Follow TV Tropes


Frazetta Man

Go To
Frazetta Man in his natural habitat.

Neanderthal Man. Java Man. Peking Man. Piltdown Man. Nebraska Man. Encino Man. Our cousins or predecessors. What were they like? What did they eat, where did they live, how did they behave? What dreams might they have had, what primal gods did they revere? The fact is, most pulp authors just do not do the research, and lump these worthies into a mass of savage, knuckle-dragging thugs: Beast Man. Ape Man. Frazetta Man.

Named for the art of Frank Frazetta, Frazetta Man is the generic subhuman native of the Lost World. He most likely wants our women, and is prepared to pursue them across hundreds of miles of jungle and savanna. He is applied in hordes, can rarely be reasoned with, and basically exists to be triumphed over by Mighty Whitey so the Hollywood Natives may be properly awed.

Your basic Frazetta Man has the wiry build of a chimpanzee, though he is generally around human size if not larger. He'll be covered in hair (usually not fur) and will rarely wield any weapon more sophisticated than a knobkerrie. Seldom if ever will females or children of the species be seen, perhaps explaining his fixation on the Nubile Savage in the Fur Bikini.note  His language, if he has progressed beyond the grunting stage, will be simple and brutal, and his gods will exist primarily to excuse his bloodthirsty nature.


Although we tend to associate this trope with the Two-Fisted Tales and Jungle Opera of the early 20th Century, this trope is actually Older Than Dirt. There are a few very old instances in the Folklore section below, and a sort-of Frazetta Man even crops up in one of the oldest stories in the world.

More intelligent species of Frazetta Man exist, physically little different but typically adorned in primitive jewelry and using weapons as advanced as swords or axes. Such varieties often function as Mooks for the local Big Bad, and may shade over into orcish or Beast Man territory. Compare Killer Gorilla, where non-human apes get a similarly brutal, savage portrayal. See The Morlocks for Frazetta Man's subterranean cousins; where Frazetta Man merely retained ancestral primate traits, the Morlocks developed their atavistic features as an adaptation to living underground (or, in futuristic settings, to living and working in dingy industrial environments). Also see Pelts of the Barbarian, for when primitive humans wear clothes made of fur instead of simply being covered in hair themselves.


Contrast Handsome Heroic Caveman.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Trolls in Berserk are this. A savage horde of primitive beasts who eat everything (including the corpses of their own fallen) in their way and kidnap women and drag them down to their lairs to rape, impregnate and kill them in that order. Some of them are smart enough to use human weapons and plate armour however, something which disgusts Isidro when he first sees them.

  • Dapper, a villain from The Goon, is a gangster who resembles a hulking, apelike caveman. He's pretty smart, though, almost a Genius Bruiser, and definitely a Wicked Cultured Sharp-Dressed Man trying to compensate for his animalistic appearance.
    You see, for an evolutionary throwback such as myself, a veritable cro-magnon if you will, the clothes make the iceman. A linen and silk suppression of my brutish and savage nature. A symbol that I am a cultured, sophisticated, modern man.

    Films — Animation 
  • The sub-humans of Fire and Ice, character designs by Frank Frazetta himself. Unusually for the trope, we see a female one at some point (she appears to be some sort of shaman).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The wendol, apparently relict Neanderthals, in Michael Crichton's The 13th Warrior. This applies more to the book. In the movie it is eventually discovered that the wendol are 100% human, just dressed in bearskins. But they are described by one character as looking like the mating of a man and a beast, so are presumably intended to be a physically primitive human.
  • Trog has the title character as such a being, though he's more sympathetic than most.
  • One Million Years B.C. Features these hairy bipeds in a shadowy bit part.
  • The Land That Time Forgot (a Burroughs adaptation—see below) and its sequel feature various forms of primitive humans from All Cavemen Were Neanderthals to these guys to recognizably modern humans.
  • Moonwatcher and the gang from 2001: A Space Odyssey. They were just your ordinary apes of the savannah until the Sufficiently Advanced Alien artifact taught them basic tool-use and they learned how to fight off predators as a group and use weapons against rival tribes.
  • Although it's intended (in-universe) to be an orc, the denuded skeleton which Frodo in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King trips over in Shelob's lair appears to be a chimpanzee's. This suggests that the movie series' orc designs owe more than a nod to this trope.
  • The hairy orange monster in Big Trouble in Little China, which looks like it's based on the Yeren from Chinese folklore, below.
  • The hostile Wagabu tribe from Quest for Fire are a textbook example: hairy and bestial proto-humans with superhuman strength. The apelike Kzamm are even more primitive. Our three heroes and their own tribe, the Ulam, on the other hand, are a more sympathetic and nuanced take on neanderthals, while the more advanced Ivaka tribe are cro-magnons, who know how to make their own fire.
  • A rare benevolent example appears in the Ray Harryhausen film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger ; called a "troglodyte", it actually looks somewhat more like an ogre, being an eight foot tall, hairy heavy-browed caveman with a small horn atop its head. However, it's explicitly called out as a primitive ancestor of humanity, to the point that the baboonified Prince Kassim can communicate with it. Once it's calmed down and realizes the humans aren't a threat, it helpfully leads them to Hyperborea and then makes a Heroic Sacrifice against the titular giant saber-toothed tiger.
  • In The Neanderthal Man, the titular monster is a dimwitted, hairy brute who runs around strangling people and animals.

  • The medieval European folkloric image of a "woodwose", a primitive human living in the wilderness where the Christian civilization ends, has many similarities with the Frazetta man. Shaggy hair and beard, big club (which due to its stooped posture, could serve as a cane), naked or near-naked—it seems that the modern trope has more to do with the medieval woodwose than with any modern ideas from paleontology or anthropology. They weren't evil, but rather just the antithesis of urban life, law, religion, and everything else that the civilization of that time stood for—occupying a mythological role not unlike that of Fauns and Satyrs, but without the Bacchic associations. One of the Italian words for woodwose was huorco, which is one theory about where orcs got their name.
  • The Chinese have their own remarkably similar spin on the trope in the red-haired "Yeren", also called "wildman". Nowadays it's often considered to be a cryptid in the same vein as Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti.
  • Greek Mythology has the Chromandae, a race of ape-like humanoids who speak a language that is all howls, grunts and screams and have dog-like teeth.
    • The Ancient Greeks also believed that all non-Greeks were a borderline instance of this trope, since to them, all other languages sounded like a primitive gibberish of "bar bar bar bar bar". This is where we get the word "barbarian", marking a very early instance of a culture assuming the inferiority and savagery of all outsiders.
  • The Maero from Maori mythology are a race of apelike Precursors who were driven into the mountains by the Maori, harbour a hatred of humankind due to this and launch attacks on human settlements.
  • While usually seen now as a variation on Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti or a type of werewolf, Malaysian Santu Sakai traditionally fit this trope to a T (except for the sharp bones on the arms and huge mouths), being regarded as a hairy, fanged and degenerate (but still human) race of mountain-dwellers who descend after long periods of cloudy weather to attack villages and capture and eat humans.

  • The Earth's Children Series (which starts with Clan of the Cave Bear) by author Jean M. Auel zigzags this trope constantly. For example, the Neandethals of this series are depicted as a very loving and intelligent people and not beast-like (which is what the cro-magnons assume them to be) but they are terribly sexist and patriarchal (The Cro-Magnons are depicted as existing in an idealized primordial matriarchy, whereas the female Neanderthals are socially inferior to the males). They are also depicted as having only a limited capacity for verbal speech, but they do have a perfectly functioning and complete sign-language which the Cro-Magnon humans (with a few exceptions) cannot comprehend as a language at all. Also their technology never progresses not because they lack intelligence but because they have an overwhelming Genetic Memory which is static and inherited.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs made liberal use of Frazetta Man in a myriad of incarnations;
    • The best known and best developed are the Mangani, a missing-link "anthropoid ape" species who raised Tarzan and are halfway between this trope and Killer Gorilla. They're not quite as evil as examples of this trope tend to be, though the original Burroughs novels definitely place them as mentally and morally inferior to Tarzan himself.
    • Pellucidar has the Sagoths, an advanced breed of Frazetta Man who act as Mooks to the ruling Mahars, along with separate species dubbed Ape Men, Gorilla Men, and Brute Men.
  • The Wergu (literally "beastmen") from The Lords of Creation, Neanderthals transplanted to the Lost World jungles of terraformed Venus. Played absolutely straight, as vile and filthy creatures who are nothing but menaces to humanity.
  • Trolls, Ogres, and Dawn-men from The Elenium by David Eddings are Frazetta Man on steroids, and (at least the Trolls) backed by genuinely powerful (if stupid) gods.
    • They're also fairly different from each other — ogres are described more in terms of animals than this trope (which is all we get, since they never actually show up in person) and are huge horned beasts, trolls are unchanging (they don't have to change, because of the aforementioned powerful gods) but actually relatively smart (one of them even engages two of the protagonists in a philosophical debate). Dawn-men are simpler and unchanged — they are the precursor species of trolls and humans brought forward in time by the magics of the bad guys.
  • The Morlocks from H.G. Wells' The Time Machine in appearance, though they're actually a subversion in 1)being more sophisticated and technologically advanced than the more human-like Eloi, and 2)being the evolutionary descendants of humanity (along with their Eloi prey).
  • These become the primary antagonists for much of The Lost World (1912), though it is perhaps a bit less Mighty Whitey than some examples because the outsider main characters would be toast without the army of the more human natives of the plateau. Much is made of Professor Challenger's resemblance to the chief of the ape-men. Deconstructed a bit in the A&E version; see below.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Shadows In The Moonlight" Conan the Barbarian fights one.
    "A gray man-ape," he grunted. "Dumb, and man-eating. They dwell in the hills that border the eastern shore of this sea.
    • There's also Thak from "Rogues in the House", though he may be a mild subversion — he's dangerous explicitly because he's smart as well as strong even though he doesn't speak, and Conan himself acknowledges after defeating him that he has "slain a man tonight, not a beast."
    • It gets a bit more complex than that when you read Howard's essay on the Hyborian Age and other related materials - it turns out that after the cataclysm that destroyed the previous Thurian Age, several human groups (including King Kull's birth people, Atlanteans), devolved into Frazetta Men shortly after falling back to savagery, and Cimmerians like Conan are explicitly descended from them. Those from Conan's time are the descendants of those who didn't re-evolve back into humans.
    • The Picts of Hyboria as depicted in the Conan stories also. They are brutish sub-humans akin to Neanderthals, living in the aptly-named Pictish Wilderness in the uncivilized western parts of the continent. The Kull and Bran Mak Morn stories depict them in more human (and sympathetic) terms, however.
  • Zigzagged in the Doc Savage series. The character Monk plays it straight in that he looks like a hairy man-ape. However, he subverts it in every other detail; he's a genetic freak born to perfectly normal human parents, and rather than being a near-feral savage, he's actually possessed of a genius-level intellect.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Ugly Little Boy": The In-Universe portrayal of Timmie by the newspapers is an "ape-boy" to sensationalize stories told to an ignorant public. Averted Trope by the child himself, who is intelligent, learns to speak and read English, and plays with the Director's son, who is roughly the same age. Because he's an actual Neanderthal child.
  • Played straight by Doris Lessing in The Fifth Child. The titular fifth child born to the Lovatt family is some kind of evolutionary throwback who destroys their domestic bliss. Subverted in the sequel, Ben in the World, in which we see the world from Ben's point of view.
  • The Lord of the Rings has the Woses themselves, and they show the Rohirrim the way through the Druadan forest. In reward King Elessar gives them the Drúadan Forest in perpetuity, and they are never seen again. Interestingly, the Rohirrim say that the Woses remind them of their old legends of the Pukel-men, a word meaning the same as "woodwose". They receive an expanded backstory in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
  • H. P. Lovecraft: Used for horror in "Facts Concerning The Late Arthur Jermyn", where it's revealed that decades ago, the titular character's great-great-great-grandfather, Sir Wade Jermyn, had discovered a tribe of white-furred ape-men living in Darkest Africa. Unusually for this trope, they're not portrayed as doing anything particularly evil. The reason he committed suicide prior to the book's opening had been due to learning that Sir Wade Jermyn had fallen in love with the tribe's princess, marrying her before smuggling her out of Africa, with all the subsequent Jermyns being descendants of this union of man and ape-woman. It's unclear whether the story is meant to be read as an expression of Darwinian horror at our simian heritage, or if it's just Lovecraft's fear of race-mixing, or even both. The story is generally considered one of Lovecraft's least scary by modern audiences, if not quite as racist as The Reveal from "Medusa's Coils".
  • In Sannikov Land, there are the hairy and brutish Vampu, stuck at the Palaeolithic stage of development and constantly at war with the more civilized Onkilons who are modern humans.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The Sothoryi, the inhabitants of the southern continent of Sothoryos. They are hairy, robust, ape-like humanoids that somewhat resemble the below-mentioned Paranthropus. They're famously savage and violent and are rumoured to be cannibals who eat humans and each other, and in the further reaches of the continent are said to be even more barbaric and follow some kind of Religion of Evil. Every attempt by Westerosi or Essosi people at settling the continent has been beset by attacks from them. However, they seem to be at least related to humans and are probably intended as an offshoot of early hominids, as they can breed with humans but not produce viable offspring, and have language; those on the coasts have learned the Trade Talk pidgin, although they're not considered smart enough to be worth taking as slaves, except for use in the fighting pits.
    • The Ibbenese defy this trope. Their description in The World of Ice & Fire makes it pretty clear that they're basically Neanderthals, and they seem to have been the original human inhabitants of Essos before being displaced by modern humans. However, they're not described as unusually savage or barbaric, just insular and kind of weird, and they trade and even interbreed (with varying rates of success) with "regular" humans.
  • In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu starts out as a Noble Savage take on this trope, running freely with the gazelles of the plains, who do not fear him as they would a human. He becomes civilized over the first part of the story, as the priestess Shamhat introduces him to sex, alcohol, and clothing. This is portrayed as a good thing in some ways, since Enkidu can now enter the city of Uruk and befriend Gilgamesh, but also a somewhat tragic moment, since Enkidu's old animal friends now see him as just another human, and flee from his approach. It also leads, ultimately, to his death, since man is mortal. This makes this trope Older Than Dirt.
  • In The Chronicles of Prydain, Gurgi is a rather comedic take on this trope, described as existing somewhere between man and beast, and most illustrators have interpreted him as distinctly simian. His basis is less anthropological and more folkloric (see the woodwoses above under Folklore). He appears as a kind of comic relief sidekick to the main characters. In the Disney movie, however, he is portrayed as a kind of mustachioed anthropomorphic dog, and doesn't really fit this trope.
  • Clark Ashton Smith's pulpy Medieval Prehistory adventure stories in the Hyperborea Cycle feature the cave-dwelling, roughly-humanoid voormis, although their description as "three-toed", together with their association with the god Tsathoggua, suggests they may be more ground sloth than ape (Tsathoggua is said to look like a mix of sloth, bat, and toad). Nevertheless, the voormis fill the role of shaggy, man-eating savages who descend from the hills with crude stone axes. One story in the cycle, "The Testament of Athammaus", focuses on the execution by beheading of a notorious voormi bandit named Knygathin Zhaum, so it's clear that the humans of Hyperborea see the voormis as more than just animals. A few of Smith's notes toward an unfinished story were eventually assembled by Lin Carter into the posthumous collaboration "The Scroll of Morloc", which fleshed out voormi culture a bit, focusing on a feud between rival shamans, and giving them a rudimentary form of literacy, despite their primitive technology.

    Live Action Television 
  • The Lost World (2001) recreates the war between ape-men and Lost World native humans from the book, but delves into the aftermath of the struggle a lot more. The "Indians" of the Plateau initially want to kill all of the ape-man prisoners, but Prof. Challenger tries to stop what he sees as a genocide. The story then delves into the question of whether he is right to try to impose his beliefs - even high-minded, well-intentioned ones - on the Plateau natives, showing just how seductive colonialist thinking can be. This is in contrast to the book, where the ape-men are slaughtered en masse without a second thought.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder: Hill giants are the Frazetta Men of giant-kind. They're long-armed, borderline simian primitives too backwards to have civilization beyond primitive villages, dressed in patchworks of badly cured hides and armed with clubs and primitive stone mauls, and with a pronounced taste for humanoid flesh. They're not as deliberately cruel as, say, frost giants, but that's mostly because they're too dumb and lazy.
  • In Exalted, should you see a Neanderthal-ish individual while traveling underground, usually in a large horde, he is not this trope. He's a Warrior Caste Mountain Folk, born to a Badass Army attached to a civilization of Gadgeteer Geniuses and likely no slouch when building and maintaining his own Magitek. The "horde" around him is likely his platoon, sent out to exterminate a nest of the Always Chaotic Evil Darkbrood or recently having finished the nest off. And is just as likely to be a she. Please do not throw rocks.
    • But if you come across man-apes in the jungles of the Southeast, they are this trope, descended from Raksi, Queen of Fangs. In all likelihood they've inherited her bloodlust and dietary preferences.
  • In Rocket Age the Grey Chanari are the possible descendants of the first attempts at genetically engineering labourers created by the Canal era Martians. So unintelligent that they aren't even considered Martian by the other Chanari tribes, they are frequently lead by escaped Julandri labourers, a race known for their own unintelligence and gonky appearance.
  • Shadowrun: A number of Awakened primates exist that were transformed by the return of magic into forms resembling the stereotypical hunched, hairy and barbaric cave-dwelling proto-humans, in may cases gaining human hands, feet and noses while retaining may apish characteristics. Particularly notable are the troglodyte (hairless Awakened chimps that live exclusively within cave systems), dours (another type of cave-dwelling Awakened chimp, possessing short and muscular physiques and human-like facial hair), munchkins (Awakened spider monkeys with hairless heads, vestigial tails, bipedal gaits and long arms) and wodewoses (tailless, muscular Awakened capuchin monkeys with lots of large, sharp teeth). They all possess primitive tool use and language skills and, with the exception of the peaceful and reclusive troglodytes, tend to be aggressive and territorial. Notably, the lack of any sizable North American populations of great apes, even in captivity, for dours and troglodytes to have Awakened from has raised speculation that rather than being descended from chimps they may be degenerate humans instead.

    Video Games 
  • In Brütal Legend, the Headbangers are a silly version of Frazetta Men. They are built like Neanderthals, and only know how to bang their heads against rocks for mining purposes, so they are used as slave labor without the need of bars and chains. The Hero then introduces them to Heavy Metal, and compels them to bang their heads for freedom instead. They gain intelligence as the story goes by, building cars and weapons.
  • Common foes in the jungles of Quest for Glory III.
  • During the third act of Titan Quest, set in Asia, there are plenty of Neanderthal enemies met on the mountains from Parthia to the Mongolian cliffs. They have both fighters and shamans, and sometimes they ride saber-tooth lions in battle. You also get to meet their warchief, who's a colossal Yerren.
  • Some Pokémon may be closer to us than you think. Look up a picture of an Infernape. Now look very closely. What do you notice? (Hint: It's the feet!)
  • In The Sinking City, the Throgmortons are a rare civilized example of this trope; an expy of the Jermyn family (see Literature), they are the results of an eccentric human aristocrat and sorcerer falling in love with a she-gorilla and having children with her, creating a family that possesses excessive body hair, dense sideburns, and an ape-like cast to their facial features. Aside from their ironic bigotry towards Innsmouthers, there is nothing inherently wrong or evil about them—it is mentioned in passing that their heritage gives them superhuman strength and fortitude, and their intelligence is high even by pureblood human standards. Far from being enemies, they are actually one of the player character's few allies.

    Western Animation 
  • Frazetta Men called the Primords appear in the third episode of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, where the uncharted region of Darkest Africa that they inhabit becomes the crash-site for a fallen G.I. Joe satellite.
  • Frazetta Men called, simply, the Tree Men appear in an episode of Dino-Boy. They have tails like lions, but otherwise are clearly ape-men, and worship vulture-pterodactyls by offering up Human Sacrifices. In the end, Ugh saves Dino Boy from becoming a vulture-dactyl's meal by stampeding a mastodon herd through their village.
  • Primal (2019) features a lot of them, with the main character, Spear, being one himself. Interestingly, there’s shown to be multiple types; Spear’s people (who resemble Neanderthals), a race of pale cave-dwellers, and apemen who are far more bestial than the first two. Also unusually, the former two are portrayed quite sympathetically and even get along with each other, with only the apemen being portrayed as villainous. "Slave of the Scorpion" reveals all of them exist alongside much more modern homo sapiens.

  • The theories of Danny Vendramini paint a picture of Neanderthals very much like this trope. According to him, they were brutal, bestial (but intelligent) savages resembling demonic gorillas with catlike vertical pupils more than the reconstructions seen in museums, and they preyed on Homo sapiens both carnivorously and carnally. However, this is a very fringe theory. Most scientists view it as absurd, and point out that it is mostly based on conjecture, with a lack of any hard evidence for Vendramini's more outlandish claims.
  • The paranthropus actually DID fit the physical description of a frazetta man, as a hairy, densely muscled bipedal gorilla-like entity, but existed well before modern humans did, and is believed to have fed largely upon nuts, seeds, and hard fruits, so it was hardly a savage cannibal. Even if it had hypothetically encountered humans, they most likely kept to themselves and avoided humans unless provoked. Neither their men nor their women would be very likely to be sexually attracted to us, either.
    • Paranthropus actually did live side by side with Homo erectus/ergaster for a while, and some think that early humans contributed to their demise. Especially since at that time, humanity was young and curious about everything, seeing how we were globetrotters who used spears and primitive fire. We may have eaten them or their food, or burned their trees in an attempt to drive away predators. It could be that both genera got along and other reasons are what caused the paranthropus to disappear.
    • The recent discovery of Homo naledi, a late Homo hominid with very austrolopithecine features just a couple hundred thousand years before the oldest Homo sapiens fossils raises the possibility of a real life Frazetta Man closer to the beginning of early humanity.

Alternative Title(s): Frazetta Men, Ape Man, Ape Men, Subhuman Savage


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: