Lt. Col. J.H. Patterson's "Man-Eaters of Tsavo"

Wheels

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I have read the book a couple of times but the last time was at least 20 years ago. My recollections are that Patterson survived as a lion hunter but was an amazing project manager, doing whatever it took to get the job done, including killing lions.

The lions are on display at the Field Museum in Chicago. My recollections of the lions are very average taxidermy (possibly very good for 100 years ago) and they didn't have much of a mane. If you happen to be in the area it is probably worth the stop for the historical significance.
 

FerRGarza

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I have read the book a couple of times but the last time was at least 20 years ago. My recollections are that Patterson survived as a lion hunter but was an amazing project manager, doing whatever it took to get the job done, including killing lions.

The lions are on display at the Field Museum in Chicago. My recollections of the lions are very average taxidermy (possibly very good for 100 years ago) and they didn't have much of a mane. If you happen to be in the area it is probably worth the stop for the historical significance.

Yes I have only seen them in pictures at the museum..never actually in person. They were impressive animals.
 

timbear

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The lions are on display at the Field Museum in Chicago. My recollections of the lions are very average taxidermy (possibly very good for 100 years ago) and they didn't have much of a mane.
Actually, Patterson had the skins as rugs for many years. I believe they were only mounted as full body mounts after his death, so they would have taken quite a beating over time. And yes, I read that it was a quirk of the region that the male lions in Tsavo are maneless.
As to youth, I'm reading a book on British rule in Malaysia at the moment ("Tales from the South China Seas" by Charles Allen), with eye witness reports form the days between the world wars. They all started out very young, and took on tremendous responsibilities at an age we barely allow people to drive nowadays. A quote I found very illuminating was: "The exercise of power and responsibility came easily to most young men reared in the Edwardian and Georgian private schools, where 'the whole idea was that you built up petty power and then you moved a stage higher and it was knocked out of you and you started again; so that we were all already as boys well accustomed to taking on power when it was offered and to losing that power when you moved elsewhere'". I always thought the British private schools were very Middle Ages, but the system obviously produced excellent colonial officers at an early age.
 

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the whole idea was that you built up petty power and then you moved a stage higher and it was knocked out of you and you started again...

that brought a memory back. when i moved up to the senior part of the boarding school i went to in scotland, part of the headmasters speech to us new boys from the junior part of the school and new boys joining from other schools was, "you might have been big fish in a small pond where you have come from, but now you are very small fish in a lot bigger pond" .....this was not quite in colonial times :D but still a fair few years ago.
 

timbear

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I'm definitely not glorifying the British school system, but anything that still teaches young people to want responsibility can't be all bad.
 

FerRGarza

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I'm definitely not glorifying the British school system, but anything that still teaches young people to want responsibility can't be all bad.

Very true Timbear. Most people I have come across want high pay, and MINIMAL responsibilities. Especially in my part of town being a border town. they Dont want to bother worrying about much. I believe some courses on etiquette wouldn't hurt either. But indeed, it is admirable the Patterson at such a young age be deployed to another country to take on a major project.
 

Wheels

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Actually, Patterson had the skins as rugs for many years. I believe they were only mounted as full body mounts after his death, so they would have taken quite a beating over time. And yes, I read that it was a quirk of the region that the male lions in Tsavo are maneless.
As to youth, I'm reading a book on British rule in Malaysia at the moment ("Tales from the South China Seas" by Charles Allen), with eye witness reports form the days between the world wars. They all started out very young, and took on tremendous responsibilities at an age we barely allow people to drive nowadays. A quote I found very illuminating was: "The exercise of power and responsibility came easily to most young men reared in the Edwardian and Georgian private schools, where 'the whole idea was that you built up petty power and then you moved a stage higher and it was knocked out of you and you started again; so that we were all already as boys well accustomed to taking on power when it was offered and to losing that power when you moved elsewhere'". I always thought the British private schools were very Middle Ages, but the system obviously produced excellent colonial officers at an early age.

I didn't know that about Patterson's lion skins....thanks for the info.

I enjoy reading about British Colonial History....especially Africa. But "Tales from the south china seas" sounds interesting so I just ordered it.....thanks for letting me know about it.

British colonial schools probably did have a major affect on putting responsibility on the young men. How much of that responsibility came from the situation they were living in though. Dad puts you on the tractor when you are 8 and tells you to come in for supper when you are through plowing 20 acres. Your driving the landrover at 9 to go shoot nyama with the yard boy to help cut it up and load it, at 10 your driving the lorry to town to fill 4- 55 gallon drums with diesel. At 11 your telling the farm workers what to do. At 14 or 15 your parents go on holiday and leave you to run the household and farm for a month. etc. That builds responsibility too. (I am not saying this was Patterson's upbringing)

The only knowledge I have of British boarding schools is what I have been told about and what I have read. It seems most kids excelled or at least did well. A few seem terribly broken. I do remember kids hating the week or two leading up to them being shipped off to Arusha or Nairobi. (This was early post colonial days) It would be interesting to hear what others that went through the experience of British boarding schools felt about it.

Spike....thanks for your input.
 

FerRGarza

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I didn't know that about Patterson's lion skins....thanks for the info.

They were rugs for about 25years and then in 1924 sold to the museum for $5,000. the musem then restored the skins, and the mounted lions on display are smaller due to the trimming of the skin to suit for a trophy rug.
 

Code4

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I've seen the two animals in Chicago many decades ago when I was 18yo. They did not look that impressive.

The book is a good read and to his credit Patterson admits his lack of knowledge and his mistakes, which for me adds authenticity (unlike Bell). Towards the end, he once had the wrong ammo for the rifle he had at the time. It seems practise and familiarisation were not part of his pre-hunt (if any) preparation.

The movie is irrelevant.

To put it in perspective, Patterson was an engineer who had to pick up a rifle and learn how to use it. He states his techniques were what he had heard had worked in India.

I can't help the feeling that he was sent to do a job no one else wanted and the lions just made a bad posting that much worse.

I'm not sure if the book was written after the story was made public.
 

FerRGarza

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Thanks for your input Code4 as well as everyone else for your contributions to the thread greatly appreciate it!
Keep 'em coming!
 

timbear

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I enjoy reading about British Colonial History....especially Africa. But "Tales from the south china seas" sounds interesting so I just ordered it.....thanks for letting me know about it.

Good choice, Wheels. I think you will enjoy it - I still do. It is based on a British radio series and has 2 predecessors, "Plain Tales from the Raj" and "Tales from the Dark Continent". I love reading the very matter-of-fact statements everyday people made about their life in colonial days. I have ordered the other 2 (got this one by chance on a Rotary Club book sale).
 

Wheels

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Thanks for the info. I will keep the other books in mind after I finish the first one. I have some other books in front of it but will get to it before long.
 

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"As a lion killer he was definitely an amateur but the book was certainly interesting. "

Patterson may have been an amateur - but the lions were real professionals.
HAHAHAHA!!!
I give him an A+ for pluck and determination.

By the way - the landscape at Tsavo West Park is largely volcanic rock with a lot of thick bush and tall grass. Many thickets. Hence not many tourists are taken there - because it takes a lot more time and patience to find the game animals. The lions there are unique because they have poor manes. They look like a guy with a "five o'clock shadow". It a bit weird the first time you see it on a grown male lion. They are powerful - just not picturesque. This is pure speculation on my part, but possibly the heavy undergrowth and many thorn brushes tend to drag on the lions manes. So they have evolved over centuries in that region to have less long hair and move through thick brush more. But as I said this is total speculation and could be completely wrong. The park is worth a visit if you get over that way in Kenya.

Upepo
 

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This is another vote for the man eaters of kumamon it is an excellent read have not read man eaters of Tsavo. I have seen the movie but will find a copy of the book too read
 

Upepo

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thanks for the recommendation on the Maneaters of Kumamon - wasn't aware of it. will definitely pick up a copy.

i was going to add ... I think the actual site of the Tsavo killings is quite close to the Tasvo National Park, but maybe not quite within the park boundary. If you are in the general area, it is possible to do a side trip and go to see the cave that the lions used to store their kills. It is a short walk through the bush, and located on the side of a small hill. The cave is not as dramatic as the one shown in the movie - that's Hollywood for you. I can't remember if you need a ranger (to accompany you) to visit the site ... it's been a long time. sometimes they will do it for a small tip :)
 

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The man eating lions of Tsavo and some of their many victims ......

 

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Heym 88

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The movie was entertaining at best. As far as Mr. Remington being there as the movie depicted, never happened.
 

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Patterson was an interesting character. He is the basis for the professional hunter in Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber". Hemingway heard the story from Philip Purcival during his 1933/34 safari. Patterson, in 1908, served as a professional hunter to a young aristocratic British couple named Blyth. At some point the young Blyth shot himself, was murdered by his wife Ethel, or murdered by Patterson. Apparently Ethel did share Patterson's tent for the long trek back to civilization (no doubt in desperate need of comfort) which took a while because they continued the actual hunt for at least a week before starting back. The family whisked her back to England and the ugly parts of the tale were largely buried for three decades until Hemingway published his story, and then few connected the dots. Patterson earned a DSO in the Boer War, served in WWI, and ended his days supporting the Zionist movement which eventually created the state of Israel.

And as far as the movie goes - it is entertainment - not a documentary - and as such, not too bad.
 

Upepo

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Sounds like Patterson was a real character. It is ironic that he was played as being fairly prim and proper in the movie, when his actual personality might have been much more like what Michael Douglas played (though Remington was never there). :)

Upepo
 

tigris115

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As someone who likes to be creative with his writing, I think this book by Patterson is an absolute GEM. The way he describes Tsavo from the thorn scrub, the searing heat, hunting down the brutes, problems at the work camp, you truly feel as if you're accompanying him in the wastelands of Deepest Darkest Africa. The level of detail in this novel would make some movie scripts blush. He is an A+ writer and with his extremely descriptive language, I think he would've more than welcome writing for movies.

Speaking of the movie adaptation from 1996, I haven't seen it. But I have seen clips and other people's reviews. While I cannot make full judgement w/o watching the full film, it seems to range from really mediocre to just OK. Micheal Douglas' character Charles Remington was an absolute mood killer. To quote renowned film critic Roger Ebert, "He looks like a hippie at a Grateful Dead concert." I get that you need a character to relate to the mass public but he's just so much of a sore thumb that you'd just be better omitting him. My outlook on this movie isn't all doom and gloom as from what I've seen, the other actors do a decent job and the score by Jerry Goldsmith is a real treat to listen too. Again, I've not seem the movie. I'm just basing this on what little I've seen on the internet.

Going off a tangent for a bit I think they're two reasons this film didn't stick with audiences

1. By the 90's, films about hunting animals, even man eaters, weren't exactly the most appealing thing for mass audiences. Sharks maybe you can get away and dinosaurs definitely, but mammals, especially canids and felines, are generally seen as animals to be held on a higher pedestal. It also didn't help that The Lion King (a film I loved to death as a kid and still admire) was released two years earlier.

2. This was the 90's. While big cats may have scared movie goers in the early days, those days are now gone. Even some P.H.'s will probably put lions below things like aliens blowing s*&t up (Independence Day) and ferocious CGI dinosaurs (Jurassic Park). I'm sorry but if I had to choose between two lions and a goddamned Tyrannosaurus rex , give me the puddy tats any day.

It's really a shame because as I said, the book's written almost like a movie. I think that if you had the right director, producer, cast, etc., you could have a modern masterpiece on your hands. I think I could make a half-decent movie that at least captures the atmosphere of the book.

tl;dr: book=masterpiece, movie=ok, could've been better, and there's potential for a great movie within the book.
 

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