

            “The bestiaries note that the monkey has no tail (cauda)--an observation that is explained symbolically rather than scientifically: the devil resembles the monkey in that he has no scripture (caudex, i.e., codex), and thus the ape/monkey symbolizes base forces, the devil in disguise.  The much maligned animal appears in medieval art as a symbol of sin, malice, cunning, and lust” (Benton 89-90).

c. 1425-50 (French, Burgandy) Monkey Breaker.  Silver, gilt, painted enamel.  Cloister Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

            “An allied view of monkeys--thirty-five of them, to be exact--is seen on the celebrated breaker at the Cloisters.  On the outside of the breaker, they [Barbary apes] rob a peddler as he sleeps, taking his clothes and other possessions, and play in the trees.  On the inside they act as hunters and even use hunting hounds as they chase a stag.  The medieval artist has portrayed with exaggeration the monkeys’ ability to ‘ape’ man’s behavior” (Benton 90).

1596 (China) Wu Ch’eng-en, Xiyou ji or Record of a Journey to the West, partially translated as Monkey by Arthur Waley (1942, republished 1989); trans Anthony C. Yu.  The Journey to the West. 4 vols. U of Chicago p, 1977; trans W. J. F. Jenner. The Journey to the West. 4 vols. Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1982; David Kherdian, trans and adapter.  Monkey, A Journey to the West. Boston & London: Shambhala, 1992 (Based on the two 4 vol. translations and illustrated with woodblocks by the Japanese Hokusai and others first gathered for a 1833 Japanese retelling; another colorfully illustrated version is the translation of Pan Cai Ying, Monkey Creates Havoc in Heaven, trans by Ye Pin Kuei and rev. by Jill Morris. China: Liaoning Fine Arts Publishing/ Viking Kestrel, 1987.

Its 100 chapters fall into three sections, the first dealing with the birth of Monkey from a stone egg and his acquisition of the magic powers that he later puts to use to aid the monk Tripitaka on his journey to India to bring the sacred scrolls of Buddhism to China.  It provides a biting satire of Chinese society and bureaucracy as well as evidence of human need for the animal powers represented by Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy, a fish spirit, without whom Tripitaka’s striving would come to naught.  Monkey has influenced generations in East and West as folk tale and literary work (novel and drama).  “The songoku (the monkey in the novel) is a popular television series in contemporary Japan” (Ohnuki-Tierney 18n) and “For many years the Foreign Language Press in Beijing exported to Chinese-American children a thirty-four-volume series of comic books based quite faithfully on Journey, and in 1989 one reader who knew the series well, Maxine Hong Kingston, published ... a novel whose hero, Wittman Ah Sing, imagines himself to be ‘the present-day U.S.A. incarnation of the King of the Monkeys’” (Hyde 352).

1611 William Shakespeare.  The Tempest.

Peterson and Goodall offer convincing evidence that Shakespeare based the character of Caliban on contemporary travelers' reports--the first to reach England arrived in 1607--of encounters with the African Great Apes.  Although recent critics have seen the character instead as an indigenous human victim of colonial power, there is now evidence that the effects of human encroachment on the Great Apes has much in common with the effects of colonial takeover on human primates.  Peterson writes that

            It is true that Caliban shares his tempestuous island with monkeys and that he worries that Prospero will magically transform him into an ape with a forehead "villainous low."  But these primates belong to an Aristotelian zoology, closed before the opening of Africa…, lacking any reference to the humanoid great apes of that continent: the chimpanzees, bonobos (sometimes called pygmy chimps), and gorillas. (15)

Consequently, Peterson asks Shakespeare's reader to consider that, instead of an animal-like human, Caliban be seen as a "humanized nonhuman, the despised ambassador from animal to man, the missing link seen and denied" (15).

            He feels such an interpretation would make the play particularly relevant to late 20th and early 21st century readers and viewers because

Like the European characters in The Tempest, we are [still] perfectly convinced that our little drama is the only one that matters, that our little island has space for only a single species, that our little universe contains the sole important reality and ethical significance. 

Caliban knows better. (86)

He writes

            Before Europeans came to the island, Caliban was mute--capable merely of "gabbling" like an animal or, to recall the words of Prospero's daughter, Miranda, "a thing most brutish."  Out of pity Miranda taught him language, and Caliban became one of the most eloquent characters in the drama.  [He is also the only character who speaks both verse and prose.  The Europeans are limited by class: aristocratic characters speak only in verse, while lower class characters express themselves entirely in prose.]….  Language endows Caliban with great dramatic power.  And it emphasizes for us the paradox of his treatment by the Europeans.  He talks entirely like a person, like an intelligent and refined fellow European; but the Europeans continue to regard him as a slave or animal, an irritatingly contentious piece of property that can be bought and sold and owned and used, a strange and deformed brute who by his very nature is [like Wu Chang's Monkey(1659)] "deservedly confined into this rock." (Peterson 223)

Peterson's conclusion is that this attitude exactly parallels "The fundamental paradox of our treatment of the great apes in general and of chimpanzees in particular" (223).  The final words in his Visions of Caliban are: "Prospero and Caliban are, we recognize at last, partners and twins, both slaves, both masters.  Slavery violates equally the owner and the owned.  By enslaving Caliban [the chimpanzee] we enslave ourselves.  Only when we free Caliban will we free ourselves" (310).

1640 (China) Tung Yueh.  The Tower of Myriad Mirrors: A Supplement to Journey to the West. Berkley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1988.

The Tower of Myriad Mirrors is cast entirely as a dream of its protagonist Monkey.  It does not specify that Monkey has been bewitched into a dream world until the plot is explained to him in the last chapter.  Prior to that, the sense of dream is maintained by invoking the surreal logic familiar to dreamers” (Schultz 6).  The story, composed of 16 chapters is meant to be inserted between chapters 61 and 62 of Wu Chen’eng’s 1596 novel The Journey to the West.  Schultz sees it as key to understanding the mental and spiritual growth that must underlie Monkey’s enlightenment as a Buddha.

1741 Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John Gay, Thomas Parnell, and John Arbuthnot.  Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus.

Begun in 1713 as one of the first collaborations of the Scriblerus Club, Will Self’s chimpanzee narrator points to this “satire, [as] one of the use the human [read ape] as a ‘motionless philosopher’....  Drawing heavily on Tyson’s [1699] work of comparative anatomy [The Anatomy of a PYGMIE Compared with That of a Monkey, an Ape, and a Man, which “marked the formal entry of the arthropoid...into Western consciousness” (Self 263)], the Essay was the precursor of the grand line of eighteenth-century satires, pitting evolved humans [read apes] against primitive apes [read humans].  A line that culminated in Swift’s Yahoos [in Gulliver’s Travels]” (273).

1805-1822(?)  The Comical Adventures of a Baboon

Blount lists this anonymous tale among the many animal autobiographies that appeared between these dates, all revealing “how cruel, or moral, or amiable the humans are” and comments that “nearly all read like tracts written for spoiled children” (49).

A hanging scroll by Mori Sosen (1747-1821) captures a family of macaques in a persimmon tree with unsettling veri-similitude.                    

1817 Thomas Love Peacock.  Melincourt.

Self’s chimpanzee narrator in Great Apes (1997) comments that “Many writers have seen in the human [read ape] a paradigm for the gentler as well as the darker side of chimpanzee nature.  From Melincourt to My Human Wife [Collier, His Monkey Wife, 1931], from King Kong to the Planet of the Humans films, writers have flirted with the numinous dividing line between man and chimp” (x-xi).  Quite late in his efforts to “cure” a chimpanzee painter who believes himself to be human, Self’s narrator comments, “In Peacock’s novel [your cousin Sir Oran Haut-ton] is tutored by a Mr. Forester, who believes that all great apes, including humans, are part of the chimpanzee family” (281).

1841 Edgar Allen Poe. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”  First published in "the April 1841 issue of the Philadelphia publication Graham's Magazine, the story has been widely anthologized since (Ball 1).


"Detective fiction, a distinct literary form originated by Poe," a "a dramatization of a reasoning process concerned with assembling and interpreting data to arrive at the truth that underlies the events of a crime" (Stein 32).  "Poe's C. Auguste Dupin…appeared in only three short stories, beginning with 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' (1841), followed by 'The Mystery of Marie Roget' (1842), and concluding with 'The Purloined Letter' (1844)…collected in Poe's Tales (1845)" (Penzler 105).  Dupin, along with Sherlock Holmes, "set the tone for their [detective] successors….  Both uncovered and, in true psychoanalytic manner, exposed and left harmless the bizarre, the grotesque, the brutal, the ferocious" (Harper    ).  Although the homicidal orangutan of this story is not the only nonhuman to be demonized as bizarre, grotesque, brutal, and ferocious in these early detective puzzles, the murderer of Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter Camille in the locked room of their residence in the Rue Morgue provides the genesis of much demonizing of the great apes in the literature and film produced by those influenced by Poe and Doyle.


18   Gustave Flaubert.  “Quidquid volueris.”  Three Tales.  Trans. Robert Baldick.  Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1961.


1892 Harry Prentice. Captured By Apes: Or, How Philip Garland became King of Apeland.  New York: A. L. Burt.


a sequel to Prentice’s “successful Captured By Zulus....  The hero a young dealer in animals who, after the creatures in his cargo stage a mutiny, finds himself stranded on an island ruled by apes.  These primates are ruled by a despotic monarchy.  They have a court of law, a simple language and, in rudimentary form, most of the institutions of human society, but, with a few exceptions, they are treacherous and brutal.  The protagonist eventually escapes by putting on the skin of a royal ape that has been killed, thus fooling the other apes into obedience” (Sax “Parliament” 87).


A hardstone study of a chimpanzee by Carl Faberge, naturalistically carved of striated brown agate, with

Diamond eyes set in gold collets.  St. Petersburg, c. 1900.

          Height: 2 4/5" (7 cm).


1909 T. T. Heine. Haeckel’s reverence for Charles Darwin (ill).  Simplicissimus.

(“Beauty Beyond Belief: The Art of Ernst Haedkel….” Natural History 12/1998-1/1999:59).


1914 Edgar Rice Burroughs.  "At the Earth's Core."  All-Story Weekly  A. C. McGrug, 1922.


"The Sagoths constitute Pellucidar's race of gorilla-men.  Though the Sagoth's body is in proportion to that of a human being, he is covered with a coat of shaggy brown hair.  The head is basically humanoid but with a gorilla-like face.  The strength of the Sagoth is like that of the greatest of the anthropods" (Glut 52).


1914 Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Tarzan of the Apes.  New York: Ballantine, 1963.


Actually Tarzan first appeared in a short story in 1912; 25 Tarzan novels followed.  Certainly no earlier literary treatment allowed the gorilla to be seen as such a complex and sympathetic character, and the popularity of the series undoubtedly influenced the popular view of them.  Particularly important is the range of personality types found among Burroughs' gorilla characters.  Kala, who, having lost her own infant, eagerly adopts, nurses, protects and teaches the orphaned white ape, John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke, is undoubtedly meant to invoke comparisons with the wolf mother of Romulus and Remus.  However, she evokes reader empathy as her more famous predecessor does not (although allusions to Kipling's Jungle Books and presenting Tarzan as Kala's "best beloved" suggests Kipling's more sympathetically presented wolf parents were consciously on Burroughs' mind).  In contrast are old Kerchack who killed Kala's infant and her mate Terzok who hates the adopted white ape and remains his arch enemy through much of the novel, coming closest to revenge when he carries away Tarzan's mate-to-be, Jane Porter, to "a fate a thousand time worse than death."  These primates are, in other words, as fully developed as characters as are Burroughs' human creations, interacting in Tarzan's life as fully, if not more fully, than do most humans he encounters in the novel.  Some, like Kala and Terzok even have whole chapters devoted to presenting their points of view and perspectives, not only on Tarzan's life, but on their own ape dramas.

To be fair, Burroughs does differentiate these apes from gorillas: they are "of a species closely allied to the gorilla, yet with more intelligence, which with the strength of their cousins, made [them] … the most fearsome of those awe-inspiring progenitors of man."  Actually, the gorillas who attacked and killed Tarzan's human parents are "the deadly enemies of his [adoptive] tribe."  Kala herself, but nine or ten when she adopts Tarzan, " was large and powerful--a splendid, clean-limbed animal with a round, high forehead, which denoted more intelligence than most of her kind possessed.  So, also, she had a greater capacity for mother love and mother sorrow."  (One almost suspects Burroughs had at least imaginatively happened upon the prototype of the close relative of the chimpanzee, the bonobo!)

The reader learns that Tarzan means "white skin" in the language of these super-apes, a language they use to communicate daily but also use to tell stories which pass both new information and rituals from generation to generation.  When Kala is killed by a poisoned arrow, Burroughs shows Tarzan grieving as any man would for a beloved mother, but he also reveals that Tarzan's aesthetic sense has been affected both by nature (attraction to Jane) and nurture:  "What though Kala was a fierce and hideous ape!  To Tarzan she had been kind; she had been beautiful."  Without question, Burroughs' fiction remains essentially focused on the human, ascribing most of Tarzan's finer senses and impulses to his being human (and aristocratic!).  But readers nourished on his empathetically presented apes and his frequent editorializing on the false boundaries erected between humans and other animals, would be especially open to the work of Goodall, Fossey and Galdikas that has fueled the current drive for equality under the law for all the greater primates (see Peterson and Wise).


1915 Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Jungle Tales of Tarzan.  New York:   Ballantine, 1963.

“Although Burroughs wrote many other stories about the fantastic and unearthly, his main claim to fame is the Tarzan series.  First appearing in Tarzan of the Apes (1914), this 20th-century folk hero is depicted as the son of an English nobleman, abandoned in Africa in his infancy.  He is brought up by apes, learns to speak their language (and that of other animals as well), and goes through a series of breathtaking adventures.  Eventually Tarzan marries, has a son, and finally a grandson.  Millions of copies of the Tarzan books have been sold, and they have been translated into fifty-six languages.  Many films have been made of his adventures, and he has long been a comic-strip favorite” (Benet’s 960)..

1915 Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Son of Tarzan.  New York: Ballantine, 1963.

This fifth novel in the Tarzan series is of particular interest because in it Akut, a gorilla from Tarzan's adoptive band, serves as the mentor of young Jack Clayton, Tarzan's and Jane's only child, after the boy rescues the captive ape from life as a circus performer in London.  The two embark for Africa where Jack intends to return Akut to his people, and when circumstances lead Jack to return with Akut, the boy is quick to answer the call of the wild.  In fact, this novel is really Burroughs' Call of the Wild, just as the original Tarzan is his White Fang. 

Showing himself the true son of Tarzan, he becomes Korak which, in the language of the apes (a tongue for which the boy has a natural apptitude), means Killer.  Here, as is not so evidently the case in earlier novels, the ape is a speaking character: "The language of the great apes is a combination of monosyllabic gutterals, amplified by gestures and signs.  It may not be translated into human speech."  Burroughs uses the adventure of the two to force his readers to recognize the remarkable similarities between the two primate species as well as the crucial differences.  The maturing Korak is more and more attracted to the girl he rescues, fortuitously revealed to be the kidnapped daughter of a French nobleman and a suitable mate for a Lord of England.  But Akut's sexual interest is aroused by one of his own kind.  He finds the human Meriam too "smooth and hairless," "snakelike," and "unattractive," while the "true feminine beauty" of his own species lies in the "great, generous mouth; lovely, yellow fangs, and…softest side whiskers."  No interspecies sex despite the similarities!

1917 Franz Kafka.  “A Report to the Academy.” The Complete Stories.  Ed. Nahum N. Glatzer.  New York: Schocken Books, 1971. 213-225.


The story and its narrator, Red Peter, play a crucial role in a lecture being delivered to an academy by the main character in J. M. Coetzee's 1999 The Lives of Animals.  Her point is that Kafka  intended his character to be understood, not as a "defective human being" but as "a branded, marked, wounded animal presenting himself as speaking testimony to a gathering of scholars."  It is toward that end that Coetzee's readers are asked to understand the "arduous descent from the silence of the beasts to the gabble of reason" that the experimental ape took upon himself.  Kafka, whom Coetzee sees as playing a similar scapegoat role in the Europe of his time, was not unaware of the parallels between the ape and his fellow Jews, but Coetzee's text speaks of the nonhuman--not of members of human minorities--as the real scapegoat in human history.

Other critics have suggested that “’A Report to the Academy’ … seems to be a communication seeking to establish a contrast between two life forms in an objective fashion.  After all, it is crafted as the presentation of a learned paper before a scientific society, a paper in which the   deliverer is engaged in describing his former life-style as an ape.  The chronological distance between the life reported upon and the actual life of the reporter may be short—just five years—but it is in fact a chasm, for, as its author points out, ‘an infinitely long time [in which] to gallop at full speed’ had indeed transpired.  And this is a gap equivalent to the ape’s humanization.  The instrumentality required to bring this qualitative change was precisely the ape’s refusal to be ‘stubbornly set on clinging to my origins, to the remembrances of my youth.’  But is this not the same as having broken the lived continuity of the ape’s life?  Is this not precisely the reason for autobiography having in this case been transmogrified into a scientific report?  In other words, the ape has become a man by having stepped outside his former life and thereby gained the capacity—since the sufficient distance of objectivity had thus been brought into being—to speak of an ape’s life in a detached, scientific manner.  The ape’s purpose, namely, ‘imparting knowledge,’ was accordingly accomplished to perfection.

            “Yet there are indications—the possible product of Kafka’s ironic self-distancing from the ape’s own self-distance—which suggest that the humanization of the ape is not and cannot possibly be achieved completely since, in a way, the ape-man mirrors his present companion, ‘a half-trained little chimpanzee’ that he cannot bear to see, for ‘she has the insane look of the bewildered half-broken animal in her eye.’  (My italics.)  In his present condition, he seems to connect with his companion as his manager relates to him, for the manager ‘sits in the anteroom; when I ring, he comes and listens to what I have to say.  Nearly every evening I give a performance, and I have a success which could hardly be increased.’” (Garcia-Gomez 125-126)

Down the street he pointed out a war poster on a billboard.  It was a picture of a gorilla making off with a white woman.  It said in big black letters: "Save your sweetheart from the Huns!  (description of WW I setting in Zane Grey's 30,000 on the Hoof [1940].  NY: Harper Paperbacks, 1990: 223.)

1918 Tarzan of the Apes

“The screen legacy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ jungle hero began with this faithful silent version, with Elmo Lincoln as the son of Lord and Lady Greystoke who, after his parents are killed in Africa, is raised by apes and learns to live by the laws of the jungle.  Co-stars Enid Markey.”    In response to a reader’s querry about the number of Tarzan films that have been made, Walter Scott’s “Personality Parade” (Parade 10 January 1999:2) notes: “The Internet Movie Database ( lists 81 theatrical releases featuring Tarzan, including foreign-language versions.  The original…, a silent film, starred Elmo Lincoln.  The most recent big-screen version…was Tarzan and the Lost City, a 1998 dud starring Casper Van Dien.  At least two Tarzan films are scheduled for this year.  The most famous Tarzan, of course, was the late Johnny Weissmuller, who swung through the jungle in 12 films.”

1922 A Blind Bargain

“...the film was inspired by the then-current interest in the Voronoff theories of prolonging life and youth by the transplanting of animal glands (mostly from monkeys) into human beings.  These experiments, well-covered by the press of both continents, had inspired a best-selling novel Black Oxen (later released in movie form early in 1924), as well as the dusting off of an old Marie Corelli novel, Young Diana, which served as a Marion Davies vehicle in 1922....  A Blind Bargain was more outrageously fantastic than either of these:

            Robert, a young man down-and-out (Raymond McKee) agrees to submit to an experiment to be performed on him by the eminent scientist Dr. Lamb (Lon Chaney) in return for which Lamb agrees to treat Robert’s sick mother.  The young man soon realizes that the experiment may cost him his life after he discovers that the hunchbacked assistant (Lon Chaney) of the doctor is really an ape-man, the result of a previous experiment.  The ape-man reveals to Robert the doctor’s secret operating room and the hideous creatures kept in cages in varied stages of human completion.  Dr. Lamb overpowers Robert and straps him to the operating table, after which the ape-man releases a gorilla-like monster who crushes the life out of the mad scientist.

            “Based on the novel The Octave of Claudius by Barry Plain, the film is basically a free adaptation of Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau with its semi-human horrors, sympathetic man-beast, and grisly climax.  It was to become the archetype of the mad scientist movies and it further enhanced the reputation of Lon Chaney...” (Clarens 46).

1927 The Gorilla

Based on a play by Ralph Spence.


1927 The Wizard

Based on a play, “Balaoo,” by Gaston Laroux, the film “combined

a mysterious manor with a mad scientist and his gorilla-man”

(Clarens 57). Frank adds: “A mad surgeon grafts the head of a

man onto an ape’s  body and employs the creature as a tool to

exact revenge on his enemies.  The story is daft, although it

turned up again in 1942 as Dr. Renault’s Secret, but it is well act-

ed, particularly by Gustav von Seyffertitz as the surgeon, and the cinematography raises a few frissons” (143).


1929 Eden Phillpots.  The Apes.

"an evolutionary allegory" (Stableford 271)


1930  Wyndham Lewis.  Apes of God.  Santa Barbara, CA: Black

Sparrow   Press, 1981.


1930 Ferdinand A. Ossendowski.  The Life Story of a Little Monkey: The Diary of the Chimpanzee Ket.  Trans from the Polish by Francis Bauer Czarnomski. New York: E. P. Dutton.


A variation on the animal autobiography, the animal diary, undoubtedly because it takes the added step of assuming a nonhuman can write, is a rarer genre.  Nonetheless, earlier example exist (perhaps even in Polish although I am unaware of any).  The first I am aware of is Thomas Smith's The Life of a Fox written by Himself(1843), not specified as a diary, but very like Ossendowski's in its chronological recording of a nonhuman life; Jean Oliver Davidson's Blacky's Diary (1899), a sequel to her The Story of Blacky and the first of many cat and dog diaries; Edith Dunham's The Diary of a Mouse (1907); and Stanley reeves' Rhubarb: The Diary of a Gentleman's Hunter (1908).  Ossendowski's novel seems to be the first nonhuman primate diary or autobiography before the great apes became frequent subjects in language experiments.  Since, a number of authors have seen the advantage of making the ape's point of view the narrative perspective, but as far as I know, the only other diary is found in Gary Kern's The Snow Leopard (1996). 

            What is most significant here is that Ossendowski anticipates and refines Ishmael's theme of captivity.  In Part I Ket elaborates on the leaver life of the young chimp in the wild, making the killing of her mother and the capture of Ket herself more affecting than is Quinn's version of Ishmael's capture.  Ket (whose name in captivity becomes Katey) is cared for by loving and knowledgeable humans, pretty obviously the author and his wife, but through them encounters an old chimpanzee chained to a perch in his owners' garden who tells Ket, "'Men are good to me….  The only thing they do not understand is that I cannot live without liberty, and I do not want to.'"  In Part II, after she has been lost and trained to perform, Ket learns about the legendary Moritz, also a performing ape, who grew gloomy as he matured, "sticking for hours in a corner and rocking."  Though they sensed he "was longing for something" and that it might be "his motherland," his keepers don't really understand his despair.  Foreshadowing Ket's own future, Moritz escapes while performing in a seaside town and is last seen swimming "away and away" (One wonders if the scene, and the parallel scene in the novel's afterword, influenced the conclusion to Richard Adams The Plague Dogs except like Quinn Ossenkowski offers no other possible fate for Ket.  As Ishmael's student never understands, a human master would be just a kinder version of captivity). 

            Although the novel contains some inaccuracies about chimpanzee behavior, it is clearly based on close observation both in the wild and in captivity.  Her intelligence and emotions and sentience are clear in her responses and actions as well as in her words.


1931. John Collier. His Monkey Wife: Or, Married to a Chimp.  Intro. by Paul Thoreau.  Oxford UP, 1983.

“Written in the sardonic and fantastic vein that characterized his later work” (Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopaedia. 3rd ed. 201), this tale leads to serious thought about  the intelligence and rights of the chimpanzee who seems superior in every way to the women she successfully schemes to replace in the male protagonist’s life.

1931 The Gorilla

1931 S. Fowler Wright.   Dream: or, The Simean Mind

"a depressed socialite, Marguerite Leonster, who seeks release from her condition in dreams conjured up…by a 'magician'--a scientist who send her consciousness back through time to experience other lives….has already visited Babylon and Atlantis, and now desires something even more remote and primitive.  She finds herself incarnated as a tree-dwelling furry primate," Rita, who considers the "cave-people" a lower species" (Stableford 190).

1932 Murders in the Rue Morgue

            “The film retained almost nothing of Poe...and instead borrowed its basic plot from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  Lugosi was cast as Dr. Mickle, a sideshow mountebank who comes to Paris...with an intelligent ape named Erik on a chain.  The sideshow masks his true activity--the attempt to mix the blood of a woman with the blood of an ape, and thus prove an evolutionary link.  (The film is in many ways a crazy artifact of the Scopes trial era.)  Erik enters the bedroom of Camille L’Espanaye like a simian version of Conrad Veidt’s Cesare, and carries her across the expressionistically distorted rooftops of Paris before killing his master and meeting his doom” (Skal 165).  Clarens, too, sees the film as "closer to Caligari that to Edgar Allen Poe in its bizarre, Expressionistic set and camera work.  The story had a very Hoffmannesque Dr. Mirakle (Bela Lugosi) going about his way in the Paris of Daumier and Murger, trying to prove a theory of evolution that would have staggered Darwin and that involved the kidnapping of women for unholy experiments conducted with a gorilla that Mirakle exhibits in the Boulevard du Crime.  At the time of its release, the film was criticized for its unrestrained ferocity….[In] the most gruesome scene (the only one retained from the original tale)…the hero (Leon Ames) discovers the body of the heroine's mother (Betty Ross Clarke), dead and stuffed feet first up a chimney" (72-73).


1932 Tarzan, the Ape Man


“Venturing into the dark depth of the African wilds, a scientific expedition searching for the Elephants’ Graveyard instead encounters the untamed Lord of the Apes who literally sweeps Jane off her feet and into his treetop lair.  Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan co-star


1933 King Kong


“The original beauty and the beast film classic tells the story of Kong, a giant ape captured in Africa and brought to New York as a sideshow attraction.  Kong falls for Wray, escapes from his captors and rampages through the city, ending up on top of the newly built Empire State Building.  Moody Steiner score adds color, and Willis O’Brien’s stop-motion animation still holds up well.  Remade numerous times with various theme derivations.  Available in a colorized version (what a monstrosity).  The laserdisc, produced from a superior negative, features extensive liner notes and running commentary by the film historian Ronald Haver” (VideoHound’s 161).


Clarens credits  Merian C. Cooper, one of America’s foremost documentary film makers: “While Cooper and Schoedsack were on location in Africa shooting some animal footage for Paramount’s version of the Four Feathers (1929), Cooper became interested in the habits of the gorilla.  He conceived an idea about an outsized ape of superior intelligence running amok in the city streets of the civilized world.  He embellished this concept with a few more specific scenes: the gorilla would fight one of the giant lizards of Komodo (then of widespread topicality because two of the reptiles had been brought alive to New York’s Bronx Zoo where, with dispatch, they died); for a climax the gorilla would make one last stand on top the recently finished Empire State Building...” (91-92).


“There can be no doubt that its Beauty-and-the-Beast leitmotiv formed itself in the core of the original conception.  The film opens with an ‘old Arabian proverb’: ‘And the Beast looked into the face of Beauty and lo! his hand was stayed from killing and from that day forward he was as one dead.’  It closes with the mournful Dedham, standing to the side of the fallen giant, informing a callous cop that ‘Twas Beauty killed the Beast’--and this theme is reiterated and enhanced throughout the film by the secular liturgy of the myth: the golden-haired virgin offered to the barbarous demigod (variously a dragon, unicorn, minotaur or, here, an arthropoid) who is unable to spill this ritual victim’s blood, the sacrificial maiden then becoming the prize in a combat between beast and hero” (Clarens 93-94).


            King Kong (1933) encapsulates these underlying misconceptions [of the 19th c belief that the “missing link” among Other people in Other places]: this classic film, still one of the most popular ever made, begins as an ethnographic expedition, to find the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World.’  Kong is once described as an ape in the film, but he is far more deeply anthropomorphized, as a king who is worshipped as a god by the dancing and drumming savages outside his sanctuary.  The moment that he desires Fay Wray,…King Kong defined for generations of viewers, his tragic, transgressive, beast-like male desire.  King Kong is a dark, looming, cannibal giant who snatches tiny victims; like the bogeymen of myths, he changes scale phantasmagorically in the course of the film, all the better to penetrate the innermost corners of the mind.  Like ogres and giants in fairy tales, he symbolizes a prior time of greater barbarism that threatens to wreck the civilization of the heroes, exercises an irresistible fascination, but cannot in the end prevail against it. In the course of the film, he changes, however, into a symbol of tragic male bondage and is felled by his own overweening desires.  The final icon of the film—King Kong on the pinnacle of the Empire State Building snatching at aeroplanes like a cat swatting at flies—crystallizes the lure and fascination of the imagined unruly and primitive rampant, the very thrill of the bogey inside us.” (Warner 336)


            “The misestimation of our  genetic neighbors in the cinema has never abated since King Kong set the high-water mark for countless scary gorilla movies.  Degrading stage acts with live chimps and orangutans dressed in human clothes began in vaudeville and continue today.  From the indignities of the organ grinder to Bedtime for Bonzo, primates have never had a chance to be themselves in our eyes.” (Pyle 310)

            Especially suggestive are Kinnard's observations that "O'Brien's…strangely beautiful landscape on the lost [Skull] island" are "based on the eerie black and white drawings of Gustav Dore" (16); that much of the film "is intentionally styled larger than life in order to impart a mythic, timeless structure" (27); and that, in fact, "Everything about KING KONG--the writing, the direction, the acting, and special effects--is larger than life, aiming for a fairy tale, story book quality" (33).


1933 Son of Kong

“the purported offspring, a great white gorilla, is little more than an emasculated version of the great Kong--funny and endearing as a big teddy bear” (Clarens 95).  Kinnard disagrees, calling the film "very entertaining…, and despite some opinions to the contrary, a worthy sequel to KING KONG" (36).  In it Kong's friendly young offspring protects the main characters from Skull Island's prehistoric monsters, leads them to the fabled treasure that drew their expedition back, and, at the end, sacrifices himself to save them from the earthquake-induced flood that destroys the island (Kinnard 37-38).  Animation was directed by Willis O'Brien and "handled by his KING KONG assistant, E. B. 'Buzz' Gibson" (Kinnard 40).

1934 Tarzan and His Mate

“Jungle lord Johnny Wessmuller returns in a hair-raising adventure, the second installment in the MGM series.  The Ape Man and his British gal, Jane, see their exotic lifestyle threatened by the arrival of Jane’s ex-beau and his ivory-hunting pal.  This restored version features Maureen O’Sullivan’s long-unseen topless swimming scene.  With Neil Hamilton, Paul Cavanagh.”

"This was the second MGM Tarzan picture of six starring Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, and since it was the last one made before the Production Code came into full effect, it goes much further in playing up the erotic life of Tarzan and Jane (a practically naked Maureen O'Sullivan)….  Jane's skinny-dipping still shocks" (Daly 76).


1936 Tarzan Escapes


“Action packed Ape Man outing with Tarzan encountering stampedes and ferocious wild animals while tracking down his beloved Jane, who has been captured by hunters.  Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan, John Buckler and Cheetah the Chimp star.”

1938 Her Jungle Love

A woman (Dorothy Lamour) raised in the wild loves chimps but her interest  in the apes becomes secondary pnce Ray Milland is stranded on the island and teaches her how to kiss.

1938 V. S. Pritchett.  "The Ape."  In You Make Your Own Life.


"…a blend of allegory and fantasy with a cast including a talking pterodactyl and bands of apes interested in metaphysics, philosophy, and evolution.  The fable ends with a revolution: one of the apes, who fought 'like a god…with a science and ferocity such as we had never seen before,' is finally subdued.  The oldest ape examines the 'panting creature' and finds the sight overwhelming: his backside is 'bare and hairless--he had no tail…."It is a man!" we cried.  And our stomachs turned'" (Short Story Criticism. Vol. 14:271).

1939 At The Circus

Although a minor event in an otherwise typical Marx Brothers' film, the escape of a Gorilla lends suspense to efforts to save the circus from bankruptcy.

1939 The Gorilla

Disappointing comedy-whodunit with the Ritz Brothers as fumbling detectives prowling around old-dark house in search of a murderer....Filmed before in 1930. (Maltin 507)

1939 Tarzan Finds a Son!

“Well, the Hollywood censors wouldn’t let Johnny Weismuller and Maureen O’Sullivan have a child out of wedlock, so the jungle-dwelling pair rescue an orphaned five-year-old from a plane crash and protect him from greedy relatives after his inheritance.  Fourth entry in MGM’s Tarzan series also stars Ian Hunter and Johnny Sheffield as ‘Boy.’”

1940 The Ape

1940 Son of Ingagi

            “A lonely ape-man (Zack Williams) supposedly created by the experiment of a female mad scientist, breaks loose and kidnaps a newlywed bride.  Early all-black horror film from the story “House of Horror” by star Spencer Williams, late in TV’s Amos ‘n’ Andy….  The title is a take-off from the successful early mondo movie Ingagi, which had phony scenes of apes abducting topless starlets.  Although race movies were made in every genre, strangely, this is one of the very few black-cast horror movies” (Video Hound’s 248-249).

            Other entries add to our understanding of mondo documentaries of the 1930s in which the hunting and dissecting of wild animals, including the gorilla, were as frequent as the unfamiliar and therefore astounding customs of indigenous peoples (lip-splitting, bug eating).  There was apparently as endless an appetite for apes capturing buxom women as today’s nature films display for predators chomping on prey.  Ingagi, as well as Forbidden Adventure and Bowangi Bowanda, led “the way for Kroer Babb’s release of Karamoja” (Video Hound’s 296).

1941 Tarzan’s Secret Treasure

“The treasure is a fortune in gold located deep in the bush, and to find it some rapscallions resort to holding Jane and Boy hostage in order to coerce Tarzan into helping them.  Want to bet Johnny Weissmuller will deliver some ‘jungle justice’ before too long?  With Maureen O’Sullivan, Barry Fitzgerald and Johnny Sheffield.”

1942  Dr. Renault’s Secret

“about one more mad scientist who succeeds in giving human appearance to an ape” (Clarens 102).  “J. Carrol Nash’s performance as the Ape Man adds considerable impact and even a measure of pathos to this otherwise standard mad-scientist story” (Frank 48). Remake of 1927’s The Wizard.

1942 Tarzan’s New York Adventure

“When Boy is kidnapped by circus owners and taken to America, Tarzan and Jane follow, and the Jungle Lord’s first encounter with skyscrapers, traffic jams and suits make a humorous, exciting film.  The final MGM entry in the series stars Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan (her last appearance as Jane), Johnny Sheffield, Charles Bickford; look for the first screen Tarzan Elmo Lincoln in a cameo.”

1943 The Ape Man

“A scientist turns himself into a simian, complete with facial hair, a doubled-up appearance and furry hands through injections of spinal fluid and murders to get more fluid to effect a reversal of the effect.  The curse of Monogram [the film company] strikes the unfortunate Lugosi in an entirely uninteresting ‘Z’ picture.

‘Monogram’s writer didn’t have to wipe the dust from Lugosi’s Ape Man; he had to rake the mould off’. Daily News’” (Frank 14)

1943 Captive Wild Woman

“Young woman fashioned by plastic surgery from a female gorilla who periodically reverts (usually when sexually aroused) to her simian ways and looks” (Clarens  102).  Frank, who wrongly dates the film 1942, finds it “Rather more enjoyable than the story line might suggest and short enough not to outstay its welcome.  The movie inspired two sequels, Jungle Woman (1944) and Jungle Captive (19[4]5)....(Incidentally, the animal training sequences are [Clyde Beaty] footage from The Big Cage (1933)” (28).

1944 Cobra Woman--though certainly not the focus of this fascinating film (a female werecobra is!), a chimp rescues a human from a life threatening encounter.

1944 Gildersleeve's Ghost--another escaped gorilla sequence.

1944 Jungle Woman

“A doctor attempts to turn an ape into a woman.  Lurid but enjoyable shocker, a reworking of 1943’s Captive Wild Woman.

‘Apparently Universal couldn’t leave bad alone when it turned out a little nuisance called “Captive Wild Woman” about a year ago....  What’s Universal doing to us--trying to make monkeys of us all? New York Times’” (Frank 84).

1944 Nabonga

Plane-crash survivor (Julie London) makes friends with local gorilla.  Retitled Gorilla.

1944 Return of the Ape Man

“Two scientists attempt to bring a frozen prehistoric ape to life: one of them murders his partner and transfers his brain to the ape which then turns nastily homicidal.  The sequel to The Ape Man which is uncalled for: dreary and uninteresting and too long at 60 minutes” (Frank 118).

1945 Jungle Captive

“A biochemist attempts to bring the ape woman back to life.  Universal visits the same well for the third time...and comes up dry.

‘Vicky Lane plays the brainless woman with monosyllabic finesse and, in her role of primitive savage, she grunts and growls as though she though the whole business to be as stupid as it actually is.  New York Times’” (Frank 84).

1945 White Pongo

          “A policeman goes undercover with a group of British biologists to capture a mythic white gorilla believed to be the missing link.  A camp jungle classic with silly, cheap special effects, but too much talk.  Surprisingly, this is not the only albino ape extravaganza—the even sillier (and cheaper) White Gorilla came out two years later, perhaps only to make use of Ray Corrigan’s dyed-white monkey suit again.  Double feature anyone?  [Richard] Frazer was also in…Gorilla Man.  [Maris] Wrixon enlivens…The Ape.  We may just have discovered the makings of a Karloff-Fraser-Wrixen-Corrigan marathon here!” (Video Hound’s 293)

1947 White Gorilla--unrest among wild gorillas

1948 Aldous Huxley Ape and Essence.  New York: Harper & Row.

            “Works of science fiction written around the premise of genetic accident exhibit striking similarities, even when the fictional sources of the accident may contrast sharply.  Genetic alteration caused by man himself is perhaps the most common subject in biological fiction.  Aldous Huxley’s Ape and Essence (1948) early raises very disturbing questions about the possibility; and, as more people began to recognize the potential destructiveness of atomic war and radioactive fallout, the ‘alteration by warfare’ motif became increasingly popular in science fiction.  Huxley’s novel, like his After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939) and Wells’s The Time Machine (1895), builds on the idea of man’s degeneration as a species.  Ape and Essence, however, is an even more forceful, more sardonic condemnation of human weakness and stupidity than the two earlier works.  Within a ‘screenplay’ framework, Huxley unfolds his portrait of the human species, whose genetic structure has been mutated by radioactive fallout, rapidly degenerating into bestial, fear-ridden behavior and slavishly devoted to the ‘worship of Belial.’  In a series of often bitterly satiric scenarios, Huxley delivers a powerful

warning of how men, disregarding even their own self-interest, have set themselves in a direction which will lead to their own destruction.   Either men, reproducing without limit and plundering their own planet, will eventually starve to death or, more likely, they will turn their own technology loose and ravage the world in a great holocaust.

The pessimism and distrust of technology and science voiced in this novel finds similar, though usually less skillfully crafted expression in many fictional [and filmic] speculations about accidental genetic alteration” (Parker 36).  Cf also Stableford 314-315.


1949 Mighty Joe Young

Clarens comments that although the film “ academy award for...special effects,” the film “is most charitably described as King Kong for children.  Like Kong, Joe Young is a gorilla, albeit only ten feet tall.  But unlike King, Joe is the household pet of an orphan girl (Terry Moore) raised in an African ranch, and as docile and housebroken as a Great Dane.  Both the girl and her ape are discovered by a showman (Robert Armstrong, of course) and his cowboy safari and brought to a temple-sized Hollywood nightclub where Mighty Joe holds his mistress and a grand piano aloft on a platform while she plays ‘Beautiful Dreamer.’  The incongruous look of Texan cowpokes scouring the African veldt points to the source of Mighty Joe Young’s most spectacular trick effects” (95).

Like King Kong, Mighty Joe Young was produced by Cooper, directed by Schoedsack and feature the "stop-motion animation by O'Brien [who "received a well-deserved Oscar for the film"] and Ray Harryhausen" (Kinnard 33).

1951 Bedtime for Bonzo

          Peterson points out that this Universal International film, like so many cinematic comedies that feature performing apes, is less concerned with realism than with entertainment.  As a result "the apes are humanized to such an exaggerated and surprising degree that they become central characters in what would otherwise be purely human drama."  Here, Ronald Reagan plays Peter Boyd, a "psychology professor," who is engaged to the Dean's daughter.  When his paternity is revealed, Dean Tillinghurst breaks the engagement, leading "to a nature versus nurture debate between the dean and the psychology professor."   Bonzo becomes the professor's project to prove his nurture hypothesis.

            In the end, as we might have guessed, instead of Professor Boyd teaching Bonzo to be more human, Bonzo teaches Boyd to be more human--to descend slightly from his professorial remoteness and to recognize that he really loves the beautiful woman he hired to help him play 'father' to Bonzo, rather than the spoiled and manipulative…Valerie Tillinghurst.  [Peterson's main point here is that] the exaggerated anthropomorphism…leads us into deeper and deeper levels of illusion [that provoke the viewer to ask: If Bonzo is] someone profoundly humanlike and ultimately fragile…why is he being treated so much like an animal?"  (140-143).

1952 Bonzo Goes to College

1952 Monkey Business

A chimp rejuvenation serum affects a scientist (Cary Grant), his wife (Ginger Rogers), secretary (Marilyn Monroe) and boss (Charles Coburn.  Explains a lot, I think.

1953 Phantom of the Rue Morgue

“In nineteenth-century Paris a gorilla is trained to murder girls at the sound of a bell.  Poe would never recognize it, but in its own way, aided by crisp 3-D cinematography, the movie is good fun” (Frank 113).

“…stars Karl Malden as Dr. Marais, who hypnotizes an ape and sends him out to kill all the women of Paris who have spurned his romantic advances(the doctor’s, not the ape’s).  With Steve Forrest, Patricia Medina;…a young Merv Griffin as a student.”

1954 Gorilla at Large

Offbeat murder mystery at amusement park, with an exceptionally able cast (Cameron Mitchell, Ann Bancroft, Lee J. Cobb, Raymond Burr, Peter Whitney, Lee Marvin, Warren Stevens). (Maltin 507)

1956 C. S. Lewis.  The Last Battle.  Ill. Pauline Baynes. New York: Bodley Head/Penguin, 1969.  Carnegie Medal Winner.

“The last book in the Chronicles of Narnia, this is the final confrontation between the forces of evil and good.  Once more Aslan and the children triumph, but at a price that may have the listener/reader asking questions.  The ape, Shift, gets a lion skin that he drapes over the donkey, Puzzle, and passes him off as Aslan.  The killing of the Talking Trees and selling of the Talking Beasts into slavery with the Calormines begins.  King Tirian and Jewel, the unicorn, arrive, the King quickly giving himself up to Shift so that he can find out about Aslan.  Two children, Jill and Eustace, come to his aid as the sides of good and evil are drawn once more” (Apseloff 433).  What is significant is that the ape Shift is a negative character who is largely responsible for the fall of Narnia.  He and the Cat are, as Blount points out, “the only delinquent Talking Beasts”:

            Shift, who is lazy, artful, ambitious, and greedy, starts by exploiting the gentle donkey Puzzle and goes on to exploit all the other Talking Beasts by working on their simple, loyal credulity.  In a way, he is a Beast descending into Humanity, for this is what humans do.  Shift even ends by dressing like a human.  The Ape’s aim is to sell Narnia to Calorman.  Only the Cat sees through the Ape’s trickery and connives at it, and is punished in the inevitable way by losing the faculty of speech, becoming witless and wild. (302-303)

1957 The Bride and the Beast

Written by Edward D. Wood and produced by Allied Artists, Frank reports that the film is about “A big game hunter [who] discovers that his wife is the reincarnation of a gorilla--when they go on an African safari honeymoon [and] she regresses to simian form and rejoins her own people.  A really ridiculous monster movie but great (if unintentional) fun.  A dreadful warning against marriage if there ever was one.

“‘...will need lurid advertising to pay odd and unconvincing mixture of hypnotic regression and big game hunting in Africa’. Variety” (24).


1958 Tarzan and the Trappers

“Enforcing the jungle’s code of justice, Tarzan (Gordon Scott) tries to impede the actions of greedy trappers capturing animals for zoos and save a noble chieftain (‘Scatman’ Crothers) along the way.  Also stars Eve Brent.”

1960 Konga

“A crazy biologist uses serum from carnivorous plants to turn his pet chimpanzee into a giant homicidal ape.  Genuinely silly monster movie apes King Kong to the extent of leaving Michael Gough [Dr. Charles Decker] clutched in the giant simian’s paw at the climax--just like Fay Wray!  Strictly, I Was a Teenage Gorilla.

‘Crude, spine-chiller which sometimes verges on the farcical.  Naive script and acting; but effectively eerie camera trick-work’. Daily Cinema” (Frank 87).

1960 Roger Price.  J. G., The Upright Ape.

“By chance, when I was buying Quinn’s book (Ishmael) at Powell’s Books in Portland, I first spotted Roger Price’s J. G., The Upright Ape. This 1960 novel also employs the device of the gorilla as the protagonist.  J. G. is a member of a fictional high-elevation subspecies called the silver gorillas.  His search for his abducted mate, Lotus, in America becomes a vehicle for sharp, witty satire of contemporary culture. ‘For the first time in his life, J. G. was unhappy.  It required great concentration on his part, because it isn’t easy to be unhappy when you have such a tiny brain.’

“Neither author can challenge Schaller’s and Fossey’s gorilla scholarship, but their fictions point to a conclusion that the researchers might recognize: gorillas—gentle, cooperative, environmentally benign—are in some ways better than humans.” (Pyle 311-312)

1961-62 The Hathaways--a T.V. series about a couple who own and exhibit performing chimps.

1963 Pierre Boulle. La planete des singes (Monkey Planet).

“combined speculative fiction adventure with Swiftian social satire” (Greene 2).  Source of idea for the film series.

1963 King Kong Vs. Godzilla

            "In his last years [Willis] O'Brien toyed with the idea of reissuing KING KONG in a film pitting the giant ape against an animated version of the Frankenstein monster.  Attempting to secure permission for the use of the Kong character from RKO, the project was taken out of his hands and licensed to the Japanese Toho Studios, which used O'Brien's concept as the basis for the juvenile film King Kong Vs. Godzilla" (Kinnard 34).  Fortunately O'Brien died in 1962, a year before the resulting film was released in the United States.

“The planet issues a collective shudder as the two mightiest monsters slug it out.  In the Arctic Ocean, Godzilla frees himself from the iceberg prison he found himself in at the end of Godzilla Raids Again, destroys a nuclear sub for a snack, and heads for Japan to raise hell.  Meanwhile, on tropical Farou Island, rare medicinal berries cause an ape to grow far beyond Kong size.  The president of  Japanese drug company (Ichiro Arishima) has the beast captured, with plans to star him on the TV show he sponsors, but the monster escapes en route and swims ashore to raise hell.  Kong is subdued by the berry juice and transported to meet Godzilla, in the hope that the two menaces will finish each other off in a grand duel on Mt. Fugi.  A co-production between Toho and various American parties, this was the first Godzilla (or King film for that matter) to be shot in color and scope. The f/x are not as good as in sequels to follow, but acceptable-though the Kong costume is horrible.  A persistent false rumor—that a different ending was seen in Japan with Kong defeated—makes no sense, as Godzilla is the villain in both versions.  However, Universal drastically changed the original for U.S. release, adding senseless scenes while omitting vital footage, even going so far as to replace the score with stock library music.  AKA: King Kong Tai Godzilla” (Video Hound’s 161-162).

1963 King of Kong Island

1965    The Beast that Killed Women.

“Colonists at a sunny Florida nudist camp have their beach party interrupted

by an escaped gorilla that sneaks into the camp every night to kill women and push guys into the pool.  Director [Barry] Mahon (Rocket Attack, USA), in his first color effort, stretches these panicky moments into an hour of fleshy fun and games, with long stretches of dialogue between heavily accented topless women.  Mostly told in flashback to provide convenient narration.  One of the worst ape costumes in movie history” (Video Hound’s 32).

1965 A Monkey's Uncle.

In which a college student performs a sleeplearning experiment on a chimpanzee.

1966 Lt. Robin Crusoe, USN

Downed pilot and astro-chimp in a labored Disney comedy unworthy of VanDyke, who plays a modern-day…Crusoe, a navy pilot who drifts onto a deserted island, [and] becomes involved with a pretty native girl (Malton).

1966 Monkeys Go Home

1966   Rat Pfink a Boo-Boo

“Features a special guest appearance by Kogar the gorilla” (VideoHound’s 219).

1967 King Kong No Gyakashu (King Kong Escapes) Japan

“King Kong is found on his island in the South Java Sea and ends up battling a robot replica, Mechni-Kong, on the top of Tokyo Tower.  The story barely carries things along but the Toho monsters are an engaging bunch with Kong getting to fight with a dinosaur and a sea monster before dispatching his mechanical rival...” (Frank 86).

1968 King Kong Escapes

A Japanese KING KONG-esque monster is electrified, and "sadly moth-eaten" (Kinnard 89).

1968 Planet of the Apes

Leonard Maltin described the film as “Intriguing, near-classic sci-fi. [Charlton] Heston leads a group of surviving astronauts in shocking future world where apes are masters, humans, slaves.  Only liabilities: somewhat familiar plot, self-conscious humor....  Michael Wilson and Rod Serling scripted from Pierre Boulle’s novel, spawning four sequels and two TV series.  Won a special Oscar for make-up...” (1011).

1970 Beneath the Planet of the Apes

1970 Trog

"Horror film starring Joan Crawford, which concerned a surviving prehistoric ape man discovered by a scientist" and containing "memorable dinosaur scenes" (Kinnard 78).

1971 The Barefoot Executive

Maltin calls this comedy about a chimp, able to pick what will be the top t v shows, who becomes a network vp, "routine Disney slapstick."

1971  P. L. Travers.  Friend Monkey. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985.

"The Linnets, a family much like the Banks [in the five Mary Poppins' novels]; Miss Brown-Potter, a woman very much like Mary Poppins; and a cast of incongruous and endearing characters and creatures--especially Monkey, the all-compassionate, over-loving hero of the book--seem to lose but finally find themselves and each other in a community of love" (Cott 200).  "The Indian monkey god Hanuman…is the inspiration for Friend Monkey" (Cott 216).  "Friend Monkey is all about freeing things from cages," so its essential theme, like Ishmael's, is captivity (Cott 229).

1972 Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

1972 Me and the Chimp--TV series

1972 Dr. Orloff's Invisible Horror

1973 Battle for the Planet of the Apes

a fifth (and last) apes installment attempts to bring entire series full-cycle.  Good footage from earlier films helps....  A TV series followed” (Malton 84).

1973 David Gerrould.  Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  New York:

Award Books.  Novelization of the fifth film in the series.

1974 Octavio Paz.  Mexican.  The Monkey Grammarian.  Trans from         the Spanish by Helen Lane.  New York: Little, Brown, 1990.

1976 A*P*E*

“D*O*G! A*P*E* is thirty-six feet tall and ten tons of animal fury who destroys anything that comes between him and the actress he loves.  The plot doesn’t go anywhere—in fact it refuses to leave!  A U.S.-Korean co-production, this is a cheap rip-off of the Kong re-make which also throws in a rubber shark at the beginning.  The title may have been the distributor’s attempt to sell this turkey as a M*A*S*H-flavored send-up.  As a part of the unsuccessful ‘70s 3-D revival, occasionally something flies at the camera.  The appealing [Joanna] DeVarona plays a movie star who comes to Korea to make some crummy movie, followed by [Rod] Arrants as her reporter boyfriend.  The producers thank the U.S. Army for their cooperation, yet all the officers are portrayed as buffoons.  The second worst looking ape costume in movie history, behind The Mighty Gorga, and the guy inside has no idea how an ape behaves.  Effects are not just cheap, but also poorly planned and executed.  As DeVarona whimpers at the end: “Why? Why?!”  From the director [Paul Leder] of I Dismember Mama (1972)” (Video Hound’s 17).

1976 John Donovan. The Family.  New York: Harper & Row.

Sheila Egloff comments that Donovan’s novel is descended from Aesop’s didactic beast tales and sees it in “the mainstream of escape stories.”  She writes that “it  follows the experiences of a group of apes fleeing the laboratory experiments in transplants for the betterment of the human race.  As didactic as [Adams’] The Plague Dogs [which also takes aim at senseless experimentation of nonhuman animals], it also touts the superiority of apes over humans.  Sasha, the commentator, says of humans:

They are taught at the youngest age to see progress in change.  It is why they get their education, and subsequently set their minds to improving the world.  I dearly love their innocence, it is so sweet and shortsighted.  And their great intelligence, it makes them the most stupid of all animals.  This is another sad truth that all apes know.

....the group of apes does become a ‘family.’  In the end they are defeated by hunters and the weather; and the two remaining have to return to the experimental station.  Donovan’s message is clear and simple” (Thursday’s Child, 114-115; Worlds Within 260).  As Judy Allen-Newberry puts it: “Family speaks clearly in behalf of all animals....Sasha [the narrator] best explains Donovan’s intentions: ’As I am not by ape-nature reflective, I hope the facts that I recount will speak for themselves’” (43).  They do.

1976  King Kong.

“An expedition looking for oil deposits on an uncharted island finds a giant ape which they trap and bring back to New York.  The creature escapes and wreaks havoc until it is killed on top of the World Trade Center.  Glossy, overbudgeted remake of the classic King Kong which abandons all the mystery and fantasy of the 1933 original in favor of a facetious and camped up version that never thrills.  The special effects are dismal in comparison with its predecessor and, instead of Willis O’Brien’s superb animation, most of Kong’s appearances here are reduced to Rick Baker running around in an obvious monkey suit” (Frank 86).

            Kinnard refers to the film, not as "a remake at all, but a spoofy send-up, …so corrupt and so diffused by its negative, low-brow 'camp' approach that it completely dissipated the mythic…potential of the original material" (32).

1976 Wilson Rawls. Summer of the Monkeys.  New York: Bantam

Doubleday Yearling, 1999.

A fourteen year old Ozark farmboy learns an invaluable lesson, not only about monkeys and chimpanzees, but about human values and self-involvement.  The novel brings the science and ethics of Jane Goodall to a situation Ishmael might have arranged for a young student deeply influenced by patriarchial values but also possessing the goodness and love necessary to seeing the world anew. Adults will find the novel interesting and moving as well—at least I did.

            Became the basis of the 1996 film of the same name.

1978 Any Which Way But Loose

            A Warner Brothers film "starring Clint Eastwood and an orangutan identified in the credits as Mantis,…another ape comedy classic."  Eastwood plays tough guy Philo Beddoe, under whose "chiseled Ice Age exterior churns a New Age male sensitivity" for which Beddoe finds no outlet until he meets "Clyde, the orangutan."  Clyde becomes "the barfighter's confidant and foil--at once pet, pal, and sidekick.  Late one night Beddoe and Clyde sit together under the stars; the barfighter…unburdens himself to the ape: 'I suppose you think I'm crazy, traipsin' across the country after a girl I hardly know.  Hell, I'm not like Orville [his best human buddy]….  I'm not afraid of any man, but when it comes to…a woman, my stomach just turns to Royal gelatin.'  Beddoe even takes Clyde to bars for a drink…, and in a moment of enormous inspiration decides that Clyde needs a positive sexual experience ('to get laid'), just like any other normal guy, so they break into a zoo and find a female orang for Clyde.  Discreetly, we are shown Clyde entering a cage occupied by the female of his choice and then the door slowly closing.  Clyde has found his own stuff of dreams" (Peterson 142).

            As with the 1951 Bedtime for Bonzo, the film's "exaggerated anthropomorphism" succeeds in leading the audience to ask questions about the ethics of our treatment of "so human an animal."   Ironically, Peterson discovered that the ape who played Clyde, Popi, was a featured performer in Bobby Berosini's Las Vegas Chimp Act, the subject of a well-know PETA exposé (Peterson 158ff).

1978-81 BJ and the Bear--a TV series in which the Bear is a chimp

1980 Every Which Way You Can

"The orangutan who played Clyde was apparently clubbed to death at the end of that movie [Any Which Way But Loose]" at the training facility called Gentle Jungle, "a Hollywood purveyor of live exotic animals for entertainment," as punishment for misbehavior on the set (Peterson 145-146).

1980 John Berger. “Ape Theatre” in About Looking. London: Readers

and Writers.

1980 David Brin.  Sundiver: An Uplift Novel.  New York: Bantam.


Although humans, genetically enhanced dolphin, and other galactic species are featured in this first Uplift novel, one genetically altered Chimpanzee, Dr. Jeffrey appears early in the novel.  He is "the first of his species to become a full member of a space research team": "two centuries of genetic engineering had wrought changes in the skull and pelvic arch, changes modeled on the human form….  He looked like a very fuzzy, short, brown man with long arms and huge buckteeth" (77).  His thumb had been altered but he is still able to communicate only with the help of a computer keyboard.  Still he is skilled enough to pilot a Sunship, a solar probe, and has a well-developed sense of self.  There is real grief among his various colleagues when "Scientist-Chimpanzee Jeffrey's Sunship [is] destroyed in the chromosphere of [Earth's] Sun!" (110).

            As it turn out, the tragedy is the work of the Pila Bubbacub, a member of one of the old Galactic races, "a representative" of the prestigious Galactic Uplift Institution, to whom "Jeffrey represented a abomination…, a species that had been uplifted a mere hundred years before and yet dared to talk back" even to Bubbacub! (224).  He

Hated what chimpanzees represent….  Along with dolphins, they meant instant status for the crude, vulgar human race.  The Pila had to fight for half a million years to get where they are…. (224-225)

For more on Brin's concept of Uplift and its effects on the great apes, see the other novels of the series: Startide Rising (1983), The Uplift War (1987), Brightness Reef (1995), Infinity's Shore (1996), and Heaven's Reach (1998).


1980 Michael Crichton. Congo.


Unlike the real Congo, Crichton’s Congo is bursting with gorillas.  First, there is Amy, a fast maturing female mountain gorilla who is really the novel’s leading lady.  Amy has, under the guidance of primatologist Peter Elliot and the staff of Project Amy, acquired a signing vocabulary of 620 words.  Her dream-inspired finger-paintings, mysteriously reminiscent of a 1642 Portugese print of the Lost City of Zinj, lead to Elliot and Amy joining forces with a field expedition from the Huston-based Earth Resources Technology Services on the trail of rare blue diamonds valuable as superconductors.  The expedition encounters both the mountain gorillas with whom Elliot hopes Amy might serve as ambassador and what appears to be a new species of gray gorilla, warrior apes, developed and bred by the people of the Lost City to guard their diamond mines.  Apparently after a rebellion against their masters, these gray gorillas continue to protect the Lost City from all who venture too close.  Like Amy, these apes sign but use their gestures only to supplement a spoken language that Elliot guesses may be the result of their former masters’ primitive experiments in interspecies breeding.  Just as Amy represents the good gorilla of contemporary literature, the gray apes represent the fearsome and brutal ape of legend and folk tale--with a typical Crighton twist or two.  First, except when their boundaries are threatened, the gray apes are typical peace-loving and family-oriented gorillas.  And, second, what will be the effect on the culture of the mountain gorilla when Amy’s offspring, fathered by wild gorillas and taught by their mother to sign, interbreed with other wild gorillas and signing becomes part of their culture?  Or, indeed, what will happen “‘when circumstances may force some human beings to communicate with [nonhuman] primate society on its own terms.  Only then human beings will become aware of their complacent egotism with regard to other animals’” (253).


1980 The Hairy Ape


1980 The Ivory Ape--attempt to prevent the capture of a albino gorilla.


1980 Warren Zevon “Gorilla, You’re a Desperado.” Released on Bad Luck in Dancing School, Warren Zevon, Elektra 60561-2.


Big gorilla in the L. A. Zoo                                        

Snatched the glasses right off my face

Took the keys to my BMW

Left me here to take his place


I wish the ape a lot of success

I’m sorry my apartment’s a mess

Most of all, I’m sorry if I made you blue

I’m betting the gorilla will, too.


They say Jesus will find you wherever you go

But when He’ll come lookin’ for you, they don’t know

In the meantime, keep your profile low

Gorilla, you’re a desperado


                        He built a house on an acre of land

                        He called it “Villa Gorilla”

                        Now I hear he’s gettin’ divorced

                        Layin’ low at L’Ermitage, of course


                        The the ape grew very depressed

                        Went through Transactional Analysis

                        He plays racquetball and runs in the rain

                        Still he’s shackled to a platinum chain


Big gorilla at the L. A. Zoo

Snatched the glasses right off my face

Took the keys to my BMW

Left me here to take his place


1980 The Wild and the Free--two researchers study chimps


1981 Going Ape!


“BOMB D: Jeremy Joe Kronsberg....  Inept comedy, with [Tony] Danza set to inherit $5 million if he cares for a trio of orangutans.  Directional debut for screenwriter Kronsberg, who also penned Clint Eastwood’s EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE--with an orangutan prominently featured” ( Maltin 497)  


1981 Maureen Duffy. Gor Saga.


Stableford rightly calls the basis of the BBC mini-series Gor (1988) a "speculative novel."


1981 Tarzan, the Ape Man


“Bo Derek as the swinging-est Jane yet in this sexy version of the legend.  Dry, wet or undressed, Bo will steal your heart and bulge your eyes.  No wonder hubby screams, ‘ah uhh-uhh ah-uh!’  Miles O’Keeffe, Richard Harris co-star.”


1981 Jane Yolen. The Boy Who Spoke Chimp. Ill. David Wiesner. New York: Knopf.


"This story, set in California, is told in the third person by a twelve-year-old

boy named Kriss….

"Kriss is hopeless in the woods, so his parents are sending him to camp in

his grandmother's backyard near Big Sur.  Planning to ride as far as Soledad

and then hike the rest of the way on his own, Kriss leaves early and alone for the

bus station.  He does not have enough money to ride the bus, so he hitches

rides and makes it to Route 1, running along the coastline, where he is picked

up by a driver in a white van.

      "The van contains chimps from the UCLA Language Lab that can talk in sign

Language.  A radio warns that an earthquake is predicted, but Ed, the van

driver, says it will only be a little tremor.  An enormous earthquake hits, cars are

overturned, and the road becomes a mass of tumbled blocks.

      "Kriss and the chimps escape from the van and begin walking.  Before long

One of the chimps is killed when the bank it is standing on gives way.  Kriss and

The other chimps break into a cabin to get a little food.  They are joined by an old Man and meet another chimp from an abandoned pet shop.  The old man is ill and Kriss lights a fire to help keep him warm.  This attracts a helicopter that

rescues Kriss and the old man.  The chimps are left behind." (Exploring the

World of Animals [1997. Teacher Ideas Press] 94).


1983 David Brin. Startide Rising: An Uplift Novel.  New York: Bantam.


Although, as in Sundiver (1980), only one chimpanzee character appears, Charles Dart, a paleontologist, holds his own among Brin's neodolphins, humans, and other less familiar galactic citizens.  He is a more central and complex character than Dr. Jeffrey, although their shared characteristics mark each as markedly chimpanzee despite their genetic enhancing.  Dart, unlike Jeffrey, can speak ("At his best, Charles Dart sounded like a man speaking with gravel in his throat.  Sometimes, when he had something complicated to say, he unconsciously moved his hands in the sign language of his youth"--73).  Not a particularly sympathetic character as are most of Brin's chims and neo-chimpanzees, he is obsessed with his work and his self-importance.

            While the crew of the Streaker struggles to avoid detection by other galactics in the seas of Kithrup, Dart wants only to explore the subduction zone he has discovered on the planet.  In order to reach the depths of the subduction, he plans to split it open with a small A-Bomb, thus endangering the indiginous life on the planet as well as his own crewmates. His determination to have his work recognized as being "on a par with any human!" comes from a sense of ultimate rejection as a scholar.  Once he had reached what he had thought of as success--memberships in "all the right professional societies," enthusiastic responses to the papers he presented on earthquake activity in Chile, California, and Italy; and good job offers, it came to him that much of what he'd assumed was acceptance was "tokenism."  And that, plus plain old fashioned speciesism, explained why no graduate students sought to study with him when his human colleagues were overwhelmed with eager candidates (397).  This may be Brin's way of suggesting some of the problems to be faced should chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas be acknowledged as the equals of humans in our own time.


1983 Mr. Smith (TV series featuring a talking orangutan.  Balaban)


1984 Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes.

“The 1984 film ... alters Burroughs’ narrative extensively and yet recaptures some of its original potential to consider radical change.  The most remarkable part of the movie is its opening--long sequences without language that show Tarzan being raised by apes and entering into intimate, loving relations with them.  This Tarzan, on screen for long periods of time, acts completely within ape norms.  He believes apes worthy of respect, love, fear, and consideration (as we all believe ‘our kind’ worthy).  And his early patterns reassert themselves even after he has learned English speech and customs and assumed his role as heir to the Greystoke fortune.

                        “The movie’s turning point (burrowed, perhaps, from a similar scene in The Son of Tarzan) comes when Tarzan finds his stepfather among the apes brutalized in scientific experiments and helps him to escape.  When the ape is killed by policemen, Tarzan’s commitment to English culture vanishes; knowing this, Jane releases him back to Africa, and we last see him reentering the forest to rejoin the apes among whom he was reared.  This Tarzan has learned the only serious lesson Burroughs was ever willing to draw from his Tarzan series: the lesson that man alone among living creatures kills wantonly and that comparisons between men and beasts often insult the latter.

                        “The film’s animal sequences stress what has always been an essential component of the Tarzan stories--ultimate harmony between humans and animals, human and nature, without troubling relations of hierarchy and Otherness.  In these sequences (as at moments in the Tarzan series) Tarzan talks to the animals and has friends among them.  Like the animals, he lives by clear-cut rules.  Wanton killing is unknown, except when male apes go berserk, as they occasionally do.  Males and females known their places and the duties appropriate to their gender; species keep their distance.  But the sequences need to amplify on what is actually found in the texts of the Tarzan novels....oneness with animals and with nature is only brief and intermittent in the Tarzan stories and does not drive their plots as his relations with Europeans, Africans, women, and various Others do.  In the novels, Tarzan does return to the apes or go off into nature alone several times, but always to realize that he can’t go home again....  The film is useful in pointing out alternative possibilities in the Tarzan story, possibilities that the novels themselves were unable or unwilling to fully explore.  The harmony the film’s animal sequences invoke is a vision of seamless unities very much a part of postmodernism’s melange of views and desires concerning the primitive--a seamless unity  we sometimes project onto primitive life but have difficulty either finding, or documenting, or preserving within our own culture.  If the film is true to its utopian impulses, this film (unlike earlier Tarzan films) will have no sequel, for Tarzan will have passed through and beyond the social systems humans have made.” (Torgovnick  71-72)

Peterson calls Greystoke a "reasonably realistic film about apes" which "emphasizes psychological continuity and raises the image of interspecies communication."  Partly filmed in Camaroon, the adult gorilla characters "were actually humans in multimillion dollar sculpted outfits that included mechanized and sometimes remote-controlled parts (eyes, for example)."  The baby gorillas were chimpanzees with added fur!  (140)


1984 A Summer to Remember

The friendship between a deaf boy (Justin Gerlis) and an orangutan is established through sign language.  Good supporting cast: James Farantino, Tess Harper, Louise Fletcher.

1985 Carol Hill.  The Eleven Million Mile High Dancer.  New York:Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Although the novel's main characters are a human, Amanda Jaworski, "a sexy subparticle physicist and 'America's leading lady astronaut'" and her beloved cat, Schrodinger (who is, indeed, alive and dead at exactly the same time!)--and who is, according to Washington Post reviewer Grace Lichtenstein, "perhaps the best-realized animal in recent popular fiction," the brainy chimp 342 is also a fully and realistically realized character who plays a crucial role in the novel's theme and plot.  He recalls the chimps used in NASA space experiments as he and Amanda--"'sponsored by the entire military establishment of the United States and utilizing all of technology'"--chase to the moon after Schroedinger.  They are finally successful, not because of military might and technology, but because they are protected by "a young boy and a magic ring..and…by the cat" himself (Lichtenstein 6).

1986 Timothy Findley.  Canadian.  Not Wanted on the Voyage.  New York: Delacourt.

Findley’s novel tells the story of Noah’s Ark from the point of view of those creatures Noah did not include among the “clean” animals.  Narrated by his wife’s blind cat, who is one of the unwanted, events lead inexorably to the reader’s discovery that, far from saving the world, the voyage destroyed what was valuable in the world--enchantment, the unicorn, fairies, and man’s sense of unity with the rest of creation.  The apes here are the children of Noah and his wife and sons and daughters-in-law who are throwbacks to the evolutionary past they have come to deny.  Rather than being “bestial,” these children are peaceful and loving. And are born under a death sentence, for Noah has decreed that each one shall be destroyed at birth, an order Mrs. Noah has ignored now and then, putting her into the camp of the unwanted along with the cat her husband, the master scientist and rationalist, blinded in an experiment.

1986 King Kong Lives

1986 Link (British)

"Good chimp/bad chimp.  Primatologist [Terence Stamp] experiments on chimps…, and activities get out of hand.  A horror film that misses being horrifying, suspenseful, or entertaining" (Maltin).

1987  David Brin.  The Uplift War.  Bantam.

Genetically enhanced Chimps and Gorillas appear as major characters in this novel dedicated to Jane Goodall, Sarah Hrdy, and Dian Fossey.  The chims here are fully the equals of their human patrons and have themselves been instrumental in uplifting gorillas on the planet Garth.  Unlike the chims, the gorillas (like Quinn's Ishmael) choose not to remain a client species, preferring to take charge of their own evolution and remain much as they have been in their native habitats on planet Earth.  This forces the human protagonist to acknowledge that gorillas "were not just big chims but a completely different race, another path taken.  A separate route to sentience" (329).  Even the chims question (as do the neodolphins in other Uplift novels) whether Uplift "had really been such a good idea…, making engineers, poets and part-time ecologists, starfighters, galactic sociologists out of chimps who might prefer to stay in the forest…free to scratch an itch whenever he damned well pleased" (37).  Although this is an important theme throughout Brin's work, there is another that is even more central.  At the end of the novel, chim Gailet Jones offers an insight that is repeated in the author's Postscript (637):

Our own petty lives, our species, even our clan, feel terribly important…, but what are they next to this [the flourishing of, in this case, the previously fallow planet Garth]?  This nursery of creation?  This was worth fighting for."   (634-5)

1987 Project X

An Air Force pilot is assigned to a special project involving chimpanzees.  He must decide where his duty lies when he realizes the chimps are slated to die.  Peterson describes the film "as an animal-rights fantasy based on a true story" in which the Air Force "subjected at least 3,000 rhesus monkeys…to blasts of radiation up to 200 times the standard lethal dose…and then observed how well and how long they could perform various tasks while they were dying of radiation sickness."  The point was to determine how humans might function under similar circumstances.  The film, "produced by Walter Parkes and Lawrence Lasker,…substituted chimpanzees for monkeys, recognizing that apes would much more fully communicate their own personalities and potential for suffering.  'This is a film about people coming to grips with the fact that nonhumans have emotions and intelligence, and that therefore we have a responsibility towards them,' said Parkes.

            "The central chimpanzee character is a charming young individual, named Virgil in the movie.  He has been taught sign language by a beautiful woman scientist (played by Helen Hunt) before winding up in an Air Force laboratory cage that is opened and closed by a…pilot on probation for being too much of a hot dog (Matthew Broderick).  That a caged chimpanzee can communicate with sign language leads the hot dog pilot to wonder where he came from, which leads boy to meet girl and a mutual love interest to develop, which leads the Broderick character to begin 'coming to grips with the fact that nonhumans have emotions and intelligence, and that therefore we have a responsibility towards them'" (Peterson 147).  And, in fact, Virgil and several of his fellow experimentees escape at the end of the film, flying off in a plane as the flight simulation used in the radiation experiments have taught them to do!  Although they crash in the Everglades, after the rescue attempts cease, the Hunt and Broderick characters spot the chimps close enough by for her to be able to sign to Virgil "You are free" and for him to respond by leading the others, among them young females, off deeper into the wilderness.

            Ironically, despite the pro-chimp messages of the film, Peterson's research provides evidence that the chimpanzees used in the film were mishandled and even beaten by their trainers and that "criminal complaints" were filed "on eighteen felony counts of cruelty to animals against six animal trainers involved in" the Twentieth-Century Fox film (Peterson 148-149). 

1987 Time of the Apes

Japanese-made horror film about a woman and two children thrust into an underground world ruled by intelligent gorillas.

1988 Peter Dickinson.  Eva.  New York: Delacorte, 1989.

After a car crash leaves her in an irreversible coma, 13 year old Eva Adamson wakes up to discover her brain has been transplanted into the body of a chimpanzee.  Her father, a chimp researcher, saw the operation as the only hope to save his daughter’s life.  Having grown up with her father’s “subjects,” Eva in time becomes their champion, determined to save them from exploitation and experimentation and drawn by her new biology to leave the human world and enter the world of the chimpanzee.

1988 Gor  (BBC Three-part production based on Maureen Duffy's novel, Gor

Saga 1981).

Dr. Forester, a geneticist, succeeds in fertilizing a gorilla egg with a human sperm--his.  The gorilla, Mary, after aborting several fetuses, gives birth to a hybrid son whom she attempts to kill.  Forester saves the boy, his son, naming him Gordon (Gor) and covering the child’s need for a foster home and then adoption into his own human family with a story about the death of the parents in a car accident.  He believes the child will not survive for long, but in fact he not only survives but sheds the hairy coat with which he was born, becoming indistinguishable from a human child save for the absence of a viable voice-box.  When this latter problem is solved surgically, Gor is adopted by the Foresters and brought up with their daughter Amber, as blond as Gor is dark.  Inevitably the two fall in love; Gor refuses either a life in the military (like his mother, he is not war-like) or the priesthood.  Ultimately, not Forester but Mary the gorilla decides Gor’s fate, although by that time Amber is pregnant with Gor’s child, a boy indistinguishable from a human child save for the absence of a viable voice box.  Familiar themes of genetic manipulation by, if not a mad, then a supremely arrogant scientist.

1988 Gorillas in the Mist

Starring Sigourney Weaver as Dian Fossey, the film stresses "the physical kinship between ape and human."  Peterson suggests the value of stressing, even of exaggerating "psychological and intellectual kinship….  Some of the gorillas…are wild gorillas filmed in Rwanda, in other sequences the gorillas are played by five human actors dressed in ape suits; and when Weaver cuddles a tiny 'gorilla' snatched from poachers, she is really cuddling a baby chimpanzee, provided by a Hollywood animal supplier and plastered with enough makeup and false fur to play the role" (Peterson 140).

1989 Maxine Hong Kingston. Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake

Book.  New York: Alfred A. Knoph.

            Although no ape actually appears in her novel, Kingston claims “I was playing with the idea of the mythic monkey, the saint/trouble maker who brought the Buddist scriptures from India.  He stops in China, but I have him continuing until he comes to America in the ‘60s.  You could see it breaking up the order of the Establishment, making chaos and freedom, trying to do things through trickery” (Denison 10).  Wittman Ah Sing (the obvious allusion to the great American trickster, Walt Whitman, is intentional and telling), the human protagonist of Tripmaster Monkey, is the reincarnation of the mythic adolescent Monkey.  Breaking boundaries is his natural activity.  One of his Monkey fantasies may perhaps be the source of Simon Dykes’ apocalyptic vision in Will Self’s 1997 Great Apes: “‘The curtain opens...the great killer ape in chains sees the audience....  The chains snap....  Swooping Fay Wray up in his mighty arm, he and she swing across the ceiling of the San Francisco Opera House....  The ape is loose upon America.’ ...the proud Chinese King Monkey becomes the hunted King Kong, American movie outlaw beast” (Hyde 352).  “If Wittman has his way, a new American novel and drama will soon appear” (Hyde 354).

            Kingston describes this novel of broken boundaries whose protagonist would combine the spirits of Monkey and Tripitaka and would come “‘singing a new theogony’” (Hyde 310).  What she calls the Global novel is to encourage nonviolent  means to arrive at a nonviolent end and is not conceived solely in terms of human action or drama although it will require humans that have learned “the culture and history of the land” as have the Native Americans, humans who are “root[ed] in the earth.”  Animal helpers like coyotes (the archetypal Native American trickster) and pheasants will appear “miraculously...and will help deconstruct the cities,”  and Monkey, retaining his ancient symbolic powers, will become the intermediary in destroying the boundaries that separate humans from one another and from the other animals (Kingston 38, 39).

1989  Mary Tannan.  After Roy.  New York: Knopf.

Maggie, scientist, teacher, chimp-trainer, determines to recondition the chimpanzee Hilda, the star of a language-learning experiment, raised like a human child.  The plan is for Maggie to spend six months with Hilda in the wilds of D’jarkoume in West Africa, teaching Hilda to fend for herself and to rejoin a wild band of chimps when she comes into estrus.  The novel opens after they have spent eight years attempting to get Hilda, who does not want to return to the wild, to accept the necessity of doing so. 

1990s TV series Quantum Leap


During the 1970s a head injury study sponsored by the NIH led to "a 1990s script for the American television series Quantum Leap--in which a human inhabiting a chimpanzee discovers his head ready to be smashed by a piston for research purposes--some research-industry spokespeople leapt into action, eager to deny any image that so powerfully compared the suffering of humans to the suffering of chimps.  Frankie Trull, executive director of the National Association for Biomedical Research, also complained to the producer.  As Trull wrote elsewhere, having a person enter a chimpanzee's body in a piece of fiction on television might 'reinforce the idea that at least some animals are morally equal to humans'" (Peterson 230-231).


1990 William Boyd. Brazzaville Beach. New York: William Morrow (Barber, 1995).

Though the complicated plot weaves together a number of stories and themes, a major story line concerns biologist Hope Clearwater's experience as an observer of chimpanzee culture at Grosso Arvore, a heavily Jane Goodall inspired preserve with a very un-Goodall Eugene Malibar in charge.  Far more disturbing than the discoveries Hope makes about cannibalism and warfare among the chimpanzees are Malabar's efforts to dissuade her from believing her own eyes, efforts that escalate as her work threatens to obviate his own.  Questions about the drive to bring new knowledge to light, to have one's name and accomplishments remembered are intensified by the inclusion of Hope's mathematician husband, like Malabar a driven and arrogant genius maniacally dedicated to his work.  Matters of ethics aside, Boyd brings his chimps to life through Hope's eyes so that they both mirror and are more than mirrors of their human kin--something Goodall would approve of, I think.  An interesting article that considers the novel: Allison Sinclair, "Stealing the Fire: Women Scientists in Fiction" ( 9 pp plus bibliography.

1990 David Brin.  Earth.  New York: Bantam.

Apes do not serve as characters here in the sense they do in Brin's Uplift novels.  However, the colony of baboons in one of the Arks--and particularly the young mother Nell and her infant Shig--serve to teach one of the central characters what is the central lesson of the novel:  Nelson "remembered his epiphany on that fateful day in the baboon enclosure…when he first realized that a life without others to care for wasn't worth living" (572).  Another lesson central to the novel and to this bibliography comes in a story recalled by a one of the forest pygmies:

          To the Ete people, the advancing jungle was just another invader to adjust to.  Legend told of many others, even long before the Tall People came and went away again.

                                            . . .

            Now a new invader was seen clambering through the trees.  Chimpanzees, spreading from what had been their last redoubts, were also increasing, returning to reclaim their last ancient range.

            "Are they good to eat, grandfather?"….  Kau thought back, remembering meat he'd tasted in his youth.  It hadn't been all that bad.

            But then he recalled also, when the Ete used to squat at the back of the Lesse village clearing while movies were shown against a tattered screen.  One had been a disturbing tale, all about apes that had talked and yet were misunderstood and abused in one of the Tall People's crazy cities.  He remembered being sad--thinking of them as brothers.

            "No," Kau told his grandson, improvising as he went along.  "They have almost-people spirits.  We'll eat them only if we're starving.  Never before."

            One day, not long after, he awoke to find a mound of fruit piled high beside his hut.  Kau contemplated no connection between the two events.  He did not have to. (352-352)

1990 The Murders in the Rue Morgue

“The classic tale of murder and mystery by Poe is given a chilling adaptation in this stylish thriller.  George C. Scott stars as detective Auguste Dupin, who must track down the killer terrorizing the citizens of Paris.  Rebecca DeMornay, Val Kilmer co-star.”

1990 Alan Russell.  No Sign of Murder.  New York: Walker and Company.

Private investigator Stuart Winter, searching for a missing deaf woman, investigates the gorilla trainer, Dr. Harrison, who directed the missing woman’s teaching the gorilla Joseph to sign.  Since her disappearance Joseph has been morose and shows emotion when the woman’s name is mentioned.  The gorillas Joseph and Bathsheba are treated as complex characters and the problem of their education and upkeep and the ethics of using them in a language experiment are all woven into the mystery of Anita Walters’ disappearance.

1991 The Entertainers--biography of a comedian and his chimp partner.

1992 Daniel Quinn.  Ishmael.  New York: Bantam Turner.

Responding to an ad in a newpaper, the narrator finds himself the student of a wise old gorilla, Ishmael, who offers him the perspective needed to reevaluate his culture story.  The resulting dialogue has become something of a cult classic among those dedicated to battling the myopia of anthropocentrism which has, as the nameless narrator knows, placed the planet and its inhabitants in peril.  The theme of Ishmael's teachings is, he says, captivity.  Of the novel, Robert Michael Pyle comments: “When media magnate Ted Turner announced a large prize for a novel that would point to a positive way out of our environmental dilemmas.  The winner, in 1992, was Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  The title figure is a gorilla who has acquired deep knowledge and the ability to communicate with human beings telepathically.  Ishmael becomes a teacher….  The gist of his lesson is contained in this quotation:

The people of your culture cling with fanatical tenacity to the specialness of man.  They want desperately to perceive a vast gulf between man and the rest of creation.  This myth of human superiority justifies their doing whatever they please with the world…. But in the end this mythology is not deeply satisfying.  The takers [Ishmael’s name for Western humans] are a profoundly lonely people.  The world for them is enemy territory, and they live in it everywhere like an army of occupation, alienated and isolated by their extraordinary specialness. (311-312; see also 1960 Roger Price, J. G., The Upright Ape)

1994 Andy and Linda DaVolls.   Tano & Binti: Two Chimpanzees Return to the Wild. New York: Clarion.

A lavishly illustrated children's book that Merritt Clifton, in a review in Animal People (Dec 1994: 19), believes oversimplifies the politics involved in captivity, animals' rights, and using zoos to conserve endangered species.  The chimps, both born in London Zoo, had their chance to return to the wild in 1975 through the efforts of Stella Brewer at the Gambian Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project.  The success of the effort led to "reintroductions of chimps to Liberia….  Biomedical researchers set up breeding colonies of chimps, many of them former laboratory residents, on isolated islands, with the idea that experiments could be conducted more-or-less where the chimps were, cutting both costs and the impact of research use on the species.  Friends of Animals meanwhile founded an orphanage, hoping to return to the wild some animals taken from smugglers and abusive situations in the U.S.  But both the island colonies and the FOA orphanage were overrun early in the Liberian civil war; many chimps were apparently eaten by soldiers" (Clifton 19).

1994 Columbo TV episode in which a chimp provides proof that the suspect was not at the scene of the crime.

1994  Douglas Preston.  Jennie.  New York: St. Martin’s Press.

            Ads for Jennie call her "one of the most endearing animal heroines of our time."  "Endearing," like "charming," is a demeaning term, and no one uses the word "heroine" without intending to raise questions about political correctness -- unless apparently, the female is nonhuman as Jennie, a chimpanzee, is.  Without intending to demean, such ads reveal prevalent attitudes toward nonhuman animals that are, in fact, part of what Preston investigates in the novel.   For all Jennie's human qualities, she is never presented as anything other than nonhuman.  Her difference from human primates become more and more pronounced as she matures, ceases to be cute, and becomes a sexually mature chimpanzee.  The fascination of the novel is in the tension developed in and among the novel's characters, including Jennie, by her similarity to and difference from her human family and tutors.  The novel, told through excerpts from the writings of and interviews with those humans most involved first with Jennie's being raised as a child and sibling in a human family and then with her becoming the subject of an ASL (American Sign Language) experiment, uses these tensions to raise large moral and ethical questions about primates in particular and all nonhumans by extension.

            Readers familiar with the voluminous literature about language experiments with the great apes; about the use of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans in laboratory experiments and in the entertainment industry; and about the poaching and capture of these primates in the wild will recognize the depth and breadth of the research that preceded the writing of this novel and informs its characterization of Jennie and her human contacts.  From the opening where her mother, fatally poisoned by the arrow of a bushman employed to obtain museum specimens for the researcher who becomes Jennie's "father," Jennie presents the reader with confusions about gender ("endearing" and "charming" are also terms human women have had to overcome), species and, in general,  about Western humans' understandings of nature and the wild -- these are, of course, confusions that have allowed the culture's use and, as is the case here, tragically well-intentioned abuse of the nonhuman (and often of the human as well).  Finally, Jennie like the well-known Elsa and Digit, like the female chimpanzee characters in John Collier's My Monkey Wife, Mary Tannan's After Roy, and Peter Dickinson's Eva, is "sacrificed" in what seems, despite her ASL, to be silence.  Her screams when she is separated from her family and relocated on an island where experimental chimps are released into the "wild," communicate little, or little that can be admitted to, to the humans whose words record her story for the reader.

            Only her human brother, Sandy, and perhaps her human father, Hugo, hear Jennie's final message.  Hugo fails to survive a simple operation soon thereafter.  Sandy turns his back on what another recent primate protagonist, Daniel Quinn's Ishmael (1990), calls the Story of Taker Culture, a story that must be deconstructed if paradigms that allow Ishmael and Jennie to survive are to emerge.  Finally, as seems implicit in Preston's choice of narrative device, the boundaries that separate humans from their animal kin need to be broken down and that can be done only by examining our own human stories and languages for their biases and then by listening to the voices around us, voices that, like Jennie's and Ishmael's, have their own stories to tell. (Copeland 1995; cf review by Cathy Young Czapla in Animal People Dec, 1994:19)


1995 Born to Be Wild

”Rebellious teenager Rick (Will Horneff) befriends Katie, the three-year-old gorilla his behavioral scientist mom…is studying.  When Katie's owner decides she would make a better sideshow attraction than science project, Rick busts her out and they head for the Canadian border.  Animal slapstick and bodily function jokes ensue as the chase continues.  "Free Willy"-inspired plot and primate hijinks should keep the young kids interested, but anyone over the age of nine probably won't be too impressed" (VIDEOHOUND 2000: will attitudes never change?)

1995 David Brin.  Brightness Reef: Book One of a New Uplift Trilogy.  New York: Bantam.

The exiled humans on planet Jijo brought "chimp pets" (14) with them when they came.  Although their "Dark fur framed a face so nearly human that many…gave chimpanzees the courtesy due to full members of the Commons" (28), they are instead treated as precious children, precocious and useful, but not equal.  They are not, however, as the pirates who invade Jijo looking for preconscious species assume, really "Sepay labor….  An old Earth term referring to aborigines toiling for mighty visitors, paid in beads" (238) .  The main chimp character is Prity, a talented but voiceless mathematician, who serves as the friend and assistant of Sara, one of the major human characters.  In part, her status allows her to spy for Sara, drawing figures with a stick to tell Sarah what she has learned.  When one of her warnings is overlooked, leading to an explosion in which she and many others are badly wounded, Sara reconsiders how important her beloved friend is to her.

1995 James W. Hall.  Gone Wild.  New York: Delacorte.

Allison Farleigh, long committed to protecting orangutans from unscrupulous humans, takes her two grown daughters to Borneo to participate in the annual orangutan census.  Prepared to find the great apes even closer to extinction than she had found them the previous year, she is not prepared for the crimes poachers commit against her by killing her oldest daughter, turning the younger daughter against her, and stalking her from Malaysia to Miami.  An expose of the international animal trade as well as of rehabilitation efforts to relocate captive orangs in the wild, Gone Wild also has memorable orangutan characters.  One, a four-year-old living with his rehabilitated captive mother in Borneo's jungle, is captured in a preserve by the poachers who shoot both Allison's daughter and the orangutan's mother.  Like so many nonhuman animal protagonists, he has an identifying mark--a swatch of silver hair, and is a survivor.  Through his eyes the reader experiences the wretched conditions endured by illegally procured animals.  Many of his companions do not survive the separation and shipping that would bring them into captivity.  The novel's other orangutan character, Broom, was the first orphaned orangutan Allison rescued.  Now an eight-year-old and too large and solitary to remain in her care, Broom is an unhappy resident of Miami's Parrot Jungle.  Both orangutans figure prominently in the resolution of the novel and in the authenticating of its Ishmael-like themes.

1996 David Brin.  Infinity's Shore: Book Two of the new Uplift Trilogy.  New York: Bantam.

Prity, who Brin's readers first meet in Brightness Reef (1996), is joined here by other animal characters, horses and neodolphins.  She helps one of the main protagonists, Emerson, who has been deprived of his ability to speak, by example, to use other means to communicate, in the process revealing her own "flair for both math and sardonic hand speech" (59).  She is seen communicating both with her 'agile hands" and with "a pencil clutched in one furry hand, drawing arcs across sheets of ruled graph paper" (394).  Here readers learn that when humans came to Jijo, bringing chimps with them, they "downplayed pans intelligence.  In case the colony were ever found, chims might [therefore] miss a punishment.  Perhaps they could even blend into the forest [as the gorillas choose to do in The Uplift War (1990)] and survive in Jijo's wilderness, unnoticed by the judges of the great Institutes" (425).

1996 Duston Checks In (orangutan)

1996 Ed--chimp mascot of a baseball team becomes its star player,

1996 Peter Hoeg.  The Woman and the Ape: A Novel.  New York:     Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

            Serendipity is sometimes a reviewer’s best friend!  I began reading The Woman and the Ape immediately after finishing David Abram’s The Spirit of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World (Pantheon, 1996) so it was Abram and not other reviewers or jacket blurbs or fond memories of Smilla’s Sense of Snow that prepared me for Hoeg’s newest novel.  This novel is like Smilla only in that its central character is female and Danish, both of which make her an Outsider in the world of her British husband, Adam Burden, a behavioral scientist who treats his wife, Madelene, as a valued and frivolous pet.  The ape of the title is not any known species of ape, educated and socialized like Koko or the latest pygmy chimp phenom.  He belongs to a species not encountered before by Western science, possesses a brain as large or larger than modern man, walks upright, is capable of eye contact, and, although he does not speak at the outset, learns to speak both English and Danish under Madelene’s tutelage once the two have escaped from Adam’s control.

            He is the prize capture of a crew of traders in exotic animals, one Adam Burden hopes to turn into compelling proof of his own scientific acumen.  With the ape’s discovery as his crowning achievement, there could be little argument against his being appointed Director of the New London Regent’s Park Zoological Garden which, like so many modern zoos, will be a center for the protection and breeding of endangered species as well as an educational and entertainment magnet for the public.

            Adam’s sister, Andrea, who heads Britain’s Animal Welfare Foundation, tells Madelene that “biologists calculate that this city [London] contains more than thirty million nonhuman creatures, representing 10,000 separate species.  They put the animal biomass at 350,000 pounds per square mile.... there are more animals in London than in any British oak wood....  London is one of the largest habitats for nonhuman creatures on this earth.”  Interesting in its own right because metropolises world wide are, in fact, inhabited by thousands of species, the fact becomes basic to the novel’s theme which Madelene utters when she first conceives of a plan to free the ape, Erasmus.   She saw that “the principle of the city....had totally enmeshed the globe.  There was no longer any outside for the ape at her elbow.  Any zoo, any game reserve, any safari park whatever was now contained within the bounds of civilization.”  She tells Erasmus that “If there’s any freedom to be found it’ll have to be on the inside.”  Unfortunately, however, it also becomes clear that London -- the city -- is not a natural habitat but a machine.  It, not the natural world, is the “factory for the manufacture of suffering” which Andrea Burden claims God, like most behavioral scientists a bit “slow on the uptake,” had created.

            After some truly funny scenes as Madelene and Erasmus escape, St. Francis Forest, “the London Zoo’s private wildlife reserve, the largest zoological breeding and research center in Europe,” becomes their sanctuary and the setting for the interspecies love and sex that has so titillated some reviewers.  Far from being “Ray Bradbury for Vikings,” The Woman and the Ape is an environmental fable with a jolting message.  Our large brains are turning the planet’s natural environments into machines unsuited for the survival of living creatures  The novel suggests that our only hope for a future would be the evolution of a species that retains the powerful roots in the natural world that Abram refers to as the spirit of the sensuous and would therefore be able to reverse the process by which London has transformed the globe.  Perhaps one should, however, find fault with Hoeg’s romantic and anthropocentric decision to make that savior species one so like ours that at the end our genes will mix with its, as Madelene’s genes do with Erasmus’ as they leave England to sail to the undiscovered land of the ape’s origin, a land which can only exist if, in fact, there still is an outside, a place that has remained nature and not machine. (Copeland 26)

1996 Gary Kern. The Last Snow Leopard.  Michigan State University: The Ghost Dance Press.

            Although the focus of this challenging novel is the rare and elusive snow leopard, a mutant chimp named !Kook is one of its narrators.  Kern, himself a translator, editor, historian and critic of Russian literature, tells the reader in a Postscript that he found the manuscript of the novel in a trash-heap, all of it but !Kook’s autobiography handwritten on computer paper.  He is, Kern claims, only its editor.  His intrusions in !Kook’s tale of his exodus from Africa with a Jane Goodall type, his acquisition of sign language in Britain under the tutelage of a Brenda Wasco, and his escape into the wilds of the Western USA are slight.  Kern juxtaposes !Kook’s story to the stories of the novel’s other human and nonhuman characters and adds “a few references to Russian literature” which might well have been part of !Kook’s (or Ishmael’s) curriculum (Koshchenko’s Adventures of a Monkey; Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog; and Kafka’s Report to the Academy in which an ape not unlike !Kook offers his judgment of humankind).  !Kook’s own reading, once he acquires language and learns to write and read but never to speak, contains an equally suggestive bibliography for students of autobiography and of the role of the nonhuman in human literature: Gilgamesh, Lucien, Apulius, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Kipling (!Kook comments that, unlike Mowgli, adolescence has not turned him into a patriarchal tyrant), Moby Dick, Call of the Wild, the Chinese novel Monkey, other Kafka works, Penguin Island,  War of the Newts, Henderson the Rain King, Giles Goat-Boy, and, of course, Quinn’s Ishmael.  All of these works support the thematic emphasis of The Last Snow Leopard (and Ishmael), condemning the destruction Western culture has visited upon itself, other species, and planet Earth.

1996 Peggy Rathman.  Good Night, Gorilla. Putnam.

A gorilla follows the zookeeper as he bids his charges goodnight, releasing each one as they go.  They all follow the keeper to his house and bedroom where Gorilla snuggles in with the zookeeper’s wife who leads the whole parade back to the zoo (This has obviously happened before and she knows exactly how to cope with the tired, affectionate animals).  The gorilla returns home with her, settles down in the bed between the couple who bid him and young readers goodnight!

1997 K. A. Applegate. The Predator (Animorphs Series)

            The premise of Applegate’s series is that five teenage friends, on their way to the mall through a forbidden construction site, are possessed by the Andalite’s gift, the power to morph, to transform themselves into any animal they touch.  This is a Contact era version of Merlin’s magic which allows the boy Wart (the young King Arthur) to morph/shapeshift in T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone and other similarly fueled fantasies, all of which have more predictably positive results than the manmade morphs of various mad scientists in 20th century science fiction films and novels.  In the fifth volume of the series,  The Predator, the animal form assumed to fight the evil alien force, the Yeerks, is the gorilla. Although admittedly popular young adult novels, this series brings human relationships to other animals to the forefront.  Warm-blooded mammals, especially the gorilla, are comfortable morphs.  The cat is less comfortable, and cold-blooded creature like lizards and alligators even less so.  The most frightening morph proves to be the social insect which faces the human with a world wholly alien to the human mind.

1997 Robin Cook.  Chromosome 6.  New York: Berkley Books,


Like Fitzhugh's Organ Grinder (1998), Cook's thriller uses the demand for organ transplants as a device for exploring themes of greed and captivity.  An international corporation, GynSys, is involved but Cook implicates the medical establishment as well as research scientists and corporate CEO's.  Here the experimental apes are bobobos but they are, like Fitzhugh's baboons, transgeneic and have evolved as a result even closer to humans, very close their creator guesses to Lucy.  They are less matriarchal and peaceful than bonobos.  The plot brings together a team of NY City pathologists and the GynSys researchers whose work is located at a primate center in Equitorial Guinea.  After raising all the relevant ethical issues, the new bonobos' creators, molecular biologist, Kevin Marshall, and reproductive technologist, Melanie Beckek, risk their own lives to see that the apes are freed in the vast rain forests surrounding the center to seek their own future.  The message here is clear as is the warning about the unknown dangers of transgenic research.

1997 Alison Hawthorne Deming, "Essay on Intelligence: Three"

in The Monarchs. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP.  Also in Verse

and Universe: Poems About Science and Mathematics. Ed. Kurt Brown. 

Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 1998. 180-181.

After many years of language training

In the Yerkes Primate Lab (our animals

have indoor/outdoor access and may

withdraw from lessons at will) Sherman

the chimp, after correctly categorizing


            socket wrench








as either food or tool

used the incorrect lexigram

to classify a sponge.


The chimp has one hundred keys

to choose from.  First, he was

asked to sort food and tools

into two bins.  Later,

instead of bins, to press

the lexigram for food or tool.


He could string lexigrams to say






            of banana


Sherman's apparent mistake

was subsequently read

as the interpreter's

misunderstanding of the animal's

intent.  An active eater,

Sherman is prone to

Sucking liquids from a sponge,

often chewing and swallowing

the tool as if it were food.


1997 Daniel Quinn.  My Ishmael: A Sequel.  New York: Bantam.

            Quinn’s title for this sequel to Ishmael (1992) lends the clue essential to understanding the theme of My Ishmael.  The relationship of the novel’s 12-year-old narrator, Julie Gershak, to her gorilla mentor is a jealous one.  She takes an instant dislike to his other current student, Alan Lomax, the narrator of the original novel because she is reluctant to share Ishmael with him, and, in fact, she doesn’t, refusing to allow her sessions to coincide with those of this “dark, intense,” conservatively dressed man who seems to her about her mother’s age and has “‘intellectual--keep your distance’ written all over him.”  Ironically, the really possessive student turns out not to be Julie but Lomax as the reader learns (and possibly remembers) when Ishmael is forced, by the death of his benefactor and former student, Rachel Sokolow, to leave the office building where both Lomax and Julie have served their apprenticeship.  The daughter of the man who originally discovered Ishmael’s genius and bought him, Rachel had been a student of the gorilla from the time of her birth and his messenger until the time of her death. 

            Ishmael knows his students well-enough to be aware that, although Julie may be jealous of his time, it is Lomax who, appraised of the gorilla’s departure, will display a possessiveness that, given free rein, would return Ishmael to captivity in order to keep him.  Ishmael makes it clear in the original novel that the underlying theme of his teaching is captivity, that his effort is to lead his students to free themselves and then others from living as captives to their culture story’s capitalist patriarchal paradigm.  So it is particularly ironic that Alan Lomax fails to see that his plan to “save” Ishmael by buying him and keeping him a prisoner of his need, albeit while caring for him, demonstrates his continued adherence to his culture story.  Therefore, Ishmael knows Lomax is helpless not to stand in the way of his return to the place of his birth and captivity in Africa to rejoin the Leaver culture of the endangered wild Mountain Gorillas.

            He also knows that Julie, although also loath to lose her teacher, would never attempt to subvert his plans. He literally trusts her with his life.  She instinctively understands that he is well aware that he may not survive in the wild, may not be accepted by a gorilla band, may fall prey to poachers, but she respects him (and herself) enough to allow him to make his own choices and to help him in whatever way she can.  As it turns out, Julie becomes key to the success of Ishmael’s plan, in the process demonstrating that she will be both a good teacher and an able bearer of Ishmael’s message to the world (which Alan Lomax becomes, too, after he believes Ishmael had died and can let him go).  For both, writing the story of their apprenticeship becomes the first step in their own curriculum, their first contact with those who are to become their students and carry their version of Ishmael’s message to the world.  

            Alan Lomax was too absorbed by what Alan wanted to be able to give any thought to what Ishmael wanted.  Worse than possessive, his unwillingness to allow Ishmael to move on and to move on himself threatens his usefulness as Ishmael’s message-bearer.  The reader comes to understand that Ishmael’s plan to thwart Lomax is as much to free the man to take on the burden of his message as to assure Ishmael’s own survival or freedom.  It remains for Lomax to learn from Julie’s story why others cannot be bought  or owned or kept in captivity even if it is a protective captivity.  It will undoubtedly be a painful lesson just as the lesson learned in Quinn’s second novel, The Story of B (1996) is a painful one.  And Julie’s education will continue as she reads first Alan’s and then B’s versions of Ishmael’s story and writes her own at 16, publishing it when she is 18 and the political situation in the countries that border on Ishmael’s territory make it safe to share.  Patience and timing are crucial skills for any teacher to learn.

            There is more in My Ishmael about the gorilla’s theory of education than would have interested Lomax, who has completed his culture’s curriculum, since Julie is still in public school and very much involved in the existing system.  Perhaps for the same reason, there is also a clear statement of the value system Ishmael believes his students can learn from observing Leaver cultures like those of indigenous humans and nonhumans like the gorilla: Julie becomes more open to the wisdom of our “neighbors in the community of life” than most students would be because she has done less forgetting of her original ties to nature and the planet than Ishmael’s adult male students have been led to do.  She even comes to understand what seems to be the hardest thing for Western patriarchal cultures to accept: that there is no one right way for people to live and that no one has the right to impose unwanted values and beliefs on another individual or culture. Unlike Ishmael, which ends in Lomax’s despair over the gorilla’s death and his own loss, My Ishmael has a positive ending.  This is obviously intended to provide proof of the wisdom of supposing that a little child may well lead us into a sustainable future that will allow both Ishmael and his kind and our kind to survive and be happy.

1997 Will Self. Great Apes.  New York: Grove Press.

            In The New York Times Book Review’s “Notable Books of the Year 1997” (7 Dec 1997), Great Apes is described as “The seventh book of a death-defying British satirist [.  It] proposes a world of civilized chimpanzees, in which a celebrated artist registers his alienation by suffering delusions of humanity” (62).  Self’s narrator, a chimpanzee psychologist obviously inspired by Oliver Sacks, is called upon to treat a well-known chimpanzee artist who thinks he is human in this clever and affecting satire, a kind of updated Planet of the Apes. 

            In the “Author’s Note,” W. S., who identifies himself as a chimpanzee novelist, explains that his decision to create a human protagonist was directed by the great tradition of satire.  His  goal?  To promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of humans, thereby improving the conditions under which domesticated humans, especially in research facilities, are kept.  He is anxious to have his readers give “the whole question of animal rights their fullest attention” and “to consider enlarging the franchise of chimpunity to admit subordinate species, such as humans.”  Self’s novel uses its chimpanzee protagonists, including the artist Simon Dykes (whose delusion that he is human powers the plot), for exactly such purposes in terms of enlarging the anthropocentric franchise to admit the other Great Apes.  In the process it is hard for the reader to ignore just how close to and yet how distinct from chimpanzee culture human culture is.  His conceit, once acknowledged, is simple: chimps rather than humans have evolved to produce a technologically and intellectually complex culture by the 21st century.  Self underscores this reversal by a “further reversal of domesticated species [16 hand dogs live in the chimpanzee’s stables while lap horses share their homes]..., adding a further half-twist of weirdness to the [human/chimp] reversal....” 

            The depth of Dykes' delusion (and Self’s satire) demands the reader’s attention -- perhaps even a second or third reading, since most readers initially deny their own primate, indeed their own animal identity.  Reading a work like philosopher Barbara Noske’s Beyond Boundaries: Humans and Animals carries Self’s thesis from fiction to reality with startling effect.  Regaining the relationship makes reading Great Apes an easier if not necessarily more comfortable experience.  Questions are inevitable.  Is Self (or W. S.) right that our innate need to be touched/groomed, as gorillas and chimps groom, has been sacrificed to our denial of our primate identity, leading to the need for drugs and kinky sex as an excuse to touch?  Premature babies, denied touch, fail to thrive.  What else, essentially human, perishes without a cloth mother in the behaviorist-psychologist’s lab of a civilization the novel exposes?

            The satire slices to even deeper nerves.  Chimp or human, 21st century civilization seems inevitably to be a realization of “Lang’s vision [in Metropolis] of an inhuman, urban [world], ruled by the Moloch of machinery” in which individuals are the clogs.  It is that vision--

the twisting and distressing of that body by the metropolis, by its trains and planes, its offices and apartments, its fashions and fascisms, piazzas and pizza parlours--

that has become the subject of Dykes’ paintings and perhaps, as well, the cause of his denial of his body and identity.  In this Self echoes the warnings of Peter Hoag’s 1996 apocalyptic novel Woman and Ape although, unlike Hoag, Self makes use of his extensive knowledge of apes in film and literature.  Self’s readers will be led to reconsider the implications of works as varied as King Kong and Thomas Love Peacock’s Melincourt.  Dr. Busner’s therapy to reawaken Simon Dykes’ chimpunity includes gathering together all “the works of theoretical anthropology, field studies, fictional works....films, television documentaries, still photographs” that examine the human--all reversals of works depicting the chimpanzee or other great ape from Edward Topsell’s 1699 anatomy to Jane Goodall to all four of the Planet of the Apes videos and relevant websites, all obviously sources Self himself utilized in researching his subject to establish the verisimilitude essential to his satire and theme.

            Along the way Busner, the chimp Oliver Sacks, provides the psychological theory appropriate both to understanding his patient and to reading Self’s novel: “an inter-subjective ... approach, somehow to...see the world with his eyes,” to enter the protagonist’s story as the protagonist, “actively deconstructing the ideological categories that surround our notions of disease [and species].”  Concern is expressed for the suffering of veal calves and others slaughtered for food, for the imminent extinction of both the whales and wild humans (i.e. great apes).  As in Hoeg, there is need for another Ark “to sail a menagerie away from the inundation of the city.  Ground it again on a greenfield shore, where evolution could begin anew.”

1997 George of the Jungle.

People Magazine called this film “A wonderfully wacky comedy...impossible to resist!”  George, king of the African jungle, has a menagerie of animals as his best friends, which include Ape, the genius gorilla, and Shep, an elephant.

1997  Buddy

Entertainment Weekly’s Mike D’Angelo (16 Jan 1998) warns that “This fictionalized account of socialite Trudy Lintz ([Rene] Russo), who maintained a menagerie on her Brooklyn estate, may look like an adorable kiddie romp, but it has more in common with King Kong than with Going Ape.  The title character, a baby gorilla adopted by Lintz in the 1930s, grows to be an uncontrollable force of nature (a teenager, in short); the resulting violence is probably too intense for small children.  Older viewers will be distracted by the blatant Buddy fakery--he might as well have a sign reading ‘Property of the Jim Henson Creature Shop’ hung around his neck.  (Having him interact with real chimps was a bad move.)  Russo emotes her heart out, but this strange little movie remains a nice try at best” (74). 

            Perhaps the best thing about the movie is where it deviates from history, allowing Lintz to come to her senses about allowing her apes to be apes instead of pseudo-humans and providing them with a protected but relatively natural and ape-appropriate habitat.

1997 William Joyce. Buddy. Harpercollins Juvenile.

A tie-in to the movie, the book captures the art deco feel of the 1930ies and effectively recounts the story of Gertrude Lintz’s collection of animals, whom she treated as people.  The cover illustration features Buddy the 400-pound gorilla in a cashmere coat with Gertrude on his arm!  The Afterword, rather than giving sources and clarifying, prevents the reader from sifting fact from fiction.  Readers might be interested in Buddy’s real story, which is told in Emily Hahn’s Eve and the Apes, pp. 49-83.  It is particularly disturbing to learn that he actually ended his life in Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s circus, advertised as

                                    THE LARGEST GORILLA EVER


                                THE WORLD’S MOST TERRIFYING



                              GARGANTUA THE GREAT! (Hahn 60)

1998 Babe: Pig in the City

At a hotel in "the city" that caters to animals, Babe and Mrs. Hoggett meet the Clown (Mickey Rooney) and his three performing chimpanzee partners, along with various dogs and cats.  The chimps are funny and crucial to the film's outcome--and suggest all the mixed blessings of entertainment as an environment for such beings.

1998 David Brin.  Heaven's Reach: The Final Book of the New

Uplift Trilogy.  New York: Bantam.

In addition to Prity (Brightness Reef [1995] and Infinity's Shore [1996]), Brin introduces a major neochimpanzee character here.  Harry Harms, a scout for the Institute of Navigation, is a particularly skilled explorer of E-Space where "dreaming was part of the job."  Harry's dreams "were filled with spinning dizzying allaphors, which billowed and muttered in the queer half-logic of E Space" (4).  Able to talk, he can describe both his dreams and encounters in this "vast metaphorical realm" (6) where memes "roamed free" and became "palpable ideas" (34).  Nonetheless, Harry

Nursed no illusions about status.  Harry knew this job was just the sort of dangerous, tedious duty the great Institutes assigned to lowly client of an unimportant clan. (51)

 The most troubling problem he faces involves off-duty time since he feels he has no home in the universe, having been born of a pair of chims assigned to Horst, a planet he hates and been schooled on Earth where he felt himself discriminated against.  Kazzbeck Base, his latest assignment, has become familiar, but he is the only one of his kind there--so it also is not home:  "the warm physical contact of mutual grooming was the one thing he missed most about his own kind" (233).  After a space accident turns him white and adds a tail to his anatomy, Harry meets humans from Jijo who, though they consider him a very strange chimp, tell him others of his kind live there.  There is to be no Ptiry/Harry alliance (at least not in this trilogy), since ironically Prity and Sara are, just as he reaches Jijo, headed for Earth on the Streaker.  Still, it is clear that Brin feels they all need to rediscover "home, hearth, and low, melodic rituals inherited from a misty past, before [any of them or us] ever trod the road of Uplift or cared about distant stars" (546).

1998 Bill Fitzhugh. The Organ Grinders. Avon.

Included among the best mysteries of 1998 in Salon Magazine's Mystery Roundup. The reviewer summarizes:

Bill Fitzhugh's protagonist, Paul Symon, meets his nemesis--Jerry Landis, the corrupt head of a corporation that is destroying the natural resources of all the land it owns--early in life.  Symon finds it difficult to act and instead writes Landis letters voicing his rage.  Landis is dying of a rare disease that ages him very quickly, and he buys into the latest corporate trend: genetic experimentation on primates--in this case, large baboons--for organ transplantation and trade.  Landis wants to purchase a longer life for himself through technology.  Fitzhugh's hilarious second book presents all the modern-day horrors humans wreak on the planet (and on each other) at a breakneck speed.  The amount of action gives his writing an ironic tone, and you can see events flying at the characters like car wrecks waiting to happen.  Fitzhugh has based these scenarios on real developments in organ transplant research, with which he heads each chapter.  The observant reader will also find the lyrics of the protagonist's namesake--musician Paul Simon--scattered throughout the text (

1998 Jane Goodall. With Love. Ill. Alan Marks. North-South (ages 8

and up).

          “Chimpanzee families have much in common with human ones—rivalrous siblings, loutish teen-agers and overwhelmed mothers, for example.  Jane Goodall’s book ‘With Love’ offers 10 vignettes from her decades of observation of chimps in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park.  The material is rich, giving us both glimpses of Goodall’s seminal fieldwork and stories about common family troubles, which are perhaps more easily told to children through animal behavior than in human terms.

            “ In her research, Goodall has seen a good many soap operas unfold, and she presents them in the unvarnished form that children find so gripping.  There is the tale of Flo, an older mother, and her son Flint, a spoiled, overly dependent brat.  Goodall observes Flint’s demands on Flo and is infuriated, but thinks that Flint gives her reason to carry on.  The youngster wins little sympathy from readers until Flo dies, arousing compassion even for the selfish Flint: ‘Sometimes he pulled at her dead hand, as though begging her to wake and groom him.  Then, disconsolate, he climbed up and sat, huddled and miserable, looking down at his lifeless mother.’

            “ Then there’s Sprout, another ancient female, called upon to defend an aggressive 25-year-old son, Satan, who starts a fight he can’t finish.

            “In addition to tales of dysfunctional families, Goodall draws upon the kinds of caring moments among siblings that leave parents startled and touched when they occur among human children.  Seven-year-old Prof wipes his younger brother’s nose with a bunch of leaves, and Pom, an 8 year-old, heroically saves her baby brother from a deadly predator.

            “There’s also Auntie Gigi.  At 38, without offspring of her own, she provides an invaluable service to the group by adopting a number of orphans in the wake of an epidemic.

“Jane Goodall’s extraordinary respect and affection for the chimps she has lived among since 1960 are conveyed resoundingly in these stories.  Goodall chose Alan Marks for his fine naturalistic illustrations, which, in her estimation capture the spirit of the chimpanzees.” (Finnerty)

1998 Sparkle Hayter.  The Last Manly Man. New York: William


A mystery included in Salon Books' Mystery Roundup for 1998.  Robin Hudson, reluctant sleuth and professional newswoman for All News Network, becomes involved with an Animal Rights group's "plan to rescue a band of missing bonobo chimps" (

1998 Georgette Livingston.  The Chattering Chimp Caper: A Jennifer Gray Veterinarian Mystery.

Catalogue comment: Monkeyshines, moonshine and romance make this 12th Jennifer Gray mystery a delight: It concerns two sisters who are raising a chimp as a child.  The Cromwell sisters are very concerned when their darling Peaches becomes moody and withdrawn. Vet Jennifer tells them it’s probably conflict at home caused by the ladies’ boyfriends.  Then Peaches is kidnapped!  Help Jennifer!

1998 Atsuko Morozumi.  My Friend Gorilla. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (ages 3 to 5)

            “Atsuko Morozumi’s MY FRIEND GORILLA…is an elegant and charming picture book about friendship and tolerance.  Morozumi’s spare text and her luscious pictures will move just about any preschooler from giggles to sadness to a measure of understanding about how good friends are always a part of us.  Adults may get teary-eyed.  When a gorilla comes to live with a zookeeper’s family, the zookeeper’s son is at first scared of the huge creature who sleeps on his bottom bunk.  But gorilla is nice, and soon the boy has a new friend.  Together boy and gorilla go to the park, read books and dream in the trees.  The gorilla even goes to the boy’s birthday party, where he is the largest guest.  Then the cold weather comes, and it is time for the gorilla to go back to Africa.  The boy cries when he says goodbye.  He stays sad until a letter comes one day with a picture of the gorilla in the African jungle.  The gorilla has a baby on his back!  He looks happy, and so the boy is happy too.  ‘I still remember him,’ the boy says on the last page, gazing out his window, looking past the gorilla’s photograph on the sill.  Thumbtacked to the wall is a picture the boy has drawn of himself and his friend, holding hands.  Everyone will adore the illustrations; the best is of the gorilla sitting at the boy’s birthday table alongside nonchalant little girls in party dresses.  Friends, of course, don’t have to look at all like us” (Bumiller).

            Equally addressed in Morozumi’s text and pictures is a respect for the gorilla as gorilla missing in earlier children’s books (and in most adult books).  He is not in captivity either at the zoo or the zookeeper’s house and, like Ishmael, can be a friend to man only as long as his identity as a gorilla is respected and retained.  Only on those terms can friendship between the two species exist.  Such texts bring the most important aspects of Ishmael’s message to children early enough to offer some deterrent to the culture story that would teach them to value the gorilla only as a possession without inherent rights.

1998.  The Mighty Kong

“This animated version of the classic King Kong features the voices of Dudley Moore and Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid), and an unforgettable score by Academy Award-winning songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman (Mary Poppins, Aristocats).  Ages 5-up.” (Children’s Book-of-the-Month Mixed Media August 1998: 5).

1998 The Mighty Joe Young

The Boston Globe's movie section refers the film as a "solidly-crafted…remake of the 1949 film about a sensitive gorilla who suggests King Kong's kid brother and is highly unhappy in so-called civilization [captivity].  Charlize Theron is the primatoligist who turns it into a beauty-and-the-beast story, and Bill Paxton is another plus in the role of the guy who wants to rescue them both."  Newsday columnist James P. Pinkerton included the film in the ten best political films of 1998 "judged by their effectiveness…at moving public opinion, however subtly, rather than by their artistry."  Of the film, he writes "'Mighty Joe Young' is a filmgoer-friendly version of Al Gore's sermon on the environ-mount.  The stars are an overgrown but adorable ape and his even more adorable friend, Charlize Theron.  The beast and his beauty pause for little eco-homilies on poaching and endangered species, but never at the expense of the 'Born Free'-ish storyline."  Ishmael would approve!

1999 "'Chimp Channel' Debuts on TBS"

HOLLYWOOD -- It could have been a moment from the Golden Age of  Hollywood.  Two actors were being led to their marks on a sound stage while crew members were wondering if they'd had a lot to drink.

            "Sometimes when they have Pampers on, even through Pampers, if they have to go, they have to go," costume designer Terri Valazza said with a sigh.

            The actors weren't Errol Flynn or John Barrymore but Kenuzi and Jonah, two water-imbibing stars of "The Chimp Channel," TBS' first original sitcom and the first all-simian series since ABC's Saturday morning "Lancelot Link Secret Chimp" departed in 1972.

            Unabashedly lowbrow, the show, which debuts tonight, concerns characters who work at a TV studio.  Among them are schmoozing general manager Harry, vainly handsome leading man Brock, diva Mariana and eager intern Timmy.  Nippets of parodies have titles such as "NYPD Zoo" and "Touched by an Anvil." (The Daily Northampton [MA] Gazette 10 June 1999: D8).


According to a commentary in The TV Guide (23 October 1999: 4), Jane Goodall is "'appalled by The Chimp Channel'" exactly because the training method used "'in any sort of entertainment is typically harsh.'"  After reading Peterson, I would have to agree, but I find the program appalling simply because, in the interests of entertainment and satire, the chimps are made to appear as ridiculous parodies of humans instead of as themselves.

1999 Instinct

"[Anthony] Hopkins has been in the African jungle studying gorillas a little too long, and has turned into apeman, killing poachers threatening his primate friends.  Returned to the U. S. and incarcerated in a mental institution, he's taken a vow of silence.  [Cuba] Gooding is the ambitious shrink who's sent to get the scientist to open up" (VIDEOHOUND 2000).  David Denby writes:

"Somewhere in the universe, there has to be something better than man," Charlton Heston said before he met the furry superior creatures in "Planet of the Apes."  Anthony Hopkins comes to the same conclusion in "Instinct."  Hopkins plays an anthropologist…who lives with the mountain gorillas of Rawanda, accepted by them as a fellow-crerature.  Though he appears to be content, some of us might wonder what two years of hunching, grooming, and scratching in the forest…might do to a man's soul.  In time, Hopkins does go ape and murders a couple of people, but only in defense of his new animal family.  Some years later he recalls these events while he's incarcerated in a Florida prison ward for the criminally insane….  [hot-shot young psychiatrist] Cuba Gooding, Jr., has to get him to speak [only to find that Dr. Powell]….thinks that civilization is a disaster and that man was better off when he hunted merely to avoid starvation rather than to conquer or to make himself wealthy.  "Dominion," he explains sagely, summing up in a single word the faults of advanced life.  We are takers, therefore we are evil.  It is the straight Rousseauian line, announced without irony or historical awareness, and some of us have heard it before, and rejected it before, though New Age guilt-trippers may find it enlightening.  "Instinct." Which was written by Gerald DiPego (from a novel by Daniel Quinn) and directed by Jon Turteltaub, preaches against violence  and then seeks to entertain us with scenes of Hopkins bashing people….  "Instinct" is a whorish movie lusting after purity.  Most of it takes place in the prison and consists of endless soulful confrontation between Hopkins and Gooding.  After a while one longs for a glimpse of this superior nature we've been hearing so much about, but the maountain scenes are disappointingly brief, and the gorillas (played by men in suits) are far too tame (91-9).

            I actually found the film a far better translation of Quinn's novel, by which, the credits tell us, it was "suggested than I had expected.  The themes remain in tact and Hopkins, though he over-acts as Ishmael would not, comes as close as a human probably can to serving as a stand-in for Quinn's gorilla mentor.

1999 Maxine Kumin.  Quit Monks or Die!  Ashland, OR: Storyline Press.

To be totally accurate, this novel is more concerned with monkeys than with apes, but the issues remain salient to the concerns of this bibliography.  Reviewer Laura Jamison wrote that Kumin's fifth novel is "an unusual animal rights mystery" which  begins with the theft of two squirrel monkeys, a mother and her baby, from an experimental lab "where they were intended for use in maternal separation experiments, ostensibly to shed light on human responses to the same trauma".  The Animal Bandits, a fictional organization presented as a 20th century millennial version of the late 19th century Band of Mercy, figures  as a suspect in the theft, but is not, in fact the thief or the murderer of the experimenter who is found dead in the "pit of despair" he devised to test the effects of sensual deprivation (already achieved in the sterile housing the monkeys experience in the lab).  The connection seems clear but isn't, and unlike the Times reviewer, I did not feel the novel was an excuse for a lecture on animal rights.  To be that, it would have to have allowed its primate characters, like Kafka's Red Peter and his many vocal descendants, to become characters in their own right and speak to the reader for themselves.  Unfortunately, that does not happen here.

1999 Tarzan.  Disney Studios.

"…what the Disney artists pulled off with a background-enhancing technology called Deep Canvas looks just as exciting at home as it did in theaters….

            "Take the staggering sequence in which Tarzan rescues Jane from a pack of jabbering baboons.  Here's a long, sustained chase where the characters don't just move across the screen, past layers of flat backgrounds.  They go around, into, and through backgrounds that are themselves animated--yet still look as if they were painted with feathery brushstrokes, not drawn a hard-outlined shapes and then filled in with colors.  …Japanese animated fare has simulated these types of camera moves before, but never in ways that looked this thoroughly three-dimensional, or that blended so seamlessly with regular, static painted backgrounds.

            "….There's a quiet moment where the odd-couple lovers (voiced beguilingly by Minnie Driver and Tony Goldwyn) visit Tarzan's simian relatives.  The camera actually appears to tilt upward in space past the duo, then moves up into the branches to reveal dozens of apes gathered to greet them" (Daly 75).  These effects lend an authenticity to the apes and their environment often lacking in live versions.  As Daly comments, no previous version has surpassed the "emotion of the last scene of Disney's version.  It's a sustained, exhilerating dolly shot, during which Tarzan and Jane bough-surf through the trees past their own unique extended family: Jane's human dad, Tarzan's ape mom, all their animal friends--until they finally arrive at a treetop clearing that's theirs alone"  (76).


Anyone have leads on R. M. Ballantyne.  The Gorilla Hunters or  Alan Dean Foster.   Parallelities? The latter was offered as a selection for the Science Fiction Book Club in 1999, the novel is about a tabloid reporter who reluctantly turns lab-rat for a device that breaks into parallel worlds—and experiences lives and creatures stranger that anything he can write about!  The cover shows him as part of a group of chimpanzee.



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