Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#14 Tarzan The Invincible
Part IV of X
I’ve Looked At Both Sides Now:
Multi-Culturalism In Tarzan The Invincible
Multi-culturalism as I see it merely heralds that it is no longer possible to keep the five great Homo Sapiens species with their various sub-cultures separate. If one assumes that c. 12,000 years ago when the Ice Age ended the various species had not yet developed sufficient population to force them to live cheek by jowl then cheek by jowl is unavoidable now.
The ending of the last ice age flushed a large number of comparatively highly cultured people out of the Med Basin scattering them to the four corners of the world. It would seem civilization as such started then. I believe all cultural innovations can be traced back to that point and that source.
As population increased the various species both human and animal came into closer contact with each other. So far the animals have been the big losers with dozens already driven into extinction while it is said that 25% of the remainder will vanish in the next few years.
As an evolutionist Burroughs has written a marvelous story here in which the fauna of Africa participate equally with the Homo Sapiens. Obviously they can no longer exist in a separate sphere either. Multi-culturalism to ERB means the interaction of both humans and the beasts of the jungle. Invincible might be considered a better version of Beasts Of Tarzan on that level.
Burroughs assembles his entire cast of Beast characters to participate in this story. Tantor the elephant, who has always been in the background takes a prominent role. The Great Apes among whom Tarzan was raised have their place. Jad-Bal-Ja the Golden Lion who first appeared in 1922 in Tarzan And The Golden Lion maintains his preeminent place while Little Nkima who first appeared in 1928’s Tarzan And The Lost Empire functions as the protagonist as a Mercury or messenger of the gods. Unnamed hyenas, jackals and leopards abound.
Tarzan as beast-man-god, intermediary between animals and humans as a man deity, completes the group.
Nkima the messenger first notices the presence of the Communist conspirators in Tarzan’s domain. He goes off to find Tarzan to tell him the news. Burroughs very cleverly shows the character of Nkima as one mischievous monkey. Mischievous nothing, he’s a quarrelsome, nasty little beast. He can’t keep himself from gratuitously insulting or irritating anyone who comes across his path.
Always ready for flight on his own, when on the shoulder of Tarzan or sitting on Jad-Bal-Ja where he feels immune to retaliation he is one offensive little beast.
David Adams points out that Burroughs is always ready with the fairy tale. When I first read David’s essays I humored him a bit but discounted the idea. Slowly I am being convinced. Burroughs confesses to an interest in mythology. He was heavily influenced by L. Frank Baum who is a fairy taler par excellence. He quotes Cinderella in Marcia Of The Doorstep. As a child there is no reason to believe that he wasn’t familiar with Perrault, the Grimms, Hans Christian Anderson, Aesop and possible East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon. As a young man he read Rudyard Kipling’s fairy stories of Africa and India. This title shows clear influences of Mowgli the wild jungle boy. Thus his Beasts exhibit fairy tale characteristics. As in Oz, that magical fairy land where beasts can speak, Burroughs beasts do speak the universal first language which all including Tarzan can understand.
After seeing the conspirators Nkima angers a larger monkey who chases him through the lower, middle and upper terraces. Eluding his pursuer Nkima spots a lion below him who he begins to insult. This is not any lion but Jad-Bal-Ja, the Golden Lion. Tarzan has already introduced Jad-Bal-Ja and Nkima so recognizing each other they utter a pre-arranged signal in the universal language.
Scampering down from the middle terraces Nkima leaps onto the black mane of Ja-Bal-Ja where he rides through the jungle in state insulting who he pleases.
This little fairy tale is very charming, worth the price of admission alone.
Of course Nkima is in his glory riding on the shoulder of Tarzan like a Ka.
In the multi-cultural way Nkima comes upon the Great Apes in their death dance of the Dum-Dum. Such a scene is purely fanciful on Burroughs’ part; no apes ever behaved that way. Remember, this is ERB’s jungle.
The Dum-dum must surely be based on the great circling of the elephants as witnessed by Kipling’s Mowgli.
Not content to merely witness this awe inspiring scene Nkima insists on scolding the half-crazed apes. A young light ape is sent into the trees to drive Nkima away. Pure moonshine, of course, but in a fairy tale sense a very effective story.
Then again, Tarzan, returning from Pellucidar, encounters the Great Apes in the jungle. They are irritated by the intruder consequently intending to give no quarter to Tarzan. The Big Bwana doesn’t want to have to kill a bunch of these 7’0″, 350 lb. brothers that it looks like he may have to when Jad-Bal-Ja and Nkima conveniently happen on the scene defusing the situation.
The presence of Jad-Bal-Ja shifts the balance in Tarzan’s favor. In the end Tarzan, the Apes, Jad-Bal-Ja and Nkima are reconciled in this jungle clearing. Moonshine again but entirely believable in this fine fairy tale. Even if impossible I want to believe such a thing could happen in some world somewhere.
Thus Nkima scampers through the story. On his final errand he goes to bring the faithful Waziri to help Tarzan defeat the Communist conspirators.
Nkima and the faithful Waziri are at rest. They engage in a little horseplay, p. 173:
When they pulled his tail they never pulled it very hard, and when he turned on them in apparent fury, his sharp teeth closing upon their fingers or arms, it was noticeable that he never drew blood. Their play was rough, for they were all rough and primitive creatures…
So we find here and will find throughout the novel and the oeuvre that Burroughs places both the animals and the African on the far side of that little gulf Haggard notes.
Also prominent in the story is Jad-Bal-Ja, the Golden Lion. He interacts with the animals, Nkima and the Great Apes, as well as any animal Tarzan tells him to. Jad-Bal-Ja remembers each and every one and they all remember him. A feat of memory for the beasts, I am sure.
Tarzan advises the Lion that certain people are friends who the Lion is to befriend.
Way back in 1922 in Tarzan And The Golden Lion Tarzan had advised Ja-Bal-Ja that La of Opar was to be protected. Eight years later without having seen her once in that time Jad-Bal-Ja remembers her taking her under his active protection. She isn’t sure that he isn’t stalking her but when attacked by a Leopard Jad-Bal-Ja flashes by her to kill the Leopard she realizes he is her protector but she doesn’t know why. La has forgotten the Lion over the eight years but finally recognized him.
Thus Jad-Bal-Ja is a prominent animal character in the story. He brings to mind both Kipling and Baum. There’s also an element of Aesop in these animal characters.
Finally there is Tarzan’s great friend, in more ways than one, Tantor the elephant.
Tarzan lazes on Tantor’s back as the big beast ambles lazily through the sunny forest. Safe from all harm Tarzan muses on the nature of Time, or perhaps that was Burroughs. Tarzan and Tantor merely commune.
When Tarzan rescues Zora he calls on the big beast to stand guard over her while Tarzan hunts, nursing her back to health. The great calm beast gently picks Zora up in his trunk setting her down within her enclosure. Ever helpful he swims the crocodile infested river with Tarzan and Zora on his back.
There are two sides to Tantor’s character however. When Dorsky has Tarzan bound and threatens him Tarzan lets out a piercing call for help that Tantor answers. Charging into camp he throws Dorsky down trampling him backwards and forwards side to side until the only evidence Dorsky existed is a dark spot on the ground. Nor could Tarzan make the angry beast desist until he had fully avenged his friend. then, like Tarzan in the Rue Maule, Tantor reverts to his placid self.
Next follows what David Adams would identify as a fairy tale. Tantor picks the still bound Tarzan up placing him gently on his back. Tantor deposits Tarzan under a tree then leaves. Tarzan still has to free his hands. He calls to some monkeys in the tree but they refuse to help him. Once again Tarzan shrieks the trouble signal far and wide. Nkima hears him but so do the jackals and hyenas.
Tension is created between Tarzan and the attacking hyenas as Nkima struggles to free Tarzan before the hyenas attack. Unable to untie the knot Tarzan advises him to chew through the bonds. As Nkima chews, the hyenas grow bolder finally charging in for the kill. With a might flexing of his rolling muscles Tarzan breaks the partially chewed bonds.
Having strangled a hyena he tosses him aside as Tantor arrives on the scene to serve the hyena as he had served the Communist, Dorsky.
In this multi-cultural paradise…”the three friends stood in the silent communion that only beasts know, as the shadows lengthened and the sun set in the forest.” Walt Disney could have learned a lot from Burroughs.
If that doesn’t get you soft and gummy nothing will. You will note that here Tarzan is a beast among beasts and yet a god to them.
This most charming jungle fantasy forms an integral part of the story as do Tarzan’s relations with the humans. On to the Conspirators.
In the old days these would be described as an international band of characters. But in today’s jargon with the term ‘nation’ in disfavor we have to refer to it as a multi-cultrual assemblage. Liberals, perhaps, posing as wizards, believe that by merely wishing they have removed differences of culture, nationality and speciation. One gets the impression from their jargon that as they believe ‘race’ does not exist neither do cultural differences although they still call their fantasy multi-culturalism. In their fantasy no one struggles to be top dog but all commune as equals like the beasts Nkima, Tarzan and Tantor. The missing point in their equation, is that Tarzan is the god calling the shots. He is the top dog. He is the dominant culture. So, one asks, in their fantasy which culture represents Tarzan?
So, in this human multi-cultural assemblage Peter Sveri, a Russian Communist calls the shots until a greater than he, Tarzan Of The Apes, upsets his plans. There’s two people you don’t was to mess around with- Mother Nature and Tarzan.
Multi-Culuralism as I see it merely heralds that it is no longer possible to keep the five great species of Homo Sapiens with their various cultures in separate spheres. The Darwinian evolutionary struggle for survival requires the elimination of all but one of the competing species in a family following the same economy. Tolerance or cooperation is out of the question. Intolerance will trample the tolerant like Tantor on Dorsky. Only the strong and determined survive. Any other fantasy, such as Liberal multi-culturalism leads to extinction. Bless the peacemakers but get them out of the way, we’ve got work to do.
Certainly the invasion of Eurasia by Gengis Khan in the thirteenth century was a fairly recent indication that independent development was no longer possible. Then beginning in the fifteenth century when Europeans prematurely ventured out into the world to impose their culture the fate of species was inextricably engaged. Be it remembered that there were many thinkers who saw the inevitble result of joining combat of which Burroughs is only one. Once engaged Europeans had to follow through. The problem was that Europe’s own house was not united. Rather than acting as a unit, the various nation states were competing with each other. The competition resulted in the two world wars. The first war let the world know how vulnerable Europe was while the second destroyed the self-confidence of the West itself. Why I don’t know. Hence one has this ridiculous feeling of guilt caused by the conflict betwen the two socialist ideologies International Communism and National Socialism. Just to make my position clear Socialism is the Liberal ideology. Neither Hitler nor the Nazis were conservatives. The conflict was between two versions of Liberal ideology. All the actions of National Socialism can be traced back to the French Revolution which was Liberalism par excellence.
I am not a socialist nor was Burroughs. I abhor socialism and collectivity so in discussing Communism, Fascism or Nazism I am discussing abhorrent Liberal ideologies. Liberals will have to live with that taking responsiblity for their own actions as abhorrent as that is to them.
It should also be borne in mind that multi-culturalism is only a Euroamerican ideological fantasy. It is not shared by the othr Homo Sapiens species although Liberals think and act as though it were. The events in Darfur should confirm this. The Mexican invasion of the US to establish what they call Aztlan (Liberals deny such a concept) should be evidence that they do not share this Liberal fantasy. Nor do the Semites or Mongolids. All of those species are ethno-centric, who if successful will establish a world according to the ideals and customs of their species.
That is today, while we are here talking of the world of ERB’s time. At that time the tool for establishing multi-culturalism was International Communism. That ideology was the common language that allowed these cultures to communicate across cultural lines just as the universal language of the beasts of Tarzan allows all the animal species to communicate with each other.
In this story one has Africans of various cultures, the Semitic culture of the Arabs, a Filipino, a Mexican and of the Liberal Whites several Europeans, Russian culure, a Hindu and a number of Oparians. With the exception of the Oparians the cultures are all held together by the Communist ideology. While Kitembo and his Basembos are not strictly Communists they intend to benefit under the Communist aegis.
The expedition will fail not because of ideology but because of the failure of individuals to subordinate their personal desires to the ideology.
Raghunath Jafar, the Hindu, sacrifices his life for his passion for a White woman. He is killed in the attempt to impose his sexual desires on Zora Drinov. Burroughs uniformly denigrates his Hindu or Indian characters. In this story he makes Jafar grossly obese and greasy. ERB comments that Indians are generally believed to have occult powers which notion is unwarranted. Of course this is true which may account for his antipathy to the Hindu or Indian. He may have been influenced by Harold Gray, who created the Little Orphan Annie comic strip in the twenties. The great Daddy Warbucks employs the Indian, whether Hindu or Sikh, I’m not sure, who make people disappear by magic. Punjab would be a recognition of the general belief that Hindus had magical powers. You know, rope climbing, mind over matter, that sort of thing. People still believe Indians can do those things. Live for months buried in a coffin, incredible stuff. In India. Of course, they have difficulty replicating the same feats in the U.S.
The Filipino, Tony Mori, and the Mexican, Miguel Romero, are portrayed very advantageously as compared to the Russians, especially the leader, Zveri. Next to the American, Wayne Colt, Romero is the bravest, most alert and intelligent of the conspiritors. On the negative side Burroughs has him hating all Gringos which is entirely plausible.
Mori is portrayed as more dependent hoping to acquire his share of the Rockefeller and Ford millions. When the big distribution occurs he hopes to buy fine clothes.
Both men abjure Communism in the end when Zveri proves to be a cowardly and inept leader. They discover that the ideology is merely a cover for self-gratification.
The Arabs led by Abu Batn are impelled by the desire to rid Africa of the Nasrany or Christians. They hate all Nasrany. Their goal appears to be to drive out the European or Christian colonists. They offer Zveri little help being more of a hindrance. During the second assault on Opar they pack up heading out into the jungle leaving Zveri to shift for himself.
ERB portrays the Arabs as of the white Bedouin type he used in The Return Of Tarzan and The Lad And The Lion. Portrayed positively in those two stories the Arabs of Invincible are more negatively portrayed.
Actually the story takes place in the area which the Mahdi of the 1880s reigned. He who defeated General Gordon at Khartoum. The Arabs of the area were Arab in culture but assimilated to the Negro in color. Their customs also were somewhat different than the Arabs Burroughs portrays. Of course, his could have been recruited from the Mahgreb.
The African chief Kitembo of the Basembos is of interest. He is said to be Kenyan from the railhead on Lake Victoria. This story was written in 1930. By this time the African resistance was gaining force. The Africans had never been so much subdued as dominated. As Burroughs exhibits an up-to-date and profound knowledge of Communism it is quite possible that he was much better informed about African affairs than might be apparent from a casual reading.
I don’t say that he was but he might have been aware of the incipient Uhuru (Freedom) Movement in Kenya of which Jomo Kenyatta was already prominent. At this time Kenyatta was in England stumping for recognition of Uhuru among the bedsheets of England’s plumpest and finest. First things first, as Burroughs consistently notes White women are the most desirable women to the other species. Within a year Kenyatta would go to Moscow to study there. So there may have been an element of Kenyatta or other Kenyan leaders in Kitembo.
An additional element may have been from the story of the Unyoro king Kaba Rega picked up from Samuel Baker. Kaba Rega was deposed for refusing to accept Egyptian sovereignty although in real life he was sent to the Seychelles in exile. But here Burroughs may have worked his grievance into the story.
Kitembo and his Basembos are separated from the conspiracy by the program of terror undertaken by Tarzan. Tarzan recognizes the role of the terrorist in destroying morale. He then plays upon the religious superstitions of the African to get them to refuse to cooperate with the Europeans or White Men as he puts it.
This was helped along considerably by Zveri’s ineptness and cowardice. Kitembo himself is killed by Tarzan when he tries to abduct Zora. The Africans are portrayed as being on the far side of the gulf of Haggard or evolutionarily anteceding the Europeans.
The faithful Waziri also play a part by assaulting the Communist front on the march to Italian Somaliland.
Wayne Colt, as has been hinted throughout the story, is a double agent working for the US.
The Russians are Zora Drinov, Peter Zveri, Paul Ivitch nd Michael Dorsky.
Zora, who is a beautiful woman, while not a double agent is playing a false role. She has two stories. In one she tells Wayne Colt she is a daughter of a peasant who was killed by the Czar. She seems to be too cultured for this so this story is probably a cover.
At the book’s end she says that her father, mother, brother and sister were murdered twelve years earlier by Peter Zveri. That may make Zveri Jewish. Twelve years earlier wouold have been 1918 so it is quite possible that Burroughs means to imply that she is the lost princess, Anastasia. Thus Burroughs who favors Princesses slyly mates Wayne Colt with a princess. That’s just a guess.
Peter Sveri is about to shoot Colt as a traitor, which he was, when Zora drills him from behind. It is then she explained that Zveri murdered her family.
Dorsky is of course trampled to death by Tantor. Little more can be said about that.
Zveri fails because of various character flaws such as cowardice and ineptness while being shot in the end by Zora.
Paul Ivitch reflects back to a villain of the Russian Quartet, Paulvitch. He’s an ancilliary character here without much purpose. Tarzan magnanimously allows him to leave Africa which may refer to earlier animosities.
As usual the Russians are treated very harshly by Burroughs. Of all the nationalities, pardon me, cultures, ERB is consistently hardest on the Russians. The Germans even come off better.
Burroughs’ attitudes seem to have been fully formed by 1900 changing little thereafter. On page 68 of Porges’ biography of ERB he reproduces a cartoon ERB drew but is undated. Opposite on Pge 69 is a cartoon showing TR carrying the Republican Party on the way to the White House captioned: Slightly handicapped but still a safe bet. This implies to me that it was drawn for the 1912 Bull Moose campaign. The cartoon on page 68 is of the exact style which would imply that it also was drawn c. 1911. The cartoon shows the Jews and the Russians at their perpetual war. Russians bayonet Jews while Jews blow up Russians as Uncle Sam and John Bull look on. The caption is: How would you like to be a Russian?
Porges includes the cartoons in text related to the pre-1900 years so he apparently associates them with the Chicago Art Institute. No matter, ERB had the same attitude from early on. The attitude never varies from his first book to his last. So his portrayal of Russians is consistently negative.
His portrayal of multiculturalism is accurate. Apart from being a Liberal dream each culture pursues its goals without consideration for any of the others. The dream falters on the rock of self-interest. Even the superficially unifying ideology of Communism is not sufficient to weld the cultures into a single unit. The success of multi-culturalism can only be the imposition of one culture on all the others as a guiding force. Burroughs accurately identifies the Russians as making the attempt.
So in our day Liberals must fail as they can never impose their ideals on all cultures that must and will reject any ideal that refuses them the dominance they crave.
I suspect that the multi-culturalism of the Liberals will fail for the precise reason that nobody believes in it but themselves. The ideal is even shabby as a Utopian scheme that can be imposed only by force. As with the implementation of all Liberal schemes since the French Revolution to the present, its success can depend only on the mass extermination of any dissidents who stand in the way of its implementation. Thus Hitler was a descendent of Maxmillien Marie Isadore de Robespierre. The extermination of the Jews was no different than the extermination of the royalists of La Vendee and served the same purpose. Extermination is the way of the Liberal. You can look forward to the creation of a new worldwide Gulag system to exterminate Liberal opponents if they are not checked.
But let’s move on to the premise of Burroughs’ novel.
Proceed to Part V of X
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#14 Tarzan The Invincible
Part III of X
Through The Dark Continent With Edgar Rice Burroughs
The horror, the horror.
Mr. Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness
Africa! The Dark Continent! The physical representation of the Unconscious in the White Man’s dream world. What fascination the dark outlines of a submerged mental continent held for artists and writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Cubism, Freud, the Stanley’s of the mind’s unconscious. What fascination that vanished Africa of the Unconscious held for Edgar Rice Burroughs and, yes, for me. It is no accident that Burroughs placed Tarzan’s adventures on the Dark Continent.
If I may, permit me to say a few words about my intents and purposes for studying the Big Bwana and the man who invented him. Incidentally my use of the euphemism ‘the Big Bwana’ is a dead psychological giveaway. As Anne Morrow Lindhberg said: Listen! The wind is rising.
This essay brings me to the point I set out to find when I began my study of Burroughs. I have tried to point out how ERB’s world kept slipping away from beneath his feet. Changes came so thick and fast that there was no time for him to get used to anything. The nineteenth century of his youth and young manhood was buried in the avalanche of technological advances of the first couple decades of the twentieth century; and then the Great War and the Bolshevik Revolution shattered all his political conceptions. As he began his adjustments to these changes in the raucus atmosphere of the twenties, the New Era vanished like a sent email from your screen. Coming from the same place the email vanished to the thirties landed on him like a mountain. As he had to struggle to make sense of his world so in the aftermath of WWII I have had my own struggle to make sense of the rapidly blinking screen of my world while ERB went to a well deserved rest.
There was the giveaway of China, no the Korean War, no Kefauver Crime Hearings during which the Organized Crime figures J. Edgar Hoover said didn’t exist thumbed their noses at the FBI and got away with it. What effect do you think those things had on a perceptive young kid who read G-Man comics?
The McCarthy/Communist duel, the Liberals said the Communists didn’t exist too, of course there are those who say you don’t exist. Who you gonna believe? I thought Communists, Organized Crime, and I existed. The duel between all three rearranged my nerve endings changing my world all around but nothing, absolutely nothing, destroyed my conceptions of order so much as the most stunning reversal possible for the Western world, which is to say, my world, as the defeat, not only the defeat, but the unconditional surrender of the supposedly undefeatable French Foreign Legion at Dien Bien Phu. Ho Chi Minh the Vietnamese leader had even been trained in Paris where he waited tables for several years. Try to put some of this stuff together. You might unlock some of those doors baffling Burroughs’ heroes in story after story.
The bastards didn’t even hold out to the last man, they allowed themselves to be emasculated by marching out between the ranks of the assembled Red Army of Viet Nam. So much for the valor of criminals and ne’er-do-wells. Dirty Dozen my ass.
The FFL is gone now, heck, France is almost gone now. Lost in the oblivion of the corridors of Time. How can I make others understand the legend of the brigades of criminals and ne’er-do-wells of the Legion; that is the off scourings of all seven continents regardless of nationality, who gravitated to the French Foreign Legion where they redeemed their worthless lives under the supposedly toughest military discipline in the world on the battlefields of the Sahara. Heck, the Foreign Legion didn’t even put up a good fight in Indo-China. They didn’t even make good excuses. They just said to the U.S., Here, you take it, it’s yours. Europe began to disappear as a serious factor in history, then and there. Effete, used up, worn out, intimidated by the lesser peoples of the world, a cosmic joke. Look at them now. Africans and Semites of various stripes mock them in their own homeland. Not the world I was born into, is it? Imagine the changes in ERB’s.
And then to add insult to injury Europeans gave up their homes in Africa without a fight. I mean they lived there. In some areas for hundreds of years. The conscious ruled the unconscious then. You have to remember that we were raised on the National Geographics. Back then the Geographics were nearly a secular bible. You had to be ‘invited’ to subscribe to their mag. You couldn’t just send them the subscription money, they’d return it.
Those were the days we scoffed at Africans who wore grass skirts just like ERB describes. They had weird tatooings and raised cicatrices. Bizarre tribes put plates in their lips; piled copper rings one on top of the other to elongate women ‘s necks. Weird body piercings and strange hairdos adorned the pages of the Geographic. Nowadays the situation is reversed as Whites vie for weirdness in body pierchings while Blacks like Robert Mugabe, the Shona chieftain, walk around in fitted three piece suits.
As bad as Dien Bien Phu was the lights went out in Europe one by one as beginning with Ghana in 1957 African colonies became independent. Europe just capitulated without a struggle. I was shaken, even stunned. I was nearly alone, but I was stunned. Nineteen-sixty was the big year for African independence.
I am writing an enormous novel of my life and times. Up to 1960 three thousand pages or so. I got hung up over Africa; Africa’s place in my unconscious. I found it impossible to progress beyond 1960 and the rock of Africa. That was about 10 years ago. I began a study of Africa to organize my thoughts. I was naturally led back to my childhood influence of the Big Bwana. Tarzan Of The Apes. The jungle man-god. After all Africa was Tarzan’s estate. All of it. From reviewing Tarzan I was pushed into a study of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Mastermind.
Now, in this story, as the Communist agents (a tip of the hat to Joseph McCarthy) are poised to stage a fake invasion of Italian Somaliland, Burroughs has brought me to the crux to which my studies have been leading. Reds and Africa. The conscious and unconscious. Since I can now explain this the block that prevented me from advancing my own novel has been removed. We will see what the future brings.
Now we’re going to take a little odyssey through the Heart of Darkness to see where the last hundred and fifty years of contact with Africa have led us. As we’re primarily concerned with Edgar Rice Burroughs I will try to keep my arguments concentrated on what he understood. The literature on Africa is vast, largely unread, and was perhaps even more vast in Burroughs’ time before so many dozens, perhaps hundred of volumes were consigned to the intellectual trash can because of political correctness. As I have pointed out what are classics to us now was current literature to Burroughs. They were fresh and unbowlderized. He would have read them differently than we do. Foremost of all the literature Burroughs read, his primary influence certainly for the Tarzan series were the novels of the very great Henry Rider Haggard.
Haggard wrote fifty or sixty novels over approximately forty years. The majority are of exceeding high quality too. The majority but not all were African novels. Unlike Burroughs Haggard had first hand knowledge of Africa. He spent several years in South Africa where he was very attentive to African affairs, their legends, their religion, their view of the world.. His knowledge of Zulu affairs is quite extensive; it can generally be historically relied on.
In addition Haggard had a wonderful sense of humanity. He can in no way be considered bigotted toward Blacks.
His first three African novels- King Solomon’s Mines, She and Allan Quatermain were issued between 1885-87. They were immediate successes, gaining universal acceptance in both England and the United States. Burroughs attained the age of twelve in 1887. We don’t know when he read the three novels but one imagines sometime between twelve and sixteen or at least before twenty. Whether he reread them isn’t known. I suspect so.
There are clear references in Burroughs’ corpus to indicate that he continued to read Haggard’s output through the years. In Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid he expressly states his admiration for Haggard. Don’t know why there were no Haggard’s in his library.
He was clearly impressed by a couple passages in the preface to 1887’s Allan Quatermain which echo throughout the Tarzan series. the first I’m going to quote is quite beautiful poetry. Written as prose I’m dividing it here into blank verse:
…he dreams of the sight
of the Zulu impis
breaking on their foes
like surf upon the rocks,
and his heart rises in rebellion
against the strict limits
of the civilized life.
Remember this was published in 1887 when the scientific revolution was just getting underway. The rigorous mental discipline required to adapt to the scientific model, as difficult as it is for most people today, was even more difficult then when Western consciousness was still in the early stages of development. It is my thesis that the mindof the West broke on that rigorous required discipline in 1960 accounting for much of the West’s decline since then.
Nevertheless the quotation informs the intellectual background of the Tarzan series with its own particular reaction to ‘the strict limits of civilized life.’ As I say the above quote echoes throughout the oeuvre. Immediately following that sentence Haggard goes on to say:
Ah! This civilization, what does it all come to? Full forty years and more I spent among savages, and studied them and their ways; and now for several years I have lived here in England, and in my own stupid manner have done my best to learn the ways of the children of light; and what do I find? A great gulf fixed? No, only a very little one, that a plain man’s thought may spring across. I say that as the savage is, so is the white man only the latter is more inventive and possesses a faculty of combination; save and except also that the savage, as I have known him, is to a large extent free from the greed of money, which eats like a cancer into the heart of a white man.
Burroughs’ title of the last chapter of Invincible- A Gulf That Was Bridged- clearly references this quote. Thus Burroughs ingested the praface to Allan Quatermain making it a basis of his own interpretation of Tarzan.
Now, Haggard never appears to have been influenced by either Darwin or the concept of Evolution but Burroughs being nineteen or twenty years younger than Haggard clearly was, thus ERB’s notion of the little gulf that existed between the mind of the Black and the White had a scientific basis whereas Haggard’s had religious overtones. He was more an esoterocist more than he was an orthodox Christian.
If one looks at today’s scientific notions of the evolution of man then the consensus is that Homo Sapiens evolved from the last homonid predecessor 150 to 200 thousand years ago in Africa. Nothing is known of this step from sub-human to human. Even if the proper skull were found it would tell us almost nothing. Why that should have been the dividing point is never made clear.
Scientists have also clearly established that Homo Sapiens have continued to evolve over the last 150-200 K years and in fact continue to do so today. If you’re a creationist or Intelligent Designer I can only urge you to accept the undeniable fact of evolution. I can’t take your opinion into consideration so I won’t argue it.
Following the scientific consensus it is reasonable to assume that sub-Saharan Africans have been there for the last one hundred fifty thousand years while the rest of the world has been more recently populated by more highly evolved Homo Sapiens species.
As Haggard notes from long experience, however not Quatermain’s forty years, the Black lacks inventiveness and a power of combination, whatever that is. To say he lacks it is to say he is less highly evolved. The small gulf that a plain man’s thought can spring across or bridge is one way. A white can regress, as notice the tatooed and body pierced Whites of today, but the Black lacks the genes to spring the other way.
This fact was clearly recognized by the early explorers and the settlers of South Africa. In fact, after several hundreds of years of intimate contact with Whites the Blacks have not acquired invention or combination. That small gulf is not bridgeable from Black to White.
I give a case or two in point. Let me start in Uganda and its king Mutesa or Mtese. This fellow was king during the years of the search for the souces of the Nile. Stanley gives an excellent account of him and his government in Through The Dark Continent while he figures in Samuel Baker’s narratives. More extensive still is the missionary Alexander Mackay’s account.
Always remember that these African chiefs, while familiar with the Arabs, were unprepared for the deluge of invaders who followed the Arabs. Mtese was besieged by Anglican Protestants, French Catholics and Arab Moslems. It was impossible for him to expel the invaders. Anyone who thinks that the Whites were the greatest villains in Africa had better remove their blinders and look at the Africans themselves and more especially at the Arabs both then and now. Mtese knew he was about to be plundered from all sides, had no adequate defenses nor, actually, were there any he could have devised.
While his ego as a man among men was large he lacked knowledge, organization and structure. Perhaps that is what a lack of combination means. There may have been only a little gulf between the Whites and the Blacks when viewed from the White side but there was an immense unbridgeable gap from the Black side which is not say Mtese and his Ugandans did not possess intelligence but it was not of a scientific or analytical nature; no invention and powers of combination. Things haven’t changed. Over the course of more than a millenium they had devised no means to resist the much more primitive Arabs.
Mtese was torn between the ferocious Arabs who had depopulated Africa for a millenium and some rather simple minded Whites. Certainly the Moslem reputation was known throughout Africa whether they had reached an area or not. In the nineteenth century the Arabs were especially aggressive, probably their power was ramped up with European weaponry. As in the favored historical method they took the women and children as slaves while killing the men. They are doing the same thing today in the Sudan. In the Sudan just north of Uganda Arabs had reduced the population by seventy-five percent.
Mtese was in a tough spot. The Arabs were present and active while the Europeans were not. He did notice that the trade goods offered by both Europeans and Arabs were of European manufacture. He not surprisingly came to the conclusion that the Europeans were the more ‘clever’ of the two peoples.
When Mackay arrived in Uganda he served in much the same capacity to Mtese as the Old Stowaway in the Valley of Diamonds of Golden Lion did for the Bolgani. Like the Old Man, Mackay had a number of useful skills which preserved his life but kept him captive. Mtese viewed the White Boy as a slave but saw the need to conceal his status from him. Mackay was given more or less free rein within his area of Uganda but was forbidden to leave. Whether Burroughs was familiar with Mackay’s story which he may well have been or not there is a great deal of similarity with the Old Man of Golden Lion.
Now, the point is that neither Mtese or his Ugandans made any effort to acquire Mackay’s skills or any other. The banana had been introduced into Africa c. +-1000 by Malagasy invaders from Indonesia. The First Born had been in Africa for c. 150K years. In all that time they had made few if any inventions. In order to harvest the banana they cut down the tree letting another grow in its place. They had never even conceived of the notion of ‘ladder.’
Thus, while physically equal and possibly superior on the animal level to the Whites the mental gulf that separated them was unbridgeable.
Now let us travel South a few thousand miles down the Cape to Cairo railway which was never bult to South Africa where the Whites began their invasion of Africa in the seventeenth century. At the same time the Bantu peoples were working their way down from the Chad/Ubangi Chari area where it is said they originated +-1ooo. As they invaded new areas they exterminated or drove the indigenous peoples, who were of a different stock, before them. The Hottentots and Bushmen the Europeans encountered in South Africa were an entirely different species than the Bantus.
As the Whites moved North the Bantus continued to move South. Naturally these migrations encountered each other. The formidable leading edge of the Bantu peoples was the Zulus. C. 1825 or so the Zulu chief Chaka organized the Zulu, or Chosen People in their estimation, into the most formidable fighting machine in Africa. Known by the honorific, The Great Black Elephant, Chaka was running over or exterminating any peoples in his path.
The confrontation between the Zulus and Europeans should be viewed in the same light as the Zulu confrontation with other African peoples. As invaders the Zulus had no more claim to the territories they occupied than the Whites. The situation was the same as Ozawa telling Tarzan that the gold of Opar was as much his as Tarzan’s. Ozawa spoke truly. Tarzan had the superior power so he took it. Just as the Zulus outmatched other Africans the Eruopeans outmatched the Zulus and other Africans. Simple. Not much morality involved. This was in the natural course of events and should not be interpreted in any other way.
The Zulu method was to ‘stamp their opponents flat’, that is to say, exterminate them. Haggard, as I said seems to have been uninfluenced by the concept of Evolution so he notes only a small gulf between Africans and Europeans. Burroughs backed by superior science in reality saw it differently. In evolutionary terms Europeans having come into existence after the Africans as everyone agrees must therefore have been more highly evolved. As current evolution seems to show up most apparently in the evolution of the brain the Europeans must have had added mental powers ‘of combination.’ What Haggard calls being more inventive and having a faculty of combination must be equivalent to science. In short the Africans did not and do not possess the genes that make science possible.
In psychological terms this may mean that the conscious mind of the European is more highly developed in relation to the unconscious. In an unintegrated personality this leads to a dichotomy that explains the apparent erratic behavior of the European. He has a conscience that is lacking in the African.
In realistic terms the African approach of ‘stamping flat’ or extermination is evolutionarily correct. No matter how vast the space there is not room for two species or races of the same family to co-exist. Witness the Europeans and Indians in America. Sooner or later the one will expel or exterminate the other or others. It is going on right now if you have eyes to see. I’ll say it again, two species following the same economics cannot coexist in the same space. In Africa over and over again of two tribes competing for the same space one was exterminated even if the land was left vacant. But now this natural order was upset by the conscience of the European. We will examine the consequences.
Chaka was primitive to say the least. When he was a child his father died. He and his mother were treated as rudely as widows and orphans in any society. This is another natural rule. Read your Bible. The Bible specifically enjoins the Hebrews not to discriminate against widows and orphans. That discrimination is true in all times and places.
When the Great Black Elephant grew up and obtained power he returned to his village. Gathering the males together he pounded wooden stakes up their rectums and set them on fire. I’m sure all orphans long for some similar form of revenge. Such antics do cause dissension in the ranks. Gathering the dissidents together under the name of the Ndebele Zulus or alternatively the Matabeles this hardy band moved up into Shonaland in what is today known as Zimbabwe. We’re getting warm now. The Ndebele were in the process of exterminating the Shona when the Europeans under Rhodes arrived in force. The Europeans then disturbed the process giving the Shona breathing space. Once again you will see that the Matabele had no more right to the land than the Europeans, or for that matter, the Shona who stole it from the Bushmen. Conscience prevented the Europeans from exterminating both the Matabele and the Shona.
In the European manner the Europeans staked out a huge expanse of territory encompassing many tribes including the Shona and Matabele Zulus. They called the territory Southern Rhodesia. Makes sense so far, doesn’t it?
Unlike the Arabs and Zulus who depopulated any areas they wanted the Europeans encouraged the population to grow. Better and more efficient agricultural methods were introduced, spectacular medicines were discovered in Europe and America that allowed the population to expand exponentially. As the Europeans imposed ‘peace’ the Africans were no longer allowed to exterminate each other.
By now time had passed. The Africans if they had learned nothing else became fairly proficient with all the latest European weaponry that they still could not manufacture. They had to buy them from the Europeans who were willing to sell to them. What can you say? There would be no more Omdurmans.
At the same time the European conscience back home became troubled. It was thought, for some reason, that the European invaders didn’t belong in Africa. They didn’t have a ‘right’ to be there. The Shona for one believed this was true. As resistance movements gathered force throughout the continent and guilt increased in Europe the Europeans in Africa were abandoned to a horrible fate. Unheard of really in the annals of history. In certain areas such as the Rhodesias and South Africa the now native Africans of European descent had built up rather astonishing civilizations cheek by jowl with the grass huts of the Africans. Salisbury, Pretoria. In the natural course of things warfare would have broken out between White Africans and Black Africans that would have resulted in the defeat if not extermination of the Blacks. In the evolutionary sense there was not room for both which we will grimly see was true.
Even though Europeans possessed a scientific consciousness which should have made consequences clear to them they chose to ignore this knowledge for religious ideological reasons. For some other reason Europeans do not believe that other people cherish grievances for what they perceive as injustices at European hands. This is so incredibly stupid it is hard to believe. For instance, after having put the Iraqis through hell politicians in the United States universally believe that the US can just pull out of Iraq with no hard feeling left behind. Good god, boys, have some sense.
In other words, having been severely emasculated at European hands they want their own back which means humiliating and exterminating Europeans and Americans. Kill the men and probably the boys but keep those good looking White women and girls. Am I talking to myself or does anyone else understand how this process works?
In Southern Rhodesia or Zimbabwe as this huge area encompassing dozens of tribes who were no nation was known, the Shona nursed a grudge toward both the Ndebele Zulu and the Europeans. Oppression from any quarter was oppression to them. And in realistic terms, why not? The Ndebele had been crushed by the Europeans while the Shona, previously crushed by the Ndebele, had not. Taking advantage of the effete European governments the Shona, under the cover of being ‘Africans’ gained control of Zimbabwe. One tribe with hate in its heart for all other tribes had gained the power to enforce its own wishes. The European ‘peace’ was over. What come next isn’t hard to figure.
The Europeans had incorporated the formerly independent territories of dozens of tribes into one mega-structure called a State administered by them for the benefit of all. Whatever tribe controlled the ‘State’ had the fate of all the other multi-cultural entities, including the Europeans, under its domination. Whites call this the ‘rule of law.’ First the Shona under the White Liberal idol, Robert Mugabe, moved against the Ndebele. While the Europeans cried shame over South African apartheid (watch this one closely too) when similar programs exterminate other peoples they voice no complaint, they even applaud. So much for the Ndebele. The women went to the Shona.
The Shona chief, now Zimbabwean president, but in control of the ‘State’, which is to say, the Law, Mugabe, then turned against the Europeans. This was pure ‘racism’ which the Liberals find offensive only in their own.
Over the course of hundreds of years the African had learned nothing of European science. They can’t. That’s that little gulf that a plain man’s mind, like Haggard’s can easily spring across backward but which is impossible forward without the right equipment. So, Burroughs in Tarzan of the Apes has Tarzan being able to self-teach himself to read because it is his birthright. What Burroughs is really saying is that he had the right equipment. As an ape or an African he couldn’t have done it.
The Shona had never learned farming over the century so all the agricultural production was in the hands of Europeans. Not understanding the motivations of the Shona which they should have the Europeans could not conceive that the Shona would destroy ‘Zimbabwe’s’ own agricultural capacity. A little background in Freud would have helped. What did the Shona care about agricultural productivity? What they cared about was that narrow gulf that they couldn’t spring across. European meant superiority that constantly reminded them of what they couldn’t do but Europeans could. Besides which Europeans distanced themselves from the Africans refusing to blend with them as the Arabs did. Europeans steadfastly maintained their insularity refusing to reliquinsh their mental superiority. Wisely so, but very wrong and humiliating from the Shona point of view.
Let’s have a show of hands now. Can anybody tell me what the age old solution to the problem is? Oh, there’s a hand. Yes, you’re right. Kill the men and appropriate the women. Some sensitive tender types call it murder and rape but only if you’re not the Liberals’ darlings. So, the problem is solved in Zimbabwe. No more Whites. They have been ethnically cleansed. Did we hear any Liberal voices crying ‘Shame, shame’ from Europe or America? Ha, ha, ha.
Now let’s get on the old non-existent Cape to Cairo Railroad and move a little closer to the Cape and see what the situation is back in Zululand. It’s pretty bad unless you’re a Liberal and then it’s pretty good. Rather peculiarly the Liberal attitude toward the Shona solution of their problem is nearly identical to the Zulu solution.
As I have pointed out elsewhere the Liberal position is religious which is say irrational. Liberals completely disregard facts and reason in their pursuit of an inner ideal or wish. In Freudian terms their ideal is a wishful daydream. Platonic rather than Aristotelian. Religious rather than Scientific.
There is no question that a very difficult situation was created by the Bantu and European invasions of South Africa. Disregarding the Bushman, who the Bantus are now exterminating and the Hottentots both Bantus and Europeans had an equally justifiable claim to the land. In no sense were the Bantus first on the scene. But, Africa is the dark continent par excellence so it is thought to be inherently Black rather than White.
In a normal situation the stronger party would have exterminated or driven out the weaker as both the Zulu and Matabele were doing in their respective spheres before they were prevented from continuing by the Europeans.
The Europeans however would neither exterminate nor drive out the Blacks because of their conscience acquired through advanced evolution.
There’s a problem looming, isn’t there? Forced to incorporate the Black population into the State Europeans in the interest of self-preservation developed a system of Apartheid. In other words they followed another age old custom of introducing racial laws.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that segregation is a very poor long term solution expecially as European economic policies drew in large numbers of Blacks from the rapidly increasing Black population caused by the cessation of Black extermination policies against each other and better nutrition and medical practices.
Now, racial laws have existed from time immemorial. One only has to look to India to discovers their effectiveness. After haing created a Frankenstein’s monster of segregation resulting in a disastrous caste system the invading bronze age Indo-Europeans still failed to preserve their racial identity.
The Hebrews of the Bible also had strict racial laws as outlined in the Old Testament which they still attempt to practice although they also have failed.
When the Nazis, essentially following the Hebrew model, enacted racial laws they gave racial laws a bad name while apparently traumatizing Euroamericans into acute mental paralysis.
Liberals have concentrated their devotion to Hitler and the Nazis to such an extent that they have become the oppressor along Hebrew-Nazi lines. While they decry Hitler and the Nazis out of one side of their mouths, functioning along Nazi lines they too have instituted racial laws, but with different beneficiaries than the Nazis. Their racial laws are disguised by such names as ‘Hate’ laws or ‘minority rights.’
While the Nazis were aggressors in their racial policies Liberals pose as ‘victims’ needing protection from some ‘majority.’ For some irrational reason they consider the most populous nation on Earth, the Chinese, as a minority. Don’t expect rationality from Liberals. Thus, while they considered Apartheid evil racial laws favoring Europeans over Africans they instituted different racial laws favoring Africans over Europeans. The new laws are meant to discourage the continuance of Europeans as a distinct identity or species. In a word, genocide.
Not understanding the nature of the racial attitudes of Liberals, for that is what they are, South African Europeans have requested a new Apartheid in which they will be given their own racially segregated homeland within South Africa much as they granted the Basutos, Swazis and Zulus. Liberals will never allow this because as the European State prospered the African areas would decline.
A people that couldn’t think of a simple thing like a ladder will not be able to maintain complex cities like Salisbury and Pretoria without White slaves to do the technical or ‘brain’ work for them. Even in the Orient all the tall buildings, real monsters, are designed by Western architects and built by Euroamerican technicians.
Thus, in the time honored manner European males will be exterminated while the females will be appropriated. Liberals will call it ‘justice’ but, in the time honored manner ‘the Old Ones’ will be revered as the nations revert to savagery.
Liberal Europeans and Americans who believed for whatever misguided reasons that there could be one world, one people, no matter how impracticable or even impossible the ideal, became the enemy of Europeans and the friends of Zulu South Africans even as the Shona were attacking the Matabele of Zimbabwe with their approval. Liberals are dangerous emotional fanatical bigots. Nor will they ever come right out and say what the ends are that they seek.
Suffice it to say that Liberals returned South Africa to barbarism for almost exactly the same reason they and Mugabe returned Zimbabwe to barbarism. Liberals wanted South African Europeans to abandon their racial exclusiveness and interbreed with Blacks to create an exclusively Black country. Perhaps emotionally satisfying for them but an evolutionary blunder.
If Liberals really believe war will end when we have one world, one people, they haven’t read their Burroughs on War very carefully. But, then, since they find facts an impediment to their beliefs, why bother?
Back to the unscientific but accurate little gulf a plain man’s mind can spring across. As Liberals believe that evolutionary differences between human species do not exist (race, as they put it, is a social construct without a scientific basis, and they don’t want to hear any contradictory opinions) they not only pursued their ideal in Africa, where Blacks are solving the problem in the time honored fashion, but extended their program to Europe and America. By America I mean Canada and the United States, Mexico excluded.
Just in case Africans hadn’t thought of attempting to emigrate to Europe America Liberals have gone out and gotten them. At the same time despairing of making the African mind spring across that little gulf, after three or four hundred years in America it hasn’t happened yet, they decided to dumb down the Caucasian population by denying them education along scientific and rational lines. If you can’t join ’em, screw ’em. As a religion Liberalism is opposed to science and rationality anyway. The criteria for graduation became not how well our mind was logically trained but whether you accepted or rejected Liberal dogma. In other words, schools and colleges became seminaries for religious conditioning and indoctrination.
As Mr. Kurtz who Conrad paints as having gone native exclaims: The horror, the horror.
For all his seeming flipance Burroughs was well read on Africa. The real world of Africa is transformed into a dream world that he can command; a process not too different than that of Liberals but he knew his was fiction. However Burroughs also had a strong scientific foundation. Haggard’s little gulf is transformed into an evolutionary difference that cannot be bridged or leapt across by a ‘plain man’s mind.’ In Freudian terms Burroughs’ unconscious and conscious minds meld into one vision of omnipotence. Actually Tarzan has an integrated personality. His mind is totally conscious to the extent that he can range easily between conscious and unconscious motivations. He is at once beast, Negro and European. He has experienced each stage of evolution as child and man in the African jungles. A terrific appeal for the intelligent reader. In fact, in that sense Tarzan is a god, a jungle god. The Lord Of The Jungle which is to say the World as a jungle.
Consequently Africa is Tarzan’s own domain much as Freud made the unconscious his domain. In Tarzan’s case, all of Africa. One vast Estate in which all look to him as the Man-God. Animals and humans alike. The whole continent North to South, East to West is under the Big Bwana’s dominion. He doesn’t like to see its equanimity disturbed.
When the series began in 1911-12 it was placed on the West Coast of Africa. Some say Angola, others say the Congo, buy my opinion is on the coast of Gabon. Trader Horn thought so while it must be remembered that the French Lieutenant Paul D’ Arnot was patrolling French territory when he happened on the cove of Tarzan’s cabin which would definitely argue for the French colony of Gabon.
The entire Russian Quartet took place in West Africa, then beginning toward the end of Son Of Tarzan but definitely with Jewels Of Opar the Estate seems to wander East until it come to rest in Kenya North of Lake Victoria but South of Lake Rudolph. At the time of Jewels Of Opar and Golden Lion Opar seems to have been located West of the Mounatains of the Moon near or adjacent to, possibly in, the Ituri Rain Forest. In Invincible Opar has definitely been relocated to Abyssinia or its alternate name of Ethiopia, ‘in the interior’ somewhere West of Italian Somaliland but South of Northwest Abyssinia. This story takes place in the Horn of Africa at any rate. The distances covered so easily are baffling; we’re talking a lot of miles here.
At one point Burroughs says Opar was in a sub-tropcial zone. That would place it above the Tropic of Cancer possibly in Egypt or even out of Africa. Perhaps he meant that it was just South of the Tropic of Cancer– another astrological term for those offended by New Age– making it sub-tropical in that sense, Ethiopia is wholly within the Tropics ar any rate. Burroughs taught Geology and Geography too.
It might be appropriate to review some of the history which informs Tarzan The Invincible.
Burroughs had made a fairly thorough study of the African literature of his times while having lived through so much of the exciting story as it unfolded in newspapers and magazines as well as the literature of the day. It should also be remembered that by 1930 he had shaped others attitudes toward Africa. There was a plethora of jungle stories derived from the Tarzan series.
H. Rider Haggard’s incredible early African trilogy- King Solomon’s Mines, She and Allan Quatermain were still virtually current novels in Burroughs’ time not unlike the James Bond stories of our day. In that sense Tarzan the Invincible is a replica of Haggard’s trilogy incorporating the events of Burroughs’ own day. I find Invincible an astounding tour de force on several levels. I doubt if there has even been another novel quite like it written.
Africa seized the imagination of the European in the 1860s when they decided to pinpoint the source of the White Nile. While the White Nile exploration took place a few years before Burroughs’ birth the story was still recent enough during his childhood to excite boys’ minds while Stanley’s adventures in the Congo were an ongoing affair. On the maps of those years of ERB’s youth Equatorial Africa would still be colored white as terra incognita.
For an exciting general account of the White Nile exploration see Alan Moorehead’s The White Nile. First published in the pivotal year of 1960, displaying attitudes which subsequently have become politically incorrect a Bowlderized version was published in 1972. There isn’t much difference between the two editions but the flavor of the original is more authentic and exciting. Let the tender tend their soft spots privately.
Moorehead followed up The White Nile with The Blue Nile. That branch of the Nile coming down from Ethiopia, Lake Tana, had been known for some time. Its story is interesting but nothing compared to the White Nile. If you’re in the reading mood you might also enjoy Mungo Park’s Travels In West Africa. There’s an eye opener for you.
The key writers Burroughs relied on are David Livingstone, Richard F. Burton, Samuel Baker and Henry Morton Stanley. Quite a group of adventurers.
Burroughs relied on Livingstone and Stanley for his early stories but the ghost of Stanley haunts the entire oeuvre. I don’t find too much Burton influence but it is clear Burroughs read him. He apparently came late to Samuel White Baker whose adventures make the largest contribution to Invincible. Once again none of these volumes imprtant to ERB’s work are in his library. Very strange.
While more obscure and not as attractive a figure as Stanley, in many ways Baker’s adventures are more startling. Perhaps as a journalist Stanley knew better how to relate his story. While Stanley explored South of Lake Victoria, Baker’s adventures begin in the North at the sources of the Blue NIle progressing southward toward Bunyoro and Uganda near the shores of Lake Victoria. Thus Tarzan’s estate is near the location where the careers of Baker and Stanley intersected.
Baker’s three fabulous African books are: The Nile Tributaries Of Abyssinia And The Sword Hunters Of The Hamran Arabs, The Albert Nyanza: Great Basins Of The Nile And Exploration Of The Nile Sources and finally the incredible Ismailia. Forgive the superlatives but they understate the case.
I must warn you that while the current Liberal trend is to belittle these men’s adventures while denigrating the men themselves I am so full of admiration for their stunning daring that I can barely express myself. If you have difficulty with them just keep repeating Mr. Kurtz’s mantra: The horror, the horror.
While Stanley always had deep funding traveling with a large Safari, Baker, believe it or not, traveled alone on his own account. He was accompanied by what Moorehead bowlderizes as his wife but who was actually his slave girl. May have influenced Burroughs a little. Baker purchased her at a White Slave auction in Hungary in 1855. With the influx of Africans and Moslems into Europe and America the chances of plain men regressing to unconscious standards is very strong. There will probably be a resurgence of slavery and polygamy. The standards the West has developed as to what constitutes a just society may prove to be a temporary blip in history unless vigilance is maintained and action taken.
Invincible is based on Baker’s adventures in Ethiopia and the Sudan. The Africa described is, of course, the Africa of Burroughs’ imagination.
It might not hurt to consult a colonial map of Africa. The map I am using can be found at http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/afri1914.htm . Mathew White copyrighted it so that if Bill can’t use it I’m sure he’ll find one just as good.
Burroughs places Invincible in 1930. By that time the so-called Scramble For Africa by the European powers convened in the 1880s and 90s was nearly complete. As you can see the entire continent had been parceled out with the exception of Liberia and Ethiopia. Ethiopia would be annexed by Italy in 1935. Burroughs has the would-be Emperor of Africa Peter Sveri, declare that he will replace Ras Tafari as Emperor as Ethiopia was ripe for revolution. Ras Tafari of couse became the Emperor Haile Selassie. Ras simply mean Prince. The Jamaican rastafarians are based on Selassie while his name was modified by Burroughs to use for Ras Thavas, The Mastermind Of Mars.
In 1930 there was no Nazi threat on the horizon nor was Hitler taken seriously by any but Communists and another fringe element with whom he was engaged in a death struggle for the control of Germany. The only visible threat to peace, other than the Communists and Soviets was Mussolini and his Fascism in Italy. Burroughs detests both the Fascists and Communists as any right thinking American would. The fantasy that there ever was a Fascist threat in America was Judaeo-Communist paranoia. Communists were the threat.
According to Burroughs’ story the Soviets wished to create an incident between Italy and France that would lead to another world war. (See Beyond The Farthest Star) making it easy for the Soviets to pick up the pieces and assume control. The scenario wasn’t quite the same but it almost worked out that way save for the interference of the United States.
As you can see by the map Ethiopia, or Abyssinia, was surrounded by Italian Eritrea, French, British and Italian Somaliland on the North and East, British Kenya on the South, and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan Condominium on the West. With the exception of Kenya these were all Moslem States which harassed Christian Ethiopia continually with border disputes and battles.
Italy which had annexed Libya in 1912 would annex Ethiopia in 1935 leaving Liberia as the only independent African State. As you can see nearly the whole of West Africa was French- the lavender or purple of the map. some great Foreign Legion novels were set in West Africa including P.C. Wren’s excellent Beau Geste trilogy which found its way into excellent movies and Jules Verne’s The Barsac Mission which became the prototype for numerous novels and movies.
This is the Africa in which Burroughs sets his novel but many elements of Baker find their way into the story. In Ismailia Baker was made the Egyptian emissary to inform the Bunyoro king Kaba Rega that he had been annexed by Egypt and was now a subject of that State. News to Kaba Rega while being violently rejected by him. He was subsequently captured by Egyptian forces being sent to the Seychelles Islands in exile.
The story is heartrending apparently affecting Burroughs as it did me. Bunyoro and Uganda were contiguous States. Burroughs personfiues Kaba Reda in his character of Kitembo, the chief of the Basembos. He has Kitembo a Kenyan deposed by the British. ERB has Kitembo and warriors coming from the Lake Victoria end of the railroad from Mombasa.
Burroughs includes an Arab contingent in the Soviet expedition. He seems to have them more White than Black while in reality at this point in history the people were Arab in culture but had been assimilated to the Negroes in color. This was apparently also true in Mecca in Arabia according to Richard Burton because of a long history of Black pilgramage to this Moslem religious center.
The Moslem invasion of Africa began in the Seventh Century AD when the waves of conquering Moslems burst upon the world. It is often overlooked that this initial offence between Christians and Moslems occurred before the Crusades which so offend Moslems today. By the late fifteenth century when Portuguese explorers made contact with East Africa, the Arabs had been depleting the continent’s population as in the time honored manner on the other side of the intellectual gulf they killed the men taking the women and children. It is to be noted in the current situation in the Sudan that the most recent hybrid Arabs are following the same procedure as they kill or drive the Negroes from ‘their’ territory. Call it genocide or call it ethnic cleansing it is the unavoidable consequence of two related species contesting the same economic livelihood. You can’t fool Mother Nature.
Samuel Baker has some astonishing stories to tell of Arab slave raids. European slave trading was of a very brief duration but more consequential for world history as Europeans populated large areas of the world with Africans who would never have gotten out of Africa on their own. Of the huge number of Africans removed by Moslems over more than a millennium there seems to be no or little record of their survival in the Middle East.
According to Burroughs his Soviet conspiritors entered Africa from different ports to avoid suspicion. He doesn’t say which ports the others used but he has his alter ego, Wayne Colt, entering somewhere on the West Coast trekking the whole breadth of Africa to join his fellows. There should be no mystery as to why he was the last to join the group. I’m amazed he made it at all.
The scenario of landing on the West Coast is so ludicrous I have to laugh. As Wayne Colt is an alter ego for Burroughs then what he is doing is assimilating Stanley to himself, appropriating his feats. One hopes Colt didn’t roll off the ship in Senegambia and make the longest trip possible. Of course a trek through the Sahel would be fairly easy going compared to Stanley’s route through the tropical rain forest.
For no other reason than a whimsical one what I imagine I would have done, since Colt’s exact route is not known, I propose he entered Africa in the Cameroons, which might have been the destination of John Clayton and his wife before their ship was hi-jacked, progressing through Ubangi-Chari over the Sudan to the base camp which was five hundred miles from Italian Somaliland in Southern Ethiopia. Southern Ethiopia approximates the area tramped over by Samuel Baker and his girl slave.
Burroughs also gives us the time of the the year, June through September as the rivers are swollen. The rains begin in the Summer in Ethiopia, the flood reaching Egypt as Sirius, the Dog Star, rises in August. Abu Batn is held up by swollen rivers so the story must take place in the Summer of 1930.
I am expecially fascinated with Ubangi-Chari because of a couple pieces of ephemera from my life. I used to specialize in French Colonial stamps during my stamp collecting days while one of my favorite rock and roll songs from the fifties was Warren Smith’s romping Ubangi Stomp:
Well, I rocked over Italy and I rocked over Spain
I rocked over Memphis but it was all the same
Till I rocked over Africa and rolled off the ship
And seen them natives doing an odd looking skip.
I parted the weeds and looked over the swamp
I seen them cats doing the Ubangi Stomp.
Ubangi Stomp with a rock and roll
Beats anything that ‘s ever been told.
Ubangi Stomp, Ubangi style
When the beat just drives a cool cat wild.
Well, I looked up the chief and he invited me in
Said a heap big jam session about to begin.
He handed me a tom-tom and I picked up the beat
That crazy thing sent shivers to my feet.
Rocked and rolled and I skipped with a smile
Ubangi Stomp, Ubangi style.
Well, we rocked all night and part of the day
Had a good rockin’ time with the chief’s daughter Mae
I was makin’ time and gettin’ in the know
The Captain said son we gotta go.
I said that’s alright, you go on ahead
I’m gonna Ubangi Stomp till I roll over dead.
Ubangi Stomp, with a rock and roll
Beats anything that’s ever been told.
Ubangi Stomp, Ubangi Style
That’s what’s called going native. The plain man’s mind of our rock and roller had no trouble regressing to the primitive state. Which brings us back to Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness as we end this little foray into Africa.
Heart Of Darkness is a story of the absorption of the conscious mind by the unconscious. Mr. Kurtz is represented as having a conscious mind of the highest order. As the Harlequin Man says- How he could talk. The man is represented as being intellectually deep. However as he went out in the bush to acquire ivory he came into contact with the primitive mindset of stone age peoples. As he became accustomed to dealing with them his mind gradually regressed to the point where he participated in unspeakable primitive rites. We aren’t told what they were but Paul Theroux who says he had read Heart Of Darkness twenty to thirty times believes Mr. Kurtz partook of cannibalistic rites. I’ve only read the story twice and I have to agree with him.
Thus the fine conscious mind of Kurtz could not resist the appeal of the primitive. Tarzan, one notes, was the master of all forms of consciousness from the sub-primitive mind to the hyper-sophisticated Parisian. He was and is indeed the jungle god supreme. Kurtz became a jungle demon who on his death bed repented his regression as he cried out- The Horror, The Horror.
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#14 Tarzan The Invincible
Part II of X
Time On His Hands
I pair this novel with Tarzan At The Earth’s Core. Burroughs could have titled that novel Tarzan In Pellucidar but he didn’t. Why not? Probably because he was trying to avoid as much confusion between his two imaginary worlds as possible, or possibly he needed the site to illustrate his point but didn’t want to make it a Pellucidar novel. Earth’s Core isn’t merely a story in which Tarzan makes a guest shot in another of Burrough’s worlds. Rather ERB is making a serious exploration of Einstein’s Theory of Time and Space. Alternatively the novel might have been titled, Tarzan, Lost In Time. The novel is written to disprove the objective existence of Time. Burroughs’ own conclusion is that time is merely a human construct for mankind’s own convenience but not substantial. I think he’s right.
The nature of Time was a topic of serious discussion during the late nineteenth century, into the twentieth , still going on today. Indeed the Pellucidar series as a whole is a discussion on the aspects of Time. Of course Burroughs was familiar also with H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
Perhaps one of the more interesting notions of Time and Space and time travel was one advanced by Mark Twain in 1916 in his interesting novel No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger. In his story Twain imagines that space and time are assembled like a multi-storied building with each diorama of time and space continuing in replay eternally. Thus his hero, #44 scoots around in time and space in what is apparently a system of chutes and ladders.
It is possible in this system to visit ancient Egypt to watch the Pyramids being built, climb through the years to discover the head of the Sphinx sticking out of the sand as Napoleon saw it in 1798, climb once again to watch the first Aswan dam being built, move up a story or two to watch the High Dam being built and off to Troy to stand in the front ranks with poor maligned Ajax.
To The Time Machine, Einstein’s Theory and The Mysterious Stranger, now add Tarzan At The Earth’s Core. There are more similarities than dissimilarities.
ERB apprently didn’t think he made his point in At The Earth’s Core or perhaps he received some criticism from someone so he carries the discussion over into Invincible. While incongruous for this story ERB works it in.
As there are no book s on Einstein in his library one may ask what evidence there is that ERB had ever thought of Relativity. Well, I’ve got the evidence right here, p. 104:
…but though Time and space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines…
One can’t mention curved space and Time without being familiar with Einstein. And then, Einstein absurdly claimed that a nonexistent mental construct like Time forms a Fourth Dimension which somehow interacts with the other three. We are still waiting for a demonstration of that but we’ll let it pass. I’m sure Einstein picked that up from H.G. Wells Time Machine which was a very fine piece of imaginative literature but reflected no known physics then or now. Someone ought to pin a big red bozo nose on Einstein but, back to the future.
ERB had discussed the notion of Time thoroughly in Tarzan At The Earth’s Core. Actually that’s a contradiction of terms as a hollow earth obviates the notion of core. The key fact at the Earth’s Core is that it is always high noon. The central sun knows only endless day without a contrasting night to give the appearance of Time. Without the contrast between day and night and the revolution of the Earth around the Sun the concept of Time disappears; there is nothing to measure just pure duration.
In Invincible Burroughs explains it this way, if you didn’t catch it in At The Earth’s Core, p. 104 again, same paragraph:
The beasts of the jungle acknowledge no master, least of all the cruel tyrant that drives civilized man throughout his headlong race from the cradle to the grave- Time, the master of countless millions of slaves. Time, the measurable aspect of duration, was meaningless to Tarzan and Tantor.
Not only is Time meaningless to Tarzan and Tantor but Time is meaningless to the universe itself. Nothing that ocurs in the Universe is dependent on Time nor can Time change any occurrence. The so-called Fourth Dimension is totally ineffective. Everything will happen just as it does now and has always without any reference to Time. The progress of a physcial action will progress in scientifically determined steps from inception to completion without any interference from that clown Einstein’s ‘fabric of time and space.’
That is the import of timelessness at the Earth’s core. The inhabitants live and die without the ability to know they are getting older as there is no night, day or year. The organism merely comes into existence, behaving according to physical laws determined by genes and other micro-organisms progressing through all the changes until the final change which change no longer has any conscious meaning.
The same is true of suns and galaxies. It is virtually meaningless to say the Sun is several billions of years old. It is only a mental construct that lets you grasp a concept of duration. It is much more relevant to say, for instance, that the changes in the Sun’s development are, say, 30% completed. You see, it’s all quantative not qualitative. Barring accidents and diseases, at twenty the average life span in the US is 25% consumed. The changes relative to that portion of development in the organism have occurred and will not occur again. On that basis I have used up about 85% of the physical changes alloted my organism. The nature of future changes are predictable. They cannot be avoided. This has no reference to Time no matter what state of development an organism is in.
While in a state of depletion I become ‘old’ only if my psychology is affected by the concept of ‘age.’ While my physical capabilities are not what they were at twenty, that phase of development having been passed through, my mental capabilities have developed accordingly. As my body has decreased in powers my mind has increased. The beginning has compensated the end. If I die today or tomorrow that is as it must be. Everything has its end. There is no tragedy involved.
Life and death are completed, unaffected by Time. If time ‘stopped’ as people imagine it can, everything would continue as now. Organisms merely run their physical course. That is the point Burroughs is trying to make. He is repudiating Einstein.
As a young man I was conditioned to revere Einstein. I did this unquestioningly and, boy, was I sincere. I disgust myself in memory. But then, somewhere along the line the hypnotic spell wore off, contradicted by facts. Einstein began to unravel before my eyes. It wasn’t that I questioned his reputation it was just that a mist began to lift. I began to have doubts; sort of religious doubts. I blinked once and Einstein was no longer the archetype of genius. At the second blink I began to ask questions. I tripped over the notion of the physical reality of Time just as Burroughs did.
When I read the ancient Jewish historian Josephus I began to sense the specious nature of the problem. According to Josephus Abraham was the greatest astronomer cum astrologer of his time just as Einstein is thought to be the greatest of ours. At the time of the transition between the Age of Taurus and the Age of Aries Abraham had an astrological/astronomical dispute with the academy.
You see, at that stage of the evolution of human consciousness astronomy and astrology were united into one discipline. The magical element of astrology wouldn’t be separated from the scientific element of astronomy until the scientific consciousness of humanity had separated itself from the magical or religious which two systems are synonymous. The concept of god functions only in a magical sense as his presence is even less noticeable than that of Time.
However magic and astrology are still part of human consciousness although with a quasi-scientific basis so that systems organized perhaps tens of thousands of years ago continue to function through inertia. I have been accused of being New Age. Quite frankly as New Age in my view rejects the scientific consciousness as much as any other religious system, Fundamentalist Judaism, for instance, hint hint, I cannot be New Age. But, I sure like the way they talk.
What I discuss is scientific history. Facts which religious people reject because they disavow the ideas behind them but accept as real, i.e. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Why bother worrying about it; witches do not exist except in the imagination.
So whether you ‘believe’ in astrology, the Zodiac or whatever is irrelevant. The fact is at one time in history people universally did and they acted on their beliefs.
At any rate the fact is at the time of the transition from the Age of Taurus to the Age of Aries Abraham had an astrological/astronomical dispute with the Chaldean astronomers of Ur. As I understand it they said the religious archetype was changing with the transition from Taurus to Aries. (I think of this as a form of set theory; it is so because everyone agrees it is so. No different than now.) Abraham argued that the archetype of the Ages was Eternal, unchanging, the Rock Of Ages to you religious types. Rock of Ages means unchanging through all the signs of the Zodiac, all twelve Ages. An Age is one sign of the Zodiac. Ages are the twelve zodiacal signs. (Hello, Central? Put me through to God.)
Now, to be Eternal is astrologically impossible. The Earth wobbles on its axis visible at the North Pole so that every twenty-five thousand years or so it creates a Great Year then begins again. The Ancients divided the Great year in the system of twelve periods, called Ages, to correspond with the months of the terrestrial year.
Apparently Abraham denied this and adamantly insisted on the Eternal. For this reason, according to Josephus Abraham and his fellow Terahite cultists were run out of town.
Lousy astronomers, then, Abraham’s descendants had learned little by the time Einstein stepped onto the world stage to give his oration. Just as Abraham had voiced his foolishness four thousand years previously Einstein did the same in our time. There are those who seriously argue that time travel is possible in Einstein’s universe. Well, maybe in his, but not in this one.
Nothing is relative but one’s point of view. The physical universe is one of absolutes; that is the nature of science. Science cannot be relative; in order for an experiment to be true it must replicate itself the same way under the same conditions. As unpleasant as that may be to some intellects there is in fact only one way in a given set of circumstances. A+B will always equal A+B. If one switches to A+C then the result will always be A+C. There is nothing relative about it. You may religiously expect other results but you will be eternally disappointed. So Einstein said that the further out in Space his mind penetrated the closer he got to god. Who can say, but he never got close enough to touch God. Einstein was not a scientist. He was a Rabbi. There is no g-d to get closer to. I’m sure that a good Rabbi would find arguments in the Talmud almost identical to those of Einstein.
Burroughs saw through Einstein hence his arguments disproving the physical existence of Time and the futility of any supposed Fourth Dimension. These are religious matters requiring a belief in a supernatural being.
Having said that Time was measureless to Tarzan and Tantor which was not entirely true since the rotation of the Earth divides ‘Time’ into night and day unlike at the Earth’s core. Burroughs then goes on to say, p. 104, same paragraph:
Of all the vast resources that Nature had placed at their disposal, she had been most profligate with Time, since she had awarded to each all that he could use during his lifetime, no matter how extravagant of it he might be. So great was the supply of it that it could not be wasted, since there is always more, even up to the moment of death, after which it ceases, with all things, to be essential to the individual. Tantor and Tarzan therefore were wasting no time as they communed together in silent meditation…
A beautiful piece of sophistry. Regardless of the Time involved, immutable physical changes continued to take place. What opportunities appropriate to that physical state were lost forever.
Apropos of which carrying his argument further, on p. 120 he says:
Time is of the essence of many things to civilized man. He fumes and frets, and reduces his mental and physical efficiency if he is not accomplishing something concrete during the passage of every minute of that medium which seems to him like a flowing river, the waters of which are utterly wasted if they are not utilized as they pass by.
Imbued by some such insane conception of time, Wayne Colt sweated and stumbled through the jungle, seeking his companions as though the fate of the universe hung upon the slender chance that he could reach them without the loss of a second.
I understand what ERB is saying, of course, I’m virtually a disciple. Tarzan lolling on the back of Tantor achieved his goal more easily than the frantic Colt. Still, one should remember: Work, for the hour grows late. Those irreversible physical changes are drawing one closer to the grave. Get it done now.
ERB displays a seeming peevishness over the issue which has little or no bearing on this story. It is an interesting aside but it does not illuminate the tale. Maybe somebody criticized the ideas expressed in At The Earth’s Core and Burroughs is carrying on the argument. Nobody paid any attention, still I am charmed by the vision of Tantor and Tarzan suspended in Space and Time wandering blissfully through the jungle unaware of any impending doom.
Proceed to Part III of X
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#14 Tarzan The Invincible
Part I of X
By 1930 ERB was fifty-six years old. An age when many or even most people have become hardened into unchangeable forms. Burroughs seems to have been an exception to this rule. His ability to evolve with the times is remarkable. Some can, some can’t. The problem isn’t one of merely attempting to mimic the style of the period but to adapt one’s mental outlook so that one thinks in the current idiom,
The post-Civil War period into which Burroughs had been born had disappeared now long ago. There might have been a couple survivors of the GAR but not many. The Indian Wars of his childhood were over. The plains had been swept clean of the buffalo. Even the buffalo robe that could easily be found during the first two decades of the century became difficult to find in the twenties and impossible to find in the thirties.
So that past which must still have been vivid in ERB’s memory was no more. Frank James and Cole Younger had died as late as 1915 and 1916 respectively. Buffalo Bill in 1917. TR in 1919. Charlie Siringo who had been present at the shootout with Billy The Kid was giving advice to authenticate Western movies even as he passed away in 1928. Heck, Burroughs could claim to be an authentic cowboy. He was out on the Idaho range in 1890 the heyday of the cowboy, Johnson County war and all that. His Western novels are about as authentic as you can get, maybe even more so than one of ERB’s heroes, Owen Wister.
The guy was carrying impressive baggage from the past to the present and into the future. The era of the first two decades had come and gone disappearing into the Roaring Twenties, the New Era. The twenties were a major transitional period for ERB. He picked up on the new trends by such writers as F. Scott Fitzgerald and kept on hoofing it down the highways and byways. The Shaggy Man of Tarzana.
There was a hiatus of four years between Tarzan And The Ant Men, which may be considered the last of the Tarzan novels of the first period and 1927’s Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle. The latter may be considered a transitional work between the first and the later period.
Tarzan And The Lost Empire of 1928 shows him saying goodbye to the Lost Empire of his early dreams. By this time he had begun his affair with Florence Gilbert Dearholt that would result in the end of his marriage of thirty-four years to the lovely Emma.
Also a new political element entered his writing competing with the love element of Emma and Florence. Tarzan novels fairly gushed from his pen over the next seven years. Tarzan At The Earth’s Core of 1928-29, Tarzan The Invincible of 1930, Tarzan Triumphant of 1931, Tarzan And The Leopard Men also of 1931, Tarzan And The City Of Gold of 1931-32, Tarzan And The Lion Man of 1933 and Tarzan’s Quest of 1934-35. With the divorce his fecundity ended; he had severed his connection with his origins.
Politics had entered his life in earnest with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. He had always been involved with politics to some extent. In his youth his basic attitudes had been formed by immigration while he watched immigrant German socialists parade through the streets of Chicago under the red flag shouting, Down with America. The Russian situation had troubled him too. The villains of the Russian Quartet had been Russians. A very great many of his villains were Russians. The Communist leaders of Tarzan The Invincible are Russian.
In 1919 he rushed his political tract Under The Red Flag denouncing the Russian revolutionaries to his publishers. Haven’t read it but I suspect it was much too polemical for the pulp fiction magazines for which he wrote. It if was anything like The Little Door I can understand why it was rejected on literary grounds. I don’t doubt the novel was rejected for political reasons also as Reds and Fellow Travelers had already worked themselves into the cultural edifices of the US.
Certainly he was flagged as a counterrevolutionary to be watched and interfered with. It is now becoming apparent that ERB was more widely read in the new Soviet union than previously thought. Josef Stalin may even have followed the Tarzan series. We know for certain
that Tarzan novels were read to workers on the job.
It appears that H.G. Wells was appointed to harass Burroughs in print. His 1923 novel Men Like Gods seems to reference Burroughs in a negative way. The means of communication between Wells, the Reds and ERB remains to be discovered but there appears to be novelistic warfare between the two. Wells seemingly was the Soviet hatchet man attacking other notable counterrevolutionaries such as Aldous Huxley.
ERB refined his approach getting his condemnatory novel of Bolshevism, The Moon Maid, published in 1926. The Moon Maid wasn’t that satisfactory although Wells replied to it in 1928 with Mr. Blettsworthy of Rampole Island.
Wells unmistakably alludes to Burroughs in this novel calling him insane. Tarzan At The Earth’s Core which is an attack on some core beliefs of the revolutionaries may possibly have been a rushed response to Blettsworthy.
In Tarzan The Invincible which may be incontrovertibly considered his third attack on the Revolution and an answer to Wells ERB succeeded in the grand manner. He shed the nineteenth century trappings of The Moon Maid that was written in the style of Wells’ First Men In The Moon to write a thoroughly modern novel. Invincible might be considered a prototype of the modern spy thriller, one of the first of the genre. Not only a prototype of the genre but as David Adams points out in ERBzine 0199 a superb blending of fact and fiction:
Fictional author: Burroughs pulls off a tour de force by narrating an introduction in his own voice, then slipping into the story so smoothly one is deceived into believing it is part of a newspaper story in a historical setting.
By which David means current events occurring almost as we speak. Tour de force is correct. David got the handle on that one. Tarzan is actually integrated into a current political situation as an actual historical figure. Tarzan interacts with fictional agents of Stalin who are represented as real acting under orders from Moscow. Incredibly Opar devolves from a mere fantasy of Burroughs into an actual geographic location somewhere in southern Abyssinia. The Soviet agent Dorsky tells Tarzan that they know that he knows where the gold of Opar is hidden and that he is going to tell them.
Thus Stalin has apparently kept up on Tarzan’s adventures which he thinks are real being aware of the source of Tarzan’s wealth and his earlier expeditions to Opar. In fact, one knows that Tarzan’s adventures are common knowledge which they should be as several millions of copies had been sold worldwide. Tarzan’s amanuensis Burroughs has seen to that.
The Soviets had located Kitembo of the Basembos who knew where Opar was and had actually seen it. The Basembos were native to the area of the railhead on Lake Victoria. One assumes that Kitembo must have known one of the faithful Warziri who showed him the ruins. As ERB explains only Tarzan and some of the Waziri had been to Opar. That overlooks Ozawa, who probably bore Tarzan a little grudge for the gold taken from him and the bearers of Esteban Miranda of Tazan And The Golden Lion but possibly the well-known Curse of Atlantis had carried them all off. Haven’t heard of the Curse of Atlantis? Well, you’ve heard of the Curse of the Pharaohs haven’t you? Same thing, only different.
The Reds trying to loot Opar isn’t all that far-fetched. As has been mentioned elsewhere Stalin actually ordered his scientists at about this time to cross an ape and a human to attempt to create a new super warrior that could run on regular. We know that Stalin was a fan of the Tarzan series, both books and movies, possibly even a secret admirer of our favorite author. The possibility of Stalin thinking a eugenic hybrid of ape and human possible from reading Burroughs seems to have a high degree of probability. The Oparian males were believed to have some ape blood in them. If word of the experiments had reached Burroughs, Tarzan The Invincible could be part a spoof on Moscow. So, in a way, the blending of fact and fiction David notes could on the other hand be a blending of fiction and science by Stalin. Amusing to think about. I’m sure more information will surface in the future. At any rate this story does read as an unreported behind the scenes actual event.
Let’s take a look at how Burroughs sets it up. From the opening paragraph.
I am no historian, no chronicler of facts…
OK, so we’re warned that we’re about to be put upon.
Had the story I am about to tell you broken in the newspapers of two certain European powers, it might have precipitated another and a more terrible world war. But with that I am not particularly concerned. What interests me is that it is a good story that is particularly well adapted to my requirements through the fact that Tarzan of the Apes was intimately connected with many of its most thrilling episodes.
Ah, so Tarzan really exists.
That passage is reminiscent of both the first framing story of Tarzan of the Apes and any number of story introductions of Dr. Watson for Sherlock Holmes. The echoes are very strong. An overlooked fact is that Burroughs actually plays Dr. Watson’s role for Tarzan. Burroughs
in fact is the chronicler of Tarzan’s adventures as was Watson those of Holmes.
Burroughs goes on to establish his story’s authenticity:
Take the story simply as another Tarzan story, in which, it is hoped, you will find entertainment and relaxation. If you find food for thought so much the better.
Doubtless, very few of you saw, and still fewer will remember having seen, an news dispatch that appeared inconspicuously (how inconspicuously?) in the papers some time since, reporting a rumor that French colonial troops stationed in Somaliland, on the northeast coast of Africa, had invaded an Italian African colony. Back of that news item is a story of conspiracy, intrigue, adventure, and love- a story of scoundrels and of fools, of brave men, of beautiful women, a story of the beasts of the forest and the jungle.
That seems like it covers all the bases of what a story should have. It is also pure Dr. Watson or, rather, Arthur Conan Doyle; let’s not fail to differentiate between fact and fiction. So far what Burroughs has posited could well be true. After all few read and fewer remembered the news item which appeared inconspicuously sometime in the not too distant past. Now Burroughs removes the story from the news item another step and quietly slips into full fiction mode:
If there were few who saw the newspaper acount of the invasion of Italian Somaliland upon the northeast coast of Africa, it is equally a fact that none of you saw a harrowing incident that occurred in the interior some time previous to the affair.
Um, yes, if there were few…then it’s a fact there were none. It seems ERB has established an incontestable ‘fact.’ So if you let that sophistry slip by you he’s going to tell you pure fiction. If you know the difference you won’t care, if you don’t it won’t matter. Anyway his intro was a perfect synthesis of nineteenth century humbug brought completely up to date.
Burroughs’ writing style is even close to reportorial. Tarzan, La and Opar become ‘real’ as ‘real life’ Reds make their assault on the ancient Atlantean colony. So, in a way, Atlantis becomes an established fact rather than an hypothesis.
Burroughs uses clear, concise sentences developing his story news style. For once his story is evenly paced with a well developed beginning, middle and unrushed end. He doesn’t cram a hundred page ending into ten as usual.
While one hesitates to call the book his best Tarzan novel it may be his best written. Thoroughly modern in its swift and pleasant reading with wonderful detailing I certainly can’t consider the novel hack work or inferior to any of the Tarzan novels in any way. The characters are entirely plausible, the premiss doesn’t seem far fetched. There are historical antecedents that we will examine. The novel could easily have take its place among the major spy thrillers written in the last fifty or sixty years. David is right. The novel is a major tour de force.
Part II of X follows.
June 5, 2010
Exhuming Bob 25:
Bob And Sam
Shepard, Sam: The Rolling Thunder Logbook, 1977, Sanctuary Publishing.
Sometime in the mid-seventies, possibly in 1976 Paul Simon wrote in one of his lyrics: I don’t think this stuff is funny anymore. Coincidentally at the same time as I surveyed my record store of a Saturday morning the same thought occurred to me. Things had been overdone. In one bat of an eyelash the whole thing got old.
This was not case with Bob Dylan who in the waning months of 1975 put the greatest clown act New England had ever seen on the road. The Rolling Thunder Revue; or as it might alternatively have been named: The New Bob Dylan Minstrels. One purpose of the Revue seems to have been to spring the convicted triple murderer and ex-boxer Hurricane Carter from jail. That didn’t come until the very end.
Along the way Dylan wanted to film a sort of existential movie that would later be released as Renaldo and Clara. Working from some strange chaos theory Dylan had no actors, no script, no-nothing. Needing some sort of guiding hand he commanded the actor, cowboy, playwright Sam Shepard to attend to his writing needs. Sam then wrote what he called a log of the experience called the Rolling Thunder Logbook.
On the first reading I didn’t think Sam put much into it but the pictures were good. Still there was the nagging feeling that I might have missed something. On the second reading the logbook assumed more significance. It’s kind of impressionistic. It’s not a narrative; like the title says its sort of like a ship’s logbook. The impressions sort of pile up until you have a definite impression. I don’t know if that’s what Sam intended but that’s the way it worked with me.
Bob being the kind of powerful show biz personality he is didn’t bother to negotiate terms with Sam; he didn’t even bother to call himself; his agent or stooge or whatever interrupted the life of Shepard to tell him Dylan wanted him in New England. Sam doesn’t mention any terms, or indeed any payment. He just dropped everything, literally, and drove East. Did I mention he was in California? Well, he was; he was in the process of moving.
Bob tries pretty hard to cultivate that elusive, mysterious image and he succeeded with Sam who couldn’t locate him for a few days after he got there. Bob probably wanted to accustom him to the menagerie before he showed his face. Even then Sam didn’t have any guidelines he just expected Sam to free lance a few lines of dialogue if at any time he saw the cameras running. The film crew was more disorganized than Dylan if that were possible.
What was it all about anyway?
As we should be aware 1976 was the two hundreth anniversary celebration of the American Revolution. But there were a number of conflicting revolutions running simultaneously. There was the revolt of the Matriarchy, what Eric Foner calls the Unfinished Revolution which was the replacement of Whites by Negroes and of course the perpetual revolution of the Jews against mankind, not to mention the revolution of the gay crowd. Bob as we all know is Jewish so one may reasonably ask why he chose New England for his chaotic Marx Brothers routine on the occasion of the Yankee Revolution around the new England sites such as Bunker Hill? Could he have been thumbing his nose at America? Well, it does look suspicious.
As Sam notes the crew made it a point to visit Plymouth Rock and the replica of the Mayflower which sacred symbols of pre-immigration America they reviled all but pissing on the Rock. The faux American cowboy, Elliott Adnopoz was swinging from the yardarm of the Mayflower. Y’all know Elliott as the yodelin’ cowboy Ramblin’ Jack Elliott o’ course. For the rest they pissed and farted their way across New England carousing and corrupting as they went. Of course it might just have been New England exercising the gang’s Rock n’ Roll genes, no more than that. Sam kept his discontent sotto voce by which I mean between the lines. Bob, with his need for conflict invited not only his old flame Joan Baez and his new flame Joni Mitchell but his wife Sarah playing each against each. Baez who grows more Mexican with each passing year seems willing to put up with whatever Bob does. Shortly after the tour Sara came downstairs one morning to find Bob dandling a strange beauty on his knee for breakfast. Well, you know, she threw in the tower after that, as, who wouldn’t? Bob seemed to be perfectly dismayed by this untoward turn of events. ‘Women in my family just don’t divorce.’ He whined uncomprehendingly. Well, at least, not without due provocation.
That leaves Joni Mitchell. She’s apparently been stewing about her treatment for thirty-five years. She just recently expressed herself by saying in effect that Dylan is just a god-damned phony. Well, Bob can always go join Joanie in that bomb shelter in Viet Nam. They can exchange rings made of the fuselages of American fighter planes, if they haven’t already. So, how sincere is their devotion to this great land of the once free and no longer brave? It would seem their loyalties lie elsewhere.
In my own obtuseness, quivering in my own psychological bomb shelter, I never saw Bob as a revolutionary in those far off days but then I was just listening to records, I didn’t know anything about him; boy, I sure have remedied that situation.
Back in those palmy days of the early sixties before racial and religious animosities had reached their present prominence I don’t know that anyhbody really thought of Dylan as a Jew. Certainly the name Dylan is not Jewish and I’m not sure how many people would have known Zimmerman was. Or, that they would have cared. In those days everyone cheered when Israel won one of those too frequent wars. Now, though, one has to put Bob’s religious affiliation up front. Make no mistake, he’s a fundamentalist, believes the Bible is the literal word of god. Orthodox. Chabad Lubavitcher even. Thinks the universe is fifty-seven hundred years old like his deceased mentor Rabbi Schneerson. Swear to g-d.
Must have picked it all up from Rebbe Rueben who came West from Brooklyn to Hibbing to indoctrinate him in Lubavitcher lore for his Bar Mitzvah. Like Bob said, he learned what he was supposed to learn. He very cleverly inserted the stuff into all those songs too.
Bob broke his mind in the excesses of the sixties, that high mercury sound he was seeking was the result of all those amphetamines he was shooting back then. Andy Warhol had his boy pegged.
In the late sixties and early seventies Bob had to rebuild his personality and he rebuilt it around his religion. His Mom was real proud of the way he had his Bible open on a stand in his living room so he could jump up and check it as the occasion arose.
Then as he got back on his feet he aligned himself with Meyer Kahane’s violent extremist revolutionary Jewish Defense League carrying a couple of JDL thugs around with him as bodyguards. Maybe his Jewish revolutionary mode was getting too obvious so in ’77 he began hanging out with Jews For Jesus and the Christian Vinyard Fellowship organization. Once that clouded the picture he reverted back to his Lubavitchers where he has been since.
So on the Rolling thunder tour one may be excused for thinking that he was in his revolutionary phase. Sam Shepard doesn’t mention it but his experience left a very bad taste in his mouth which he expresses with as much force as Joni Mitchell really has.
On the tour Bob did the strange thing of wearing white makeup which has remained a mystery. It shouldn’t be really. Remember the tour was to end in a successful attempt to free a Black man while the Black boxer Muhammed Ali was unstage at the Garden. A Garden party a la Ricky Nelson, get it? The Revue was actually a parody of the Minstrel show of what Greil Marcus would call the old weird America. In the old Minstrel shows the White actor wore black face in imitation of Black people. This may sound strange to you but Jews don’t consider themselves White notwithstanding their pale complexions they consider themselves Jews and goys as White. So, in disguising himself in White Face he was parodying the old Black Minstrel shows while mocking his ultra-White New England audience.
Bob Dylan was having the time of his life. The joke was on the Honkies. Funny, huh?
As noted, the keynote of the tour was the final concert at Madison Square Garden at Christmas where he took on America over the issue of the Black Hurricane Carter and won. Now, compare that Christmas show with the 2009 release of Bob’s Christmas album. Seemingly done straight it also mocks Whites. In Bob’s video for the song It Must Be Santa Claus you may have noticed that the audience showed minimal diversity. The airheads were all White. Bob comes prancing through wearing a lank blonde White girl’s wig, climbs into a balcony and stands looking down his nose in his wig at us all. It’s great. Nobody gets it. There is something happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jo-o-o-nes.
Jewish power vs. American power, make no mistake.
Sam jumped ship before the end of the tour, he’d had enough, but he was there for the Garden party. He can’t even force himself to dissimulate a complimentary attitude as he did at the beginning of the Minstrel show. And then the final confrontation between the playwright and the singer.
At this point is is clear that the Rolling Thunder tour is something Sam wished he hadn’t gone on and an experience he preferred to forget.
Shepard closes with a chapter concerning the opening of his play The Geography Of A Horse Dreamer. I don’t know the play but it may have been based on Rolling Thunder. In the play Sam names the horse Sara D. Dylan is in New York at the time wanting to see the play. He wants to make his entrance in company with Sam. Sam writes:
..so I’m in the hotel lobby waiting for the Cadillac convertible to haul us over to the theatre. The big boxcar camper pulls up outside and Dylan hops out. My stomach does a full gainer as I see him approaching the hotel. The idea of him sitting in the audience is more like a nightmare than a blessing…He pauses at one of these signs (reading signs in the lobby) long enough for me to scuttle past him out into the street and hail a cab. It’s bad enough knowing that he’ll be there without having to ride there with him in the same car.
So not only was the tour distasteful to Sam’s sensibilities but the experience of first hand acquaintance with Bob has also left a bitter taste. Well he isn’t the only one. The evening of the opening of Sam’s show is not going to improve relations.
…the so-called curtain is being held up for Dylan’s late arrival. He shows up plastered, along with Neuwirth, Kemp, Sara and Gary Shafner. They take up a whole row.
So whatever the cause of the conflict Dylan is reciprocating his disrespect fully. He means to sabotage Sam’s show and then leave early too.
At intermission Sam doesn’t see Bob so he hopes he’s left the theatre. No such luck. Dylan comes out of the toilet.
He sees me standing there and pauses as though trying to bring certain thoughts into focus. “Hey, Sam, what happens to this guy in the play anyway?’ I’m dumbfounded for a reply but come out with something like, “That’s the reason for seeing the second act.” He stares at the floor, his knees shifting slightly as though he’s about to go into a nose dive.
“Hey, how come you named that horse in the play Sara D?”
“That’s the name of a racing dog in England.” It suddenly cuts through me that it’s also the name of his wife.
“I mean it’s the name of a greyhound. A real greyhound. You know the kind that race around the track.”
He smiles and shuffles through the door, almost making a left turn into the light booth.
Apparently Dylan didn’t find that answer any more satisfactory than I would have. Something is going on here, isn’t it?
As the play draws to its end Dylan makes his move. Shameless. Pure chutzpah immersed in chocolate sauce.
Dylan stands in the back row. “Wait a minute!” Who’s he yelling to? The actors? “Wait a second! why’s he get the shot? He shouldn’t get that shot! The other guy should get it!” Lou Kemp is trying to haul him back down in his seat….
Dylan is struggling to free himself from Kemp’s hammerlock grip. Neuwirth is telling him to shut up…Finally the Sam Peckinpah sequence begins, with shotguns and catsup all over the stage. Dylan leaps up again. “I DON’T HAVE TO WATCH THIS! I DIDN’T COME HERE TO WATCH THIS!
Apparently the Rolling Thunder tour didn’t end until Sam had written this play and run it by Bob. Dylan didn’t like the play any better than Shepard liked the tour. Hard feelings everywhere.
Apparently Bob used people much too roughly. He managed to either blow off a number of people immediately following such as Shepard, Jack Elliott, Neuwirth, the maligned Larry Sloman and probably the whole film crew while Joni Mitchell has weighed in thirty-five years on. We have yet to hear from a number of other people, most notably Roger McGuinn.
Bob managed to trash everybody including the USA with his Minstrel show for the 200th anniversary year. Which revolutions was he leading? I don’t think this stuff is funny anymore, do you?