Thursday, May 14, 2015

Man from Earth and "The Gnarly Man"

I just read L. Sprague de Camp's short story, "The Gnarly Man."  It's included in The Best of L. Sprague de Camp.

The Gnarly Man is a Neanderthal, about 50,000 years old.  He says he was "normal" until struck by lightning.  After that he never aged.  He was working in a carnival as the Cave Man in the side show when an anthropologist discovered him.  At one point in the story, he is being questioned in a room surrounded by a number of anthropologists and historians.  This, of course, is the setting of Bixby's The Man from Earth. 

Like Bixby's John Oldman, he says that he moves on every ten or fifteen years because he doesn't age and eventually people begin to wonder about his secret, much as one of Oldman's friends, early in the film,  commented about his secret of avoiding aging.  Both the Gnarly Man and Oldman prefer to keep a low profile.  Like Oldman, he really can't help the historians that much, as the centuries tend to blur after a while.  One of Oldman's friends asked him what happened on this day hundreds of years ago, and Oldman responded by asking what he had for breakfast several days ago, or some such similar question.

Was Jerome Bixby influenced by de Camp's short story?  I don't know, but if  Bixby was, then he certainly expanded it far beyond de Camp's  tale.


  1. What a bizarre twist to the well-worn time travel tale!

  2. RT,

    The Gnarly Man didn't travel in time after being struck by lightning. He just never aged and has lived for 50,000 years, day-by-day, just as Bixby's John Oldman has lived day-by-day for over 10,000 years. . Sorry I wasn't clear about that.

  3. One of my favorite sci-fi movies, Fred. No special effects, no explosions,no blood-thirsty creatures, just a great premise and good talk. I do wish, though, that someone would re-make it with a better cast and the same screenplay.

    1. Yvette,

      I thought the cast was excellent. In fact, I thought so much of the film that I added to my own collection--which has now reached ten in number.

      What was your problem with the cast?