April 3, 2012
Only The Strong Survive
An Examination Of Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid
As Created By Edgar Rice Burroughs
(Alternate Title: The Oakdale Affair)
Into The Mysteries
(Some capitalization appears in the text that has no significance. For some reason it just showed up. I didn’t do it)
Burroughs does a good job in the Holmesian sense in this book enclosing mysteries within mysteries. The central mystery is who is committing the crime wave in Oakdale. Having learned from his mentor, Conan Doyle, Burroughs skillfully withholds details to enhance the suspense then disclosing them to reveal the mysteries. The organization of the scheme of crimes gradually unfolds to show that the real Oskaloosa Kid is one of the perpetrators. So we have a clever doubling of a sweet girl posing as the vicious criminal The Oskaloosa Kid. This is obviously a transfer of his Anima identity from the male De Vac/Oskaloosa Kid to the resumption of a female identity for his Anima through the fake Oskaloosa Kid/Gail Prim.
The girl who was seen with the criminals could have been Gail since she had disappeared without a trace never having arrived at her destination. Gail was not the girl seen with Reginald Paynter, who was robbed and murdered, and the crooks. That person was Hettie Penning who was ejected from the car speeding past the abandoned Squibbs place by the real Oskaloosa Kid. Thus symbolically De Vac/Oskaloosa Kid returns his Anima to Bridge/Burroughs.
As indicated Hettie Pening represents the dead early Anima of Burroughs who has here been resurrected. As in all cases of Burroughs representation of his failed Anima she appears to be a ‘bad’ girl but in reality is merely misunderstood. He compensates for himself.
Bridge himself is a mystery man and double. He is a hobo but with great manners and an excellent education. He is definitely a member of the Might Have Seen Better Days Club. The real club was organized by Burroughs when he served as an enlisted man in the Army in 1896.
In this case Bridge is in actuality the son of a wealthy Virginia aristocrat who has left home because he prefers a life on the road. In the framing story of a Princess of Mars Burroughs portrays himself in his own name as a Virginian. In reality Burroughs was declassed at eight or nine by John the Bully and by his father’s subsequent shuffling of him from school to school finally sending him to a bad boy school that Burroughs describes as little more than a reformatory for rich kids.
If one looks at his career he was on the move quite a bit. During his marriage he seldom lived in one house for more than a year or two then moved on.
Just as Bridge will assume his proper identity at the end of the novel so through his writing Burroughs has abandoned the shame of his hard scrabble years from 1905-13. In a sense he is assuming his proper identity with this novel.
Bridge and the Kid joining together at the fork in the road, one is reminded of Yogi Berra’s quip: When you come to a fork in the road, take it, in this case the less traveled dirt road.
I read word for word frequently dwelling on the scenes created. Burroughs is a very visual writer. Standing at the fork in a driving Midwest summer lightning, thunder and deluge storm they can hear the pursuing hoboes shouting down the road. Ahead of them is a dark unknown and a house haunted by the victims of a sextuple murder.
Indeed, Burroughs describes almost a descent into hell, or at least, the hell of the subconscious.
Over a low hill they followed the muddy road and down into a dark and gloom ravine. In a little open space to the right of the road a flash of lightning, followed one imagines by either the crash of deep loud rumbling of the thunder of perhaps if over head the sonic boom of the air splitting and closing, revealed the outline of a building a hundred yards (that’s three hundred feet, a very large front yard) from the rickety and decaying fence which bordered the Squibb farm and separated it from the road.
There are those who say Burroughs doesn’t write well but in a short paragraph he has economically drawn a verbal picture which is quite astonishing in its detail. The house is a hundred yards from the road. In the rain and muck that might be a walk or two or three minutes or more.
A clump of trees surrounded the house, their shade adding to the utter blackness of the night.
That’s what one calls inspissating gloom. One might well ask how any shade can add to utter blackness but one gets the idea. There is some intense writing thoroughly reminiscent of Poe but nothing like him.
The two had reached the verandah when Bridge, turning, saw a brilliant light glaring through the night above the crest of the hill they had just topped in their descent into the ravine, or, to be more explicit, the small valley, where stood the crumbling house of the Squibbs. The purr of a rapidly moving motor car rose above the rain, the light rose, fell, swerved to the right and left.
“Someone must be in a hurry.” commented Bridge.
There isn’t any better writing than that. Another writer can say it differently but he can’t say it better. Just imagine the movie Frankenstein or Wolf Man when you’re reading it. Burroughs did as well in less than the time it takes to show it.
A body is thrown from the speeding car a shot following after it. Bridge goes to pick up the body.
Thus the mystery and horror and terror of the dark and stormy night has been building. Bridge carrying the body which may or may not be alive asks the Kid to open the door.
Behind him came Bridge as the youth entered the dark interior. A half dozen steps he took when his foot struck against a soft yielding mass. Stumbling he tried to regain his equilibrium only to drop fully upon the thing beneath him. One open palm extended to ease his fall, it fell upon the uplifted features of a cold and clammy face.
Yipes! What more do you need? Cold and dripping, half crazed from fear, overwhelmed by the thought he might be a murderer the Kid’s hand falls on cold and clammy dead flesh. Bridge is standing there with maybe another dead person in his arms. The Kid is also aware that the murderous hoboes are hot on his trail.
If that doesn’t get you then somehow I think you can’t be got.
Not yet finished Burroughs builds up the tension. Striking a match from the specially lined water proof pocket of Bridge’s coat they find a dead man wearing golden earrings. Obviously a gypsy but while staring in unsimulated horror they hear from the base of the stairs of a dark dank cellar the clank of a slowly drawn chain as a heavy weight makes the stairs creak.
This is too much for the nerves of the Kid. Burroughs brilliantly contrasts the terror of the unknown in the basement with the fear of the dark at the top of the stairs. You know where that’s at, I’m sure, I sure do. In a flash the Kid chooses the unknown at the top of the stairs to the horror in the cellar.
What do you want?
The hoboes are still slipping and sliding down the descent into the ravine of the subconscious. Horror in front, terror behind. There is absolutely no place to hide. Nightmare City, don’t you think? How could anyone do it better? What do you mean he can’t write? Put the scenes in a movie and everyone in the theatre would be covering their eyes. Itd\ would be that Beast With Five Fingers all over again. Maybe worse. Never saw that one? Check it out. Peter Lorre. Terrifying. Of course I was a kid.
The clanking of the chain recreates an incident in Burroughs’ own life when he had a job collecting for an ice company. He called on a house and while he was waiting he heard the clanking of a chain coming slowly up the driveway. Waiting with a fair amount of trepidation he saw a huge dog dragging the chain appear. ERB backing slowly away forgot about the delinquent bill.
In this case the chain is attached to Beppo the dancing bear but Bridge and the Kid won’t know that until the next day.
They retreat into an upstairs bedroom. Here what Burroughs describes in capital letters as THE THING and IT pursues them. I remember two movies one called The Thing and the other It.
Just when the thing retreats the murderous gang of hoboes enters the house. Wow! Out of the frying pan and into the fire in this night of terrors as the lightning continues to flash and the thunder crash.
Discovering the dead man and as the bear begins moving again four of the hoboes flee while two who were on the staircase being trapped in the house flee into the same bedroom as Bridge, the Kid and the girl, Hettie. Shortly thereafter a woman’s scream pierces the lightning and the thunder then silences as the storm settles into a steady drizzle.
The rest of the night is one tense affair between the murderous hoboes and the Bridge and the girls. Not a moment to catch your breath.
In the morning when they go downstairs the mystery increases when they find the dead man gone and nothing in the cellar. If they’d had Tarzan along he would have not only been able to smell the bear but to tell whether if was black or brown.
After a brief confrontation Dopey Charlie and the General are driven off. Bridge’s relationship with the Kid is then deepened. Even though all the Kid’s reactions are repulsive to the manhood of Bridge he feels his attraction to the seeming boy growing stronger.
Not since he had followed the open road with Byrne, had Bridge met one with whom he might care to “pal” before.
This brings up an interesting hint of latent homosexuality. My fellow writer, David Adams has objected that in my analysis of Emasculation as applied to ERB is that he should have been a homosexual but wasn’t.
There are degrees of emasculation and there are various degrees of psychotic reaction to it. I don’t say and I don’t believe that ERB was a homosexual but there was a degree of ambiguity introduced into his personality by his emasculation. I have touched on this in my ‘Emasculation, Hermaphroditism and Excretion.’
Here we have another example of it as Bridge is experiencing some homoerotic emotion which is very confusing to him as he has never wanted a ‘pal’ before. In hobo lingo I believe a ‘pal’ has a homosexual connotation.
If Burroughs took his ‘inside’ information on hoboes from Jack London’s The Road then Bridge is the sort of hobo London describes as the ‘profesh’, the hobo highest in the hierarchy of hobodom. London always thought of himself as a quick learner, so one doesn’t have to award his statement too much credibility but Burroughs apparently took him at face value.
As London describes the ‘profesh’ he has been on the road so long he knows all the ropes. Unlike the unkempt bums he realizes the importance of a good front and always dresses neatly. But he is hardened and capable of committing any crime.
While Bridge is obviously intended to be a ‘profesh’ he is neither criminal nor does he dress to put up a good front.
Another category of hobo London lists is the ‘road kid.’ These are young people just starting on the life of the road. The ‘profesh’ would often take one of more of these road kids under his wing as his fag, as the British would say, or in Americanese, a ‘pal.’ In other words a homosexual relationship. Thus this displays ERB’s sexual ambiguity which David couldn’t locate in my psychological analysis of ERB’s emasculation. In this case the ambiguity will be resolved and explained when we learn that the Kid is the beautiful young woman, Abigail Prim, and both Bridge and Burroughs heave a sigh of relief.
Nevertheless ERB is discussing homosexuality in an open and natural way that couldn’t be missed by the knowing and which may be unique for its time. But then, remember that one of ERB’s hats in this story is that of the Alienist, so that in these pages we are deep into the psychological abstractions and Doyle’s mystery stories as influences.
Now comes the time for breakfast. Someone has to ‘rustle’ grub. We have already learned in ‘Out There Somewhere’ that Bridge doesn’t rustle food, he rustles rhyme. Nothing has changed. The Kid goes out to get breakfast and when she comes back with the goods, true to form Bridge bursts forth with several snatches from H.H. Knibbs which surprisingly the demure Miss Prim recognizes. What has she been reading?
How might this apply to Burroughs’ own life. Let’s look at it. Burroughs was enamored of How to books but in his heart he must have considered them a fraud. Willie Case will soon pick up his copy of How To Be A Detective which he finds completely inapplicable to his circumstances. He also has the good sense to throw the book away reverting to his native intelligence which may be a subtle comment on How To books by Burroughs.
ERB always considered himself of the executive class. After his humiliating experience trying to sell door to door he never attempted it again. Instead as a master salesman he preferred to write how to sales manuals for others to use as they went door to door selling his line of pencil sharpeners or whatever while he sat in the office waiting for orders. Hence in his own life he was the ‘rustler of poetry’ or manuals while others rustled grub in the door to door humiliation of the actual selling. Here the Kid will do the door to door gig. ERB always makes me smile.
In this case in what may be a joke the Kid just buys the goods from the homeowner reversing the roles.
There are those who insist Burroughs can’t write but I find his stuff wonderfully condensed getting more mileage out of each word than anyone else I’ve ever read. Just see how he describes breakfast.
Shortly after, the water coming to a boil, Bridge lowered three eggs into it, glanced at his watch (an affluent hobo) greased one of the new cleaned stove lids with a piece of bacon rind and laid out as many strips of bacon as the lid would accommodate. Instantly the room was filled with the delicious odor of frying bacon.
“M-m-m-m!” gloated the Oskaloosa Kid. “I wish I had bo- asked for more. My! But I never smelled anything so good in all my life. Are you going to boil only three eggs? I could eat a dozen”
“The can’ll only hold three at a time,” explained Bridge. “we’ll have some boiling while we are eating these.” He borrowed the knife from the girl, who was slicing and buttering bread with it, and turned the bacon swiftly and deftly with the point, then he glanced at his watch. “Three minutes are up.” He announced and, with a couple small flat sticks saved for the purpose from the kindling wood, withdrew the eggs one at a time from the can.
“But we have no cups!” exclaimed the Oskaloosa Kid, in sudden despair.
Bridge laughed. “Knock an end off your egg and the shell will answer in place of a cup. Got a knife?”
The Kid didn’t. Bridge eyed him quizzically. “You must have done most of your burgling near home,” he commented.
The description of the breakfast between the time Bridge looked at his watch and when the three minutes were up was delightfully done. I could smell the bacon myself while I especially like the detail of swiftly and deftly turning the bacon with the knife point. The knife seemed to have disappeared between the bacon and knocking the end off the egg.
Nice details aren’t they? You’d almost think Burroughs had actually done things like this for years. There’s enough blank spots in his life that he may have had more experiences of this sort than we know about. Take for instance the three days in Michigan between the writing of Out There Somewhere and Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid. He says it took him twelve hours by train on four different lines to return to Coldwater from Alma. It is not impossible that he was hoboing back for the experience. He knew that he was going to write Bridge And The Kid next; might he not have been picking up local color?
Likewise in Bridge And The Kid he mentions the road from Berdoo to Barstow with seeming familiarity. Had he met Knibbs and the two embarked on a few days road trip as the expert Knibbs showed him some of the ropes?
I don’t know but there is something happening in his life which has not been explained.
Perhaps also the hoboism which appears in 1915-17 in his work when by all rights his success should have permitted him entry into more exalted social circles symbolized a rejection by so-called polite society. If so, why? Certainly the serialization of Tarzan Of The Apes in the Chicago paper must have raised eyebrows when people said something like: Is that the same Edgar Rice Burroughs who’s been tramping around town for the last several years?
After all people live in a town where a reputation is attached to them whether earned or not. In reviewing the jobs Burroughs had after he left Sears, Roebuck there is a certain unsavory character to them. Indeed, one employer, a patent medicine purveyor was shut down by the authorities while ERB then formed a partnership with this disgraced person. Where was Burroughs when the authorities showed up to shut the business down? I make no moral judgments. I’m of the Pretty Boy Floyd school of morality: Some will rob you with a six gun, some use a fountain pen. Emasculation is the name of the game.
It is certainly true that many, perhaps most, of the patent medicines of the time were based on alcohol and drugs therefore either addictive or harmful to the health. Samuel Hopkins Adams was commissioned by Norman Hapgood of Collier’s magazine to write a series of articles exposing the patent medicine business in 1906.
http://www.mtn.org/quack/ephemera/oct7.htm . A consequence of the articles may very well have been the shutting down of Dr. Stace. I think it remarkable that Burroughs didn’t distance himself from Stace at that time.
Even as Adams was presenting his research on patent medicines Upton Sinclair was exposing the hazards of the Chicago meat packing industry whose products were no less hazardous to the public health than patent medicines. Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, as well as perhaps Adams’ articles resulted in the Pure Food And Drug Act of 1906.
The products of meatpackers were so bad the British wouldn’t even feed them to their Tommies. That’s pretty bad.
So, if the Staces of the world were criminal and ought to be put out of business then by logic so should have the Armours and Swifts but what in our day would be multi-billion dollar industries don’t get shut down for the minor offence of damaging the health of millions.
One can’t be sure of Burroughs’ reasoning but his writing indicates that he was keenly aware of the hypocrisy of legalities. Perhaps for that reason he stuck by Dr. Stace.
However Stace was put out of business and the Armours and Swifts weren’t. While I applaud ERB’s steadfastness I deplore his lack of judgment for surely his reputation was tarred with the same brush as Dr. Stace.
When society figures may have asked who this Edgar Rice Burroughs was they were given, perhaps, a rundown on Dr. Stace and patent medicines as well as other employments that seem a little murky to us at present. I’m sure the ERB was seen as socially unacceptable. Thus Bridge who has lived among the hoboes has never partaken of their crimes so there is no reason for society to reject him especially as he is the son of a millionaire.
In any event ERB left Chicago for the Coast returning in 1917 then leaving for good at the beginning of 1919. Life ain’t easy. Ask me.
As Bridge, the Kid and the putative Abigail Prim were finishing breakfast the great detective Burton pulls up in front of the Squibbs place. Burton is obviously a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Allan Pinkerton. We have been advised of the Holmes connection in the opening paragraphs of this book. ERB describes Burton thusly:
Burton made no reply. He was not a man to jump to conclusions. His success was largely due to the fact that he assumed nothing; but merely ran down each clew quickly yet painstakingly until he had a foundation of fact upon which to operate. His theory was that the simplest way is always the best way. And so he never befogged the main issue with any elaborate system of deductive reasoning based on guesswork. Burton never guessed. He assumed that it was his business to know; nor was he on any case long before he did know. He was employed now to find Abigail Prim. Each of the several crimes committed the previous night might or might not prove a clew to her whereabouts; but each must be run down in the process of elimination before Burton could feel safe in abandoning it.
That’s a pretty good understanding of Doyle’s presentation of Holmes. ERB did learn Holmes’ dictum that it was necessary to read all the literature on the subject to understand the mentality of one’s subjects. Burton did demonstrate some acumen in his arrest of Dopey Charlie and the General. He deployed an agent fifty yards below and fifty yards above to converge on the two criminals while he approached from the front. Either Burroughs had been doing some reading of his own or he picked up some experience or information from elsewhere.
Another keen point was when Burton went back to where the hoboes had been hiding to dig up the evidence they had concealed that would lead to their conviction for the Baggs murder.
It’s little details like these that always make me wonder where Burroughs picked up this stuff. He does it all so naturally but one can’t write what one doesn’t know. He must have been a curious man, good memory.
So Burroughs has a a pretty good understanding of the methods of Sherlock Holmes. It must be remembered that ERB was reading these stories as they first appeared not as we do as part of literature. Holmes, O.Henry, Jack London, E.W. Hornung, these were all fresh new and extremely stimulating with a great many references and inferences which are undoubtedly lost on us. Even in Bridge And The Kid ERB’s reference to the Kid’s bringing home the bacon is a direct reference to a quip the mother of the ex-heavyweight champion of the world Jack Johnson made just after he won the championship from Jim Jeffries: He said he’d bring home the bacon and he’s done it. I don’t doubt if many caught it then but I’m sure the phrase has become such a commonplace today that only a very few catch the reference and share the laugh.
Doyle’s stories such as A Study In Scarlet dealing with the Mormons and The Valley Of Fear dealing with the Molly Maguires would have had much more thrilling immediacy for ERB than they do for us. Also Burroughs has caught the essence of Holmes which was not so much the stories as the method of Holmes.
I have read the canon four times and while I could not reconstruct any of the stories without difficulty, if at all, maxims like- When you eliminate the impossible whatever remains no matter how improbable must be the truth. – have lodged in my mind since I was fourteen guiding my intellect to much advantage. So also the dictum to read all the literature. Not easy or even possible, but the more one has read the or read again the more things just fall in place without any real effort. You have to be able to remember, remembrance being the basis of all mind, of course. Holmes has been like a god to me.
If you wish to learn a source of Burroughs’ stories then all you have to do is apply the above methods; it will all become clear.
Burton moves the story forward as his appearance causes Bridge who isn’t sure what the status of the Kid and the putative Gail Prim is, elects to avoid the great detective even though they are friends.
The trio slip out the back into the woods following a track leading to ‘Anywhere’. Burroughs in a masterful telling catches the feel of a Spring day on a recently wetted trail littered with the leaves of yesteryear. Ou sont les neiges d’antan?
They come upon a clearing where a gypsy woman is burying a body. By this time Bridge has solved the mysteries of the previous evening.
The girls make noises upon hearing the clank of a chain in a hovel causing the gypsy woman to look around. Rather than spotting the trio she spots Willie Case hiding in the bushes who she drags out.
The gypsy woman, Giova, is as good a character as Bridge, the Kid, Burton and the hoboes, but my favorite of the story is Willie Case, the fourteen year old detective. While to my mind ERB presents Willie as a thoroughly admirable character, he nevertheless vents a suppressed mean streak not only on Willie but on the whole Case family.
ERB doesn’t let his mean streak show very often, it lurks in the background, but he lets it loose in this book. He must have been under personal stress.
He describes Willie as having no forehead and no chin, imbecilic traits, literally beginning with the eyebrows and ending with the lips. A freak of nature, a real grotesque. That means that Willie was a real ‘low brow’ as Emma accused ERB of being, even a no brow. Is it a coincidence that Emma called ERB a low brow or that the literati thought ERB wrote ‘low brow’ literature?
In point of fact Willie strikes me as an intelligent boy. He analyzes the situation always being in the right place at the right moment. Burton himself pays him a high but sneering compliment then cheats him out of the promised reward of a hundred dollars but in the manner McClurg’s published his books Burroughs was cheated out of a large part of his reward.
I don’t say that’s the case but if so it fits the facts.
In any event ERB treats the Case family meanly; they might almost be prototypes of Ma and Pa Kettle of the Egg and I or the meanly portrayed characters of Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road. Jeb Case behaves very reprehensively at the lynching although once again he merely reported the facts that the Kid gave Willie. The Kid did tell Willie that he had burgled a house and killed a man. So, perhaps ERB created some characters that he could kick around as he felt himself being kicked.
And then we have the gypsy woman, Giova. She and her father are not only pariahs in general society as gypsies but because of her father they even have been cast out by the gypsies. Her father was a thief from both general and gypsy society. The former may have been laudable in gypsy terms but the latter wasn’t. They make, or made their living by thieving and cadging coins with Beppo, their dancing bear. Beppo of the evil eye.
Burroughs presents Giova as being sexually attractive with lips that were made for kissing, in echo of the refrain from Out There Somewhere. Here we may have a first inference that Emma was in trouble; the kind of trouble that would have ERB leaving her for another woman a decade or so hence. There are numerous rumblings indicating the trend not least of which was ERB’s fascination with Samuel Hopkin Adams’ novel, Flaming Youth of a few years hence and the subsequent movie starring Colleen Moore.
Bridge is now on the run with three women and a bear and he hasn’t done anything wrong to get into such hot water. One woman his emergent Anima, one, his rejected Anima, and the last a longing for a woman whose lips were made for kissing. Wow! This is all taking place in a ravine that opens into a small valley too.
All this has been accomplished in a compact one hundred pages. One third of the book is left for the denouement that Burroughs scamps as he usually does.
Giova decks them all out as gypsies which must have been an amusing sight to the Paysonites as this troop of madcaps complete with dancing bear in tow troop inconspicuously through town. Surprised they didn’t call out the national guard just for that.
As the story draws to a close ERB contributes a wonderful vignette of low brow Willie dining out at a ‘high brow’ restaurant called the Elite in Payson. The idea of Willie being conspicuous in a burg like Payson which we big city people would refer to as a hick town good only for laughs is amusing in itself. You know, it all depends on one’s perspective:
Willie Case had been taken to Payson to testify before the coroner’s jury investigating the death of Giova’s father, and with the dollar which the Osklaloosa Kid had given him in the morning burning in his pocket had proceeded to indulge in an orgy of dissipation the moment that he had been freed from the inquest. Ice cream, red pop, peanuts, candy, and soda water may have diminished his appetite but not his pride, and self-satisfaction as he sat down and by night for the first time in a public eatery place Willie was now a man of the world, a bon vivant, as he ordered ham and eggs from the pretty waitress of The Elite Restaurant on Broadway; but at heart he was not happy for never before had he realized what a great proportion of his anatomy was made up of hands and feet. As he glanced fearfully at the former, silhouetted against the white of the table cloth, he flushed scarlet, assured as he was that the waitress who had just turned away toward the kitchen with his order was convulsed with laughter and that every other eye in the establishment was glued upon him. To assume an air of nonchalance and thereby impress and disarm his critics Willie reached for a toothpick in the little glass holder near the center of the table and upset the sugar bowl. Immediately Willie snatched back the offending hand and glared ferociously at the ceiling. He could feel the roots of his hair being consumed in the heat of his skin. A quick side glance that required all his will power to consummate showed him that no one appeared to have noticed his faux pas and Willie was again slowly returning to normal when the proprietor of the restaurant came up from behind and asked him to remove his hat.
Never had Willie Case spent so frightful a half hour as that within the brilliant interior of the Elite Restaurant. Twenty-three minutes of this eternity was consumed in waiting for his order to be served and seven minutes in disposing of the meal and paying his check. Willie’s method of eating was in itself a sermon on efficiency- there was no waste motion- no waste of time. He placed his mouth within two inches of his plate after cutting his ham and eggs into pieces of a size that would permit each mouthful to enter without wedging; then he mixed his mashed potatoes in with the result and working his knife and fork alternatively with bewildering rapidity shot a continuous stream of food into his gaping maw.
In addition to the meat and potatoes there was one vegetable side dish on the empty plate, seized a spoon in lieu or a knife and fork and – presto! The side dish was empty. Where upon the prune dish was set in the empty side-dish- four deft motions and there were no prunes in the dish. The entire feat had been accomplished in 6:34 ½ , setting a new world’s record for red headed farm boys with one splay foot.
In the remaining twenty-five and one half seconds Willie walked what seemed to him a mile from his seat to the cashier’s desk and at the last instant bumped into a waitress with a trayful of dishes. Clutched tightly in Willie’s hand was thirty-five cents and his check with a like amount written upon it. Amid the crash of crockery which followed the collision Willie slammed check and money upon the cashier’s desk and fled. Nor did he pause until in the reassuring seclusion of a dark side street. There Willie sank upon the curb alternately cold with fear and hot with shame, weak and panting, and into his heart entered the iron of class hatred, searing it to the core.
The above passage has many charms. First, it is an excellent piece of nostalgia now, although at the time it represented the actuality, thus, as a period piece it is an accurate picture of the times. And then it is excellent comedy as well as a a parody as I will attempt to show.
One has to wonder if ERB really thought the Elite was a pretty fine restaurant. If so, one wonders where he took Emma and kids for a night out. Not too many gourmet Chicago restaurants served breakfast for dinner. Ham and eggs with mashed potatoes? Reminds me of the Galt House Hotel in Louisville where a ‘starch’ is served as a side dish. What exactly was this side-dish Willie wolfed- stewed tomatoes? The dessert prunes- dessert prunes?- was a nice touch too. Dessert for breakfast? Another nice quality touch at the Elite was the cup of toothpicks. Of course, those were the days cuspidors were de riguer so what do I know, maybe the Palmer House had a cup of toothpicks on the table too. I know they had cuspidors.
It does seem clear that little Willie was far down the social scale of little rural Payson. They had electric street lights, though. I’m not even from New York City but I would find the Elite, how shall I say, quaint and charming? Of course, New York City is not what it used to be either. Can’t fool me in either case; I’ve dined out in Hannibal. Good prices. Bountiful. Plenty of side dishes something that I’d never seen before.
I’m sure I’ve been in Willie’s shoes, or would have been if he’d chosen to wear them, too, so I have a great deal of sympathy for the lad. A man with a dollar has the right to spend where and as he chooses. Damn social hypocrisy!
In addition to the charm and light comedy ERB interjects a little parody of Taylorism and mass production into the mix.
For those not familiar with Frederick W. Taylor and his methods I quote from
Taylor wrote “The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911. These principles became known as Taylorism. Some of the principles of Taylorism include (Management for Productivity, John R. Schermerhorn, Jr. (1991)):
Develop a ‘science’ for every job, including rules of motion, standardized work implements, and proper working conditions.
Carefully select workers with the right abilities for the job.
Carefully train these workers to do the job, and give them proper incentives to cooperate with the job science.
Support these workers by planning their work and by smoothing the way as they go about their jobs.
Taylorism which led to maximum efficiency also give the lie to the unconscious of Sigmund Freud, or at least puts it into perspective. If the twentieth century has been the history of the devil of Freud’s unconscious it has also been the century of the triumph of the god of conscious intelligence. The question only remains which will triumph.
One of the recurring themes in ERB’s writing of the period is efficiency. Indeed, a couple years hence he will write a book entitled The Efficiency Expert.
It was the age of efficient mass production which required standardized motions and produced terrific results where applied as at Henry Ford’s marvelously efficient factories. Ford brought the task to the worker in well lighted clean factory spaces at a level which required no time consuming, fatiguing and unnecessary lifting or bending. Plus Henry Ford blew the industrial world away by doubling the going wage for unskilled labor. He changed the course of economic history singlehanded. He achieved more than the Communists or IWW could have accomplished in a million years earning their undying enmity. He may in one fell swoop have defeated the Reds. They sure thought so.
But, go back and review how Willie organizes his repast for consumption. Taylor-like he eliminated all non-essential motions then with maximum assembly line speed-up he gets production into one continuous stream.
A comic effect to be sure but there is even more comedy in the parody of the assembly line and Taylorism. I’m sure ERB intended it just that way.
Willie may be a joke but there is a certain flavor to be obtained by filling a continuum of food, mouth and time. Such an opportunity for enjoyment may present itself once in ten years or so. Willie saw his opportunity and seized it which he does throughout the story. Willie is OK with me.
I have eaten that way but I now reserve the method for ice cream and highly recommend it. My last opportunity, they present themselves but rarely and can’t be forced, was several years ago when I was insultingly offered a half melted Cherries Jubilee. The dish was of a perfect consistency for assembly line consumption. I saw my chance and like Willie, I took it. I kind of distributed cherries and ice cream chunks in the creamy stew, got mouth in the right position and cleaned the bowl in sixty seconds flat, reared back gripping the bridge of my nose, honked a couple times as the freeze seized my brain and then took a few minutes for consciousness to return. One of the great natural highs in this drug infested time. I tell ya‘, fellas, they was all lookin’ at me but I am much beyond the iron of class hatred. If they can’t take a joke…well, you know the finish. So I think Willie Case did the right thing.
Clumsy waitress to get in his way anyway. Fourteen hours on the job was no excuse.
Willie didn’t feel guilt for too long though, for what ERB calls a faux pas, it put him in the right place at the right time to see Giova and her dancing bear fresh from Beppo’s own slops. How could ERB be so cruel to a dumb animal- the bear, not Willie-, one that was going to save the heroine’s life- both the bear and Willie.
After having had dinner and refreshments Willie still had 20 cents left from a dollar of which he spent 10 cents for a detective movie and had ten cents left over for a long distance phone call to Burton in Oakdale after he spotted Giova and her dancing bear when he came out of the movie theatre.
He followed Giova to Bridge and the girls, fixed their location then called Burton. Not only did Willie spot the fugitives but so did the four leftover bums. Dopey Charlie and the General were impounded for the Baggs murder while we will learn that the real Oskaloosa Kid and the putative Gail Prim remain as well perhaps as the true identity of L. Bridge.
Burroughs is full of interesting details. The hoboes are gathered in an abandoned electrical generating plant which had formerly served Payson but had been discontinued for a larger plant servicing Payson from a hundred miles away. We don’t know when that might have happened but electrical generation and distribution was relatively new. The consolidation into larger generating units was even newer. Samuel Insull, whose electrical empire collapsed about1938 had begun organizing distribution in 1912 when he formed the Mid-West Utilities in Chicago absorbing all the smaller companies such as this one in Payson obviously.
I find details like this the exiting part of reading Burroughs.
The murderous hoboes set out to rob and kill Bridge and the Kid while Sky Pilot and Dirty Eddie elect themselves to return the putative Gail Prim who we will learn is actually Hettie Penning, thus doubling ERB’s Anima figure and connecting the latter to the former.
One is put in mind of the Hettie of H.G. Wells’ novel In The Days Of The Comet. Both Hetties exhibit the same traits. While it may seem a slender connection, still, ERB has so many references to other authors and their works that the connection is not improbable. For obvious reasons ERB always insisted he had never read H.G. Wells. Wells? Wells, who?, but how could he not have?
Bridge and the girls would have met their end except that Willie Case’s call brought Burton on the run who arrives in time to save their lives. Unfortunately Beppo of the evil eye meets his end after having done Burton’s job for him much as Willie always did.
In between the girls, the ‘boes, Bridge and the coppers Burton has a full load so he drops Bridge and Kid at the Payson jail. Willie Case had not only solved the case for the ingrate Burton but saved the life of Gail Prim posing as the Oskaloosa Kid. In a heart wrenching scene little Willie seeking his just reward is cruelly rejected and cheated by the Great Detective. I don’t know, maybe I read too closely and get too involved. Or, just maybe, ERB is a great writer.
It’s all over but the shouting and along comes the mob howling from Oakdale for the blood of Bridge and the Kid. I tell ya, boys, it wuz close. Burton arrived in time but not before Bridge with a well aimed blow broke Jeb Case’s jaw. What did those Cases ever do to ERB I wonder?
In the end Hettie Penning is identified, clearing up that mystery. Burton is able to tell Bridge’s dad who has spent $20,000 looking for him that he is found. It may even have cost less for Stanley to find Livingston. Of course there was a lousy rail system in the Congo in Livingston’s time. Bridge is united with Gail obviously prepared to renounce the roving life. Thus the promise of Out There Somewhere is redeemed. Bridge has found his woman.
Thus on paper, at least, Burroughs is reunited with his Animus in gorgeous female attire. No more men in women’s clothes or women in men’s clothes.
Bridge And The Kid is a very short book, only 152 pages in my Charter paperback edition of 1979 (Septimius Favonius BB #24. Charter didn’t see fit to include a date.) Although first issued in book form so late as 1937, it was reprinted in 1938 and 1940 so there must have been some early readers however when reprinted in 1974 there could have been few who remembered it.
My fellow writer, David Adams wrote a short review in the same issue #24 of the Burroughs Bulletin, October 1995, in which he also recognized the importance of this book to the corpus:
It may come as a surprise that anyone could possibly think of calling the novelette, THE OAKDALE AFFAIR, a major work of such a prolific writer as Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I found it to be such an animal…
I am unaware that any other than Mr. Adams and myself have reviewed the book. To sum up:
There seems to be an obvious connection to Jack London in the Bridge Trilogy (I prefer Bridge to Mucker because the latter draws reproving stares and no one today knows what a mucker is. It sounds slightly obscene.)
Mr. Adams, who is more of an authority on Jack London than myself, I’ve only begun to read London as a result of Bill Hillman’s series of articles in ERBzine, which posits a strong connection between Burroughs and London, and not the other way around, feels the novels have a great deal to do with London. The connection seems to be there but I have only begun to read London’s relevant or major works.
What ERB’s attitude towards London may have been which seems ambiguous isn’t clear. Burroughs never wrote about London and never mentions him explicitly. There are many points of disagreement between the two politically and socially. Burroughs does seem to have liked London and his work although what he read or when he read it isn’t clear. There are no London titles in his library.
The second major influence in the novel is the problem of hoboism connected with the IWW and labor unrest.
In the background Burroughs is working out his Anima/Animus problem.
The whole is framed in the form of a rather magnificent detective story patterned after Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories with a dash, perhaps a soupcon, of E.W. Hornung thrown in.
Attention should be paid to the psychological aspects.
Many of ERB’s favorite themes such as the efficiency expert are also thrown in. Nifty historical details like Samuel Insull’s electrical empire are added to the mix as well as Taylorism.
If anything ERB was too efficient, too economical in his use of words. The Book could easily have been fleshed out another sixty or hundred pages with no loss in the marvelous immediacy of the telling. If anything the story is too condensed. I found myself pausing over each description to recreate a mental image of the depiction. I was willing to do so and the personal reward was great. How much ERB was the creator of my vision of the story and how much my own as collaborator isn’t clear to me. Perhaps ERB just outlined the story ‘suggesting’ the scenario, expecting the reader to ‘customize’ the story as he reads along. This may be the first ‘inter-active’ novel. If so, Burroughs may be an even more innovative and greater writer than he is commonly thought to be.
July 18, 2011
Edgar Rice Burroughs As A Feral Child
Cronus married his sister Rhea, to whom the oak is sacred, But it was prophesized by Mother Earth and by his dying father Uranus, that one of his own sons would dethrone him. Every year, therefore, he swallowed the children whom Rhea bore him, first Hestia, then Demeter and Hera, then Hades, then Poseidon~ Robert Graves, The Greek Myths
I. The Father As A Cannibal Figure
Following Poseidon came Zeus. In place of Zeus Cronus was given a stone which he swallowed instead. When Zeus grew up he then castrated Cronus, replacing him.
While on the one hand an astrological myth denoting the precession of the equinoxes from one Astrological Age to another, on a psychological level the myth relates the fear of the Father that as the strength of his sons waxes his own wanes resulting in an eclipse.
Different human fathers react in different ways. Some nurture, some castrate or cannibalize their young. This is a serious problem for the son. For instance, what Tom Brokaw, a thoroughly castrasted son, is pleased to call The Greatest Generation who were so enamored of their success in WW II, they chose to emasculate a whole generation rather than surrender or even share power.
I correspond with David Adams from time to time while doing my writing from whom I sometimes receive valuable input. I had come to the conclusion that ERB’s father, George T, was a problem for ERB, especially as represented by ‘God’ in Tarzan And The Lion Man. The new year opened with Hillman publishing Dodds’ feral child collection which clicked in my mind. The week before ERBzine published my Part III, Two Peas And A Pod of the Tarzan Triumphant review. David Adams commented favorably on my comments about the Jungian Old Man archetype. He said in an email to me:
I agree with your interpretation that “characters like Tarzan and John Carter serve in the capacity of Old Man/Jekyll figures while the actual Old Man figures who are betrayers serve perhaps as Hydelike figures as represented by the father.” (David quoting me.) Those old man figures, early and late, are also cannibals who are hell-bent on eating him up while then spreading the bones across some desert for the hyenas to chew. Who was that old cannibal with the cancerous face followed by a pair of African wolves? (Jungle Tales of Kipling)
As can be seen I picked up on the Father figure but adding the cannibal detail adds the needed dimension for full comprehension.
George T. had been bothering me for some time. The love-hate relationship ERB had with him is quite obvious, but then it occurred to me that the other sons had the same relationship to their father while George T. appeared to program them all for failure- that is they not surpass him in their lifetime somewhat like Cronus of Greek mythology. He made them all dependent on him. The supplicating tone of the letters from college of sons George and Harry is all too obvious. George T. sending the boys to Yale without the means to support a position would have had the effect of emasculating them relative to their fellow students thus subordinating them.
Then on graduation he took them into his battery business. As a businessman in Chicago it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that George T. had some relatively influential contacts in town who might have been able to place Yale graduates advantageously but he chose to keep the boys with him and subordinate to him.
The battery factory proved dangerous for his son Harry who developed respiratory problems from the battery chemicals plus perhaps in psychological reaction to suppression by his father. He went West to join fellow Yalie, Lew Sweetser, in Idaho. Son George, who had had enough of working for his father, also fled to Idaho to join Harry and Sweetser.
None of the three knew enough about the cattle business to survive so that by 1913 when George T. had his basket pulled up all the sons were back in Chicago in various degrees of failure or, at least, lack of success. As of that date it would appear that like Cronus George T. had swallowed or cannibalized his sons.
There was a Zeus figure in the bunch who didn’t want to be swallowed and that Zeus figure was ERB. Like Zeus ERB was the youngest son. ERB developed independently of his brothers who were approximately ten years older than he. Thus when they were at Yale ERB was attending grade school.
As I pointed out in my Books, Burroughs and Religion George T. was especially rigorous in the attempt to emasculate his youngest son. His effort culminated when he sent ERB to military school. This was a form of dislocation and rejection that ERB could not bear. He tried to escape but his father sternly returned him to the Michigan Military Academy.
The effects of this were that ERB was declassed as he considered the MMA a rich kid’s reform school. Thus to some extent he was criminalized in his own mind. His reaction was also seminal in the formation of his two principal characters John Carter and Tarzan.
His hurt was so strong, his separation from his parents and home so complete that he became psychologically orphaned. His parents died to him the day he was returned to the MMA. He adopted the drunken Commandant, Charles King, as his mentor or surrogate father. While betrayed by his father ERB apparently thought he found a friend in King. In that capacity King became the model for Lt. Paul D’Arnot of the French Navy. D’Arnot was the man who tamed the feral boy that was Tarzan introducing him to civilization much as King taught Burroughs how to survive and prosper at MMA. Or Burroughs remembered it in that manner. There may also be a literary connection to D’Artagnan of Dumas’ Three Musketeers.
This makes the period between the arrival of Jane and her party and the arrival of D’Arnot in Tarzan Of The Apes of special interest. I’m not sure what the period represents in Burroughs’ own life.
As his creation Tarzan is a feral child it follows that ERB considered himself alone and on his own as a feral child himself. A romantic notion but one no less real to him. Thus just as Tarzan’s parent’s died with the baby becoming a member of an ape tribe so Burroughs began a wild and difficult period as his parents died for him.
These events occurred just as Rider Haggard was becoming famous for his great African trilogy of King Solomon’s Mines, She and Allan Quatermain which ERB undoubtedly read at this time. Conan Doyle began his Sherlock Holmes mysteries and H.M. Stanley disappeared into an unknown Congo in pursuit of Emin Pasha. The West to East transit of the Congo impressed ERB greatly as his own heroes later crossed Africa in the same direction.
Being a complex individual ERB no longer wished to even acknowledge that he had ever had parents; thus his first creation- John Carter. As Carter only came into existence when ERB was 36 the writer had plenty of time to knock around learning the odd legend here and there. John Carter then is a version of the Great Historical Bum- the hundred thousand year old man of folklore.
John Carter could not remember his parents. In his memory he had always been the same age he was. In the words of one of my famorite songs, Stewball, he didn’t say he was born at all, just blew down in a storm. Certainly Burroughs had heard of the Comte de St. Germain who flourished at the time of the French Revolution. As esoterical cult figure today, St. Germain’s legend would have been more prominent from 1875 to 1911 than today. Like Carter St. Germain claimed to have been alive forever. In Revolutionary Europe he got away with it. Calgiostro was another Revolutionary charlatan claiming mysterious antecedents who would have intrigued ERB’s imagination. It seems certain the two would have been topics of conversation in the time before radio, TV and movies so it wouldn’t have been necessary for ERB to have read anything.
I doubt if he had read any of the books on Dodds’ list although one never knows but the list goes to show that the feral child would have been a popular topic of conversation. In my opinion then ERB’s literary future was cast when his cannibal father returned him to MMA.
He graduated from the MMA in ’95 but either couldn’t or wouldn’t return home staying on as an instructor. In ’96, just before the summer break which might have necessitated a return home he joined the Army being sent directly to Arizona with passing through Chicago. Was he avoiding returning home? One can’t say as in ’97 having found Army life not to his liking he received an early discharge. He could have kept going, of course, as many of us in his boots did, to LA, San Francisco or wherever but he chose at that time to return to Chicago. Of course, Emma was calling.
From ’97 to ’03 or so he worked for his father which he found as difficult as his brothers had. Fleeing Chicago to Idaho in 1903, when he came back a year and a few months later to do anything (that word anything has some meaning in this context) rather than work with his father. He became one of the poet Robert Service’s ‘men who don’t fit in.’ He had a very difficult few years from 1905 to 1913 bumping along the bottom.
But then in 1911 he began his rise via his intellect. He began to write becoming an immediate literary success of sorts. By 1913 when he was about to become a financial success through his intellectual efforts thus escaping his father’s curse, his father died. The young Zeus thus never got to castrate his father Cronus.
One can’t know what would have happened to his psychology had ERB been able to present his father with evidence of his success. I’m reasonably certain George T. would have belittled or rejected his success as like Cronus his youngest would have replaced him. He wouldn’t have liked that.
II. A Hand From The Grave
Had that happened and ERB been able to prove himself a greater than his father it is interesting to speculate as to what effect that might have had on ERB’s psychological development. As it was, a few months after his father’s death he packed up family and belongings and got out of town as far as he could go to San Diego, California and stayed away nine months. Time enough to be reborn.
There are numerous examples of betrayers who are cannibals in his corpus, in fact there is so much betraying and cannibalism in Burroughs’ work I find it slightly offensive. Rather than work up a list, which for the time being I leave to David, I’d rather concentrate on the most spectacular cannibalistic betrayer of the oeuvre, God of Lion Man.
I know I just wrote about Lion Man but with David’s interpretation of cannibalism I can present a much more cogent image. David’s much more into Jungian synchronicity than I am but the scene with God presents a remarkable occurrence of synchronicity. The scene is very complex.
George T. was born in 1833 so the book was written on his 100th birthday. Chicago was incorporated in 1833 while it was celebrating its Century Of Progress forty years after the Columbian Expo at the same time. Both events occurred just at the time that Burroughs realized he had lost control of his ’meal ticket’ to MGM.
MGM was undoubtedly a component of God, the Father, being combined with the Chicago that fathered him and George T., his actual father, in his mind. From these components ERB then creates the magnificent apparition of God as man and beast. God has the mind of divine power such as had Zeus but is still a Cronus, is, in fact, the ultimate cannibal.
Tarzan and Rhonda represent Burroughs’ Anima and Animus so that God has the whole man in his power in its component parts- the X and y chromosomes. God tells the pair that he is going to use them to rejuvenate himself by cannibalizing them. The Father’s desire and the Son’s fear.
If God represents George T. on one side, MGM on another and organized religion on a third then even though ERB thought he escaped his father in 1913 by his intellectual efforts the father reaches up from the grave on his 100th anniversay to claim his son again.
At this time Burroughs also wrote Pirates Of Venus and Pirate Blood. Both would refer to the idea that MGM pirated his creation from him while the very despondent Pirate Blood is almost terrifying in its manic depression as the balloon rises and sinks being almost submerged in the ocean or the waters of oblivion, the subconscious mind, insanity, that I believe we can see it as the insanity of despair. At the end of that story the hero pairs up with a desperate woman who I believe we can read as Florence. All very transparent really.
So there Tarzan/Rhonda/Burroughs is trapped in a prison. He attempts his earlier escape of rising through his intellectual powers, that is, he ascends through a shaft in the roof. Unlike the first time when he surprised and astonished the world with John Carter and Tarzan, God, the Father, is waiting for him preventing his use of his intellect. In point of fact Tarzan And The Lion Man was a dismal sales failure thought by Burroughs to be caused by MGM.
If his previous four previous Tarzans under the Burroughs imprint had been successes it seems strange that the truly excellent Tarzan And The Lion Man should have failed. Failing proof of sabotage on the part of, say, MGM, one can only say the public taste is fickle or perhaps the innovative dust jacket didn’t look like the usual Tarzan dust jacket and fans just passed it by. It is also true that the book was a put down of MGM.
Tarzan/Burroughs sallies forth from his hiding place against superior forces. He is knocked unconscious. A sure sign that Burroughs is under supreme stress. Meanwhile God’s castle, in other words the literary structure of the last twenty years is going up in flames. The MGM pirates have lifted ERB’s life work.
He has to finish the story so he turns the tables on God taking him captive and making him do his bidding. Tarzan helps God recapture his City then abandons him disappearing down the hole of the subconscious to a lower level from when he emerges to be claimed by the Wild Thing- Balza, the Golden Girl, or Florence.
In a thinly disguised scene Tarzan, unwittingly it seems, wins Balza from her former husband much as Burroughs took Florence from Ashton Dearholt. The important thing here is that a transition has been effected from one world to another. The intellectual City of God has been abandoned in favor of a world of the senses.
It is at this point ERB abandons his own feral boy persona of horses, puttees and other symbols to become a sort of effeminate Dandy. He now affects tightly fitted fashionable suits almost effeminate in appearance. He turn into a party animal and if he had been a moderate drinker during his teens, twenties and early thirthies he now becomes almost a lush.
So, in the end, ERB was probably devoured by the Father in Cronus fashion. In the Myth Zeus forced Cronus to vomit up his brothers and sisters and he castrated him. In real life ERB was castrated and swallowed down.
He put up one heck of a fight that arouses the warmest admiration of him. One wonders, that if when all is said and done anyone can escape the imprint of those formative years. Is one’s whole horoscope cast in the womb and those few short months after birth? Sure hope not.
April 11, 2011
Tarzan Meets Einstein Somewhere In Time
Burroughs, E.R.: Tarzan At the Earth’s Core, 1929
Burroughs, E.R.: Tarzan The Invincible, 1930
Gott, J. Richard: Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe, 2001
Wells, H.G., The Time Machine, 1895
Time travel seems strange because we are unaccustomed
to seeing time travelers. But if we saw them
everyday we might not be surprised to meet a man
who was his own mother and father.
– J. Richard Gott, Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe
When you eliminate the impossible whatever remains,
no matter how improbable,
must be the truth.
All possible universes exist.
Unfortunately you are
in the wrong one.
– J. Richard Gott
Upon time and space is written, thoughts,
the deeds, the activities of an entity
in relationship to its environs,
its hereditary influence and its judgments
drawn according to the entity’s ideal.
Hence, it has often been called
The reward of God’s book of remembrance.
– Edgar Cayce, 1 February 1946
Somewhere in time, let’s say 1905, a man named Levi Dowling says, in all seriousness, that he traveled out to the belt of stars girdling Earth known as the Zodiac. There at the cusp of the departing Age of Pisces and the arriving Age of Aquarius he was met by celestial beings who allowed him to examine the Akashic Records to learn the shape of things to come in the Age of Aquarius.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if he had taken Madame Blavatsky and Albert Einstein with him? They might have taken folding chairs and a card table along and read the Tarot cards or cast the I Ching. Madame B who had already examined the Akashic Records in the mystical land of Tibet could have guided Mr. Dowling through the Records while Albert Einstein offered a useful comment from time to time on how better to order all the possible universes. By the way Mr. Gott should know that it is not necessary for all the possible universes to exist simultaneously. Some might be in the garage for repairs, so to speak. Tweaked a little.
Perhaps J. Richard could have traveled back through Time and Space to 1905 to be present out
on the cusp and serve as the trio’s Ganymede to roll their Tea behind a cloud where we can’t see as they played celestial Rummy or read each other’s Tarot using the Akashic deck.
Levi Dowling returned with gleanings he had picked up from the fabled Akashic Records which he placed in his book The Aquarian Gospel Of Jesus The Christ. Madame B had already given us the results of her study, so she would have little to add, perhaps a few corrections. Albert Einstein undoubtedly learned what he needed to know from the Records to write his own Special Theory Of Relativity which upon mature reflection he expanded to the General Theory Of Relativity. There is a certain similarity in style in the writing of all three time travelers as they rolled around heaven if only for one day.
While I have found no evidence that Edgar Rice Burroughs ever read Dowling, or indeed the Akashic Records, who, I might add has made more of an historical impression than you might thnk, even than Blavatsky, there is proof that he wrestled with the ideas of the Special and General Theories of Relativity of Einstein.
In Chapter 9 of Tarzan The Invincible Burroughs says: …but though time and space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines, all other things must end…
You can’t refer to curved space without being aware of Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity. What Burroughs read of Einstein’s is not clear but that he was familiar with the notion of relativity is clear.
What a time it must have been in those fifty years from 1870 to 1920 when literary greats literally strode the Earth like giants: Haggard, Doyle, Wells, Freud, Kipling, Einstein, Burroughs. The most earth shaking fiction writers the world has ever seen. None were so marvelous as Freud, Einstein and Burroughs, super charged, they flashed across the skies like bolts from the mighty arm of Zeus.
Einstein is one part of a triumvirate of the ‘three greatest geniuses’ of the twentieth century by some people’s reckoning: that is Marx, Freud and Einstein. Marx was dead by the time Einstein and Freud flourished. Both of the latter men claim to have been scientists but one should note that they were both deeply inolved in religious matters of one group of the Semitic peoples. Both were promoting their religious beliefs through their ‘sciences.’ They were even so close they collaborated on a book, Why War?
Marx, Freud and Einstein are colossal frauds. These three men based their life’s work on false
premisses no less egregious than that Tarzan existed and was guardian of Africa. ERB in a mind boggling way sports with the notions of all three men in his oeuvre. One has to admire his audacity as no one has ever accused him of being a genius on the order of the three ‘greats.’
Central to Einstein’s relativity thesis is that Time is a Fourth Dimension. Just as the discussion of the Unconscious was appropriated by Freud from the literary atmosphere dating back to Edgar Allan Poe and the German Romantics, so as Richard Gott points out in his 2001 book Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe, subtitled ‘The Physical Possiblilites Of Travel Through Time,’ old Herbert George introduced the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension in his 1895 novel, The Time Machine.
Are these things coincidences? Well, I don’t know.
Wells takes credit for having introduced the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension but I rather imagine that the idea had been bruited about for several years before Wells gave it literary expression. Just as Freud developed a scientific notion of the Unconscious from discussions floating about, so Einstein elaborated on the existing notions of Time as a Fourth Dimension.
It is my contention that Burroughs was absorbed in the ideas of these three men exploring their possibilities over the course of the oeuvre. At the Earth’s Core is apparently when the nettle of Time jarred ERB into a full scale examination of the problem. In Earth’s Core ERB was on the right track that Time has no independent existence but he backed off in apparent frustration for he says, once again in Chapter 9 of Invincible:
The beasts of the jungle acknowledge no master, least of all the cruel tyrant that drives civilized man throughout his headlong race from the cradle to the grave- Time, the master of countless millions of slaves. Time, the measurable unit of duration, was measureless to Tarzan and Tantor. Of all the vast resources that Nature had placed at their disposal, she had been most profligate with Time, since she had awarded to each all that he could use during his lifetime, no matter how extravagant of it he might be. So great was the supply of it that it could not be wasted, since there was always more, even up to the moment of death, after which it ceased, with all things, to be essential to the individual. Tantor and Tarzan, therefore, were wasting no time as they communed together in silent meditation; but though Time and Space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines, all other things must end.
I’ve read a little bit here and there and I find the above a remarkably profound passage. At the last Burroughs contradicts himself for on the one hand he says ‘Time and Space go on forever,’ while on the other hand he says that ‘Time is a measure of duration.’
That latter is correct. A measure of duration implies that Time has no independent existence; it is merely a convenient way devised by the mind of man to measure duration from point A to point B. It has been said that the progress of man is the improvement in the ability to measure. A nanosecond is a vast advance in measurement over the crude second just as the ability to measure a billionth of an inch is a refinement of the measurement of the inch. However neither the second or the inch have an independent existence in reality on that account. As an alternate measure of distance there is also the centimeter which in itself can altered ad infinitum.
‘Time, the measurable aspect of duration’ is what At The Earth’s Core is all about. What ERB should have said is that Time is only the measureable aspect of duration. The implication of Earth’s Core is that time cannot exist without periodicity and the question is whether Time is merely a function of periodicity when conceived by sentient beings or does Time exist independently in and of itself. Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity hangs on that question. My own answer and the unresolved answer of ERB is that it does not.
When Burroughs says that Time and Space go on forever, he gives in to Relativity Theory on the one hand and denies it on the other. Einstein thought that both the Universe and Space were bound by limits. In saying that Space goes on forever Burroughs attacks a main thesis of the theory.
Also, if Wells expressed the notion of Time as the Fourth Dimension, as the scientist Gott acknowledges, does that give him priority over Einstein? It should. One sort of fiction has no greater claim to legitimacy than another.
What then is Burroughs’ relation to Wells and Einstein? That Burroughs read and was heavily influenced by Wells’ Time Machine seems self-evident. Not only is there a seeming reference to the Eloi and Morlocks in Jewels of Opar, but Wells also says: ‘Are you so sure we can move freely in Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward freely enough. But how about up and down?’
It seems that Tarzan anweres that question by his use of the lower, middle and upper terraces. Burroughs merely incorporates answers posed to others’ questions but he never refers to the questions. My own opinion is that Wells’ Time Machine posed troubling questions to Burroughs which he tried to resolve over several novels.
At the beginning of Invincible he says quite starkly: ‘…it seems to me not unethical to pirate an idea occasionally…’ Admittedly the quotation is taken out of context but it is consistent with Burroughs’ practice. As it was, one might note Shakespeare, Homer, Chaucer, Milton and a host of others down through time did the same. Complete originality has only been demanded in modern times and never met.
As Time has no independent existence. I believe that ERB undestood the idea of time travel to be impossible, hence, even though he covers many different time periods from the prehistoric to the ‘modern’ post-Atlantean society of Opar, he never uses the method of time travel. Those various ages still exist fossilized in Time and Space. I have to believe that Opar is an early reflection on the notion of time travel as posed by Wells, as the Oparians reflect Eloi and Morlocks so closely. But still puzzled by what he thought about it, ERB merely placed Opar in a place similar to where the Time Machine stopped in 802701 and played with the notion of Eloi and Morlocks.
ERB does have an instance of actual time travel in The Eternal Lover in which the Lovers move back and forth in time.
As The Jewels Of Opar was written before Einstein achieved world wide notoriety, Burroughs could only critique and reflect on the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension from Wells, and also actually Camille Flammarion who was a major influence on him. It would be a little later that the notion put into scientific language by Einstein exercized his thought processes.
Just as when Jason Gridley and the O-220 pass between two time periods when it leaves the crust for the core, the O-220 has really traveled through Time but it has never left the present. The prehistoric Core exists as a parallel world.
Whereas the crust is ruled by Time or periodicity as measured as Time, the Earth’s core exists in a perpetual high noon in which there is no periodicity to measure the passage of Time. Thus, the inhabitants have all the Time in their world for the period of their lives. Periodicity is determined by their existence rather than years, months, days, hours and minutes as Burroughs pointed out in the communion of Tarzan and Tantor quoted from Invincible above.
The life span of a Pellucidarian cannot be measured except as biological unit.
A charming epression of the notion is presented in the lyrics of the song Tumbling Tumbleweeds:
I know when day is done,
That a new world’s born at dawn;
But I’ll keep drifting along….
As I understand the lyrics in relation to Einstein and the Fourth Dimension of Time is that the Earth makes one complete rotation between sunups. When the sun ‘rises’ each morning the planet has not only rotated a full turn on its axis but revolved around the sun a notch of the three hundred sixty-five rotations that comprise one revolution around the sun. Thus, a new world’s born at dawn. There is no time involved at all but there is periodicity.
Each rotation is a fact in and of itself. There is no way to recover it or travel back to it. It is done. It had no existence before its occurrence and it has no existence after it. To retrieve the irretrievable is impossible. To occupy space before arriving there is equally impossible. Time is not a continuum, therefore Time travel is impossible.
As the cowboy in Tumbling Tumbleweeds says, the duration of is life is not governed by the periodicity of the earth cycle. One day is done and a new world begins the next dawn but his biological existence drifts along quite independent of another measurement.
This is what Burroughs says in At The Earth’s Core. In the eternal noon of Pellucidar men and women have no way of ageing themselves; they drift along from birth to death unconscious of birthdays. There are only two phases to life: birth and death.
As Bob Dylan put it, ‘If you’re not busy being born you’re busy dying.’ Thus the Pellucidarians go through life conscious only, if that, of the process of life. There is no need for time. Nature has given them all they need and more to live their lives.
Time, then, is an illusion created by the periodicity of the daily rotation of earth on its axis and its yearly revolution around the sun. However the Earthly year would have no meaning on the planet Uranus which takes more than a hundred earth years in its revolution around the sun. The majority of earthlings would never be more than a year old. Neither would the Earth hour have any meaning on Jupiter which consumes less than twenty-four hours in its rotation. Time is certainly no absolute but in a parody of Einstein it is relative. What indeed does Time mean from the perspective of the Sun which controls the different periodic revolutions of nine planets in its course through Space? It’s all relative until you triangulate the center and then it’s absolute.
In a joke as elegant as any that I have read, Burroughs depicts the frustration of Robert Jones, the cook aboard the O-220. ERB expects the reader to get the joke, which he stretches out over the length of the novel,even though he calls no direct attention to the fact that he is making a joke. Jones is the cook of the expedition. On the crust, our active and passive periods are determined for us by the natural periodicity of night and day. We, or most people, are active during the day and sleep at night. Our eating periods are determined by the position of the sun in the sky. At daybreak (in theory) we break our fast and have breakfast, at noon we have lunch and at day’s end we have supper or dinner (which one depends on your social class.)
At the Earth’s core the sun is at perpetual noon. One eats when hungry, one sleeps when tired. As the cook, when Jones looks outside to see what time it is, it is always lunch time. He has a clock, not even a twenty-four hour military clock, but apparently a twelve hour alarm clock, which he checks against the sun. As it is always noon outside, he can’t even tell if its AM or PM which his clock reads simply as 7:00. He can’t tell whether it is night or day, breakfast time or dinner. He doesn’t know which end is up, quite literally, as everything at the core is reversed. At every stop, he writes in his journal: ‘Arrived here at noon.’
His frustration increases because he doesn’t know which meal to serve- except…lunch. Finally in complete exasperation he throws the clock overboard, or he throws time out the window or to the winds. This really funny shaggy dog story took Burroughs the whole book to develop.
So, really, Burroughs is saying that time is dependent on periodicity or its relevance and is only a measure of that periodicity. Time has no independent existence, which is correct. Burroughs thereby disproved Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity which is dependent on a continuum of both Time and Space.
Without a continuum of Time and Space there can be no time travel. There is no time travel which is a staple of science fiction, in Burroughs’ work. There might easily have been but rather than following Herbert George’s example, which seemed impossible to him, he effectively refutes Wells and the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension.
To retrieve the irretrievable which is that which has ceased to exist or to obtain the unobtainable which is that which has no existence is a mere conundrum created by Einstein and Wells not unlike the ancient Greek story of the Fox that nothing could catch and Laelaps, the dog that nothing could outrun
In that story, in brief, the citizens of the area in which a man called Cephalus had antagonized a god who in anger sent a Fox that could never be caught to ravage the countryside. Earlier Cephalus had acquired Laelaps, the dog which could outrun everything, from a goddess.
Keep your eye on the bouncing ball- god/goddess.
The citizens implored Cephalus to turn Laelops loose on the Fox to rid the country of the menace. Thus we have the scene of the Fox that nothing could catch being chased interminably by the dog that nothing could outrun.
The Greeks, too, were fond of conundrums such as what happens when an irresistable force meets an unmoveable object. Thus the problem posed by time travel, whether in Einstein’s universe or any other, is how to retrieve the unretrievable, which is: That which has cesed to exist, or how to otain the unobtainable which is that which has no existence.
As these problems have no resolution, the Greeks solved the problem of Laelaps and the Fox by having them both turned to stone in mid-run. And there they remain today as all conundrums must.
So until you run into a Time Traveler who is both his own mother and father, be content to live in this universe while you await transportation to any of the other ‘possible universes.’ Check the Akashic Records before you book. Unlike Tarzan who could board the O-220 to Pellucidar at the Core of the Earth where the sun was at perpetual high noon, we’ll all have to watch the sun come up in the East and set in West for all the days of our time.
In the meantime, credit ERB as a man of great common sense.
April 8, 2011
Normal Bean: A Case Of Identity
Originally published in the Summer 20o2
Issue of the Burroughs Bulletin
A certain selection and direction must be used in producing a realistic effect and this is wanting…when more stress is laid perhaps upon the platitudes…than upon the details, which to an observer contain the vital essence of the whole matter.
- Arthur Conan Doyle
What’s in a name?
A rose might smell as sweet by any other name but would it be as desirable if it were called a Smudge Pot? There is in a name what there is not in a scent. Sherlock Holmes by Artie Doyle? Allan Quatermain by Hank Haggard? The island of Dr. Moreau by Herb Wells? Or, even the The Island of Sid Jones by Herbie Wells?
No, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lends a dignity to the fantasy of Sherlock Holmes. Even Arthur Doyle is not enough. It’s the ‘Conan’ that makes it, and later the ‘Sir’ that adds final legitimization.
Even Henry Haggard is pale stuff compared to H. Rider Haggard. How about Herb Wells? George Wells? Herbert George Wells? Nah. ‘H.G.’, although more anonymous, carries weight, even though he never won the recognition of society by gaining a Sir.
The Island Of Dr. Moreau? Sinister. The Island Of Sid Jones? Not only banal but laughable. The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari. There is something in the betrayal of the calling of doctor that raises the short hairs. What’s a good book without a good title? Gone with the wind.
A good pseudonym is important. I don’t know how disappointed ERB was when his editor changed the l to an n and attributed the story to Norman Bean but that one small detail may have changed literary history.
There is a playful humorous promise in the pseudonym Normal Bean but, at the same time, it promises a certain clownishness which, in the end. would have turned Burroughs’ precarious premises into burlesque.
Perhaps the editor said to himself: ‘Oh, he made a typo; it should be Norman not Normal.’ Or perhaps he said; ‘Nah, that’s just stupid; I’m changing it to Norman.’ Whatever the case, it prevented Burroughs from using the pseudonym again. Who wants to be known as Norman Bean. (My apologies to the lost list of Norman Beans on the internet. I didn’t have a computer when I wrote this.)
His joke over, he wisely chose a more somber approach along the modes of H. Rider, Arthur Conan or H.G. Altough he professed to dislike the name of Edgar, it was, after all, the first name of his idol, Eddie Poe. Ed Poe also wisely went for dignity by calling himself Edgar Allan Poe. Ed Burroughs, whose mother or father had given him very nearly a perfect literary middle name,chose to use it in Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Now there’s a nice wedding of names. There’s magic in the Rice. Edgar James or Edgar William Burroughs? I don’t think so. But Edgar Rice? That’s the ticket.
The dignity of the name Edgar Rice Burroughs also balanced off the daring imaginative nature of the literary creation of his life, Tarzan. It had the necessary weight to counterbalance the impossibility of Tarzan, or the spectacular flights of fancy of the Moons of Mars, or the timelessness of Pellucidar. The name added credulity to his themes and variations: evolution, dinosaurs, the Theory of Relativity, Marxism, Freudianism and speculative science, among others.
Burroughs might have been distressed when he picked up his copy of The All Story to see his novel attributed to plain old Norman, but his editor may very well have made his reputation down to today and into the foreseeable future. Somehow I can’t envision Buroughs’ oeuvre surviving as well under the name of Norman Bean.
On the other hand, if an editor had changed M. Francois Marie Arouet back from the pseudonym Voltaire, the writer would probably be unknown today.
The above was written in response to my editor, George McWhorter, deciding on his own that I didn’t need a pseudonym. George is a very good guy and I’m within a decade or two of forgiving him. In recognition of his guilt George appended the following postscript to my essay.
An Editorial Postscript
“Rice” was a family name traced through the Burroughs family tree to Dean Edmund Rice who was born in England in 1594 and settled in the American colonies in 1639 at Sudbury,Massachusetts. Six generations later, his descendent, Mary Rice, Married Abner Tyler Burroughs and became ERB’s grandmother.
Surnames seem to carry more dignity and historic recognition than Christian names, probably because they are less used today and are patently more interesting. Familiar middle names such as Makepeace, Wadsworth, Fenimore and Orne, make fine literary middle names, and Rice fits right into the pattern. Could this be why the British are fond of omitting the Christian names when citing famous authors such as ‘Bernard Shaw’ and ‘Rice Burroughs?’ Only this year (2002), a British paperback was published referring to ‘Rice Burroughs’. The middle name is the clincher.
Burroughs enjoyed creating fictional names and often spoke them out loud, with variations, before deciding which name sounded best for his purposes. ‘Vomer’ comes to mind; it’s a name he gave to his Myposan fish-man in Escape on Venus, and I was delighted to see it listed in a standard dictionary as the name of the common moon fish.
’Anoroc’ is also an interesting island name in At The Earth’s Core, but the casual reader probably wouldn’t recognize it as the name of ERB’s typewriter spelled backward. Burroughs had fun spelling words backwords. He created ‘sak’ to mean ‘jump’ on Mars…and then spelled it backwards to mean the same thing in his Ape-English Dictionary: ‘kas.’ The ‘O-220′ which carried Tazan and Jason Gridley to Pellucidar happens to have been ERB’s phone number, Owensmouth 220. He liked to create gutteral names for his villains (Skruk), soft palatal names for his ladies (Dejah), and noble sounding names for his heroes (Valthor).
The sum total of a man’s accomplishments validates and immortalizes his name. It becomes a unique label. Shakespeare was right on target when he wrote: ‘That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.’ If Burroughs had kept the name Norman Bean after his first story was published, I would probably regard it today with reverence. But he didn’t and his three names are a unique symbol of many happy hours of reading his imaginative tales. I’m glad he dropped the Bean. …Ye Editor.
Thank you for publishing me, George, but I think I have the better idea of who I am.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells
Wold Newton Mythology
It Came From Outer Space
For some decades now I have been struggling with the problem of a new mythology for the scientific consciousness. When the old mythopoeic mythology was invalidated by science it left sort of a void in the human psyche. In the Arthurian sense we had entered the Wasteland of disappointed expectations, otherwise known as depression.
Over the last twenty years of unremitting labor I have been either trying to discover or create such an existing scientific mythology. Perhaps my efforts have been rewarded. I modestly offer the following for your approval.
When The Student Is Ready…
Unlike the internet where I get most of what passes for news by current standards, this day I was reading the newspaper. I hadn’t come to that, it was just lying handy and I had the idle moment. owever I read that our giant combined new and used Pulsar Book Store had laid off a couple dozen employees, or workers as they are sometimes amusingly described, because of declining in store sales. I further read that sixty percent of Pulsar’s sales were over the internet.
I’ve been doing all my book buying over the internet and hadn’t been in the Pulsar store for years. Casting about for a reason for a decline in sales, apart from a growing illiteracy in the body politic, it occurred to me that on line electronic transmission of books was cutting into book sales deeply. I mean, Amazon offers oodles of older books free, many of which you will never see in books stores but are offered by Print On Demand publishers over the internet. Ask yourself when you last saw a Charles King? Lots of them for free on Amazon. That has to hurt sales. I then reasoned that Pulsar’s shelves must be groaning. I might be able to find a superb selecion at good prices, and I was right.
I was rewarded with an armful of books at my first stop in the Bs. I picked an armful of hard to find Balzac titles dirt cheap, thousand page nineteenth century omnibus volumes for six dollars and ninety-five cents each, Good God Almighty. As close to heaven as you can get without taking the chance of dieing.
Then I bethought myself to check the H.G. Wells section. I have a complete collection of Wells’ fiction but I’m still missing a few titles of the non-fiction. The Wells shelf was loaded and with cream, titles that I had had trouble finding over the year were now there in profusion. I had to laugh to see nearly a whole shelf loaded down with copies of Wells’ Seven Science Fiction Novels in many editions. I bought my copy of that at sixteen when it became the foundation of my psychic reality. There were a number of editions I had never seen before. In a fit of curiosity and affection I pulled a copy out just to fondle it. As I did a small slim volume concealed between thetwo larger ones tumbled out and fell to the floor.
I picked the paperback up. It was by one Garrett P. Serviss titled Edison’s Conquest Of Mars and sub-titled as the Original 1898 Sequel To The War Of The Worlds. I laughed at what seemed ludicrous and slid it back on the shelf. I must not have been adept because it fell out on the floor again.
I stood looking at it for a few seconds then decided that a mysterious power was bidding me to read it. I know how ridiculous that sounds but it happens to me often and always with an important book for me to read. Call it serendipitous, call it destiny, I follow my star. They wanted nine-ninety nine for a paperback of two hundred pages. I had an armful of thousand page, hundred year old, hard backs on really good paper for six ninety-five each. I wavered. But then I rememberd the mysterious way it had been concealed between two books destiny knew I would look at. I thought of the old esoteric adage, when the student is ready the teacher will appear. This same thing had happened to me many times before. Often when my mind had been prepared a book had suggested itself. Here it was, deja vu all over again. Was I going to let a little literary bigotry stand between me and my obvious destiny? Not I. I begrudged the ten dollars but when I got home and examined the tiny volume I saw that I had discovered the missing link. I can now make a case for a new scientific mythology.
When It All Comes Down, I Hope It Lands On Me
The search for a new mythology goes on apace. Perhaps the catalyst in the organization of the search was a sci-fi writer named Philip Jose Farmer. Back in 1972 he formulated a scheme in his fantasy novel Tarzan Alive called the Wold Newton Universe. He provides a very rigorous framework for the search. Farmer posited that a meteorite fell to Earth near Wold Newton in the North of England in 1795, which is true, a meteorite did come down. He further posits following the lead of H.G. Wells novel In The Days Of The Comet that this 1795 comet produced a change in men’s minds, and in point of fact there was a change of consciousness that occurred at this exact time.
Several years ago, decades now, I bought a collection of the British magazine The Monthly Review, a run from 1781 to 1795. Isn’t this spooky? These volumes reflect a late medieval consciousness. As an example the volumes use f for s internally in a word- paf try for pastry for instance while beginning and ending esses are the convention letter s. After 1800 this form disappears. I wondered at what precise time The Monthly Review changed its orthography. Through the wonders of the internet I was able to determine that precise date. It was at the beginning of 1796, the volume following the last I own. Thus 1795 is, in fact, a very good date for the change to the modern consciousness.
After 1795 then Euroamerica looked at reality with different and fresh eyes. Also a new literary style arose that led into the genre literatures of the present. A magic generation of writers then arose with one foot in the medieval world and the other in its successor, with modern orthography of course. Shelley and Byron, Peacock and the greatest of all, the father of modern fiction, Walter Scott. Scott has lost nearly all his glamor now but he was the presiding genius of nineteenth century fiction. I mention only the great French Bohemians Honore De Balzac and Alexandre Dumas. Toss in Edgar Allan Poe.
Searching For The Thread
Thus in Tarzan Alive Philip Jose Farmer began a classification system for the new approach to mythology. Currently there are two Wold Newton systems- The French Wold Newton Universe and the Anglo-American. Generally speaking a Wold Newton author’s whole work, or the major part of it, is a series of novels, a roman a fleuve, built around a character or a theme, thus Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Baums Oz stories or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and John Carter/Mars stories. All the Wold Newton novels develop the new scientific mythology. Some themes are developed by several hands such as the Vampire corpus or that of Frankenstein/artificial life.
A major writer falling somewhere between literary and Wold Newton fiction is H.G. Wells. He neither created a great fictional character nor works that fit easily into nor works that are exactly genre literature. Still, Wells is at the center of the Wold Newton mythology.
There are three novels of Wells that I think can fit into and define the Wold Newton Universe. These are The War Of The Worlds, When The Sleeper Wakes and Tono Bungay. With the exception of the Seven Science Fiction novels, of which only four have made an indelible impact, the rest of Wells’ novelistic corpus is today disregarded having apparently no relevance to the modern world.
Of course I like Wells and I have read the entire fiction corpus. There are a few novels that I think merit attention but in the hundred years since they first began appearing the body of fiction that has been written obscures all but the brightest stars of novels so that vas amounts of meritorious fiction is only read by the specialist or literary enthusiast exploring the past.
War Of The Worlds is what got me started on this investigation, isn’t it? I’ve read War Of The Worlds three or four times now and each time it’s a new book and not the one portrayed on the screen or what I perceived from my childhood reading. I’ve come to the conclusion that the book isn’t really all that good although it has set the world on its ear. It must have played into the fears of a society desperately grappling with a sea change in history. Every conventional way of viewing the world was falling into the dust as the old mythology vaporized as before the Martian tripods and a new mythology was as invisible as Griffin in Wells’ Invisible Man. When you removed the wrappings of Griffin there was nothing there but the invisible power of the past.
Perhaps Wells’ Martians symbolized the all too visible power of the new scientific reality destroying the old magical religious vision of reality. At any rate the book was received with startling avidity at its publication in 1898. An nowhere was this book seized upon with such voracity as in America. The effect has also been enduring including the radio broadcast of Orson Wells in 1938 and a number of movie treatments. We often think Wells created this genre but not so.
In fact the space opera centered on Mars was an exciting new genre that developed rapidly during the nineties and the first decade of the new century. Burroughs with his great Martian Trilogy was merely taking advantage of an established theme which he epitomized so well that his books are a culmination of Martian writing to that point. His were the apex of the nineteenth century Martian theme, a new starting point for the future.
He was apparently well read in the genre although apart from a few obvious titles one can’t be sure how deeply he had read.
Robert Godwin explains in the introduction to Edison’s Conquest Of Mars:
Late in 1897 the great H.G. Wells struck gold when he submitted for publication- in Pearson’s Magazine of London- the future-war story to end all future-war stories, The War Of The Worlds. It was not the first story of aliens coming to Earth, Edgar Allan Poe had done that sixty years earlier. It was not even the first to involve humans fighting Martians, that had been done by Percy Greg in 1880, while German author Kurd Lasswitz had brought Martians to Earth to wage war with the British earlier that year. It was Wells who brought this novel idea home with star realism. The War Of The Worlds has little dialogue and few characters but is literally dripping with paranoia. His invading Martians were completely alien and they had the technology to rampage right across the capitol city of the most powerful nation on Earth. The War Of The Worlds soon appeared in America through the pages of Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Will This Nightmare Never End?
Perhaps the dripping in paranoia was the key to Wells’ American success. America is a very paranoid ountry and the paranoia is shared equally by both the Right and the Left. If War Of The Worlds dripped with paranoia it was as nothing compared to Wells’ next book, When The Sleeper Wakes. Sleeper is all bombs, sirens and searchlights playing across the dark night skies. Sleeper is the masterpiece of paranoia. I just love it. Wells must hav been going through a period of deep anxiety when he wrote it. Sleeper is one great long anxiety attack wich he translated into a fear of being buried alive. The hero, Graham, is actually buried alive although above ground. He’s placed in a glass case where he sleeps for a couple hundred years until one day he awakes to find himself in possession of all the wealth in the world. His money had been in trust gathering interest for all these centuries until his estate equalled the world’s wealth. Of course he is more dangerous awake than asleep so he begins running scared.
But that fear or paranois also characterized The War Of The Worlds which is one long flight from danger. Godwin continues:
Cosmopolitan was not cheap and so it would not be until the following January that the impressionable and imaginative young inventor Robert Goddard would first encounter Wells’ Martian war machines. Copyright laws in America were still somewhat tenuous and newspapers were at liberty to do as they pleased. Obtaining permission was often the last thing a newspaper editor would worry about and this modus operandi was especially prevalent in the smaller newspapers such as the New York Evening Journal, The Milwaukee Sentinel and the Boston Post. Many of these newspapers decided to jump on Wells’ bandwagon.
In the Boston Post, a Sunday, January 9th 1898, an entirely revised version of The War Of The Worlds appeared under the title Fighters From Mars- or, The Terrible War Of The Worlds, as it Was Waged in or Near Boston in the year 1900. What is particularly remarkable about this is that the story is completely transposed from London to Boston. All of the familiar scenes which take place in south London are suddenly taking place in Concord Masschusetts. The Boston Post was fairly well circulated in the New England area and Robert Goddard soon learned of the remarkable serial. The Post certainly did their part to stoke the fires of enthusiasm, they repeated the first chapter the next day in Monday’s newspaper and then not a day went by for the next few weeks without another installment appearing. On the 3rd of February the serialization was complete and Wells’ great story was soon destined to appear in America as a full fledged book.
Then something altogether unexpected happened. The editors of the Boston Post revealed that they had acquired a “sequel” to Wells’ story, the advert in the Post read. “Edison’s Conquest Of Mars- A Sequel To ‘Fighters From Mars’… written in collaboration with Edison by Garrett P. Serviss the well known astronomical author.”
A truly astounding development. Here was immediate impact to be followed forty years later by the even more astonishing reaction to Orson Wells radio script of the novel which was accepted as fact, real by the radio listeners who grabbed their shotguns and ran into the streets to repel the Martian invaders. Obviously the novel answered a deep seated psychological need of Americans which would be reflected in a series of movies such as The Day The Earth Stood Still with Gort an Klaatu as well as such later developments as Roswell, New Mexico and Area 51. Aliens and space were united to the New Mythology. Of course such aliens are only God thinly disguised. After all such characters as Klaatu are always preaching to us to mend our misbegotten ways or else. Religion or no religion.
A Giant Leap For Americans
The remarkable thing is that the Boston Post or one or more of its editors got a British copy in their hands, or the Cosmopolitan reprint, read it had his mind transformed on the spot immediately beginnning the transposition from London to Boston while at the same time beginning he process to create a sequel that was ready to begin publishing as soon as the original finished. Plus Edison had to be immediately amenable to the idea so as to give his permission to use his name.
Now, all this is transpiring during the Spanish-American war and the insurrection in the Philippines. Also as if one phenomenon weren’t enough this was also the moment that Kipling’s poem The White Man’s Burden appeared. Kipling’s poem was, of course, a commentary on the Philippine insurrection.
Serviss then had probably no more than a month to draft his sequel. Serviss himself had a scientific background which he fully employs in his sequel. He was up to date on Martian theory. As incredible as it may seem the book could have been a pilot for Star Trek. He got it all in one book. The Boston Post serialization ran and then the story disappeared. It never made book form at the time. In 1947 it was unearthed and published in a truncated form so unless by a miracle the Post episodes were seen by Edgar Rice Burroughs they had no influence on him although it seems like they could have. However Percival Lowell the astronomer who is often mentioned as an influence on Burroughs was from Boston. By 1899 he had already established his observatory in Flagstaff and written the first of his three Martian books, ‘Mars.’ He might then have had an influence on Serviss. Lowell’s other two Martian books Mars And The Canals and Mars As The Abode Of Life written in 1906 and 1908 respectively might have been influenced by Serviss. As a budding Mars expert it is likely that he might have had his attention called to both Wells’ and Serviss’ efforts. If Burroughs read Lowell he would have been indirectly influenced by Serviss. Anyway Serviss has a full discussion of how the water imagined to be on Mars flowed from the South to the North because the South Pole was thought to be elevated over the North and water, of course, flows down hill. Serviss doesn’t explain how the water gets back to the South Pole.
Serviss and undoubtedly Lowell have the water flowing on the surface so Burroughs has it flowing underground somehow.
At the time Edison’s reputation was at its zenith as a technologist. He was the epitome of the American can do attitude. Serviss was pretty fair at this first attempt at sci-fi. One has to assume that all the scientific ideas were in the air but Serviss skillfully blends them together in that can do attitude within virtually days.
Edison creates a fleet of anti-gravity ships within thirty days. The anti-gravity ship is a plausible way of inter-planetary travel while the ships are designed in the projectile shape of current rockets. The disintegrator guns Edison designs, also within thirty days, eliminate the bonds between atoms also in a plausible manner thus scattering the stricken entity to the winds.
Thus a few years before the Wrights not only does Edison have heavier than air craft but the Martians have huge air fleets along the line of Burroughs. So, as I say, Burroughs was stepping into an established genre not originating anything.
Serviss merely makes the Martians giants so we essentially have a Gullivar and the Lilliputians story reversed. It’s a reasonably good story while being a very proper scientific novel. There is nothing really for future writers to add, just rearrange the details. And that was in 1899.
The Boston response to the invasion from Mars was to ‘organize’ its own invasion of Mars and annihilate them as a psychological projection. Very interesting.
From One Dark Spot To Another
I have found no response from Wells to this rewrite of War Of The Worlds and its sequel. H.G. got busy writing another fantastic futuristic sci fi effort title, When The Sleeper Wakes. This book can actually be bundled with 1909′s Tono Bungay. Both wonderful paranoid books. These two books plus War Of The Worlds form the core of my psyche and if the truth were known probably a large part of the psyche of Edgar Rice Burroughs; most especially he was influenced by Tono Bungay which can be readily traced.
Sleeper is a wonderfully paranoid tone poem. By 1898-99 Wells was realizing his ambition of rising above his origins while his Anima-Animus problem was becoming paramount. Wells was born into the lower social level of society with almost no hope of realizing his considerable potential. He was seemingly condemned to a life as a Draper’s Assistant which was little above servitude or even slavery. On his own efforts he rebelled seeking a way out through education. He achieved this after enduring several years on the razor’s edge uncertain as to what his future would be. Combining his scientific background with his literary skills he began to rise above his origins financially although he was never to escape the psychological stigma of his lower class origins.
Thus through his short stories which were sensational at the time and some still are he got a foothold in the literary scene. Wells wrote at least two or three masterpieces. His The Time Machine put him in the writer’s top notch class. War Of The Worlds and When The Sleeper Wakes, close to a diptich, written out of acute anxiety as to his future put him over the top. He was a force to be reckoned with.
Thus both novels pit his heroes against overwhelming forces that they must defeat. In the War Of The Worlds the enemies fade away through natural causes. In Sleeper, Graham the Sleeper, awakes to find himself the richest man in the world only to discover that all is to be taken away from him. This is normal anxiety for someone on the rise. The new man is always resented and his way made difficult. He is to be prevented if possible. Hence the intense fear and paranoia of Sleeper. In the denouement Graham takes to the air in the last remaining airship to single handedly drive back the Negro police summoned from Africa. Prescient really. The Sleeper’s plane spirals into a crash but then Wells takes the copout that it is only a dream. At any rate in real life he wakes up to find that he is now a guru. His non-fiction Anticipations- a guide to the future- published two years later in 1901 established him irrevocably as a ‘futurist’. All he had do then was write passable books.
Both of his masterpieces Worlds and Sleeper also dealt with Wells’ troubled sexuality. As in the life of all men his Anima became estranged from his Animus which Wells was never able to reconcile as he developed a rather bizarre sex life as he searched for a way to recover his Anima.
In WOW as the populace was fleeing the Martians his hero was driving a cart along with his Anima figure. The two became separated when a crowd came between them and she was lost. In Sleeper Graham finds his Anma but once gain events separate them and he is about to crash his plane alone.
And then ten years later Wells crowned his work with the very wonderful Tono Bungay. Not close to the finest story ever told it is nevertheless one of the world’s great novels. The book had a profound influence on me. I first read it when I was twenty while I have subsequently read the book three times. I cherish my first reading because I projected myself into the story so much that I rewrote the book in my imagination to suit my own needs. Tono Bungay was an entirely new book in my last reading. I hope to show that the book had a profound influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs as his and Wells lives touched as the 1930s arrived. It’s always a strange world.
Wells seems to have been interested in the patent medicine businss in the US during the first decade of the century. Strangely it is not impossible that the story refers to the situation of a Dr. Stace of Chicago. I’m just guessing now. Stace’s partner was a young man named Edgar Rice Burroughs. So it may be coincidence that Edward Ponderevo, the inventor of the tonic Tono Bungay, and George Ponderevo his nephew, may have been based in part on Stace and Burroughs. I mean, the patent medicine stories are identical. Probably a coincidence though but I’m just guessing.
During the first decade of the twentieth century the patent medicine business had developed in the United States to magnificent proportions. As great national magazines arose the potential of the business rose accordingly. The active ingredient in the patents was usually alcohol although drugs, which were unregulated were frequently used. It is well known, for instance, that the Coca in Coca Cola referred to the cocaine with which the drink was laced. Coke was a real pick me up back then. Amphetamines were isolated in 1897 so imagine Methedrine Cola. Quite an idea.
The US government saw the dangers of these patent medicines, not a few of which used the opium based laudanum. I mean, these were loose times, they used to give infants opium based laudamun to keep them quiet. Better than TV. So, during the teens the government was forced to conduct a campaign against patent medicines. First they came for the patent medicines then they came for the alcohol and then they came for the cigarettes. Now they’re working on sugar and salt and caffeine. You’re next, you miserable user you. Wells was watching this fascinating activity from Britain. In one instance Edward Ponderevo remarks that six or seven go-getter Americans would wake England up. Then he invented Tono Bungay, the patent medicine par excellence.
Strangely, leading the anti-patent medicine campaign in the US was Samuel Hopkins Adams who would affect Stace-Burroughs then and sixteen years or so later would upset Burroughs’ life when he published his very successful novel, Flaming Youth. Strangely, strangely how many people who have never met can be so influential on others. Almost paranormal.
So, Burroughs took up with Stace in the sale of patent medicines just as the government was cracking down on them, putting them out of business, filing legal complaints, doing the double nasty. Stace and Burroughs developed a close relationship, almost as close as father and son or, uncle and nephew. Even after the two were put out of business they continued in another line of business before parting. Erwin Porges in his biograpy of ERB doesn’t go into a lot of detail over this relationship, maybe from a mistaken sense of delicacy, but this was a big event in Burroughs’ life perhaps straining his marriage with Emma. I believe it was here that he gained his personal experience of sheriffs and grand juries.
Stace may have been a big enough operator to come to Wells’ attention so that he was captivated by this story of the older man and his younger acolyte.
At any rate Edward Ponderevo goes bust in a provincial town through his aggressive business practices removing to London where he develops the idea of Tono Bungay. Wells then diverges from the patent medicine story as Ponderevo, who was a real go-getter, develops an empire based on legitimate products, like soap, so that Tono Bungay takes a back seat in his success story.
Interestingly Ponderevo buys a huge estate not unlike Tarzana around which he begins to build a ten foot high wall some eleven miles in length. Then, of course, he overextends himself and goes bust.
In reading this story, as I’m sure Burroughs did, he must have really related to the patent medicine story while probably rewriting the story in his mind to suit his circumstances. In this story too, Wells finds his perfect soul mate or Anima who once again he loses.
If by chance Wells was aware of the Stace story and did know he had a junior partner, Burroughs, he undoubtely forgot about him and the patent medicine business in the turmoil of the years to come.
The story of Ponderevo, his large estate and the eleven mile ten foot high wall must have stuck in Burroughs’ mind. The story may have been instrumental in his decision to buy Tarzana while it appears spectacularly in 1933′s Tarzan And The Lion Man.
Let me say that this whole group of writers who would nearly all find a place in the Wold Newton Universe read each other. While Kipling, Haggard, Wells and Doyle were reading Burroughs after he became famous as well. Indeed, Wells in Sleeper mentions three stories that had a profound effect on all these writers: Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King, Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness and Henry James’ The Madonna Of The Future. Writers appearing after ERB’s fame appear to have been universally influenced by his, too. Haggard and Kipling’s Love Eternal was a response to ERB’s The Eternal Lover and unless I’m oversensitive they talked to him in it, too.
In a way then this was a form of telepathy, so controversial a topic at the time- true long distance communication and this would continue through the thirties if you’ve read enough and thought about it.
Anyway Burroughs read extensively incorporating almost everything that impressed him into his stories one way and sometime or other. I’m sure he was unconscious of using most of the sources. Thus the story of Tono Bungay, Ponderevo and the ten foot fence entered his subconscious.
In 1919 he left Chicago for LA for good. His intent was to buy twenty acres or so to raise hogs. This he could easily have afforded avoiding all the subsequent economic pain. However Harrisons Gray Otis, the publisher of the LA Times had died in 1917 and his 540 acre estate, Rancho Del Cabrillo, was on the market. ERB made an abrupt about face and bought it. I’ve often wondered why, what was the impetus? If one reads of Ponderevo’s estate in England one has a pretty good match of Tarzana. Burroughs has been quoted as saying he would have liked to have a large estate that he could build a ten foot high wall around. Of course he had the estate and lost it. But the Ponderevo estate seems to have been on his mind.
This may sound completely conjectural but let’s move ahead to 1933 when ERB penned what I consider his magnum opus, Tarzan And The Lion Man. He includes a novella in the story that might be entitled, Tarzan And The City Of God. This is a pretty good story. By 1933 the talkies had been in existence for five years. Many of the more magnificent early horror stories had already been filmed. I may be a sucker for these early horror films but given the limitations of the industry at the time they have never been equaled. So, in addition to all the books stored in ERB’s mind, fifteen years or so of silent films, he now added a full catalog of talkies. Himself a virtual father of all B movies with his own catalog of novels all these B horror films reinforced his imagination. Even though he had little to do with the filming of his own movie starring Herman Brix as Tarzan, The New Adventures Of Tarzan, the movie was nevertheless perfect of the B genre. Sort of an a correction and example to MGM.
Tarzan And The City Of God is perfect in the Pulp genre which is the literary counterpart of the B movie but now ERB seamlessly joins the Pulp to the B genre.
Tarzan And The Lion Man mocks the making of MGM’s film, Trader Horn. As I have pointed out in other reviews in 1931 ERB signed a contract with MGM that removed the Tarzan character in the movies from his control to MGM. MGM then proceeded to mock the Tarzan character on the screen in an attempt to destroy ERB’s creation. Of course, the mockery failed, Tarzan going on to greater glory and an immortality he might not have attained otherwise.
At the same time ERB was locked in a battle with Joseph Stalin and, at the risk of seeming preposterous, the Soviet Union. This war was brought to the surface n 1930′s Tarzan The Invincible. Now, Stalin and the Communists of all countries were attempting to discredit all pre-Revolutionary writers who rejected the Communist program. ERB was one of these while, oddly, Tarzan was one of Stalin’s favorite characters, especially in the MGM movies.
H.G. Wells who accepted the Revolution in substitution for God in about 1920 was one of Stalin’s literary hatchet men. During this period Stalin assigned State prostitutes to service certain Western literary men to report back to him on their doings. Moura Budberg had been assigned to H.G. Wells. Amazingly Wells fell deeply in love with her although he had to have known that he was her job. One of Wells’ targets was Edgar Rice Burroughs. Thus beginning in the twenties Wells began parodying and vilifying Burroughs in various books to which Burroughs replied in other of his own books. Thus, in a sense, there was telepathic communication.
In 1933 the combined attack of MGM, one imagines Louis B. Mayer, Wells and Stalin had overwhelmed Burroughs.
In 1930′s Tarzan The Invincible Burroughs had been forced to abandon the valley of Opar and La to Wellsian and Soviet interference. The Communists invaded Opar destroying ERB’s imagined paradise. So now, in a masterful creation he attacks Wells, MGM and the Communists in the City of God, London, England transposed to the Mutia Escarpment in Africa The Mutia Escarpment was MGM’s imaginary location for the Tarzan movies named after an African actor who appeared in Trader Horn. We do have telepathic communication here if you’ve got your radio turned on and tuned in. So there is layer after layer of mockeries in what is actually a titanic combat involving film and literature carried on right before the eyes of an unseeing world. Stalin, Burroughs, Wells and L.B. Mayer knew but virtually no one else. I might never have caught on but for the internet and the availability of films on DVD and flat screen TVs programmed through my wireless computer network. I have a complete collection of ERB’s novels, nearly all of Wells, and a nearly complete collection of Tarzan DVD’s. There’s always one or two that elude you. So I can read and watch at will. Rather amazing really. All one’s intellectual influences on one shelf while every library and film archive is only a click away. Isn’t God good to us?
So, Tarzan scales the Mutia Escarpment which at his point of attack is a sheer wall of granite. this probably indicates the difficulties ERB was facing. As usual there is an easier ascent for the ladies but Tarzan knows nothing of it. In real life, the location of Van Dyke’s Trader Horn was Murchison Falls on the Nile and the plateau would have been the land around Lake Victoria.
On the plateau Tarzan approaches the City of God/London which is surrounded by a, guess what, ten foot high wall. The circumference must have been at least eleven miles. Thus we have a replica of Ponderevo’s estate as imagined by H.G. Wells of London, England. Instead of Ponderevo’s modern ‘castle’ we have a replica of what might be Frankenstein’s castle or some othe horror film castle with the requisite village at its base.
Now, ‘God’ who was a ‘formerly handsome Englishman’ had come to this country in 1859. This is now 1933 so 74 years previously. As God will tell Tarzan shortly he was a biological scientist experimenting in evolution and creating artificial life a la Frankenstein, when his studies involving corpses brought the authorities down on him forcing him to flee England but not before he had removed, essentially DNA, which ERB calls ‘germs’, from the corpses of Henry VIII and his court buried in Westminster Abbey. In London, Africa God had forced the evolution of a tribe of gorillas turning them into barbaric replicas of Henry VIII and his court. Still having the appearance of gorillas they have more or less human minds speaking and acting as archaic Englishmen.
Tarzan having scaled the impossible cliffs of the plateau is now faced with a ten foot wall with sharply pointed wooden stakes pointing downward making a leap and hoist impossible. ERB has left out the overarching tree in this instance so Tarzan does his strongman act. The body builders are never far from ERB’s imagination. Tarzan pulls off an impossible stunt. Leaping up he grabs a couple stakes lifting himself over his wrists until he was above the wall then rolled forward. Only time that trick’s ever been performed. Thus ERB enters that ‘sacred city.’ The sort of Troy that refused Achilles.
The scaling of the cliffs, the clearing of the wall might have been suggested to ERB by his struggle to achieve success which he had done for one brief moment. Lifting himself by his bootstraps, as it were, he had gained entry into that sacred city. His success was to be shortlived and almost as tragic as Tarzan’s visit to the City of God or ERB’s Tarzana or Ponderevo’s estate.
While Wells was born to poverty ERB’s course in life had been different; he was a Golden Child with the highest expectations. And then in his teens it was all taken from him as he was plunged into poverty although not as abject as he makes it out to be. Thuse he had a different personal myth than that of Wells. He identified with Mark Twain’s Prince And The Pauper in which the Prince changes places with his impoverished doppelganger, then regains his position. His other favorite book of this type was Little Lord Fauntleroy in which a British heir lives a normal life in America until he inherits his English title. Thus these two books combined with Tono Bungay suggested a course to his life that he actually realized and as the three titles suggest lived his life in a boom and bust fashion. as though compelled to gain and lose, lose and gain his fortunes until he died in bed a comparatively well off man. ERB was a very suggestible guy. At this point in his life he was heading into a major bust part of the cycle and this story tells of it.
Once inside the walls there sits the castle, The City of God, the City on the Hill, the sacred city of Achilles, his goal. Tarzan mounts a very long flight of steep stairs as ‘God high above on the castle ramparts watches with grim satisfaction. the fly has come to the spider. Just like L.B. Mayer and MGM he’s got his man all but trapped.
Having just been trapped by his enemies ERB belatedly has it all figured out. Tarzan enters a oyer faced by three doors. At this point all decisions are Tarzan’s. He can go back or he can go forward. He elects to go on. Two of the doors are locked while one is ajar. This scene of Tarzan and the doors is repeated several times in the corpus. I’ve tried to figure it out. The nearest I can come is a short story of 1898 by Frank Stockton titled The Lady Or The Tiger.
Since this was a very famous story I, for myself, have no doubt that ERB read it and was suitably impressed. This is arbitrary, I know, however there is a great deal of similarity between this story and the story of Queen Nemone and Tarzan in the arena from Tarzan And The City Of Gold. Now, in the Lady Or The Tiger the story hinges on two doors, behind one of which is a tiger and the other a gorgeous lady. This is the trial by ordeal that Stockton’s king has chosen to decide his criminal cases. In his story a young lowly man has dared to love the king’s daughter. She is inn attendance but displeased because the lover will possible marry another. She indicates to him to take the right hand door. The question is left unanswered whether the lady or the tiger was behind the door by Stockton leaving it to the reader whether the one or the other was the man’s fate.
In the city of God, of course, the choice has been made for Tarzan as the middle door is left unlatched. Tarzan enters descends some steps, passes through another door that latches behind him to find himself facing…the lady. Well,I don’tknow, could be unrelated to Stockton’s story, but then, again….
At any rate it relates to ERB’s obsessions with tigers. As we all know the magazine story of Tarzan Of The Apes had both tigers and lions that public opinion forced Tarzan to change as the literalists pointed out that there were no tigers in Africa. ERB changed the tiger to a lioness he called Sabor so that female lions can be thought of as tigers. I think most of the lions Tarzan kills are females. If tigers and ladies are associated in ERB’s mind then in City of God Tarzan got both the symbol and the real thing, who was his preferred Anima figure Rhonda. I’m pretty sure that’s how ERB’s mind worked.
Speaking of tigers, for those lovers of the Pulp and B movie genres, a perfect of its kind, the grande finale of the genre so to speak is Fritz Lang’s Indian diptich The tiger Of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb of 1959. Set in India but pure Burroughs with plenty of tigers, as there are no lions in India as everyone knows. Stunning color and the perfect pulp story of the twenties and thirties. Three or four hours of bliss.
So Tarzan/ERB is in a cage with his other half, his Anima. He’s been in tight spots before but this is it, the real thing, the place that’s a leap too far. Rider Haggard all over again. While the Big Guy and Rhonda are talking things over their captor, ‘God’, makes his appearance. A jolly fellow, a formerly handsome Englishman, now piebald, who might go by the name of H.G. Wells.
As I said Wells is one of my favorites and when I was younger and slightly more obtuse Wells struck me as he probably did ERB as a stunning writer. Later as I learned of Wells’ politics and other failings he lost much of his gitter but the glory pretty much remains although resented. Burroughs had much more reason to consider Wells a ‘formerly handsome Englishman’. Thus he takes a certain malicious pleasure in making his God character half black, half white, half ape and half human. There’s a lot more to analyze in the character of God but I’m working this side of the track right now.
The reason God is half and half is because as he aged he took germ cells from the apes to rejuvenate himself thus slowly adopting ape characteristis, regressing as it were in an evolutionary sense and making a fine joke on the Stokes Trial in Tennessee of a few years earlier. God is delighted to have captured two such fine White DNA specimens as he hopes their germ cells may restore him to his former splendor.
We’ll never know now because while God absents himself, in the best pulp/B movie fashion Tarzan feels a breeze stirring. This leads to what is hopefully an escape oute but merely tuns into an avenue leading to Tarzan’s Gotterdamerung. A fire starts rising up through the flue Tarzan found and ascended so that the whole City of God on the hill perishes in flames.
While Burroughs may have said back in the teens that he had never read Wells, that may be dismissed. Actually when one delves behind the obvious facts one finds a fairly intimate connection with their careers contacting on the psychological level, that is to say ‘telepathically’, several times. Between Wells and Burroughs almost continuously from, say, 1908 to the thirties.
If one assumes that Wells was aware of the Stace-Burroughs situation, which is only a possibility, then Wells formed part of Burroughs subconscious with his Tono Bungay. That influence probably surfaced when Burroughs purchased Tarzana and then became continuous through the twenties and thirties when Wells became Stalin’s literary hatchet man.
Wells eludes the Wold Newton because he never created a mythic character or series of novels although the psychological situations of the seven science fiction novels and Tono Bungay along with many of his short stories give him a significant place in the Wold Newton mythos. The WNU is of course a state of mind giving mythological form to history since 1795 when the meteor landed altering consciousness.
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#5 Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar
Du Maurier, George: Peter Ibbetson
Dudgeon, Piers: Captivated: J.M. Barrie, The Du Mauriers & The Dark Side Of Neverland, 2008, Chatto And Windus
Hesse, Herman: The Bead Game
Neumann, Erich: The Origins and History Of Consciousness, 1951, Princeton/Bollingen
Vrettos, Athena: “Little Bags Of Remembrance: Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson And Victorian Theories Of Ancestral Memories” Erudit Magazine Fall 2009.
While it is today commonly believed that Sigmund Freud invented or discovered the Unconscious this is not true. As so happens a great cataclysm, The Great War of 1914-18, bent civilization in a different direction dissociating it from its recent past.
Studies in the earlier spirit of the unconscious continued to be carried on by C.G. Jung and his school but Freud successfully suppressed their influence until quite recently actually. Through the fifties of the last century Freud’s mistaken and harmful, one might say criminal, notion of the unconscious held the field. Thus there is quite a difference in the tone of Edgar Rice Burroughs writing before and after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
There are those who argue that Burroughs was some kind of idiot savant who somehow knew how to write exciting stories. In fact he was a well and widely read man of varied interests who kept up on intellectual and scientific matters. He was what might be called an autodidact with none of the academic gloss. He was very interested in psychological matters from hypnotism to dream theory.
The scientific investigation of the unconscious may probably be dated to the appearance of Anton Mesmer and his interest in hypnotism also variously known as Mesmerism and Animal Magnetism. The full fledged investigation of the unconscious began with hypnotism. Slowly at first but by the last quarter of the nineteenth century in full flower with varied colors. Science per se was a recent development also flowering along with the discovery of the unconscious.
While Charles Darwin had brought the concept of evolution to scientific recognition in 1859 the key discipline of genetics to make sense of evolution was a missing component. It is true that Gregor Mendel discovered the concept of genetics shortly after Darwin’s Origin Of Species was issued but Mendel’s studies made no impression at the time. His theories were rediscovered in 1900 but they were probably not widely diffused until after the Great War. Burroughs knew of the earlier Lamarck, Darwin and Mendel by 1933 when he wrote Tarzan And The Lion Man. His character of ‘God’ is the result of genetic mutation.
Lacking the more complete knowledge of certain processes that we have today these late nineteenth century speculators seem ludicrous and wide of the mark but one has to remember that comprehension was transitting the religious mind of the previous centuries to a scientific one, a science that wasn’t accepted by everyone then and still isn’t today. The Society For Psychical Research sounds humorous today but without the advantage of genetics, especially DNA such speculations made more sense except to the most hard nosed scientists and skeptics. The future poet laureate John Masefield was there. Looking back from the perspective of 1947 he is quoted by Piers Dudgeon, p. 102:
Men were seeking to discover what limitations there were to personal intellect; how far it could travel from its home personal brain; how deeply it could influence other minds at a distance from it or near it; what limits, if any, there might be to an intense mental sympathy. This enquiry occupied many doctors and scientists in various ways. It stirred George Du Maurier…to speculations which deeply delighted his generation.
Whether believer or skeptic Burroughs himself must have been delighted by these speculations as they stirred his own imagination deeply until after the pall of the Revolution and Freud’s triumph.
Burroughs was subjected to dreams and nightmares all his life. Often waking from bad dreams. He said that his stories were derived from his dreams but there are many Bibliophiles who scoff at this notion. The notion of ‘directed dreaming’ has disappeared from popular consideration but then it was a serious topic. Freud’s own dream book was issued at about this time. I have already reviewed George Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson on my blog, I, Dynamo and on ERBzine with Du Maurier’s notions of ‘Dreaming True’. It seems highly probable that Burroughs read Ibbetson and Du Maurier’s other two novels so that from sometime in the nineties he would have been familiar with dream notions from that source.
Auto-suggestion is concerned here and just as support that Burroughs was familiar with the concept let me quote from a recent collection of ERB’s letters with Metcalf as posted on ERBzine. This letter is dated December 12, 1912.
If they liked Tarzan, they will expect to like this story and this very self-suggestion will come to add to their interest in it.
Athena Vrettos whose article is noted above provides some interesting information from Robert Louis Stevenson who developed a system of ‘directed dreaming’ i.e. auto-suggestion. We know that Burroughs was highly influenced by Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde while he probably read other novels of Stevenson. How could he have missed Treasure Island? Whether he read any of Stevenson’s essays is open to guess but in an 1888 essay A Chapter On Dreams Stevenson explained his method. To Quote Vrettos:
Rather than experiencing dreams at random, fragmented images and events, Stevenson claims he has learned how to shape them into coherent, interconnected narratives, “to dream in sequences and thus to lead a double life- one of the day, one of the night- one that he had every reason to believe was the true one, another that he had no means of proving false.” Stevenson describes how he gains increasing control of his dream life by focusing his memory through autosuggestion, he sets his unconscious imagination to work assisting him in his profession of writer by creating “better tales than he could fashion for himself.” Becoming an enthusiastic audience to his own “nocturnal dreams”, Stevenson describes how he subsequently develops those dreams and memories into the basis for many of his published stories, most notably his 1886 Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.
Now, directed dreaming and Dreaming True sound quite similar. One wonder if there was a connection between Stevenson and Du Maurier. It turns out that there was as well as with nearly the entire group of English investigators. Let us turn to Piers Dudgeon again, p. 102:
Shortly after they met, the novelist Walter Besant invited [Du Maurier] to join a club he was setting up, to be named ‘The Rabelais’ after the author of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Its name raised expectations of bawdiness, obscenity and reckless living, (which were not in fact delivered) as was noted at the time. Henry Ashbee, a successful city businessman with a passion for pornography, and reputed to be Robert Louis Stevenson’s model for the two sides of his creation, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, denounced its members as ‘very slow and un-Rabelaisian’, and there is a story that Thomas Hardy, a member for a time, objected to the attendance of Henry James on account of his lack of virility.
Virility was not the issue however. The members of the Rabelais were interested in other worlds. Charles Leland was an expert on fairy lore and voodoo. Robert Louis Stevenson was the author of The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1886) which epitomized the club’s psychological/occult speculations. Arthur Conan Doyle, who became a member of the British Society For Psychical Research, was a dedicated spiritualist from 1916. Henry James was probably more at home than Hardy, for both his private secretary Theodora Besanquet, and brother William, the philosopher, were members of the Psychical Society.
In many ways the Rabelais was a celebration that [Du Maurier's] time had come. Parapsychological phenomena and the occult were becoming valid subjects for rigorous study. There was a strong feeling that the whole psychic scene would at any moment be authenticated by scientific explanation.
Du Maurier was obviously well informed of various psychical ideas when he wrote Ibbetson. In addition he had been practicing hypnosis since his art student days in the Paris of the late 1850s.
So this was the literary environment that Burroughs was growing up in. As Bill Hillman and myself have attempted to point out, ERB’s mental and physical horizons were considerably broadened by the Columbian Expo of 1893. Everything from the strong man, The Great Sandow, to Francis Galton’s psychological investigations were on display. The cutting edge of nineteenth century thought and technology was there for the interested. Burroughs was there for every day of the Fair. He had time to imbibe all and in detail. The Expo shaped his future life. That he was intensely interested in the intellectual and literary environment is evidenced by the fact that when he owned his stationery story in Idaho in 1898 he advertised that he could obtain any magazine or book from both England and America. You may be sure that he took full advantage of the opportunity for himself. As this stuff was all the rage there can be no chance that he wasn’t familiar with it all if he didn’t actually immerse himself in it. Remember his response to Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden was instantaneous. Thus you have this strange outpost of civilization in Pocatello, Idaho where any book or magazine could be obtained. Of course, few but Burroughs took advantage of this fabulous opportunity. It should also be noted that he sold the pulp magazines so that his interest in pulp literature went further back than 1910.
In addition ERB was enamored of the authors to the point of hero worship much as musical groups of the 1960s were idolized so he would have thirsted for any gossip he could find. It isn’t impossible that he knew of this Rabelais Club. At any rate his ties to psychology and the occult become more prominent the more one studies.
It seems to me that longing as he did to be part of this literary scene, that if one reads his output to 1920 with these influences in mind, the psychological and occult content of, say, the Mars series, becomes more obvious. He is later than these nineteenth century lights so influences not operating on them appear in his own work making it more modern.
At least through 1917 the unconscious was thought of as a source of creativity rather than the source of evil impulses. If one could access one’s unconscious incalculable treasures could be brought up. Thus gold or treasure is always depicted in Burroughs’ novels as buried. The gold represents his stories, or source of wealth, brought up form his unconscious. The main vaults at Opar are thus figured as a sort of brain rising above ground level. One scales the precipice to enter the brain cavity high up in the forehead or frontal lobe. One then removes the ‘odd shaped ingots’ to cash them in. Below the vaults are two levels leading back to Opar that apparently represent the unconscious. Oddly enough these passageways are configured along the line of Abbot’s scientific romance, Flatland.
In Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar the gold is taken to the Estate and buried replicating the vaults. Once outside Opar and in circulation, so to speak, the ingots are accessible to anyone hence the duel of Zek and Mourak for them. The first gold we hear of in the Tarzan series is brought ashore and buried by the mutineers. This also sounds vaguely like Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The watching Tarzan then digs the gold up and reburies it elsewhere. In The Bandit Of Hell’s Bend the gold is stolen and buried beneath the floorboards of the Chicago Saloon. Thus gold in the entire corpus is always from or in a buried location. These are never natural veins of gold but the refined ingots.
Not only thought of as a source of treasure during this period the unconscious was thought to have incredible powers such as telekinesis, telepathy and telecommunication. One scoffs at these more or less supernatural powers brought down from ‘God’ and installed in the human mind. As they have been discredited scientifically Western man has discarded them.
On the other hand Western Man deludes himself into accepting the oriental Freud’s no less absurd assertion that the unconscious exists independently of the human body somewhat like the Egyptian notion of the ka and is inherently evil while controlling the conscious mind of the individual. This notion is purely a religious concept of Judaism identifying the unconscious as no less than the wrathful, destructive tribal deity of the old testament Yahweh. Further this strange Judaic concept of Freud was allowed to supersede all other visions of the unconscious while preventing further investigation until the writing of C.G. Jung were given some credence beginning in the sixties of the last century.
In point of fact there is no such unconscious. The supernatural powers given to the unconscious by both Europeans and Freud are preposterous on the face of it. For a broader survey of this subject see my Freud And His Vision Of The Unconscious on my blogsite, I, Dynamo.
This so-called unconscious is merely the result of being born with more or less a blank mind that needs to be programmed. The programming being called experience and education. The maturation and learning process are such that there is plenty of room for error. All learning is equivalent to hypnosis, the information being suggestion which is accepted and furthers the development of the individual. Learning the multiplication tables for instance is merely fixing them in your mind or, in other words, memorizing them. All learning is merely suggestion thus it is necessary that it be constructive or education and not indoctrination or conditioning although both are in effect. Inevitably some input will not be beneficial or it may be misunderstood. Thus through negative suggestion, that is bad or terrifying suggestions, fixations will result. A fixation is impressed as an obsession that controls one’s behavior against one’s conscious will, in the Freudian sense. The fixation seems to be placed deep in the mind, hence depth psychology. Thus when ERB was terrified and humiliated by John the Bully certain suggestions occurred to him about himself that became fixations or obsessions. These obsessions directed the content of his work.
To eliminate the fixations is imperative. This is what so-called depth psychology is all about. The subconscious, then, is now ‘seprarated’ from the conscious, in other words the personality or ego is disintegrated. The goal is to integrate the personality and restore control. Once, and if that is done the fixations disappear and the mind become unified, integrated or whole; the negative conception of the unconscious is gone and one is left with a functioning conscious and subconscious. The subconscious in sleep or dreams then reviews all the day’s events to inform the conscious of what it missed and organize it so that it can be acted on. No longer distorted by fixations, or obsessions, the individual can act in his own interests according to his abilities. The sense of living a dream life and a real life disappears.
That’s why experience and education are so important. What goes into the mind is all that can come out.
But, the investigation of the unconscious was blocked by Freudian theory and diverted from its true course to benefit the individual in order to benefit Freud’s special interests.
So, after the War ERB forgot or abandoned the wonderful notions of the unconscious and was forced to deal with and defend himself against Freudian concepts. The charactger of his writing begins to change in the twenties to meet the new challenges of aggressive Judaeo-Communism until by the thirties his work is entirely directed to this defense as I have shown in my reviews of his novels from 1928 to 1934.
Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar then reflects this wonderful vision of the subconscious as portrayed by George Du Maurier and Robert Louis Stevenson
Then the grimmer reality sets in.
End Of Review.
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#5 Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar
From Achmet Zek’s Camp To The Recovery Of The Jewels
The nature of the story changes from the departure of Werper and Jane from Achmet Zek’s camp . To that point the story had been developed in a linear fashion. From Zek’s camp on ERB either loses control of his story or changes into an aggregation of scenes between the camp and the Estate leading to the return. Perhaps there is a modification in his psychology.
The struggle for the possession of the jewels and the woman contunues unabated. As always Burroughs tries to construct a story of many surprising twists and turns. This may be an influence of the detective story, Holmes, on him. He may be trying to emulate Doyle.
The problem of who the characters represent in ERB’s life becomes more difficult to determine. Werper continues as ERB’s failed self. I think as relates to Zek and the jewels Zek represents Burroughs’ old sexual competitor, Frank Martin, while Zek, the gold and the Abyssinians represent the deal between McClurg’s and in 1914-15, A. L. Burt. Burt first had the reprint rights to Tarzan Of The Apes, published in the summer of 1914. Those rights shortly passed to Grossett and Dunlap.
In my estimation Martin never ceased interfering with Burroughs’ marriage at least from 1900 to 1919 when Burroughs fled Chicago. We know that Martin tried to murder Burroughs in 1899 and that his pal, R.S. Patchin, looked up Burroughs in LA after the divorse in 1934 and sent a mocking condolence letter in 1950 when Burroughs died and after Martin had died sometime earlier. Patchin would obviously have been directed by Martin to taunt Burroughs in ’34. It’s clear then that Martin carried a lifelong grudge against Burroughs because of Emma.
Martin is thus portrayed as being in competition with Burroughs in 1914-15 and possibly but probably to a lesser extent in LA.
Jane is shown being captured by Zek twice in the story. Thus Emma was courted or captured by Martin when Burroughs was in Arizona and Idaho. In this story Jane is captured while Tarzan is absent in Opar. The second capture or courting by Martin is diffiicult to pinpoint by the inadequate information at our disposal but following the slender lead offered by the novelist, John Dos Passos, in his novel The Big Money I would think it might be in 1908 when ERB left town for a few weeks or months probably with Dr. Stace. It was of that time that the FDA (Federal Food And Drug Administration) was after Stace for peddling his patent medicines. Burroughs was probably more deeply involved with that than is commonly thought. At any rate his being out of town would have provided an opportunity for Martin. Whether something more current was going on I don’t find improbable but I can’t say.
I would also be interested to learn whether there was any connection between McClurg’s and Martin. Martin was Irish, his father being a railroad executive which explains the private rail car at his disposal, as were, of course, the McClurgs and so was the chief executive Joe Bray. If Martin knew Bray he might have pressured Bray to reject publication of Tarzan doing a quick turnaround when interest was shown by the Cincinatti firm. Martin then might have meddled with Burroughs’ contract with McClurg’s. The contract and McClurg’s attitude is difficult to understand otherwise.
The gold is buried which Zek is supposed to have gotten through Werper, then they have a falling out and Werper is captured by Mourak and his Abyssinians. Mourak would then represent A.L. Burt and a division of the the royalties. If McClurg’s had promoted Tarzan Of The Apes, which they didn’t, Burroughs would have received 13 at 1.30 per copy. Thus at even 100,000 or 200,000 copies he would have received 13,000 or 26.000 dollars. that would have been a good downpayment on his yacht. Martin who must have thought of Burroughs as a hard core loser from his early life would have been incensed by such good fortune.
Instead, it doesn’t appear that McClurg’s even printed the whole first edition of 15,000 copies. The book immediately went to A.L. Burt where the price of the book was reduced to 75 or 50 cents with the royalty much reduced to 4 1/2 cents divided fifty-fifty between McClurg’s and Burroughs. It’s hard to believe that ERB wasn’t robbed as he certainly thought he had been. Thus when Mourak unearths the gold he is settling for a portion of the hoard when Zek’s men show up and the battle necessary for the story begins.
In this manner the key issues of gold, jewels and woman are resolved.
So, Werper with the jewels goes in search of Jane to find that she has already fled Zek’s camp. The scenes of the story now take place between the camp, perhaps representing McClurg’s offices and the Estate, representing Burroughs.
The latter half of the book, pages 81-158 in the Ballantine paperback is very condensed in a dream like fashion. The action within the very prescribed area with a multitude of people and incidents is impossible except as a dream story. The appearance of the Belgian officer and askaris must have been photoshopped it is so impossible. In other words, then, the whole last half of the book, if not the whole book, is a dream sequence in which dream logic prevails. I will make an attempt to go into late nineteenth century dream speculation in Part V.
A key point of the story is the regaining of the memory of Tarzan. This occurs near story’s end on page 139 and following. It’s fairly elaborate. In connection with his memory return I would like to point out the manner of his killing the lion when he rescues Jane from Mourak’s boma. The roof fell on Tarzan in imitation of his braining in Toronto while now he picks up a rifle swinging on the rearing lion’s head splintering the stock along with the lion’s skull so that splinters of bone and wood penetrate the brain while the barrel is bent into a V. Rather graphic implying a need for vengeance. Not content with having the roof fall on Tarzan’s head, while trying to escape the Belgian officer an askari lays him out with a crack to the back of the head but ‘he was unhurt.’ One can understand how Raymond Chandler marveled. My head hurts from writing about it. Also Chulk has his head creased by a bullet adding another skull crusher to the story.
The description of the return of Tarzan’s reason seems to fit exactly with Burroughs’ injury. I would have to question whether Burroughs himself didn’t have periods of amnesia. P. 139:
Vaguely the memory of his apish childhood passed slowly in review- then came a strangely tangled mass of faces, figures and events that seemed to have no relation to Tarzan of the Apes, and yet which were, even in this fragmentary form, familiar.
Slowly and painfully recollection was attempting to reassert itself, the hurt brain was mending, as the course of its recent failure to function was being slowly absorbed or removed by the healing process of perfect circulation.
According to medical knowledge of his time the description seems to apply to his own injury. His own blood clot had either just dissolved or was dissolving. Then he says almost in the same manner as in The Girl From Farriss’s:
The people who now passed before his mind’s eye for the first time in weeks were familiar faces; but yet he could neither place them in niches they had once filled in his past life nor call them by name.
In this hazy condition he goes off in search of the She he can’t remember clearly. His memory fully returns as he has Werper by the throat who calls him Lord Greystoke. That and the name John Clayton bring Tarzan fully back to himself. For only a few pages at the end of the book does he have his memory fully recovered.
In order to summarize the rest I have had to outline the actions of the main characters for as with Tarzan and his memory the story is one of ‘a strangely tangled mass of faces, figures and events.’ Whether this is artistry on Burroughs’ part or a dream presentation I am unable to ascertain for certain. Let’s call it artistry.
We will begin with Werper’s activities. While Tarzan promised to retrieve La’s sacred knife Werper appears to no longer have it as it disappears from the story. When Werper escaped from Zek unable to locate Jane he heads East into British territory. He is apprehended by one of Zek’s trackers. On the way back a lion attacks the Arab unhorsing him. Werper mounts the horse riding away directly into the Abyssinian camp of Mourak. Mugambi is captured at the same time. While the troop bathes in a river Mugambi discovers the gems managing to exchange them for river pebbles. Werper tempts Mourak with the story of Tarzan’s gold. While digging the gold they are attacked by Zek and his men. Werper rides off as Mourak is getting the worst of the fight. Zek rides after him. Werper’s horse trips and is too exhausted to rise. Using a device that ERB uses in one of his western novels Werper shoots the horse of the following Zek, crouching behind his own for cover. Zek has lost the woman but now wants the jewels. Werper hasn’t the woman while unknown to himself he neither has the jewels. In exchange for his life he offers Zek the pouch of river stones believing it contained the jewels. Zek accepts. Both men are treacherous. Werper waits to shoot Zek but Zek out foxes him picking up the bag by the drawstring with his rifle barrel from the security of the brush.
Discovering the pebbles he thinks Werper has purposely deceived him stalking down the trail to finish him off. Werper is waiting and pots him with his last shell. As Zek falls the woman, Jane, appears as if by a miracle reuniting the two. Could happen I suppose but definitely in dreams.
So, what are the two men fighting over? The sex interest as the jewels are involved. Who do Werper and Zek represent? Obviously Burroughs and Martin. The stones are false but as Werper disposes of Zek in the competition for the woman Jane appears as if by magic to run to Werper/ Burroughs with open arms.
Werper with Jane returns to Zek’s camp now under the direction of Zek’s lieutenant, Mohammed Beyd. Rigamarole and Werper deposits Jane in a tree from whence he expects to retrieve her on the following morning. The next day she is gone.
Werper once again turns East. He is spotted by Tarzan riding along. The Big Guy falls from a tree throwing Werper to the ground demanding to know where his pretty pebbles are. It is at this point Werper recalls Tarzan to his memory by calling him Lord Greystoke. Also at the moment the Belgian officer appears from nowhere, having miraculously ascertained Werper’s whereabouts, to arrest him.
Tarzan wants Werper more than the Belgian so tucking his man under his arm he breaks through the circle of askaris. On the point of success he is brought down from behind. Another thwack on the head. Apparently in a desperate situation Tarzan hears voices from the bush. The Great Apes have their own story line but here it is necessary to introduce them as Tarzan’s saviors. The voice is from Chulk who Tarzan sends after the troop. They attack routing the Africans. In the process Chulk, who is carrying the bound Werper is shot. If you remember Chulk stole the stones from Mugambi, or maybe I haven’t mentioned that yet. Werper falls across him in such a way that his hands bound behind his back come into contact with the pouch. Werper quickly recognizes what the bag contains although he has no idea how the ape came by them.
He then advises Tarzan where he left Jane. The two set out when the furore in Mourak’s camp reaches his ears. ‘Jane might be involved.’ Says Werper. ‘She might.’ says Tarzan telling Werper to wait for him while he checks.
Werper waits not, disappearing into the jungle where his fate awaits him.
Those are the adventures of only one character in this swirling vortex of seventy some pages.
Let’s take Mugambi next as he is the key to the story of the jewels yet plays a minor role. After crawling after Jane and regaining his strength he arrives at Zek’s camp at the same time as Tarzan and Basuli but none are aware of the others. Werper and Jane have already escaped when Tarzen enters the camp to find them missing. Mugambi follows him later also finding both missing. He goes in search of Jane. He walks through the jungle ludicrously calling out ‘Lady’ after each quarter mile or so. Leathern lungs never tiring he shouts Lady into the face of Mourak and is captured. Being a regular lightfoot he escapes having lifted the jewels from Werper. Chulk then lifts them from him, Mugambi disappears until story’s end.
Let’s see: Jane next. Jane along with the jewels is the key to the story. The jewels represent the woman as man’s female treasure. Jane is the eternal woman in that sense. The various men’s attitude toward the jewels reflects their own character. Thus, Tarzan in his amnesiac simplicity wants the jewels for their intrinsic beauty. He rejected the uncut stones for the faceted ones in Opar. Even in the semi darkness of the vaults, or in other words, his ignorance, he perceived the difference.
Werper at various times thinks he can get the gold, the jewels and the woman at once. He is happy to settle for the jewels taking them to his grave. Mourak knowing nothing of the jewels is willing to settle for a few bars of gold. When he takes the woman into his possession it is for the sole purpose of a bribe to his Emperor to mitigate his overall failure. Not at all unreasonable.
Zek is too vile to consider as a human being dying in the fury of losing all. Mugambi and Basuli are happy in their devotion to the woman to whom neither jewels or gold mean anything.
Tarzan then, pure in soul and spirit wins it all, woman, jewels and gold. One is tempted to say he lived happily forever after but, alas, we know the trials ahead of him.
So Jane is carried off to Zek’s camp where all the action is centred while she is there. Both Tarzan and Mugambi show up to rescue her but she has escaped just ahead of Werper who would thus have had the woman and the jewels. Alone in the jungle she once again falls into Zek’s hands- that is to say those of Frank Martin.
Now, Tarzan, who has fallen in with a troop of apes chooses two, Taglat and Chulk, to help him rescue Jane from Zek. Chulk is loyal but Taglat is an old and devious ape, apparently bearing an old grudge against Tarzan, who intends to steal Jane for his own fell purposes much worse than death.
In Tarzan’s attempt to rescue Jane, Taglat succeeds in abducting her. He is in the process of freeing her bonds when a lion leaps on him. In the succeeding battle Jane is able to escape the lion who had just killed Taglat.
Wandering through the jungle she hears shots, the voices of men. Approaching the noise she discover Werper and Zek fighting it out. She climbs a tree behind Werper. When he shoots Zek he hears a heavenly voice from above congratulating him. Jane runs to him hands outstretched. So now Werper has the woman again while believing he can retrieve the jewels. He can’t find them because unbeknownst to him Mugambi had substituted river rocks.
Improbably, except in a dream, he returns to Zek’s camp where he has to solve the problem of Zek’s second in command, Mohammed Beyd. Werper spirits Jane out of the camp but finds her gone the next morning. She had mistaken Mourak and his Abyssinians for Werper. Mourak now in possession of the woman, no gold no jewels, thinks to redeem himself with his Emperor, Menelik II, with this gorgeous female.
During that night’s camp the boma is attacked by hordes of lions. Lions play an amazingly central role in this story. Interestingly this scene is replicated almost exactly in the later Tarzan And The City Of Gold. In Jewels Tarzan rescues a woman while in Gold Tarzan rescues a man. That story’s woman becomes his enemy.
But now Tarzan and Werper hear the tremendous battle with Tarzan entering the boma to rescue Jane. By the time of the rescue Tarzan has regained the woman and the gold but lacks the jewels.
Unless I’m mistaken we now have only Tarzan and the apes to account for.
ERB’s life was at a turning point. At this stage in his career he must have realized that he would have a good annual income for the rest of his life. If only 5000 copies of the first edition of Tarzan of the Apes sold he would have received 6,500.00 Add his magazine sales to that and other income and 1914 must have equaled his income of 1913 or exceeded it. His income probably grew until he was earning c. 100,000 per year for three years from 1919-1922. So he had every reason to believe the world was his oyster through the teens. That must have been an exhilarating feeling. A sense of realization and power must have made him glow. But the period was one of transition, a casting off of the old skin while growing into the new. Thus one sees ERB abandoning his old self -Werper- while attempting to assume the new in Tarzan. Thus in death Werper transfers the jewels, call them the Family Jewels, from himself to Tarzan.
Tarzan begins the novel as an asexual being unaware of what jewels were or their value and receives them a the end of the novel as a release from emasculation or awareness of his sexual prowess. Once again Werper fades in the novel while Tarzan unaware of who he is comes to a full realization. Presumably Burroughs thinks he is able to assume his new role as 1915 ends.
In the novel when Tarzan realizes Werper has stolen the jewels he goes off in search of this symbol of his manhood. Werper is not in Zek’s camp. On the trail Tarzan comes across the dead body of the Arab sent after Werper with he face bitten off. He assumes this is Werper but can’t find the jewels. Wandering about he discovers a troop of apes deciding to run with them for a while. Selecting Chulk and Taglat he goes back to Zek’s camp to rescue Jane. At that point Taglat makes off with Jane. Discovering Zek and Werper on the way to the Estate Tarzan becomes involved in the battle between Zek and Mourak. He sees Zek take the jewels and then throw them to the ground as worthless river rocks.
He encounters Werper in the jungle again and prompted by the man fully regains his memory only to have Werper arrested by the Belgian police officer. The battle between Mourak and the lions ensues. Tarzan goes to rescue Jane, Werper goes to his death.
The unarmed Tarzan faces a rampant lion. Picking up an abandoned rifle he brains the lion, apparently in vengeance for all the indignities and injuries ERB has suffered in life.
Leaping with Jane into a tree they begin the journey back to the Estate to begin life anew. Some time later they come across the bones of Werper to recover the jewels and make the world right.
The novel closes with Tarzan’s exclamation.
“Poor devil!”…Even in death he has made restituion- let his sins lie with his bones.”
Was Burroughs speaking of Werper as his own failed self? I believe sothe latter. Remember that a favorite novel of ERB was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and that he believed that every man was two men or had two more or less distinct selves. Human duality is one of the most prominent themes in the corpus; thus ERB himself must have believed that he had a dual personality. Tarzan will have at least two physical doubles, one is Esteban Miranda in Golden Lion and Ant Men, and the other Stanley Obroski in Lion Man. Both were failed men as Werper is here. Both obviously represented the other or early Burroughs as Werper does here.
In killing Werper ERB hoped to eliminate the memory of his failed self as he did with Obroski in Lion Man. In other words escape his emasculation and regain his manhood.
The jumbled and incredibly hard to follow, or at least, remember, last half of the book with its improbable twists and turns in such a compressed manner gives the indication that this is a dream story. Only dream logic makes the story comprehensible if still unbelievable. The story then assumes fairy tale characteristics that don’t have to be probable to be understood as possible.
Can be genius, can be luck. I will examine Burroughs novels in relation to dreams in Part V. This part will not be as comprehensive as I would like but time grows short and it is better to make the attempt as not.
Part V follows.
February 23, 2009
Tarzan Over Africa
The Psychological Roots Of Tarzan In The Western Psyche
As the strong man exhibits in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call the muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentagles. He derives pleasure from even the most trivial occupations bringing his intellect into play. He is fond of enigmas, conundrums, hieroglypics; exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary apprehension as praeternatural. His results brought about by the very soul and essence of method, have in truth, the whole air of intuition.
Edgar Allen Poe- The Murders In The Rue Morgue
…he dreams of the sight
of Zulu impis
breaking on the foe
like surf upon the rocks
and his heart rises in rebellion
against the strict limits
of civilized life.
H. Rider Haggard- Allan Quatermain
Yes! I noticed this dichotomy in the Western soul myself at least two thirds of a lifetime ago. I was always puzzled by it. Why in the midst of plenty and seeming perfection should the Western psyche be so discontented with its lot.
Well, time has passed. Two thirds of a lifetime in fact. After much mental lucubration and travail I now find myself in a position not only to understand it myself but to be able, perhaps, to make it clear to others; perhaps hopefully to you who are looking at this screen.
The problem began we are told, by people who ought to know, about one hundred fifty thousand years ago when our species, Homo Sapiens, evolved from its predecessor hominid, which has never been traced being the famous Missing Link, to begin its odyssey through time and space.
We are told that Homo Sapiens originated in Africa and that Black Africans, or what Tarzan would call savages, were the first Homo Sapiens. We are told, once again, that White people mutated from this original Black stock. This may or may not be so. I am in no position to affirm or deny the fact myself but, if so, there was a qualitative difference as well as a quantitative difference that then occurred. In fact, if one were to judge solely from appearances two sub-species of Homo Sapiens came into existence when the White evolved from the Black. This qualitative difference between the sub-species or what we have been taught to consider races, was noticed by all the early explorers with differing interpretations.
As the English novelist, H. Rider Haggard, who as a man of considerable experience and acumen, put it:
I say that as the savage is, so is the white man, only this latter is more inventive, and possesses a faculty of combination…
Rider Haggard was quite right, both sub-species evolved from the same stock, both had the same emotional makeup, but what Haggard dismisses as only ‘more inventive’ and ‘a faculty of combination’ is precisely that which separates the White sub-species from the Black sub-species and makes it evolutionarily more advanced. In conventional terms invention and a faculty of combination is called the scientific method.
The scientific method is not to be dismissed lightly. It is a faculty of mind that is an evolutionary step in advance of the White sub-species’ evolutionary predecessor, the Black sub-species.
This may be a startling interpretation to you, however if one is to follow the scientific logic adduced by scientists of Evolution the facts follow as day follows night. They cannot be avoided nor can they be explained away. They must be dealt with head on, just as our Attorney General Eric Holder has stated.
The evolutionary step within the Homo Sapiens species is almost tentative to our White minds, not so clear cut as to separate, say, the Chimpanzee species from the Gorilla species. The transition is however in that direction.
In the nineteenth century the cleavage between the scientific mind and that of the savage or first Homo Sapiens mind was beginning to become felt in the Western psyche. A malaise of spirit was created which troubled the soul of Western man. The ‘strict limits’ of scientific civilization versus the seeming naturalness and open simplicity of the African became a dichotomy in the Western psyche.
Haggard was not the first to confront the problem but before I begin at the beginning with who I consider to be the first let me elucidate the problem further by another quote from Rider Haggard.
Ah! this civilization what does it all come to? Full forty years and more I spent among savages, and studied them and their ways, and now for several years I have lived here in England and in my own stupid manner have done my best to learn the ways of the children of light; and what do I find? A great gulf fixed? No, only a very little one, that a plain man’s thought may spring across.
Haggard was quite correct as far as he went. What he failed to understand, ‘in his own stupid way’, was that there was a small gulf over which civilized man thinks he could spring backward without difficulty but from the other side that small gulf appears a great chasm which the completed mind of the first Homo Sapiens can never find a way across.
Edgar Rice Burroughs who read Haggard and was also struck by this really important introductory chapter to ‘Allan Quatermain’ pondered the issue long and hard and resolved the issue in his own mind when he said that the savage mind could never grasp science while only one in a hundred of the White species could, with perhaps one in a thousand being able to advance science. ERB intuited what modern genetics would prove.
This dichotomy between the primitive and scientific mind does not become truly prominent until the mid-nineteenth century. It wasn’t observable to the naked eye before then and only begins to establish itself in literature with the apperance in 1841 of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue.’
Poe created a whole new genre of literature, not only of the detective story, but of the conflict between what Freud would later identify in his system as the Unconscious and the Conscious mind. Prior to Poe reason, or the forebrain, was the sole approach to knowledge; after Poe awareness of the Unconscious element began its long rise until today it is dominant.
When dissatisfaction with Haggard’s strict limits of civilization began to forcibly intrude into White consciousness, causing the split identity, is not clear to me although it may well have been the introduction of the Age of Steam. Certainly by 1841 the intrusion of the steam railroad was going a long way to condition man’s mind to a rigid one way view of reality as laborers spun out the long steel ribbons along which the great unyielding iron locomotives ran.
The science of steam was unforgiving, with a low level of tolerance for human error, and making no allowance for individual idiosyncracies.
In the days of the great steamboat races on the Mississippi boiler pressure was controlled by a little governor. Greater speed could be attained if the governor was removed allowing boiler pressure to increase. Of course, the inevitable result was the explosion of the boiler and destruction of the steamboat and crew. Even knowing the scientific consequences of removing the governor operators time after time did it in hopes of defeating physics and winning the race.
Thus science seemed ‘unfair’ and the White man’s limited undeveloped understanding began to rebel.
When evolution gave man access to science he reached the limits of what human exertion alone could do. Thus the forebrain was frustrated, driving it back toward the brain stem and the Unconscious. A new scientific frontier was opened thereby- the study of the human mind.
Edgar Allan Poe grasped this significance expressing it in poetic language. ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue’ posits the problem in the form of C. Auguste Dupin who, while using rigorous scientific method is mistaken for being intuitive. The Conscious mind versus the Unconscious.
The Unconscious is always disreputable. It is there that little understood sexual urges and primitive egoistic rituals reside. It is there that the primitive man resides; the savage of Rider Haggard, the Negro of the present day. It is there that the Western psyche rebels, seeking to emerge triumphant over science and understanding. That is the little leap backwards that Rider Haggard saw. In academic writers of the nineteenth century it was called ‘the thin veneer of civilization.’
Thus the initials of C. Auguste Dupin spell CAD, or a slightly disreputable man. A man who thinks only of himself. If Poe doesn’t introduce the notion of the doppel ganger, he certainly defines the role and purpose. Dupin and the narrator are two halves of the same person. They are in fact one personality.
This notion would be further developed in Conan Doyle with his creation of Sherlock Holmes and his doppelganger, Dr. Watson. The notion would be brought to horrifying fruition in the classic tale of the split between the conscious and unconscious minds, Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.’
Poe’s narrator being of greater means than Dupin who is seedy and down at the heels rents an old dilapidated house in the Faubourg St. Germain which creaks as lustily as the House of Usher. The house is a symbol of psychological decay. The Faubourg St. Germain is itself a symbol of decay. Formerly the home of the pre-revolutionary elite, since the French Revolution it is the home of shattered fortunes.
The two men, who are inseparable, lock themselves up in this mansion by day with all the curtains drawn, sure sign of intense depression, going out only after dark into what the narrator calls the ‘real night’ as opposed to the night of the soul; the dark Freudian unconscious.
And then two women are murdered in mysterious circumstances. Using all his scientific method Dupin divines the murderer to be an Orang-outang, which was no small feat whether scientific or intuitive. Thus the highest mental powers were symbolically pitted against man’s animal nature.
Poe thus states the central problem of the Western psyche which is still unresolved at this time while still being discussed as much. While Rider Haggard was wrestling with the problem Conan Doyle was writing his Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes like Dupin is a bit of a cad; not entirely an admirable person. He has placed himself above the law, being quite capable of executing summary judgment on one who might in his sole opinion escape the toils of the law. Holmes companion, Dr. Watson, is a sturdy unimaginative burgher who serves as the example of the unconscious to Holmes’ conscious but scientifically unfeeling mind.
Robert Louis Stevenson takes matters to an even more intense level at roughly the same time. Jekyll and Hyde are in fact one man. Jekyll is the example of what Freud would call the repressed man but one which society calls a disciplined and respectable man. He is in total control of himself but he suspects there is another side to his character which he would like to discover.
Unable to find access to this other side by psychological or rational means, he uses his scientific acumen to invent a potion which releases this demon, Mr. Hyde, concealed inside his unconscious. Hyde is a very destructive character and having been once released he proves impossible to put back in the bottle. He returns unsummoned. Eventually he suppresses Jekyll becoming the sole personality. The jump only works one way.
Thus Stevenson predicted the evolution of the twentieth century. This little cluster of writers bridging the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is very interesting.
In the intervening near fifty years between ‘Murders In The Rue Morge’ and ‘Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde’ science had been revealing nature at a galloping pace placing even greater stress on the Western psyche. Central to the further deteriorization of the psyche was Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin Of Species’ which appeared in 1859 just on the eve of the exploration of Central Africa when the stressed scientific Western psyche confronted its dark unconscious in the form of the African Black man. Thus Africa became the Heart Of Darkness for the White man just as Hyde was the heart of darkness to Jekyll. That little gulf across which he thought he might leap appeared as a gigantic chasm.
The notion of evolution versus Biblical creation not only caused a tremendous social dislocation but the notion of evolution from a lower to a higher, from Ape to White man, placed the Black man or Negro in an intermediary state of development just as Burroughs would later depict the role of Tarzan Of The Apes.
Beginning c. 1860 with the expedition of Capt. Richard Francis Burton into the lake regions of Central Africa the problem began to take a concrete form.
What the White Man found in the interior of Africa startled him. For here the dichotomy between his unconscious and conscious was juxtaposed in reality between himself and the Black African. The Black African seemed to represent unchanged what man had been one hundred fifty thousand years before when he evolved from the hominid predecessor.
For Burton and Henry Morton Stanley who followed him as an explorer the superiority of the White was apparent. In the Negro they saw only the child of nature; men without alphabets, physics, chemistry, astronomy or intellectual attainments of any kind. The Negro was to be pitied, treated paternalistically as a little brother or as the Negro would later be known: The White Man’s Burden, Idi Amin notwithstanding.
The main period of exploration and discovery was ending when Rider Haggard began publishing his great African adventure trilogy from 1885 to 1888.
While Burton and Stanley felt an easy superiority over the Blacks, Rider Haggard took a more disquieted attitude. He was troubled when he noted that for all the White man’s scientific attainments there was no difference in the emotional development of the two sub-species.
And what did he find? A way forward? A great gulf fixed? No. ‘Only a little one, that a plain man’s thought might spring across. I say,’ he said, ‘that as the savage is, so is the white man, only the latter is more inventive, and possesses a faculty of combination…’
Well, indeed. But wasn’t Haggard undervaluing the quality of being more inventive and possessing a faculty of combination? Those two qualities, after all, comprise the scientific faculty which cannot be attained by effort but is evolutionarily ingrained. It is forever beyond the reach of the first Homo Sapiens. Haggard and all other writers recognized that this faculty is what the Africans lacked.
Consider then in one hundred fifty thousand years the Africas were so incurious that they had never observed the heavens. They had no astronomy! When the White split off probably one hundred thousand years ago this is the first science they established. Think about it.
Is this scientific faculty such a small thing? If, in fact, a White man of plain understanding can make the leap backward to a natural state can the Black or natural man leap the chasm to a scientific state of consciousness?
Darwin’s theory of evolution is based on natural selection, actually a form of eugenics, by which he believed new species were evolved. It would appear, however that evolution is caused by genetic mutations and when a species has mutated into the complete expression of itself evolution stops for that species which then becomes, as it were, a living fossil.
Rather than natural selection there is perhaps natural rejection. When a new sub-speices forms with its differences it is more likely that the predecessor recognizes the differences and ejects the new comer rather than the new species recognizing itself and banding together. Consider Tarzan among the apes.
When the White sub-species came into existence perhaps one hundred thousand years ago it is more than probable that the sub-species was rejected by its Black predecessors and forcibly ejected from sub-Saharan Africa.
Thus in the two closest known predecessors of Homo Sapiens, the Great Mountain Ape and the Chimpanzee both species are completed and now await extinction as they are unable to compete with their successor hominids.
Scientists tell us, I have no way of disputing their conclusion only interpreting them, that Homo Sapiens evolved from a predecessor about a hundred fifty thousand years ago. They further tell us that the first Homo Sapiens was the Negro sub-species.
The predecessor, who has disappeared without a trace, unless he is the Bushman, was a completed species; he was incapable of further evolution himself but from him the Negro sub-species of Homo Sapiens evolved.
Now comes the hard part to accept. Science is science; one must either follow its facts or abandon the pretence of being scientific man.
As the first Homo Sapiens was the Negro sub-species, is the Negro sub-species complete as an example of evolutionary development? If the Negro was the first Homo Sapiens then the White sub-species must be evolved from the Negro and as nature is ever groping toward higher intelligence the White must be an intellectual improvement on its Black predecessor. The apparent facts indicate this.
Evolution appears to be always toward a form of higher intelligence. Thus the qualities of combination and inventiveness may be completely beyond the reach of the Black sub-species. The Black may stand in relation to the White as the Great Mountain Ape stands to the Chimp.
Further, if one assumes, as one must, that evolution has not stopped either with the development of Homo Sapiens or its sub-species the White man, then the White man must carry the genetic makeup for the mutation to the next step of evolution. As only fifty thousand years intervened between the evolution of the first Homo Sapiens and its White successor than the next evolutionary sub-species or species may already be among us. This is what H.G. Wells novel The Food Of The Gods is about. Apparently the evolutionary bud, like a swelling on a tree, may only blossom once and then the sub-species or species is incapable of budding again becoming fixed in form
The question then arises will the next step be to a new species that will make Homo Sapiens a completely inferior species such as now exists between Homo Sapiens and the Chimpanzee or a new sub-species that will merely increase the distance between it and the first sub-species.
If the new mutation increases its intellectual capabilities will it also be able to evolve a new emotional organization that will separate it from Homo Sapiens and its animal nature completely? Or is it possible that the dichotomy between the two under which Western man suffers will increase involving some sort of evolutionary insanity or suicide?
Well, as the nineteenth century drew to a close vitamins hadn’t even been discovered let alone genetics so people muddled along in a dissatisified condition.
The unconscious aspects of man began to predominate over the conscious as Western man confronted with his natural state in Africa began to slip back across the little gulf in admiration of the seeming ‘natural ‘ state of the ‘noble savage.’ This slip backward was aided and abetted by Sigmund Freud’s vision of the unconscious.
Late in the century Thomas Alva Edison invented the movie camiera. This invention was to have a major effect on the rise of the Unconscious or retrogression to the primitive as the dominating factor in the Western psyche. At approximately the same time as the film industry was becoming important Sigmund Freud published his seminal work: The Interpretation Of Dreams. Thus a scientific vocabulary began to come into existence by which the workings of the mind could be analyzed and discussed. the Unconscious became an established entity.
Now, writing is work of the forebrain or in other words, a scientific pursuit, while movie making is a function of the Unconscious. A good story is more important in writing while subliminal drives are the stuff of movies. It is only required that movies make emotional but not rational sense. They follow a different logic.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was to be confused by this difference when he tried to translate his books to the screen. While the early Tarzan films were not unsuccessful they were not all that satisfying; it was not until MGM invented the Tarzan of primal desires impersonated by Johnny Weismuller that the movie Tarzan became potent. However in that guise Tarzan was entirely another creation. His being had become independent of ERB’s mind.
One movie is capable of finding more viewers than a thousand books can find readers. Thus the subconscious began to dominate over the conscious Tarzan.
I am of the opinion that Freud was already aware of the effect of the emergence of the Unconscious as a formative factor in society before he codified the phenomenon in scientific language. After all Freud was subject to the same influences as Poe, Haggard, Doyle, Stevenson and Burroughs.
Freud himself came from an earlier school which delighted in the unrestrained indulgence of the unconscious or passions. In English terms the attitude took form as the Hell Fire Club to which the American Benjamin Franklin belonged. Its motto was: Do What Thou Wilt. Its bible on the continent was ‘Gargantua and Pantagruel’ by Rabelais, while in Jewish circles the credo had been established by Jacob Frank and his descendants. Frank’s position was that man will never be good until he commits evil to his heart’s content. Freud being Jewish was of this school.
These groups of people were quite extreme. Their credo was startlingly expressed in the eighteenth century by Tobias Smollet when his hero, Roderick Random, is introduced into a woman’s home who wrote the following:
Thus have I sent the simple king to hell
Without or coffin, shroud or passing bell.
To me what are divine or human laws?
I court no sanction but my own applause!
Rapes, robb’ries, treasons, yield my soul delight;
And human carnage gratifies my sight;
I drag the parent by the hoary hair,
And toss the sprawling infant on my spear,
While the fond mother’s cries regale my ear.
I fight, I vanquish, murder friends and foes;
Nor dare the Immortal gods my rage oppose.
The above pretty much defines Freud’s intent in his psychology. So long as such sentiments were consciously expressed in print they horrified a rational thinker while remaining strictly an underground movement. But now Freud combined the attitude with the malaise of soul which had been called into existence by the dichotomy of the scientific and unconscious minds.
Freud reduced the mind, including the Unconscious, into scientific terms by which such Rabelaisan attitudes could be discussed and disseminated into polite society as scientific thought rather than eccentric opinion.
Freud despised what he called the morality of the day or in other words, Christian morality. He determined that the main cause of mental illness was the repression of disorderly or anti-social desires. He glorified these base desires as the Ego and proclaimed that where the Unconscious was Ego shall be. This is another way of saying: Do What Thou Wilt.
Thus in the decades following Freud the whole notion of self control and a disciplined mind fell into disrepute as Western man began to revel in his most criminal desires; for the Unconscious which always disregards the rights of others is alway criminal.
So it was that the terrible figure of Dracula who began his rise in the 1890s became the dominant psychological projection of the twentieth century. Dracula is the Unconscious incarnate. Completely despising the rights of others, even their right to life; he sucks anyone’s life blood so that he alone may live.
Like Dupin and the narrator of ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue’ Dracula only comes out in the ‘real night’. In fact, one ray of the sun, in other words, consciousness, will turn him to dust. Light is anathema to him; he must shun the day.
Alongside Dracula the cult of the Phantom Of The Opera has grown into huge proportions being disseminated to polite society by Andrew Lloyd Weber’s opera of the same name.
Talk about conscious and unconscious, the Phantom lives in a sewer, the very home of the Unconscious, where he has installed a huge organ on which he plays the most glorious conscious creations of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Deformed in soul, the deformation has been extended to his exterior in the form of a burned face which he covers with a mask just as one masks one’s interior motives from others. Attracted to the higher things from the depths of his sewer he haunts an opera house directly above where, spying from secret passages, he falls in love with the beautiful opera singer who, initially repulsed by the soul shown on his face gradually succumbs to the lure of the unconscious.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was born into this strange social milieu, as we know, in 1875. Seemingly failing in every thing he did, he had scant prospects in life until at the age of 37 in 1912 his education jelled into the creation of his life, Tarzan the Magnificent.
Tarzan is extraordinary in that he runs counter to the other expressions of the Western malaise. Tarzan is whole and entire. In Freudian terms, where Unconscious was, now Ego reigned and it was good Ego, not the criminal model of Freud.
As Tarzan was, so must have been Burroughs, although I have no idea how he achieved this. It appears, nevertheless, to be true. In fact, whatever Burroughs read or was thinking about he seems to have resolved in Tarzan the mental dilemma which was first formulated by Poe. Further, he acknlowledges Poe’s influence.
We know that Burroughs read and revered the African adventure novels of Rider Haggard. It can be stated certainly that he read the African explorers Capt. Richard Burton and Henry Morton Stanley. Whether he read the other seekers of the source of the Nile, Speke and Baker, I don’t know, as I cannot so state with certainty. It is not impossible that Baker’s wife was a model for Jane.
It is certain nevertheless that the great age of African exploration thrilled him while occupying a prominent place in his daily thoughts.
Being scientifically inclined, he applied his reading in evolution, exploration, geology, psychology and other subjects to the formation of his great creation, Tarzan. As he says, he wrote to amuse and entertain (read: make money) so that he expressed the results of his deepest study in seemingly frivolous tales. Then, while he captured the imagination of the reading public, he offended the critics of ‘serious’ literature who refused to take him seriously. He even found it difficult to find a book publisher even though he was a proven popular success.
Yet he pondered deeply the dilemma propounded by Poe while apparently puzzling out the deeper meaning of Haggard’s introductory chapter to ‘Allan Quatermain.’ Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde filled his thoughts.
There is little doubt that Haggard’s hero, Sir Henry Curtis, is a progenitor of Tarzan. One can see Tarzan in the great White English warrior standing tall in a sea of Black soldiers. Sir Henry Curtis leads the Black Kukuana into battle against their foes. The first Big Bwana had come into existence.
Burroughs wants his hero Tarzan to be born in Africa so in 1888 the year ‘Allan Quatermain’ was published and Sir Henry Curtis sealed himself in his valley high in the Mountains Of The Moon, Lord Greystoke and his wife, the Lady Alice Greystoke are abandoned on the West Coast of Africa where, as we know, they both lost their lives but not before Lady Alice gave birth to a son who was then adopted by the great she ape, Kala.
In The Return Of Tarzan the putative successor to Lord John Greystoke is voyaging through the Suez Canal around Africa in his yacht, the Lady Alice, when he is shipwrecked near the exact spot where his father and mother built their tree house in Africa.
To understand fully this sequence in Burroughs’ imagination one has to examine the other source for his creation, Tarzan- Henry Morton Stanley.
There can be no question that before Burroughs wrote Tarzan he had read if not studied the books of H.M. Stanley. And, why not? Stanley’s most important titles are: How I Found Livingstone In Central Africa, Through The Dark Continent and In Darkest Africa.
‘Through The Dark Continent’ is one of the great adventure stories of all time. The conscious living out of Stanley’s unconscious needs and desires is remarkable reading.
One might think that Burroughs’ yacht ‘Lady Alice’ was named after Clayton’s mother, Lady Alice Greystoke. Not so. Burroughs is full of subtle jokes and elaborate circumlocutions. If not Clayton’s mother then how did Burroughs come up with the name ‘Lady Alice’ for the yacht? Well, if you read Stanley’s ‘Through The Dark Continent’ you will find that he carried for thousands of miles through Africa a boat in sections that could be broken down and rebuilt. With this boat Stanley circumnavigated Lake Victoria as well as Lake Tanganyika, then sailed the boat down the entire length of the mighty Congo River. That boat was named the Lady Alice. Thus Tarzan like Stanley was carried by the Lady Alice. That’s a very subtle joke, Son. Stanley himself had named the boat after his Cincinnati fiancee, Alice. During his sail down the Congo she ditched him for another man. In weird synchronicity Stanley ditched the Lady Alice on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic nearly at the end of his journey. What a true coincidence.
As an aside, the psychology of it is very interesting. Psychologically a vessel represents a woman. the Holy Grail which is a chalice represents woman while the blood it contains represents man. Thus you have the man, Stanley in the boat, woman. Stanley’s mother abandoned him as a child. He saw her only once thereafter. Thus, his mother, the most important woman in any man’s life abandoned him. In the Lady Alice, Stanley was obviously carried once again by his mother although I don’t know if her name was Alice also. He then abandoned his boat the Lady Alice.
Stanley didn’t follow the Congo to the sea as is popularly believed but abandoned the river after traversing an incredible series of rapids when he came to an identified rapids at Stanley Pool where, completely exhausted and having reached an explored point, he considered his job done. He had the Lady Alice carried to a hill top where he left it to the elements. Now, in Burroughs mind he may have landed the Lady Alice at the approximate place he thought Stanley had abandoned his Lady Alice. So, Tarzan’s house may have been intended to be on the coast directly below the Lady Alice. That would also make the location in Gabon. In that sense Tarzan was the successor of H.M. Stanley.
One may therefore assume that the Greystokes were put ashore near the mouth of the Congo where the fictional yacht Lady Alice ws shipwrecked within sight, as it were, of the real Lady Alice. That’s how the mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs worked.
On his way from England on the Emin Relief Expedition which forms the content of ‘In Darkest Africa’ just like Lord Greystoke Stanley sailed from England through the Suez to Zanzibar where he collected his porters, sailed with them to Capetown and from thence to the mouth of the Congo. Then Stanley began his incredible journey up the Congo across Africa from West to East into the Northern lake regions where on this trip he located and identified the fabled and thought mythical, snow capped on the equator, Mountains Of The Moon.
Anyone who doesn’t admire Henry Morton Stanley has the heart of a dullard. What a man! What terrific incredible adventures. I’d rather read about them than live them myself but what a story. So thought Edgar Rice Burroughs who never tried to live such adventures either.
Very important to Tarzan is Stanley’s dealings with the various African tribes. Stanley is virtually a single White man leading a faithful band of Negroes just like Tarzan and his faithful Waziri.
Africa was virtually Stanley’s province as it was for Tarzan. Tarzan’s reputation was far famed throughout Africa or at least the areas of Africa through which Stanley traveled. Tarzan doesn’t have much to do with South Africa which has no association with Stanley although Tarzan does travel in North Africa of which Samuel Baker wrote.
Stanley, whose three major expeditions covered a period of about fifteen years must also have become legendary amongst the Blacks. The exploration of Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika coupled with the journey down the Congo must have been the subject of astonished conversation in every village in Central Africa. The more so because Stanley was on scientific expeditions to map geographical features like lakes and rivers which reason no African could ever comprehend.
They could comprehend slaving and ivory buying but they couldn’t comprehend scientific endeavors.
Stanley’s situation in Uganda near the Ripon Falls, the outlet of the Nile from Lake Victoria, with its emperor Mtessa is the stuff of legend for either Blacks or Whites. Stanley, virtually singlehandedly at the head of a band of African natives successfully negotiated months at the court of Mtessa and lived to the tell the tale which I believe few could have accomplished. Then traveling South through areas that had never seen a White man he successully negotiated the circumnavigation of Lake Tanganyika. Both Victoria and Tanganyika are among the largest bodies of fresh water on earth, huge lakes. Then transporting the Lady Alice to the Congo he made the extraordinarily hazardous descent of that enormous and hostile river. This is really mind boggling stuff.
There are too many allusions in Burroughs to the adventures of Stanley to believe that he wasn’t a source for Tarzan.
As more or less an aside there is even a possible allusion to a scene in Burton’s ‘Travels In The Lake Regions Of Central Africa.’ Burton describes in particularly vivid detail an apparition he had while suffering from fever. In a fairly remarkable psychological projection he experienced himself as two different people, not unlike Jekyll and Hyde, who were at war with each other; the one attempting to defeat the best efforts of the other.
In 1857 this psychic manifestation could not be understood. Today it can be interpreted. It would seem that Burton was consciously aware that he seemed to thwart his own projects. He undoubtedly worried about this a great deal but as an unresolved subconscious controls the conscious mind he couldn’t penetrate the mystery.
Under the influence of malarial fever the psychic barriers of the subconscious broke down and his desire was shown to him symbolically by his unconscious mind. Had Burton been psychologically capable of pursuing this insight to its logical conclusion unearthing the fixation on which it was based then he would have resolved his problem and integrated his personality becoming a single unit or whole person. His legs wouldn’t have given out on him as he came close to his goal. Depth psychology was unknown in 1857 so the psychological manifestation remained a mystery to him.
It seems clear that Burroughs was equally impressed by this incident which he later used to create an alter ego for Tarzan called Esteban Miranda. If you recall, Miranda’s inept activities were bringing Tarzan into disrepute. Africa began to wonder.
As the evolution of Tarzan, as I mentioned in my earlier essay, the idea of Tarzan entered the back of Burroughs’ mind bearing a candle which in a pitch black cave is a pretty strong light. This idea was probably an identification with Sir Henry Curtis of Rider Haggard but Burroughs was unable to develop the train of thought when he came to the water barrier in the vaults of Opar.
Tarzan successfully leaped the barrier but Burroughs lost his train of thought when the candle symbolically blew out leaving the idea of Tarzan to gestate in his subconscious. There Curtis slowly combined with Henry Morton Stanley to erupt from Burroughs’ forehead fully formed in 1912 as Tarzan.
Burroughs probably read Stanley in the nineties. His creative juices would have been jogged when Stanley died in 1905. Stanley’s devoted wife gathered several chapters of Stanley’s autobiography of his childhood, composed by himself, then cobbled together the rest of his life from diaries, news clippings and the like.
Stanley’s autobiography was released in 1909. The first Tarzan book was written in 1912. I don’t know when Stanley’s autobiography came to Burroughs’ attention but sometime before 1912 he read it completing the idea of Tarzan in his mind. As Burroughs’ prospectus to All Story Magazine indicates, Burroughs was struggling to combine a number of ideas into the entity that was to become Tarzan.
The publication of Stanley’s autobiography plus the pressure at age 37 of having to so something to merit his high opinion of himself probably forced the jelling of the idea of Tarzan which erupted from his forehead bearing gold ingots like Tarzan emerging from the rock of Opar above the gold vaults.
Burroughs now had the ideal vehicle to give expression to all his social theories. Critics may see Burroughs as a mere shallow entertainer but I don’t. I bought my first Tarzan book the year Burroughs died in 1950 with I was twelve. I continued to buy them until 1954 when I was sixteen. I was totally absorbed in them; not as mere entertainment. I thought Burroughs was writing some pretty heavy stuff even if I missed the much I picked up later when my interests were subconsciously directed to the same social problems that concerned Burroughs. I found to my surprise that Tarzan having entered the back of my mind had formed much if not most of my social thought. I give you the results of my education by Burroughs here.
I find myself amazed by the depth and profundity of Burroughs’ thinking. The ease with which he handled these complex problems without directly identifying them or preaching is fairly amazing. I pointed out in my earlier essay how Burroughs addressed the problem of eugenics in the males and females of Opar.
So he took on the problem of psychic dislocation in the White sub-species in the very nature of his creation, Tarzan.
We know he was heavily influenced by Poe’s ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue’ because he retells the story in the ‘Return Of Tarzan’ in Chaper 3, ‘What happened In The Rue Maule.’ Now this retelling is close enough to be considered borrowing if not plagiarism if his purpose hadn’t been to develop Poe’s theory. Poe was positing the problem; Burroughs was offering the solution.
Just by way of reference; my copies of Tarzan are those of Grosset and Dunlap from the late forties and early fifties. They also have what I consider the finest artwork on Tarzan, a matter of taste, I know.
Where in Poe, Dupin is a human while the Orang-outang a beast, Burroughs combines the two in one. The sub-conscious and the conscious are integrated. Tarzan is at once the most charming and civilized of men but once aroused he quickly reverts to animal ferocity. But he is able to pass back and forth at will, unlike Jekyll and Hyde, and at a moments notice; he is in control of both his animal and human nature.
He even escapes by leaping from the window to a telephone pole, which had appeared since Poe’s time, shinnying up the pole, having had the good sense, or science, to look down first to see a policeman standing guard, he then makes a fairly daring leap, the result of his jungle training, to the roof of the building scampering across numerous rooftops. Tarzan then descends to earth down another telephone pole. There were telephone poles in Chicago but I don’t know whether Burroughs checked to see if there were telephone poles in Paris.
Running wildly for a few blocks he then enters a cafe, successfully cleaning himself up to a gentlemanly appearance in the rest room. Now fully human again he ‘saunters’ down the avenue where he meets the countess as his charming urbane self.
These two stories of Poe and Burroughs are fairly remarkable; one posits the problem which the other resolves. Was either conscious of what the problem was that they were dealing with? The results would indicate yes but in the chapter on the Rue Maule Burroughs has this to say:
‘Tarzan spent the two following weeks reviewing his former brief acquaintace with Paris. In the daytime he haunted the libraries and picture galleries. He had become an omnivorous reader and the world of possibilities that were opened to him in this seat of culture and learning fairly appalled him when he contemplated the very infinitesimal crust of the sum total of human knowledge that a single individual might hope to acquire even after a lifetime of study and research, but he learned what he could.
Surely Burroughs is here reflecting on his own study and research with becoming modesty. His thirty-seven years have not been wasted in idleness. As an omnivorous reader he has acquired some small store of knowledge which he has considered deeply. He does think about the problems of his times. The conflict between the split conscious and unconscious mind of the White man which was commonly discussed as we have seen interested him. Tarzan is simply the result of his cogitations.
Tarzan, born in Africa, the seat of the primitive, reared by Kala a she ape as a pure animal, then progressing straight from his animal nature to the civilized pursuits of study and absinthe he returns to the jungle to experience the intermediate Black nature as chief of his faithful Waziri. This pretty well describes the historical reality of Western man. Then Tarzan rules over Africa as an avatar of science.
Sometime after 1915 when Freud’s body of work began to develop in translation Burroughs must have done a quick study finding, apparently, no difficulty in understanding what Freud was talking about. Further, I think he quickly went beyond Freud’s own understanding, or at least, he applied Depth psychology in a positive way while Freud chose the negative way. Thus Tarzan integrates his personality while Freud exacerbates the separation of conscious and unconscious.
Both Freud’s and Tarzan’s influence grew during the period between the wars. However when MGM preempted the influence of the books in the thirties withe the invention of the movie Tarzan, the great jungle hero began to be lost in the Freudian miasma. The movies turned him into part of the unconscious.
At the same time Africa became a known quantity and while not losing its charm for the Western dichotomy it lost its mystery becoming more commonplace as the Black African absorbed the forms of Western culture. A Black African in a shirt, pants and shoes is just an ordinary Black man. He is no longer the ‘noble savage.’
Then, too, Black resentment at White dominance came to the fore and resistance to the White began along with an offensive for not only equality but superiority.
Thus Marcus Garvey appeared with his Universal Negro Improvement Association. While he was ridiculed in America and had his credibility destroyed he nevertheless laid the ground work for what has followed. His UNIA was truly universal organziaing Blacks in Africa, the West Indies, Brazil and the United States.
At the same time White scholars like Lothrop Stoddard were proposing the innate superiority of the White man. As the science of the time posited one species of Homo Sapiens composed of three separate ‘races’ there were slight grounds to suppose that there were any other than superficial differences between the ‘races.’ There was no basis to differentiate substantial qualities as between two sub-species of different developmental stages. Stoddard and the ‘racists’ were discredited and ridiculed as much as Marcus Garvey had been.
The Second World War intervened suspending discussion for a few years. After the war Freudian thought had taken hold of the psychological community. The founder’s ideas were revered rather than questioned or tested. Freud’s ridiculous map of the mind took on concrete form as students struggled to understand such nonsense as the Id, Libido and Super-ego. Really laughable stuff.
His notions of the unconscious were embraced by the people at large. The ideas of self-discipline and mental training were rejected in favor of avoiding ‘repression.’ The criminal aspects of the unconscious gained the ascendance furthered along by the avatars of the unconscious- movies and movie makers.
As 1960 dawned the Whites began a precipitous slide back across that narrow little gulf, which Haggard saw, toward savagery.
However as there was a difference in the quality of the mind of the White it became apparent that it was not so possible as it seemed to abandon their scientific nature. While the Black without the scientific ‘gene’ could be relatively comfortable in a scientific milieu supported by Whites, the scientific White could not be comfortable in a savage world, He was troubled either way.
Freud had thus injured the sub-species greatly by insisting on the ego occupying the unconscious rather than melding the two halves of the mind by eliminating the destructive elements of the subconscious.
I had taken my Tarzan in subconsciously so that in 1960 when the challenges to White intellectuality became confusing I was able to hold on to my standards if not undisturbed then at least securely. When I later integrated my personality I became proof against the destructive elements of Freudiansim.
Through Burroughs then I identified with his hero Tarzan to save my soul. When I say that Tarzan lives I mean that he was my sheet anchor on the stormiest of seas. It was because of ERB’s creation of Tarzan that I have survived whole and entire. May Tarzan ever prosper and never die. May he have discovered the fountain of youth. Look to the future and keep you eye on the bouncing ball.
February 16, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
The Golden Handcuffs
And now comes the part that readers find the most fascinating, that of the contest on The Field Of Honor. Gladiatorial contests are frequent occurrences in the novels of ERB. This one seems to combine Arthurian influences as well as Roman.
Burroughs’ tenure of a couple years at the Chicago Harvard Latin School must have made an indelible impression on him. The recurrent, one might say underlying, Homeric influence from the Odyssey of Homer would indicate that the school concentrated on that work of Homer although not on The Iliad as there seem to be few references to the latter poem. In later years ERB would complain that he had learned Latin before English cramping his English style.
Perhaps, but I don’t see anything glaringly wrong with his English style. His psychology makes him a little stiff but that’s not through a lack of understanding English. It would be nice to know the curriculum of the Latin School and what texts he did study. Late in life when he wrote I Am A Barbarian his background as evidenced by the reading list he appended was shallow while not mentioning the great classical scholars. Still Roman themes are a recurring motif in the corpus. About this time he was rereading Plutarch’s Lives that compares the lives of various Greeks and Romans so that the Lives may have been a text at school. Especially as he says that while rereading it he discovered that Numa was the name of a Roman king while he thought he had invented the name for the Lion.
Also Arthurian references pop up in Chessmen. In 1912 when his editor Metcalf of Munsey’s asked him to write a medieval story that turned out to be the Outlaw Of Torn he claimed to have little knowledge of the period. Now, the Manatorian party leaving the city after Gahan entered is more reminiscent of Arthurian stories than Roman. The city of Manator itself also has a decidedly Camelot feel. The party’s subsequent return and capture of Tara and Ghek has more of the courtly flavor than the Roman. In 1928′s Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle ERB would create a medieval society of lost Crusaders deep in the heart of darkness. So while he claimed to know nothing of medieval themes in 1912 by this time he seems to have done some reading in the field.
In many ways Manator bears a great resemblance to Mythological, Graustarkian and Ruritanian stories that he did admire as a young man. Combining all those influences with the Oz of Baum we have Manator.
Thus in addition to Roman gladiatorial contests we also have a similarity to medieval battle melees where the favors of women were of paramount importance.
Here we have the great mock battles and actual battles to the death played out on a gigantic Jetan board. Burroughs modifies the Earthly game of Chess to create a similar Martian game of Jetan complicated by the grotesque addition of battles to the death between the live ‘pieces.’ Indeed as is explained there had been games recorded in which the only survivors were the the two female prizes and one of the Jeds. Once again mimicking Arthurian literature ERB describes sword blows that cleave the opponent through the brain pan down to the breast bone. ERB seems to delight in the most violent and gruesome details. And lots of them.
A-Kor, his cellmate, fills Gahan in on what he must do to enter the games conveniently giving the latter enough money to bribe his team, get this, while returning the remainder to his purse.
The strategy is all very probable. The number of slaves from Gathol in Manator is enormous so Gahan has no difficulty in enrolling a team of Gatholians who will be fighting for their freedom. Gahan is famiiar with Jetan as played elsewhere on Mars on a board so he has no difficulty with strategy. The main change in strategy is that when a piece captures another the pieces then draw swords and fight to the finish. Thus a piece can successfully evade capture negating strategy.
Relying on the prowess of his men and his own incomparable swordsmanship Gahan then makes a drive directly for the opposing Jed, U-Dor.
Can it be a coincidence that he who stands between himself and Tara is a man called U-Dor (door)? Considering the important roles doors play in these stories it would seem that U-Dor is one more door he must hack his way through to get to his objective.
The only other work I’ve seen where doors were so important was the old TV show, The Mod Squad. In that TV series doors of every description were constantly being slammed; not just closed but slammed. I haven’t quite figured out ERB’s obsession with doors as yet.
While Chess and one imagines Jetan are supreme games of strategy Gahan seemingly abandons the fine points and gamesmanship and makes a drive straight for U-Dor. ERB says he was a good Chess player while I have never played to perhaps the moves he describes are possible especially as any move is good or bad depending on which player is the better swordsman. Gahan is the best so he experiences no difficulty in reaching U-Dor who he cuts down.
Tara and he are seemingly reunited. But while Tara thought she killed I-Gos he was only wounded. Present at the games he denounces Gahan and Tara who flee as aforesaid to the pits. Then begins the spectacular double climax; that of Gahan/ERB’s triumph over John the Bully/O-Tar and the subsequent triumph of Gahan/ERB over Frank Martin/O-Tar.
To a large extent Chessmen is an examination of ancestor worship. Certainly the Taxidermist of Mars preserved ancestors going back at least five thousand years to the reign of O-Mai. ERB explains Gahan’s and perhaps his own ideas on the significance of ancestors.
Gahan, a man of culure and high intelligence held few if any superstitions. In common with nearly all races of Barsoom he clung more or less inherently, to a certain exalted form of ancestor worship, though it was rather the memory of legends of the virtues and heroic deeds of his forefathers that he deified rather than themselves. He never expected any tangible evidence of their existence after death; he did not believe that they had the power either for good or for evil other than the effect that their example while living might have had on following generations; he did not believe therefore in the materialization of dead spirits. If there was a life hereafter he knew nothing of it, for he knew that science had demonstrated the natural phenomenon of ancient religions and superstitions.
The above is probably as close to a confession of faith as ERB is going to give. It is certainly one that I can accept for myself. The above may also be a reference to spiritual seances in which dead ancestors supposedly spoke through mediums. Harry Houdini was debunking such seances around this time much to the chargrinof ERB’s literary hero, Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame, who did believe is such ancestral contacts.
There may be a joke in that case when Gahan arose from O-Mai’s bed ululuing and putting the fear of God into O-Tar exposing him as a coward.
Having thus disposed of O-Tar/John ERB turns to debunking O-Tar/Martin.
When Gahan was playing his joke on O-Tar I-Gos stole Tara away. He delivers her to O-Tar who is so smitten that he decides that he will marry her and take his chances with this she-banth.
O-Tar immurs Tara in a tower not unlike the story of Rapunzel. Her location is pointed out to Gahan who then makes a perilous climb of the tower in order to tell her that no matter what it looks like on the morrow’s wedding date he will rescue her and she is not to commit suicide.
While talking to her through the grated window a eunuch sleeping at the foot of the bed awakes moving toward him sword in hand. Tara instead of shrinking back removes her little blade from her harness running the eunuch through the heart.
There must be significance to this scene as ERB is retelling the story of both John and Martin. If Emma was with ERB on the corner and abandoned him to his fate by walking on it would appear that ERB never forgave her while having Anima trouble ever after. Here he rectifies the situation by having Tara come to his defense acting with a both a blade and heart of steel. Thus not only has his Animus surrogate Gahan proved John/O-Tar to be the coward but Tara the Anima figure defends Gahan/ERB from a similar attack by John absolving his Anima.
We now go to the wedding. Of course, having read the book several times in my case we know the story so I will just follow it. In the book John Carter tells ERB the details after the fact.
I-Gos has allied himself with Tara and Gahan against O-Tar. Before the wedding O-Tar retires to the Hall of Ancestors to commune with the dead. I-Gos has let Gahan into the hall where he sits as though stuffed on a stuffed Thoat. When O-Tar pauses beside him Gahan falls on him striking him on the forehead with the butt of a heavy spear.
Thus we establish that at this point O-Tar has become Frank Martin. Just as Gahan/ERB proved O-Tar a coward by merely rising in O’Mai’s bed and making weird noises so now he reverses the situation in Toronto. Instead of ERB being struck on the forehead Gahan/ERB strikes O-Tar/Martin in the same place leaving him for dead.
Now, this is strange. Donning O-Tar’s Golden Mask Gahan goes foth in O-Tar’s guise to marry Tara. The Golden Mask undoubtedly refers to Martin’s money bags to which ERB undoubtedly attributes whatever success Martin had with Emma. Why Gahan/ERB wore O-Tar’s mask is fairly clear but why ERB would have isn’t. Also if O-Tar hadn’t recovered from the blow Gahan would have been married to Tara in O-Tar’s name.
Perhaps ERB in a reversal means to imply that Emma would actually have been marrying him but won by Martin’s ‘golden mask.’ By the process of reversal then ERB would have recovered and stolen Emma from Martin on the altar so to speak. Or, as he actually did.
The symbolism of the golden handcuffs then would mean that the proposed wedding of Emma and Martin would have a mere commercial transaction. Or, perhaps, he felt himself attached to Emma for financial reasons when he’d rather not be. Complications, complications.
While the two antogonists Gahan and O-Tar are staring each other down the ‘cavalry’ Gahan sent for has arrived. Carter and troops from Helium, Gathol and Manatos arrive to end the story.
O-Tar himself then falls on his sword like a true Roman thus redeeming his miserable life. Perhaps ERB is saying that that is what Martin should have done- left the couple alone rather than constantly interfering.
If as Sigmund Freud argued dreams are based on wish fulfillment the Chessmen of Mars proves his case. In this series of dreams or nightmares ERB attempts to reverse the results of the three greatest disasters of his life.
John the Bully and Frank Martin are a matter of history. That ERB links his fiancial disaster with these two earlier disasters indicates that he knows he has crossed the line in his mistaken purchase of the Otis estate. He knows that he as no way out as he has the ‘cavalry’, John Carter and the united forces of Helium, Gathol and Manatos come to the rescue. In the final denouement of this error in 1934′s Tarzan And The Lion Man even the cavalry can’t help. Tarzan/ERB leaves the burning castle of God a defeated man.
His great dream of getting back to the land and becoming a Gentleman Farmer has crashed to the ground. His attachment to his fantasy can be traced in his letters with Herb Weston. Weston warned him as strongly as friendship would allow that it would be a mistaken approach to farming in any other way than on a factory basis with profit firmly in mind. ERB chose to ignore this sound advice probably believing that between books, magazines and movies his future was golden.
Unfortunately for himself his income crested in this very year, 1921. Undoubtedly because of his strong anti-Communist stance and his resistance to the Semitism being imposed on him his sources of income came under attack. Nineteen twenty-two was the last year he received income from movies until 1927-28. Publishing difficulties with McClurg’s and G&D increased. His long time publisher, McClurg’s, even refused outrightly to publish his opus of 1924, Marcia Of The Doorstep.
His foreign royalties once so promising slowly dried up because of political pressures. Later in the decade his troubles with McClurg’s became so intense that he was forced to abandon that long standing relationship. No other major publisher would touch him. Why, will probably never be clear. After a tentative stab with a less established publisher he turned to forming his own publishing company. This move was apparently successful enough to float him through the early part of the thirties before the spring of his inspiration began to dry up.
In a desperate attempt to save Tarzan he attempted many expedients, none successful. He incorporated himself to protect his income from creditors. He subdivided a portion of Tarzana, he attempted to sell off acreage, he tried to turn part of the estate into an exclusive golf club, he turned part into a movie lot attempted to lease that out, he invited oil geologists to find oil on his land. He invested in airplace engines and airports. Nothing came of anything. In the end the magnificent estate slipped through his hands.
A premonition of all this can be found in the The Chessmen Of Mars. Even the name of the story indicates the he is involved in a chesslike game of many moves.
Stress was now to be ERB’s other name.
A world famous figure, nominally rich, still retaining many of the trappings of wealth he had gone from prince to pauper, regained his princely stature and now slipped back to the role of a prince in exile from the Promised Land.
Nothing daunted he went on working. In the end his magnificent intellectual property, Tarzan Of The Apes, would always save him from a fate worse than death. A form of wish fulfillment in itself, I guess.
February 10, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
The Taxidermist Of Mars Part 2
To return to the arrival of Gahan, Tara and Ghek at Manator. The three have been drifting before the wind for days as they have no propeller to move them. Tara is in dire straits badly needing water and food. Landing some disntace from Mantor Gahan decides to enter the city in search of food and water. He is espied on his approach and a trap set.
I am assuming that Manator represents LA and Burroughs is decribing his arrival there in 1919.
Porges was the ERB trailblazer while to my knowledge he is the only researcher allowed in the archives to this date. Robert Barrett seems to have had a close relationship with Danton Burroughs, ERB’s grandson, and Danton released snippets to him from time to time but there is no evidence in Barrett’s wrtings in the Burroughs Bulletin that he has spent any time in the archives.
Not even Bill Hillman who has done so much for Danton and ERB, Inc. has been allowed to work int he archives. Danton promised HIllman documentation for some time but never found the time to send it. I once talked to Danton by phone and he indicated he was withholding access for ‘effect.’ I didn’t ask what effect. He did release a valuable snippet to me though. So, to a very large extent one is forced to combine Porges’ seminal but fairly meager information with what was happening in Burroughs’ life as reflected in his novels.
One of the areas that have troubled me is the relationship of ERB’s rival with Emma, Frank Martin, both before and after their marriage.
Martin was disgusted with Burroughs who he thought, correctly I believe, didn’t actually want Emma but didn’t want anyone else to have her either. I think it probable that ERB wanted to keep Emma on the shelf indefinitely as the result of the confrontation with John the Bully.
Driven to desperate measures Martin drew ERB to New York on his father’s private rail car and attempted to have him murdered in Toronto.
That attempt failed. ERB in defiance married Emma against her family’s wishes a few months after the attack. Now, what was Frank Martin’s reaction to the wedding? Did he resign himself to the reality or did he interfere in the marriage any way he could?
We have a couple facts that indicate that at the very least he kept an eye on the couple. Hard facts. Martin’s associate or stooge was a man called R.S. Patchin. He was on the trip to New York and present at the assassination attempt in Toronto. In 1934 aftr ERB divorced Emma Patchin showed up in LA and sought ERB out for what appears to be the first time since 1899. Did he just happen to be in town at that moment or was he acting as Frank Martin’s agent?
Before we answer that let us consider Patchin’s next appearance in ERB’s history.When ERB died in 1950 Patchin sent a condolence letter to the family specifically recalling ERB’s bashing in Toronto. That is why we have a good record of the event. Sometime between 1934 and 1950 Martin died so Patchin was operating on his own. In his note he reminded the family of the Toronto incident that might be considered as even gloating perhaps.
The interest of Martin and Patchin then appears to be malevolent. If Martin and Patchin appeared at one of these unpleasant occurrences then it follows that perhaps Martin was working against ERB’s interests from 1900 at the the time of the wedding on.
Martin may have driven ERB and Emma out of Chicago in 1903. In 1907 and ’08 when ERB impregnated Emma twice in close succession that may have been a defensive move against Martin. The angry ex-suitor very likely then continued his machinations behind the scenes after ERB’s literary success finally driving ERB from Chicago for good in 1919.
Now, Chicago was a movie making center before the rise of Hollywood. Many of the important movie people in LA originated in the Windy City. It is not improbable that the son of a railroad magnate who owned his own private rail car knew some of them. As starlets were starlets then as now it is not inconceivable that Martin spent time in LA part of each year. Thus, when ERB moved to LA which Martin would have known in advance it is conceivable that he planned his revenge. The trap was laid so innocuously that as in his entry into Mantor Gahan/ERB wasn’t aware of the trap until he was completely in its meshes with little chance of escape left.
That ERB was an impetuous lad given to snap decisions must have been known to anyone who observed him as closely as Martin must have. ERB left Chicago to seek twenty acres 0n which to raise his hogs. Instead he was shown the 540 acre estate of General Otis of the LA Times. As I understand it ERB did not seek the estate but that notice of it was brought to him. There was the bait. The bait was too attractive. ERB bought the estate and was hooked. The trap was sprung.
ERB went on a spending spree of magnificent proportions without realizing what the costs were and how vulnerable his income was. Now saddled with care he had to struggle to find time to keep up his writing. Publishing became more difficult for him while his movie revenues came to a halt in 1922, the year after Chessmen. Whether you look at it like the impetuous Burroughs, who acted first and thought later, merely mad a very bad decision or whether he was lured into buying the estate he either was trapped or trapped himself. Chessmen would indicate that he believed he had been trapped.
In any event he was moving with the big boys in LA according to the big guys’ rules. That is a very difficult transition to make. The big boys play rough.
Let us see how ERB portrays Gahan’s entry into Manator. His entry is noted by a sinister unknown figure from the walls. We never hear of this figure again. He just disappears from the story. Gahan’s entry into the city is unopposed. He merely enters the unguarded gate and begins walking down a street. There the three figures dogging him split up. The figure who spotted him follows him from a distance, another runs ahead so that Gahan is caught in the jaws of the vise. The third figure parallels him keeping him in sight.
When they wish him to enter a building the man ahead creates the sound of a patrol approaching from the front. A door stands conveniently open. Gahan ducks in. This door may represent his buying the Otis estate. As the patrol draws closer Gahan retreats around a corner into a hall. someone of the patrol enters the door forcing Gahan farther along the corridor. The figure retreats closing the door behind him. Gahan now finds the door locked. He is trapped in the corridor. He must go forward. Thus ERB having bought Tarzana has no choice but to live with his mistake.
He proceeds down the hall in this charade of doors that is part and parcel of ERB’s psyche. Gahan is directed on his way by being compelled to enter the only unlocked door. Finally he approaches a bank of doors all locked except door number 3 that is standing open. Yes, this scene was repeated in 1934′s Tarzan And The Lion Man but more of that later. Gahan enters hearing the door click shut leaving him absoltuely no exit. His course has been downward. He is now in the pits of Manator.
He is now directed to a room with a table parallel with the wall. He sits down. Gas is emitted from holes in the wall sedating Gahan. He passes out. How clever, Gahan ruminates when he comes to, I have been good and roundly caught and not a hand was laid on me. We too marvel at the masterful description of Gahan’s capture. In real life ERB is saddled with an estate too large for his income and spending habits and which is slowly consuming him. Thus when he awakes from the sedation he finds a giant ulsio, the Martian Rat knawing on his arm. One assumes that if Gahan hadn’t wakened when he did he might have had his limbs consumed. Had ERB just become aware of his predicament? Was the game now on?
Nicely done, great atmosphere and from we readers’ perspective a great story. But now let’s backtrack a little before we move on. This is really quite a story.
While the Jetan game is the most fascinating aspect of this novel for perhaps most people the game itself may be the game within the game, so to speak, the story within the story. The whole Manator story may be considered as a game of chess in which each episode is a move in the game. Remember in the framing story ERB had finished a game of chess with Shea. The Secretary turned in leaving ERB ruminating about his loss and blowing smoke at the head of his king- the head. As he does so John Carter walks in. He tells ERB, in the latter’s own persona, that Chess is similar to Jetan on Mars. So, smoking the head of his king very likely gave ERB the hint to construct the story along the lines of Chess. Thus the opening gambit, the first move is Gahan’s entry into the city countered by the mysterious figure who engineers his capture.
As ERB comtemplated how he had gotten into his Tarzana dilemma he may very well have compared his situation to a game of chess that must be played well if he were to extricate himself unharmed.
He has chosen to present his problem in the form of a dream. Because in dreams as he has a character in Fighting Man Of Mars say, you can’t get hurt.
In Gahan’s entry ERB creates a bizarre dream image of balconies full of people observing his progress but who seem oblivious of it. Soon we learn that I-Gos the taxidermist of Mars spends his life stuffing these dead people who populate this strange city. In dreams of course all the participants have no real life; like the dead past they have no volition.
Apparently this novel is activating dreams in me. The other night I dreamt I was walking down a boardwalk as in old Chicago with the crazy ups and downs. As I mounted a higher part of the boardwalk I was accosted by six thugs. As they were discussing what to do with me I was paralyzed with fear not unlike ERB before John the Bully. Then I said to myself: This is a dream and I can’t get hurt in a dream. So saying I grabbed the closest thug and threw him through a plate glass window. Turning quickly I grabbed a second thug and hoisted him over the railing. The remaining three, there must have been only five, were paralyzed in their turn. Then I grew bored and woke up.
So ERB in the same way is examining his dream world but tweaking it from his daytime consciousness. His real life is being interpreted through his symbolism.
That in 1921, the time he wrote this story, one knows that he was already in deep trouble is because in 1934 when he was already going through the trauma of battling MGM, the Communists, and divorcing Emma and marrying Florence he replicates his entry into Manator in his entry into London and the City Of God. The bit with the three doors, the third being open and clicking quietly shut behind him is an exact duplication of Tarzan And The Lion Man. In that novel he enters a prison where he finds his Anima ideal, Rhonda, already imprisoned. In this one he is chained beside A-Kor(rock spelled backwards). In Lion Man the strange creature is God; in this one the Taxidermist Of Mars. There is no reason not to believe ERB is going through some real stress.
When the effect of the gas dissipates, first he dispatches an ulsio, The Giant Rat Of Mars (echo of Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat Of Sumatra?) he notices that the table that had been parallel to the wall is now vertical to it. At the far end he notices the key to his manacles. Here he employs his classical education by recalling the story of Tantalus. In that story Tantalus was standing in water with fruit trees above him but could neither eat or drink because water and fruit receded before his grasp.
Thus the solution to ERB’s problem is frustratingly just beyond his grasp as he stretched out manacle biting into his ankle. I believe this image probably refers to his childhood fixation of John The Bully that he can’t quite consciously recall or resolve. Part of the story develops around the fixation in the form of Gahan’s contest with O-Tar the Jeddak. O-Tar represents John the Bully as well as Frank Martin.
In Gahan’s predicament then ERB represents his own psychological dilemma.
I will give another example from my own dreams. Several years ago I had this wonderful dream that I thought was so spectacular that I wrote it up as short story. Anyone interested can read it at reprindle.wordpress.com. It’s called The Hole In The Sky.
At the time I was struggling to resolve my own central childhood fixation. I thought an image my mind employed so amazing that it was the only literary image I had ever had that I thought was completely original. We’ll see.
In this dream my fixation appeared as a giant Gordian Knot three or four feet in diameter. There’s a real fixation for you. I hadn’t been able to unravel this knot so now Alexander like I was going to cut it. I had this giant pair of scissors so huge I could lean on the handles like a crutch. I could see the problem and had the tool in my hands to resolve it but I couldn’t manipulate the huge tool. Two guys offered to help so instead of of helping me with the scissors they picked up the knot with a rod running through it.
I didn’t recognize the two but they were obviously the ones who gave me the fixation not unlike ERB and John the Bully. They stood grinning mockingly at me holding up the fixation. I struggled with scissors then asked them for help. In response they laughed and shook the knot at me. I had to give up.
Just to show how the dreaming mind works I later discovered that the image that I thought was so original was based on a scene from a 1957 movie I’d seen. So twenty or twenty-five years later I duplicated a scene from The Incredible Shrinking Man in a dream. Richard Matheson who wrote the wonderful I, Legend also wrote the equally wonderful, Shrinking Man.
In the movie the Man had shrunk down to the size where a now giant spider was attacking him. He was about to fight the spider using a needle but he had to cut the thread with a now giant pair of children’s scissors. In attempting to manipulate them he knocked the needle over the edge of the table.
So there you have it. Just tell your story; don’t worry about being original; it can’t be done. So ERB employs Greek mythology to creat his image. I can’t say he was conscious of it anymore than I was in mine but so many of his details fermented in his mind for decades before they spilled out onto the paper.
Gahan sits back down in exasperation. then he notices the doors to his prison have been left open. No matter, he can’t leave chained to the wall. He marvels at the diabolical cleverness of his captors. They intend to totally frustrate him. So ERB in real life was caught in a trap where while not in a jail he was effectively imprisoned.
As Ghek at this point becomes mere foolery in the story I’m going to ignore his doings unless tangential.
To further the story A-Kor is arrested and chained next to Gahan. He provides Gahan with the information that will allow the latter to organize his Jetan team and bring the story to its denouement. In the meantime Gahan is brought from the pits to be interviewed by O-Tar along with Tara and Ghek who have been captured. There Ghek uses his hypnotic powers to allow Gahan and Tara to escape to the pits together. ERB uses a device that seems to have been a favorite. There is a curtain over an opening behind the throne they escape through. Opar has the same arrangement through which Tarzan and La emerge in, I believe, Tarzan The Invincible.
In the pits the couple encounter I-Gos who explains his grisly business and solves the mystery of the immobile viewers lining the streets. The scene then follows in which Gahan is locked in the storeroom at the very bottom of the pits of Manator or the equivalent of the brain stem.
Separated from Tara the interlude of the Jetan game occurs in which Tara was the prize for the winners of the game. I will deal with Tara and the game in Part 6. Tara and Gahan return to the pits. It does seem a bit strange that Tara never recognized Gahan in his panthan guise. But, there you have it, anything goes in a dream story.
The couple find their way to the quarters of O-Mai an ancient Jeddak who died five thousand years previously. His quarters are believed to be haunted so that in 5000 years they are the first to enter with the possible exception of I-Gos. Now, I’m not going to say that ERB ever read Isis Unveiled by Madame H.P. Blavatsky written in 1877 but consider this passage on page 560 of Vol. I:
…Tcharaka, a Hindu physician, who is said to have lived 5,000 years B.C., in his treatise on the origin of things, called Usa…
ERB also mentions something called usa. I thought perhaps it meant United States Of America which, indeed, it may double as but the singular connection of Usa and the 5,000 year old Tcharaka is singular. ERB was friends with L. Frank Baum and as David Adams points out Baum was into the occult which is clear from his writing so that he may very well have been familiar with Madame B and encouraged ERB to read Isis unveiled which is quite a book. I merely point out the coincidence.
It is here in this dismal past of truly ancient history that ERB chooses to attempt to resolve his fixation with John the Bully. In the character of O-Tar he has conflated John and Frank Martin so that in eliminating John he hopefully eliminates Martin at the same time. It would seem that these two psychological facts exist in his mind as closely related or in another word, one. At this crucial turn in his later life the fear caused by John and the imputation of cowardice ERB endured as a child that conrolled the nature of his response to problems has to be met if he is to successfully meet the challenges of Tarzana. That Frank Martin may be operating against his interests behind the scenes, he who followed behind Gahan as he entered Manator, is evident because ERB associates his marriage to Emma in this context. The figure who followed Gahan and disappears from the story now reappears in an aspect of O-Tar. In ERB’s mind both John and Frank would be rats. Thus we have both the cowadice issue in O-Mai’s quarters that prove John is a coward and Gahan/ERB isn’t and the marriage scene where Gahan in O-Tar’s disguise steals Tara/Emma away.
Gahan and Tara explore O-Mai’s quarters that are spooky enough. A group of warriors playing cards appear as lifelike just as I-Gos arranged them. Initially taken back Gahan slowly realizes that they are the work of the Great Taxidermist of Mars.
They discover the mummy of O-Mai lying on the floor where he died with his foot caught in the bedding. This is a terrific dream image. We know it is a dream because Tara and Gahan can see in the dark. In dreams yours eyes are closed hence you are in the dark but you can see clearly with an inner light whether deaming of sunlight or the pits.
I-Gos becomes aware that they are there. He informs O-Tar who sends his troops down to get them. The incredible legends associated with the place have them terrorized. Thus when they enter spotting the four warriors weird screams fill the chamber. Panicking they flee.
Now comes the crucial test of O-Tar/John. He ridicules his warriors who then challenge him to go. There’s no backing out so off he goes. He is given the treatment by Gahan swooning away for over an hour. He of course invents a story for his delay and returning empty handed which is proven false by I-Gos. Thus he is a self-convicted coward. In the way the mind works ERB would have exonerated himself of the charge if this had been real life. As it wasn’t we can only guess how effective it was.
While Gahan was concentrating on O-Tar in O-Mai’s quarters I-Gos spirited Tara awaypresenting her to O-Tar/Martin who becomes enamored of her. She haughtily rejects him so offending him that he makes her the prize of the Jetan game to be shared by the whole winning team. Gets worse and worse.
Now comes the piece de resistance of the story; the part everyone concentrates on. That’s in Part 6.