Part II: Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar By Edgar Rice Burroughs

September 1, 2009

 

Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#5: Tarzan And The Jewels Of  Opar

Part II

by

R.E. Prindle

Reliving Past Crimes And Humiliations

     Let us put Chapter 6: The Arab Raid at this point in the discusssion so as to achieve greater continuity at the scenes in Opar.

     With Tarzan absent from the Estate Zek makes his move to obtain Jane.  The brave Waziri warriors rally around Jane putting up a fierce resistance.  For whatever reason Tarzan hasn’t armed them with the latest repeating rifles and perhaps a Gatling Gun preferring they fight their battles with spears; hence they are no match for Zek whose men are armed with some woefully outdated firearms.  We aren’t even told whether they’re Snyders.  Burroughs just calls them ‘long guns.’

     Jane herself  is armed with what seems to be a repeating rifle.  While there are those who refer to Jane as wimpy she is far from wilting here as she gamely fires through the closed door.

     It is difficult to determine ERB’s intent here.  In 1903-04 when Emma traveled to the wilds of Idaho with her husband she was far from the frontier type.  ERB undoubtedly wanted her to be the dauntless frontier woman perhaps as was the wife portrayed in the Virginian but he discovered she was a citified fashion queen.  Perhaps here he is demonstrating to Emma what he had wanted her to be.

     The Estate is fired as it will be again three years hence when the Germans arrive.  At that time ERB led us to believe that Jane was murdered while here she is about to be taken far away.  In ERB’s troubled mind it would appear that he wanted to be rid of Emma.  He would actually say he always wanted to be rid of her twenty years hence.

     Oblivious of the fate of Jane Tarzan is in far away Opar loading the remaining faithful Waziri with the oddly shaped gold ingots.

     Werper has followed him into the vaults.  As an allegory Werper in this place can represent Ogden McClurg.  The vaults can represent ERB’s mind where the wealth of his imagination is stored.  Thus the publisher is taking what is rightfully ERB’s labor.

     In actuality Ogden McClurg was seldom in Chicago.  He was a naval officer who was in the Caribbean most of the time coming back briefly and then when The Great War broke out he became involved in those operations.  The manager Joe Bray seems to have been the responsible person.  I haven’t been able to ascertain McClurg’s position while I have been told the records for McClurg’s were destroyed so that may be impossible.  I have gone through the correspondence between McClurg’s, A.L. Burt and Grosset and Dunlap in the archives of the University of Louisville.  There seems to have been an agreement between McClurg’s and G&D to, how shall I say it, defraud Burroughs of royalties.  If Burroughs was the best selling author of the time he is represented to be his royalty checks were ludicrously small, by the late thirties five, six and seven dollars per title.  Hardly worth either McClurg’s or G&D’s bother if accurate.  One is at a loss to understand why they clung so obstinately to the titles.  One compares such small checks with the enormous sales of the 1960s.  You can draw your own conclusions but it definitely seems there are some unsolvable contradictions.

     Burroughs always believed he was being cheated.  Based on the evidence I have seen I have to agree with him.

     The gold has been brought to the top of the shaft.  Tarzan goes back for a last look when the roof literally caves in.  An earthquake occurs; a portion of the roof  lands on Tarzan’s head putting him out.  Werper who was in the same place with Tarzan is uninjured.  Unable to go forward he takes the candle stub fleeing down the corridor toward Opar.  In this instance he appears almost as a doppelganger of Tarzan.

     Tarzan when locked in a cell on the previous occasion had removed the bricks in the wall opening into this corridor.  Werper now traces Tarzan’s steps in reverse.  Coming to the well he makes the same leap with with same success.  Removing the bricks he retraces Tarzan’s steps back up into the sacrificial chamber.  Here the little hairy men seize him tossing him onto the altar where La awaits.  Duplicating the sacrifical scene with Tarzan she is about to plunge the knife into Werper’s breast when the air is shattered by a deafening roar.  A lion has announced his presence in the chamber.  The little hairy men flee, La faints and Werper prays.

     We know this story because it is ERB’s favorite theme written in many variations.

     ERB leaves Werper at the altar and returns to Tarzan who we last saw lying on the floor in a spreading pool of blood.  The sequence in Opar recapitulates the main psychological traumas in ERB’s life in one of its many variations.  The story changes and evolves but the facts remain the same.  The overriding trauma here was ERB’s bashing in Toronto in 1899.  The blow from the sap or pipe had a fixating effect on ERB.  I’m sure he relived the situation over two or three times every day.  It remains to be discovered if he blamed Emma for it.  Had he not been competing with Martin for her hand the blow would never have happened.  Here he couples the memory of the blow with the abduction of Emma.

     Inert for a period of time he recovers but has lost his memory.  A usual occurrence in periods of great stress for ERB.  He didn’t think he lost consciousness in Toronto but he was knocked down having his scalp torn so that he was covered in blood by the time he arrived at the hospital.  I think he did lose consciousness although he may not have been ‘out cold.’

     I compare the situation with one of mine.  At fifteen I was ice skating when I saw a boy scoot between two girls holding hands at arm’s length.  I thought I would emulate him but the two girls closed up as I came from behind.  I was better at starting than stopping.  My legs flew up and I landed on the back of my head.  I literally saw stars, five pointed colored stars in a burst of light.  I can still recall the sound of my skull striking the ice.  It was an odd sound.  I never thought I lost consciousness but I remember opening my eyes so I must have been unconscious for some seconds at least.  I suspect that ERB as he fell lost consciousness for at least a few seconds if not longer.  Here in Opar he has Tarzan knocked cold for some time which must have been the way he had felt.  ERB had fairly serious mental problems for at least a couple decades.  While he doesn’t record losing his memory as such he has the hero of Girl From Farriss’s  who received a blow duplicate to that received by himself, Ogden Secor, walking past friends as though he didn’t know them.  A form of memory loss.

     There is no story of Burroughs in which the main character doesn’t get bopped once or twice.  This was noticed by Raymond Chandler, the creator of Philip Marlowe, who wrote a semi-dissertaion on bopping in one of his stories.  Chandler had read Burroughs extensively.  He speculated that no man could survive so many bashings as Tarzan received.  Probably true.  Chandler then proceeds to have a character bashed twice in succession.  Chandler preferred the lump behind the ear which produces euphoric dreams.

     At any rate Tarzan recovers while dimly remembering his ‘heavy war spear’ that he searches for.  It is interesting that Tarzan never adopts modern weapons even though Jane had a repeater and one as knowledgeable as Tarzan must  have been up on the Maxim gun by the time these stories were written.  Rope, knife, spear and bow and arrows, Tarzan scorned guns.

     Now, following in the footsteps of Werper, he comes to the well and falls in but doesn’t lose his grasp of his heavy war spear.  The well probably represents a descent into the subconscious into the waters of the feminine.  Bobbing to the surface he clambers out where the waters are level with the floor.  An odd situation.  Perhaps overflowing into the corridor from time to time making the floor treacherous, Tarzan has a difficult time keeping his footing until he climbs some stairs of many turnings.  This is all terrific atmosphere although the meaning eludes me.  Tarzan thus enters the forgotten jewel room of Opar.  Here the Jewels of Opar come into play.  Like the old singalongs at the Saturday movie matinee where you followed the bouncing ball now we begin to follow the course of the Jewels through the rest of the story.

      This associates Werper and Opar with the novels of Tarzan And The Golden Lion and Tarzan And The Ant Men.  In that sense Werper becomes a prototype of Esteban Miranda, one of my favorite characters.  In those two novels Miranda like Werper tries to steal the gold.  Miranda unlike Werper was a Tarzan lookalike.  Instead of following the jewels in those two novels we follow Tarzan’s locket containing the pictures of his mother and father.  Thus the stories change but the themes remain the same.

     Tarzan merely sees the jewels as fascinating pretty baubles unable to discern their value because of his memory loss.    He keeps the cut stones which diffract the light throwing the uncut stones back.  Odd detail but perhaps significant.  Just as the gold represents Burrough’s writing earnings the Jewels, especially diamonds, are associated with his sexual goals.  Thus in Lion Man he associated Balza, who represents Florence, with an abundance of diamonds as he thinks he has realized his sexual goals.  Then when he realizes his error in Tarzan And The Forbidden City the much sought after ‘father of diamonds’ turns out to be a piece of coal.

     He then emerges into the sanctuary just as the lion emits its fearful roar.  Let’s examine this scene in detail as ERB here replicates symbolically his confrontation with John the Bully on the street corner in the fourth grade.

     For those who haven’t followed my essays ERB was confronted by a bully named John when eight or nine who terrorized his soul fixating him forever.

     I know there are Bibliophiles who find the analysis of the confrontation as I have dealt with it to this point difficult to believe.  The majority of people, in fact, appear to not undertand how something that happened when you were eight or nine can affect your mind for life.  Most people think things are just forgotten.  It is all a matter of suggestion when your mind is in a hypnoid state.  The interpretation of the event enters your mind where it becomes fixated.  Compare it to the clipboard of your computer.  You can’t see the information copied  but it exists on your computer nonetheless and in certain conditions manifests itself.  This is probably  close to what the French psychologist Pierre Janet meant by his term ‘idee fixe.’  Once in your mind the idea may take a few days or longer to become fixed thereafter directing your actions.  The suggestion becomes a reality to your essentially hypnotized mind.

     When confronted by John, a much larger and older boy, and a hoodlum, the young ERB was terrorized; this opened his mind to the hypnotic suggestion creating a hypnoid state.  As ERB replicates this scene almost as often as the Toronto incident these two scenes are the twin poles of his psychosis.  They are closely allied in his mind as Tarzan has just come from a bashing and now meets his nemesis John in the form of the lion.  The lion is big and fearsome as was John.

     When ERB was a child John, or the lion, destroyed ERB’s self-image.  In this instance Tarzan is a giant with the thews of steel, a heavy war spear and his father’s knife.  He is loaded for lions and eager to kill.

     On the sacrifical altar, probably a metaphor of the psychological death he experienced with John, is Werper.   As I believe Werper is a prototype of the latter doppelgangers Esteban Miranda and Stanley Obroski.  Miranda and thus Werper represent the inefective Burroughs who quailed before John.  Miranda is a Tarzan lookalike, an identical twin as it were.  Neither in Werper nor Miranda does ERB resolve his conflict between the defeated wimp of his youth and the heroic Tarzan he now visualizes himself as.  Werper and Miaranda then will morph into Stanley Obroski of Tarzan And The Lion Man who is another twin where Werper/Miranda/Obroski die as ERB beilieves or hopes that he has succeeded in realizing a heroic character.  When he wrote Tarzan And The Madfman he realized that he was not the man he hoped to become.

     In Opar the lion is about to leap on Werper and La has fainted across his body thus associating the Anima and Animus.  In this instance La represents ERB’s failed Anima while Werper is the emasculated Animus.  Tarzan/ERB then steps between the lion and La and Werper to save them.  He drives his heavy war spear into the lion’s chest, itself an act that ERB portrays often.

     Then, leaping on the back of the lion he repeatedly drives his father’s knife into its side.  This is in itself a simulation of the sexual act, probably anal.  At the same time the violence of copulation is an act of supreme hatred, very homosexual in nature actually.  Having killed his adversary, John the Lion, he puts his foot on the body and exults with the terrifying victory cry of the bull ape.  In his fantasy then he corrects his defeat on the street corner.

     Now, the effect of the encounter with John on ERB’s psychology was profound.  When John defeated the child ERB here represented by Werper and La, he assumed a half share role in both ERB’s Anima and Animus.  Remember the fainted La is lying over the body of Werper.  Thus the lion becomes Tarzan/ERB’s symbol of both helper and enemy; the lion becomes the enemy of his Animus and helper to his Anima.  It is quite possible that if it hadn’t been pointed out to him after the publication of Tarzan Of The Apes that there were no tigers in Africa that the lion would have been a helpmate and the tiger the enemy.  In that case there mgiht have been dramatic lion and tiger fights in which the tiger was always defeated.  It is also possible that the lion would have been male and the tiger female thus prefiguring Burroughs’ later pronounced misogyny.

     As John was male so is the lion so we have the anomaly of an Anima represented half by a loser female and half by a man in drag while the Animus is a loser male that ERB has to dispose of if he is to reintegrate his personality.  This must have been a terrible conflict with potentially disastrous consequences.

     The dilemma is most clearly represented in ERB’s second written book, The Outlaw Of Torn.  Outlaw is not a book he chose to write but one which was suggested to him by his editor, Metcalf, at All Story Magazine.  ERB casts his story in his familiar Prince and Pauper format.  His mental dilemma is clearly depicted.

     Norman, the hero, is the son of the English king, Henry.  Henry insults his fencing instructor De Vac who avenges himself on Norman.  The child is playing in a fenced yard attended by his nurse, Maud, who represents his Anima.  She is chatting with a domestic failing to keep a close eye on Norman.  He is lured through the gate outside the garden (of Eden) where De Vac waits to kidnap him.  Realizing the boy’s danger Maud rushes to Norman’s rescue where De Vac brutally murders her.  Thus Norman/ERB’s Anima is now destroyed.  The mind cannot exist without an Anima so De Vac takes the young boy to London where they occupy the attic of a house over the Thames.  The river represents the waters of the feminine while the house represents ERB and the attic his mind.  Now, to replace the anima De Vac dresses as an old woman associating with Norman in that guise until Norman/ERB’s mind heals enough for ERB to function.  At that time De Vac shifts to the Animus side training Norman in the manly arts.  Thus Norman becomes a sort of predecessor of Tarzan.  Tarzan Of The Apes will be the third novel ERB writes.  At that point drawing on the clear example of Outlaw Of Torn ERB began to evolve his way out of his psychological dilemma.

     The reason he can never develop a relationship with La is because she represents ERB’s failed Anima.  In this scene La is on her knees pleading with Tarzan to accept her love.  Tarzan coldly replies that he does not want her.  Then walks away taking Werper his alter ego with him.

     The little hairy men come shrieking after them.  Tarzan’s heroic side clubs them down with his heavy war spear thus replicating the blow he recieved in Toronto on his enemies, correcting that insult and injury.  Over and over the heavy war spear falls on head after head.  Werper, befitting a coward, follows Tarzan in his shadow as it were clutching the sacred sacrifical knife of Opar.

     Thus we have two knives.  Tarzan’s father’s knife and the sacred knife of Opar as two sides to the same man.  The hairy men do not attack Werper out of respect for the sacred knife.  Werper discovers this.  Reversing the role he precedes Tarzan waving the sacred knife as the little hairy men part before them.  I don’t have an explanation of the sacred knife at this time.

     The hairy men do not pursue them.  Searching for the exit they come upon a tribe of great apes.  Not content with having reenacted his  traumas once ERB gains a little extra gratification by having Tarzan challenged by a large bull much, once again, as John confronted him on the street corner.  Thus the apes may have an association with John.  Tarzan is ready for the ape:

     Werper saw a hairy bull swing down from a broken column and advance, stiff legged and bristling, toward the naked giant.  The yellow fangs were bared, angry snarls and barkings rumbled threateningly through the thick and hanging lips….

     But there was no battle.  It ended as the majority of such jungle encounters end- one of the boasters loses his nerve and becomes suddenly interested in a blowing leaf, a beetle, or the lice on his hairy stomach.

     Notice how all these offensive types are hairy.

     And so ERB  caps the reliving of Toronto and John.  in his imagination he had corrected both encounters reversing actuality to a more psychologically comfortable conclusion.  But, after all, it was just a fantasy and temporary fix.  ERB would continue to deal with the two traumas in an attempt to exorcize them.  I don’t think he ever found a satisfactory resolution.  In fact in a manner Frank Martin continued the warfare from his grave to that of ERB.  After ERB died R.S. Patchin, Martin’s partner in crime, sent a letter to John Coleman Burroughs in which he maliciously related the story of the bashing or, in reality, attempted murder.  Martin through Patchin got the last laugh.  Emma was dead by then anyway.

     We can continue to Part III.

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