Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Redrawing the line between Myth & Reality
“Kreegah! Tarzan bundolo”
With a blood curdling scream, a sinewy, half – naked man brandishing a shiny hunting knife drops down from the dense forest canopy above. The unwary creature that has the misfortune of facing this apparition would probably be too shocked to react or resist.
To the uninitiated, it means “Beware! Tarzan kills!” and it is uttered in the language of the great apes by Tarzan, alias John Clayton,Lord Greystroke. He was a creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs and perhaps, to me, the first introduction to the jungles and its denizens. With Tarzan, there was Tantor the elephant, Numa the lion, Histah the python and many more. Bolgani, the great apes, responsible for Tarzan’s development from an English orphan to the Lord of the jungle, were a species of mythical primates not described in any book of natural history.
This introduction to the jungles started at an age when the line between myth and reality was too thin to understand and I worshiped Tarzan as a hero; to such an extent that I carved a hunting knife out of wood, stuck it in my waist band and went about climbing trees!
Tarzan was the first conservationist I came across in my life. He killed to eat or in self defence. No trophy adorned his tree top house though game was plentiful in the dense jungles he lived in.
Years later, in my school, I discovered Kenneth Anderson and the real jungles. They were much closer and their denizens lived in a real world. I learned to differentiate myth from reality from thereon.
Tarzan and Kenneth Anderson were similar in many ways. They treated the jungles and its denizens with reverence. They killed only when an animal was a nuisance or for the pot.
They also taught me the fundamentals of jungle craft. I learnt that an elephant had to be approached from downwind because they had a great sense of smell though they were short sighted; that an animal could be followed in dense jungles by following broken grass or boughs.
It is irrelevant here that I never really got to use those lessons it real life but I was proud of the knowledge I owned.