East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Born Free

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Born_Free1When I was a kid, I used to watch a TV show called Born Free.
It featured Gary Collins and Diana Muldaur and it was based – I learned much later – on the books by Joy Adamson, an Austrian-born naturalist and writer who in Africa, together with her husband George Adamson, took in three orphaned lion cubs and kept on of them, a lioness called Elsa.
The series lasted only 13 episodes – and that sounds weird to me, because I seem to recall it lasted forever.

The show was everything a kid of about ten could want – it featured African landscapes, wild beasts and a mix of adventure and positive messages. It was environment-friendly, and green before there was a Green party. Now I’ve been told they don’t broadcast it anymore, here in Italy, because it is not politically correct enough, whatever that means. The sort of thing that makes me feel old1.

From the Joy Adamson books a movie had been made, too, in 1966 – and I realize now that I never saw it… or if I did, I completely forgot about it.
I only recall the theme by John Barry.

But what about the books?

Well, in 2005 I took a day off with my brother and we visited a friend on the French Riviera.
Being book obsessives, the lot of us, after lunch the topic turned to books, and our friend led us to a small used book store in one of the small villages in the Vence area, which sold used and antiquarian books.

281x400We spent about one hour in there, browsing through the shelves.
I eyed a fine copy of Agassiz’s Essay on Classification, first Cambridge Edition, 1962, but I had not enough money with me to get it.
But on the same shelf, for reasons that escape me, I also found three equally very fine volumes of Joy Adamson’s Born Free series Born Free, Living Free and Forever Free, first edition hardbacks from the early ’60s.
These I could afford, and I bought them.

We were discussing used books a few posts back, and thestuff you find in them – well, in these three books I found a collection of paper clippings about George and Joy Adamson, almost an appendix to the books.

bfi-00o-0odNow the three volumes are in my library, and I worry daily about the menace of humidity, mosses and other horrors that haunt these hills.
I browsed the books last night, trying to catch some color and some detail for my next story, and once again I wondered at the person that had collected those clippings, and preserved them inside those books.

And I’m certainly getting old and mushy, but I felt some kind of connection there, between me, that mysterious paper clipper, and myself at ten, sitting on the floor in my room, watching those 13 telefilms (really? Only 13?)

This is really armchair adventuring.

  1. we do get an awful lot of documentaries about the lions in the Serengeti National Park – but while often the visuals are striking, there is no story in there. Though I guess they are politically correct. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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