- This page is about the character, for the short story see "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family"
|“||Just what the white ape-like creatures could have been, Mwanu had no idea, but he thought they were the builders of the ruined city.||„|
|~ HPL , "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family"|
The precise appearance of the "white apes" is never clearly defined. Based on the context of the story Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family we know that the remains of that they are habitually bipedal, have a roughly similar frame as anatomically modern humans, but would be recognized by elongated arms, an unusually robust strength and an inhumanly formed facial structure.
We know that they are at least biologically and genetically compatible on some level with human beings, as Arthur Jermyn is revealed to be the descendant of a "white ape" female and a human male.
By virtue of a modern understanding of evolution, genetics, and anthropology, a great deal of insight may be had into the biological lineage of the "white ape." Based on information contained in the Arthur Jermyn family tree, the wife and mate of Arthur Jermyn's Great-great-great Grandfather, Sir Wade Jermyn, was a "white ape". Their child, Sir Philip Jermyn, went on to have his own family and children. This is significant, and indicates that Great-great-great Grandmother Jermyn was not in fact an "ape", but rather a member of an extant highly rare and isolated human sub-species, not unlike the extinct Neanderthals and Denisovans.
Sir Philip would therefore have been an intra-species hybrid. Had his mother originated outside the Homo sapiens species, Sir Philip would have been sterile or have yielded unviable offspring (the limited number of offspring in the Jermyn line may suggest genetic compatibility issues.) The fact that he did not suggests that while having marked morphological differences from AMHs (anatomically modern humans), the bride of Sir Wade Jermyn was human on a genetic level.
There then remains the question of the origin of the "white ape" human sub-species. There are three potential explanations:
- Like Neanderthals and Denisovans, the "white apes" descend from a common Homo erectus ancestor, this sub-species then persisted in isolation in the Congo river basin.
- The "white apes" are actually surviving Neanderthals or Denisovans, and their white color is either a cultural body painting/dying or the result of albinism reinforced in the limited gene pool.
- The "white apes" are actually genetic descendants of AMHs, human settlers to the basin at some point in the ancient prehistoric past. The morphology and pigmentation variation is therefore the result of genetic abnormalities that became reinforced in this isolated gene pool.
Finally, and perhaps most problematically, there is the possibility that there were no "white apes" at all. In this scenario, the "inhuman" features of Jermyn are an exaggeration as seen through the lens of a racially prejudiced Victorian narrator. The observations of the "white apes" by various parties are actually racist descriptions of a distinct cultural group. The ape-like features of the "white ape princess" mummy are perhaps exaggerated either through an ignorance of human physical variation, or by a racially prejudiced view of what is accepted as "human".
Little can be inferred from the short anecdotes in the Arthur Jermyn narrative, but it would appear that the "white apes" possessed a much less restrained and repressed culture than Victorian England. She is described as having a disposition "violent and singular". It is possible that Great-great-great grandmother Jermyn was simply not acculturated to Victorian norms and in her own cultural context her behavior would have been quite different.
It is established in the Arthur Jermyn narrative that apart from their contact with Sir Wade Jermyn, there was at least some interaction with other native peoples of the Congo basin including the N'bangu, Onga and Kaliri people. It is also stated that the "white ape" people were believed to be eradicated in a genocidal war by the the N'bangu.