The Root of the Wold Newton Family Tree:
A Speculative Examination of Philip José Farmer’s Quest
By Dennis E. Power
In the summer of 2009, the author of this piece was part of a team who had the enviable and unenviable honor of helping the heirs of Philip José Farmer gather together his papers. The task for enviable for both the honor bestowed but also for the great delight of sorting through these treasures; it was an unenviable chore mainly for in doing so was one final sign that we were saying good bye to our friend. Yet it was also unenviable because although many of his papers were filed and sorted, many were in disarray and scattered about in various boxes.
As we were bundling together these papers for the family, I saw some scraps of information, which I believe, coupled with various conversations I have had with other acquaintances of Phil Farmer, can shed light one of the mysteries that has puzzled Farmerian scholars. Please be aware what follows is highly speculative.
On December 13, 1795 a meteorite landed in the near Wold Newton, Yorkshire. As it passed over the English countryside two coaches filled with travelers were caught in the ionization trail of the meteorite and unknowingly became the recipients of various beneficial mutations such as increased intelligence and physicality.
Philip José Farmer revealed the existence of the Wold Newton family in Esquire Magazine in April, 1972. This was in an article published under the title of “Tarzan Lives / An Interview with Lord Greystoke”. This article was an introductory preview of his forthcoming biography of Lord Greystoke, Tarzan Alive. It revealed that Tarzan was a member of the Wold Newton Family, which consisted of the descendents of the travelers ionized by the meteorite.
When you read a detailed work such as Tarzan Alive, especially when one closely examines genealogical sections, one can surmise that compiling and analyzing the vast amount of information in it must have taken years. A couple of years prior to publishing Tarzan Alive, Farmer had teased the readers of such magazines such as ERB-Dom, The Baker Street Journal and Erbania with hints of his secret knowledge about Tarzan’s family.
After the publication of the article in Esquire, and Tarzan Alive, within a relatively short time Farmer released another biography and some novels and short stories with information gleaned from his researches into Tarzan’s family tree. The biography was Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, and the novels were The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, and The Lavalite World. Although the latter was part of his World of Tiers, it also revealed that the protagonist of the series was a member of the Wold Newton Family. The short stories were “Extracts from the Memoirs of Lord Greystoke” and “The Problem of Sore Bridge and Others.”
One of most puzzling aspects of the Wold Newton family is how did Philip José Farmer know about such a carefully hidden secret?
Of course he was very familiar with many members of the Wold Newton family having thrilled to the adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Sherlock Holmes, Natty Bumppo and others as a child and having read the adventures of Tarzan, Doc Savage and the Shadow as they were published. Yet these none of these works even hint at any sort of familial relation with other literary figures nor were crossover appearances between such characters very common.
Sometime in the 1950’s Philip José Farmer must have seen something that convinced him that Tarzan was a real person. To be more accurate he saw something that convinced him that the man Edgar Rice Burroughs had written about was based on a real person. When and where this occurred we do not know. It may have been when Farmer was living in Syracuse, New York while exploring the Eerie Canal or the rail yard or researching the local Iroquois. Or it may have been when he was living in Scottsdale, Arizona during one of his excursions into the desert.
Between 1956 and 1960 Farmer was working as a technical writer for Motorola. Also during this period Phil Farmer and his wife moved several times from Peoria to Syracuse, New York, to Scottsdale, Arizona to Ann Arbor, Michigan and back again to Scottsdale, Arizona. At this time Farmer’s writing output was also fairly low. While it is true that with a full time job the volume of his writing certainly slacked off but even with a full time job his output had been higher at times. I believe this is probably the period when he was doing his most intensive research into Tarzan,
Farmer revealed in Tarzan Alive one of the presumptions that he used to find Tarzan was that Burroughs, like Watson, had not created the names of his characters out of thin air but that these names were substitutes for real names. Farmer believed that he was on the right track when he discovered a substitution for Clayton, Tarzan’s purported surname. Farmer discovered some English peers with the name of Cloamby. Cloam meant earth or clay. By was old English name for village or town. Taken together these words equaled Clay-ton. Having found what he believed was his Rosetta stone; he began to vigorously research the Cloambys of Cumberland, seeking not only their ancestors but also the living members of the family.
Phil Farmer may have also eventually enlisted his brother Gene, a licensed private eye to help him in his investigation, although whether or not Philip told Gene who it was he was truly investigating is debatable.
Farmer brought to bear all of his training in history, linguistics, anthropology and surprisingly enough, ancient literature in his relentless quest to find the real Tarzan. As Gene investigated the current family of Cloamby, Phil Farmer dug deep into various historical records uncovering the Cloamby family’s connection to Britain’s Anglo-Saxton aristocracy, to Saxon Lords and its Viking conquerors. The Cloambys were descended from the Viking King Randgrith. Eventually over time the name had become Grandrith, the name of the peerage’s estate. Grandrith, Farmer believed, was the true name of Burroughs’ Greystoke.
Phil’s research on Tarzan was taking up most of his time and his writing career had suffered because of it. Putting his Tarzan research aside for a time he had a spurt of creativity in late 1959 to 1961, when he wrote and had published his novels Flesh, A Woman A Day and The Lovers. He also wrote several short stories.
Between late 1961 and 1963 once again delved into Tarzan’s ancestry, possibly inspired by research he was also doing for another planned novel. He delved into Tarzan’s Norse roots and found what he must have believed was an extremely significant find.
Bear in mind, however, that the following section is supposition based on a list of names found on a hand written note scrawled on the back of an old utility bill envelope posted in 1963. Farmer researched the Norse ancestors even further and in Eirikskinna, one of the lost king’s sagas, Eirik Randgrith claimed descent from Odin. Furthermore in the saga Eirik Randgrith interacted with Iwaldi the dwarf Smith, whom Farmer recognized from the Prose Edda, and with the goddess Nanna. In this saga rather than being portrayed as a minor goddess she seemed to be equated to the role that Freya, the Queen of Heaven usually took. Odin, Nanna and Iwaldi were referred to as being of the Nine. Since the motif of the number nine is so common in Norse mythology Farmer did not immediately attach any special significance to it. Yet later they were said to being among the Eternal Nine. Farmer did not know the significance of this reference. Towards the end of the saga Eirik and his heirs were charged to a sacred trust. They were to await and guard the Augaspek, which was described as a Stjörnuhrap or a falling down star. Phil Farmer surmised to be a comet or a meteorite.
Intrigued by this reference, Farmer continued to seek for references to Augaspek. Despite intensive searching he did not find anything immediately.
Having once again hit a wall on his Tarzan research he delved back into his writing. He was delving into Norse once again as he researched material for Maker of Universes, his first World of Tiers. While on one of his excursions in Arizona, he happened upon a small town named Shaada. Farmer had the habit of looking at any libraries or bookstores to see if any treasures could be found. He discovered that this obscure little library owned two Edda translations that he had never read. The librarian said it had been the property of either a Swede or Englishman who had gone prospecting and never returned. The translation was written by a John Fitzjohn and published in 1860. One was in the Scandinavian Edda Hrossástsongr and the other was in Búhlársmál which was part of the Poetic Edda. He spent a few hours reading them and found two references to the Augaspek in these two volumes. He could not believe his luck it was almost as if he had been meant to find them.
According to some Norse myths Odin gained wisdom through two sacrifices. In one sacrifice he pierced his side with his own spear and hung from the world tree for nine days. In the second sacrifice he gave his eye to the giant Mimir in exchange for wisdom. Mimir was a giant who had drank the pool of wisdom swirling about the roots of the world tree. Mimir was later beheaded and Odin used charms to keep the head vita. Odin carried the head around and consulted it for information as a sort of grisly PDA.
Hrossástsongr and Búhlársmál had unique tales that differed from many of the other sagas. In Búhlársmál attempted to prevent Ragnarök by giving mankind his wisdom. He did this by flinging the eye that he had originally given to Mimir to Midgard, the world of mankind, in the form of a Stjörnuhrap. Hrossástsongr had a similar tale but differed in a couple of important details. Instead of his eye Odin flung Mimir’s head to Midgard. He did so not to stave off Ragnarök but to provide mankind with wisdom in the new world.
Since Farmer was living in Arizona at the time, seeing the myth of the falling star in conjunction with the new world, brought to mind the Meteor Crater in Winslow, Arizona. Although Farmer probably believed there was no connection between that myth and the Meteor Crater he thought it would be an interesting place to visit. He may have been surprised, as a lot of people are, to discover that the Meteor Crater is not a national landmark but is privately owned. It has been owned by the Barringer family since 1903
Another cryptic scrap of paper in the unsorted Farmer papers simply has the words “1903? Barringer. Anglo Saxon Behringer! Ebelthite?” Although it may have been only a great coincidence, the name Barringer, or its Anglo-Saxon equivalent appears to have popped up in Farmer’s genealogical researches on the Cloamby family. In the same box as the aforementioned note was a partial letter of inquiry to the Barringer Meteor Company. With the address to the Barringer Meteor Company there is the start of the line “I am interested in” and it suddenly stops. Although the subject of the letter remains unknown, given the other fragment, Farmer may have been inquiring about the family history of the Barringers.
In 1965 the Farmer family suddenly moved from their middle class suburban home in Scottsdale, Arizona to take up residence in an apartment in the slum area of Beverly Hills. Phil worked as a freelance technical writer. It is also interesting to note that between 1964 and 1968, Phil does not seem to have attended any conventions. The Farmer family has never spoken about the events that occurred in 1964-1965, at least not to me. I believe that between his innocent inquiries to the Barringer Meteor Company and his intensive research into the background of the Cloamby/Grandrith family Phil Farmer had inadvertently put himself, and his family, in grave danger.
Once again a cryptic note written on a piece of paper taken from telephone note pad is our only clue as to what possibly happened. A clear legible hand wrote the name “Mr. Ratatowsky”. Next to the name is a blue stained hole, as if a phone number had been so thoroughly scratched out that the paper below it had disintegrated. Below the name and gaping hole and written in Phil Farmer’s barely legible scrawl is “Ratatowsky/ Ratatoskr.”
Ratatoskr is a squirrel which scurries up and down Yggdrasil caring messages between an eagle that sits at the top of the branches of the world tree and Níðhöggr, a serpent that gnaws at the roots of the tree. We know that Farmer was tenacious researching the Cloamby/Grandrith, metaphorically gnawing at the roots of the tree, so in a sense he was Níðhöggr. Although we do not know what Mr. Ratatowsky said to Phil Farmer, we can conjecture Phil got a message from someone so rich and powerful that he considered himself above lesser mortals. The messenger probably told Farmer to forget about his researches and may have been accompanied that message with a demonstration of such force and intent that it caused the Farmer family to leave Scottsdale and seek anonymity in the Los Angeles sprawl.
Although it probably seemed like an eternity to Phil Farmer he and his family soon received a reprieve from the threat that hung over them. Some time in 1966 he received an urgent request from his old friend Vern Coriell to visit him at his Kansas City home. Farmer was shocked and frightened at who met him at Coriell’s home. He met Tarzan, or to be more specific he met John Cloamby, Lord Grandrith.
Cloamby told Farmer that although Farmer and his family had been in true peril, that danger had passed. Farmer’s researches had been deemed a threat by the Nine and had he not desisted, they would have eliminated him. Cloamby claimed that Farmer’s researches into the genealogy and into the Nine’s various business interests had triggered the Nine’s paranoia. Long standing dissensions boiled over which led to the removal of the leader. In the power vacuum two factions vied for control of the organization and used Cloamby and his half brother James Caliban as battling proxies. Initially Cloamby and Caliban had nearly killed each other but upon learning how they had been manipulated into fighting one another, they joined forces to destroy the Nine.
Farmer was regaled with a fascinating tale of a secret organization of immortals among who were the real life incarnations of his heroes, Tarzan and Doc Savage. While he had known that Tarzan was real, it was almost too much to believe that Doc Savage had also been real. He also had trouble believing that it was possible for an organization to have existed from the Stone Age as Cloamby claimed. Also the idea that any substance could extend life for thousands of years was preposterous. Of course it is doubtful that he voiced his disbelief to Cloamby, and when he eventually did write a version of the tale that Cloamby told him as A Feast Unknown he did not change much.
The introduction of A Feast Unknown stated that at the time of his meeting with Grandrith, that both Grandrith and Caliban were deeply involved in their war against the Nine. This however does not seem to be the case, they were already victorious by this time and had all but wiped out the Nine. Cloamby did want his account published however as a warning to the rest of the Nine’s agents. Farmer also claimed to have remained in touch with Cloamby for a while and that he received letters post marked from different locations in the world, which contained manuscripts written by Cloamby and Caliban. Cloamby may have told Farmer about their exploits, but Farmer was the true author of A Feast Unknown and the two books that followed, Lord of Trees and The Mad Goblin. Much of what Cloamby had told him confirmed his own theories on how a feral man would truly act. Also part of the fictionalization of A Feast Unknown may have been an exaggeration of the true effects of the Elixir. Farmer used A Feast Unknown as a medium for exploring the psychological connection between sex and violence and the elixir became the vehicle for that exploration.
Cloamby does seem to have kept in touch with Farmer for a while and fed him bits of information but that he sent manuscripts is an exaggeration. Sadly, Cloamby never finished telling Farmer about Caliban’s fight against an extra-dimensional being.
Although Farmer asked Cloamby about the falling star described in the sagas Cloamby however did not think that his ancestors had been charged to watch for a falling star, but rather to assume their leadership of the Nine.
At that time John Cloamby, Lord Grandrith truly believed that he was the man whom Edgar Rice Burroughs had based his character Tarzan. Farmer was doubtless also convinced. Both would however soon discover otherwise. Cloamby would discover that this too was one of the Nine’s deceptions. Grandrith had known that the Nine had manipulated his life; he just did not know to what extent they had done so.
As for Phil Farmer he would soon confronted with some astounding evidence that would once again send him searching for the real Tarzan and led him to discover the Wold Newton Family.
In the Esquire article “Tarzan Lives”, Farmer claimed that he had a personal meeting with John Clayton, Lord Greystoke at a hotel in Libreville, Gabon. Years later Farmer would state that the meeting had actually taken place in Chicago. Although Farmer was very careful in destroying most of his Tarzan research and any evidence that could lead back to the Tarzan, he overlooked something or else they were too precious to destroy. There was a torn remnant of an airport baggage claim used as a bookmark in Farmer’s copy of Wandering in West Africa by Richard Francis Burton. All that remained of the destination name was Libr… However this is enough to convince me that Farmer actually did have a meeting with Lord Greystoke in Gabon.
However I do not think it was Farmer who tracked down Greystoke but rather something along the lines that Farmer received a message containing plane tickets asking him to come to Libreville. When he arrived at the hotel room in Libreville, he was confronted with a man who very closely resembled John Cloamby. Yet there was something more refined about his demeanor. Whereas Farmer could almost sense Cloamby’s almost feral nature this man who claimed to be Lord Greystoke seemed inhuman in a different way. Although he only seemed to be in his early thirties, his eyes seemed to be incredibly ancient. Farmer would soon discover that his instincts were spot on.
Once again Farmer was regaled with a tale that was, at face value, preposterous. His host told Farmer that although he had been born John Clayton, Lord Greystoke he had not used that name for over a thousand years. It would be better if Farmer called him Gribardsun. Gribardsun claimed to be from the future and also from the past. He told Farmer how he had been part of a time travel expedition that had traveled back in time from the 2070’s to 12,000 BC. He gave a brief description of the expedition’s adventures in the stone age and then capped it off my telling Farmer he had stayed in the past and lived from 12, 000 B.C.
Gribardsun laughed at Farmer’s expression and said he did not expect to be believed. However he promised to answer any question’s Farmer had about Tarzan. As soon as Farmer began however, Gribardsun began finishing Farmer’s sentences. Farmer asked if Gribardsun were a mind reader. Gribardsun laughed at the idea. He told Farmer he was remembering the questions that Farmer would ask him or rather the questions Farmer would ask his younger counterpart when they met a few months hence.
Farmer asked with some amusement why would he be meeting Gribardsun’s younger counterpart if he could get his answers from Gribardsun?
Gribardsun told Farmer that his younger counterpart would be intrigued by Farmer’s research into his family tree and would ask for a meeting. How would it look if Farmer turned down an opportunity to interview Lord Greystoke? Besides it had already happened from Gribardsun’s viewpoint.
Farmer felt a bit disjointed and asked with some disappointment if Gribardsun had come to give him the information about his family tree in order to keep things on the track.
Gribardsun told him no, he was there to give him a couple of vital clues. Farmer had to discover the information on his own. Gribarsun told Farmer that he was on the right track but barking up the wrong tree. Using the Gribardsun name as a starting point would help him immensely. The line between fiction and reality was a lot more blurred than most people realized. Doyle was a good example, as was, he supposed, Austen. Also despite what Cloamby had told him, he should look out for falling rocks. As Gribardsun left he told Farmer that they would meet one more time after his biography about Tarzan had been published.
Phil Farmer must have left that meeting thinking his leg had been yanked so hard it was a wonder he wasn’t one legged.
Upon returning home he combed through the copious notes he had compiled on Tarzan’s genealogy and discovered that there was a relative of Eirik Randgrith named Graegbeardssunu. Graegbeardssunu founded the Grebson baronial line. Following this lineage Farmer was shocked to discover that the family eventually acquired the Clayton name and the Barony of Grebson became the Duchy of Greystoke. His initial premise that Burroughs had entirely created false names was flawed. In reality a good portion Tarzan’s family was hiding in plain sight.
Farmer followed up on the other clues that Gribardsun had given him. Once he discovered Doyle had in fact used coded names for his characters, he found a wealth of material that led to real families, including the Claytons. The codes and connections permeated not only the Sherlock Holmes stories but wove throughout his body of work. However it was Gribardsun’s almost off hand comment about Austen that provided the key. One of Phil’s acquaintances informed him that a collector of literary esoterica, which consisted of spurious and unauthorized sequels of popular books, left their collection to the Mercantile Library in St. Louis, Missouri. Among these books was a purported diary by Elizabeth Bennett Darcy. Even though his friend was a member of the library that was part of their non-circulating section so Phil drove to St. Louis to examine the book. As he sat in the quiet, comfortable reading room and read Elizabeth’s diary entry of December 14, 1795, he must have felt as though his heart was going to explode.
Here is was. Lady Darcy detailed how her coach had nearly been hit by a falling star or a fireball from heaven, as they passed near Wold Newton. Farmer realized that the passage of Hrossástsongr about the falling star setting down in the new world was referring to the Wold Newton meteorite. Most like the original Norse words had been new town or new village or Newton. Yet he wondered how XauXaz had known of the meteorite.
As with any good diarist Lady Darcy gave copious details as to who were the passengers of the coaches. She also named the coachmen and some of the other passersby. Either she realized this was a historical event or she was more egalitarian than most of her contemporaries The names of the passengers sent shivers down his spine, Clayton, Holmes, Blakeney, Drummond, Raffles and Rutherford. In his elation he overlooked that Lady Darcy was strangely silent about why this group of English aristocrats was traipsing about the English countryside in late fall.
He copied down the information in the diary since he was unable to photocopy or even photograph the pages. Lady Darcy’s diary proved to be his true Rosetta stone and he was able to quickly ascertain the familial connections between these families before and after the Wold Newton Event. Phil Farmer must have felt a strange wave of euphoria upon learning that Pemberley House was currently owed and occupied by the Clayton family. However they never replied to his letters but he was able to compile a wealth of material about their family without their help.
In 1970, the Phil Farmer became a full time writer and his family moved back to Peoria. Shortly after moving back to Peoria, he received a telegram asking him for a meeting in Chicago. He instantly agreed to the meeting. The man he met on that September 1was a dead ringer for Gribardsun, although Farmer instantly knew it was not Gribardsun. Although Gribardsun and John Clayton, Lord Greystoke may have been physically identical, the passage of time had made Gribardsun into a very different person. Farmer had an odd sense of dislocation at having finally met the “real” Tarzan. He also had an unnerving sense of déjà vu as he asked Lord Greystoke many of the same questions he had asked Gribardsun. This time however he was equipped with more in-depth and valid information about his host.
Farmer’s published interview of course was only a portion of their conversation. Since a word for word transcript no longer exists we can only conjecture as to what some of the topics left out of the published version might have been. I suspect that one was an agreement between Farmer and Tarzan about the materials that Farmer had accumulated during the course of his Tarzan investigations. Once Tarzan had gotten all the use he could from this material, he was to destroy it. Although Tarzan was supposedly planning on faking his own death, he did not want some overly zealous investigator using Farmer’s materials to track him down. To soften this blow, Tarzan may have also given him a hint that looking more closely at his relatives Holmes, Quatermain, Fogg and Wildman could provide a writer of his caliber with material that would keep him busy for years.
Although Farmer knew that might be threatening the very existence of the future, he probably could not help but ask if Tarzan believed in time travel. He was a bit startled by Tarzan’s answer which had nothing to do with a time travel device but rather with a strange crystalline tree that had grown in Africa. Tarzan gave him a brief, yet detailed account of this previously unknown adventure.
With the hints provided to him Farmer was able to finish his biography of Tarzan and write one about Tarzan’s cousin, Doc Savage. On a visit to England a few months after his meeting with Lord Greystoke he was instrumental in helping to uncover a lost manuscript by John H. Watson, which he edited. It was on this visit he was also introduced to Sir Beowulf Clayton, who told him about the curious document found hidden in Phileas Fogg’s Saville Row home. It was either written in a code created by Fogg or in a previously unknown language. Fogg had left what amounted to a primer or a cipher key. Clayton had nearly deciphered the entire document. Beowulf Clayton believed that Phileas Fogg had either gone mad or he had an imagination to rival his chronicler Verne. Clayton promised to send Farmer a transcript. As it turns out this was not the only unknown language which Farmer was exposed to on this trip.
Beowulf Clayton introduced him to the heirs of Allan Quatermain’s estate. Farmer told them about the biographies he was writing of Tarzan and Doc Savage and expressed an interest in writing a biography about Allan Quatermain. They allowed him access to the Quatermain papers for two full days. He took copious notes and many photos of the papers and also of some rubbings that Quatermain had taken of pillars, frescos and writing tablets from Kor and Zu Vendis.
Farmer finished his Tarzan biography and turned his conversation with Gribardsun into a novel. These were published in 1972 as Tarzan Alive and Time’s Last Gift. Farmer quickly launched into many other Wold Newton Family related projects using all of the research he had accumulated. In 1973 Farmer’s biography of Doc Savage, Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life was published. He had also turned Beowulf Clayton’s translation of the Fogg manuscript into a novel entitled The Other Log of Phileas Fogg.
He had intended to follow up the biography of Doc Savage with biographies of Allan Quatermain and Tarzan’s great uncle William Clayton. Yet when he had reviewed the notes he had taken and the photostats of Quatermain’s manuscripts he became side tracked with another project Farmer discovered that Quatermain had some documents that were labeled as being legends from Kor, which Ayesha had related to him.. He also noted that in addition to art work the rubbings contained quite a bit of script.
One of the manuscript sheets Farmer had copied was a partial syllabary, possibly a reading primer designed to teach the priest-scholars. Intrigued he brought to bear all of his linguistic knowledge and began to transcribe the various photo sets into blocks of text. By using Quatermain’s word list of some of the language of Kor and its English equivalents Farmer was able to translate bits and pieces of the text he had transcribed. He found many correspondences between his translations and the oral legends that Ayesha had told Quatermain. The tale that emerged was not simply the history of Kor but much information about Khokarsa the lost civilization that had preceded it. To Farmer’s delight and shock this was also the lost civilization from which birthed Burroughs’ Opar. These lost writings were about the ancestors of La.
As Farmer translated the chronology of Khokarsa he noted with some disbelief that over the centuries there were many references to a grey eyed archer god named Sahhindar. In addition to having taught agriculture to the Khokarsans he was also supposed to be the god of time. There was no direct English translation of Sahhindar. Farmer realized that however it could be translated to anglicized Mangani as Zantar. Lord Greystoke had confirmed that this was indeed the correct format for his Mangani name; however he had come to accept the name Tarzan.
In 1974 The Adventure of the Peerless Peer and the Hadon of Ancient Opar were published. The former was an edited version of the lost Watson manuscript Farmer had helped locate, the latter was a novel based on his translations of the writings from Kor. Also published was the short piece “Extracts from the Memoirs of Lord Greystoke” As the title suggests this purported to be part of an actual Memoir written by Lord Greystoke, however it actually seems to be have been written entirely by Farmer, although compiled from his Libreville interview with Gribardsun and his Chicago interview with Lord Greystoke. Another related piece was called “A Language for Opar” which was a fictionalized account of his transcribing the documents from Kor.
In 1975 and 1976 there were a few more items that had some connections to the Wold Newton Family but were not directly related to his genealogical research. Flight to Opar completed what he had translated of Kor’s Hadon myth. Venus on the Half Shell was part of his fictional author phase and a tribute of Vonnegut. Although Kilgore Trout does appear to have been a real author and related to the Wold Newton Family, he let Farmer borrow his name for this novel. The novel also had many other references to Jonathan Swift Sommers III, another Wold Newton family member who was the favorite author of the protagonist of Venus on the Half Shell.
The short story “The Problem of Sore Bridge and Others” was also a fictional author piece and was also about a Wold Newton family member, A. J. Raffles. During the course of the tale Raffles successfully solves three cases that had baffled Sherlock Holmes and successfully thwarts an alien invasion. Although I may be castigated by Wold Newton Family scholars, I think that this tale may be entirely Farmer’s invention.
Also published in this time period was Farmer’s translation of J. H. Rosny’s Ironcastle, which contained some extra material about which Rosny was apparently unaware.
In 1977 The Lavalite World was published. This was Farmer’s long awaited fifth book in his World of Tiers series. Although it is almost entirely an exciting science fictional adventure on a very bizarre planet, it does have one section that gives the background of the series protagonist, Paul Janus Finnegan. It explicitly links him to the Wold Newton Family through the Foggs.
The Lavalite World was Phil Farmer’s last piece which had explicit Wold Newton Family ties for several years. He concentrated on finishing his Riverworld and World of Tiers series and wrote several stand alone science fiction novels and stories.
In 1977 Phil Farmer attended Fabula, a convention in Copenhagen, Denmark. While he was looking through a bookstall he suddenly became aware of a man standing next to him. It looked like Lord Greystoke but by the eyes Farmer knew it was Gribardsun. Gribardsun asked how he had been. Phil was a bit surprised to see that Gribardsun had not aged, yet realized he should not have been surprised.
After some small talk Phil told Gribardsun he was curious about one thing. If Gribardsun truly was John Clayton, then he was born in November, 1888 yet Gribardsun had told Farmer he had been born in 1872.
Gribardsun smiled and told Farmer that perhaps he had chosen that date because that would have made the publication of Tarzan Alive a centaury event. However the truth is that that is the year when he found and recovered the test modules that had been sent back in time. He knew then that his living from the past into the future had not altered anything. Up until that point he had been Tarzan living from the past but since Tarzan was about to be born he had to wholeheartedly adopt a new persona as it were, so in that year Gribardsun was born.
Farmer remarked that during the course of his researches of Opar’s ancient history he had spotted Gribardsun, that Gribardsun was Sahhindar.
Gribardsun said that Farmer had undoubtedly spotted him elsewhere as well. He was in a sense his own ancestor.
Farmer said with a laugh that Gribardsun was in a sense the ancestor of everyone presently living.
Gribardsun said that might be true but he had paid particular attention to his own family line. He had married into it several times in order to fill in some needed gaps in the family tree. He had also tried to ensure that certain key events transpired as they were supposed, and had given them a nudge when necessary.
Farmer realized ruefully that it wasn’t simply Tarzan’s family that Gribardsun had nudged along. Although he should have put it together sooner, Farmer knew why had had such miraculous luck at finding rare and unusual source material.
Farmer said that in Tarzan Alive he had made a whimsical claim that the Wild Huntsman had caused the meteorite to fall from the sky and so he could be considered the father of the Wold Newton Family. That may not be too far off the mark.
Gribardsun told Farmer that old XauXaz might have claimed to be Odin or to have to set things in motion but on that fateful day in 1795 Gribardsun was the one who made certain that the right people were at the right place at the right time.
Farmer realized that Tarzan was the alpha and omega of the Wold Newton family tree. He was the root of this tree that spread across time and space. Not only was Tarzan the utmost culmination of its beneficial mutations, he was also in a bizarre way, the primary source of those mutations. Tarzan had begun seeding his family with those superior genes long before the Wold Newton meteor ever fell. The meteor’s ionization had simply enhanced what had already been there.
As Gribardsun turned away Farmer asked if he had any advice on his future. Gribardsun told him that he would achieve two of his greatest dreams. He already had the material for the second, but that the information for the first would come from a very dangerous source and to be wary of him.
As Farmer pondered this, Gribardsun faded into the crowd and back into the mists of time.