Part 6, Tarzan And The Lion Man: A Review

May 19, 2008

 

A Review

Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#18  Tarzan And The Lion Man

Part 6

by

R.E. Prindle

First published on the ezine, ERBzine

The Center Of The Circle

 

     Burroughs does a remarkable thing in this ring that clearly shows the Greek classical influence per Erling Holtsmark in his Tarzan And Tradition.   ERB disolves his story and cast of characters after the last Bansuto attack.  The cast is dispersed in several directions but ERB will deliver them all to Omwamwi Falls as he begins the three right hand rings:  3-2-1

     In fact this does follow the Homeric tradition.  The story of the Trojan Wars was actually a massive story of which only three parts survive, the Iliad, which concerns the central part of the epic and th two Returns, The Odyssey and The Oresteia.  All the rest has been lost or survives only in fragments such as ‘The Judgement Of Paris.”  Originally the epic was thousands of pages long.  There were undoubtedly few scholars who had ever read the story in its entirety and fewer still who understood it.

     It seems incredible that a very young ERB could have grasped the structure so completely while seeming to understand it so thoroughly.  Holtsmark quotes ERB as saying that he was rereading Plutarch’s Lives in 1923 when he discovered that Numa was the name of a Roman emperor, actually one of the Republican kings,  To that point he had believed that he had made up the name.

     Thus we learn that ERB did some rereading and his subconscious supplied material.  He could have, it is plausible, read the Iliad and Odyssey a number of times over his life.  Along with other classical reading the basic method was established in his subconscious which he was able to consciously manipulate.

     The Trojan War was the first of the three great sprawling European epics, unmatched in any other literatrue.   The second was the Arthurian Saga also huge, sprawling through many thousands of pages and many different variations.  The story has its roots in Greek mythology as well as in the Christian ethos.  The Lancelot-Grail alone is several thousand pages.  Burroughs doesn’t seem to have been much concerned with it.  Indeed, most of it would have been untranslated in his time thus being unavailable to him.

     The third great cycle was the strange nineteenth century English pursuit of the Grail in the search for the source of the Nile.  In my estimation a rather peculiar obsession.  This story too occupies several thousands of pages as all the participants recorded their efforts in copious detail.  Livingston, Stanley, Burton, Baker and Speke have written magnficent narratives.  Speke walking the Nile North after just having discovered the source actually ran into Baker following the Nile South.  A remarkable accidental encounter that goes unnoticed.  The best overview and history of the quest is Alan Moorehead’s The White Nile of 1960.  He provides an adequate background for these modern knights in seach of an unlikely Grail.  The Tarzan oeuvre might be indluded as a fourth cycle based on cycles one and three.

     The first and third epics then involved ERB intimately.  The Tarzan series is based on the Africa of the Nile Quest while framed in the literary construction of the first.

     Burroughs then dissolves his story after the Bansuto attack then telling the story of the several participants on the way to Omwamwi Falls in the manner of the Homeric Returns.  He then reassembles them less Obroski at the Omwamwi or Murchison Falls on the Nile.  Thus the river cascading from the plateau is actually the Nile.  What he calls the Thames on the plateau of the City of God must be indeed a substantial stream.

     We have already dealt with the fate of Stanley Obroski and Tarzan.  After the last Bansuto attack the Arabs agreed to take the midnight to six watch.  During the night they folded their tents and silently stole away taking Rhonda, Naomi and the map with them.

     Orman decides to go off in pursuit of them alone.  Bill West convinces him to take himself along so the two abandon the safari to pursue the girls and Arabs.

     Tarzan neutralizes the Bansuto by having them promise to be kind to Whites so the remaining safari members are able to somehow get their trucks and equpment to the Falls unmolested,  that leaves the girls, the Arabs and Orman and West.

     After leaving Obroski shivering with fright in a tree Tarzan comes upon Orman and West as they are being attacked by a lion.  Plummeting from the convenient tree Tarzan dispatches the lion, immediately disappearing back into his tree.   This is the first incident of the cast mistaking Tarzan for Obroski.  I happen to think Burroughs handles this confusion extremely well.  After all, Burroughs has firmly established Obroski’s cowardice with the safari members.

     Orman and West’s astonishment at the seeming Obroski feat is very genuine.  Later when Tarzan supplies them with a buck while translating Arabic from Atewy their astonishment can’t be more complete.  Very effectively handled.  Having supplied them with food Tarzan points them in the right direction and gets them started with a swift kick so that leaves the Arabs and the girls to account for.  This also begins the comparison of the qualities of Rhonda and Naomi.

     The Arabs have the map to the valley of diamonds that they believe is genuine and indeed it is.  Unable to read English, the language of the map, they make promises of freedom to gain the cooperation of the girls.  Rhonda scoffs at the genuineness of the map believing it a movie prop.  However they can locate their position according to the landmarks provided by the map.  Astonishingly they are able to locate all the landmarks which lead them to the Omwamwi Falls.

     Naomi accepts her captivity while Rhonda plans escape.  She effects this by saddling a couple ponies at night  while driving the rest of the herd off.  This episode is also well handled and quite believable given that this is a fantasy novel.  The net result is that Naomi is recaptured while Rhonda makes it to the falls where the story is forwarded by her capture by the Apes of God.  Another little joke, I presume.

     Following both the map and Rhonda the Arabs and Naomi arrive at the Falls.  The action then finishes the parallel story to Tarzan and Obroski  of the girls and begins the right second ring story of The City Of God.  This is a magnificent story full of many twists and surprises.  In our day this stuff has been used over and over so that the imaginative feat is diluted or lost.  If one places one’s imagination back in 1933 one can marvel at Burroughs; ingenuity while seeing how disappointed ERB was that the novel fell flat.  Such is life.

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