Hoax in the Jungle?
May 26, 2011
I’m short on sleep this week, having stayed up late-late-late several nights in a row, turning the pages. I finished reading Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday by Robin Hemley last night and wanted to write a wonderfully objective and thoughtful post about the Tasaday, but what could I possibly say? If you are at all interested in the topic, the book is a must-read, in which case anything I would say in this rinky-dink blog post is old hat.
I feel hesitation about revealing the twists and turns Hemley took in arriving at his conclusions about the Tasaday, only because I don’t want to rob potential readers of the rollercoaster ride that Invented Eden has in store for them. The short of it is that the author began as a Tasaday skeptic, but his adventuresome investigation and research brought him to a new point of view. Everything about the Tasaday is a point of view.
This NOVA “The Lost Tribe” documentary (this is the first of six parts on youtube) from 1993 does a decent job of summarizing the Tasaday controversy.
Invented Eden was published ten years later in 2003 and sheds much more light on the nuances of the controversy, with a turning-point climax involving a deceptive interview, translated through four languages, surrounded by gun-toting men in the jungle. Just as riveting as any fiction spy novel.
In retrospect, I think the natives in the Fire in the Jungle setting were influenced by my awareness of the Tasaday…small bands of elusive primitives in the jungle. Except I don’t think the Tasaday ever mastered the art of Beast Riding. Imagine how cool would it have been if Belayem had first greeted Elizalde by flying down on the back of a giant cynocephalus volans!