Frazetta Man
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Basic Information

Frazetta Man (named for the classic fantasy artist Frank Frazetta) is a generic term for sub-human "ape-men" - whether "devolved" from humanity or lost on the way up. They are a popular antagonist in the Pulp Fantasy era, appearing repeatedly in the Conan saga as well as in other Sword and Sorcery tales where they are usually less advanced species … the degenerate versions are more popular in the Cthulhu Mythos and related works and even the grey gorillas of Michael Crichton's Congo may qualify. The Wendol of 13th Warrior certainly do.

In most cases Frazetta Man is violent towards more advanced Man … or at least man, as he is frequently licentious towards more advanced woman … and will exercise his brutal strength, rude cunning and primitive hunting and tracking skills to make up for his lack of anything greater than early stone age technology. If he possesses language, it will generally be ape-like, consisting of grunts, hoots and howls - more advanced versions may even use drums or smoke signals to coordinate their hunting of the protagonists (although mastery of "man's red fire" is not guaranteed for them), but are unlikely ever to learn civilized speech (although again, they may be taught to understand and obey it if "tamed").

Those humans unwise enough to enter their territory are typically hunted down and - if lucky - killed and eaten (see the note about licentiousness above), although occasionally someone (typically a villain) will cow them with a showy display of magic or other powers beyond their comprehension and become a god to the tribe. Otherwise, Frazettic religion seems to involve mainly throwing people into volcanoes and similar things. Shamen are sometimes depicted but frequently do little shamanising. Trading with Frazetta man is almost certainly doomed to failure. Individual ape-men are sometimes depicted as acting as loyal - if brutish - servants to some (usually still villainous) characters, often due to them being carefully raised from an infant … and some such servants will still end up turning on their masters when the plot requires it.

It is worth noting that Frazetta Man bears little relation to what we can tell of the reality of our quasi-human ancestors such as Neanderthals, but the two are often conflated in period works due to ignorance (or merely the demands of plot) - arguably they are more a projection of the author's interpretation of "man as a beast".

Frazetta Man may well replace orcs in settings where an actual orc would not be appropriate. Differs from the schrat, woodwose, sasquatch and similar things in that these tend to lack the same aggression and hostility, as well as they are often more mystical in nature than the Frazetta Man tends to be.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • The ape-men from Lovecraft's The Rats in the Walls are an interesting subversion due to the circumstances in which they were bred … these are very definitely the degenerate kind.
  • For those who like their ambiguity, the Frazetta Man may be a lot more human than not: their savagery is entirely directed at strangers, possibly because humans occupy the uncanny-valley from their point of view (of for some other reason such as historic hunting or, for the degenerate variety, a racial memory of past evils) and amongst themselves they are actually fairly pleasant (if primitive) and behave much like actual Neanderthals are said to have.
  • The "pet apeman" also provides an interesting opportunity for subversion - if one such can be trained to behave in a "civilised" manner, why cannot all of them be? This can be taken in various directions, including the pulp standard of "actually, they can't - the taming is only skin deep and sooner or later they turn on their master".
  • Degenerate examples may also turn out to be similar to Morlocks, or otherwise the remains of a servitor caste from some fallen civilisation. As above, this may have something to do with their hatred for humans.
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