A Review Pt. 6: Tarzan The Invincible by Edgar Rice Burroughs
July 6, 2010
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#14 Tarzan The Invincible
Part VI of X
Inside The Gates Of Opar
Life is just too short for some folks,
For other folks it just drags on.
Some folks like the taste of smokey whiskey
Others think that tea’s too strong.
Me, I’m the kind of guy who likes to ride the middle
I don’t like this bouncing back and forth.
Me, I want to live with my feet in Dixie
And my head in the cool blue North.
–Jesse Winchester: Nothing But A Breeze
And now we come to the heart of Edgar Rice Burroughs. One reason he is literarily disdained is that the story is not the story. Porges, p.524:
As the story progresses the perceived theme of a worldwide conspiracy is abruptly abandoned. Burroughs in his contempt for the communists refuses to allow them to be sincere even in their Marxist goals.
This is not true. Porges has misconceived the story. To quote the sixties Jewish revolutionary Mark Rudd: The issue is not the issue. By that Rudd meant that the Jews had created a diversion to mask the true issue which was the establishment of the Jewish culture as top culture or dictator in this multi-cultural world.
Burroughs intent is exactly the same as regards Tarzan. True, Burroughs has contempt for Communism but that is merely a frame story and a side issue. The true issue is that Tarzan’s authority as guardian of Africa is being challenged on the spot. The duel is between himself and Sveri mano a mano. He discredits the collectivity through the individuals. Thus at novel’s end Tarzan sits in state as Guardian or Emperor disposing the fates, godlike, of the remaining conspiritors. Magnanimously he allow Paul Ivitch (Paulevitch) to be escorted out of Africa rather than be thrown on his own resources that would have resulted in his certain death.
The issue within the issue, as always, is Burroughs attempt to resolve his psychological difficulties. Thus one has the Colt-Drinov combination, possibly reprsenting ERB and Emma, an episode within Opar of Nao who may represent Florence releasing him from the prison of his marriage to Emma, and Colt-La, the Anima and Animus problem. Tarzan and Colt change partners so that La nurses Colt and Tarzan nurses Zora. But to that in the next section.
While one expects a pure shoot out with the Communists, Tarzan is not going to defeat them by direct action but by a terrorist campaign of which Tarzan is the jungle master.
To compound the problem Burroughs confuses realism with dreamwork. This is not a realistic novel but a dream fantasy. It was said that Burroughs wrote out his dreams which has a basis in fact. The scenarios may have originated in his sleeping dreams but then he modifies them in day dream style while consciously molding the story for political and commercial purposes. A writer does need readers.
To give a basis for comparison for the dreamwork I’m going to play Freud here and offer up a dream of my own; it is similar to Burroughs’ in many way. Since integrating my personality I don’t have wonderful dreams like this anymore. As Jung correctly surmised when one integrates the conscious and sub-conscious minds memory destroys the symbolic basis of your dreams. I can analyze the common place dreams I have now even as I dream them. Something is lost, something is gained, but it might be of lesser value. I think I like the mysterious flavor of the smokey whiskey even though the water I have to drink now is better for me.
In my dream I began on the edge of a vast desert dotted with a few oases while far off in the distance twenty years away, rather than miles, away in the the distance a great white shining mountain arose. The distances were so vast they were measured not in miles but years. Indeed, the years of my life. I had to traverse the vast desert reaches between the oases. Each oasis merely refreshed me for the next perilous journey. Having traversed the years I came to the great white shining mountain. One might compare it to the tor containing the treasure vaults of Opar out on its desert. These are symbols common to multitudes.
I then came to the white shining mountain which might compare to the city of Opar. Censorship prevented me from climbing the mountain at that time. In other words in the control of my subconscious, consciousness was denied me. I approached the mountain from the back where I noticed a trickle of water leading into and down the mountain. I tried to drink the water but as it ran through a pure salt bed it was too salty. Unlike Burroughs who was in the pits of darkness I was always bathed in a clear light which came from nowhere.
I followed the little stream down the subterranean path into the mountain. Thus I had all land and no water, a barren psychological situation. Following the cave down I came to a series of gates made entirely of steel. I hesitated to go forward but there was no going back. I was impelled into one of the gates which turned into a chute that spilled me out onto a steel floor where unseen hands seized me pushing me into a steel room as the steel door slammed shut. Like Tarzan beneath Opar I was a prisoner with no seeming way out.
As I looked around I realized that this was a laundry room. All steel, of course. While I had no food I now had sinks full of water. My situation had been reversed from all land to all water, from the pure masculine to almost pure feminine. Where before I was barren now I was spilling over with wisdom. I knew I had to get out of there reasonably soon or I would starve to death. There was impenetrable steel all around. But I had plenty of water. Too much water. Looking around I spotted ventilation ducts along the ceiling. I conceived the notion that I could drink lots of water then urinate in the ducts which would create a foul odor that would be distributed throughout the rooms above. They would search for the source of the odor thus opening the door of my prison.
The ducts were difficult to reach but I was able to urinate in them. As I expected voices came down the duct asking ‘What is that smell?’. The door to my prison opened inward so I stood to the side that opened waiting. Sure enough a couple maintenance men flung the door open bursting into the room. I slipped out the door behind them unnoticed.
I now descended still further until I came to a bank of elevators. One door was open for which I made a rush. The elevator was packed with boys I knew from high school. With doubled fists they pushed me back refusing to allow me in the elevator with them. Mocking me as the doors closed I was left alone way down there.
There was a flight of stairs but censorship prevented my using them. I waited in vain for another elevator. As with dreams I next found myself at the back of the mountain but the path into the mountain had disappeared so I now had to climb The Great White Shining Mountain.
If, like Burroughs, I were writing a story I would provide a plausible story line for my escape but I’m not. I’m merely transcribing a dream.
The reason the mountain shone was because it was covered by snow several hundreds of feet, possibly thousands, thick. As previously the water in the stream was too salty to drink now it was frozen. The sun shone brightly, not only brightly, but brilliantly, as I began my climb. I had left the subconscious for the conscious as I strove for the light. The climb was long from the back of the brain to the forebrain but not tiring. Apart from the barrenness of the snow I was enjoying myself. Would it be too offensive a pun if I said I enjoyed being high? After a long climb I came to a precipice past which I could go no further. Nor could I go back.
As I studied my position I looked down this sheer precipice to the desert thousands of feet below. There was snow all the way to the desert floor. Down there, way down there, I could see the tiny ant-like people in the barren sands doing obeisance to the moutain which they apparently treated as a god.
Looking down the sheer face of snow I could dimly perceive the outlines of a great face carved in the snow. This god, then, retained all the water behind his visage that could make the desert bloom. Just as I had used water to escape the prison of my subconscious I conceived the notion that I could release the water and make the desert bloom freeing the people from their bondage.
Now, this was hard snow. I had no trouble walking the surface without breaking through while if the snow didn’t give way as I jumped on it to destroy the snow god I would plummet several feet into the desert. Neverthless I leaped up landing on my bottom. The snow gave way as I rode the avalanche several thousand feet down the mountain side to land on the desert floor while I destroyed the god who had been impounding the water.
Many streams now flowed out from the mountain. The desert bloomed turning green and bursting with flowers. Now that we have a comparison let us examine Burroughs’ great dream of Opar.
Opar first found expression way back at the end of 1912 and the beginning of 1913. Appearing at the end of The Return Of Tarzan the story was included in Burroughs’ fourth published story and fifth written story, the Outlaw Of Torn had been written but not published yet.
As with Invincible the story of The Return was not the story. The story was what Burroughs hung the details of what appeared to be the story on. Hence Return was rejected by Metcalf Burroughs’ first editor at Munsey’s who undoubtedly couldn’t understand it. This is the novel in which Tarzan makes his first raid on the fabulous treasure vaults of Opar. Burroughs will continue his wonder stories of Opar through three more books. Each return occurs at a crucial point in his life.
That Opar is a dream location is proven by the topography of the location. It is not too dissimilar to any dream. The jungle grows right up to the base of towering mountains behind which Opar is hidden. On the other side of these it is a dry dusty desert exemplifying Burroughs’ life as the twenty year desert in my dream did mine. Entry into the valley in this story is through a narrow defile apparently several thousands of feet high above which the peaks of the surrounding mountain range tower several thousand feet more. This entry also closely resembles that of Haggard in King Solomon’s Mines. Haggard is never far from Burroughs’ mind as he writes his stuff.
Working your way down into the dreamscape is considerably more easy than climbing it. And then off in the distance rose the shining red and gold domes and turrets of Opar. A dream city if there ever was one. One is reminded of the two great literary and psychological influences on Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard and L. Frank Baum. Of Haggard’s work beyond King Solomon’s Mines I have Heart Of The World and People Of The Mist most readily called to mind. It might be appropriate to mention that Freud also read some Haggard. He specifically mentions Heart Of The World and She but I suspect he probably read others as well. Opar might be a ruined version of Baum’s Emerald City of Oz. Opar is red and gold while from a distance its ruination is not obvious. Mine was a shining white mountain. Burroughs probably tinkered with his to make a good story better.
Now, the fabled Thebes of Greek mythology had seven gates. Cities Of The Sun had up to a hundred. Opar doesn’t have any. The entrance is a narrow cleft in the wall on which on entering this narrow 20″ gap for which Tarzan had to turn his massively broad shoulders sideways and then immediatley climb a flight of ancient stairs. This appears to be a reverse birth story in which Tarzan is reentering the womb, an impossible feat, but then, Tarzan goes where even devils fear to tread. Try some of the books of the psychologist Stanislav Grof. There’s definitely a sexual image that requires a little thought to understand. Hmm. No gates but a narrow cleft too narrow for the shoulders and a flight of steps leading back into the what, womb? Whose cleft? ERB mother’s, Emma’s, possibly Florence’s by this time, or that of his Anima figure? Well, the last is waiting for him inside the domed inner chamber of this sacred city who is aptly named La, which is French for She. ‘She’ was Ayesha the heroine of Haggard’s novel She. I’m sure Burroughs is not writing consciously here.
At this point Tarzan is accompanied by fifty of his brave and faithful but superstitious Waziri. In fact, in this story as Tarzan goes through his incarnation of a Black savage he is Chief Waziri, eponymous head of the Waziri. P. 42:
As the ape man and his companions stood gazing in varying degrees of wonderment at this ancient city in the midst of savage Africa, several of them became aware of movement within the structure at which they were looking. There was nothing tangible that the eye could grasp- only an uncanny suggestion of life where it seemed that there should be no life, for living things seemed out of place in this weird, dead city of the long dead past.
Dead city of the long dead past. That’s what dreams are all about, one’s own long dead past. Thus the ridge separating the lush live jungle from this dry, dusty plain eight years wide was Burroughs own dead past. I suggest the mountain range, perhaps sixteen thousand feet high, represented ERB’s confrontation with John the Bully when he was eight or nine. On the jungle side was his early life as a Little Prince while on the dry dusty side was his blighted, blasted life after John. Opar represents his ruined mind inhabited by the suggestion of life and the Queen of his dreams the beautiful High Priestess of the Flaming God, the woman of indescribable beauty, La of Opar.
La is obviously a combination of Haggard’s She and L. Frank Baum’s Ozma Of Oz.
Tarzan is seized by the Frightful Men, bound and gagged and left lying in a courtyard at high noon. The rays of the Flaming God bear down on him. Whether this is merely part of an ancient Oparian religious rite or whether Tarzan becomes the chosen Son of theSun a god among men, isn’t clear to the reader. The Oparians have their own ideas.
Burroughs describes this rite in a really masterful way. The maddened murderous Oparian who disturbs the ceremony just before Tarzan is to be sacrificed is nicely handled. Believe me, I feel like I am there. As La looks down on Tarzan’s form on the altar she recognizes the One, the Son of the Sun, the One for which she is destined. Once again, Haggard’s She.
Freed in the melee caused by the crazed Oparian Tarzan is taken down to the Chamber of the Dead by La where she hides him. As she said nobody would look for him in the Chamber of the Dead. This Chamber answers very well to the laundry room of my dream. Tarzan/Burroughs is in a stone dungeon with walls fifteen feet thick, fourteen in Invincible, in total darkness while I was in a steel room with no exit but bright light. These locations answer to the rigid confines of one’s owned damaged psyche. There is no way out but there is, there has to be. While palpating this stony prison at the back of the cell Tarzan discerns a flow of air coming through. This scene is a replication of one in Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines while becoming a B movie staple. The big Bwana discovers some loose stones. He is able to dislodge these creating an exit through the fifteen foot depth of stones of the fortress wall. Somehow Burroughs has worked his psyche to give himself a chance. Once beyond the foundation walls, free of the Chamber of the Dead (I once dreamed I was looking for my soul in the House of the Distraught) but act among the living, Tarzan feels his way down this long dark corridor. One can’t be certain of ERB’s age when he achieved this escape. As it takes place just before Tarzan marries Jane the time might have been 1898-99. Perhaps when he was in the stationery business in Idaho. Perhaps something he read acted as a lever. Apart from Darwin’s Origin Of Species I would venture to say he read Eugene Sue’s Mysteries Of Paris a copy of which is in his library while traces of it are here in his earliest work.
Sue’s rare mentality permeates every page of this first visit while Sue’s extraordinary consciousness is everywhere apparent throughout ERB’s entire corpus. Burroughs himself is absolutely incredible in the manner he associates with numerous other writer’s intellects, seemingly simultaneously within a given passage or even sentence. Myself, Adams, Hillman, Broadhurst, Burger and others have written extensively on these influences. Hillman even goes so far as to virtually twin Burroughs with some of his major literary influences. Burroughs does make all these writers his virtual doubles.
I have stressed Sue’s influence in several earlier essays. I can only urge you to read Sue’s Mysteries Of Paris- a big three-volume work and too short at that- which Burroughs in his own reading found a life changing experience. Possibly he did read it in 1898-99. I found it a life changing experience; I’ve never been able to free myself of its influence, while it appears that Burroughs couldn’t either. A lot of the late nineteenth century writers make reference to Eugene Sue. H.G. Wells based the beginning of an early novel on Sue. The remnant remains only as a short story.
Sue wrote from outside the bounds of sanity. Privately I consider him insane but so brilliantly rational as to transcend the very meaning of insanity. He’s a dangerous writer. His last work was confiscated by the French authorities. It undoubtedly had such a private personal sense of morality that I am sure it would have undone society much as the pornography from Hollywood has undone ours. DeSade and Restif De La Bretonne, who in some ways Sue resembles, were mere unbalanced pornographers who disturb only the disturbed. Sue’s vision of morality is coldly clear, it forms the basis of Tarzan’s but is always on the side of reason and virtue. This fact makes it no less dangerous to a weak mind or that of the obsessive-compulsive Liberal. Still, only the strong survive. I heartily recommend you take your chance.
Tarzan freed from the prison of the psyche, was he insane? was I? or were we merely trapped by a device of other’s making? I can’t say but ERB’s sanity after he escaped was conditioned by that of Eugene Sue. I, of course, rise above all influences.
Progressing down the corridor Tarzan comes to the First Censor. He finds a gap in the floor into which he might have fallen had he not been careful. He would have fallen into the unknown but he would have been alright. He would have fallen into water which in his condition would have been life-giving water rather than dangerous or perhaps he might have drowned in the waters of the subcoscious or Oblivion.
In high school I had a teacher who used to chalk a half dozen slogans on the black board, one each morning. The only one I remember is ‘when you reach the end of your rope tie a knot and hang on.’ I did this for a couple decades then one day I let go. The joke was on me. There was nowhere to fall. I was only a fraction of an inch from a solid surface. However Tarzan culdn’t have known this since he didn’t fall in, this time. He would three years later.
By chance he looked up where he saw some light entering to discover he was at the edge of a well. Yes, you see, the water of life. He dimly descried the other side fifteen feet away which was child’s play for him to leap. Thus he passed the First Censor. Mine was at the elevators which I apparently merely disregarded.
Continuing on for some time in total darkness, so far that he believes himself outside the walls of Opar he enters the treasure vaults. These vaults are filled with what appears to be forty pound barbells of solid gold. Now, this gold is old. So old that no Oparian knows that it is there nor do any old legends even mention it. This is an intriguing part. The gold was mined millennia in the past after the sinking of Atlantis. This raises the question of what did Burroughs know of Atlantis and did he believe in it? I can’t answer the sources of the former but I’m betting on Ignatius Donnelly as one of them. As to the latter I believe he did. He mentions Atlantis in Invincible with a confidence and familiarity that convinces me that over the eighteen years since Return he has read and thought enough to convince himself of the reality of the lost continent. He appears to accept a mid-Atlantic location.
The gold represents the income he’s receiving for his stories. The stories spring from his dead past. That the vaults are outside Opar indicates he freed his mind from its prison or that the money comes from outside the prison, i.e. his publishers. That the gold is Atlantean indicates that his stories are based on his own ancient experience. In other words he is mining his past already completed as ingots or accomplished facts.
What experience then catalyzed his ability to write? I believe that from 1908-10 when he read L. Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz, Dorothy And The Wizard Of Oz and The Emerald City Of Oz he found a means to express himself. These books bypassed his last censor allowing him to write Minidoka. That book was not suitable for publication but it freed his genius so that he immediately followed it with A Princess Of Mars.
Now, outside the gates of the Emerald City/Opar in the midst of the equivalent of Baum’s Great Sandy Desert he found the handle on his own destiny.
Tarzan locates the fifty faithful but superstitious Waziri loading them up with two forty pound ingots each and points them toward the coast.
At the same time Fifty Frightful Men from Opar who are tracking him discover Jane instead. Dreamy enough for you? Given a choice between Tarzan and Jane I’d take Jane and so did the Fifty Frightful Men.
So now Jane’s on the altar under the sacrifical knife of La. Skipping the irrelevant details La discovers Jane is Tarzan’s beloved. Interesting confrontation between Tarzan/Burroughs real life woman and his Anima. La is shattered as Tarzan rejects her for Jane.
This is a key point in the oeuvre. This is what makes the novels so repulsive to the literary mind. The story is not the story; the issue is not the issue. Opar is the story within the story that will be told in four short parts over eighteen years. So we have part one here without any indication the story will be continued. A segment of the story is just plopped down into The Return Of Tarzan, sort of irrelevantly.
Weird style actually. I’m not even sure it works, but it nevertheless must be effective else why would the stuff still be in print a century on. You’re on your own, Jack, I can’t even attempt to solve that one. Not today anyway.
The next novel examining this psychological is the 5th novel of the oeuvre, Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar of 1915.
At this point Tarzan, a profligate if there ever was one, has run through the two tons of gold the fifty faithful Waziri brought out and is broke. Two tons of gold in three years. Think about it. He needs to make another run on Opar.
The character of the series changes with Jewels Of Opar from the character of the Russian Quartet, the first four novels. They not only have an Oz influence but they become Ozlike. Burroughs apparently drew on The Beasts Of Tarzan as the foundation for what is essentially a new series.
After writing five Oz stories, in the sixth, The Emerald City Of Oz, Baum attempted to abandon the series. He closed the series off with the news that there will be no more communication from the fairy kingdom. Because Oz has been invaded three times now, what with the advent of airplanes that will be able to spot Oz from the air Ozma is making the kingdom invisible. Is it coincidence that Opar disappears from the oeuvre after the third invasion?
Baum’s Emerald City Of Oz appeared in 1910. It was the last of the stories to be datelined Coronado in his prefaces. When he was forced to begin writing Oz stories again in 1913 they were datelined Ozcot in Hollywood. In 1910 Hollywood was just a pleasant Los Angeles suburb. The movies didn’t begin to make Hollywood the center of the world porn industry until 1914.
Whether Burroughs knew that Baum left Coronado in 1911 isn’t known but I find it signficant that when he went to California in 1913 his first choice of residence was Coronado where he perhaps thought he would be close to Baum who afer all had a close connection with Chicago. Baum wasn’t in Coronado so Burroughs moved across the bay to San Diego.
The question then is: did Burroughs make a pilgrimage to Ozcot to see Baum in 1913? I have to believe he did. Tarzan was one heck of an entree such that Baum could hardly refuse to see ERB. How long or how often the men met then is conjectural but I think it was long enough for Baum to give Burroughs some tips on fantasy writing. Already an ardent admirer of the Oz books Burroughs would have had no trouble accepting advice from this master.
Thus when Burroughs returned to LA and Ozcot in 1916 it is certain that they met while they were probably already familiar with each other. In 1919, when Burroughs moved to LA permanently, Baum was on his deathbed so there was no chance to renew the acquaintance. I also believe that Baum’s Ozcot influenced Burroughs in naming his own estate Tarzana.
In any event Tarzan returns to Opar in 1915. Except for the first visit when Tarzan following the directions of the old Waziri, chief of the Waziri, visited Opar to take the gold, in the rest of the visits he is battling interlopers who wish to steal the gold from him. It might pay to look at the nature of the intrusions and the intruders.
In 1911-12 Burroughs had for the first time in his life come into more money than he could spend, only for a brief moment of course. Thus Tarzan removes the gold more on a whim not really knowing what to do with it. One might think this a strange attitude for one who had tasted the night life of Paris; but a foolish conisistency is the bugbear of small minds as one of those venerated old timers once said. I don’t wish to be thought of as small minded so we’ll let the observation pass.
By 1915 having lost his two tons of gold in some bad investments Tarzan has better learned the value of money or, at least, the absence of it. And so, perhaps, has Edgar Rice Burroughs. One can see the ghost of old George T. shaking his head muttering: ‘When will that boy ever learn?” Well, George, it would take more time than allotted to him.
After 1912 Burroughs had created something of value. That value could be stolen or at least exploited. In 1914 McClurg’s offered him a publishing contract. Nicely crafted it gve all the advantages to McClurg’s and none to Burroughs. Burroughs undoubtedly did not understand the legal implications of what he signed. I can’t explain this but McClurg’s made no effort to merchandise a sure fire hit. They didn’t even publish the full fifteen thousand copies called for in the contract. They released the book to reprint publisher A.L. Burt after p;rinting only ten thousand copies themselves. Explain it how you will but there was a guaranteed huge absolutely visible market waiting for book publication. Syndication in newspapers had guaranteed the book’s success. So why did McClurg’s willfully refuse to take advantage of such a deal?
Burroughs probably had stars in his eyes at the prospect of 10-15% royalties on hundreds of thousands if not millions of books. Instead he got comparatively nothing. The royalties from Burt were miniscule and to be shared 50/50 with McClurg’s. You can imagine Burroughs’ disappointment as a golden future became brass before his eyes.
Back to Opar. Tarzan entered the vaults before his faithful Waziri who were warriors and would act as bearers for no other man. Alone Tarzan made six trips from the vaults to the top of the tor bringing up forty-eight forty-pound ingots. That’s 320 lbs. per carry for a total of 1920 lbs or nearly a ton. According to Freud, and I believe him, all numbers are significant, although I don’t have enough information to delve completely into the meaning of these numbers. The Waziri then brought up fifty-two ingots. some two of the fifty got stuck with carrying two ingots or two went back for one more. That made slightly over a standard of 2000 lbs.
Tarzan’s forty-eight ingots are roughly half of the total that undoubtedly represents the fifty-fifty split with McClurg’s. At the time Ogden McClurg, the son of the father who built the company, Alexander McClurg, was the nominal head of the company. The firm was actually owned by the employees since about 1902, which Burroughs probably didn’t know. The man he dealt with, Joseph Bray, was probably the real head of the company. Actually Ogden was away from the company for long stretches on adventures in Central America and WWI so that he would have been unfamiliar with the day-to-day workings of the company. Burroughs, however, formed a grudge against Ogden McClurg. I suspect that the Belgian villain Albert Werper is based partly on Ogden McClurg while also being an alter ego of Burroughs. So, a story behind the story is how Ogden McClurg stole ERB’s royalties.
At the same time Tarzan spurns La for a second time so the Anima-Animus story of Tarzan, Jane and La continues. La has Tarzan within her power but in the life and death situation love triumphs over her hurt so she spares the The Big Guy. Not without consequences. The Fifty Frightful Men, or what’s left of them after the maddened Tantor tramples a few, led by Cadj, who now makes his appearance, feel betrayed repudiating La. Thus is begun the conspiracy to replace La which will be the focal point of the next two visits. You know, love or hate, I don’t know which is to be feared the most.
In the next visit in Tarzan And The Golden Lion Tarzan has gone through his second two tons of gold. That is four tons of gold in roughly ten years plus the Jewels of Opar that our spendthrift hero has managed to go through. Four tons of gold! That’s 128,000 ounces of gold. At today’s price of over a thousand dollars an ouce it works out to 128 billion dollars and change. My friends, that is prodigality. Good thing there was more where that came from, hey?
Of course a lot of the loss came from loans to the British Empire to float the Great War. But like certain other borrowings, to which Burroughs may be making an allusion, the Empire had no intention of repaying.
Once again this sort of excess had brought Tarzan to the edge of bankruptcy not unlike ERB in 1922. Just as creditors were besieging ERB for money so some private individuals led by a former employee, Flora Hawkes, attempt to extract the gold from Opar. Tarzan first fails, then recovers not only the gold but the bag of diamonds. The significance of the jewels is explained in the Tarzan and Esteban Miranda story contained in Tarzan And The Ant Men. That story is a duplicate Jewels Of Opar with different details. The history of the Jewels Of Opar also duplicates the history of Tarzan’s locket in Ant Men. If you’ve found something good don’t hesitate to use it more than once.
Fifteen years after the visit in Jewels Of Opar and eight years after the Golden Lion/Ant Men the scene returns to Opar, where once again others are to make a run on Tarzan’s private bank at Opar. Apparently Tarzan has them baffled from the start as, although they know there are treasure vaults at Opar, they have no idea where they are. It appears the Communists have read the earlier books, but not with close attention, nor did they bring their copies along with them to bone up during all those idle moments in camp. Playing cards is alright after reading, but time better spent before. You can see why these dodos failed.
Burroughs had read his Oz stories. One can’t be sure whether he ever reread the stories or whether he was working from twenty year old memories. There are similarities here with the Emerald City Of Oz of 1910. In that book Baum attempts to end the series. He says that it will be the last communication from Oz. It too involves an invasion of Oz by the Nome King and his horrid allies. In Baum’s story Ozma refused to defend her Communist State, predating Russia by seven years, but arranges it so that the invaders who are tunneling beneath the Great Sandy Desert emerge in front of the fountain of the Waters of Oblivion. The fountain has apparently been spiked with LSD as the drinkers get lost in a world of their own returning through the tunnel without a fight. Perhaps the first military use of drugs in history. An excellent fairy tale, hey?
Burroughs’ Communists make two attempts to enter Opar. Circling the city unable to find any gates to Burroughs dreamworld they do find the narrow cleft in the wall. Spooky sounds and happenings disconcert the Blacks and Arabs of this multi-cultural coalition so that any concerted action is frustrated. Although the Russians and the Mexican, Romero, enter, only Romero has the courage to penetrate beyond the courtyard. The Russians are arrant cowards who flee at the sound of the first Oparian shriek.
Returning to base camp they find that Wayne Colt, having tramped the breadth of Africa, has joined the group.
A second attempt is made. The superstitious Arabs refuse to return being also disgusted by Zveri’s lack of leadership and cowardice. Taking the six Communists and the Blacks Zveri returns to Opar for a second attempt. While absent from the base camp the coalition begins to come apart as the Arabs desert the cause, looting and burning the camp while taking the two White women with them. La has joined Zora but more on that in the next section.
The second expedition fares no better than the first for the same reasons. On this attempt both Wayne Colt and Romero enter the sanctuary where they are engaged in a serious battle with the Frightful Men. Colt is felled by a thrown bludgeon that knocks him down but doesn’t crush his skull. Romero retreats, Colt is dropped unconscious before the high priestess, now Oah and Dooth. Cadj was destroyed by Jad-Bal-Ja in Golden Lion so Dooth has taken his place.
If La is the good mother aspect of the male psyche, Oah is the bad or wicked mother. Still beautiful but not quite as much so as La.
She orders Colt taken to a dungeon to await the full moon or some other propitious moment to sacrifice him.
Oah’s plans will be foiled because among those present is a nubile young maiden named Nao who falls head over heels for Wayne at first sight. Burroughs describes Nao as having entered the first bloom of womanhood. To me that represents a fourteen-year old girl. Indeed, Nao is fresh as a flower.
One remembers Uhha who accompanied Esteban Mirands in Ant Men was specifically mentioned as being fourteen. So the ages fourteen, nineteen and twenty have special female connotations in Burroughs’ stories. As Freud rightly says people should only be held responsible for their actions and not their thoughts. Certainly there is no mention of Miranda having relations with Uhha while Nao had to be content with watching Colt disappear into the night after she released him from prison, murdering a man, be it noted, to do it. All that Priestess sacrificial training with knives comes in handy.
It will be remembered that ERB is said to have begun proposing to Emma when she was in the first bloom of womanhood at fourteen. So it is probable that the memory is associated with Uhha and Nao.
Colt as Burroughs alter ego thus allows Burroughs to visit Opar and have his fling with Nao as Colt while Tarzan has his with La. there’s a sort of joining of the two aspects of Burroughs’ Animus much as there was with Esteban Miranda and Tarzan in Golden Lion/Ant Men as well as Werper and Tarzan in Jewels Of Opar.
Tarzan himself returns to Opar before the first expedition of the Communists.
It has been eight years and four novels since Tarzan visited the fabled red and gold city of Burroughs’ dreams. Tarzan has a number of misconceptions of his relationship with the Oparians. The high priest Cadj who had become a problem in Jewels Of Opar was killed by Jad-Bal-Ja in Golden Lion. La had been replaced on her throne with the Bolgani of the Valley of Diamonds as her body guard and the Gomangani, who had no thin veneer of civilization at all, as her slaves, I guess. Tarzan then sees himself as an Oparian benefactor, not unlike the US in today’s Iraq, who will be received as a friend. Our hero shows himself a poor psychologist.
With a light springing step he turns sideways to enter the cleft, bounds up the stairs to enter the inner sanctum where the howling Frightful Men bash him over the head yet again. Tarzan could have been tagged Skull Of Steel to survive all these bashings with very heavy clubs and grazing by full metal jacket bullets. I tell you, man, I’d reather read of adventures like this than live them.
Coming to, Tarzan is surprised to find Oah as High Priestess with Dooth as her High Priest.
‘Where is La?’ Tarzan asks.
‘Dead.’ Replies Oah. ‘Throw him in the dungeon.’
Back to the pits of Opar for the Big Bwana where one imagines his sensitive nostrils will be grossly offended.
Once again Tarzan escapes his prison. Seeking a way out he is spotted by some hairy bandy-legged men. Fleeing down an endless corridor flanked by doors he chooses one and enters. Whew! What an aroma assails his sensitive nostrils. He is face to face with a half starved lion. The Big Guy hears the hairy men rushing down the corridor just as the lion springs. The door opens inward, unlike most prisons but apparently commonly in dreamscapes, so Tarzan opens it and steps behind it. As the lion springs past him he slams the door which was not too swift a move as the bar falls locking him in. He has the comfort of hearing the lion tearing up the Frightful Men but the stench of the lion’s den for once is so powerful it disguises the aroma of a White woman at the back of the cell. Surprise! La isn’t dead she’s been palling around with this lion for a while. Fortunately as in Ant Men there is a door between her inner cell and that of the lion that she can open. They built prisons differently back then.
So, the Animus and Anima are reunited but in prison once again. As in all dream sequnces there is a way out.
There’s a lot of shuffling about; this one is fairly complicated. In order to bring food to La at the back of the cell it is necessary to first feed the lion. There is a corridor across the front of the cell. a barred gate separates it from the lion’s den while La’s cell with its unlocked door is at the back. The corridor leads to a little chamber that is open from above. The lion’s food is thrown down after the gate has been lifted and closed somehow. While the lion is feeding in this corridor the attendant picks his way among the lion piles and puddles to take the food back to La. The chow must be tasteless in this overpowering stench.
Tarzan investigates then raising the gate for La when she advises him that the Oparians are coming back with the lion. This is very fast work by the Oparians so you can see the stuff is dreamwork. Tarzan raises La into the opening following her.
They follow the winding staircase until they enter a chamber that is the highest point in Opar. Thus they have ascended from the subconscious to the conscious. Here La once again confesses her love for the Beast of Beasts. The Big Guy is still not interested.
As they are plotting a way to get down from the tower they hear someone ascending a ladder. As the fellow pops his head above floor level Tarzan seizes the guy by the neck. My first reaction was to think that this was the Old Stowaway from Tarzan And The Golden Lion who would now be sixty-eight. Apparently not although Burroughs makes him sound different from one of the Frightful Men.
The old boy assures Tarzan and La that he is faithful as he as wellas most of the Oparians pine for the return of La. Plans are made for La to return to her throne. The Old Boy was a master of deceit however. Oah, Dooth and the Frightful Men who are still very angry with La and Tarzan are waiting for the pair when they enter from behind the curtain. A little Wizard of Oz touch. Humor, I think.
Tarzan might well have voiced the words of Marty Robbins in El Paso:
Many thoughts ran through my mind
As I stood there.
I had but one chance
And that was to run.
And run the Big Bwana did in a scene that was almost as comical as when he ran from the Alalus women in Tarzan And The Ant Men.
Breaking through the ring of Frightful Men Tarzan tosses the slower La over a shoulder and rapidly puts one of his clean limbs before the other. The bandy little legs of the Frightful Men are no match for the Big Bwana. Shouting epithets like: Good riddance of bad rubbish and Don’t come back again if you know what’s good for you. they snarlingly turned back to the City of Red and Gold.
Far across the dusty plain Tarzan and La climbed the ridge separating Opar from the outside world. First outside the gates of Opar in 1915s Jewels Of Opar chasing after Tarzan, once again in Tarzan And The Golden Lion to rescue Tarzan, La now makes her longest and most hazardous stay in the great wide world.
Part Seven follows.