November 25, 2009
A Contribution To The
ERBzine ERB Library Project
H. Rider Haggard
Review by R.E. Prindle
The Gruesome, The Morbid AndThe Hideous
Rider Haggard was criticized severely by certain of his contemporaries for employing so many gruesome, morbid and hideous details. Indeed, ’ She’ seems to be a study in the hideous, the gruesome and the morbid. If one concentrates on those aspects of the story one might actually question Haggard’s mental health.
Haggard himself calls attention to this morbidity. In King Solomon’s Mines he pointed out his humor with references to the Ingoldsby Legends; in She he makes a pointed reference to a Mark Tapley. I had no idea who Mark Tapley might be but thought I’d consult that most magnificent of encyclopedias, the internet. No problem. Mark Tapley was a character from Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit. No matter how adverse the circumstances were Tapley was always cheerful and ebullient. Haggard must have thought him ridiculous. Thus he is devising a series of incidents that would bring even Mark Tapley down. Hmm. Interesting experiment.
It would seem then that Haggard was suffering from a fairly deep depression. In that sense She is sort of a horror story not too different in intent than, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Indeed, at one point Ayesha explains that she rules by terror. That being the most effective way to control brutes like the Amahagger.
Certainly the storm at sea prior to entering Kor was an example of terror on the part of nature, a portent of things to come. Not least of these was the hot potting and projected cannibalism of the surviving member of the ship’s crew, Mohammed. ‘She’ had only required the safety of the Whites; as Mohammed was apparently a negrified Arab the Amahagger excluded him from the ban on Whites. An interesting example of White Skin privilege.
Their custom of killing their victims was to heat a pot red hot and turn it over on the victim’s head. There’s a gruesome and hideous enough example. You can see where Burroughs picked up his fascination for the gruesome and hideous.
The Caves of Kor are actually a city of the dead. Kor was an active civilization before Egypt existed in the fifth or sixth millennium BC. As embalming was a known practice when the Dynasties began c. 3400 the practice must have developed long before. Quite possibly it was practiced by the peoples of the Basin before the Mediterranean was flooded. In The World’s Desire Haggard mentions that the ancient Egyptians possessed writings in a precedent language. If so, how far back things like embalming go might be prodigious.
Egyptian embalming was primitive compared to that of the Korians. While Egyptian mummies became desicated the Korian process was such that the body was preserved forever in an apparent state of health. Thus bodies perhaps ten thousand years old or older had the appearance of freshness.
Now, this is positively creepy. Holly’s Amahagger attendent Bilalli while discussing Korian embalming told Holly that while he was a young man a particularly beautiful female corpse occupied the very slab on which Holly slept. Bilalli used to enter the cell and sit looking admiringly on the beautiful corpse by the hour. One day his mother caught him at it. The embalming fluid used was extremely flammable. Bilalli’s mother stood the body up and lit it. Like a huge torch the body burned down to the feet. The feet were still as good as new. Bilalli wrapped them and stored them beneath Holly’s slab. Groping around beneath the slab he brought out those ten thousand year old feet, still fresh, except for some charring at the ankles.
Haggard doesn’t stop there but goes on to emphasize the beauty of one particular foot. One wonders if perhaps George Du Maurier read She becoming entranced by the foot image thus reproducing the image in his novel Trilby when Little Billee draws Trilby’s beautiful foot on th wall. It is a thing Du Maurier would do as he inserted his literary baggage as profusely as Burroughs.
What effect this image had on Haggard’s contemporary readers may be guessed from the complaints about his gruesomeness.
In fact Haggard projects a depressed brooding evil permeating the Caves of Kor very well. This may have been caused by his and Lang’s theories of the Matriarchy. Human sacrifice was an integral part of the Matriarchal world. The sacrifices were invariably of men because women had greater economic value. When men were no longer sacrificed bulls, rams, the males of the species were substituted, the female still having greater economic value. Thus the story of Isaac and the Ram. That would be a great advance in civilization. About that time Isis ceased being the Egyptian symbol of the firmament being replaced by the female cow as the symbol of economics. Something like the kings of England sitting on the woolsack.
Depending on Haggard’s and Lang’s theories of the Matriarchy then Haggard may have been portraying a consciousness that has ceased to exist. There is always an element of misogyny in Haggard’s stories that is no longer tolerated. Then men were men and women were women instead of the attempted strange unisexuality of today. Thus the tens of miles of swamp between the Amahagger quarters and the citadel of Kor indicate the extent and quality of the Matriarchy. Swamps are the symbol of the female and the Matriarchy or, in other words, this very primitive superstitious consciousness.
The Korian swamp was haunted by mephitic vapors, evil smelling and oppressive. The ground they walked on was of uncertain solidity; it might look firm but this was only illusory as one could break through the crust. Often the litter bearers were walking through evil smelling muck up to their knees.
At one point an accident occurs and Bilalli’s litter with him in it is dumped into the slimy water. He would have drowned if Holly hadn’t leaped into the rank female waters to save him. They emerge looking something like the creature from the Black Lagoon.
It will be remembered that Holly was something of a misogynist. One may be stretching a point but even though rejecting women and marriage Holly managed to inherit a son from a man who was also a womanless widower. Haggard makes a strong contrasting point when he says that Leo was not averse to female company. The manservant, Job, is absolutely terrified of the female.
After traversing this desolate swamp of the female for days they arrive at the citadel or temple of Kor. Now, the citadel of Kor was built on an ancient lake bed that had been drained ten thousand years before. In that sense Ayesha is the same as Nimue or the Lady Of The Lake of King Arthur. Nemue lived at the bottom of a lake where she raised Lanclot who consequently was called Lancelot of the Lake.
Compare this also with Haggard’s postumously published Treasure of the Lake in which the Anima figure lives on an island in the middle of a lake in the middle of a volcanic crater. The lake of Kor was also in the middle of a crater.
When the Korian civilization was extinguished it wasn’t by invasion or other external reasons but by a monster plague something like the fourteenth century european Black Death that wiped out nearly everyone. At the resulting rate of death it wasn’t possible to embalm everyone so that tens of thousands of bodies were dumped into a huge subterranean pit.
In conducting Holly and Leo on a guided tour of Kor which was one gigantic necropolis, talk about depressing, Ayesha brings them to this pit. I quote:
Accordingly I followed (She) to a side passage opening out of the main cave, then down a great number of steps, and along an underground shaft that cannot have been less than sixty feet beneath the surface of the rock, and was ventilated by curious borings that ran upward, I do not know where. Suddenly this passage ended, and Ayesha halted, bidding the mutes return, and, as she prophesied, I saw a scene such as I was not likely to behold again. We were standing in an enormous pit, or rather on the brink of it, for it went down deeper- I do not know how much- than the level on which we stood, and was edged in with a low wall of rock. So far as I could judge, this was about the size of the space beneath the dome of St. Paul’s in London, and when the lamps were held up I saw that it was nothing but one vast charnel-house, being literally fullof thousands of human skeletons, which lay piled up in an enormous gleaming pyramid, formed by the slipping down of the bodies at the apex as others were dropped in from above. Anything more appalling than this mass of human remains of a departed race I cannot imagine, and what made it even more dreadful was that in this dry air a considerable number of bodies had become dessicated with the skin still on them, and now, fixed in every conceivable position, stared at us out of a mountain of white bones, grotesquely horrible caricatures of humanity. In my astonishment I uttered an ejaculation, and the echoes of my voice, ringing in that vaulted space, disturbed a skull which hd been accurately balanced for many thousands of years near the apex of the pile. Down it came with a run, bounding along merrily towards us, and of course bringing an avalanche of other bones after it, till at last the whole pit rattled with their movement, even as though the skeletons were rising up to greet us.
Talk about a holocaust! Imagine standing in that dimly lit space far beneath ground, in the grave itself so to speak,and viewing that. Holly was overcome and perhap Mark Tapley himself would have lost a little of his cheeriness. If that didn’t do it the ball Ayesha threw would have.
Before I move on to that though let’s take a penultimate example that might actually unsettle Mark Tapley. This is truly unsettling with truly macabre and voyeuristic soft porn details that are quite remarkable. Let me say that it is only with the fourth reading that the horrific nature of these details really began to sink in. I hope to really make this clear in the next section in which I intend to do an in depth analysis of Ayesha.
In his cell at the citadel of Kor Holly notices a cleft in the wall he hadn’t noticed before. This cleft is going to lead him to Ayesha’s sleeping room. This is not unlike King Solomon’s Mines in which upon entering the symbolic vagina they were led to the womb or treasure box. As I say Holly entered this cleft, let your imagination dwell on that, and followed a dark, dank, narrow corridor until he perceived a light.
He is looking into Ayesha’s sleeping room where in a certain deshabille, very erotic, she is addressing a covered form on a bier next to hers. This is the embalmed body of Kallicrates who she murdered twenty-two hundred years before. So she has been sleeping with this corpse for twenty-two centuries. Now, dwell on that for moment, let the horror of it sink in.
She addresses the corpse in a fairly demented way. Twenty-two hundred years of this would drive anybody nuts. Finally to the dismay of Holly she animates the body by telekinetic powers actually causing it to stand zombie like so she can kiss and caress it. A lot of necrophilia in this novel. Haggard must have been half dotty when he wrote this. Of course Kallicrates is a double of Leo so Holly has all he can do to keep from crying out. Causing the dead man to lay himself down Ayesha covers him and blows out the light.
Holly has to find his way back in the dark reminding one of innumerable passages in Burroughs where his characters have to find their way in the dark. Holly gets only so far and collapses in the tunnel. Waking he sees a light coming in from his cell allowing him to find his way back.
And then Ayesha throws her ball. If you’ve read carefully and really ingested these macabre, gruesome, and as Burroughs’ would say, hideous details they’re beginning to oppress your mind, perhaps even a mind like Mark Tapley’s.
Now Haggard trundles out the frosting. To illuminate her ball Ayesha brings out piles of ten thousand year old corpses placing them around the perimeter as human torches. Laying out a large bonfire the corpses are stacked alternately like so much cordwood and replaced as they were consumed. Remember these are as fresh looking as you or I. The Roman emperor Nero actually used live humans in the same manner. Haggard notes this in the text which I thought weakened the effect.
Ayesha seems to be aware of the effect, indeed, intended it and appears to relish the reaction.
These are the high points of these horrfic details. Minor ones are constant so that the cumulative effect leading up to the terrific images of the demise of Ayesha, temporary though it might be, is overwhelming. But about She, Ayesha, in the next part.
November 20, 2009
A Contribution To The
ERBzine ERB Library Project
H. Rider Haggard
Review by R.E. Prindle
From London To The The Caves Of Kor
She is dedicated to Andrew Lang:
I Inscribe This History To
In Token Of Personal Regard
My Sincere Admiration For His Learning
And His Works
One may well ask then who is this Andrew Lang and what is his learning? In point of fact Haggard not only dedicated She to Lang but wrote three books in collaboration with him. Andrew Lang, 1884-1912, was a Scottish scholar specializing in folklore, mythology and religion so you can see where Haggard came by much of his esoteric knowledge. In addition Lang was one of the founding members of the Society For Psychic Research and a past-President. Lang wrote dozens of books over his lifetime. He even wrote a parody of She in 1887 called He. Today he is remembered only for his collections of fairy tales. Twelve volumes in all each titled after a color such as The Crimson, or Blue or Pink or Gray Fairy Book. The volumes are undergoing a fair revival now with a collector’s edition published by Easton Press and several nicely bound volumes by the Folio Society.
The nineteenth century was the one in which advanced knowledge of the past was rapidly extending European knowledge greatly. The Rosetta Stone deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics had been achieved as recently as the 1830s. Nineveh and the Assyrian ruins had been unearthed. Schlieman had discovered the locations of Troy and Mycenae.
The exoteric side was covered by the academics while the esoteric side was covered by independent scholars like Madame Blavatsky and probably Andrew Lang. There was a clean split between the academic Patriarchal view of ancient history and the emerging Matriarchal view that had just been developed by the Swiss mythologist, J.J. Bachofen. Bachofen organized ancient history into Hetaeric, Matriarchal and Patriarchal periods. He himself was a member of the successor Scientific period.
The academics totally rejected the notion of a Matriarchal period. This, of course, led to a complete inability to understand Homer, both Iliad and Odyssey. The Iliad especially is a description of the war by the Patriarchy to destroy Matriarchy.
Lang seems to have understood the Matriarchal phase of ancient history. He must have passed this knowledge on to Haggard. Ayesha, as She, rules a Matriarchal society. While the ideas represented in She must have seemed bizarre or merely an amusing reversal of the Patriarchal world at the time, today it all reads comprehensibly. It rings true if not exact.
C.G. Jung, the psychologist, who developed such notions as the male Anima and the Shadow was very immpressed by what he saw as the male Anima in She. Madame Blavatsky lauded the book for its esoteric content. But then, Haggard was firing on all eight cylinders when he wrote it, it is difficult to conceive of a more perfect fantasy/adventure novel. Indeed Haggard subtitles the novel: The History Of An Adventure.
Haggard was an excellent Egyptian scholar. He not only visualized Egypt convincingly in his Egyptian novels but his Egyptian ideas pervade the African novels. Many of them involve Egyptian influences and even peoples filtering down into East and Central Africa. The Ivory Child is a case in point as is She.
The set up to the trip out is brilliant incorporating details that become cliches in B movies.
Leo Vincey’s father before he died gave a metal box to Leo’s guadian, Horace Holly, that wasn’t to be opened until Leo was twenty-five. This box is now opened. It contained a letter to Leo, a potsherd (a piece of a broken jar) covered with ‘uncial’ Greek lettering, a miniature and a scarab containing Egyptian hieroglyphics that read ‘Royal Son of the Sun.’
Thus Haggard captured most if not all of the elements that went into the intellectual aura fostered by B moves primarily in the first years of the talkies through the thirties. That entailed things like the Curse of the Pharaohs, movies like The Mummy melding into Wolf Man, Dracula, Frankenstein and African juju spells. Things against which Europeans had no defense because the ancient magic was stronger than modern science, or so we were led to believe. I can’t speak for others but it took me a while to shake this oppressive spirit. This was pretty strong stuff for my ten to twelve year old brain. Not to mention being bombarded by The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Thing and The Day The Earth Stood Still. We wuz tried in the fire and come through good.
The gist of it is that Leo’s ancestor Kallicrates lived in the time of the last Pharaoh Nectanebo as one of the royal family. Spookier still Nectanebo was said to have fled Egypt before the conquering hordes, going to Macedon where he secretly impregnated Olympia, Philip’s wife, who then gave birth to Alexander which made him the rightful heir to the Pharaohship instroducing Greeks as rulers into his city of Alexandria.
At any rate Kallicrates girl friend, Ayesha, killed him in a jealous rage. The family nursing vengeance for all these two thousand years it is Vincey’s mission if he chooses to accept it, to follow the ancient map to the Caves of Kor and kill Ayesha or, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed who has been nursing regrets over killing Kallicrates two thousand years previously. Listen to me, I’m tellin’ ya it’s all here.
So Vincey, Holly and their man Job set out to find this place in Africa even more remote, if possible, than King Solomon’s Mines. And a heck of a lot more hostile too.
The trip out is some of Haggard’s finest writing. They are to be looking for a rock formation on the coast in the shape of a gorilla’s head. Sailing the coast they miraculously spot this head just as a terrific squall sends their felucca, dhow or other exotic ship from foreign climes to the b ottom.
But, even though the ship sinks they beat the reaper because they brought a boat containing unsinkable water tight compartments. As the storm subsides the three survivors along with an Arab float into the mouth of the appropriate stream as though it were all foreordained. What follows is some excellent writing with details I don’t need to recount.
Suffice it to say they are dragging their boat along an ancient canal when they are accosted by men from Kor. Ordinarily these guys would have speared them and moved on, no strangers needed in Kor. Using her magic She had learned of Leo’s coming a week previously thus ordering their lives spared while they were to be brought to her. Uh huh.
The detailing is terrific, this book is tight and well organized. It moves right along. The land is under the thumb of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. This is a tight Matriarchy as we now recognize not just some strange place where a woman is in charge.
While the three are entering the Caves of Kor, Leo Vincey, being the cynosure of all female eyes, a knockout named Ustane steps up and kisses him. Not averse to a public display of affection Leo lays one on her back. New to the area and not aware of the customs of the place Leo had just accepted Ustane as his woman. In town for a few minutes and already married. That’s the way things happen in this particular Matriarchy. Ustane is now in conflict with Ayesha, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.
The stage is now set for the main drama when Ayesha recognizes Leo as her long lost Kallicrates come back from all those reincarnations at last.
The exoteric Catholic Church is thus thrust aside in favor of all the heretical doctrines of the esoteric which have been bubbling under the Hot 100 for two thousand years. These unfamiliar esoteric doctrines would become the mainstay and staple of science fiction/fantasy for the next one hundred years.
Just as an example of how Burroughs probably learned esoterica, I became familiar with estoeric themes myself from reading 1950s science fiction and fantasy- Amazing Stories, William Tenn, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and all that sort of stuff without realizing what I was taking in, thus Burroughs surrounded by the Society for Psychical Research, Camille Flammarion, George Du Maurier and Stevenson et al. naturally learned the esoteric language. No mystery, he was speaking in tongues before he knew it.
Leo is awaiting the summons from Ayesha which will be covered in Part III.
November 17, 2009
A Contribution To The
ERBzine ERB Library Project
H. Rider Haggard
Review by R.E. Prindle
The Framing Device
From eighteen eighty-five to two thousand nine is one hundred twenty-five years. The span records many changes. In 1885 there were no movies, no radio or TV. Movies came in c. 1900 beginning to change the literary paradigm. The movies produced a definite class structure in literature. With the introduction of sound in 1927-28 two classes of film developed. A movies and B movies. A movies employed A or literary fiction such as War And Peace, Oliver Twist and such while the developing fields of genre fiction were reduced to an inferior B status.
Time has erased the meaning of the terms A and B pictures. I suppose that if a younger person was told that he was watching a B movie he wouldn’t know what was meant. Even if a devoted movie buff, the mere classification would have no experiential significance. You had to have been there.
In the development of the film industry it was thought that studios had to have their own theatre chains. Thus MGM movies wouold be shown only at Loewe’s first run theatres and so on.
In those glory days of the movies first run theatres were gorgeous temples, often named The Temple, the Roxy in NYC has the most spectacular reputation. The goal of the studios was to produce 52 A movies a year to supply the ‘exhibition’ chain a new first run A film a week. Only MGM was to reach this goal.
Once having been exhibited for its week or period A movies were released to rerun theatres usually outside the chains where they were shown at reduced prices. As an added incentive a second feature was shown and this was a B movie.
We lucky kids who inhabited Saturday matinees every week year around usually got two B movies and selected short subjects which included previews, a serial, a cartoon, a newsreel, and some sort of film usually a travelogue on deep sea fishing or water skiing matter. These comprised an alternate reality in addition to real life and dreams. Nor did we feel shorted by B movies. To our young minds these movies were fraught with the most profound thoughts imaginable. Hopalong Cassidy and Tarzan were the favorites of most kids- Gene Autry, Roy Rogers a distant second to Gene. Unbeknownst to us of course the literary granddaddy of the B movie was H. Rider Haggard and She.
Not that Haggard movies were shown with any regularity but he managed to anticipate all the elements of B movies to perfection. Many if not most of the key elements of B moviedom were pinched from Haggard. What Haggard didn’t provide was tossed in by his disciple Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Burroughs borrowed his use of the framing device from Haggard probably with the frame of She as his model. The framing device of Tarzan Of The Apes shows emulation of that of She. It’s a good one.
Most writers of these tall yarns wanted the reader to believe he was reading a true story, in other words, an invitation to suspend disbelief- that is, everything fits in so he divised a framing story as persuasion.
The first paragraph of She’s preface is perfection of its kind:
In giving to the world the record of what, considered as an adventure only, is I suppose one of the most wonderful and mysterious experiences ever undergone by mortal man, I feel it incumbent on me to explain my exact connection with it. So I will say at once that I am not the narrator but only the editor of this extraordinary history, and then go on to tell how it found its way into my hands.
If one compares that to the first paragraph of Tarzan Of The Apes the similarities become immediately apparent. Both authors claim no authorship. In both cases the story, or history, was given to them by a second party. Thus Haggard the author as editor can speak in the first person while making editorial comments.
The hint is made that Allan Quatermain is the actual editor. The editor was visiting Cambridge University one day some twenty years previously when he noticed two interesting people. His friend knowing them offered to introduce him.
“All right,” answered my friend, “nothing easier. I know Vincey; I’ll introduce you,” and he did, and for some minutes we stood chatting- about the Zulu people, I think I had just returned from the Cape at that time.
So the canny reader hopefully having read King Solomon’s Mines can infer that the unnamed editor is, in fact, Allan Quatermain as a garrulous amiable gentleman.
Twenty some odd years after that casual and very brief meeting, as improbable as it may seem, one of the two men, Vincey’s guardian, Horace Holly sends the Editor the text for She.
Holly says: ‘You will be surprised considering the slight nature of our acquaintance to get a letter from me.’ I should say so. What a great memory.
Holly goes on:
I have recently read with much interest a book of yours describing a Central African adventure. I take it this book is partly true, and partly an effort of the imagination. However this may be, it has given me an idea. It happens, how you will see in the accompanying manuscript (which together with the scarab, the ‘Royal Son of the Sun), and the original sherd, I am sending you by hand) that my ward, or rather my adopted son Leo Vincey, and myself have recently passed through a real African adventure, of a nature and much more marvellous than the one which you describe, that to tell the truth I am almost ashamed to submit it to you but you should believe my tale.
So Holly sees through Quatermain’s preposterous story as only half true while Holly’s equally preposterous story is the whole truth, the real thing. Well, if you’ve accepted the premiss there’s no way to go but further in so, all one can say to Holly is that his story is going to have to go some to exceed Quatermain’s.
Generously Holly offers any profits from publication as a reward while underwriting any possible loss. That was real Haggard accepting that bundle on Quatermain’s part.
Rounding out the baloney the editor says:
Of the history itself the reader must judge. I give it to him, with the exception of a very few alterations, made with the object of concealing the identity of the actors from the general public, exactly as it has come to me.
As a reader my judgement is that it is an excellent whopper but I don’t believe a word- or do I?
The frame continues:
With slight [five pages] preface, which circumstances make necessary, I introduce the world to Ayesha and the Caves of Kor.
Ready when you are, C.B.
An excellent, convincing framing device. The Editor must be Allan Quatermain yet the name of the editor is concealed from us as well as the identities of the actors. Where we are going is mystery piled on mystery, the strange and wonderful lie before us, we in complete safety.
So with Burroughs framing device of Tarzan Of The Apes. While not copied word for word certainly idea for idea. The influence of Haggard is apparent but not paramount. Burroughs’ mind was a maelstrom into which innumerable influences (a slight exaggeration) are drawn to the depths of his subconscious and emerge melded into something so close and yet so different than his many, many sources.
Having roped the reader in like a carnival barker luring the victim into his peep show Haggard begins to lay out his nearly perfect story of the type.
Part B follows.
November 13, 2009
A Contribution To The
ERBzine ERB Library Project
King Solomon’s Mines
H. Rider Haggard
Review by R.E. Prindle
Three volumes made Rider Haggard’s reputation then and maintain it today. Classics of the B genre. The first of these is the subject of this review, King Solomon’s Mines. The other two are She and Allan Quatermain. The novels were written between 1885 and 1888. These were very interesting years in the exploration of Africa. Speke had identified the source of the White Nile twenty some years earlier. Robert Livingstone had been found and sensationally recounted by the great Henry Morton Stanley.
Subsequently Stanley had navigated the course of the Nile from the plateau down to the sea, a stunning accomplishment. His rescue of the Emin Pasha in 1886 was on everyone’s lips. The white spaces on the maps were rapidly disappearing. In the midst of this excitement Rider Haggard’s great African trilogy made a propitious appearance. No better timeing could have been devised. And the novels were sensational, plausible too, at that time. Who knew what additional wonders Africa concealed. There was room in that gigantic continent for a lot of lost cities and civilizations. Haggard and his disciple, Edgar Rice Burroughs rapidly populated Africa with a host of them.
Haggard would continue to write exciting African tales until the day he died in 1925 after a lifetime of putting out two or three novels a year. They usually followed the same format, a long trip out taking up at least half the novel, the intense situation on arrival and a return home. The same format Edgar Rice Burroughs would use. The novels were packed with esoteric lore and authentic African details.
It is said that Haggard wrote the Mines on a bet after being told he couldn’t write the equal of Stevenson’s Treasure Island. He did do that but Mines is written tongue in cheek with a lot of jokes. Haggard makes this clear when Quatermain says that his two literary mainstays are the Bible and the Ingoldsby Legends. The Legends written in the 1830s and 1840s are a collection of humorous parodies of Folklore themes and poems by Richard Harris Barham writing anonymously as Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappingham Manor. The book was very popular with, it seems, all the the authors till the turn of the century at least. One finds it mentioned frequently. Taking the hint I read a copy. Thus, Haggard is protecting his rear in case of failure by saying his story is just a put on or joke.
King Solomon’s Mines is told in the first person by the old knockabout hunter, Allan Quatermain. He has a bumbling self-effacing manner not unlike Inspector Columbo of the TV series. You don’t think he can do it but he’s spot on every time.
As was common with this sort of adventure story the point is to make the reader think the story is true. Burroughs probably picked up his habit of framing from Haggard. Many of the details of Mines are true to Haggard’s own life while his study of the Zulus and other tribes accurately portray their customs. Haggard is very sympathetic to African customs and mentality actually seeming to envy them. He genuinely can see little difference between Black and White while adopting a fairly critical attitude towards Whites and a sympathetic one toward Blacks. Very modern. Indeed, in this novel the White heroes join a Zulu Impi or regiment and fight with the Zulus as White Zulus. Naturally they comport themselves heroically, Curtis excelling the Blacks at their own game.
As the novel begins Haggard sets up the story. The Englishmen, Curtis and Good, are out in search of a lost brother. The meeting with Quatermain on shipboard is fortuitous leading to his subsequent employment as their guide. Haggard describes a boat journey from Capetown to Durban that is obviously authentic; Haggard himself has taken the same trip. Thus unlike Burroughs’ imaginary Africa this is authentic, the Real Thing. On the journey Quatermain meets Sir henry Curtis and his friend John Good, who need a guide to take them in search of Curtis’ lost brother.
The search will take them to a hidden Zulu enclave behind a burning desert and a towering mountain range. The trip out is filled with interesting authentic details but no need to dwell on them here.
Crossing the burning sands not known to have been successfully navigated before, they are confronted by the towering twin peaks of Sheba’s Breasts topped with four thousand foot nipples. Who can’t see the humor there. Pretty racy for what are thought of as stodgy old Victorian times. Bear in mind the Ingoldsby Legends while reading the story as probably most of Haggard’s readers would have been familiar with them. They are of this sort of tongue in cheek humor. The ancient map they are following indicated the route to follow.
Behind the Breasts lies Kukuanaland. Undoubtledly Kuku should be read coo-coo. The Kukuanas are the Zulu tribe in possession of King Solomon’s Mines. Kukuanaland is somewhere near the ruins of Zimbabwe, although Haggard doesn’t allude directly to the site. I’m sure everyone has heard of the ruins of Zimbabwe. The old Zimbabwe I mean.
There has always been a dispute as to who built Zimbabwe. Africans claim it was built by Africans while the thought in Haggard’s time was that Zimbabwe was built by Phoenicians hence a few mentions of them. The notion was that these were the ruins through the Queen of Sheba of King Solomon, hence the title King Solomon’s Mines. Zimbabwe is either in or next to lands of the Shona people. The Shona arrived in the area from the North possibly from 300 to 800 AD. There is no record of stone work among the Shona before or after. The structures of Zimbabwe are of shale like stone merely piled on top of each other being very thick and very high. Instead of piled up stones it is customary to say the construction is without mortar as though that is a great skill. Without mortar = piled up stones, doesn’t it?
It seems unlikely the Shona would have built them while it is also a remote possibility that the Phoenicians did. It is true however that Greeks traded on these shores but they didn’t build them. A more probable builder is the Malagasy people. I don’t think the Malagasy arrival is commonly known yet, it wasn’t to me until a few years ago. The Malgasies made the long sea journey from Indonesia to arrive in Madagascar and East Africa sometime between 500 and 1000 AD. As they would have been invaders into a recently and sparsely settled territory any groups landing on the continent would have been automatically at war with the Shona thus needing a fort for protection. Being much more technologically advanced than the Africans they would likely be familiar with stonework.
As it is said that Zimbabwe was a mining and trading community, as the Malagasy were seafarers it is likely they would be the more obvious candidate otherwise one has to explain where the traders of what is described as an extensive trade come from as the the Africans couldn’t possibly have gone to the buyers or known what to trade. Interestingly the Malagasies introduced the banana and an improved yam to Africa thus they had to land on African shores.
Zimbabwe had only been discovered by Europeans a few years before Haggard arrived in Durban. Very likely he was eager to see the ruins and did as he does have at least three stories in which Zimbabwe figures. Here he combines Zimbabwe, King Solomon and the Phoenicians.
As the party approaches Kukuanaland they are faced by a huge mountain range towering perhaps 15,000 to 18,000 feet into the sky. Facing them are two huge mountains named Queen Sheba’s Breasts, the Grand Tetons of Africa.
Here I have to mention a blogger (feministbookworm.wordpress.com) who pointed out the female arrangement of Kukuanaland. This escaped me in my previous readings but is of some interest. Haggard in a cryptic way has written a fairly pornographic story, especially for Victorian times. I’m sure most people didn’t get it even though Haggard provides a fairly obvious map although turned upside down. This is along the coy lines of various pop songs such as ‘Baby, let me bang your box.’ After shouting out this line several times allowing the average guy to think a woman is being propositioned the singer reveals he’s actually referring to a piano- box in musician’s slang equals piano. Box = a woman’s pudenda in sexual slang.
If one looks at Haggard’s map Sheba’s Breast’s are to the South while there is a triangle of mountains to the North. The triangle of three mountains forms a female Delta or box. In the middle between the Breasts and Delta is the Kukuana capitol called Loo. Loo is British slang for toilet or ‘shitter’ so we some scatology going on here.
This gets better. I jump ahead to the ending. The Englishmen are promised diamonds from King Solomon’s Mines. The mines are located within the Delta or pudenda. British slang of times for the female pudenda was Treasure Box. Thus the Englishmen are going to descend through the vagina into the womb of the mines where the diamonds are stored in actual treasure boxes. Humor, remember. Bear in mind that in Burroughs diamonds are of the female, actually Anima, treasure. Same here. This is going to get better.
Apart from Mother Earth, represented by Sheba’s pudenda, there are only two women in the story which Haggard smirkingly points out: One is a Bantu beauty who becomes attached to Good, the other is an old hag named Gagool. The latter forms the model for Burroughs’ old Black crone in Gods of Mars and Nemone’s guardian in Tarzan And The City Of Gold.
Both accompany the three White men to King Solomon’s mines. At whatever age Burroughs first read this the impressions stuck. This stuff was current literature to him while Classics to us. One must imagine the excitement with which these novels were read. Readers of Opar Tarzan novels (Return, Jewels, Golden Lion and Invincible) will immediately recognize the setup although there are differences.
Always one to employ horror effects Haggard is at his best in this early novel. The group descended as it were through the vagina into the depths of the womb. Along the way are giant stalactites. (Penises?) Then they enter a chamber in which the dead kings of Kukuana are preserved. Rather than Egyptian mummification they are set beneath a drip being turned into stalactites or, in other words, big pricks. Seems to me like an obvious joke. A huge figure of death presides over the immortal enclave.
Proceeding further they come upon a door set in the wall blocking the way. The door is a huge slab several feet thick operated by a hidden mechanism that lifts the slab vertically into the ceiling. Gagool with a hidden movement releases the door which slowly and efficiently retracts into the ceiling. The party can now enter the treasure room or womb. The door stands for men’s sexual desire for the female. As with the hymen without equal desire on the part of the woman entrance is barred but with woman’s compliance the way opens easily.
Inside the room or womb are the treasure chests containing unlimited value in diamonds.
After taunting the men Gagool makes a break for the door having released the lever that closes it. She is held back by Foulata who worshipped Good. Stabbed by Gagool she falls to the ground but has successfully delayed Gagool. In attempting to roll under the descending slab the tardy witch is crushed flatter than a piece of paper. The men are now trapped in the womb but they have a candle for light. Quatermain stuffs his pockets with stones while filling a basket Foulata brought.
Here’s the classic B movie part: While waiting for death they notice that the air remains fresh. Good discovers a trap door in a corner. Opening this they descend as it were into the bowels of this elogated represention of a woman who might represent Mother Earth or the Great Mother thus forming a collective Anima for the three White men. Anticipating She a little. A bizarre Anima for Haggard also. OK, I’ve got a weird sense of humor. I’ve always known it but that doesn’t make it less funny. No longer having a light they are forced to feel their way through the tunnels. The tunnels eerily represent the intestines. Haggard is getting really scatological here as you know what emerges from intestines.
As they pick their way along Good falls into a stream that greatly resembles the urethra. Fortunately Quatermain has some matches. One is used to locate Good clinging to a rock in midstream, possibly meant as a kidney stone as a joke. Hauled ashore they backtrack and resume their way. Curtis spots a dim light toward which they move. The opening narrows down to the point that the men have to squeeze through tumbling out into the diamond shaft like so many turds. Haggard must have been gleeful at what he was getting away with.
Climbing out of the pit they discover they have returned to the entrance. Thus vagina and rectum are only a short distance apart. Anatomically correct as it were. Haggard had a fine sense of humor.
While adapting the topography for his own needs one can easily see how Burroughs replicates Haggards’ design in Opar. Burroughs designed a long straight corridor but broken by a fifteen foot or so gap. In Jewels of Opar Tarzan falls through the gap dropping into a pool of water or river much as in Mines. Proceeding further he enters he jewel room of Opar filling his pouch as he had neither pockets or basket.
Opar itself replicates the Treasure House of Kukuanaland. The gold vaults represent the head of the female figure or perhaps only one of Sheba’s breasts. Proceeding down the corridor, or Great Road of Kukuanaland one comes to the sacrificial chamber situated much as the city of Loo. Proceeding from the chamber one comes to the exit. This is described by Burroughs as a narrow crack or cleft in the wall to pass through which Tarzan had to turn his shoulders sideways. So, Opar and Kukuanaland are built according to the same scheme.
Obviously the memory popped into Burroughs’ mind in The Return Of Tarzan, developed in Jewels of Opar and Golden Lion and came to perfection in Tarzan The Invincible. It would seem clear that ERB understood the sexual structure of King Solomon’s Mines.
If we go back to the other end of Kukuanaland we have the two towering mountains known as Queen Sheba’s Breasts. In order to prevent anyone taking a low level route between the Breasts there is a perpendicular barrier running between the breasts rising several thousand feet. Odd geological formation. Rising 4000 feeet above the breasts themselves are the nipples. That should be enough to make anyone laugh.
A recurrent theme in the stories is a juxtaposition of ice with summer weather, often associated with a woman as here. Perhaps Haggard had a cold, cold mother.
While the party is both starving and thirsting they find neither game nor water until Umbopo discovers some melon patches providing food and water until they reach the snow line. Soon they come to the nipple rising sheer from the breast. At the base of the nipple is a cave. This cave may possibly have been appropriated as the entrance to Opar’s gold vaults in Burroughs. In the cave is the frozen body of Da Silvestre who made the map they have been following. The bushman servant freezes to death during the night so they set him over by Da Silvestre. There’s a joke here but I don’t get.
Continuing down Sheba’s left breast they reach below the snow line. The boys spot an antelope way off there, long shot, but Quatermain makes it, cleanly knocking out a vertebrae in the neck. While cleaning up in an adjacent stream and eating they are surprised by a band of Kukuana and taken.
Umbopo who signed on back in Durban always had this mysterious royal air about him and now we’re going to find out why. For those contemporaries who insist that no book should violate their enlightened prejudices whether the book be as old as Homer or not they may feel uncomfortable reading this book. By and large Haggard shares the attitudes toward race, gender and whatever of his times rather than Liberal notions of today. Can be painful for certain types.
Nevertheless Haggard has a deep admiration for the Zulu tribes and a kind of understanding one toward the lesser Bushman and Hottentots. The Zulus are uniformly tall and well built while Quatermain and Good are smaller and more comical in appearance. Only Sir Henry Curtis is of the same stature, slightly larger, as the Zulus. He seems to stand in for what is otherwise a race of inferior stature.
There is a great fifty foot wide road that runs from the barrier of Sheba’s Breasts to Sheba’s Delta. The road is over a hundred miles long with Loo in the center.
The city of Loo is modeled after the encampment of the Zulu chief, Chaka. The details Haggard describes are undoubtedly accurate. Chaka flourished 1830-40 while the last of his line, Cetywayo, ruled during Haggard’s tenure in Africa. His fictional king is called Twala. We now discover that Twala is Umbopo’s brother. The latter was rightful heir but Gagool who is represented as being hundreds of years old favored Twala expelling Umbopo and his mother which is why he was in Durban. His identity is assured because of an Uroboros that encircles his waist. This snake appears to be a birth mark rather than a tatoo.
After accepting a rifle from Curtis as a gift Twala sends three chain mail shirts of medieval manufacture which proves that Zimbabwe was formerly occupied by another race, I suppose.
We have a civil war brewing here as Umbopa asserts his rights. Before the war develops Twala holds a ceremony I find really interesting, the smelling out of witches. The regiments were assembled. In this case Gagool runs up and down the ranks smelling out the witches. Anyone she indicates is removed from the ranks and immediately killed. This was an actual Zulu custom. Haggard portrays them more than once in what is his pretty decent historyof the Zulus in the novels.
Interestingly under the African president of the United States we have the same situation occurring. Obama denounces those in opposition to him essentially as witches. While currently we are put under surveillance the time may shortly arrive when we are merely arrested and despatched. Thus the innate African soul reasserts itself hundreds of years out of Africa. Of course, Obama was born in Kenya but he didn’t live there.
After the smelling out the regiments align themselves according to their allegiance. The three White men suit up on the side of the pretender, Umbopo. In his admiration of the Impi battle plan Haggard has the Whites disdain to use firearms preferring to show Whites returned to primitive savagery. Of course he normalizes the British and Zulu societies so that any difference is perceived but not real.
If you want to how this attitude was digested by the British public rent a copy of the movie If c. 1965. A British public school story that viewed better the first time around for me but still of interest. I might rent it again, though.
It is at this point of the story that the ‘White giant’ Sir Henry Curtis took his place in the Zulu ranks to show White supremacy that is when the actual basis of Tarzan took place in Burroughs’ mind.
The three Whites are the only ones wearing chain mail so that they come through bruised but alive. Without the chain mail, of course, all three would have been killed many times over. Perhaps the chain mail is symbolic of the science of the Maxim.
My feeling is that Haggard was so enamored of primitive Zulu warfare as organized by Chaka that he thrilled himself by placing the three in their ranks. Haggard had his peculiarities. As I say, he seemed to reject science.
Umbopo’s troops triumph over greater odds while King Twala is captured. Sentenced to die he demands the right to hand to hand combat selecting Curtis as his adversary.
Thus a duel ensues providing two or three pages of excitement in which a very hard battle is fought. Curtis decapitates Twala proving I suppose that on their own turf, evenly matched, the White Man is the greater.
Morally, however, Haggard gives the nod to Umbopo and the Zulus. Umbopo apparently feels a bond has been vilolated between the trio and himself. He offers them wifes, land and honors if they choose to stay in Kukuanaland. They instead choose to gather diamonds from Sheba’s treasure box. Umbopo is disgusted that White men care about nothing but money. Haggard sheepishly agrees with Umbopo but the trio nevertheless collect their diamonds and scoot, setting themselves up splendidly in England where money matters. Regardless of Haggard’s moral it is clear that the Kukuanas have no use for money in their primitive society while being broke in London is a sort of hell.
One wonders whether when Umbopo sent Gagool with them he knew that he was sending them to their deaths. Their return was after all rather miraculous. Leaving Kukuanaland the three arrive safely and rich in England.
Burroughs read not only King Solomon’s Mines, She and Allan Quatermain but probably the whole corpus. What he read before 1911 was obviously the most influential on him through the twenties. So an an investigator, Haggard’s novels before 1911 are the one to familiarize oneself with first. The very late Treasure Of The Lake however did influence Tarzan Triumphant.
Sir Henry Curtis was a key element in the formation of the idea of Tarzan and a role model. I suspect that Treasure Island by Stevenson provided he means to get the Claytons to Africa. Evolution provided the background of Kala and Tarzan’s life with the apes.
Whether Good or Quatermain had any influence on the character of Paul D’Arnot or not I’m not sure. He may have evolved from Dupin of Poe’s Murders In The Rue Morgue forming a double for Tarzan not unlike the narrator and Dupin of Murders.
I have explained the probable relationship of Opar to Sheba’s treasure box. That seems pretty secure to me.
Haggard developed the story line of the preamble and journey to the scene of action, a flurry of action in the crisis and the return home. Burroughs seems to follow this format although he can introduce picaresque elements.
The landscape and terrain of Burroughs is quite similar to Haggard’s. Over the years as Haggard read Burroughs’ novels there are Burroughsian elements that creep into Haggard’s work. Treasure Of The Lake bears a number of similarities to Burroughs especially the elephant dum dum. That also owes a great deal to Kipling and Mowgli. A stunning scene in Haggard. I would really start with Treasure Of The lake and then begin with King Solomon’s Mines, She and Allan Quatermain.
La, of course, is derived from the next novel, She.
November 13, 2009
Review by R.E. Prindle
Vernon, Alex: On Tarzan, 2008, UGeorgia Press
This book reads almost like the cover of The Doors LP Strange Days. You’ve entered into some kind of literary twilight zone. This is perhaps the most eccentric book I’ve ever read. I can’t believe it was actually published- and by a University press!
Alex Vernon has a PhD and is an Associate Professor at Hendrix College. Must have been founded by Jimi before he OD’d. I’m flabbergasted that the guy has a job. Average looking Joe from the back cover. Happy, smiling. Doesn’t look like he’d be sex obsessed but it could be a problem for him.
The phallus on the cover dismayed me but prepared me for the sex driven content. Zany, zany, zany. A large phallus rises out of what might be the swamp, symbol of the female, or perhaps jungle growth meant to represent pubic hair.
When Vernon says On Tarzan he doesn’t mean Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs he means Tarzan as a ‘living’ entity to which history Burroughs is only one contributor albeit an important one, Philip Jose Farmer almost eclipses Burroughs as a contributor to the Tarzan ethos in Vernon’s mind. Mainly for Farmer’s outrageous sex episodes.
Tarzan ethos is about it. Everything is thrown indiscriminately into the stew pot. Books, movies, TV shows, articles, even artefacts, Tarzan underwear. Vernons says he interviewed Bill Hillman at ERBzine although it is difficult to find what he gleaned from the conversation, wait a minute, maybe the reference to the 1893 Columbian Expo. Bill was probably hot on that topic.
As literary critic Vernon doesn’t so much analyze as create. He uses Tarzan body parts from various books and films to create his own monster, and his Tarzan is monstrous.
As I say he uses his sources as though making a stew; mixing them up to creat a sex driven Tarzan that no twelve year would recognize as his hero.
Vernon doesn’t seem able to distinguish the motives, the agendas of the various sources who are projecting their own inner world on Tarzan such as Bo and John Derek in their vision of The Big Bwana. I didn’t say Banana; I said Bwana. Melding these sources doesn’t create a ‘biographical composite’ of Tarzan that all can agree on; it is merely the projection of Vernon’s own inner psyche.
Apparently Vernon’s approach is a valid historical literary criticism technique in today’s academic environment. It’s not what you say but who you say it about. As I say it goes beyond interpretation or revisionism into creating an alternate universe.
The approach intrigued me. In that spirit I offer my own creation of Tarzan and a revisionist/creation of history. In the view of facts as they might be construed by a fanatic with an agenda I offer Tarzan as an agent of Globalism serving as the first viceroy of Africa.
Mr. Vernon keeps talking about a colonial period as if such a thing has ever existed. His professors must have been from the stone age. As advanced thinkers know what these prehistoric monsters refer to as colonialism was in reality the early stages of what is now recoginized as Globalism. This how Globalism began. In the very early stages all cultures were relatively distinct, living in separate well defined areas. The Chinese were in China, Africans were in Africa, Europeans were in Europe. Further relatively internal distinct sub-divisions can be made on all continents. It was clear to the most primitive minds, well, actually European primitive minds, that what was needed to…well for whatever reason they had…to make the world a more secure place was Globalism. Wars were anathema but one couldn’t create Globalism without some really destructive wars so they forged fearlessly ahead secure in the purity of their intentions. This posited the problem of bringing together in most cases people who didn’t know other cultures even existed, those ‘lesser races outside the law.’
As I say Europeans were then and are now the promoters of the cause of Globalism. It’s good for people and it’s good for the Global Money Trust. Initially Europe sent out ships and explorers to the four corners of the Earth. In that far off, almost once upon a, time unlike today local populations were hostile to what they mistakenly called invaders. Sometimes their resistance involved military force, in other words war; so in self-defense it was necessary to mow the heathens down. We had screw guns and maxims and they didn’t. Rather foolish on their part while causing Globalists a great deal of emotional distress. Almost had a nervous breakdown. It could have been avoided. Globalists only wanted peace if they had understood.
Gradually the peoples of the world learned that they going to have to peacefully interact if even at gunpoint. But then there was disagreement in Europe. the Global barriers were being lowered as this beneficent ideology of Globalism was slowly accepted. As expected there were reactionary elements. In both cases the criminal Germans were the hard nuts. They insisted on the right to be themselves rather than submerging their identity into what the Globalists wanted. Their resistance was futile; Globalists got what they wanted anyway, the Globe be damned. After the second German petulance Globalists crushed them. Some wanted to exterminate the whole lot, raze Germany to the ground and turn it into pasture land. I don’t have to tell you that gentler and more loving heads prevailed. Globalists gave the African troops leave to loot Strasbourg and rape the German women and let it go at that. You see, there are some sacrifices we all have to make.
It is best not to oppose Globalist wishes. Globalism will be had on their terms or they’ll get rid of ya. As another example, the Kulaks of Russia opposed Globalist wishes and it was necessary to exterminate them to the man, woman and child. I won’t tell you the intense emotional pain that incident cost the Globalists, those were not crocodile tears as often alleged. People won’t be happy unless the blessings of globalism are universal. That’s what Globalism means, universal.
Now, one of the great advocates of Globalism was the progressive American ‘fantasy’ writer, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Fantasy, humph. As Edgar’s avatar of Globalism he created the character of Tarzan the Ape Man. The brilliance of the ape man is almost incomprehensible. As Mr. Vernon points out Tarzan united the fauna being man and beast at one and the same time. His being encompassed all evolution, unlike the rest of us who are products of only a few of the commoner genes, as he passed through the stages of Beast, Negro and European. How fitting that Edgar Rice Burroughs should make him the very first Commissar, even Czar, of Africa. Yes, he was White. But only we Liberal White people have understood our manifest destiny to bring all peoples together in Globalism. Well, yes, there were mistakes and, quite frankly, genocides, but they were necessary and not arbitrary. They were decided on only after long and careful deliberation. It was like pruning a tree to make it more beautiful. When Chairman Mao finished pruning the recalcitrant Chinese there were 50 million branches on the ground, but, what of it? As Mao himself benignly and poetically, he was a poet you know, intoned: ‘So? Will the flowers not blossom in spring and cool breezes not blow across waving fields of grain.’ Of course they would and as proof they have and will continue to do so. How ridiculous! There’s always new babies to replace those gone. Come on!
Edgar very cleverly has that man we now know as a villain, Stalin, seek to replace Tarzan as Commissar because he was in fact too just and too gentle with his charges. Rather than compelling Africans to hew to the Party line Edgar portrays Tarzan letting the Africans do as they please so long as they didn’t kill each other. That was in his brilliant history he called Tarzan the Invincible, and he wasn’t kidding. It wasn’t unreasonable to send a replacement from Moscow but Edgar perversely has Tarzan defeat his replacement. You can read about it in Edgar’s history yourself.
So, Mr. Vernon has expended a great deal of effort to prove the unprovable. He completely mistakes the reason for the US presence in Viet Nam. This was not nation building as he has been induced by his professors to believe. This was a necessary stage in the creation of Globalism. Today the two halves of Viet Nam have been reunited because of their efforts and Globalism is progressing nicely there, thank you very much.
A larger problem was to bring China into the Globalist empire.. But that was cleverly done by inducing them to manufacture big screen TVs for not only the province of the United States but the world. Today they are the Globe’s largest manufacturer of flat screen TVs and tennis shoes and are assisting in the Globalism of Africa sending their tens of millions of excess personnel to help the Africans enter the Global economy.
I certainly appreciate the effort Mr. Vernon has put into his project; it is regretable he has been so ill informed about the difference between Globalism and colonialism. Colonialism is when you occupy a country for selfish reasons; Globalism is when you subject or exterminate a people for the right reasons.
The Global Cabal is sorry people had to die. As the old saw says: You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Its better to be the hammer than the nail.
I’m sorry Mr. Vernon but I can’t recommend your book.
November 11, 2009
Famous Groupies Of The Sixties Series
Faithfull: An Autobiography
Review by R.E. Prindle
Season Of The Witch
All night, all day, Marianne
Down by the seaside sifting sand.
Even little children love Marianne,
Down by the seaside sifting sand.
-Terry Gilkyson And The Easy Riders
Technically Marianne Faithfull wasn’t a groupie. Her early years resembled one but in her later years she was sought after as a conquest by men of the groupie mentality. I’m sure as everyone knows Marianne Faithfull began her career as a very successful pop singer. Produced originally by Andrew Loog Oldham she was among the first of the new breed of Rock singers, as opposed to Rock n’ Roll. She belongs to the new rather than the old school.
Her first song was As Tears Go By. Single and album were very successful, more or less establishing her reputation for all time- or at least until the generation passes away.
My first knowledge of Marianne Faithful was when the strains of As Tears Go By wafted into my study window. They continued to waft all day long for weeks. The girl in the apartment next door was fixated on the song. A little fat girl. So after the 7000th rendition of As Tears Go By I had my first nervous breakdown. Marianne Faithfull was a sour taste.
Then as far as I’m concerned she dropped out of the pop scene.
Her auto was first published in 1994, I just read the paperback the other day so the book is probably old hat to most of you but as I didn’t find any real reviews on the internet I decided to give it a try. I don’t see any reason to do the whole book so I’ll concentrate on the three Bob Dylan incidents, aspects of her relationship with Mick Jagger and Donald Cammell and his movie, Performance. The book is highly readable and entertaining until after her divorce form Jagger about two thirds of the way through the book when she falls into a drug stupor. At that point it is necessary to avoid falling into Marianne’s own depression. Too late for her to get over it now.
Her career began when she was selected for her looks by Andrew Loog Oldham, producer of the Stones, who saw her at a party. Asked if she could sing she said yes. Next, there she was behind a microphone lisping As Tears Go By. Thus she was an established big pop singer when she first met Dylan and later came under the thumb of Mick Jagger. She brought something to the table, she didn’t come empty handed. She was an equal. To be treated as an appendage enraged her probably contributing to her drug addiction
She met Dylan during his ’65 tour. You can see her sitting in the corner in the movie Don’t Look Back. She has some trenchant comments to make of the various prticipants in the Savoy Hotel debacle. She’s very intelligent. She was a young girl at the time, Dylan being five years older. She was in awe of Dylan who she considered the hippest god on the planet.
Dylan is supposed to be a master seducer. It wasn’t that Marianne wasn’t ready and willing, she was. In her mocking portrayal of the scene Dylan rather than complimenting her beauty and talent made an attempt to overawe she who was already overawed with his own wizardry. In the process the seduction fell through. Mazrianne skipped merrily away.
Now, this is a girl who a year or two younger , while on tour with a review including Roy Orbison responded to him when he knocked on her door and said: Hi. I’m Roy Orbison. I’m in room 602. And Marianne skipped on down the hall. How could Dylan have missed?
Later in the book, the year was 1979 when Dylan was going though his Jesus years, while Marianne had entered clinical depression doing heroin and sitting on her wall like Humpty-Dumpty all day, every day, Dylan arrived for another tour. His dealer was a friend of Marianne’s and he asked if she knew where Marianne was. Oh yes. Demelza, the heroin dealer got Marianne to come over. Dylan and Marianne’s second verse was worse than the first. By this time depressed, enraged and seeking vengeance against the men in her life Marianne was far from compliant. She had recently released Broken English, I’ve never heard the record so I can’t comment on the lyrics, so she mocked the Wise One by asking him if he understood her lyrics. He couldn’t explain hers any better than she could his. A little drip on the name of Bob, a little triumph for Marianne. Dylan went away unfulfilled again.
Oop, there is a third meeting. Marianne now beyond depression walking down railway ties none of us will ever be able to see. She overdosed on heroin, staggered and fell breaking her jaw. Complications arose requiring serious surgery. Pins were put in her jaw along with some contraption to hold the two parts together that apparently went
through her cheek sticking out like a water spigot. Had to sleep on one side.
While Dylan was playing in Boston she presented herself backstage in this grotesque appearance. Too weird for Dylan. Three strikes and he was out. Never spoke to him again, she says. (To 1994 when the book went to press.
After the first meeting Marianne hooked up with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones for whom we have to thank for As Tears Go By.
In late 1966 the great Donovan included a song on Sunshine Superman called Season Of The Witch. The song epitomized the era. At the time the song made little sense to me but in reading Faithfull it all began to fall into place. While the sixties were terrific they were also horrific. Today the horrific impressions dominate my mind. All standards, all morality disintegrated before our eyes. It was the end of the world as it dissolved into stange and perplexing LSD fantasy. Hell, I never even took LSD and I think I know the feeling perfectly. I’m still getting flashbacks.
Nothing was real, it was all an illusion. You could turn yourself inside out right before everyone’s eyes and get no reaction. Hey, everyone was living through their own movie. Marianne captures this feeling perfectly in 300 pages but so did Donovan in three verses:
When I look out my window
Many sights to see.
When I look in my window
So many different people to be
That it’s strange, so strange,
Must be the season of the witch,
Must be the season of the witch.
Marianne’s succession of people to be began in childhood. She as well as all these musicians, singers and dancers came from humble backgrounds with low expectations but grand hopes and dreams. Picked for the size of her bust to be a rock star, piles of money were thrown at her. Inevitably dissociation occurred as the possiblity to be anyone appeared possible only to be held back by that humble past of low expectations. how to behave in these new circumstances, not so easy, not so easy.
The rabbits are running in the ditch
Beatniks are out to make it rich.
Sang Donovan. Standards and barriers were down, libertines crawled out of the woodwork nd there stood Mick and Keith, two libertine beatniks who could actually wallow in money.
Mick took a fancy to Marianne and moved her in. Married in heart if not in law, but she was to lose her independence. There was Swinging London or the tail end of it and swinging is what Mick and Marianne did. However Marianne did not come to Mick as a nameless groupie. She was a somebody that the fans admired and wanted to get close to also. Marianne Faithfull, all in capitals. All that was submerged into the personality of Mick Jagger. At first her own money was coming in allowing her independence but as her catalog grew old her money had to come from Mick. Her lost independence made it impossible to function as a wife and expect a joint account where she didn’t have to ask for money, it was hers by right. A conflict and contest arose.
When I look over my shoulder
What do you think I see?
Some other cat looking over
His shoulder at me.
And he’s strange, sure he’s strange.
Oh no, must be the season of the witch.
And the witching got serious. All kinds of users, abusers and losers followed the libertines out of the woodwork, masters of manipulation they knew how to easily hypnotize whacked out marijuana smokers, cokeheads and general druggies to get them to do various things, sex things, criminal acts, whatever to gratify their evil schemes. People did things they never thought they would do and fortunately some or a lot them couldn’t remember doing them. Such a character was waiting in the ether to snare Mick and Marianne. The movies, ah, the movies, what a way to snare unwary souls. Everyone wants to be a movie star.
Donald Cammell, one such, had his nose to the wind and the wind brought the sexual antics of Mick and Marianne wafting his way. Truly, it was the season of the witch.
Cammell had a novie he wanted to make; Mick and Marianne and assorted friends were just the libertines to bring Performance to life. Oh no, oh no, must be, must be the season of the witch.
According to Marianne, Cammell replicated the sex scene the set had had as though he had been there. Uncanny? Maybe or maybe it was such a far out thing participants talked and word got around and Cammell’s imagination was inflamed.
According to Marianne the filming brought disaster into the actor’s lives. Cammell, the manipulator escaped, of course, as his kind always does. The pleasure was all his, you may be sure.
The filmwas a turning point in the relationship of Marianne and Mick. Perhaps the film stirred memories of when she had been The Marianne Faithfull, since submergeed into Mick’s identity. She had been unable to adjust to the new circumstances. Pentulantly she just walked away. Immersed in drugs the downslide slow and pleasant became precipitous until she could be found sitting on her wall of the bombed out building not rebuilt as yet.
Could it be that the remaining wall of that Marianne Faithfull of low expectations was bombed out by the force of a success undreamt of in her pleasant teenage dreaming? Was that the fascination that kept her glued to the wall in pleasant heroin dreams? Would Humpty Dumpty fall into the abyss or not?
This was now the seventies. Hard realities existed on every side. It was’t fun anymore either. The actual season of the witch had passed over. This was hell.
After Marianne left Mick drugs are the topic of her converstation. What is more boring than a junkie talking drugs. Shoot up and shut up. Who wants to hear?
But she did regain her identity, she had shed Marianne of the little m and was Marianne Faithfull again. Men sought her out. Producers came around again, there was still money in that drug wracked carcassof Marianne.
When she walks along the shore,
People pause to greet,
While little birds fly round her,
Little fish come to her feet…Marianne.
Somehow from that drug drenched state Marianne was able to cobble together enough strength and concentration to begin doing a Mick and Keith. Maybe her time had not been wasted by the proximity to Mick and Keith. While still with Mick she had written Siser Morphine, later recorded by the Stones. She got no writing credit because of old contractual problems with discarded agents but she did receive a third of the royalities which were considerable.
And now she began to string words together to make songs. The stuff was nothing I would ever listen to. I mean, choice lyrics like ‘Every time I see your dick I imagine her cunt in my bed.’ Maybe that’s why Dylan couldn’t understand the lyics. I’m not going to try. It worked for Marianne though. Today she’s proudly known as the Edith Piaf of her generation. I’m happy for her that things worked out for her after a fashion. Her smile still photographs well but I’m not going to buy her records, CDs, whatever they’re called nowadays. Time has gone by and I can’t get As Tears Go By out of my head. I’ll carry that tune to my grave.
All night, all day, Marianne,
Down by the seaside sifting sand.
Even little children love Marianne,
Down by the seaside sifting sand.