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.
October 25, 2011
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Themes And Variations
#16 TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD MEN
While Tarzan And The Leopard Men is not well thought of by Bibliophiles being considered the worst of the series, I can’t find any reason to believe this. I couldn’t place it in the top five but the book is on a general par with the rest of the series, perhaps a little better.
I think the problem arises because it is thought to portray the African in a negative light. As with the Mafia there are those who deny the Leopard cult because it is offensive to their sensibilities. They prefer to see the African as a ‘noble savage.’ I have no problem with this attitude but I prefer historical accuracy to anything I might wish to believe.
The existence of the Leopard cult in no way diminishes the character of the African. Secret societies are part of every culture in this multi-cultural world. Many of them are murderous. The Assasins of Hasani Sabah of Persia are a notorious example. The Illuminati who were responsible for the worst atrocities of the French Revolution are another. The Freemasons who while perhaps not so violent function, have functioned and do function as a secret brotherhood who help each other against society. The Mafia and Organized Crime in general are secret societies on a par with Leopard Men. During the thirties Lepke Buchalter ran the infamous Murder, Inc. So I see no reason to lower one’s opinion of the book because it may seem to certain sensibilities, by no means shared by all, to disparage the Negro. The events in the Congo after independence and the events in Shonaland happening now are so horrific they make the Leopard Men seem like novices.
The book Tarzan And The Leopard Men was written over July-September of 1931; a trifle of a rush job even for a fast writer like Burroughs. The story was published in Blue Book from Auguast 1932 to January 1933. Book publication was delayed until 1936 so there may have been some editing to reflect personal events over that period.
As the novel shows a rather direct influence from both the book and movie of Trader Horn Burroughs may have received some criticism from the magazine publication hence delaying book publication until time had dimmed the memory.
When Burroughs formed his publishing company he had expected to write a Tarzan novel a year. That schedule would have been adhered to except for this novel that was interjected into the series out of order of its writing.
The cause of the disturbance is very easy to find. In February of 1931 MGM released it great African epic Trader Horn. According to the ERBzine Bio Timeline for the 1930s, on February 23 ERB and Emma drove into Hollywood to catch the show. So we do know exactly when he saw the movie, or, at least, the first half of it. At intermission Emma remembered that they were to babysit for daughter Joan drawing her husband from the theatre. I’m sure ERB steamed over that for more than a day.
At that date he was in the midst of writing Tarzan Triumphant but Trader Horn aroused him so much that he began to plan a rejoinder. After completing Triumphant in May he conceived Leopard Men and rushed it through. Perhaps ERB thought Horn infringed on the Big Bwana’s African domain as Leopard Men is a virtual reformulation of Horn using elements from both the book and movie. Of course ERB ‘adapted’ Horn for his own needs. Trader Horn was to be an influence on the rest of the series.
Trader Horn as a book first appeared in 1927. It was a non-fiction best seller in both ’27 and ’28, in the top five for both years, a tremendous success. That alone might have aroused ERB’s jealousy. Whether he read the book between its issue date and his viewing of the movie isn’t known but that he had read it by the time he wrote Leopard Men is clear. The title does not appear in his library although Director W.S. Van Dyke’s 1931 story of the African filming, Horning Into Africa, does. ERB undoubtedly used Van Dyke’s book as background for his 1933 effort, Tarzan And The Lion Man.
Don’t look for a copy of Van Dyke in your library; the book was privately printed and distributed. Copies are available on the internet but at collector prices of from one to several hundreds of dollars. Thus it will readily be seen how large a space Trader Horn formed in ERB’s consciousness.
I’m sure that when Emma dragged him from the theatre to babysit, ERB had no idea how influential Trader Horn was going to be in his life. For at least three years his career centered around it. In 1931 he saw the movie, possibly read the book for the first time and wrote Leopard Men. In ’31 the contract with MGM surrendering the rights to the portrayal of his Tarzan characters was signed. Then Van Dyke and Hume fashioned Tarzan, The Ape Man after Trader Horn. Tarzan, The Ape Man was a major success changing the public’s understanding of the character of Tarzan from a literate cosmopolite to feral child. In answer Burroughs wrote a parody of Van Dyke’s African filming of Trader Horn. When the screen Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, gave up the role in the late forties he put on some clothes and became Jungle Jim who might very well have been modeled on Trader Horn. Perhaps an inside joke.
Trader Horn and Ethelreda Lewis
At the time Alfred Aloysius ‘Wish’ Smith otherwise known as Trader Horn told his story to the woman who wrote it up and got it published, Ethelreda Lewis, he was a seventy year old derelict living in a doss house in Johannesburg, South Africa. Etheldreda Lewis was a well-known South African novelist.
Horn made his meager living by making wire gridirons and selling them door to door. He had developed a sad sack routine meant to induce housewives to buy his gridirons out pity. It worked with Mrs. Lewis.
She engaged him in conversation. As a novelist she realized he had a story to tell, she encouraged him to do so. Horn wrote up a chapter a week bringing it to her on Mondays. As she treated him respectfully offering him tea and cakes and a last chance at self-respect before he peeled off for the other side of the river he managed to prolong his story over twenty-six chapters and one presumes as many weeks of tea and cakes. Trader Horn the book is indicated to be Vol. I. There is a volume two telling of his other adventures. Vol. I is currently in print for 16.95, probably less on Amazon. Highly recommended.
In addition to Horn’s story Mrs. Lewis also recorded their weekly conversation which she appends to each chapter. Horn makes some very interesting and timely observations, a little sad but on the knowing side. I’m sure ERB was sympathetic as Horn confirmed his own beliefs. Altogether a very interesting and entertaining book which should have been a best seller not only for two years but more.
Horn’s experiences were so wonderful that naturally the question has arisen as to how accurate his recollections may be. I have read a number of vulgar opinions stating that Mr. Horn was a liar. I take offense at such an assertion. The man was relating his life. He may possibly have gotten a few details wrong but, as they say in Hollywood, his life was based on a true story.
I have read the book five times now within the last four years. My opinion as to Horn’s veracity is this. He very much wants to please and prolong a pleasant interlude to a rather grim life at the time. He had read a number of books including Burroughs and Du Chaillu. He claims to have known the French explorer De Brazza. He was an educated, intelligent and experienced man. He had apparently always had literary leanings.
Everyone has to be somewhere every moment of their lives and I have no doubt that Horn was on the Ogowe River in Gabon at the time he says he was. As a reader I hope I can perceive the ring of authenticity in a man’s reminiscences . Also I have been around myself enough to have seen some things, even seen some repeatedly, for which I get looks of incredulity, so just because I haven’t seen some things doesn’t mean they aren’t true. I reserve the right to question them to myself but stranger things have happened than I’ve ever seen.
While Horn is telling his own story I think he tries to make a good story better combining fiction with a factual tale. One questions his story of the White Goddess, Nina T. That story just doesn’t ring true. It seems like he borrows a little from ERB. Nina T. has been the Egbo goddess since the age of four, five or six being now in her twenties. She was the daughter of an English trader George T. who died when amongst the Blacks. They then appropriated her to groom as their White Goddess.
While Horn is plotting to spirit her away he has to communicate with her in writing, one imagines cursive. He has to explain how she can read, write and understand English. Nina T. and Tarzan should have gotten together. Horn explains that before George T. died he taught the very young Nina how to read and write using a picture alphabet book. Over the intervening twenty years or so Nina never forgot, itself a great feat of memory. Not quite as amazing an accomplishment as Tarzan teaching himself to read and write from possibly the identical picture alphabet book but still very impressive.
The natives also have a giant ruby as a fetish that Horn says he lifted by having a replica made solely from a description he sent to his friend Peru. As he was the first White man to be initiated into Egbo such a betrayal of his oath doesn’t speak well for his integrity or trustworthiness.
Thus, while I don’t have any trouble believing his trading and hunting adventures I have to conclude that as Burroughs would say, he was ‘fictionizing’ the rest. Nevertheless it makes a good story and if relating it made him feel good so much the better. No reason to call him a liar and his story lies.
One has conflicting reports on his subsequent life. On one hand there is a story he lived well off the proceeds of the book in England. When he was about to die the story goes that he said: Where’s me passport, boys, I’m off to Africa. Famous last words, indeed. On the other hand it is said that he died in 1927 in SA before he received the fruits of his labor. I would like to think he lived long enough to see a version of his story on the silver screen. If he had one imagines he would have been brought to Hollywood for the premier. He wasn’t.
So, whichever way he went, a tip of the hat for you Trader Horn.
Horn, Van Dyke, Hume and Burroughs
Had ERB known of Trader Horn in far off South Africa turning in his weekly installments to Mrs. Lewis I doubt if he would have realized how large a part Horn’s story was to play in his own life.
When the book was published and became a bestseller, something which Burroughs must have heard of, there must have been a glimmer of interest but still no recognition of Horn’s future impact on his life. When he saw Van Dyke’s movie he was duly impressed and was influenced but still probably had no idea of what loomed ahead.
By 1932′s MGM movie, Tarzan, The Ape Man, he had begun to realize the significance of Trader Horn to his own life. When he sat down to write Tarzan And The Lion Man the Old Campaigner was aware. While no copy of Trader Horn found its way into his library we know for certain he read it. A book that did find its way into his library was W.S. Van Dyke’s account of the filming of Trader Horn, Horning Into Africa of 1931. This book was used as the basis for Tarzan And The Lion Man.
It seems certain that Van Dyke read Trader Horn shortly after issue. By 1929 as the book was moving down the charts Van Dyke, a cast of many and several tens of tons of equipment were moving to Africa to form a safari to end all safaris. Not since Henry Morton Stanley in his quest for Livingstone had Africa seen such a spectacle.
Trader Horn was the first entertainment film shot on location in Africa. All the footage was authentic except those scenes shot on lot in Hollywood. I’m learning to talk Hollywood…all, except. The movie was a mind blower when it hit the theatres being one of the biggest grossers of all time. Burroughs saw it, picked up his pen, dictaphone or whatever, and following the script and book closely dashed off Tarzan And The Leopard Men leaving out the bit about the music box. Let’s compare the three versions of Trader Horn.
In the book Horn is the central character. He is a young man of seventeen or eighteen who has run away from school. Peru, his schoolhood chum, does not enter the story until the very end. His faithful Black companion, Renchoro, plays a very secondary auxliary role.
In the movie Horn is a grizzled Old Africa Hand tutoring his young pal, Peru. In the opening scene they are sitting around the campfire before setting out for the interior.
Burroughs follows the movie in having Old Timer teaming up with his young pal, The Kid. Even though the character of Old Timer seems to be based on a man of Burroughs’ age it is explained that he is under thirty while the Kid is twenty-two. Maybe ERB looked old but felt young.
In Horn Nina T. is a dark haired beauty the daughter of an Englishman George T. and an octaroon which means Nina is one sixteenth Negro but not so’s you could tell. She is literate, after a fashion, being able to read Horn’s handwritten notes in English. Horn buys her European clothes which she wears while yet a goddess.
In the movie Nina is a real primitive with the brain of an ape. Burroughs may have been thinking of her when he created Balza of Lion Man. She is astonishingly well played by Edwina Booth who has a mane of blond hair that would have gained her entrance as the queen of the Hippies in the sixties. A very exciting appearance. Just as Van Dyke and Hume made Tarzan an illiterate they show no favors to Nina. She couldn’t have begun the the alphabet let alone recite it.
In the book her mother died before her father. In the movie Horn and Peru encounter her mother walking through the jungle in search of a daughter lost twenty years previously. I laughed. I wouldn’t know if anyone else did as I was watching alone in front of my TV. By the way the VHS I was fortunate enough to buy new for twenty dollars, now out of print, is advertised on Amazon for up to one hundred seventy-five dollars. What a strange world. I hope they issue it on DVD. Maybe this essay will spur enough interest.
Horn coyly refused to give Nina’s last name as she is an heiress to the T. fortune which had been claimed long before. The movie boldly proclaims her as Nina Trent.
As Burroughs tells it, the future White Goddess is known as Kali Bwana, a name the natives gave to her. Her real name is Jessie Jerome. Her brother is Jerome Jerome. This is probably a coy reference to the English writer Jerome K. Jerome whose classic Three Men In A Boat was in ERB’s library as well as Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow. Three Men is supposed to be one of the most comic books in the English language. If so, it was too subtle or too broad for this reader. I didn’t find it amusing. ERB must have liked it. Jerry Jerome covers the Jerome Jerome parts of the name while the K of Kid provides the middle initial. Jerome K. Jerome.
The names are conceald from us until the very end of the book so there must be a haw haw there for the knowing reader. ERB calls Jerome Jerry never calling him Jerome Jerome.
Kali Bwana or Jessie Jerome is ‘what is known as a platinum blonde.’ So the goddess has gone from dark hair to the blondest. Jean Harlow had starred in Howard Hughes 1930 production of Hell’s Angels making her the Blonde Bombshell of Htown so ERB was duly impressed.
In the book Horn was a bright young man, in the movie, an old African hand. In Burroughs although ‘not yet thirty’ he is an Old Timer, a bum because of what a woman done to him. Since Kali Bwana/Florence redeems his attitude toward women we are free to assume that Emma was the woman what done it to ERB.
Kali Bwana is deserted in the jungle by her safari because she refuses to submit to the embraces of her Negro headman. Old Timer discovers her camp where she tells him she is looking for her brother Jerry Jerome, in yet another parody of Stanley and Livingstone. Old Timer and the Kid have never asked each other’s names so Old Timer has never heard of Jerry Jerome, even though he is Old Timer’s partner. Thus the rest of the story need never have happened had they known each other’s names. ERB likes this sort of thing, using it often.
Old Timer puts Kali Bwana under his protection which proves ineffective against the Leopard Men who seize her and carry her away to their Josh house to be their goddess.
In the book Renchoro is merely an associate of Horn. In the movie Renchoro becomes virtually a romantic interest of Horn. Several scenes are tinged with homosexual overtones, especially Renchoro’s death scene while when Peru and Nina T. board the paddle wheeler for the return to civilization and Horn remains behind a big balloon containing a picture of Renchoro appears as a hearthrob for Horn. Horn returns to the jungle presumably to find a substitute for Renchoro. Interesting comment on the Black-White relationship.
In the Burroughs’ story the Black-White relationship is removed to one between Tarzan and Orando. Tarzan has a tree fall on his head as the story opens not unsurprisingly giving him another case of amnesia. Orando happens along. He is about to put an arrow through the Big Bwana when Tarzan speaks to him in his own dialect. A handy thing to not only know every dialect in Africa, human and animal, but to know when to employ the appropriate one. Probably has something to do with a refined sense of smell.
Speaking of ape languages, Spain is about to vote on a measure giving apes human status in the country. So not only is the human species to be counted politically in Spain but leaping the Last Hominid Predecessor, an entirely different evolutionary strain is to be accounted human. It will be interesting to see how the Spanish ape population votes.
Orando then mistakes Tarzan for Muzimo or his guardian spirit. Thus for most of the book the relationship between Muzimo and Orando is that of the movie between Horn and Renchoro. And also between God and Human.
Horn traded on the Ogowe River in Gabon. Much of his story concerns his navigation of the Ogowe and its tributaries. Unlike every other African explorer I have read Horn makes Africa seem a wonderland. Every other writer makes Africa dark and forboding with piles of human skulls laying around, walkways lined with skulls. Horn’s Africans are laughing back slappers who are merry even as they are shooting and killing each other. The rain forest along the Congo depresses all other explorers but Horn finds the Ogowe otherwise. The skulls are still there but Horn apparently finds them amusing. The river Horn navigates unlike those of Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness or Stanley’s Through The Dark Continent and In Darkest Africa is a bright cheery place. Maybe it’s all a state of mind.
Van Dyke has only one river and that does not play a central role while it is on the dark side, a river of death. It is also the Nile in East Africa. Most of the movie takes place on terra firma.
Burroughs makes the rivers central to his story but they are dark, violent rivers of death. ERB borrows more heavily from Stanley on this score than he does from Horn. Actually, if one is looking for similarities there is some resemblance of Horn’s story to the Beasts Of Tarzan, but the latter is based on Edgar Wallace’s Sanders Of The River. We don’t know what of Burroughs Horn read; it is quite possible that he read a few of the six or seven Tarzans available in his time.
Horn has the Egbo fraternity practicing their rites in a long building quite similar to that employed in Burroughs’ Cave Girl of 1913. Horn would have had to have read that in magazine form which is possible but seems a stretch.
Van Dyke has his rites practiced in the open. Horn originates the idea of crucifying the victims upside down so that when the head is cut off the blood drains into a pot for ritual uses. Van Dyke includes an upside down crucifixion but leaves out the more grisly details.
Burroughs dispenses with the crucifixion scene entirely relying on his often used cannibalism. This may be one of the reasons the book is disliked. In the sixties the traditional cannibal cooking pot was derided as a false stereotype of the African. It was denied that cannibalism had ever been practiced in Africa. Black musical groups in the US like Cannibal And The Headhunters ridiculed the facts. Thus imputing cannibalism to Africa became bad taste. Perhaps when Leopard Men was reprinted in 1964 its heavy reliance on such rituals prejudiced a certain mental outlook against it so the story was derided as the worst of Burroughs novels. While very dark and even gruesome the story isn’t noticeably inferior to any of the others.
In the book Horn is not only on good terms with the various tribes but he was the first White man initiated into the Egbo society. Egbo is at its most innocent a sort of Freemasonic society and at its worst on a par with the Leopard Men. Horn describes Egbo as a sort of vigilante society who do in anyone any member has a grievance against. Neither Egbo nor Leopard Men figure into Van Dyke’s movie. As I understand it , Nina T.’s people merely practice savage primitive rites.
Burroughs who has moved his story from the Ogowe of Gabon to the Aruwimi of the Ituri Rain Forest with which he was familair from Stanley’s account in his In Darkest Africa relates the Leopard cult that was notorious at the time. Horn does have a lot of leopards in his story giving a detailed description of how their talons leave cuts looking like they were sliced by knives. His natives wear a lot of leopard skins. There isn’t much on Egbo available on the internet except a notice that it originated on the Calabar Coast which, if I’m not mistaken is where the Leopard cult comes from.
Fellow Bibliophile David Adams gives a good short account of the Leopard Men.
Burroughs undoubtedly had sources so that his presentation is based on facts of the Leopard Men but adapted for his own purposes. Thus he makes the Leopard Men the central idea of the story. Tarzan becomes involved with the Leopard Men through his role as the Muzimo of Orando. As an ally of Orando’s Utenga people Tarzan engineers the destruction of the Leopard Men’s village and cult in that part of his domain.
In Horn’s book as a member of Egbo he is familiar with the Negroes, a member of the cult and has full access to the ldge and, in fact, Nina T. He has no difficulty in rescuing her whatever. He had just previously defeated the Egbo chief in battle so that worthy was thoroughly cowed refusing to even give chase.
In Van Dyke’s movie Horn and Peru wander into an African Chief’s village attempting to trade. The chief is uninterested in trading seizing them as victims for his sacrifical rites.
Horn and and Peru as trade goods offer the chief a music box that the chief scorns. In the book the music box is known as Du Chaillu’s Music Box. At some earlier time Du Chaillu while researching gorillas had left a music box and compass behind that enthralled the Africans. Peru shows up with another that they leave behind, presumably in payment for the monster ruby.
Van Dyke apparently thought the music box ridiculous while Burroughs doesn’t use it at all although he does follow the movie scene with the African chief closely.
In his version the Old Timer in pursuit of Kali Bwana learns that she was abducted by Gato Mgungu and taken to his village. Gato means cat so perhaps the name has some reference to leopards. Gato Mgungu is chief of the Leopard Men. Old Timer who has traded with Mgungu before barges into his village alone demanding he release Kali Bwana. In the movie the chief is a tall, extremely well built, handsome fellow. Quite astonishing actually, while Burroughs gives Mgungu a huge pot belly. Old Timer is given as short a shrift as the movie Horn. He is seized, dumped in a canoe and taken down river to the Leopard Men’s lodge also, as in the movie, destined for the stew pot.
In the book Horn and Nina T. are well acquainted. She trusts him and is eager to be rescued. They easily escape down river in Horn’s boat. In the movie Horn and Peru are shown o Nina T. who falls in love with Peru. Somehow an escape plan is concocted that she more or less leads. They are hotly pursued by her people. The band finds its way to the trading post on the river although Renchoro is killed.
Burroughs has Kali Bwana taken to the lodge where with titillating details involving gorgeous nudity she is prepared to serve as chief goddess of the Leopard King who is a real leopard along the lines of the various lion kings of Burrough’s stories.
Old Timer is held captive among the crowd of Leopard Men gathered for the rites. As Kali Bwana is led out they both recognize each other and gasp. Unknown to everyone the Big Bwana is up in the rafters observing everything. From then on he becomes the agent of deliverance.
In the book Nina T. having been rescued, Horn provides the happiest of endings. Horn and Peru have only one goddess between them. She must go to one or the other. The happy-go-lucky goddess is willing to take either the one or the other so they flip a coin for her. The outcome is obvious since Horn didn’t marry her. Peru wins the toss and gets the goddess. Peru is the son of the owner of one of the richest silver mines in the world in his namesake Peru. He has just come of age so he is one Porfirio Rubirosa. Nina T. has left the jungle to fall into unimaginable wealth. As I see her as nearly a feral child I do not envy Peru.
The two are married aboard ship by the captain then after a pleasant interlude in Madeira Peru and Nina go their way while Trader Horn and his ruby go another. Horn sells his ruby to Tiffany’s from whom he does quite well. The stone while large has flaws so he didn’t do was well as he might have.
In this volume at least Horn doesn’t mention ever hearing from Peru and Nina T. again. He may mention them in volume two but I haven’t read it.
In the movie with Nina’s tribesmen hot on their trail Nina and Peru go off in one direction while Horn and Renchoro lead the tribesmen on a wild goose chase. Renchoro is killed but Horn makes it back to the trading post. Peru and Nina are now an item. She has either quickly picked up enough English to understand a proposal and say yes or she just likes the color of Peru’s eyes. They offer to take Horn with them but that balloon of Renchoro pops up with the implication that Horn can find himself another African ‘boy’, which he seems to prefer. The paddlewheeler steams down the river with Nina and Peru while Horn turns back toward the jungle presumably in search of another ‘boy.’
Burroughs version is much more involved. Suffice it to say that after many tribulations the French army shows up to suppress the remnants of the Leopard Men who were destroyed by Tarzan and the Utengas. Jerome K. Jerome locates Old Timer and the goddess Kali Bwana. The latter two have been reconciled and now are in love with each other. When Old Timer learns that her real name is Jessie Jerome he fears the worst.
In one of Buroughs, name games Kali Bwana had refused to give him her real name insisting he should call her Kali. Old Timer refused to give his last name but confessed to being named Hiram. Perhaps his last name was Walker. Kali could him ‘Hi.’ Just as there is a joke in the Kid being Jerome K. Jerome there is probably a joke in Old Timer being called Hi.
I refer you to Lewish Carroll’s Hunting Of The Snark:
There was one who was famed for the number of things
He forgot when he entered the ship- but the worst of it was
He had wholly forgotten his name.
He would answer to “Hi!” or any loud cry,
Such as “Fry me!” or
Fritter My Wig!”
There is a copy of The Hunting Of The Snark in ERB’s library so he must have read and reread the poem, as well as, one might note, The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam, so I think telling Kali Bwana she could call him Hi or any old thing is another of his literary jokes which are sprinkled throughout the novels.
Old Timer is overjoyed when he learns that Jerry and Jessie are brother and sister instead of husband and wife. As they are about to board the old paddle-wheeler, as in the movie, Jessie asks Old Timer to come with her. (Old Timer plays coy.)
The sun was sinking behind the western forest, the light playing on the surging current of the great river that rolled past the village of Bobolo. A man and a woman stood looking out across the water that plunged westward on its long journey to the sea, down to the trading posts and the towns and the ships, which are the frail links that connect the dark forest with civilization.
“Tomorrow you will start,” said the man. “In six or eight weeks you will be home. Home!” There was a world of wistfulness inn the simple, homely word. He sighed, “I am so glad for both of you.”
She came closer to him and stood directly in front of him, looking straight into his eyes. “You are coming with us,” she said.
“What makes you think so?” he asked.
“Because I love you, you will come.”
It can be plainly seen how all three versions of this scene are related while being derived from the original of the novel. As Burroughs adapted the movie version of the relationship between Horn and Peru he followed the movie ending.
Thus the novel and movie reoriented his own approach to Tarzan novels. The relationship of the three stories has literary repercussions. While it is plainly seen that Burroughs was, shall we say, highly inspired by Horn’s novel and Van Dyke’s movie, what might not be so apparent to the untrained eye is the extent to which both Horn and Van Dyke were influenced by the work of Burroughs which preceded theirs by a couple decades.
Horn admits to being familiar with the Tarzan stories. He was a first time writer here, while he had his own story to tell, he needed a format. He has chosen to emphasize many characteristics of the few Tarzan novels he could have read by 1925. While the Ogowe River figures in his life he probably would have been excited by the river scenes in Beasts Of Tarzan. He treats elephants and gorillas that he had actually seen in the wild differently than Burroughs but includes generous doses of both because they have worked for Burroughs.
Viewing from a distance as we are compelled to do one loses the savor of the times. A Burroughs reading Horn carefully might easily have picked up many references that slip by us.
Van Dyke and Hume on the other hand had been exposed to Tarzan movies for a dozen years or so. What they read can’t be so obvious. But the very format of the jungle thriller would have derived from previous Tarzan movies. ERB may have felt he was entering a turf war as the Big Bwana’s domain was being invaded.
He may have believed himself justified in expropriating the expropriators. If Horn died in 1927 his opinion no long mattered. What Ethelreda Lewis may have thought isn’t known. She apparently had a hand in writing the movie script for Swiss Family Robinson. Whether she came to Hollywood to do it I am not informed although she was around the movie capitol for a number of years. A meeting between her and ERB would have been interesting.
What Van Dyke and Hume may have thought I am equally uninformed, however between the release of Horn in February 1931 and the release of Tarzan, The Ape Man in March of 1932 was a year during which a contract was negotiated between MGM and Burroughs for the use of his characters but not of any of his material on April 15 of 1932. (Erzine Bio Timeline, 1930s). Within nine months then the movie Tarzan, The Ape Man was in the theatres.
The generally expressed view is that Hume first wrote up a script involving a combination Horn and Tarzan story. This was before they might have seen Leopard Men in print. To quote William Armstrong from ERBzine 0610:
Cyril Hume who had turned the filming of “Trader Horn” in Africa into a suitable story outline, was given the assignment of writing the script for Tarzan The Ape Man, Hume’s original script had Trader Horn leading an expedition to Africa to search for a lost tribe. En route, they discover Tarzan, who kidnaps the woman scientist member of the safari. She eventually returns to the safari and they are captured by the tribe they seek (who worship the moon), and are to be human sacrifices to a sacred gorilla. Tarzan leading a pack of elephants, arrives in time to save the safari. The woman scientist decides to stay with Tarzan while Trader Horn and his party return to the trading post.
This script may give some idea of how conventional Hollywood minds viewed both Horn and Tarzan. Apparently the relationship between th two was very close in their minds. This script leaves little room for the development of the Tarzan yell while it gives the feel of making Tarzan a subordinate character to Horn. Tarzan might or might not have been a part of the next Horn movie. If MGM continued to use Harry Carey in the Horn role he may very likely have had a stronger film presence than Tarzan who, one imagines would still have been portrayed as a feral boy as he essentially was in Tarzan, The Ape Man.
It would be interesting to know when MGM decided to film a Tarzan movie and in what connection to Trader Horn. The success of Horn may have prodded them but one is astonished at the speed at which the project was conceived and executed especially as we are led to believe that they had no actor to play Tarzan in mind when the contract with ERB was signed.
As Leopard Men was probably not even fully conceived in ERB’s mind when he signed it could have had no effect on the signing. The release of Tarzan, The Ape Man in 1932 did have an effect on Burroughs. After writing Tarzan And the City Of Gold from November of 1931 to January of 1932 he was stunned by the MGM characterization of his great creation.
That shock resulted in early 1933′s novel Tarzan And The Lion Man.
As influential as Horn was for the main frame of the story of Leopard Men ERB had all his usual themes and variations to employ which he lavishly did. This is a very dark story that I do not fully understand. The Trader Horn connection was the easy part. Now to the hard stuff.
September 20, 2011
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS VS. THE COMIC BOOK HEROES
In the attempt to put together a historical puzzle the missing piece or pieces, the clarifying pieces, appear from time to time. Thus with the release of the movie, Captain America this year a significant piece of the puzzle falls into place that clarifies the role of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his literary creations in the panorama of the twentieth century- the fabulous twentieth century.
It is difficult today to conceive of how the early twentieth century was perceived as a complete break with the Victorian nineteenth. One only has to compare the streamlined Santa Fe Chief in this picture alongside a nineteenth century locomotive to see how the Twentieth Century was perceived as the century of absolute exciting progress. The time certainly justified General Electric’s motto: Progress is our most important product.
Burroughs role in this fabulous century is essentially the story of how Edgar Rice Burroughs created the concept of the super hero on the cusp of the emergent movie and comic book industries. It is in the latter two industries that the super hero found his definition.
Just as in the days of yore mankind projected its needs in the psychological projection of Gods so the twentieth century saw the beginning of the demise of the old gods and the birth of the new. While the creators of the Old Gods have disappeared into the mists of time, and there must have been human creators of the Gods, the creators of the new gods can be easily traced.
The predecessors of the Superheroes can be found in the rise of the mega intellects of the nineteenth century detectives such as Monsieur LeCoq, Sherlock Holmes and arch fiends such as Dr. Moriarty and the French Fantomas. Influenced by such as these Edgar Rice Burroughs created the actual prototypes of the mid-century superheroes in the characters of John Carter of Mars and Tarzan The Ape Man. While John Carter is less well known than Tarzan, who became a household word within a half dozen years of his creation, Carter truly had super human powers having been transported from the higher gravity of Earth to the lower gravitational field of Mars, or Barsoom, as Burroughs renamed the planet.
While not able to leap over tall buildings his saltational powers functioned at a level of efficiency unattained by any other Barsoomian. For a decade or so Burroughs had the superhero field to himself while his lessons sunk in to the minds of those following him.
The two most significant men of extraordinary if not super human powers to follow Tarzan and John Carter were Maxwell Grant’s superb character, The Shadow and Lester Dent’s Doc Savage. Preceding the comic book character Superman by a few years Doc Savage was actually advertised as a superman, undoubtedly in reference to Nietzsche.
Then in the early thirties in addition to movies, in which Tarzan was a stellar attraction, the modern comic book or magazine came into existence. Of course newspaper comic strips had been developing from the turn of the century but the actual comic book was a development of the thirties.
As fate would have it the comic book industry like the movie industry became a province of the Jews.
Thus two streams of influence formed comic book heroes. On the one hand the Jewish writers and cartoonists were influenced by John Carter, Tarzan, The Shadow, and Doc Savage and on the other by a fifteenth century Jewish super creature known as the Golem. This was a creature fashioned from clay, as per Adam of the Old Testament, by a Prague Rabbi named Loewe who breathed life into his creation as God had breathed life into Adam. The Golem was created to wreak vengeance on Jewish victims as a sort of avenger as would be the status and role of the latter day Jewish superheroes of the comic books.
First out of the box in 1938 was the prototype of the rest of the comic book heroes, Superman. Like Burroughs with his creations the two Jewish creators built Superman’s origins from the Biblical story of the Exodus. Tarzan of course was born to noble English parents in Darkest Africa who then died or were killed by the Great Apes while the she ape, Kala, snatched him from the cradle and raised him as an ape.
Superman was born of noble parents on the planet Krypton which was about to be destroyed, and sent on a rocket ship to Earth while his parents died. On Earth he was raised by kindly goy Earth people. Thus we have two different versions of Moses in the bullrushes. Superman, then, combined John Carter and Tarzan.
Superman was a good thing in commercial terms being the equivalent of a literary best seller. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so that while Superman imitated Burroughs’ great characters a host of comic book superheroes soon trod in Superman’s footsteps. Next in 1939 there was Batman, probably the most successful of the Jewish superheroes, and then in 1940 the temporarily successful Captain America, really the product of WWII, losing his popularity with the end of the war. The most successful of all the superheroes was the strange goyish creation, Capt. Marvel but he doesn’t concern us here.
The above is very interesting I’m sure but what significance does it have; what is its meaning; what is going on? Well, the back story is very interesting indeed. One must remember that our lives are not lived in a social vacuum of unrelated incidents. All is part of a continuum that does not just happen but is created by the participants. All is a drive to attain a desire. The question is who are the participants? As has already been indicated, the Jews and the Gentiles or goyim. From what do those desires arise? Suggestion. Suggestions having been received, when a body of suggestions have been ingested, our minds begin to digest those suggestions. One then interprets the suggested reality according to one’s temperament which itself has been built on a body of suggestions.
All society is education, indoctrination and conditioning, in other words hypnotic suggestion. Burroughs was born in 1875 as the scientific revolution was in an advanced stage of development; by 1893 when Burroughs was seventeen the whole of human knowledge and scientific advances was put on exhibition at the Chicago Columbian Exposition. The Expo was probably the high water mark in Western Civilization or, at least, its confidence in itself. The Expo was an unparalleled achievement of human endeavor far surpassing all expos of the nineteenth century with the possible exception of the 1851 London Exposition. Interestingly both were burned to the ground by anti-civilization elements. The Columbian Expo of 1893 was the most powerful element of Burroughs’ education.
Shortly before the boy’s birth in 1875 the character of immigration changed. In 1871 Jews from the eastern European Pale of Settlement began to flood the country until in 1914 possibly half of European Jewry had been transferred to the United States. The great immigration myth is that the immigrants were assimilated into the ‘Melting Pot’ of the United States; nothing could be further from the truth. The immigrants merely transferred their national cultures to the United States where because they were compelled to speak English it appeared that they had been assimilated. In reality the immigrants came to the sparsely populated United States where they established an outremer population on the New Island as the Irish had it, a new Sicily, a new Zion etc. They came in such numbers that they actually were colonists. The old cultures were merely adapted to the new realities and developed along side the Native peoples.
These alien or invading cultures then shaped the development of the United States in their image as much as possible. Thus they were able to blame their cultural shortcomings on ‘America’ while emphasizing their virtues as their own. Hence ‘America’ developed into a sort of dirty word, a catchall for the crimes of the immigrant cultures. This state of affairs was masked until the Great War when the social conflicts came into the open and were immediately subsumed into the Communist ideology after 1917.
Young Burroughs observed this immigration phenomenon or suggestion with misgivings associating himself with Nativist views although he remained independent to our knowledge of association with Nativist organizations. Thus while interpretations of these social suggestions are found through out his early writings the conflict didn’t come to a head until after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in what became the USSR as Russia disappeared from the map. With all the national dissidents operating under the rubric of Communism the world was divided into us and them- ostensibly Communism and Capitalism. The dichotomy was created by the Communists. However each national culture could function with representatives in each camp while furthering their parochial objectives.
It was a new world the morning after the Bolshevik Revolution. Burroughs immediately came into collision with the new realities. As this new world was us and them it was possible to hate Communism while retaining virtue in the Capitalist camp. However one couldn’t detest national, religious or racial components even though they may have been Communists. As Communists always denied being Communists one was always dealing with cultural groups that dissembled their Communism.
When Burroughs began his career in literature even as he wrote the movies began to assume a transcendent place in US and world culture. By the end of the second decade it was evident that movies were where the big money was. That’s when Burroughs’ troubles began.
He quickly ran afoul of the Communists who controlled publishing and the Jews who controlled the movies. The Communists wished to suppress all non-Communist writers who refused to put out the Communist message. The Jews wished to discourage all criticism of their activities. Burroughs was marked out as one to be destroyed.
Behind the Communist outrage and obscured by it was the Jewish attempt to realize the Messianic age which assault was begun in Europe and the United States in 1913 and was to continue to 1928 according to Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver. While the assault was violent in Europe emanating from the transformation of Russia to the USSR, in the United States it was more peaceable after the violent year of 1919 while being conducted on a propagandistic and social level buttressed by the doctrines of Sigmund Freud as executed by his nephew and disciple Edward L. Bernays and others. You should become acquainted with Edward Bernays if you aren’t already.
Among the first of these propagandistic efforts was the promulgation of a ‘Jewish Bill Of Rights.’ This document along with a questionnaire was sent to the prominent men and women of America to discover their ‘anti-Semitic’ propensities. Burroughs failed this test so that he was black balled in Hollywood after 1922. The blacklist was broken by Joseph Kennedy and his FBO Studios in 1928. MGM then stepped in with a different approach from blacklisting. They bought the movie rights to Tarzan from Burroughs for much less than a song. Burroughs then was essentially neutralized in 1931 while MGM acquired the supreme super hero Tarzan to shape or mishape as they pleased. Within a few years there were not many who remembered that there was a literary Tarzan. My amazement when I learned there were Tarzan books when I was twelve in 1950 was a revelation of the first order.
The movies were able, of course, to shape all the goy literary heroes from Frankenstein to Sherlock Holmes into their own intellectual mold from then into the present while comic books added Jewish superheroes to displace them.
The planned Jewish revolution hadn’t succeeded by 1928 but the groundwork had been laid leaving the future promising and open. While in the US the Jews were able to sweep all opposition aside even to the extent of putting their creature, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, into the White House for an unprecedented four terms, in Europe unexpected opposition occurred when Wolf Hitler was elected chancellor of German in 1933. While having their creatures Joseph Stalin as Premier of the USSR and FDR in the USA with Popular Front governments if office throughout Europe with the exception of Germany, Italy and Spain, the Jews seemed to be in a position to realize their millennium.
Indoctrination and conditioning was still important in the US thus when sound movies were introduced at the very end of the twenties and the comic book in the early thirties the Jews had two of the most powerful propaganda tools available under their ownership and control.
Their need in the thirties was to isolate and marginalize the Nativist opposition. This would be achieved in the forties wartime conditions when FDR had the prominent Nativists arrested and charged with sedition. At that point the Jews had succeeded in capturing the government and mind of the country although a long mopping up process would be necessary into the fifties and sixties. Thus while Wolf Hitler rounded up Jews in Europe, Jews were rounding up Nativists Americans in the US while advising any dissidents to keep their heads low.
The movies and comic books would play a big role in indoctrinating Americans to believe that the Nativists were Fascists and/or Nazis and not true Americans. It was at this time that Edward L. Bernays succeeded in changing the definition of Democracy from that of individual opportunity to recognition of groups having rights to a share of government based on group identity rather than individual identity. This would be a key concept as the century developed.
After the Bolshevik Revolution the American reaction to Communism was strongly against it. The Communist Party was even outlawed for a time until the Fellow Travelers and Parlor Pinks had the ban lifted. The silent movies of the twenties then were not heavily influenced by the Reds although as indicated the Tarzan movies of Edgar Rice Burroughs were blacklisted. By the thirties the Reds were better organized while with the arrival of sound playwrights capable of producing dialog were needed. The Red exodus to Hollywood began.
The US Communist Party as with all national Communist Parties, was a majority or plurality Jewish affair to the point where an attack on one was an attack on the other. Thus as the thirties advanced the drum roll for US involvement in a war against the Nazis began. This would involve the formation in the US of an opposition led by the America First Committee which was opposed to any involvement in foreign wars as a reaction. As this was opposed to Jewish wishes the America First Committee was designated as Fascist while its putative leader, Charles Lindbergh was designated Hitler’s stooge.
In order to discredit the opposition, no sooner was FDR sworn in than Samuel Dickstein, a Jewish representative from New York, began to agitate for a House Un-American Activities Committee to stamp out Nativist opposition. As Dickstein was a Soviet agent this meant that the Nativist opposition was un-American while the Jewish Roosevelt government were the true Americans. So, the Jews were well on the way to usurping the American identity which the comic book superheroes represented. Dickstein was successful in establishing his HUAC committee in 1938 but the chair eluded him and went to a real American, Martin Dies of Texas, who then used the committee to harass Communists as well as ‘Fascists’ much to the dismay of Dickstein and FDR.
Hollywood in support of Dickstein began turning out anti-German movies and by implication anti-Nativist well in advance of American involvement in 1942. Involvement in the European conflict was of course brought about by forcing Japan to declare war on the US in late ‘41.
The comic book industry forming about 1932 was becoming real by 1938 when the two Jews from Cleveland devised their Golem character Superman followed by Batman and Captain America. The comic book heroes fell in with the anti-German propaganda. If the Jews, British and FDR were not yet openly promoting the war against Germany the tendency was well formed in that direction.
All those comics were openly anti- German with Capt. America socking Hitler on the cover of the first issue. Capt. America was a creation of two Jews from Brooklyn, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. To quote the Rabbi Simcha Weinstein from his book Up, Up, And Oy Vey!: How Jewish Culture And Values Shaped The Comic Book Superhero:
Kirby and his partner, Joe Simon, worked at Martin Goodman’s Timely Comics, where the mostly Jewish staff openly despised Hitler. When Goodman saw the preliminary sketches for Captain America, he immediately gave Kirby and Simon their own comic book. The character was an instant hit, selling almost one million copies an issue. “The U.S. hadn’t yet entered the war when Jack and I did Captain America, so maybe he was our way of lashing out at the Nazi menace. Evidently, Captain America symbolized the American people’s sentiments. When we were producing Captain America we were outselling Batman, Superman and all the others.” Simon later commented.
Well, not quite all the others, as Whiz Comics Captain Marvel was the best selling comic of both the war years and later forties. Certainly my favorite. As in the years before the war the America First Committee enjoyed overwhelming popularity amongst ‘Americans’ I would question Simon’s notion that Captain America overwhelmingly represented American opinion. As there were six million Jewish ‘Americans’ in the country I might suggest that the response from that culture of ‘Americans’ was more overwhelming than elsewhere. Jews might easily have accounted for sixty to eighty percent of sales.
It is also probable that no real American would ever have invented a corny jingoistic persona like Captain America, in fact, none did. The image was certainly repulsive to me as a child. My prime comic reading years were from 1947 to 1950 and I and my entire generation rejected Captain America while embracing Captain Marvel. Even then Superman was a distant competitor to Captain Marvel which is why DC comics sued Whiz for copyright violation.
All the Jewish comics were openly anti-German, thus the FDR administration, the movies and comic books were fighting for the Jewish ‘good war.’ When Charles Lindbergh pointed this out he was immediately portrayed as an agent of the Nazis whereas he was merely telling the truth while being an ideal American. Philip Roth in his 2004 novel, The Plot Against America, recounts the Jewish atmosphere of the time while he postulates that Lindbergh was elected president in 1940 as a satrap of Hitler. Thus the Jews became the real Americans and the real Americans were totalitarians out to destroy the Democracy the Jews had created.
In his essay in the New York Times of 9/19/04 titled: The Story Behind The Plot Against America Roth says that he is recreating America as it really was in 1940 but that is not so. As Roth lived in a New Jersey Jewish colony he and his family was out of touch with the real America as his fictional brother who had gone to Kentucky tries to tell him.
In fact in the America of the time in which Samuel Dickstein was an evil presence the American Jewish Committee and The Anti Defamation League were paramilitary organizations conducting spying operations against the non-Jewish public. Numerous agents unaffiliated with any government agency crisscrossed society looking for any activity that might be considered against Jewish interests. These forays were gathered together in 1943 under the assumed name of John Roy Carlson and published as an indictment against Jewish ‘enemies.’ Many of them were arrested and tried as ‘un-Americans in 1944. So, Roth’s paranoia is at best unbalanced.
Roth says the idea of Lindbergh’s having been elected occured to him while reading Arthur Schlesinger’s autobiography:
I came upon a sentence in which Schlesinger notes that there were some Republican isolationists who wanted to run Lindbergh for president in 1940. That’s all there was, that one sentence with its reference to Lindbergh and to a fact about him I’d not known. It made me think, “What if they had?” and I wrote the question in the margin.
While this may be how Roth came upon the notion his was not the first such idea. As Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner in their Radical Hollywood of 2002 point out, Donald Ogden Stewart in his script for 1943’s Keeper Of The Flame, Charles Lindbergh is posited as a plotter of a coup to replace FDR in alliance with Hitler. This would have been propaganda to indict Lindbergh for the upcoming trial of the Nativists. I don’t know whether Roth saw the movie as a boy but if he did perhaps the idea festered in his brain for several decades until he was reminded by Schlesinger’s book while his mind was half prepared.
So the actual plot of the Jews to take over the American government was displaced to Lindbergh and the Nativists. The Jewish coup was represented in the comic book character of Captain America. This situation is made clear in the current (2011) movie Capt. America: The First Avenger. Thus Philip Roth and Stan Lee of the comics recapitulate and clarify Jewish activities in the 1933-43 era. Captain America is actually Jewish assuming an ultimate American identity.
The origins of Captain America then emanated from the Jewish dream subconscious of Jack Kirby which was quite different form real Americans. He therefore, as all writers must, made Capt. America in his comic book existence from his own dream fantasies. Thus giving his creation the goy name of Steve Rogers he nevertheless gave him a Brooklyn Jewish origin. As Rabbi Weinstein also a Brooklyn Jew explains, Jews have a sort of dual identity as powerless Jews posing as goys in a powerful goy world. Thus the sickly ineffective Rogers undergoes a scientific experiment that turns him essentially from a 98 lb. weakling into an all powerful goy Charles Atlas without the hard work of body building. I’m sure Kirby saw those ads growing up.
Rogers having now been turned into a Superman had to have a name. Superman being taken Super Jew was out for obvious reasons, or even Super Hebrew, there was no Israel at the time, so Kirby settled on Captain America. Rabbi Weinstein again:
Of course a more literal reading of the costume is that it is the American flag brought to life. Captain America’s star is, after all, five pointed, not six pointed like the Star of David. The flag-as-costume [this is what used to make we boys puke] notion reinforces the ideal of assimilation [Jews ‘becoming’ Americans.] By literally cloaking their character in patriotism, Kirby and Simon became true Americans.
In 1940 there was a desperate struggle going on between the Jews and America First who the Jews styled as American Fascists, I.e. actual Hitlerites. By that line of reasoning the Jews became the true Americans, creators and protectors of genuine American Democracy while Anglo-Americans or Native Americans or America Firsters were out to destroy the great American Dream the Jews had created. This is the theme of Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America backdated to this period. The current movie Captain America could easily be subtitled The Plot Against America Foiled.
Rabbi Weinstein again:
Despite the patriotic appearance, Captain America’s costume also denotes deeply rooted [Jewish] tradition. Along with other Jewish-penned superheroes, Captain America was in part an allusion to the golem, the legendary creature said to have been constructed by the sixteenth century mystic Rabbi Judah Loew to defend the Jews of medieval Prague. “The golem was pretty much the precursor of the Superhero in that in every society there is a need for mythological characters, wish fulfillment. And the wish fulfillment in the Jewish case of the hero would be someone who could protect us. This kind of storytelling seems to dominate in Jewish culture,” commented Will Eisner.
According to tradition a golem is sustained by inscribing the Hebrew word emet (truth) upon its forehead. When the first letter is removed, leaving the word met (death) the golem will be destroyed. Emet is spelled with the letters aleph, rem and tav. The first letter, aleph, is also the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the equivalent of the letter A. Captain America wears a mask with a white A on his forehead- the very letter needed to empower the golem.
I hope this makes clear that Superman, Batman and Captain America are Jewish in identity and what their purpose is in American society.
Having created a competing line of Jewish superheroes the problem then became how to discredit and supplant the goy super heroes. As should be clear by now what we have going on is a religious war but fought by propagandistic means. In other words the battle field was literature, comic books and the movies. As in all religious conflicts the goal is to displace the religious icons of the other; thus, in early Christian times churches were built on the sites of pagan temples while sacred groves were cut down. Nothing has changed; nothing can change. The Jewish goal was the elimination of ‘Christian’ or goy symbols.
Capt. Marvel was gotten rid of in 1953 when the Jews sued him out of his cape. As I’ve pointed out in my review of Tarzan And The Lion Man, parts 8,9.10, a key text in this colossal battle, MGM attempted to destroy the character as well as Burroughs when they bought movie rights to Tarzan in 1931. They got his birthright for a mess of pottage. It may be coincidental but in 1942 after the success of the Jewish comic book super heroes MGM discarded their lucrative rights to Tarzan to movie maker Sol Lesser presumably as worthless or, at least, of no more interest to them. Of course Lesser continued the franchise with phenomenal success. This necessitated a continued campaign to debase the character continuing today. At the same time that Tarzan is debased the Jewish characters, Capt. America is now one of a group of four ‘Avengers’, hence the double entendre of ‘The First Avenger’, who are increasingly Judaisized, while presented in a positive way in the attempt to marginalize Tarzan.
Now, some seventy years after the demise of the man, the continued demonization of Wolf Hitler is becoming less relevant, even annoying if you’re not Jewish, so in Capt. America Wolf Hitler is demoted to an incompetent dead threat while the scepter is passed to the mega Nazi/anti-Semite recreated in the mental projection of Red Skull or the Hydra. The mythical symbol of the Hydra is well chosen to represent anti-Semitism as no matter how many heads you cut off another one, two or three grow back. The threat never ends and the paranoia is justified.
Thus in the Freudian sense Jews have a dual personality: on the one hand you have the ineffective completely innocent assumed goy persona of Steve Rogers, who is the equivalent of Abel, the Chosen one and the crazed madman Hydra who is a projection of the negative aspects of the Jewish character imposed on the other as the anti-Semite. Thus the Jewish character is always at war with itself in the Freudian sense and hence never successful in its aims.
August 5, 2011
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#15 Tarzan Triumphant
Threads And Strands Of The Web
For I must speak what wisdom would conceal,
And truth, invidious to the great, reveal.
More than likely it is a coincidence that Burroughs wrote a fictional account of time and space weaving a web at this time, for Fate was bringing together threads and strands of the web of his own life in a picture of unparalleled opportunity and deadly peril. The decisions Burroughs would make would determine the outcome. His life could have gone another way. Or, perhaps, Burroughs sensed the impending crises and fictioned them in an attempt to deal with them.
We are already aware of the conflicts with the Judaeo-Communists. It seems clear that they were the original aggressors and that Burroughs was in reaction to them, in other words, on the defensive. Thus these first two Tarzan novels of the thirties are direct attacks on both aggressors. If Burroughs expected counter attacks there seems to be no evidence that he prepared for them. He never seems to have sat down to coolly analyze the problem in order to have a plan.
In fact, there seems to be little evidence that he ever actually realized the consequences of his success or how to handle it. While he had incorporated himself he made no effort to corporately structure his writing enterprise. In point of fact as a creative artist he was fundamentally incapable of running a structured business. Doing so would have interfered with his creative function. In fact, I am convinced that he dissipated his creative energies by becoming involved in business decisions to the extent he did.
Developing an organization is very difficult. While he should have done this, without a very fortuitous combination of circumstances it is very doubtful he could have. Hollywood was full of sharpers ready to take advantage of creative talent and in this case and nearly all others they did.
On the positive side, from 1911 to, say, 1928 ERB had created an unparalleled intellectual property in Tarzan. One in a zillion chance. As the twenties developed unparalleled opportunities to exploit the property evolved.
Apart from publishing, the three key profit centers were comics, movies and radio. All three strands came to fruition as the thirties began. Each required a slightly different approach. Each required thinking out with an intellectual departure from the past.
At this crucial moment ERB’s past arose to drag him down from behind. He was unable to make the emotional transition from what was essentially an emotionally battered youth to a successful, affluent man in control of his destiny. He remained psychologically attached to his personal relationship to Tarzan as an aspect of his personality rather than objectifying the character as a psychological projection for the world. He had prepared the way to make Tarzan a savior man-god but then couldn’t separate him from his own personality. If Fate had thrown the right people in his way they could have done this for him.
Thus rather than maximize his financial returns he essentially shot his feet off. He carped at the various media companies to the point where he was viewed as troublesome, an undesirable actually. Thus while he expected great financial returns including the means to buy a yacht, he sabotaged his own efforts to obtain them.
He belittled the returns of the comic strip for instance, bemoaning that it only returned thirty dollars a day. Well, that was eleven thousand dollars a year, every year. He could count on it. His MGM contract for Tarzan, The Ape Man provided him the exact same return. Twenty-two thousand divided by two years is eleven thousand a year.
At the time ERB signed the MGM contract he had a very valuable intellectual property already fully developed but he had developed a reputation among the Studios. The Studios had already had extensive dealings with him from the silent era. ERB, without a plan to market Tarzan had accepted whatever money came his way. Two of his titles had been sold in 1921 although production of them had been shelved. In 1927 FBO Studios decided to film Tarzan And The Golden Lion. While this film was lost for decades a print of the film was discovered which was issued on DVD in 2006 so that it can now be viewed.
In my opinion FBO did handsomely by ERB. A good clear scenario was written by William Wing that remained true to the spirit of Burroughs’ work; perhaps more than it ought to have in a movie sense. The filming, the photography is terrific; it has never been done better, not by MGM, not by RKO. It is true that Wing invented a sister for Tarzan but this is a minor point.
I find it difficult to undertand what ERB was disgruntled about except that another writer was handling his alter ego. The difference between a movie scenario and a book is very distinct. There would have been no way to get the entire convoluted story of Golden Lion on the screen so Wing wisely chose to develop a variation on the story of the Valley of Diamonds. Even so he threw in an earthquake scene a la Jewels Of Opar and Tarzan’s jumping the gap in the tunnel.
If anything his attempt to write as closely to Burroughs as he did lessened the impact of the film with some needless clutter. If, in 1935′s New Adventures Of Tarzan for which Burroughs provided the story idea, Dearholt attempted to tell the story more or less as Burroughs wrote, then the result was a hopeless mish mash. The movie was no truer to Burroughs’ Tarzan than FBO’s film, while lacking the clarity and force of the latter. Burroughs should have been grateful to FBO for an excellent movie. My idea of the best of the lot even though silent.
Had I been associated with FBO I would have found ERB’s criticisms nitpicking and offensive. After all FBO broke the boycott ERB had been under since 1922. The FBO movie triggered a response from Universal which held the rights to Jungle Tales and Jewels Of Opar. These titles were released as Tarzan The Mighty and Tarzan The Tiger starring Frank Merrill. At present there is no print of Tarzan The Mighty while as of December 5, 2006 I am still awaiting the release of Tarzan The Tiger. ERB once again was unhappy with these films, voicing loud complaints. All this carping could have done little for his reputation among the Studios. Before the long hiatus of Tarzan movies from 1921 to 1927 he had been run off the lot during the filming.
According to the ERBzine Timeline for the ’30s ERB approached MGM in 1930 asking $75,000 for a movie and was rebuffed. If this is true, $22,000 in 1931 was quite a comedown. MGM solved ERB’s querulousness by obtaining the rights to do with the character as they wished. They promptly disdained Burrughs’ storylines for their own while changing the character of Tarzan from that of an international sophisticate to that of a feral boy.
As the first full sound Tarzan, MGM hit the jackpot with the victory cry of the bull ape. The Tarzan yell would be the trademark of the charcter, although hardly a blood chilling fearsome holler. Burroughs himself couldn’t do better as Herman Brix in New Adventures merely growls out a long drawn Tar-man-gan-eee with the last sylable in falsetto. More laughable than fearsome.
In between these two films Sol Lesser released a monstrosity starring Buster Crabbe. Lesser never got the handle on Tarzan on his own, instead borrowing the MGM Characterization when he acquired the rights from them.
Lesser and his brother Irving were independent producers of some substance. Sol was born in 1890 in Spokane, Washington, dying at 90 in 1980. There is even a biography of his life. Not easy to find and not available on any site when I looked. If anybody knows where one is or having one could make a copy for me it would be much appreciated.
Lesser’s father who was in the nickelodeon business died in 1907 in San Francisco leaving the business to Sol and brother Irving. Sol got involved in distribution in 1910 eventually forming the Golden Gate Film Exchange in 1915.
In that year San Francisco’s infamous Barbary Coast was shuttered. Before the closure Lesser filmed the area, selling the movie. It would be interesting if the film was still around.
He made the right moves. After distribution he became a producer for First National and then formed a chain of movie theatres. After an aborted retirement he reentered production forming his own independent studio called either Principle or Principal Pictures. David Fury spells the name Principal in his Kings Of The Jungle and that sounds right. This was apparently Sol’s status when he acquired the rights to Tarzan from a third party in 1928 and when he made the Crabbe abortion in 1933.
Lesser was influential in Hollywood. He made it a point to know and be known. In the early thirties it was he who was responsible for introducing Disney to Joseph Schench (pronounced Skenk) and facilitating Disney’s move from Columbia to United Artists.
One can’t be sure of his politics from the sources cited but according to the New York Times:
…Lesser forsook production for distribution again, returning to the creative end of moviemaking in 1931 when, through is friendshlip with writer Upton Sinclair, he became involved with the Sergei Eisenstein project, Thunder Over Mexico.
Thunder Over Mexico was undoubtedly a Communist diatribe. Sol Lesser while involved with consevatives like Disney and Burroughs, also played the other side of the street with the likes of Upton Sinclair and the Jewish film maker, Sergei Eisenstein of Battleship Potemkin fame.
It would seem probable that he at least knew such luminaries as Louis B. Mayer and possibly Irving Thalberg. Even though he could have foiled both Burroughs and MGM with his prior rights to Tarzan, he characteristically stepped aside, for remuneration of course, to let their films play through. It would be interesting to know how and why he obtained his rights from a third party and how they had obtained theirs.
One doesn’t know what his relationship to Mayer and MGM was at this time but it is noteworthy that he acquired exclusive rights to Tarzan when MGM abandoned the profitable series. Under Lesser the movies continued to gross two to three million a picture.
Sound movies should have been a gold mine for Burroughs if he had handled himself properly. Instead through his impulsiveness and vanity there were at least four competing Tarzans on the screens from 1930 to 1935. This must have created confusion in the public’s mind, while injuring Burroughs’ financial returns.
At the time sound brought the potential of immense movie profits to Burroughs the thread of radio also came to maturity about 1930. While the evangelists were quick to capitalize on the potential of radio, Burroughs wasn’t far behind. Perhaps the success of Aimee Semple Mcpherson showed him the way.
As the decade dawned, his eye turned in radio’s direction. By 1932 he was successful in launching a show. Once again ERB failed to analyze the difference between books and a new medium. Radio was for him the most lucrative of all his ventures. His revenues from radio equaled his income from all other sources combined. This income stream could have continued unabated through the thirties but, once again, ERB interfered with the show rather than contributed. Undoubtedly because of his constant carping the first series was not renewed. A second series was launched which was also discontinued. From 1935 until his death he was unable to get on radio again. After his death in 1950 a new series was launched.
Thus, between publishing, comics, movies and radio ERB was provided opportunities to exploit his great labor in creating the ultimate intellectual property of the twentieth century and blew it. The personality forming psychology of his youth popped up to prevent his realizing his most cherished dreams in this sphere of his life as it did in his relationship to women.
If ERB had read his Homer at some earlier time, or possibly, earlier times in his life, it seems evident that he reread the Odyssey, for sure, at this time. The evidence is prominent in these five novels, especially Triumphant and City Of Gold. A text in all five novels is the struggle between the La aspect of his Anima and that of Jane. Subconsciously he had steered his love life to this critical juncture where he would have to choose one and reject the other.
There may have been a fortuitousness in his choosing to concentrate on his own Odyssey at this time. He was able to capitalize on a number of good story ideas, while on the other hand a major story line of the Odyssey is the examination of a man’s control of his sexual desires. A key story of this aspect is the story of the seductress Circe. By inducing all men to abandon themselves to unbridled sexual desire she turns them all into pigs. A lesson for contemporary times. Odysseus avoids this by having a pocketful of Moly. Moly is some sort of charm that allows him to resist Circe’s seductions.
Thus Odysseus retains his manly integrity while securing the release of his crew. The Sirens, Calypso and the other women are all temptations for Odysseus to abandon his manhood for the luxuries of sex or in other word, the Matriarchy. He resists them all to return home to Penelope in Ithaca where she sits lonely endlessly weaving her web.
One can’t know directly how Burroughs read the story or even if the above details registered with him; nevertheless these five novels are about a man’s relationships with women and more specifically they concern the details of ERB’s relationships with women. The story as told by him is a troubled one.
It would appear that his cherished Anima image of the previous forty years or so, La of Opar, no longer answered his needs, so at the end of Invincible Tarzan abandons La of Opar. She and Opar disappear from the oeuvre never to be mentioned again.
In real life perhaps La has been replaced by Florence who now figures as the Golden Girl. With the appearance of Jezebel in Triumphant the Golden Girl makes her first appearance to dominate the stage until Lion Man and the end of this five novel series.
In Triumphant the Jane aspect which has been missing for the last couple novels parachutes back into ERB’s life. He marries her off to the stable aspect of his Animus while pairing the Golden Girl with the low life aspect of his Animus.
Emma had always said ERB was a low brow so perhaps he found it too unpleasant aping high brow manners giving up the fight to indulge that aspect of his Animus more comfortable to him.
In this struggle Florence had been removed from the scene. Back during the writing of this novel Burroughs quickly opted to join his low life aspect with his sexual desire for the Golden Girl. His Moly gave out on him. Thus Danny ‘Gunner’ Patrick is transformed into Old Timer of Leopard Man while Jezebel becomes the platinum blonde, Kali Bwana.
Having made the decision to take the Golden Girl he has to eliminate the Jane aspect which he does in City Of Gold. Perhaps wavering a trifle in Lion Man he seems to have created a type of middle Tarzan Anima figure in Rhonda Terry. While he rejects Naomi/Jane he seems to have misgivings about Balza/Florence as the Golden Girl.
But, by this time the die had been cast so that in real life he does leave Emma to begin his life with Florence as a born again sex hound. As Old Timer in Leopard Men he says he was entitled to some pleasure in life and by God he was going to take it.
So, in both his business life and his personal life his past rose up and bit him in the behind destroying any chance he had to realize his true desires. I’m afraid I have to look at the remainder of his life as a failure as he was unable to eliminate the psychological impediments placed in his way by his early life. Not that he didn’t try. He appears to have studied psychology trying to find a way through to the other side of the maze of consciousness. Thus we have the subterranean passages too dark for anyone to find their way, yet his characters do. As he searches for a way out, the past rises up in the shape of deformed monsters like the Oparians beneath the Sacred City.
Or the round about way Tarzan and La found their way out of the lion cage in Invincible to be betrayed by the Old Man who professed to be true to La. Who was the Old Man? The shade of the past? David Adams has brought emphasis to this scene in his review of “The Ancient Dead of the City of Horz,” itself a dead city on the shores of a dead sea in Burroughs Bulletin #68.
By the writing of The Ancient Dead, ERB no longer had any hope to escape his past, while at the same time it was too late.
So, as the matter turned out, this period from 1930 to 1934 was the final crucial period in ERB’s life where he could have taken control of his destiny. He apparently sensed that the threads and strands of the web of his life were being brought together by Fate.
I neither condemn nor advise, unlike the literary fashion of today. I assume no superior airs, nor do I have a right to do so, but the fact is that had he been able to control his sexuality while restraining his impulsiveness, Fate might have been kinder to him at this juncture. As he was unable to order his psychology Fate, as it were, laid him low.
The critical junctures were the impetuous signing with MGM, his abandonment of Emma and his mismanagement of his radio affairs.
I have now covered four of the five Tarzan novels of this period. The last, The City City Of Gold deals with his ferocious sexual needs that destroyed his chances for success.
August 2, 2011
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#15 Tarzan Triumphant
The Born Again Lafe Smith
The time has come the Walrus said
to speak of many things;
Of shoes and ship and sealing wax
Of cabbages and kings.
And why the sea is boiling hot
And whether pigs have wings.
The learned nonsense of Lewis Carrol was never far from Burroughs’ mind. In the long list of influences Carroll ranks fairly high although more disguised than others. Both adventures of Alice as well as The Hunting Of The Snark formed the backbone of Burroughs’ ideology. Thus the entrance to the Land Of Midian in many ways resembles Alice’s descent into the rabbit hole. The sexual implications of the rabbit hole should be self-evident as is the the entry into the Land of Midian.
The Lafayette of Smith’s name refers of course to the revolutionary Marquis de Lafayette who fought against the monarchy in the American Revolution. Recently General Pershing had repaid the debt when, as he stepped ashore in France he grandly proclaimed: Lafayette, we are here. A famous utterance then and now so that it appears that Burroughs is associating freedom and liberation to his alter ego. He might exclaim as he stepped through the hole: I am Lafayette and I am here.
Smith is studying the geology of the area when he discovers a cleft in the mountain which he enters. In some ways Burroughs old life ended when the Reds invaded Opar. La was forced out into the the real world when her people rebelled because of La’s fixation on Tarzan. The Big Bwana restored her to her throne having destroyed the rebel chiefs. We are led to believe that La reigned happily ever after even though her manifestation as well as Opar disappear from ERB’s dream world. With the death of his old dream world ERB seeks to find another; one which other people cannot enter. Jungle Girl written shortly after this novel provided one such place in the ancient Khmer kingdoms of Cambodia and Thailand.
Thus Midian is a pale reflection of Opar. While the way to Opar was known to the world, indeed, Zveri, Stalin and the Communists as well as many Africans knew of the fabulous wealth of Opar and where the city was located. They didn’t know where the gold was located because in was in Burroughs’ mind.
Having had his dream world violated ERB creates another but this time the location is so remote and the entrance so difficult, although identical to that of Opar, to find that none but his Anima and Animus figures can find it.
Like the great red and gold city of Opar Midian is surrounded by high cliffs but unlike Opar they are unscalable from either side. No casual visitors are going to get in there. Like the actual city of Opar the only entry is through a cleft in the walls. In Opar once through the cleft one climbs a stairway to enter the ruins. Here, led by his interest in geology Smith enters the cleft in the mountain reft by titanic forces ages ago to follow it deep within the mountain wall. To insure that he continues on down the rabbit hole Burroughs sends a lion in after him blocking any exit should he wish to turn back. Thus the lion as Fate is forcing him to his destiny. The role of the lion in the oeuvre remains elusive to me; I fail to grasp the nuances as well as the essence. The lion may be another side of Tarzan, the Lion Man, who is helpful. On the other hand the lion as an expression of Burroughs’ Anima is extremely dangerous and hateful falling beneath Dad’s knife repeatedly, these are usually female. Still a problem for me.
Following the cleft for some way Smith reaches the end which is a very small hole that he can just force his way through. The symbolism of birth is quite clear; the descent from the womb and the breakthrough to the other side through the vagina.
Both aspects of Burroughs’ Anima are already inside Midian. Lady Barbara parachuted there while Jezebel was born there. Thus, it would seem that the La, Jezebel, Balza figure was native to Burroughs’ X chromosome while Jane, Lady Barbara, Rhonda Terry was an acquired image.
Smith will also be joined by the two remaining Animus figures, Gunner Patrick and Tarzan. All five of his Anima/Animus figures that he acknowledges were then functioning in his dream world. This may have represented his brain or the womb or a combination of both. What seems to be clear is that with the destruction and death of his old dream world he is being born again. The resurrection scene will follow.
When Tarzan enters Midian as when he is entering the cleft of Opar it is necessary for him to manipulate his shoulders through by turning them sideways. Thus there is a clear reference to birth.
Perhaps when Burroughs began self-publication he felt as though he were making a break with his past. Leaving McClurg’s and Joe Bray behind, making a new start as it were, he was beginning a new life. That was probably part of it as was the invasion of Opar by his enemies but I’m sure there is personal development involved that isn’t clear to me yet.
Once inside, convinced that the lion is following him although one believes the small hole would have baffled the lion, Smith finds the convenient tree in front of the hole into which he climbs for safety. Then Smith does exactly what Patrick, the dark side of the ego, will do, he goes down to the lake and gorges himself on water. This could be construed as baptism of the born again man; the living water of redemption.
He then meanders in the direction of Midian. As night has fallen the bonfires attract him.
By this time Lady Barbara after a few refreshing skinny dips waiting for her clothes to dry, Burroughs actually writes these strange interludes, finds her way back to Midian. For some strange reason the Midianites pay no attention to her mind boggling miracles, sometimes you can’t buy a thrill, choosing to disregard the apparent will of their god.
She and Jezebel are condemned to be crucified and burned to death. Both have been placed on the crosses with faggots piled round when Smith and his trusty nickel plated .32 burst upon the scene.
Now we have the resurrection of Smith and his Anima figures. The implication is that the trinity have symbolically died and are now resurrected. This is some fancy footwork.
Imagine the scene: Two crosses are erected. The Anima figures are placed on the crosses. As I imagine it there is a space of four to eight feet between the arms. Smith forces a way to a place in fornt of the crosses as he kicks away the burning faggots between the two crosses. Although not on a cross himself he is symbolically so he and Burroughs assume the role of Jesus Christ in the middle while the Anima figures represent the two thieves, one on either side.
Thus we are playing out a reenactment of the Christian crucifixion that will have a different result.
The Christians are pressing in on Smith. This is yet another version of Burroughs’ confrantation with John the Bully on the street corner. Back then he turned and ran. Now Smith is in a quandary. Christ in the same dilemma turned the other cheek saying: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
We have all been taught to revere turning the other cheek. Some even attempt to practice the precept. I’m sure the ploy may work from time to time but in nine times out of ten it won’t. That is more or less the dilemma of the Western world today. it is steadfastly trying to turn the other cheek but every time it does a steel-toed boot gets planted on it.
Thus as Smith is dithering a clear cultured English female voice comes down from the cross saying: You’re going to have to shoot to kill, you know. In other words, turning the other cheek is sure death. Burroughs is especially good at surprise twists like this.
Astonished, perhaps thinking the angel of the Lord had spoken to him Smith complies, firing into the crowd. As the joke is that his aim is so poor he couldn’t hit the side of a barn he is fortunate enough to actually kill someone.
Momentarily stunned by the magical weapon but not overawed the crowd pauses long enough to allow Smith to get Lady Barbara down. Thus Burroughs chooses the older more stately aspect of his Anima rather than the Wild Thing, sex kitten. Perhaps as Florence was out of town ERB temporarily shifted bazck to the Jane Anima aspect. Within a matter of weeks or days he will decide on Jezebel/Balza/Florence when Florence unexpectedly returns and he writes Leopard Men in celebration.
Smith succeeds in lowering Lady Barbara but then Jobab challenges the efficacy of his .32. Smith fires at Jobab point blank missing him. Jobab vindicated rushes Smith knocking the gun out of his hand. Lady Barbara scoops it up, places the muzzle against Jobab’s side where he learns the efficacy of the Colt. Thus the Anima and Animus of Burroughs have now killed a man.
This give the crowd pause once again so that Jezebel is lowered and the Trinity run away. The two Anima aspects and Burroughs’ bright Animus are now whole. The confrontation with John the Bully has been resolved.
They attempt to find the opening but in the process wander into North Midian where they are captured by the fair haired, blue eyed, small nosed but no less superstitious North Midians. They manage to escape.
They capture a kid to eat but in the process the goatherd misses it. What the symbolism of eating the ‘lamb’ is escapes me just now. Smith and lady Barbara are recaptured, taken to the village.
In the meantime Tarzan and Patrick enter the crater. Burroughs now has all five of his Anima and Animus figures in the crater. Tarzan separates from Patrick. The latter comes across Jezebel who had escaped the North Midians. The meeting is apparently love at first sight so the Wild Thing Anima and the killer Animus are united. As they are tired they lay down together. You can draw your conclusions but Jezebel appears to be ready for any ‘beautiful’ man who comes along. Whether a comment on Floence isn’t clear however Burroughs in his mind would be seeing her in his Desperado aspect while she would be his Wild Thing or little Flapper girl.
Perhaps with Smith/Lady B ERB is representing his Dr. Jekyll side, his married status while with Jezebel/Patrick he is representing his Hyde side in his affair with Florence Gilbert.
Jezebel and Patrick leave the crater. On the outside they are spotted by Capietro’s men who bash the Burroughs surrogate on the head leaving him for dead while they carry Jezebel off. This would be the same situation with John the Bully or the bashing in Toronto however it may also represent Ashton Dearholt’s taking Florence out of town for a cooling off period.
Burroughs interjects a comedy routine back in North Midian with a lampoon of religosity over whether Paul had yellow hair or black hair. The upshot is that Smith is to die.
However a pair of eyes are watching the scene. An unknown lurker to the North Midians, Tarzan to us. Tarzan’s own role in this story is his battle with Capietro and Stabutch. Otherwise he functions as a deus ex machina– a God from the machine a common feature of Greek drama to resolve an otherwise unresolvable plot point — to get the Anima figure out of difficulty. He does in this case too.
Then leaving he crater Tarzan escorts the pair to his friend Lord Passmore’s safari leaving them there in safety with the faithful Waziri. Then he goes back to deal with Stabutch and Capietro.
Thus Fate and Burroughs go about weaving their web. The similarity to Penelope of the Odyssey is close with the exception that Burroughs does not unravel the previous day’s work. But one is invited to see this story as a series of pictures woven into the tapestry somewhat like the contest between Athene and Arachnae. One might also compare the novel, in the classical mode, to the Shield of Achilles which is decorated around the edge with a series of pictures portraying the life of the Bronze Age. So Burroughs has woven a series of such pictures into his tapestry. A clever idea and well executed. How many people have ever gotten it except for us is open to question.
So far Burroughs has insulted the Jews and ridiculed religion in general and Christianity specifically. He now turns to the strand of Communism, humiliating them in his dreamworld. It is all well that he should take the attack to them but one is surprised that he either didn’t anticipate a counter attack or didn’t anticipate the direction from which it would come if he was even yet aware that his defenses had been overrun by MGM.
The man was playing with fire without an awareness of real life consequences. It would be amusing to know if a copy of Tarzan Triumphant was rushed off to Stalin. One can be sure that the ADL/AJC/MGM combination had an advance copy perhaps even the chapters as they were being written. It is inconceivable that his enemies had no spy within his organization. That is just the way things are done and had to have been done in this instance. The usual mode is to capture the position of secretary through whom all information passes. That means that ERB’s typist may have been the conduit, Cyril Ralph Rothmund or perhaps even both. I’m betting on Rothmund for sure. I would love to see his finances. He may also have been on the ADL/AJC/MGM payroll was well as Burroughs’. Itr was he who negotiated the contract Burroughs signed giving away the control of Tarzan.
The next picture on the web is the reunion of Jezebel and Patrick followed by the battle of Tarzan and the Communists.
To be continued in Part 5: In The Footsteps Of The Lord
August 1, 2011
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#15 Tarzan Triumphant
Two Peas And The Pod.
The ease with which ERB shifts from one complicated subject to another is truly remarkable; no less so in the facility he has for organizing these matters into a few lines or paragraphs. No one can do this without a firm grasp of his subject matter. ERB is simply one of the best informed writers of his era.
In a little less than a page ERB summarizes the Torrio-Capone years in Chicago from the beginning of Prohibition in 1920 while incorporating a fictional history of his character, Danny ‘Gunner’ Patrick. Patrick as his name indicates is Irish. He was part of the Dion O’ Bannion gang led bhy Bugs Moran after O’Bannion’s demise in 1924. According to Burroughs Patrick took part in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.
…but Danny Patrick was ambitions. For years he had been the right hand of a Big Shot. He had seen his patron grow rich– “lousy rich” according to Danny’s notion– and he had become envious.
So Danny double crossed the Big Shot, went over to the other side, which, incidentally, boasted a bigger and better Big Shot, (Al Capone) and was a party to the hijacking of several truck loads of booze belonging to his former employer.
Many of the Big Shot’s enemies and several of his friends, had Danny taken for a ride. He knew the power of the Big Shot, and feared him. Danny did not want to go for a ride himself, but he knew that if he remained in dear old Chi he would go the way of all good gunmen much to soon to suit his plans.
Patrick is not not a nice guy, he is definitely not a nice guy. For my tastes ERB is much too tolerant of a man he describes as a psychopathic killer. “many of the Big Shot’s enemies, and several of his friends’ implies that Patrick has many, perhaps dozens, of murders to his credit yet Burroughs is going to have Tarzan befriend this guy.
While O’ Bannion was done in in 1924 by the Capone gang, being succeeded by Moran, ERB seems to telescope the years reversing things so that O’Banion is still alive after the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre– ‘The Day Chicago Died.’ ERB is clearly following and thinking about the situation in Chicago as he says, p. 27:
(Patrick) knew that sooner or later, the Big Shot woud have a grand funeral with truck loads of flowers and, at least, a ten thousand dollar casket.
Underworld funrals were prodigious affairs. There is a certain irony in the fact that Dion O’ Banion ran a flower shop. As a big crime figure it would be expected that the flowers for those expensive funerals would come from his shop. Is it any wonder Patrick was taking so many people for a ride. O’ Banion had a good racket going there.
Not wanting to be taken for a ride himself Patrick had opted for an extended vacation taking his typewriter with him. A Chicago typewriter, of course, was a Thompson machine gun. Tommy gun. The Chicago underworld qauickly adopted the Tommy gun which was new at the time. The Tommy made those Dick Tracy comic strips so thrilling. Although one has come to accept the Chicago hoodlum story as a commonplace if one actually thinks about it the open war between the underworld and legitamate society is so startling that one should be appalled. ERB like the rest of his contemporaries seems to have taken the fact in stride even, in his case, making Patrick a hero.
It is almost as though he made Patrick the dark side of the mild mannered Geology professor, Lafayette Smith. Or, in other words, himself. In this series of books from Invincible to Lion Man ERB explores the split or dual personality as examined in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. Convinced as ERB is that the Animus is represented by two archetypes, whith which I find no difficulty other than it can be three, four or more, in this story as usual he divides the two aspects of the personality between two characters. Although Lord Passmore who is Tarzan in disguise has a decidedly homosexual feel, which would make four personalities.
Lafe Smith is clearly an alter ego of Burroughs. Borrowing from ERB’s own experience he says of Smith, p. 11:
…Lafayette Smith, A.M., Ph.D., Sc.D, professor of geology at the Phil Sheridan Military Academy.
For a school year now, he had been an instructor in an inconspicuous western military academy.
Here we have ERB as he would like to have been with a string of degrees after his name. First in this dream life he is a professor of Geoplogy athe Phil Sheridan Military Academy which sounds pretty impressive but then he is mysteriously down graded from a professor to a mere instructor (which ERB was in fact) for a schoolyear, nine months, at an inconspicuous military academy. Thus fantasy collides with reality.
Another fantasy, now Smithe was on his way to achieve another cherished ambition, that of going to Africa to study the Great Rift Valley perhaps as ERB himself might have liked to have done but which he never did.
So ERB has his ego ideals, his Jekyll and Hyde sides going as pals to Africa. As Tarzan is also an ego ideal we have an actual trinity. Jekyll and Hyde and what? God? David Adams who is a pretty thorough Jungian is mystified by the lack of the benevolent old man in Burroughs’ work who according to Jungian theory should have been there. This is more htan likely a very involved question but I am going to sugest that possibly characters like Tarzan and John Carter seve in that capacity of Old Man/Jekyll figures while the actual Old Man figures who are betrayers serve perhaps as the Hydelike figures representing his father.
In real life Burroughs ‘old man’, his father, was a betrayer who had little good to say about his son even to the extent of defaming him to all and sundry. So, it is possible that ERB split the Jungian benevolent Old Man figure into Jekyll like Tarzan and John Carter and his father into the Hydelike Old Man character. As he was conflicted with a love/hate relationship with his father it would be easier for him not to mention his father by name. I offer this interpretation only as a suggestion and do not insist n it, still it is a possible solution to the problem perhaps leading to a full solution.
You can take the boy out of Chicago but you can’t take Chicago out of the boy. ERB was always fascinated by slang. Gunner Patrick gives him the opportunity for extensive and amusing word play. The criminal culture from which patrick comes has what amounts to a patois. At one point ERB calls it by the French term of argot. Even though he is pronouncing English words that the English speaking characters can recognize the meanings of the meaning he attaches to the words are beyond the comprehension of his auditors. Thus one has the intersting effect of the cultural clash between two examples of what should be the same culture but is not.
Of course ERB is in full command of not only both these cultures but seemingly all cultures. In his zany multi-cultural world he is the Master of Cultures. I pretend to the succession of ERB.
Thus disembarking from a ship the bright and dark sides of ERB tramp across Africa in the direction of the Great Rift Valley. Perhaps like Kitchener they came down the Nile to Khartoum and cut up the Blue Nile to Ethiopia like Samual Baker. Now Burroughs has to integrate his master alter ego, Tarzan, into the Jekyll and Hyde pair.
A psychological interpretation is that Tarzan must accept the Hyde of Burroughs’ personality as well as the Jekyll. Indeed, Tarzan seems to respect the Hyde side much more than he does the clown like but educated Jekyll side.
As the story is told Tarzan hears the sound of a machine gun and goes to investigate. Patrick had fired into the bush hoping to hit a lion nosing about the safari camp. He succeeds in temporarily scaring it away, giving Tarzan time to locate the camp.
The lion returns. Imagine this scene. Patrick with this Tommy gun is standing under the convenient tree, while Smith stands behind him with his nickel paltged .32 that he doesn’t even know how to aim. Here ERB’s dark side is in command while his incompetent but intelligent bright side is subordinate to the dark. What does this mean in real life?
As Patrick fires on the lion the Tommy gun jams leaving both sides of Burroughs’ alter-ego defenseless. At this time the Master alter ego falls on the lion from the tree killing him and saving the lives of the subordinate alter egos, Patrick and Smith. Patrick is Irish and the more aggressive while one presumes Smith is English and more passive. Thus a major theme of Irish and English which runs throughout the corus is here erepresented. While ERB claimed to be ‘pur’ English he was actually only English on his father’s side while Bennsylvania Dutch, in other words, Rhineland German, and Irish on his Mother’s side. the Irish surfaces not only here but in the following year when he assumed his Irish ancestral name of John McCulloch to write Pirate Blood. Also as David Adams points out the killing of the lion puts the seal on the relationship between Tarzan, Smth and Patrick.
In the same period of time he wrote Pirates Of Venus and Pirate Blood. Although pirates had figured in his early writing as the Black Pirates of Barsoom and the pirates of Pellucidar unless I’m mistaken this sudden efflorescence of interest in pirates has to do with the ‘pirating’ of Tarzan by MGM.
While not introducing himself Tarzan peremptorily gives the pair some instruction on how to comport themselves in the jungle then disappers up his tree.
The next time Tarzan and Patrick meet is a bonding session in which Tarzan accepts Burroughs’ dark side, Patrick.
Tarzan is squatting on the edge of the cliff observing Capietro and Stabutch in their camp below. the ground gives way precipitating Tarzan over the edge. He attempts to save himself by grabbing the chance tree growing out of the cliff face- the chance tree- even here Burroughs equates trees with safety- but the tree gives way. Tarzan falls through the grass roof of a hut landing safely. He is imediately engulfed by the goons of Capietro.
Now, having lunch under another tree not too far away, yards actually, is Gunner Patrick. HIs attention called to the Ape-man who he had previously not noticed he gets up to investigae. Aiding Tarzan he lets loose with a blast from the Thompson. He succeeds in dispersing the crowd as well as Capietro and Stabutch. this is almost commical: Tarzan shouts to Patraick to not go away, he’ll be right up. Good as his word he appears above.
Now come this very interesting bonding session in which Tarzan accepts Patrick. P. 98:
The “Gunner” was waiting for him upon the summit of the cliff directly behind the village, and for the second time these strangely dissimilar men met- dissimilar and yet, in some respects, alike. Each was ordinarily quiet to taciturnity, each was self-reliant, each was a law unto himself in his own environment; but there the similairty ceased for the extremes of environment had produced psychological extremes as remotely separated as the poles.
The ape-man had been reared amidst scenes of eternal beauty and grandeur, his associates the beasts of the jungle, savage perhaps, but devoid of coarse, petty jealousy, treachery, meanness and intentional cruelty; while the “Gunner” had known naught but the squalid aspects of scenery defiled by man, of horizons grotesque with the screaming atrocities of architecture, of an earth hidden by concrete ans asphaltum and littered with tin cans and garbage, his associeates in all walks of life activated by grand and petty meannesses unknown to any but mankind.
Now, Burroughs signed his contract with MGM on April tenth of 1931 while he didn’t finish Triumphant until May twentieth so had forty days in which to realize his mistake. If he did realize his error so quickly it might acount for some of the misanthropic bitterness in the above passage and elsewhere. Filching his character would certainly be considered a grand meanness. On the other hand his misanthropic interpretation was a continuation of his longstanding dislike of mankind and civilization.
It is of interest that both Patrick and Tarzaqn have killed many men. Some of Tarzan’s kills, quite frankly, verge on the psychopathic. I can’t get over how he literally ripped a man’s head off his shoulders in Ant Men. Of course, he may have merely underestimated his strength being a fourth his size but having his full sized strength.
Nevertheless both are laws unto themselves in their own domains so theoretically they do as they please. Still, and I don’t know how to interpret this, ‘the extremes of environment had produced psychological extremes as remotely separated as the poles.’ I’m clear on Patrick’s extreme but I’m not sure which extreme Tarzan represents.
These extremes were caused by the differences in the environments of the two men. Tarzan was raised amongst beauty , while Patrick was raised amongst squaor. As Burroughs roamed over Chicago, and it seems certain he searched out nooks and crannies, he was appalled byh the ‘screaming atrocities of architecture’. Chicagoans have been quite proud of their architects and architectures so Burroughs critique is quite different. The paving over of the environment bothered him as much as it does me. We no longer see the tin cans and bottles but the dumping of garbage wherever by certain people still goes on.
Tarzan was raised among the ’noble’ beasts while Patrick was raised essentially among thieves and cheats.
Still, invironment aside both men had many kills or murders to their credit. Seems like a double standard to absolve Tarzan while condemning Patrik especially since each is obviously a product of their environment while neither therefore is inherently good regardless of their environment.
Perhaps Tarzan kills only for just reasons, of his own reckoning as he is a law unto himself, while patgrick kills for gain is where the difference lies. Perhaps that is the difference between constituted society and the criminal world. There are times when the most mild mannered and best of men and women must kill, whether in the individual or collective sensel. Burroughs brings this out when Lafe Smith attempts to liberate Lady Barbara and Jezebel from the Midianites. As he faces the Midianites with his .32 a cultured English voice comes down from the cross telling him that he is goint to have to kill someone if he and women wish to survive.
Perhaps this scene isn’t just entertainment but Burroughs relating a hard fact of life. No matter how good you may be a situation in life will appear when you will have to do that which goes against evrything you believe if you wish to survive.l Such is the West’s situation in the world today; commit suicide yourself or shoot to kill. Sometimes it comes down to that; left multi-culturalism or no.
This scene may be a very important psychological moment for ERB. There is wry truth in Tarzan’s next utterance to Patrick: “‘ A machine gun has its possibilites,’ the ape-man said with the flicker of a smile.’”
Perhaps ERB is in some midlife evaluation. The scene with his alter-ego Smith’s entry into Midian is laden with symbolism also. Let’s see how Burroughs handles that as he and Fate continue to weave the warp and woof of this remarkable tapestry to bring out the pattern.
Continued in Part 4: Lafe Smith, Born Again.
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Lady Barbara Drops In
As always ERB is the consummate multi-culturalist both ethnic and social. Barbara is the daughter of the English Lord Whimsey, Smith is a college professor, Capietro is an Italian Communist renegade, Stabutch is a Russian Communist, the Midianites represent an ancient religious culture derived from the Jewish, Tarzan is Tarzan of Africa and Lord Passmore of England and then we have a cast of animal characters including a tribe of baboons who interact with Tarzan on the cultural level. All are represented as being culturally distinct. ERB is more of a right multi-culturalist than a left.
If a culture is in fact a culture it must be distinct or it couldn’t qualify as a culture. To be of the French culture there must be characteristics that can be identified as specifically French. Else, why call yourself French? The Left multi-culturalists need to define their terms a little better. They come across as rather shabby intellectually.
Then, of the hundreds, probably thousands of cultures, are they all to be considered equal? For instance is it considered desirable to be of the Prison culture? Pedophile culture? No, of course not; not all cultures are equally beneficial. Each culture must be analyzed on its own merits and faults, completely analyzed by objective analysts. No particular culture need be nor can be taken at its own evaluation. Obviously many cultures are to be avoided completely. Others should be isolated or quarantined. Which is which can only be determined by an analysis of its positive contributions. The results of analysis can be unkind; the truth frequently hurts. As the French say: C’est la vie.
In his analysis of group cultures ERB does draw conclusions. There’s no doubt he thinks that the Communist culture is a negative to be avoided. Thus Zveri in Invincible was ignominiously defeated by Tarzan as Stabutch will be in Triumphant.
In almost every case ERB is very hard on religious cultures as he will be in this novel. Is he unjust or is the truth about religion just too hard for devotees to bear? Everyone will have their own opinion while I have made my position abundantly clear: the religious consciousness is outdated, having been surpassed by the vastly superior Scientific Consciousness. I won’t be changing my mind soon.
Lady Barbara Collis is about to parachute into a culture two thousand years in the past. ERB commits a major gaffe here in the opening pages of his novel. Lady Barbara is attempting a non-stop flight of 7500 miles in a 1930 plane, clearly impossible. Rather than taking a direct route up the Nile she is lost several hundreds of miles to the East over Ethiopia and, get this, already running on empty.
I don’t know who calculated her fuel needs but I should imagine he would be looking for a new occupation. But, that doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story any more than the donut atmosphere of Poloda in Beyond The Farthest Star. Who knows what goes on beyond the farthest star. They probably even suspend the laws of gravity.
There Lady Barbara is, way up there without the means of propulsion. she does the manly thing: she jumps out. This is real Twilight Zone stuff; little does she know she will leave the twentieth century and land in 80 AD or so. The Land Of Midian has been frozen in time for the last two millennia.
The Midians assembled within the walls of their crater hear the drone of the airplane, which sound they are unable to identify and then to their amazed eyes a little white cloud appears through the mist with a human form dangling below it. To their religiously distorted senses it must be the Angel of the Lord.
Thus we have a nice confrontation between two different cultures. The modern scientific of Lady Barbara and the ancient religious culture of the Midians. The Midians could stand as a metaphor of the religions of Burroughs’ day which, not unlike the Midians, were roooted in a culture two thousand years old and of a different and inferior consciousness. Not only had the Scopes trial recently ended but the sensatinal affair of Aimee Semple Mcpherson was still fairly warm, plus ERB had recently read Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry. That novel did not sit well with ERB nor does it sit well with me. Burt Lancaster’s movie Elmer Gantry, by the way, is totally dissimilar to the Gantry of the book.
According to ERBzine Burroughs took offence at Elmer Gantry, deploring Lewis’ habit of ridiculing
and demeaning people rather than presenting the story as entertainment. Lewis does ridicule and belittle every character in his book in a detestable holier than thou manner which is very annoying. Burroughs turns the story around and disparages practices which I suppose makes it entertainment. For instance both the fictional Gantry and the real life Mcpherson are what are known in military slang as ‘Sky Pilots.’ Thus there is a certain amount of humor in Lady Barbara as an angel of the lord sky piloting into the religious Land of Midian.
When the Midianites drown a young woman while dragooning her, Lady Barbara, after the manner of Mcpherson, brings her back to life by ‘a laying on of hands’, that is artificial respiration. Clever of ERB. It will be remembered tha Mcpherson had a roomful of crutches and wheelchairs from people she had supposedly cured by a laying on of hands. I have no idea how many readers might have gotten the joke when the novel was released but there the joke is if you care to look for it.
So we have the Scopes Trial, Aimee Semple Mcpherson and Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry all rolled up in a series of jokes ‘highly fictionized.’ There is probably more to be found if one could steep
oneself in the ephemeral culture of the time.
As mentioned, Lady Barbara parachutes through two thousand years of time to find herself among a Pauline Christian sect that hadn’t changed one iota since c. 80 A.D. The emphais on Pauline Christianity is important. At about this time ERB was becoming involved with the Vedantist mission in Hollywood so discussions of early Christianity may possibly have made an impression on him. Paul was, of course, a Jew who adapted the Jewish Christian sect for dissemination among the Gentiles. The Catholic Church was founded on Sts. Peter and Paul while the medieval Knights Templar based their Christianity on the Gospel of John thus being Johannites. There was a cultural divide between the Church and the Templars which did necessitate action no less than between the Paulites and the Arians. ERB’s emphasis is intended to indicate the Jewish origins of the Midianites.
It will be remembered that Angustus was a Jewish Christian who arrived in company with a Nordic slave girl. So for two thousand years the Midianites have been inbreeding. ERB is considering the results of inbreeding, as a year later he will write Pirate Blood that deals with the famously inbred Jukes family. Pirate Blood is perhaps his most despairing story as his mind tips toward Lamarckian evolution in an apparent attempt to explain to himself why he can’t resolve his psychological problems.
Thus the genetic and Lamarckian traits of Angustus and the slave girl have been passed down through approximately seventy generations. Angustus’ genes have predominated while those of the slave girl appear occasionally in sports.
Angustus was characterized by a huge nose that was an actual deformity, a chinless face and epilepsy. Thus if one imagines this, Lady Barbara is confronted by a group of people with huge noses covering most of their faces with no chins, the throat sweeping back from just under the lips and writhing on the ground in epileptic fits.
There can be no mistaking that ERB is caricaturing the Jews. Angustus was a Jew and he was a Pauline Christian. As a Christian, ERB disguises his Jewish nationality. The leader of hte Midianites, Abraham the son of Abraham certainly puts the Midianites into a Jewish context, as does the fact that they consider themselves the ‘chosen people.’ Ludicrous enough from their physical description.
ERB’s caricature is one that was prevalent when he was a young man, while one that couldn’t be missed by the gentlemen of the ADL/AJC and MGM. They would neither forgive nor forget. In fact Tarzan would be potrayed in The New Adventures Of Tarzan as chinless and with a huge nose. While Herman Brix/Bruce Bennet had neither a bulbous nose nor was chinless the effect was achieved through photographic lighting and shadowing. Either that or the film has deteriorated through time to achieve that effect. (DVD, The New Adventures Of Tarzan, Alpha Home Entertainment, www.oldies.com )
If you think there isn’t a war going on here, look more closely.
Even though of Jewish descent, the Midianites are Christians, but of the most primitive stripe; they make sects like the Nazarenes look liberal. Their minds are uncompromisingly dark. The girl who was dragooned was sentenced to death for smiling. Joy was considered of the devil in Midian. Here ERB characterized a number of Christian sects correctly.
Among the people who greeted Lady Barbara was a genetic sport who harked back physically and mentally to the original slave girl. She is Jezebel. She and Lady Barbara are immediately attracted to each other by their beauty. The attractive and intelligent Midianites were invariably fair haired and blue eyed while the unattractive ones were dark haired, brown eyed and stupid. Little doubt that the AJC/ADL would consider the book ‘racist.’
Jezebel is an interesting character in that she is a little more than light headed. She is governed entirely by surface appearances. As in Lion Man where the hybrids were expelled from Henry’s village, so the more attractive males were exiled to the other side of the crater. Obviously we have an example of eugenics here. They were more warlike than the Midianites occasionally raiding them. Jezebel remarks that they are so good looking she hopes they will capture her. When the Midianites honor ‘the angel’ with her own cave and offering of food, Jezebel is depicted laying back eating grapes like a spoiled young thing with a box of bon-bons. ERB later describes her as a Golden Girl which relates her to Balza of Lion Man and hence to Florence.
Whatever ERB tells himself about Florence in his conscious mind his depiction of her in his unconscious life seems to be quite different.
At first Lady Barbara is treated quite well but familiarity breeds contempt. Abraham Ben Abraham begins to suspect her divinity. Even the miracle of the laying on of hands that restored the girl to life being no less a miracle than the raising of Lazarus cannot dissuade Abe Ben Abe from testing Lady Barbara. Thus she too is dragooned but instead of being dunked three times she is thrown into the lake wrapped in a net with the net weighted. Here is proof positive that ERB read Dumas’ The Count Of Monte Cristo. The scene replicated Dantes being thrown into the sea from the Chateau d’If.
Lady Barbara has her handy jackknife so that she is able to cut her way free. Thus we leave her here crawling gaspingly ashore while we check in on Lafayette Smith and Danny ‘Gunner’ Patrick.
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#15 Tarzan Triumphant
Over many years I have searched for the point where myth and science join. It was clear to me for a long time that the origins of science had their deep roots in a particular myth, that of invariance. The Greeks as early as the 7th century B.C. spoke of the quest of their first sages as the problem of the One and the Many, sometimes describing the wild fecundity of nature as the way in which the Many could be educed from the One, sometimes seeing the Many as the unsubstantial variations being played on the One. The oracular sayings of Heraclitus the Obscure do nothing but illustrate with shimmering paradoxes the illusory quality of “things” in flux as they were wrung from the central intuition of society.
Before him Anaximander had announced also oracularly, that the cause of things being born and perishing is their injustice to each other in the order of time, “as they meet,” he said, for they are bound to atone forever for their mutual injustices. This was enough to make of Anaximander the acknowledged father of physical science, for the accent is on the “Many.” But it was true science after a fashion.
Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay Investigaing The Origins Of Human
Knowledge And Its Transmission Through Myth, p. viii,
Giorgio de Santillana, 1969
The five Tarzan novels from Invinicible to Lion Man form a unique quintet within the oeuvre. Together they are just shy of twenty-five percent of the twenty-one Tarzan novels published during Burroughs’ lifetime. If one excludes the late and unrelated Foreign Legion they are a fourth of the series. Twenty-five percent within four years. One might well ask what was going on in Burroughs’ life during these momentous four years.
With the possible exception of City Of Gold all the novels deal openly with recognizable current events. Invincible deals with the Soviet Communist menace which is contdinued as one of the themes of Triumphant. The mainspring of Triumphant is Cecil Rhodes’ old dream of a Cape to Cairo route. In this instance realized, as improbable as it might have seemed to Rhodes, as an air route. The hope of the air route was first explored in 1918 and was about to be realized shortly after Burroughs wrote this book.
ERB also throws in a bit about Chicago hoodlumism with a tip of the hat to Al Capone.
Tarzan And The Leopard Men deals with the African Leopard Cult that was in the news at the time. City of Gold is about ERB’s marital problems while Tarzan And The Lion Man concerns the recent and sensational MGM expedition to Africa to film Trader Horn. Both before and after these novels Burroughs wrote pure, well, almost pure fantasy.
The reason for the change isn’t clear; however, the thirties mark another change in novelistic styles so Burroughs may have been adapting to new circumstances. If so it was the third stylistic change he was successfully meeting although it would be his last. He had melded a turn-of-the-century style of the teens when he began writing, then adapting his style to that of the Jazz Age of the twenties. After a good start in the thirties the ground slipped from beneath his feet with his style becoming somewhat dated. By the forties he was finished although Foreign Legion makes a game shot at a stylistic evolution.
Perhaps more importantly, ERB changed because he wanted to be taken as a serious writer. He was simply tired of being known as an ignorant boob writing from the seat of his pants. For all the seeming frivolity of his fantasy themes they are based on very solid scientific and knowledgeable themes. They are imbued with an intense mythological acumen, while presenting a new mythology for the current age. They do deal with classical themes such as the One and the Many. Burroughs tried to organize experience into a new mthological structure which was desperately needed then and no less today.
Consider Giorgio de Santillana again:
Today’s children, that impassive posterity to whom all reverence is due, know where to look for myths, in animal life in the Jungle Books. In the stories of Lassie and Flipper, where innocence is unassailable, in Western adventures arranged by grown ups for the protection of law and order. Much of the rest sedulously built up by mass media is modern prejudice and delusion, like the glamour of royalty, or the perfection of super detergents and cosmetics; super-stitio, leftovers. So one might be tempted to say. Actually however, no particle of myth is left over, and we have to do only with a deliberate lie about the human condition. Tolkien’s efforts at reviving the genre, whatever talent employed, carry as much conviction as the traditional three dollar bill.
Quite right. Burroughs had the handle on true mythology while being able to create the governing myth of the Aquarian Age. Triumphant is laden with myth. In truth Burroughs is not the light-headed, simple-minded writer that even his most devoted fans and admirers want to think him. He doesn’t want to parade his knowledge or get involved in abstruse discussions; he is writing seeming pure action novels, The Master Of Adventure, as his fans like to say, for a pulp magazine audience that primarily wanted to be thrilled. One may criticize Burroughs for it but he is never short on thrills or spectacular effects. One may guffaw at some of his heroes’ exploits as I surely do but your eyes are still popping. There’s a lot more under the seeming simplicity. Much of it would have been recognized at the time giving the ‘knowing’ reader the satisfaction of being in on what ERB was really talking about but as the topicality faded away the succeeding generations of readers could see only the action.
The first sentence of the preceding novel, Invincible, explains ERB’s approach:
I am no historian or chronicler of facts, and furthermore, I hold a very definite conviction that there are certain subjects which fiction writers should leave alone, foremost of which are politics and religion. However, it seems to me not unethical to pirate an idea occasionally from one or the other, provided that the subject be handled in such a way as to impart a definite impression of fictionizing.
In this series of five novels in a bid to be taken seriously, perhaps rather than conceal his knowledge by a ‘definite impression of fictionizing’ he was making a bid for intellectual recognition by ‘exposing’ his serious interests to some extent.
The background of Triumphant is solidly based historically and in current events. ERB was always seriously interested in aviation. Indeed, his life as an adult would span the first lift off at Kitty Hawk to supersonic jet flight over a period of a mere forty years. That might do something to your mind. the concept of speed changed in his lifetime from Barney ‘A mile a minute’ Oldfield to a fifteen mile a minute jet fighter plane.
Commercial flight as we know it today was non-existent in 1930. The DC3 was still five years distant. A flight from Cairo to Capetown involved several layovers and even train trips if air connections were not established between certain points. Yet, such a route was a major advance while being exciting news. Ya gotta remember making a crystal radio set at home was still a substantial achievement marking one as an electrical wizard. At the same time television was on the horizon, nearly a reality. In such a flight Burroughs had a sure fire topic.
He combines elements of an earlier 1918 attempt and the establishment of an air route at the time of writing. In 1918 shortly after the War ended the British got right on realizing the hope of a Cape to Cairo dream. Great Britain had acquired the German African colonies as part of the Versailles Treaty so that they were then in control of a continguous corridor through East Africa. The acquisition of Tanganyika (Tanzania) filled the gap.
Four separate pilots set out from Cairo for the Cape. The attempt was not entirely successful, but by 1932 it was. Burroughs then selects as his imaginary pilot Lady Barbara Collis, an English aviatrix on a solo flight. she seems to be somewhat off her course flying over Ethiopia but then that might be expected.
The way Burroughs’ mind worked he usually has real models for these roles if you can figure them out. In this case I think Lady Barbara incorporates three different women. The only significan aviatrix I can locate is Amelia Earhart. She became in 1928 the first woman to fly the Atlantic. She was part of a three-man crew but gained notoriety. In 1930-31 she was preparing for a solo Atlantic flight a la Charles Lindbergh from Labrador to Paris. She did cross the Atlantic but was forced down in an Irish cow pasture not reaching Paris. That was after the book was written so ERB would be relying on her 1928 flight and preparations for the solo flight.
A second personality conflated with Lady Barbara may have been the famous evangelist and founder of the Four Square Church, Aimee Semple McPherson. I have a framed picture of McPherson in my collection. Evangelism may also have been on Burroughs’ mind from his recent reading of Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis. According to ERBzine Burroughs objected to Lewis’ forcing his atheism on the reader. Here one of his purposes may have been to show Lewis how it’s done.
Aimee Semple McPherson hit LA at about the same time as Burroughs.
By 1923 she was so popular she opened her 5000 seat Angelus Temple while beginning to broadcast over KSFG-K Four Square Gospel. And then a the height of her fame on May 18, 1926 she vanished after swimming in the Pacific. This and the following events during which several people died created a sensation no one in the country, and certainly LA, could miss. Not an ERB who was passionately interested in religion anyway. One wonders if he visited the Angelus Temple for Sunday services.
Aimee turned up in Mexico where she said she had been held captive after being abducted. But, apparently the pressures of success had been too much for her and she attempted escape into sex and a love tryst, which is a normal psychological reaction to unbearable stress as ERB himself was discovering. The disappearance and subseqauent events had continued into 1927 and 1928 so that ERB’s capacious mind was filled with the wonder of it all. Thus Lady Barbara disappears during the flight onto the mystery escarpment to reappear months later on the arm of Lafayette Smith. Same story. I think it likely ERB was thinking of both women while a third influence is almost certainly Dorothy Sayers, the mystery writer and creator of Lord Peter Whimsey. Burroughs hits at it by mentioning that the story does not concern Lord Wimsey but does concern his daughter, Barbara Collis. This probably refers to Dorothy Sayers and her creation, Peter Wimsey. When ERB admired a writer he wrote them into the story somehow. He was generous that way.
And then there is Danny ‘Gunner’ Patrick of the Chicago Underworld. His name indicates he is Irish so he may be supposed to be associated with Dion O’ Bannion’s gang rather than Capone and the incipient Outfit. ERB privides an intriguing if overly sympathetic portrait of the gangster. One wonders if he had met models at this time.
In connection with Patrick, which begins an interest in organized crime that extends through Swords Of Mars and the its Guild of Assassins, Murder Inc. was established at this time so that by the date of 1933 it would seem that ERB brought Murder Inc. into the corpus.
Then there is LaFayette Smith himself. Named after General Lafayette of Revolutionary War fame and recently brought to mind by General Patton who said, as he stepped foot on French soil, ‘Lafayette, we are here.’ The young geology professor may be be taken as an alter ego of Burroughs himself as he taught geology at the MMA. Sort of the man Burroughs might have been had he the self-discipline to have gone to college. ERB apparently sincerely regretted he had not gotten a degree as a number of his alter egos are college graduates, such as the Old Timer of Leopard Men who graduated from his brothers’ alma mater, Yale.
As noted Burroughs had taught geology as an instructor at the Michigan Military Academy. He was still following the subject closely as he grouses that geologists had as many opinions each about as accurate as the weather forecasters. Still, knowledge was developing at a break neck pace that would lead to our substantailly complete knowledge of today. It’s too bad that ERB couldn’t have held on to 1965 or so. A man of his intellect would have seen things.
Burroughs not only combines all these threads and strands but in his prologue he reaches for his most daring concept yet. It’s only a page so let’s look at it closely. The opening sentences:
Time is a warp of the tapestry which is life. It is eternal, constant, unchanging. But the woof is gathered from the four corners of the earth and the twenty-eight seas and out of the air and the minds of men by that master artist, Fate, as she weaves the design that is never finished.
A thread here, a thread from there, another from out of the past that has waited years for the companion thread without which the picture must be incomplete.
But Fate is patient. She waits a hundred or a thousand years to bring together two strands of thread whose union is essential to the fabrication of her tapestry, to the composition of the design that was without beginning and is without end.
That attitude informs all of Burroughs’ work; a study of the One and Many, and is the reason I am such an admirer. Given Burroughs Classical background that apparently made such a profound impression on him one is reminded of Penelope at her web as well as the three Greek mythological Fates themselves- the three daughters of Night– Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos.
Clotho the spinner, Lachesis the apportioner, Atropos who cuts the string that ends the web and life.
And then Burroughs begins to indicate how events occurring thousands of years previously would provide the strands of time to bring his story together into a recognizable pattern, the warp of the web, while th woof is the improbable bringing together of such disparate persons as Tarzan, Gunner Patrick, Lafe Smith, Lady Barbara and Jezebel, ERB’s prophetically named first Golden Girl. Florence is into the picture.
The ancient protagonist is a disciple of Paul of Tarsus, Angustus of Israel. At the death of Paul in Rome the paranoid Angustus decides to flee into the Heart of Darkness, Africa. Along the way he picks up a Nordic slave girl who will bring in ERB’s evolutionary theme. Then up the Nile into the Heart of Darkness.
In this story, all roads lead to Midian in the crater of an extinct Ethiopian volcano. In his way ERB who speaks frequently of coincidence denies the concept in favor of Fate the Inexorable. As Freud would say, there is no coincidence– one thing leads to another. Once set in motion the ball may be deflected but it cannot be stopped except by the cessation of Time– the non-existent but all controlling element.
Part two follows.
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.
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.