A Review: Part I,Tarzan And The Leopard Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs

October 25, 2011

A Review

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

Themes And Variations

#16 TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD MEN

by

R.E. Prindle

Introduction

Edgar Rice Burroughs.

    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.

Trader Horn

    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.

The African Chief

     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.

2.

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.

Filming Trader Horn

3.

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.

The White Goddess And Her Subjects

   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.

Timber Raft On Ogowe River

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.

Map Of Gabon And Ogowe River

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s