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 locals 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.
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 also Pelts of the Barbarian, for when primitive humans wear clothes made of fur instead of simply being covered in hair themselves.
- 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.
- 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 Lord of the Rings 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.
- 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 its calmed down and realises the humans aren't a threat, it helpfully leads them to Hyperborea and then makes a Heroic Sacrifice against the titular giant sabertoothed tiger.
- This is way Older Than They Think. 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 were considered, however, not evil — just the antithesis to everything the civilization of that time stood for: urban life, feudalism, Christian faith and kings' laws. One of the Italian words for woodwose was huorco, which is one theory about where orcs got their name.
- The Chinese also had 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.
- 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, the neanderthal males treat the females as sub-human). They are also depicted as having no verbal language, but they do have a perfectly functioning and complete sign-language which the cro-magnon humans 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 alone 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 more sophisticated and technologically advanced than the more human-like Eloi.
- 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.
- 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.
- In-universe in the Isaac Asimov short story, The Ugly Little Boy, the press make out that a Neanderthal boy (which has been brought forward in time) is an "Ape Boy" to sell more newspapers to the ignorant public. Averted by the boy himself, as he is intelligent, learns to speak English and read, and likes playing.
- 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.
- Related to the Folklore entry above. 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 Wood 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.
- Used for horror in the H.P. Lovecraft story "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. They don't even worship Shub-Niggurath, despite it seeming like an obvious fit. 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. 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 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 said nest off. And is just as likely to be a she. Please do not throw rocks.
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- In all fairness, 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 was 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.