A Review: Pt. 4 Tarzan Triumphant by Edgar Rice Burroughs

August 2, 2011

Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#15 Tarzan Triumphant

by

R.E. Prindle

Part 4

The Born Again Lafe Smith

The time has come the Walrus said

to speak of many things;

Of shoes and ship and sealing wax

Of cabbages and kings.

And why the sea is boiling hot

And whether pigs have wings.

Lewis Carrol

     The learned nonsense of Lewis Carrol was never far from Burroughs’ mind.  In the long list of influences Carroll ranks fairly high although more disguised than others.  Both adventures of Alice as well as The Hunting Of The Snark formed the backbone of Burroughs’ ideology.  Thus the entrance to the Land Of Midian in many ways resembles Alice’s descent into the rabbit hole.  The sexual implications of the rabbit hole should be self-evident as is the the entry into the Land of Midian.

     The Lafayette of Smith’s name refers of course to the revolutionary Marquis de Lafayette who fought against the monarchy in the American Revolution.  Recently General Pershing had repaid the debt when, as he stepped ashore in France he grandly proclaimed:  Lafayette, we are here.  A famous utterance then and now so that it appears that Burroughs is associating freedom and liberation to his alter ego.  He might exclaim as he stepped through the hole: I am Lafayette and I am here.

     Smith is studying the geology of the area when he discovers a cleft in the mountain which he enters.  In some ways Burroughs old life ended when the Reds invaded Opar.  La was forced out into the the real world when her people rebelled because of La’s fixation on Tarzan.  The Big Bwana restored her to her throne having destroyed the rebel chiefs.  We are led to believe that La reigned happily ever after even though her manifestation as well as Opar disappear from ERB’s dream world.  With the death of his old dream world ERB seeks to find another; one which other people cannot enter.  Jungle Girl written shortly after this novel provided one such place in the ancient Khmer kingdoms of Cambodia and Thailand.

     Thus Midian is a pale reflection of Opar.  While the way to Opar was known to the world, indeed, Zveri, Stalin and the Communists as well as many Africans knew of the fabulous wealth of Opar and where the city was located.  They didn’t know where the gold was located because in was in Burroughs’ mind.

     Having had his dream world  violated ERB creates another but this time the location is so remote and the entrance so difficult, although identical to that of Opar,  to find that none but his Anima and Animus figures can find it.

     Like the great red and gold city of Opar Midian is surrounded by high cliffs but unlike Opar they are unscalable from either side.  No casual visitors are going to get in there.  Like the actual city of Opar the only entry is through a cleft in the walls.  In Opar once through the cleft one climbs a stairway to enter the ruins.  Here, led by his interest in geology Smith enters the cleft in the mountain reft by titanic forces ages ago to follow it deep within the mountain wall.  To insure that he continues on down the rabbit hole Burroughs sends a lion in after him blocking any exit should he wish to turn back.  Thus the lion as Fate is forcing him to his destiny.  The role of the lion in the oeuvre  remains elusive to me; I fail to grasp the nuances as well as the essence.  The lion may be another side of Tarzan, the Lion Man, who is helpful.  On the other hand the lion as an expression of Burroughs’ Anima is extremely dangerous and hateful falling beneath Dad’s knife repeatedly, these are usually female.  Still a problem for me.

     Following the cleft for some way Smith reaches the end which is a very small hole that he can just force his way through.  The symbolism of birth is quite clear; the descent from the womb and the breakthrough to the other side through the vagina.

     Both aspects of Burroughs’ Anima are already inside Midian.  Lady Barbara parachuted there while Jezebel was born there.  Thus, it would seem that the La, Jezebel, Balza figure was native to Burroughs’ X chromosome while Jane, Lady Barbara, Rhonda Terry was an acquired image.

     Smith will also be joined by the two remaining Animus figures, Gunner Patrick and Tarzan.  All five of his Anima/Animus figures that he acknowledges were then functioning in his dream world.   This may have represented his brain or the womb or a combination of both.  What seems to be clear is that with the destruction and death of his old dream world he is being born again.  The resurrection scene will follow.

     When Tarzan enters Midian as when he is entering the cleft of Opar it is necessary for him to manipulate his shoulders through by turning them sideways.  Thus there is a clear reference to birth.

     Perhaps when Burroughs began self-publication he felt as though he were making a break with his past.  Leaving McClurg’s and Joe Bray behind, making a new start as it were, he was beginning a new life.  That was probably part of it as was the invasion of Opar by his enemies but I’m sure there is personal development involved that isn’t clear to me yet.

     Once inside, convinced that the lion is following him although one believes the small hole would have baffled the lion, Smith finds the convenient tree in front of the hole into which he climbs for safety.  Then Smith does exactly what Patrick, the dark side of the ego, will do, he goes down to the lake and gorges himself on water.  This could be construed as baptism of the born again man; the living water of redemption.

     He then meanders in the direction of Midian.  As night has fallen the bonfires attract him.

     By this time Lady Barbara after a few refreshing skinny dips waiting for her clothes to dry, Burroughs actually writes these strange interludes, finds her way back to Midian.  For some strange reason the Midianites pay no attention to her mind boggling miracles, sometimes you can’t buy a thrill, choosing to disregard the apparent will of their god.

     She and Jezebel are condemned to be crucified and burned to death.  Both have been placed on the crosses with faggots piled round when Smith and his trusty nickel plated .32 burst upon the scene.

     Now we have the resurrection of Smith and his Anima figures.  The implication is that the trinity have symbolically died and are now resurrected.  This is some fancy footwork.

     Imagine the scene:   Two crosses are erected.  The Anima figures are placed on the crosses.  As I imagine it there is a space of four to eight feet between the arms.   Smith forces a way to a place in fornt of the crosses as he kicks away the burning faggots between the two crosses.  Although not on a cross himself he is symbolically so he and Burroughs assume the role of Jesus Christ in the middle while the Anima figures represent the two thieves, one on either side.

     Thus we are playing out a reenactment of the Christian crucifixion that will have a different result.

     The Christians are pressing in on Smith.  This is yet another version of Burroughs’ confrantation with John the Bully on the street corner.  Back then he turned and ran.  Now Smith is in a quandary.  Christ in the same dilemma turned the other cheek saying:  Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

     We have all been taught to revere turning the other cheek.  Some even attempt to practice the precept.    I’m sure the ploy may work from time to time but in nine times out of ten it won’t.  That is more or less the dilemma of the Western world today.  it is steadfastly trying to turn the other cheek but every time it does a steel-toed boot gets planted on it.

     Thus as Smith is dithering a clear cultured English female voice comes down from the cross saying:  You’re going to have to shoot to kill, you know.  In other words, turning the other cheek is sure death.  Burroughs is especially good at surprise twists like this.

     Astonished, perhaps thinking the angel of the Lord had spoken to him Smith complies, firing into the crowd.  As the joke is that his aim is so poor he couldn’t hit the side of a barn he is fortunate enough to actually kill someone.

     Momentarily stunned by the magical weapon but not overawed the crowd pauses long enough to allow Smith to get Lady Barbara down.  Thus Burroughs chooses the older more stately aspect of his Anima rather than the Wild Thing, sex kitten.  Perhaps as Florence was out of town ERB temporarily shifted bazck to the Jane Anima aspect.  Within a matter of weeks or days he will decide on Jezebel/Balza/Florence when Florence unexpectedly returns and he writes Leopard Men in celebration.

     Smith succeeds in lowering Lady Barbara but then Jobab challenges the efficacy of his .32.  Smith fires at Jobab point blank missing him.  Jobab vindicated rushes Smith knocking the gun out of his hand.  Lady Barbara scoops it up, places the muzzle against Jobab’s side where he learns the efficacy of the Colt.  Thus the Anima and Animus of Burroughs have now killed a man.

     This give the crowd pause once again so that Jezebel is lowered and the Trinity run away.  The two Anima aspects and Burroughs’ bright Animus are now whole.  The confrontation with John the Bully has been resolved.

     They attempt to find the opening but in the process wander into North Midian where they are captured by the fair haired, blue eyed, small nosed but no less superstitious North Midians.  They manage to escape.

     They capture a kid to eat but in the process the goatherd misses it.  What the symbolism of eating the ‘lamb’ is escapes me just now.  Smith and lady Barbara are recaptured, taken to the village.

     In the meantime Tarzan and Patrick enter the crater.  Burroughs now has all five of his Anima and Animus figures in the crater.  Tarzan separates from Patrick.  The latter comes across Jezebel who had escaped the North Midians.  The meeting is apparently love at first sight so the Wild Thing Anima and the killer Animus are united.  As they are tired they lay down together.  You can draw your conclusions but Jezebel appears to be ready for any ‘beautiful’ man who comes along.  Whether a comment on Floence isn’t clear however Burroughs in his mind would be seeing her in his Desperado aspect while she would be his Wild Thing or little Flapper girl.

     Perhaps with Smith/Lady B ERB is representing his Dr. Jekyll side, his married status while with Jezebel/Patrick he is representing his Hyde side in his affair with Florence Gilbert.

     Jezebel and Patrick leave the crater.  On the outside they are spotted by Capietro’s men who bash the Burroughs surrogate on the head leaving him for dead while they carry Jezebel off.  This would be the same situation with John the Bully  or the bashing in Toronto however it may also represent Ashton Dearholt’s taking Florence out of town for a cooling off period.

     Burroughs interjects a comedy routine back in North Midian with a lampoon of religosity over whether Paul had yellow hair or black hair.  The upshot is that Smith is to die.

     However a pair of eyes are watching the scene.  An unknown lurker to the North Midians, Tarzan to us.  Tarzan’s own role in this story is his battle with Capietro and Stabutch.  Otherwise he functions as a deus ex machina– a God from the machine a common feature of Greek drama to resolve an otherwise unresolvable plot point — to get the Anima figure out of difficulty.  He does in this case too.

     Then leaving he crater Tarzan escorts the pair to his friend Lord Passmore’s safari leaving them there in safety with the faithful Waziri.  Then he goes back to deal with Stabutch and Capietro.

     Thus Fate and Burroughs go about weaving their web.  The similarity to Penelope of the Odyssey is close with the exception that Burroughs does not unravel the previous day’s work.  But one is invited to see this story as a series of pictures woven into the tapestry somewhat like the contest between Athene and Arachnae.  One might also compare the novel, in the classical mode, to the Shield of Achilles which is decorated around the edge with a series of pictures portraying the life of the Bronze Age.  So Burroughs has woven a series of such pictures into his tapestry.  A clever idea and well executed.  How many people have ever gotten it except for us is open to question.

     So far Burroughs has insulted the Jews and ridiculed religion in general and Christianity specifically.  He now turns to the strand of Communism, humiliating them in his dreamworld.  It is all well that he should take the attack to them but one is surprised that he either didn’t anticipate a counter attack or didn’t anticipate the direction from which it would come if he was even yet aware that his defenses had been overrun by MGM.

     The man was playing with fire without an awareness of real life consequences.  It would be amusing to know if a copy of Tarzan Triumphant was rushed off to Stalin.  One can be sure that the ADL/AJC/MGM combination had an advance copy perhaps even the chapters as they were being written.   It is inconceivable that his enemies had no spy within his organization.  That is just the way things are done and had to have been done in this instance.  The usual mode is to capture the position of secretary through whom all information passes.  That means that ERB’s typist may have been the conduit, Cyril Ralph Rothmund or perhaps even both.  I’m betting on Rothmund for sure.  I would love to see his finances.  He may also have been on the ADL/AJC/MGM payroll was well as Burroughs’.  Itr was he who negotiated the contract Burroughs signed giving away the control of Tarzan.

     The next picture on the web is the reunion of Jezebel and Patrick followed by the battle of Tarzan and the Communists.

To be continued in Part 5:  In The Footsteps Of The Lord

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