If you‘re looking for a fun character for a Steampunk novel, why not throw in an ape? Gorillas and Apes were popular in Victorian literature. With the British colonies in Africa, the Victorians had a strong interest in the unique continent. Another reason for the popularity of these human-like creatures was the topic of evolution spurred by Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, published in 1859.
The most famous gorilla was Edgar Allan Poe’s mass murderer from his tale, The Murders In The Rue Morgue, published in 1841. It stands as the first detective story ever written.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs came out in 1912 and Apes are strong secondary characters and are an intricate part of the storyline. The story begins in the year 1888 when John, Lord Greystoke with his new, young wife, Lady Alice sail to Africa. There is a mutiny on their ship and they are abandoned on the coast of Africa near a jungle. Alice has a baby there but shortly after the child is born, Alice dies and Lord Greystoke is killed by a gorilla. A female gorilla, Kala, who had recently lost her baby, takes Alice’s baby and raises him as her own. She names him Tarzan. She was the only mother he ever knew.
This is a short excerpt from The Return of Tarzan: “And I, on my part, loved her, Paul. I did not realize how much until after the cruel spear and the poisoned arrow of Mbonga’s black warrior had stolen her away from me. I was still a child when that occurred, and I threw myself upon her dead body and wept out my anguish as a child might for his own mother. To you, my friend, she would have appeared a hideous and ugly creature, but to me she was beautiful—so gloriously does love transfigure its object. And so I am perfectly content to remain forever the son of Kala, the she-ape.”
In the return of Tarzan he finds a lost city of gold and the people, though human, speak his native language, that of the gorillas. When Tarzan escapes the City of Gold and sees Jane in the Jungle with the man she chose over him, he returns to his tribe of apes, broken hearted and wanting nothing more to do with humans. Later in the story when Jane is captured by the men from the City of Gold, it’s a gorilla that tells Tarzan she’s been taken.
Six-Gun Gorilla is another r interesting story, published as a fifteen-part serial in the British Pulp, Wizard in 1939. Set in the 19th century American wild west, a kidnapped baby gorilla ends up in Colorado with a kind prospector, Bart Masters. The gorilla, O’Neil, loves the prospector like a father. Unfortunately, Tutt Stawhan, head of the Strawhan outlaw gang, murders Bart Masters. O’Neil vows to revenge Bart’s death. He straps a bandoleer across his broad, hairy chest and holsters two Colts. Then he sets out on a quest to track down, shoot and kill every member of the Strawhan gang.
Rupert Cornelius is a popular Steampunk gorilla. I had the pleasure of meeting, this educated Ape, at Aetherfest in San Antonio, Texas a few years back. This brilliant gorilla answers such mind boggling questions as pirates vs ninjas, The borg vs the daleks, and what he would he do for a Klondike bar?
And of course there’s DC comics’ Gorilla Grodd, arch nemesis of the Flash. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, the premise is that in the 19th century, a spacecraft crashed deep in the heart of Africa in the Congo Basin. Grodd and his troupe gain super intelligence and Grodd and another gorilla, Solovar, are also empowered with telepathic and telekinetic abilities as well as mind control. Uner the leadership of the alien pilot, the genius apes build Gorilla City where they live in a society far advanced from our own. The apes dwell in peace in this secret city hidden in the mountains, until they are discovered by explorers.
Grodd forces an explorer to kill the alien, so he can rule Gorilla City. But Solovar and the Flash thwart Grodd’s evil plan. Many times through the years the Flash and his allies including Solovar save the world from Grodd.
If you’ve read or written a book featuring a gorilla, tell us about it or comment on anything else regarding the post. I love to hear from readers and other authors.
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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 26 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.