Monday, February 02, 2009

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, Plus a New Man-Eater

On Sunday we went to the Field Museum. Our excursion had a number of things going for it. For one thing, it was actually above freezing. Slightly, anyway. More importantly, it was a free day at the museum, with light crowds on account of the Super Bowl.

Regular adult admission is $23. At that price, it's hard to believe attendance is going to go anything but down in these hard times. But what do I know? I'm just an ordinary museum goer, as long as I don't have to pay full price. (No discount for parking on free day, so in fact it cost $4 a person to visit the museum using a car.)

One of the better museum bargains in Chicago, at $5 for adults, $2 for kids, is the Oriental Institute. If you're fond of amazing items from ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia and other Near Eastern spots, this is the place to go. One of these days soon, I'm going to take Lilly there.

I made a point of looking up the Lions of Tsavo this time around at the Field Museum. It's been a few years since I last saw them. They have a spot of honor -- and signs leading visitors to them -- in the African stuffed animal wing, and their story is here briefly for those unfamiliar with them. For those really interested in the story, Project Gutenberg has scanned The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures by Col. J.H. Patterson, the chap who shot the lions.

The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), inspired by this event, was not itself an inspiring movie. I saw it on video some years ago, and it was so slow moving and dull that I fell asleep watching it.

The Field Museum also has the Man-Eater of Mfuwe, a stuffed lion from Zambia, in a slightly less conspicuous display case. I hadn't noticed it before. It isn't a 19th-century lion from colonial times, but a man-eater of our own time, having been shot only in 1991. I'm glad to know that the museum is working hard to increase its collection of stuffed man-eating lions. Someone has to do it.



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