Zara's Tales Essay - Critical Essays

Zara’s Tales

Photographer and writer Peter Beard shares eleven adventures from his years in East Africa. He revisits his forty acres of bush known as Hog Ranch introducing the reader to Big Pig and the other warthogs who wandered through camp. The tales are filled with wild animals including tree hyrax, monkeys, and rodents, as well as more dangerous creatures such as cantankerous rhinos, man-eating lions, cunning crocodiles, and enraged elephants. His life seems an endless safari.

Through his words and photos Beard conjures images of an earlier, more primitive Africa on the brink of great change. Wildlife conservation challenges spur him to round up and relocate rhinos with members of the Kenya game department. Another tale tells of studying monster crocodiles at Lake Rudolph. In a terrifying encounter he only recounts during daylight, he confronts one of the legendary lions of Tsavo. Beard interweaves humor and suspense, adventure and sophistication, as only a survivor can. Charged by a lion, nearly drowned, trampled by an elephant, Beard calmly shares the experiences with a hint of underlying sorrow for the plight of threatened African wildlife.

At times the tales feel disjointed as they ramble through the African landscapes. Though the stories are Zara’s favorites and intended for her, the content is occasionally much too graphic and harrowing--not for the faint of heart. Yet, the book possesses a childlike delight at the wonder that is Africa. This feeling is nurtured by the doodles, illustrations and enhancements to Beard’s photography by members of the Hog Ranch art department. The photography captivates the imagination and bring Beard’s escapades to life--moments of deep terror of paddling through croc- infested waters, moments of rich beauty watching the glide of giraffes through twilight, moments of elation capturing the elusive bongo on film. Equatorial Africa beckons.