Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#16 TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD MEN
This Silent River Of Mystery And Death
In our hour of darkness,
In our hour of need…
Leopard Men is an exceptionally dark novel. There is nothing about it that isn’t horrific, a sort of Gotterdamerung. There are probably more people killed in this novel than any other of Burroughs’. The threat of rape hangs heavy in the air. Old Timer/Burroughs is going through more major changes trying to burst his chrysalis.
Through it all runs the thread of religion; and not just one religion but three religious systems. There is the animistic religion of the Africans; a Semitic style religion of the Leopard Men and an esoteric interpretation concealed in a gorgeous wealth of symbolism. I will consider the last in Part B.
ERB’s life was reaching a crisis, he had the MGM contract to worry about, his ongoing war with the Reds and now his sexual crisis that had been roiling beneath the surface for nearly fifty years and was about to bubble over. Hence the novel is filled with murky, rasty sexual symbolism welling up from the subconscious disguised as religion.
For supposedly being an escapist writer without either serious purpose or intellectual content when one parses out any of his stories one is amazed that such serious purpose can be successfully disguised as escapist. ERB shares this ability with Homer of the Iliad. Since no one seems to have penetrated beyhond the surface glitter from one hundred years ago to this day I hope I will be pardoned for making the attempt.
ERB’s style of plotting is so diffuse that it is very difficult to grasp the focal point which unites the various strands of his story. In some incredible way he has half a dozen stories running concurrently each with a different point and different conclusion. One has to follow the bouncing ball. In Jewels Of Opar the uniting theme is the story of what happens to the Jewels. In Ant Men one has to follow the trajectory of Tarzan’s locket. In this one the key is Kali Bwana. ERB seems to favor this linking approach.
Leopard Men has two main stories, that of Old Timer and Kali Bwana with its subplots as well as the story of Tarzan And The Leopard Men. As the story opens Tarzan is in Leopard Men territory far from home. One wonders what Tarzan is doing in this country? Naturally Burroughs presents his information on a need to know basis. We apparently don’t need to know until p. 108 when after Tarzan regains his memory from yet another crushing blow to the skull we are told:
During the long day Tarzan’s mind was occupied with many thoughts. He had recalled now why he had come into this country, and he marveled at the coincidence of later events that guided his footsteps along the very paths he had intended on trodding before accident had robbed him of the memory of his purpose. He knew now that depredations by Leopard Men from a far country had caused him to set forth upon a lonely reconnaissance with only the thought of locating their more or less fabled stronghold and temple. That he should be successful in both finding these and reducing one of them was gratifying in the extreme, and he felt thankful now for the accident that had been responsible for those results.
Thus as Tarzan regains his memory he discovers that he had destroyed the stronghold of the Leopard Men. In rescuing Old Timer and Kali Bwana he will also destroy their temple. A good day’s work.
With this story of his quest and triumph we have a second examination of religion, a continuation of the exploration begun in Tarzan Triumphant in the first half of 1931. The reference to the accident that led to these results may be a reference to the incident in Toronto in 1899. He and Emma both believed it resulted in his writing career. Perhaps the signing of the contract with MGM in April may also be inferred to as an ‘accident.’ Much research into his relations with MGM and these critical five or six years of his career is necessary. Certainly by late July and August as he was writing this story the realization of the meaning of the contract he had signed was seeping in. By 1933’s Tarzan And The Lion Man he was fully aware. Subsequent to that discovery he formed an ill advised alliance with his new wife’s ex, Ashton Dearholt, to film the ‘real’ Tarzan. That in its place. For now his troubles were not on the laps of the gods but on the desks of Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer.
If negotiations began on April 4 and were completed and signed on April 15 that means that neither ERB nor Rothmund read the contract very thoughtfully. They certainly didn’t take it to an attorney. As in Lion Man ERB complains of the duplicity of men; he was finding out what the terms of the contract meant. Perhaps in Leopard Men he was getting glimmers of the shape of things to come.
As in Triumphant the two Midian peoples obviously represent Jews and non-Jews, us meaning the Jews and them meaning the rest of the world as per Rabbi Schneerson’s division of mankind into two different species, us and them. I will treat the Utengans as us and the Leopard Men as them which is what ERB intended. The connection of the Leopard Men to the Jews can be established by two references connecting them to Hollywood:
Gato Mgungu had never had the advantages of civilization. (He had never been to Hollywood.)
And on p. 66:
Perhaps his reasons might be obvious to a Hollywood publicity agent.
I’m sure you moved out of the way so ERB’s sarcasm didn’t splash on you.
His letting his contempt for Hollywood which he had suppressed since 1922’s Girl From Hollywood show now and his associating it with Thalberg, Mayer and MGM is evidence of his frustration.
When Van Dyke returned from Africa he brought his gun bearer Riano and the actor who played Renchoro, Mutia, with him for the finishing scenes. It seems likely that ERB would have sought an introduction to these two ‘real’ Africans. One can only imagine what these two bush Negroes who had never conceived a world larger than their own Jungle thought of the twentieth century in the bizarre world of Tinseltown. How did these minds that had probably never seen a wheel prior to Van Dyke’s expedition react to what must have seemed to them a parallel universe straight out of Wells. Place yourself in their position and your head will spin. One wonders, even, having lived naked all their lives, how they reacted to dressing every morning and wearing Western style clothes all day. Did Tarzan’s experience in the shower in Tarzan Goes To New York have anything to do with these two noble savages introduction to civilization? Possibly the reference to Gato Mgungu’s never having been to Hollywood may refer to ERB’s observation of Riano and Mutia.
There is some wonderful stuff going on here. If Hollywood wasn’t centered on pornography and its concomitant degraded sadistic violence with a little imagination they might be able to put together a good movie or two from this material. Do I digress? Ah, then I digress. But back to the story.
As with ‘them’ elsewhere the Utengans are good men going about their business while the ‘us’ or Leopard Men are a destructive force in society. ERB has displaced the two religious systems to Africa where he presents two rather derogatory versions of Africans. He is uncharacteristically derogatory of the Blacks. Perhaps his concentration on so portraying the Africans was the result of his rage at the Scottsboro Boys. On p. 92 he says of the orgy of the Leopard Men:
He saw that religious and alcoholic drunkenness were rapidly robbing them of what few brains and little self-control Nature had vouchsafed them, and he trembled to think of what excesses they might commit when they passed beyond even the restraint of their leaders; nor did the fact that the chiefs, the priests, and the priestesses were becoming as drunk as their followers tend but to aggravate his fears.
ERB in his evolutionary mode had always considered the African to be less evolved but this is subjective observation and not an objective one. The bold statement ‘what few brains and little self-control’ may have been his personal opinion but doesn’t look well in print. I can’t imagine how it got beyond the Ballantine censors. I think it probable that his anger over the Scottsboro affair caused him to lose his customary discretion. In doing so he would be giving fuel to his detractors which it is never wise to do. When it is said that this is his worst novel I believe it is because of passages like this.
One wonders why the delay in the book issuance until 1936 and why then. Among other reasons one may have been that by 1936 the Communist campaign to embarrass the United States over the alleged injustice to the Boys was reaching a peak. Perhaps one intention of ERB was to show by the African example that Negroes were by nature of feeble intelligence and little self-control. If so, risky business for ERB. However throughout the novel a series of Black men is slathering at the mouth to rape Kali Bwana, recalling the train incident of the Scottsboro Boys.
ERB also introduces the concept of religious drunkenness which can exist quite independently of alcohol. Indeed there are many who can maintain a perpetual religious high. The bizarre statements of Rabbis Schneerson and Ginsburg can be attributed to religious drunkenness. In their religious enthusiasm they have certainly set aside reason. So once again a greater depth of thought is revealed than is usually attributed to Burroughs. Just two words- religious drunkenness- reveal a fair amount of thought and study.
During the great storm the Leopard Men catalyze the story by the ritual killing of a Utengan named Nyamwegi. While the storm is raging Tarzan who has taken refuge beside the bole of a great tree has it blown down with one of its great lower branches landing on his head. One admires the tensile strength of the Big Bwana’s skull. Apparently a big eighteen wheeler laden with thirty tons could roll over his head, the only possible result being a temporary loss of memory. Burroughs is going through another period of great stress so Tarzan does wake up in a world he doesn’t recognize.
A Utengan passing by notices the Big Bwana pinned to the ground on his back by the tree, not on his head, thank goodness, but somewhere over his body. No broken bones, luck is still with the Big Guy. As he had his bow and quiver slung over his back as he was pinned one has to think he’s in a fair amount of discomfort. Orando, the Utengan, is about to eliminate Tarzan from the story, which would have left a gap, when he has the suspicion that this might be his Muzimo. Orando had just been praying to his Muzimo to aid him in his hunting, perhaps Muzimo is the hunter after whom this chapter is named, and lo, he now appears. ERB goes to some lengths to demonstrate the superstitious nature of African religion. He really seems to be making an effort to belittle the African in this novel. Orando’s suspicion is confirmed a few moments later when by a series of coincidences Tarzan seems to answer when Orando calls him Muzimo. As Tarzan has no memory of another identity he assumes the role of Orando’s Muzimo. This is really quite well done.
A Muzimo is a sort of guardian angel, a spirit of an ancestor who looks after you. Tarzan really fills the role performing natural- for him- feats that Orando believes are supernatural. Tarzan, or Muzimo, directs the entire successful attack on the Leopard Men’s stronghold.
Tarzan’s role of Muzimo is a story within the story within the story which based on Trader Horn. If one keeps diving we might even find another story within the story. The story of Tarzan as Muzimo is quite independent of the story of Old Timer, the Kid and Kali Bwana. As we will learn when his role of Muzimo ends, Tarzan’s reason for coming to Utenga was to search out the Leopard Men. The fact that Old Timer, Kali Bwana and the Kid are there is mere coincidence. Their stories only become meshed at the Leopard Men’s temple which inadvertantly brings all together. Even then, after regaining his memory, as Burroughs explains, they are of little interest to Tarzan. The connection is only racial which is very weak. Really the devil is in the details; a whole lot of devils.
ERB has established the conflict between the superstition based animistic religion of the majority culture and the horrific satanic religion of his minority culture. He may be ‘fictionizing’ here the real life situation between the Western dominant culture of Christiantity, which he would still believe superstitious, and its recessive Jewish sub-culture. I’m not clear how closely he intends the comparison. At first sight Orando’s mistaking Tarzan for his Muzimo or guardian angel seems ridiculous yet even at this moment seventy percent of Americans believe in guardian angels. The figure would probably have been a few percentage points higher at that time.
Also, the Scopes Monkley Trial in Dayton, Tennessee was as recent as 1925-26, so the conflict between science and superstition in the US was by no means a settled matter. The analogy between African and American culture may be sardonic.
Just as the Utengans probably represent the Christian culture of the West so the Leopard Men may represent the minority Jewish Culture. Just as the Leopard Men had adherents functioning secretly within the majority culture directing affairs so did the Jewish Culture in the West. Just as the Leopard men had organizatonal representatives distributred amongst all the tribes across Africa functioning toward a common goal so Jewish Culture was represented in every culture of the Western world. Just as the witch doctor Sobito manipulated the affairs of the Utengans from within for the benefit of the Leopard Men so the Jewish Culture through the ADL/AJC manipulated Western Culture for its own benefit.
In the twenties and thirties the International Jewish Conspiracy phase of Jewish manipulation was the prevailing fear. The struggle to deny the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion had not yet been effected although well along.
It seems clear to me that Burroughs always has ulterior motives in his novels. He is not simply telling a story for entertainment. Burroughs must have been puzzled by the attitude of the majority culture. While Science was daily discrediting the supernatural yet the majority of the majority clung to, not so much outmoded religious beliefs, as a religious cast of mind. The belief in Christianity was being steadily eroded as based on superstition yet rather than abandoning religion Americans frantically tried to incorporate science into religion. Thus one has the strong religious quality of Liberalism that encourages the defamation of Christianity yet pursues a religious agenda based on wishful thinking.
It is very strange, more than passing strange, that while Westerners reject Christianity they have reverence for Judaism and Moslemism. While Christianity represents an anterior stage in the psychological development of mankind, the former two are even more primitive, magical and superstitious. One has to laugh out loud at Rabbi Schneerson’s attempt to incorporate genetics into his religious system while the Moslem clerics are unfathomable by both Scientific and Liberal ideas and notions. Yet Liberals attack Christianity while endorsing Judaism and Moslemism.
Burroughs pits his alter-ego Tarzan and the majority against the minority religion launching an all out attack. Tarzan, whose memory is gone, accepts his role as Orando’s Muzimo. Curiously Burroughs describes Tarzan’s tan as so deep that he is the same skin color as Orando yet retains his status as ‘White.’ Possibly Orando was better able to accept Tarzan as his Muzimo because of the skin color. Tarzan becomes Muzimo being in fact Orando’s guardian angel until he regains his memory at which point he becomes again his own man pursuing his own interests. While he is Orando’s Muzimo he is a spectacular guardian angel directing Orando’s quarrel with the Leopard Men to a successful conclusion which as we are told his original intention was the suppression of the Leopard Men.
Tarzan foils the Leopard Men’s advantage in Utenga by exposing the witch doctor Sobito as a Leopard Man as well as the spy Lupingu. He is instrument in the deaths of both. His task is made easier because Orando believes implicitly in whatever his Muzimo says. Thus, while there is a natural explanation for what happens the results appear as genuinely supernatural to Orando and his tribesmen.
This is all handled very cleverly by Burroughs as he lets the reader see what is happening as he also shows Orando’s superstitious interpretation. It’s actually pretty funny.
By following Tarzan/ Muzimo’s advice the Utengans catch the Leopard Men coming back from a ritual orgy while hung over and either kill or scatter them, men, women and children. There was no one left alive in their village. Thus the majority expel their troublesome minority or sub-culture from their midst, perhaps as ERB wished the majority culture of the United States might do with its troublesome minority culture. He may have used Africa as a metaphor for the United States. In any event Leopard Men seems to be a continuation of Triumphant on the religious level while being perhaps the most detailed examination of religion that ERB ever did. But you can see why his Liberal detractors would call this his worst novel.
At the time of writing Leopard Men the most recently issued story was Tarzan The Invincible. Tarzan Triumphant had been written and probably submitted to Blue Book but it wouldn’t be published until 1932-33 while the book edition was published in 1932 so there couldn’t as yet have been a reaction to his portrayal of the two Midian cultures and Abraham son of Abraham and his followers of Paul.
Perhaps ERB found his religious portrayal of Triumphant too clumsy so he refined it in Leopard Men.
Riders On The Storm
If you don’t enter as an initiate you won’t get the story. The symbolism in this story is so strong and complete that it should be a standard psychological textbook. Burroughs writes as though he had just come from a course in esoteric symbolism. He continues this throughout the story too. I don’t know if I can do this justice but I will try.
Burroughs has entered the defining crisis of his life, thus the novel is full of symbols of life, death, sex and regeneration. ERB feels that he is being born again, the butterfly emerging from the cocoon. The very name Kali Bwana is the primary symbol. Kali is the Hindu symbol of life, death and regeneration. Her image is as dark as this story. This story, as it were, emerges from the very bowels of the pit, the viscera of frustrated desires and hopes of their fulfillment. Very frightening actually. I can see how on one level so many people would consider it ERB’s worst. It isn’t easily understandable.. The story deals with primal needs and desires that would drive a man insane. Indeed, Kali Bwana considers Old Timer insane. He himself says that maybe he is crazy. He makes psychotic statements and is on the verge of criminal sexual behavior throughout the book until the very end when he is reformed. This is an extremely violent but regenerative story. Sort of like Walt Disney on steroids.
Kali Bwana is the joy of man’s desiring. A platinum blonde, her beauty apparently disintegrates all men’s self control as she inspires dreams of rape rather than courting. Old Timer himself has rape in mind all through the book. No man or animal in the story every thinks of honoring her femininity; their only thoughts are to violate her beauty to gratify their illicit lustful desires or, perhaps, to cannibalize her beauty and make it their own possession. This is serious stuff.
As Kali she is the mate of Shiva. while Shiva is usually depicted as a handsome young man serenely playing the flute while all goes to hell around him Burroughs represents him as the Leopard god of the cannibalistic, criminal animist or nature cult. Thus, Kali Bwana is captured by the Leopard Men to serve as high priestess to their Leopard god thus forming an Anima and Animus. Burroughs does an excellent job of presenting both the barbaric splendor and degradation of the cult or religion.
The story is set by the book’s opening, one of attempted rape and violence set amidst a terrific storm in a sort of swamp like atmosphere. One feels this is not an ordinary storm but one fraught with significance and meaning. It is a life changing storm.
The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols which I use here for reference is readily available. It discusses storms on p. 941:
The storm is a symbol of a theophany, the manifestation of the awesome and mighty power of God. While it may herald a revelation, it can also be a manifestation of divine anger and sometimes of punishment.
Creative activity is also unleashed in a storm. In a cosmic upheaval beyond the power of words, life itself was born.
And then Burroughs refers to the storm as a hurricane. The Penguin dictionary says this of that, p. 533:
Hurricanes are almost Dionysiac orgies of cosmic energy. They symbolize the ending of one period of time and the beginning of another as tireless Earth repairs the damage.
So now we have the figure of the eternal female, the symbol of birth, death and regeneration coupled with storm and hurricane symbols also denoting major epochal changes. The impact is increased by the whole being expressed in a half dozen pages, very compressed.
It should be noted that Florence Gilbert represents Kali Bwana and Old Timer is obviously ERB. the changes are happening to him. Florence/Kali is both repelled and passive. Perhaps because of the ripening romance between his wife and ERB Ashton Dearholt had taken her on a motor tour removing her from the scene probably hoping separation would end the affir. According to the ERBzine 30s Bio Timeline the Dearholts returned to LA in May just as ERB was completing Triumphant and before he began Leopard Men. If he had been fighting his feelings for Florence her return was obviously more than he could deal with hence this terrific storm and the overwhelming number of female symbols in the novel.
At the same time as the rape attempt the Leopard Men corner Nyamwegi, a Utgengan returning from a date with his girl friend. Amidst the multiple bolts of lightning which illuminate the entire sky and tremendous crashes of thunder the Leopard Men gruesomely and bloodily murder the boy removing body parts.
ERB accentuates the ferocity of the storm and hurricane by saying that the lightning bolts were numerous and continuous, filling the entire sky. The Penguin dictionary, p. 606:
Lightning symbolizes the spark of life and powers of fertilization. It is fire from Heaven, vastly powerful and terrifyingly swift, which may be either life giving or death dealing.
And on p. 607:
As the weapon of Zeus, forged in FIRE (symbol of the intellect) by the Cyclops, lightning is the symbol of intentive and spiritual enlightenment or the sudden flash of inspiration. However, while it enlightens and stirs the spirit, lightning strikes down the drive of unsatisfied and uncontrolled desire…
So after this storm all will be changed; there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth. Kali Bwana has averted personal disaster while Nyamwegi has met his end. Nearby in another part of the forest Tarzan and Nkima crouch beside a forest giant to wait out the storm. Here the hurricane topples the tree uprooting it. Tarzan tosses Nkima out of the way but is himself struck by a branch, one assumes one of the big ones of the lower terrace. Once again the Big Fella is given a case of amnesia so that he is not aware of his racial affinity to the Whites aligning himself with the Blacks.
In another part of the forest, not too far away, Old Timer and the Kid are discussing their fortunes apparently unaware of this massive storm. As Old Timer sets out on the trail of ivory on the morrow he hears a shot which leads him to Kali Bwana. All the elements of the New Day are in place.
The action takes place not only in the forest but in the Ituri Rain Forest, the forest of forests. In Western symolism the forest is where the lost man wanders in search of his redemption. One has to find one’s way out of the forest for personal redemption. Thus Old Timer and Kali lose their way wandering around in the forest hopelessly lost. At one point Old Timer can’t see the constellations to navigate at night. At another the forest is so dark he can’t see the sun to navigate by it. Both he and Kali have to be rescued by Tarzan after he regains his memory.
As David Adams has pointed out Sheeta the panther is always associated with the Anima or female. Usually Sheeta is described as a panther but in this novel Sheeta is the Leopard. The smell of Sheeta is overwhelming throughout this novel. In this case I think we may be sure that Sheeta represents the fear of the feminine. Tarzan and Nkima are inseparable in this novel. Throughout the entire novel Nkima complains about the small of Sheeta who wishes to devour him, in other words, to emasculate him. So Burroughs is afraid of what is happening to him in regards of Florence. When Tarzan recovers consciousness after the battle with the Leopard Men the first thing he does is call Nkima. The little monkey in his place on Tarzan’s shoulder reminds one of the Egypian Ka or double. Tarzan the fearless and Nkima the fearful. Burroughs as a child confronted by John the Bully.
As an aspect of Tarzan’s- and Burroughs’- character Nkima probably represents his more chicken livered side. There is no record of Tarzan ever having fear, he doesn’t even know the meaning of the word, but Burroughs did hence Nkima who knows nothing but fear. Neither Tarzan nor Burroughs have ever been what one would call ladies men hence if not fear of the feminine at least an apprehension of it. As Burroughs is now reaching a major crisis of his life having now to choose either Emma or Florence it is not to be wondered that the forest reeks of Sheeta. Indeed, the Leopard Men themselves are symbols of the feminine and they intend to sacrifice Old Timer. Thus one has the leopard as Leopard god and Kali Bwana as his Leopard goddess.
The tremendous rainfall, itself a symbol of regeneration and fertility from the male sky god would create a steaming swamplike atmosphere as it fell on Mother Earth while the temple of the Leopard God itself was in a crocodile infested swamp.
First the Crocodile as symbol, Penguin p. 244:
The crocodile which carries the Earth on its back, is a divinity of darkness and the Moon, whose greed is like that of the NIGHT which each evening devours the Sun. From civilization to civilization and from age to age the crododile exhibits a high proportion of the countless links in that basic symbolic chain which belongs to the controlling forces of death and rebirth. The crocodile may be a formidable figure, but this is because like all expression of the power of fate, what he displays is inevitable- darkness falling so that daylight may return, death striking so that life may be reborn.
In other words, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Poor Emma. Obviously for ERB he is killing his past so that his future may be born.
The temple is in the center of a swamp so deep withing the forest that the sun never shines on it. The swamp is the quintessential female symbol. It is in the Lernean swamp where Heracles has to battle with the Hydra. Hydra=the water of the feminine and the irrational. Each time Heracles cuts off one of the seven heads another grows in its place until he cauterizes each severance with fire, that is the power of the male intellect.
Thus, one has crocodiles, leopards, water, swamp, the river and Stygian darkness. if you can’t rise above the fear of the feminine, you will be swamped, drowned in her waters. The only entrance and exit is this slow moving river is obscured by the forest. This river of mystery and death, this impenentrable forest. The River is the last of the great symbols we will consider, Penguin p. 808:
The symbolism of rivers and running water is simultaneously that of the ‘universal potentiality’ and that of the ‘fluidity of forms’ (Schuan) of fertility, death and revewal. The stream is that of life and death. It may be regarded as flowing down to the sea; as a current against which one swims; or as something to be crossed from one bank to another. Flowing into the sea it is the the gathering of the waters, the return to an undifferentiated state, attaining Nirvana. Swimming against the stream is clearly returning to the divine source, the First Cause. Crossing the river is overcoming an obstacle, separating two realms or conditions, the phenomenal world and the unconditioned state, the world of the senses and the state of non-attachment.
Then this from Burroughs, p. 191:
The sun was sinking behind the western forest, its light playing on the surging current of the great river that rolled past the village of Bobolo. A man and a woman stood looking out across the water that was plunging westward in its long journey to the sea down to the trading posts and the towns and the ships, which are the frail links that connect the dark forest with civilization.
If one looks at this novel from an esoteric symbolic point of view the symbols tell their own story.
As Old Timer says Kali means Woman. At the beginning we have Woman and the Shaggy Man.
I haven’t given the symbolism of the Shaggy Man yet so using the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols again under the heading Rags and Tatters, p. 782:
(Rags And Tatters) are the symbol of anxiety and lesions of the psyche as well as that material poverty which, in folktale, is sometimes adopted as a disguise by princes, princesses and wizards. It denotes simultaneously poverty and anxiety or cloaks inner riches under an appearance of wretchedness, thus displaying the superiority of the inner over the outer self.
Thus Kali- the Woman- the symbol of death, birth and regeneration, and The Shaggy Man or the Frog Prince, the Hero in disguise, waiting to be regenerated by the kiss of the ultimate Woman. A classic fairy tale, actually, with a tip of the hat to David Adams for insisting on the fairy tale connection.
The Man, the Woman, the Storm with a tremendous display of Lightning, Thunder, Wind and Rain completely transforming both the physical and psychic landscapes bringing the Man and the Woman together.
The Woman is then captured by the repressed sexual desire of the Leopard Men who wish to install her as their Goddess. The Woman or Kali is stripped Naked and then adorned with various attributes of the Leopard Cult.
As in various myths, fairytale and folklore stories the Man and the Woman (the Anima and Animus) have been separated by Fate and must fight through all obstacles to be reunited.
Kali (Woman) is led through the teeming, steaming forest with a rope around her neck to the big river down which she is canoed to a smaller stream, ‘the silent river of mystery and death’ in the darkest, swampiest, most crocodile infested part of the darkest of dark forests.
Abandoning all other concerns the Shaggy Man pursues Kali to the village of the Leopard Men where he is taken prisoner, then taken down the silent river (the Styx?) to be sacrificed. By a miracle the two escape only to be separated again while the Shaggy Man is taken back to the temple of the Leopard Men. Kali, Woman, is captured by a Black chief to serve his sexual needs. Rape again. White=Light, Black= Darkness. Thus the ever present threat of rape seems to be about to be fulfilled. But no, the elder wife of the Black chief objects to the White Woman. Out of the pot and into the fire. The Woman is left with Pygmies who are even more vile than the Blacks.
But now a Deus ex-machina, Tarzan, has released the Shaggy Man. Hot in pursuit he follows Woman to the Pygmy camp. He madly attempts rescue which is successful once again because of the Deus ex machina.
It’s not over yet folks. ERB can make any 192 page story go on for a near eternity. Together again Kali and the Shaggy Man are once more torn assunder when the Deus ex machina sends an ape who captures the Shaggy Man. Makes you breathless, doesn’t it? Deus once again reunites the Woman and Shaggy Man. Now, if you will notice the Shaggy Man forces a kiss on Woman. His act of violence shames him so that he finds redemption in his remorse. Thus the kiss of Woman has returned the Frog Prince to his rightful form.
As the story ends the two are about to leave the dark forest for the light of civilization down river.
Thus one has the classic myths- Psyche and Eros, Perseus and Andromeda and many others, numerous fairy tales -Cinderella, one which ERB has used before, and much folklore. It is done very well, too, if you’re following the bouncing ball.
It is noteworthy that the work of another great author is misunderstood too. I refer to the ancient poet Homer. While Homer’s reputation is very great no one understands the Iliad. The adventures of the Gods and Goddesses are beyond the comprehension of classical scholars. Thus they prefer the Odyssey which is written in a more comprehensible if pedestrian style. If I remember correctly the Five Foot Shelf excludes the Iliad while containing the Odyssey. While both are attributed to Homer they must have been written by two different mind sets. The psychology of each is too different to have been written by one mind. Besides the Iliad concerns the middle part of the Siege of Troy while the Odyssey skips all the way to the story of only one of the Returns.
There are similarities in the way Burroughs and Homer tell their stories but to avoid argument Homer is incomparably the greater.
Nevertheless Burroughs has masterfully used a set of symbols to supply a very rich subtext to this story and he has done it intentionally. He does know whereof he speaks. I don’t think there is any doubt that he has studied Esoterica. Probably the topic was of life long interest both in the old kook capitol Chicago and the new kook capitol of Los Angeles. (Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb.)
There was a lot of esoterica going on in LA. The Golden Dawn of Aleister Crowley was out in the desert at Barstow, Manly Hall was advising the movies on estoteric matters, the Vedantists were established and the Theosophists had a terrific college in LA.
Anybody who thinks ERB wasn’t interested in such things doesn’t know how to spell Edgar Rice Burroughs.
While ERB wouldn’t touch a religious theme unless ‘highly fictionized’ he managed to highly fictionize all manner of religion in this great novel of his mature period. He was working at break neck pace too.
Love this stuff.
On to Part IV which will deal with the cast of characters. Inevitably there’s a certain amount of repitition but I try to cast the stuff in different highlights, crosslights and aspects. This stuff deserves a thorough examination.
October 28, 2011
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#16 TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD MEN
Debunking The Debunkers
Here with a loaf of Bread beneath the bough,
A flask of Wine, A Book of Verse- and thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
I started out on Burgundy
But soon hit the harder stuff.
H.G. Wells, Uncle Joe Stalin, Multi-Culturalism And Edgar Rice Burroughs
Unraveling Burroughs’ political situation in the thirties, particularly the years from 1930-36 is difficult. I don’t think anyone has ever conceived that there might be a political situation involved. Porges passes right over it. Fenton doesn’t deal with it. The BB and ERBzine scholars don’t seem concerned with a political environment, yet Burroughs was in the crosshairs of the Left.
The world in which ERB emerged as a writer had long passed away. That America had been wiped from the face of the earth. The thirties was the new post-war America that evolved into whatever we call this mess today. The America I grew up in has been wiped off the map also. Time toddles right along changing everyhthing on a daily basis except for our attitudes. It isn’t easy, it is even impossible to keep up, to run abreast of Time. Life isn’t as orderly as a baseball diamond, that particular Field of Dreams where everyone knows his place and stays in it.
The basis for interpreting the period then is what has become known as Multi-culturalism, the Kultur Kampf or in English, Culture Wars. The question has been and is, which culture is going to be Top Dog. That’s an English term to describe the nineteenth century culture wars. Trader Horn understood it well. If you read his book you will have an accurate understanding of what Top Dog means. He had it, his boss didn’t. Rhodes had it. In multi-cultural terms the Semites have it. Today’s Whites don’t.
Thus during the Jewish Emancipation since the French Revolution Jews have unerringly striven to be Top Dog or Nation. Their Semitic cousins, the Arabs, have the desire and just to give it a date, since 9/11 they have given notice that they intend to be Top Dog. The Western World, Europeans and Americans have lost the desire to be Top Dog. They kind of walk around with their tail between their legs. As the West has lost the instinct of Top Dog there is no doubt the Arabs will attain their goal too, shoving their Jewish cousins aside.
But, our story concerns the years 1900-1936 and is concerned only with the Semites in the United States which is to say the Jewish culture.
Socially they have attempted and succeeded in making ‘bigotry’ the issue. But the issue isn’t the issue. Charges of racism and hatred are thrown about to obsfuscate the true issue which is naturally what is termed ‘race.’ Race is the issue; bigotry is the obfuscation in the drive to be Top Dog. Semitic goals and attitudes, regardless of the language employed have remained the same since their first encounter with the HSII Sumerians four thousand years ago. Who knows how far back these things stretch. It might not be out of line to say seven or possibly eight thousand years ago. Foundations take a long time to lay; the superstructure goes up relatively quickly; the finishing touces even more quickly.
Whether speaking in Biblical or scientific terms the result is the same. Semites believe there is a special relationship between themselves and their god. In Freudian terms the Semites basing their identity on an unreal foundation are psychotic. See The Future Of An Illusion by Freud. Jewish religious notions may have been best expressed by a Rabbi Schneerson of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Judaism centered in New York City transplanted from the Lithuanian community. First a quote from the Lubaviticher Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg:
“If every simple cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, is a part of God, then every strand of DNA is part of God. Therefore something is special about Jewish DNA.”
Here we have a mind completely distorted by his religious preoccupations. We have bad science
compounded by worse logic. The universe including the human body is made of chemical elements of mainly oxygen and hydrogen. If the Rabbi wants to argue that the chemical elements making up the Jewish body are different from the chemical elements making up the universe then let him. However his conditional if-then format leaves him an escape route. Every ‘simple’ cell of a Jewish body doesn’t equal divinity. Divinity is a metaphysical term that bears no relationship to chemistry. If the Rabbi is truly going to be scientific he has to assume the position that there is no such thing as divinity. If he wishes to maintain that there is, then he has to limit his argument about other religious types as being as out of touch with reality as he is but each religion has equal validity with his own. The Rabbi may be able to argue his case on these terms with his fellow religious types, atavistic as they are, but being of scientific persuasion I can’t have any truck with such puerility.
Further, if every strand of DNA, which means both the male and female contribution to the Jewish body is part of God, then that means every Jew is, in fact, God. If in Rabbi Ginsburg’s mind each Jew is God then let’s see a world full of miracles. Without the ability to act as God, not gods, but God, Rabbi Ginsburg’s premiss falls to the ground. He becomes not only stupid but possibly demented as well. The Rabbi is incapable of sound reasoning. The challenge of Science to his religion has driven him off the deep end. This guy is not Top Dog material.
Rabbi Scheerson writing in his Gatherings of Conversations of 1965 trundles a little further out to the end of the pier:
“The difference between a Jewish and a non-Jewish person stems from the common expression: “Let us differentiate.” Thus, we do not have a profound change in which a person is merely on a superior level. Rather, we have a case of ‘let us differentiate’ between totally different species. This is what needs to be said about the body; the body of a Jewish person is of a totally different quality from the the body of (members of) all the nations of the world…”
So, in Rabbi Schneerson’s mind the world is composed of two different Homo Sapiens species: the Jews and everyone else. Sitting around the basements of Brooklyn meditation this stuff the fumes from the sewer go right to your head. In so far as the Semites, not Jews specifically, being a different species, on that score Rabbi Schneerson and I are in agreement. I have so stated in earlier essays so there is no argument there. Writing in 1965 Rabbi Schneerson was even prescient as the study of genetics had advanced insufficiently for the statement to be made authoritatively. Nineteen sixty-five was the year also that homoseuxals discovered the homosexual gene. So shall we say that at the time the Rabbi was in good company.
That he could make the leap from a feeling of genetic superiority to the notion that Jewish ‘bodies’ are differently composed than other bodies shows the degree of raligious fanaticism that distorts his reason. Remember that these people are now influential with the government of the United States.
Rabbi Schneerson carries his folly even further going on to state:
An even greater difference exists in regard to the soul. Two contrary types of soul exist, a non-Jewish soul comes from three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness…
One trembles at the thought of Einstein and Schneerson having ever gotten together. Whew!
It can be plainly seen that the Rabbi Schneerson is the last of the line of great Jewish ‘scientists’ which includes Marx, Einstein and Freud.
If there is anyone who can believe such twaddle then let them but for my purposes I quote this only to show the basic attitude of the members of the Jewish culture who reached these shores froms 1870 to 1920 plus the later colonists and stragglers. In the struggle to be Top Dog it is this attitude that has shaped American culture into what it has become beginning in 1900.
Burroughs when he began writing in 1911 was only trying to redeem his life. He would have been unaware that Anglo-America was being challenged for the role of Top Dog within the United States. Nor, could he have had any idea what a threat he was in the contest with the Semites. He would have had no idea that he failed the test when he answered the AJC questionnarie in 1919. A little over a decade later he had been drawn unknowingly into the thick of the battle, indeed, a significant target.
Now, the twenties began the great age of the debunkers. Volume after volume appeared discrediting every Anglo-American hero from Patrick Henry to Henry Ford. I don’t see any reason to challenge the fact that George Washington ever told a lie or whether he threw a silver dollar across the Delaware, the Mississippi, or the wide Missouri before that river was channeled. But some others did.
This was a good approach for the Underdog to dispose of the Top Dog. First one emasculates him by making him ashamed of his ancestors then one destroys his own confidence in himself, in his own decency.
In a society in which the Negro was an intrusive and unresolvable problem this was not at all difficult. The Jewish culture sided with the Black culture against the White culture. Even a careless reading of Rabbi Schneerson will show the Culture was not interested in eight Blacks or Social Justice. Schneerson clearly states his culture is of a different and superior species from everyone else which means Whites and Blacks are destined to be hewers of wood and carriers of water for the Jewish Culture.
Jewish support of Black culture, then, could only intend to be divisive. They wished to exacerbate an already difficult and untenable situation in their drive to be Top Dog.
As the Jews were part of the Liberal Coalition the Coalition swung in behind them.
Now, at the same time they were debunking White heroes they were elevating Jewish heroes replacing those of the Whites. Thus Maimonides and Spinoza, Moses Mendelsohn and others were lauded as the greatest of philosophers while Socrates, Hegel and Kant and others were belittled. I have no brief for philosphers, I belittle them all. But it should be noted that such as Maimanides and Spinoza are cut from the same cloth as Rabbi Schneerson. Indeed, they all climb up out of the Talmud.
In their conquest of Top Dog it was necessary to create an ‘us and them’ polarity. Judaeo-Communists as ‘us’ were the good guys. Afer 1933 anyone who disagreed was labelled a Fascist or Nazi, a little Hitler. At that point ‘us and them’ good and bad was clear. Prior to the success of Fascism in Germany their opponents could only be denounced as prejudiced which was termed a major sin. The term ‘bigot’ in its current racial meaning was not yet in common use but we will use it here.
In the Judaeo-Communist lexicon Burroughs was a bigot. The AJC typed him as an anti-Semite in 1919. But that typing was too tenuous to use. However there was no doubt that Burroughs considered Whites superior to Blacks. The attitude was not lost on Blacks who to this very day are accused of being anti-Semites because they resent being condescended to.
It would be very worthwhile to know what pressures were being placed on Burroughs. Indeed, as a defensive move Leopard Men may very likely have been written to show that while Whites might be construed in a negative light for the treatment of Blacks that Blacks themselves could be just as oppressive and violent when they were Top Dog. On p. 129 he says:
It was with a feeling of relief that Kali Bwana saw Bobolo and Kapopa depart. During the interview with Rebega no one had once addressed her, just as no one would have addressed a cow he was arranging to stable. She recalled the plaints of American Negroes that they were not treated with equality by the whites. Evidently it all depended on which was the more powerful and had nothing whatever to do with innate gentleness or spirit or charity.
This has the sound of being an answer to someone. One asks what might be the occasion? A possible source may have been the row kicked up by the Scottboro Boys. This case was the centerpiece of Communist propaganda against America and Americans.
For those not familir with the situation, on March 25, 1931 an incident had occurred between Black and White hoboes on a train traveling from Chattanooga through Alabama on the Southern Railroad. The only evidence is the testimony of the participants so really the only question is which side are you on? Us or them?
According to ascertainable facts two groups were hoboing. One Black, one White. The Whites were in a gondola car while the Blacks were in the trailing boxcar. It seems clear that the Blacks decided to invade the gondola of the Whites, else there could have been no trouble. For what purpose isn’t clear but a battle then broke out during which the Blacks threw the Whites off the train with the exception of two White girls and one White boy.
The Whites thrown off the train asked the station master at a town called Stevenson, Alabama to call ahead to have the Blacks arrested for assault. Irate citizens in Paint Rock, Alabama stopped the train taking the Blacks off. The two girls said they were gang raped by the Blacks. The Blacks were arrested and given a speedy trial and conviction well before Burroughs began to write. Were they guilty? That depends solely on whether you believe them or the Whites. That there was a fight and the Whites lost is without question. No one contests that.
It was a perfect issue for the Reds. The Blacks were held up by the Communists as sterling ‘youths’ while the White girls were labeled tramps and whores. Well, you can see where is this going nowhere. The only question is who are you going to believe? I have no doubt that a group of Blacks who had just triumphed over Whites in the deep South with their blood up, exultant, would do the obvious and physically assault the girls, they had just assaulted the boys, or men, and thrown them off the train, why not? Seems logical to me. There is no answer.
The Communists over the next several years made political hay out of the case arousing Northern White prejudices against the South and Southern ‘bigots’ while posing as being really interested in the fate of the Scottsboro Boys.
Burroughs would have read the news through clenched teeth. Here was all the evidence he needed that Blacks would assault White women given the opportunity. When conditions were reversed Blacks were not the Stepan Fetchit stumblebums Liberals like to represent them as. If Blacks were ‘shuffling along’ it was because they were held down, they were not naturally as Liberals believed them to be. That is what Burroughs is saying.
It may be coincidence but Leopard Men opens with the attempted rape of a White woman by a Black. Kali Bwana’s head man Golato enters her tent as the storm breaks with intent to rape her. Kali Bwana fires a shot at him wounding and driving him off. Golato then organizes a mutiny. Kali Bwana’s safari deserts her leaving her alone in the heart of the Ituri Rain Forest.
Storm and forest are sexually laden symbols.
So, a second impetus for the hurried writing of Leopard Men may have been the arrest, trial and conviction of the Scottsboro Boys. Boys, not men, to make them seem less offensive although it would be construed as a racial insult by Blacks.
Now, the pressures on Burroughs were coming from the Left. The pressure was not obvious and overt but clandestine and secretive. Could he be provoked to make the first obvious move placing the onus on him? The question then arises as to whether Leopard Men represented the Communists and their Fellow Travelers who functioned as a secret society in America. As the post-WWII investigators into the Communist influence in Hollywood would prove, none of these Communists, many of them Soviet agensts, would even admit that they had ever been more than ‘liberal.’ When asked where they now or had they ever been Communists none of them would give a simple yes or no answer. They took the Fifth. To answer would incriminate them. Right.
Many of these Hollywood people, Dalton Tumbo, John Howard Lawson and others were already established in Hollywood by 1934. Communist sites on the internet now list them as having been Communists at the time. Soviet documentation obtained after the fall also confirms this. A leading Jewish Congressman from New York, Samuel Dickstein, was on the Soviet payroll. It was he who originated the House Un-American Activities Committee of which the purpose was meant to be to run anti-Communists to earth. To Dickstein and his Soviet handlers it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The key fact is that, through Dickstein, Stalin and the Soviets were able to exercise extreme influence on the American political system even directing American policy. Had the chairmanship of HUAC fallen into Dickstein’s hands there is no doubt that he would have forwarded Judaeo-Communist goals while putting what he was pleased to call un-American citizens in jail. In 1944 the ADL/AJC did just that causing pre-war dissidents to be arrested and tried for treason.
Hollywood Reds insisted that they were ‘liberals’ seeking ‘social justice’ and were completely uninfluenced by Soviet agents or handlers. Using Dickstein as your model you can see that the probability of this being true is nil. While Studio heads like Mayer, the Warners, and Harry Cohn maintained a cover of being All-American Boys while not recognizing that their Studios which were managed closely from the top were not controlled by Reds must be pure bushwa. They had to be involved if not ringlearders. But none of the Hollywood people wished to be known as Communists. They were all taken advantage of by Left wing groups. What a bunch of overly naive innocents.
So, Leopard Men can be read as a portrayal of this very dangerous situation in which ERB found himself. The Leopard Men with their secrecy and infiltration of all the tribes can easily be equated with the Communists. The witch doctor, Sobito, of the Utengas who pretends to be a loyal Utengan while he is actually a Leopard Man betraying his own people into their hands is a prime example as on a more proletarian level is Lupingu who actually betrays the army of Orando.
So, one might say that Uncle Joe Stalin, to use FDR’s term, with his love of movies had an actual hand in Hollywood, one of the two capitols of the Communist world, the other being Moscow. It is not improbable that story lines were formulated in Moscow being sent to traitors like Dalton Trumbo to be worked up into serviceable scripts for American consumption.
Stalin’s agent H.G. Wells who was making derogatory attacks on several honest writers was writing furiously at this moment. As much as I personally like Wells, the man must be debunked. Wells met with Charlie Chaplin, another notorious Red, in Hollywood in 1935. Already a courier between Uncle Joe and Roosevelt, what messages did he carry to Chaplin and the Hollywood Reds? Remember Wells wrote the propaganda novel The Shape Of Things To Come in 1933, followed by the movie Things To Come in 1935. If you haven’t seen the movie of which Wells had nearly complete control it is worth seeing. More than once.
Leopard Men as a possible commentary on the Utopian Wells presents what must be the most vile dystopia ever conceived. Worse than Orwell. As in Invincible of the year or so before in which Tarzan singlehandedly foils Stalin and the Soviet plot, in this one he destroys the Leopard Men. At least within the vicinity of Utengans which might be to say, Hollywood. It is only after the Leopard Men are destroyed that Tarzan pays any attention to Kali Bwana and Old Timer thus there are two stories. In the battle between the Utengans and Leopard Men , Tarzan once again gets his head bashed but when he comes to he has regained his memory. No longer Orando’s Muzimo he goes back to his old ways as Lord Of The Jungle.
Interestingly the first thing he does when he comes to is call for Nkima. The two are inseparable in this novel. The relationship between the two and their characters deserves an in depth study.
By the time the novel was written in July-September the proceedings for the making of Tarzan, The Ape Man must have been well advanced. I’m not ware of the date that Weissmuller was selected for the role but probably by or during this time. He would have needed time to memorize the lines or at least perfect the Tarzan yell. Nor do I know the exact date ERB obtained his copy of W.S. Van Dyke’s Horning Into Africa. I would imagine that he had at least met Van Dyke by the time of writing. Possibly ERB’s rather gruesome concentration on cannibalism may have been meant as a refutation of Van Dyke’s statement that there was absolutely no proof any African had ever been a cannibal. There’s fair evidence in Horning Into Africa that Van Dyke knew which side his bread was buttered on expressing himself accordingly.
While ERB took his main frame from the Horn book and movie he gussied the story up with plenty of his own motives and themes. Just as Invincible was anti-Communist so Leopard Men probably is too. Since we’ve covered the politics we might as well go on to religion in Part III.
October 25, 2011
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Themes And Variations
#16 TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD MEN
While Tarzan And The Leopard Men is not well thought of by Bibliophiles being considered the worst of the series, I can’t find any reason to believe this. I couldn’t place it in the top five but the book is on a general par with the rest of the series, perhaps a little better.
I think the problem arises because it is thought to portray the African in a negative light. As with the Mafia there are those who deny the Leopard cult because it is offensive to their sensibilities. They prefer to see the African as a ‘noble savage.’ I have no problem with this attitude but I prefer historical accuracy to anything I might wish to believe.
The existence of the Leopard cult in no way diminishes the character of the African. Secret societies are part of every culture in this multi-cultural world. Many of them are murderous. The Assasins of Hasani Sabah of Persia are a notorious example. The Illuminati who were responsible for the worst atrocities of the French Revolution are another. The Freemasons who while perhaps not so violent function, have functioned and do function as a secret brotherhood who help each other against society. The Mafia and Organized Crime in general are secret societies on a par with Leopard Men. During the thirties Lepke Buchalter ran the infamous Murder, Inc. So I see no reason to lower one’s opinion of the book because it may seem to certain sensibilities, by no means shared by all, to disparage the Negro. The events in the Congo after independence and the events in Shonaland happening now are so horrific they make the Leopard Men seem like novices.
The book Tarzan And The Leopard Men was written over July-September of 1931; a trifle of a rush job even for a fast writer like Burroughs. The story was published in Blue Book from Auguast 1932 to January 1933. Book publication was delayed until 1936 so there may have been some editing to reflect personal events over that period.
As the novel shows a rather direct influence from both the book and movie of Trader Horn Burroughs may have received some criticism from the magazine publication hence delaying book publication until time had dimmed the memory.
When Burroughs formed his publishing company he had expected to write a Tarzan novel a year. That schedule would have been adhered to except for this novel that was interjected into the series out of order of its writing.
The cause of the disturbance is very easy to find. In February of 1931 MGM released it great African epic Trader Horn. According to the ERBzine Bio Timeline for the 1930s, on February 23 ERB and Emma drove into Hollywood to catch the show. So we do know exactly when he saw the movie, or, at least, the first half of it. At intermission Emma remembered that they were to babysit for daughter Joan drawing her husband from the theatre. I’m sure ERB steamed over that for more than a day.
At that date he was in the midst of writing Tarzan Triumphant but Trader Horn aroused him so much that he began to plan a rejoinder. After completing Triumphant in May he conceived Leopard Men and rushed it through. Perhaps ERB thought Horn infringed on the Big Bwana’s African domain as Leopard Men is a virtual reformulation of Horn using elements from both the book and movie. Of course ERB ‘adapted’ Horn for his own needs. Trader Horn was to be an influence on the rest of the series.
Trader Horn as a book first appeared in 1927. It was a non-fiction best seller in both ’27 and ’28, in the top five for both years, a tremendous success. That alone might have aroused ERB’s jealousy. Whether he read the book between its issue date and his viewing of the movie isn’t known but that he had read it by the time he wrote Leopard Men is clear. The title does not appear in his library although Director W.S. Van Dyke’s 1931 story of the African filming, Horning Into Africa, does. ERB undoubtedly used Van Dyke’s book as background for his 1933 effort, Tarzan And The Lion Man.
Don’t look for a copy of Van Dyke in your library; the book was privately printed and distributed. Copies are available on the internet but at collector prices of from one to several hundreds of dollars. Thus it will readily be seen how large a space Trader Horn formed in ERB’s consciousness.
I’m sure that when Emma dragged him from the theatre to babysit, ERB had no idea how influential Trader Horn was going to be in his life. For at least three years his career centered around it. In 1931 he saw the movie, possibly read the book for the first time and wrote Leopard Men. In ’31 the contract with MGM surrendering the rights to the portrayal of his Tarzan characters was signed. Then Van Dyke and Hume fashioned Tarzan, The Ape Man after Trader Horn. Tarzan, The Ape Man was a major success changing the public’s understanding of the character of Tarzan from a literate cosmopolite to feral child. In answer Burroughs wrote a parody of Van Dyke’s African filming of Trader Horn. When the screen Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, gave up the role in the late forties he put on some clothes and became Jungle Jim who might very well have been modeled on Trader Horn. Perhaps an inside joke.
Trader Horn and Ethelreda Lewis
At the time Alfred Aloysius ‘Wish’ Smith otherwise known as Trader Horn told his story to the woman who wrote it up and got it published, Ethelreda Lewis, he was a seventy year old derelict living in a doss house in Johannesburg, South Africa. Etheldreda Lewis was a well-known South African novelist.
Horn made his meager living by making wire gridirons and selling them door to door. He had developed a sad sack routine meant to induce housewives to buy his gridirons out pity. It worked with Mrs. Lewis.
She engaged him in conversation. As a novelist she realized he had a story to tell, she encouraged him to do so. Horn wrote up a chapter a week bringing it to her on Mondays. As she treated him respectfully offering him tea and cakes and a last chance at self-respect before he peeled off for the other side of the river he managed to prolong his story over twenty-six chapters and one presumes as many weeks of tea and cakes. Trader Horn the book is indicated to be Vol. I. There is a volume two telling of his other adventures. Vol. I is currently in print for 16.95, probably less on Amazon. Highly recommended.
In addition to Horn’s story Mrs. Lewis also recorded their weekly conversation which she appends to each chapter. Horn makes some very interesting and timely observations, a little sad but on the knowing side. I’m sure ERB was sympathetic as Horn confirmed his own beliefs. Altogether a very interesting and entertaining book which should have been a best seller not only for two years but more.
Horn’s experiences were so wonderful that naturally the question has arisen as to how accurate his recollections may be. I have read a number of vulgar opinions stating that Mr. Horn was a liar. I take offense at such an assertion. The man was relating his life. He may possibly have gotten a few details wrong but, as they say in Hollywood, his life was based on a true story.
I have read the book five times now within the last four years. My opinion as to Horn’s veracity is this. He very much wants to please and prolong a pleasant interlude to a rather grim life at the time. He had read a number of books including Burroughs and Du Chaillu. He claims to have known the French explorer De Brazza. He was an educated, intelligent and experienced man. He had apparently always had literary leanings.
Everyone has to be somewhere every moment of their lives and I have no doubt that Horn was on the Ogowe River in Gabon at the time he says he was. As a reader I hope I can perceive the ring of authenticity in a man’s reminiscences . Also I have been around myself enough to have seen some things, even seen some repeatedly, for which I get looks of incredulity, so just because I haven’t seen some things doesn’t mean they aren’t true. I reserve the right to question them to myself but stranger things have happened than I’ve ever seen.
While Horn is telling his own story I think he tries to make a good story better combining fiction with a factual tale. One questions his story of the White Goddess, Nina T. That story just doesn’t ring true. It seems like he borrows a little from ERB. Nina T. has been the Egbo goddess since the age of four, five or six being now in her twenties. She was the daughter of an English trader George T. who died when amongst the Blacks. They then appropriated her to groom as their White Goddess.
While Horn is plotting to spirit her away he has to communicate with her in writing, one imagines cursive. He has to explain how she can read, write and understand English. Nina T. and Tarzan should have gotten together. Horn explains that before George T. died he taught the very young Nina how to read and write using a picture alphabet book. Over the intervening twenty years or so Nina never forgot, itself a great feat of memory. Not quite as amazing an accomplishment as Tarzan teaching himself to read and write from possibly the identical picture alphabet book but still very impressive.
The natives also have a giant ruby as a fetish that Horn says he lifted by having a replica made solely from a description he sent to his friend Peru. As he was the first White man to be initiated into Egbo such a betrayal of his oath doesn’t speak well for his integrity or trustworthiness.
Thus, while I don’t have any trouble believing his trading and hunting adventures I have to conclude that as Burroughs would say, he was ‘fictionizing’ the rest. Nevertheless it makes a good story and if relating it made him feel good so much the better. No reason to call him a liar and his story lies.
One has conflicting reports on his subsequent life. On one hand there is a story he lived well off the proceeds of the book in England. When he was about to die the story goes that he said: Where’s me passport, boys, I’m off to Africa. Famous last words, indeed. On the other hand it is said that he died in 1927 in SA before he received the fruits of his labor. I would like to think he lived long enough to see a version of his story on the silver screen. If he had one imagines he would have been brought to Hollywood for the premier. He wasn’t.
So, whichever way he went, a tip of the hat for you Trader Horn.
Horn, Van Dyke, Hume and Burroughs
Had ERB known of Trader Horn in far off South Africa turning in his weekly installments to Mrs. Lewis I doubt if he would have realized how large a part Horn’s story was to play in his own life.
When the book was published and became a bestseller, something which Burroughs must have heard of, there must have been a glimmer of interest but still no recognition of Horn’s future impact on his life. When he saw Van Dyke’s movie he was duly impressed and was influenced but still probably had no idea of what loomed ahead.
By 1932’s MGM movie, Tarzan, The Ape Man, he had begun to realize the significance of Trader Horn to his own life. When he sat down to write Tarzan And The Lion Man the Old Campaigner was aware. While no copy of Trader Horn found its way into his library we know for certain he read it. A book that did find its way into his library was W.S. Van Dyke’s account of the filming of Trader Horn, Horning Into Africa of 1931. This book was used as the basis for Tarzan And The Lion Man.
It seems certain that Van Dyke read Trader Horn shortly after issue. By 1929 as the book was moving down the charts Van Dyke, a cast of many and several tens of tons of equipment were moving to Africa to form a safari to end all safaris. Not since Henry Morton Stanley in his quest for Livingstone had Africa seen such a spectacle.
Trader Horn was the first entertainment film shot on location in Africa. All the footage was authentic except those scenes shot on lot in Hollywood. I’m learning to talk Hollywood…all, except. The movie was a mind blower when it hit the theatres being one of the biggest grossers of all time. Burroughs saw it, picked up his pen, dictaphone or whatever, and following the script and book closely dashed off Tarzan And The Leopard Men leaving out the bit about the music box. Let’s compare the three versions of Trader Horn.
In the book Horn is the central character. He is a young man of seventeen or eighteen who has run away from school. Peru, his schoolhood chum, does not enter the story until the very end. His faithful Black companion, Renchoro, plays a very secondary auxliary role.
In the movie Horn is a grizzled Old Africa Hand tutoring his young pal, Peru. In the opening scene they are sitting around the campfire before setting out for the interior.
Burroughs follows the movie in having Old Timer teaming up with his young pal, The Kid. Even though the character of Old Timer seems to be based on a man of Burroughs’ age it is explained that he is under thirty while the Kid is twenty-two. Maybe ERB looked old but felt young.
In Horn Nina T. is a dark haired beauty the daughter of an Englishman George T. and an octaroon which means Nina is one sixteenth Negro but not so’s you could tell. She is literate, after a fashion, being able to read Horn’s handwritten notes in English. Horn buys her European clothes which she wears while yet a goddess.
In the movie Nina is a real primitive with the brain of an ape. Burroughs may have been thinking of her when he created Balza of Lion Man. She is astonishingly well played by Edwina Booth who has a mane of blond hair that would have gained her entrance as the queen of the Hippies in the sixties. A very exciting appearance. Just as Van Dyke and Hume made Tarzan an illiterate they show no favors to Nina. She couldn’t have begun the the alphabet let alone recite it.
In the book her mother died before her father. In the movie Horn and Peru encounter her mother walking through the jungle in search of a daughter lost twenty years previously. I laughed. I wouldn’t know if anyone else did as I was watching alone in front of my TV. By the way the VHS I was fortunate enough to buy new for twenty dollars, now out of print, is advertised on Amazon for up to one hundred seventy-five dollars. What a strange world. I hope they issue it on DVD. Maybe this essay will spur enough interest.
Horn coyly refused to give Nina’s last name as she is an heiress to the T. fortune which had been claimed long before. The movie boldly proclaims her as Nina Trent.
As Burroughs tells it, the future White Goddess is known as Kali Bwana, a name the natives gave to her. Her real name is Jessie Jerome. Her brother is Jerome Jerome. This is probably a coy reference to the English writer Jerome K. Jerome whose classic Three Men In A Boat was in ERB’s library as well as Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow. Three Men is supposed to be one of the most comic books in the English language. If so, it was too subtle or too broad for this reader. I didn’t find it amusing. ERB must have liked it. Jerry Jerome covers the Jerome Jerome parts of the name while the K of Kid provides the middle initial. Jerome K. Jerome.
The names are conceald from us until the very end of the book so there must be a haw haw there for the knowing reader. ERB calls Jerome Jerry never calling him Jerome Jerome.
Kali Bwana or Jessie Jerome is ‘what is known as a platinum blonde.’ So the goddess has gone from dark hair to the blondest. Jean Harlow had starred in Howard Hughes 1930 production of Hell’s Angels making her the Blonde Bombshell of Htown so ERB was duly impressed.
In the book Horn was a bright young man, in the movie, an old African hand. In Burroughs although ‘not yet thirty’ he is an Old Timer, a bum because of what a woman done to him. Since Kali Bwana/Florence redeems his attitude toward women we are free to assume that Emma was the woman what done it to ERB.
Kali Bwana is deserted in the jungle by her safari because she refuses to submit to the embraces of her Negro headman. Old Timer discovers her camp where she tells him she is looking for her brother Jerry Jerome, in yet another parody of Stanley and Livingstone. Old Timer and the Kid have never asked each other’s names so Old Timer has never heard of Jerry Jerome, even though he is Old Timer’s partner. Thus the rest of the story need never have happened had they known each other’s names. ERB likes this sort of thing, using it often.
Old Timer puts Kali Bwana under his protection which proves ineffective against the Leopard Men who seize her and carry her away to their Josh house to be their goddess.
In the book Renchoro is merely an associate of Horn. In the movie Renchoro becomes virtually a romantic interest of Horn. Several scenes are tinged with homosexual overtones, especially Renchoro’s death scene while when Peru and Nina T. board the paddle wheeler for the return to civilization and Horn remains behind a big balloon containing a picture of Renchoro appears as a hearthrob for Horn. Horn returns to the jungle presumably to find a substitute for Renchoro. Interesting comment on the Black-White relationship.
In the Burroughs’ story the Black-White relationship is removed to one between Tarzan and Orando. Tarzan has a tree fall on his head as the story opens not unsurprisingly giving him another case of amnesia. Orando happens along. He is about to put an arrow through the Big Bwana when Tarzan speaks to him in his own dialect. A handy thing to not only know every dialect in Africa, human and animal, but to know when to employ the appropriate one. Probably has something to do with a refined sense of smell.
Speaking of ape languages, Spain is about to vote on a measure giving apes human status in the country. So not only is the human species to be counted politically in Spain but leaping the Last Hominid Predecessor, an entirely different evolutionary strain is to be accounted human. It will be interesting to see how the Spanish ape population votes.
Orando then mistakes Tarzan for Muzimo or his guardian spirit. Thus for most of the book the relationship between Muzimo and Orando is that of the movie between Horn and Renchoro. And also between God and Human.
Horn traded on the Ogowe River in Gabon. Much of his story concerns his navigation of the Ogowe and its tributaries. Unlike every other African explorer I have read Horn makes Africa seem a wonderland. Every other writer makes Africa dark and forboding with piles of human skulls laying around, walkways lined with skulls. Horn’s Africans are laughing back slappers who are merry even as they are shooting and killing each other. The rain forest along the Congo depresses all other explorers but Horn finds the Ogowe otherwise. The skulls are still there but Horn apparently finds them amusing. The river Horn navigates unlike those of Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness or Stanley’s Through The Dark Continent and In Darkest Africa is a bright cheery place. Maybe it’s all a state of mind.
Van Dyke has only one river and that does not play a central role while it is on the dark side, a river of death. It is also the Nile in East Africa. Most of the movie takes place on terra firma.
Burroughs makes the rivers central to his story but they are dark, violent rivers of death. ERB borrows more heavily from Stanley on this score than he does from Horn. Actually, if one is looking for similarities there is some resemblance of Horn’s story to the Beasts Of Tarzan, but the latter is based on Edgar Wallace’s Sanders Of The River. We don’t know what of Burroughs Horn read; it is quite possible that he read a few of the six or seven Tarzans available in his time.
Horn has the Egbo fraternity practicing their rites in a long building quite similar to that employed in Burroughs’ Cave Girl of 1913. Horn would have had to have read that in magazine form which is possible but seems a stretch.
Van Dyke has his rites practiced in the open. Horn originates the idea of crucifying the victims upside down so that when the head is cut off the blood drains into a pot for ritual uses. Van Dyke includes an upside down crucifixion but leaves out the more grisly details.
Burroughs dispenses with the crucifixion scene entirely relying on his often used cannibalism. This may be one of the reasons the book is disliked. In the sixties the traditional cannibal cooking pot was derided as a false stereotype of the African. It was denied that cannibalism had ever been practiced in Africa. Black musical groups in the US like Cannibal And The Headhunters ridiculed the facts. Thus imputing cannibalism to Africa became bad taste. Perhaps when Leopard Men was reprinted in 1964 its heavy reliance on such rituals prejudiced a certain mental outlook against it so the story was derided as the worst of Burroughs novels. While very dark and even gruesome the story isn’t noticeably inferior to any of the others.
In the book Horn is not only on good terms with the various tribes but he was the first White man initiated into the Egbo society. Egbo is at its most innocent a sort of Freemasonic society and at its worst on a par with the Leopard Men. Horn describes Egbo as a sort of vigilante society who do in anyone any member has a grievance against. Neither Egbo nor Leopard Men figure into Van Dyke’s movie. As I understand it , Nina T.’s people merely practice savage primitive rites.
Burroughs who has moved his story from the Ogowe of Gabon to the Aruwimi of the Ituri Rain Forest with which he was familair from Stanley’s account in his In Darkest Africa relates the Leopard cult that was notorious at the time. Horn does have a lot of leopards in his story giving a detailed description of how their talons leave cuts looking like they were sliced by knives. His natives wear a lot of leopard skins. There isn’t much on Egbo available on the internet except a notice that it originated on the Calabar Coast which, if I’m not mistaken is where the Leopard cult comes from.
Fellow Bibliophile David Adams gives a good short account of the Leopard Men.
Burroughs undoubtedly had sources so that his presentation is based on facts of the Leopard Men but adapted for his own purposes. Thus he makes the Leopard Men the central idea of the story. Tarzan becomes involved with the Leopard Men through his role as the Muzimo of Orando. As an ally of Orando’s Utenga people Tarzan engineers the destruction of the Leopard Men’s village and cult in that part of his domain.
In Horn’s book as a member of Egbo he is familiar with the Negroes, a member of the cult and has full access to the ldge and, in fact, Nina T. He has no difficulty in rescuing her whatever. He had just previously defeated the Egbo chief in battle so that worthy was thoroughly cowed refusing to even give chase.
In Van Dyke’s movie Horn and Peru wander into an African Chief’s village attempting to trade. The chief is uninterested in trading seizing them as victims for his sacrifical rites.
Horn and and Peru as trade goods offer the chief a music box that the chief scorns. In the book the music box is known as Du Chaillu’s Music Box. At some earlier time Du Chaillu while researching gorillas had left a music box and compass behind that enthralled the Africans. Peru shows up with another that they leave behind, presumably in payment for the monster ruby.
Van Dyke apparently thought the music box ridiculous while Burroughs doesn’t use it at all although he does follow the movie scene with the African chief closely.
In his version the Old Timer in pursuit of Kali Bwana learns that she was abducted by Gato Mgungu and taken to his village. Gato means cat so perhaps the name has some reference to leopards. Gato Mgungu is chief of the Leopard Men. Old Timer who has traded with Mgungu before barges into his village alone demanding he release Kali Bwana. In the movie the chief is a tall, extremely well built, handsome fellow. Quite astonishing actually, while Burroughs gives Mgungu a huge pot belly. Old Timer is given as short a shrift as the movie Horn. He is seized, dumped in a canoe and taken down river to the Leopard Men’s lodge also, as in the movie, destined for the stew pot.
In the book Horn and Nina T. are well acquainted. She trusts him and is eager to be rescued. They easily escape down river in Horn’s boat. In the movie Horn and Peru are shown o Nina T. who falls in love with Peru. Somehow an escape plan is concocted that she more or less leads. They are hotly pursued by her people. The band finds its way to the trading post on the river although Renchoro is killed.
Burroughs has Kali Bwana taken to the lodge where with titillating details involving gorgeous nudity she is prepared to serve as chief goddess of the Leopard King who is a real leopard along the lines of the various lion kings of Burrough’s stories.
Old Timer is held captive among the crowd of Leopard Men gathered for the rites. As Kali Bwana is led out they both recognize each other and gasp. Unknown to everyone the Big Bwana is up in the rafters observing everything. From then on he becomes the agent of deliverance.
In the book Nina T. having been rescued, Horn provides the happiest of endings. Horn and Peru have only one goddess between them. She must go to one or the other. The happy-go-lucky goddess is willing to take either the one or the other so they flip a coin for her. The outcome is obvious since Horn didn’t marry her. Peru wins the toss and gets the goddess. Peru is the son of the owner of one of the richest silver mines in the world in his namesake Peru. He has just come of age so he is one Porfirio Rubirosa. Nina T. has left the jungle to fall into unimaginable wealth. As I see her as nearly a feral child I do not envy Peru.
The two are married aboard ship by the captain then after a pleasant interlude in Madeira Peru and Nina go their way while Trader Horn and his ruby go another. Horn sells his ruby to Tiffany’s from whom he does quite well. The stone while large has flaws so he didn’t do was well as he might have.
In this volume at least Horn doesn’t mention ever hearing from Peru and Nina T. again. He may mention them in volume two but I haven’t read it.
In the movie with Nina’s tribesmen hot on their trail Nina and Peru go off in one direction while Horn and Renchoro lead the tribesmen on a wild goose chase. Renchoro is killed but Horn makes it back to the trading post. Peru and Nina are now an item. She has either quickly picked up enough English to understand a proposal and say yes or she just likes the color of Peru’s eyes. They offer to take Horn with them but that balloon of Renchoro pops up with the implication that Horn can find himself another African ‘boy’, which he seems to prefer. The paddlewheeler steams down the river with Nina and Peru while Horn turns back toward the jungle presumably in search of another ‘boy.’
Burroughs version is much more involved. Suffice it to say that after many tribulations the French army shows up to suppress the remnants of the Leopard Men who were destroyed by Tarzan and the Utengas. Jerome K. Jerome locates Old Timer and the goddess Kali Bwana. The latter two have been reconciled and now are in love with each other. When Old Timer learns that her real name is Jessie Jerome he fears the worst.
In one of Buroughs, name games Kali Bwana had refused to give him her real name insisting he should call her Kali. Old Timer refused to give his last name but confessed to being named Hiram. Perhaps his last name was Walker. Kali could him ‘Hi.’ Just as there is a joke in the Kid being Jerome K. Jerome there is probably a joke in Old Timer being called Hi.
I refer you to Lewish Carroll’s Hunting Of The Snark:
There was one who was famed for the number of things
He forgot when he entered the ship- but the worst of it was
He had wholly forgotten his name.
He would answer to “Hi!” or any loud cry,
Such as “Fry me!” or
Fritter My Wig!”
There is a copy of The Hunting Of The Snark in ERB’s library so he must have read and reread the poem, as well as, one might note, The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam, so I think telling Kali Bwana she could call him Hi or any old thing is another of his literary jokes which are sprinkled throughout the novels.
Old Timer is overjoyed when he learns that Jerry and Jessie are brother and sister instead of husband and wife. As they are about to board the old paddle-wheeler, as in the movie, Jessie asks Old Timer to come with her. (Old Timer plays coy.)
The sun was sinking behind the western forest, the light playing on the surging current of the great river that rolled past the village of Bobolo. A man and a woman stood looking out across the water that plunged westward on its long journey to the sea, down to the trading posts and the towns and the ships, which are the frail links that connect the dark forest with civilization.
“Tomorrow you will start,” said the man. “In six or eight weeks you will be home. Home!” There was a world of wistfulness inn the simple, homely word. He sighed, “I am so glad for both of you.”
She came closer to him and stood directly in front of him, looking straight into his eyes. “You are coming with us,” she said.
“What makes you think so?” he asked.
“Because I love you, you will come.”
It can be plainly seen how all three versions of this scene are related while being derived from the original of the novel. As Burroughs adapted the movie version of the relationship between Horn and Peru he followed the movie ending.
Thus the novel and movie reoriented his own approach to Tarzan novels. The relationship of the three stories has literary repercussions. While it is plainly seen that Burroughs was, shall we say, highly inspired by Horn’s novel and Van Dyke’s movie, what might not be so apparent to the untrained eye is the extent to which both Horn and Van Dyke were influenced by the work of Burroughs which preceded theirs by a couple decades.
Horn admits to being familiar with the Tarzan stories. He was a first time writer here, while he had his own story to tell, he needed a format. He has chosen to emphasize many characteristics of the few Tarzan novels he could have read by 1925. While the Ogowe River figures in his life he probably would have been excited by the river scenes in Beasts Of Tarzan. He treats elephants and gorillas that he had actually seen in the wild differently than Burroughs but includes generous doses of both because they have worked for Burroughs.
Viewing from a distance as we are compelled to do one loses the savor of the times. A Burroughs reading Horn carefully might easily have picked up many references that slip by us.
Van Dyke and Hume on the other hand had been exposed to Tarzan movies for a dozen years or so. What they read can’t be so obvious. But the very format of the jungle thriller would have derived from previous Tarzan movies. ERB may have felt he was entering a turf war as the Big Bwana’s domain was being invaded.
He may have believed himself justified in expropriating the expropriators. If Horn died in 1927 his opinion no long mattered. What Ethelreda Lewis may have thought isn’t known. She apparently had a hand in writing the movie script for Swiss Family Robinson. Whether she came to Hollywood to do it I am not informed although she was around the movie capitol for a number of years. A meeting between her and ERB would have been interesting.
What Van Dyke and Hume may have thought I am equally uninformed, however between the release of Horn in February 1931 and the release of Tarzan, The Ape Man in March of 1932 was a year during which a contract was negotiated between MGM and Burroughs for the use of his characters but not of any of his material on April 15 of 1932. (Erzine Bio Timeline, 1930s). Within nine months then the movie Tarzan, The Ape Man was in the theatres.
The generally expressed view is that Hume first wrote up a script involving a combination Horn and Tarzan story. This was before they might have seen Leopard Men in print. To quote William Armstrong from ERBzine 0610:
Cyril Hume who had turned the filming of “Trader Horn” in Africa into a suitable story outline, was given the assignment of writing the script for Tarzan The Ape Man, Hume’s original script had Trader Horn leading an expedition to Africa to search for a lost tribe. En route, they discover Tarzan, who kidnaps the woman scientist member of the safari. She eventually returns to the safari and they are captured by the tribe they seek (who worship the moon), and are to be human sacrifices to a sacred gorilla. Tarzan leading a pack of elephants, arrives in time to save the safari. The woman scientist decides to stay with Tarzan while Trader Horn and his party return to the trading post.
This script may give some idea of how conventional Hollywood minds viewed both Horn and Tarzan. Apparently the relationship between th two was very close in their minds. This script leaves little room for the development of the Tarzan yell while it gives the feel of making Tarzan a subordinate character to Horn. Tarzan might or might not have been a part of the next Horn movie. If MGM continued to use Harry Carey in the Horn role he may very likely have had a stronger film presence than Tarzan who, one imagines would still have been portrayed as a feral boy as he essentially was in Tarzan, The Ape Man.
It would be interesting to know when MGM decided to film a Tarzan movie and in what connection to Trader Horn. The success of Horn may have prodded them but one is astonished at the speed at which the project was conceived and executed especially as we are led to believe that they had no actor to play Tarzan in mind when the contract with ERB was signed.
As Leopard Men was probably not even fully conceived in ERB’s mind when he signed it could have had no effect on the signing. The release of Tarzan, The Ape Man in 1932 did have an effect on Burroughs. After writing Tarzan And the City Of Gold from November of 1931 to January of 1932 he was stunned by the MGM characterization of his great creation.
That shock resulted in early 1933’s novel Tarzan And The Lion Man.
As influential as Horn was for the main frame of the story of Leopard Men ERB had all his usual themes and variations to employ which he lavishly did. This is a very dark story that I do not fully understand. The Trader Horn connection was the easy part. Now to the hard stuff.
Great Groupies Of The Sixties Series
Review by R.E. Prindle
Vanilla, Cherry: Lick Me, 2010, Chicago Review Press
Since writing Part 2 an interesting development has occurred. In what might seem an unexpected twist, according to the Cherry Vanilla website it has been decided to make a TV series of her autobiography. Given the life she has lived it is hard to believe the series wouldn’t be a salacious affair. Her biography is mainly a list of her sexual and drug escapades some of which are almost too much for the printed page. We will have to see.
Having brought her story up to graduation Kathie’s post high school life can be divided into three segments with an aftermath. The first period from 1960-66 might be described as exploratory, the second commencing from her introduction to Dr. Bishop in 1966 to 1971 might be described as a period of wild abandonment when she decided to become a relatively aged groupie, the last period can be divided into the Warhol period when she starred in his stage play, Pork, and her time with Bowie before attempting to become a Punk star. With the collapse of her hopes when her Punk escapade failed and all her hopes were disappointed she was plunged into a period of despair and depression as her personality disintegrated leaving her life a wreck of her hopes. She was finally saved when a hand was extended to her by the musician Ianni.
Whatever financial gain she receives from the projected TV series with a little luck now that she is sixty-eight might give her some financial stability for the rest of her life unless she blows that ruining what is probably her last chance.
There are many who believe the individual is completely responsible for his choices in life but I’m a firm believer that you have to play the cards you’re dealt. Even if the choices are yours they are limited by the possible. It’s possible to squander a good hand but very difficult to parley a bum deal into a pot winner.
Kathie’s childhood had its difficulties, its highs and lows but the significant incident of aborting her dog Lady’s pups seems to have formed the psychological basis for Kathie’s choices in life.
On the one hand she had a dismal home life with a boorish uncultured father but on the other she was introduced to cultural society by being introduced into the household of the actor Don Ameche through a friend. She spent weekends living a childhood high life in Amerche’s hotel suite as a friend of his daughter where none of the pleasures of room service and other amenities were denied them. She was allowed, as it were, to participate in the pleasures of Fifth Avenue society in ways that positively affected her future expectations while giving her a background that allowed her to fit in. The contrast between the two modes of life would greatly influence her outlook and early success. She did have a promising start in life that she threw away.
The most influential incident in her life was when her father discovered that her Dalmatian, Lady, had been mounted by some black mongrel. Rather than accept the situation, for some seemingly irrational reason, her father decided to destroy any chance of fertilization by scouring the dogs womb with boiling water.
The shrieks and howling of the poor dog penetrated deep into the subconscious of the young girl giving her her central childhood fixation. Shortly thereafter she developed an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder that plagued her throughout her autobiography; what she called her OCD. While she doesn’t describe the wounds she inflicted on herself by tearing at her skin she apparently tore her flesh to the point of leaving scars.
Thus the Aces and Kings were removed from her hand severely limiting her decisions while compelling her to go in directions better avoided. The tragedy is that she chose the road of drugs and sex rather than some serious self-analysis. Like most central childhood fixations the memory of the event is strong but the reaction to the event is obscured and hidden while too difficult to face without some direction. Having suffered a similar childhood fixation myself, which I was able to solve by self-analysis, my sympathies are with Kathie.
The worst of it for Kathie was her excessive use of drugs. Drugs tend to destroy the conscious resistance to the fixation eliminating the barrier to the full expression of sub-conscious compulsions giving the unconscious full unobstructed expression. At the height of her sexual activity as Kathie notes her OCD disappeared being replaced by the repressed sexual equivalent. Old OCDs for new. That was the hand she was dealt.
Growing up in a poor area of Queens might have been an impediment to success except for her friendship with the Ameches and also with a sort of introduction to show business because her mother worked above the Copacabana nightclub which led to Kathie’s seeing many of the big stars and meeting several of them, most notably her favorite, Dean Martin.
After graduating from high school Kathie was first attracted to the Madison Avenue advertising world. He landed a job with the Sullivan, Stauffer, Colwell & Bayles advertising agency. She landed a plum of a job straight out of the box. She assumed a role not too different from the portrayal of Peggy Olson in the Mad Men AMC TV series.
Seeking other opportunities she quit that job to join the firm of Kastor,Hilton, Chesley, Clifford & Atherton in a similar capacity. There she was introduced to the homosexual world as her associates there were all or mostly gay. As a young woman she could not have been aware of the rapidly developing influence of homosexuality on life in New York City. The Stonewall Riot was a short eight years away after which for all practical purposes homosexuals took over the cultural life the city.
For decades New York City had been the destination of homosexuals from the South and Mid West who flocked to New York as a haven. Over the decades the homo population grew. As the sixties began critical mass for their conquest of the Big Apple was reached. Kathie fell into the group through her advertising connections.
The obvious became undeniable in 1966 when Time Magazine published an article lamenting the degree to which homosexuality had infiltrated the infra-structure of NYC. It has to be obvious to the blind, deaf and dumb before the media notices anything. Kathie relates this influence in a sort of perplexed tone. Perhaps Queens in the fifties was relatively straight or closeted so that Manhattan was a revelation to her.
The homosexual migration to NYC might even be considered in the light of the Great Internal Migration of the Negroes from South to North and West. During the Great Coming Out from 1960 to Stonewall in 1969 homosexuals became increasingly open while increasingly setting the sexual and social mores of the city. Kathie first began here working career in advertising on Madison Avenue. She appears to have become enamored of what she calls Mad Men, perhaps after the TV show or perhaps the TV show aped reality, at least to that extent. Don’t know.
Kathie’s second agency job turned out to be a nest of homos. Thus per the Time article homos were not only becoming paramount in NYC but began, or perhaps continued, to shape continent wide mores always tending to stretch sexual limits.
Of course as Kathie was already stretching heterosexual mores to the limit this presented no problem to her. Just as she indulged her drug usage with few limits so she indulged her sexual activities with no limits being open as she proudly acclaims to anything.
She was first taken to Fire Island by Mad Men at the hetero resort. Her curiosity drove her to the homo enclaves of the Pines and Cherry Grove which became a fascination to her. According to her LSD had not yet reached the Pines, so ever a pioneer, Kathie made the trek to the Pines with her purse laden with tabs. As no cars were allowed on the island Kathie had to walk down the beach. She says she changed the direction of the gay crowd.
Whacked out on whatever there was no barrier to her unconscious desires so Kathie was able to do things without qualms while she associated the impregnation and aborting of her dog as a reason for her uninhibited exhibitionism. She was however compulsive in avoided impregnation herself. Although the pill was around she preferred to use an IUD. Kathie was ready to copulate in public at the drop of a hat. Thus in this 1960-66 period at a big bash at the Pines the homos had hired a hetero bartender by mistake. A little eye contact between he and Kathie was enough to incite them. They jumped up on the counter and went at it.
As Kathie says if it had been two homos nothing would have been said but hetero sex was too much for the Guys who expressed their displeasure. Strange attitude in a bunch that would make fisting a form of public entertainment a few years hence.
It may prove interesting to see what they make of the TV series as Kathie’s whole book is a record of her really extraordinary sexual and drug escapades. While she was still working on Madison Avenue she began moonlighting as a disc jockey at the club Aux Puces. The night club scene was still tightly controlled in NYC at this period. The most that the Guys at Stonewall were doing as late as ‘69 was dancing together. The wide open S&M and fisting surfaced after Stonewall which resulted at the end of the seventies in the public hetero and homo sex at first Studio 54 and subsequently throughout Bohemia. Kathie once again was a pioneer which is what perhaps the TV series will concentrate on.
In 1966 Kathie was introduced to the Feelgood Dr. Bishop (this may be his real name) who she patronized until 1970 when she was persuaded to stop. Dr. Bishop brought in a whole new level of drug taking further erasing the line between the conscious and subconscious- in other words, Kathie was now in full dream mode. In the Freudian sense Kathie had accessed her unconscious with little or no censorship from the conscious mind. She was free to indulge her libido with no sense of shame or guilt as we shall see when she becomes a groupie.
While drugs made her oblivious to the reactions of others by 1966 if not before she had created a reputation of sexual abandonment that made her repellant to many men and this may have influenced her decision to become a groupie. She slowly moved downtown from Madison Ave. into the lower reaches of the Bohemian East Side. She was no longer employable on Madison Avenue although they still threw her a bone occasionally.
She was still working at Aux Puces as a disc jockey but as the decade progressed and the homos became more and more obvious and open the hetero clientele of Aux Puces was driven away leaving the club 100% gay. This was too much for Kathie who had become progressively disenchanted of the homo scene, perhaps still brooding over her chastisement for performing hetero sex at the Pines, so she quit Aux Puces and decided that perhaps Groupieism was for her, especially as she was drawn to the musicians by her experience as a DJ.
Nineteen sixty-nine then marked a sea change in culture for herself post-Stonewall as well as for society at large. I don’t know how many of us were aware of Stonewall at the time and if we had been I’m sure we couldn’t have projected the societal changes of the next ten years. I don’t think anyone had even thought of disco in ‘69. I was in the record business on the West Coast at the time. I began a record store in a medium sized college town in ‘67 while my store was just taking off at the end of ‘69. While I was into pop culture- records and posters- I was still in a definite minority, almost of one. What the general population knew of pop culture was not good. Not that many at the university were aware of the sea change while none of the faculty was nor did they approve of it. Even posters were a relatively new phenomenon while the forms they were taking were well beyond the imaginations of most of us including myself. Warhol may have been old hat in NYC but the soup cans were still news out West.
New York was alien to those of us on the West Coast. We despised and reviled it. From San Francisco to the Canadian border along I5 the SF scene was what was happening. LA and SoCal was different. We were familiar with Warhol and when the Warhol tour of ‘67 appeared at the university as its last stop it was able to fill the university auditorium., perhaps a thousand people. That it was a faux Andy didn’t seem to bother the students so much. It was pretty clear that Midgette was an imposter. The administration felt defrauded however and demanded their money back. Rather our money although no attempt was made to refund our tickets.
The image of Warhol was a bit hazy. We’d read about him, heard of the superstars not knowing what to make of them but rushing events eclipsed their importance. I don’t think I even knew that Warhol was shot in ‘68. Perhaps his shooting was eclipsed by Robert Kennedy’s.
At the time Kathie decided to be a groupie the scene was already in decline. Altamont definitely ended the sixties. In 1970-71 the record business even became precarious supported during the entire summer of ‘71 by two releases: Carole King’s Tapestry and Cat Stevens’ Tea For The Tillerman. There were many days when those two records were virtually all that I sold. Then the Columbia Big Brother started to break the logjam; Janis Joplin somehow broke through to the middle class while the bands from ‘66 to ‘68 put out greatest hits packages and these and Led Zeppelin carried the industry through to ‘74. Then it was a disco run as homoseuxals took over the industry to the industry collapse of ‘79.
In 1969 then when Kathie decided to be a groupie, as I see it, she was running from a bad reputation into one that became much worse. Whatever talk there may have been about her could not have been good. Most of the groupies were very young girls; any rocker could have been picked up on a morals charge any day. That the federales didn’t do it is a wonder. Why worry about drugs which were difficult to prove when you got ‘em in a headlock over a thirteen year old girl. When Kathie decided to compete with the young stuff she was already a twenty-seven year old woman with sexual experience that few attain. I mean, when you reach a certain age you’re just not that cute anymore, you’ve crossed the line. Perhaps there was an aura of desperation about her.
She did manage to latch onto Burton Cummings of Guess Who in a very humiliating encounter. God, I don’t know how she survived it. In the first place Burton Cummings! I don’t mean to put Cummings down personally, who I am sure is a very fine person, but out on the consuming end of the industry Cummings and the Guess Who (Guess Who- what a super dumb name when there was already a group named The Who, also pretty dumb, had a semi stupid hit in American Woman and never could put together a first rate album) even then the rhythm section under the name of Bachman-Turner Overdrive put out a bigger LP than Guess Who ever could. The Guess Who were definitely third rate material. I used to groan every time Guess Who released another LP, them and Harry Nilsson- The Point!
The first time around was enough for Burton and then on her second attempt Burton deleted Kathie in New Jersey after all public transportation had closed down for the night leaving her without a dime in her pocket and no way back to NYC. A pretty desperate situation.
Indeed, desperate she ran back to the venue to beg the boys in the band to let her on the bus. They took her along on the loop through Philly and back to NYC. This is painful to relate and frankly I don’t know how Kathie could tell it but she gave blow jobs to all the boys in the band, minus Cummings, and then a their insistence blew the bus driver. The band dropped her off in the worst part of the Bronx, this is 1970, where she somehow cadged subway fare, found an entrance and got safely back to the Village.
I don’t know how she could psychologically survive that except that the drugs placed her mind safely outside reality. I can’t even guess how this is going to be told in the TV series.
Kathie had many other groupie adventures that I am only going to sum up in a poem she wrote commemorating her groupie adventures. I hope she won’t mind my quoting it in full. P. 95:
A GROUPIE’S LAMENT
Diamonds twinkle beneath my feet
On the Labor Day weekend street
Sunlight shines warm through my hair
You’d think there was no pollution there
Pimples sprout on my sleepless face
Varicose veins show the endless pace
My white dress dirty as I walk it home
But my head is up, so I’ll write a poem
I’m feeling beauty in my ghetto land
‘Cause I got it on with a rock and roll band
The trip was a long one; the bus was crazed
The guys and I were mostly dazed
We sang a few tunes from old rock and roll
And we hid the dope when we paid the toll
Burton ignored me, the silly fool
But the rest of the guys thought I was cool
From Asbury Park to Virginia Beach
I gave head like daybed philosophies teach
I feel good and I should and I even got a tan
On my two-day tour with a rock and roll band
You see I missed the last bus from the Jersey shore
And a taxi driver said that there were no more
So I went back to Convention Hall
And I got on their bus and I had a ball
The motels were sterile and the food was all plastic
But at their last set on Sunday I got freaked-out spastic
I know they all love me, ‘cause they told me so
As for Burton, well, I just don’t know
I’m the happiest broken heart, can you understand
‘Cause now I’m the friend of a rock and roll band
At that point Kathie’s life was going nowhere. Then Andy Warhol had Brigid Berlin’s taped phone conversations with her mother turned into a play he named Pork, tapped Kathie as Cherry Vanilla for the lead role of Brigid.
Part 4 follows.