August 19, 2009
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#5: Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar
On The Road To Opar
I have put off reviewing this Tarzan several times. I like it but I find it difficult. This may have been the first Tarzan book I read, probably in 1950. While I have always liked Tarzan And The Ant Men and Tarzan The Terrible Opar was always my favorite.
Of course in 1950 one’s choice was limited to eight or ten, not including the first, so I read the later novels only recently. Tarzan And The Lion Man is my current favorite. Opar was written in 1915 about a year after the commencement of The Great War, the occupation of Haiti and war scares with Mexico. This was also after ERB’s first spurt that ran from 1911-1914. The latter year emptied the pent up reservoir containing the residue of his early reading and experiences. That period may be described as ERB’s ‘amateur period.’ The latter part of 1914 began what may be described as his professional life as a writer. The spontaneous automatic period was over; he had to think out his stories. That meant he had to do some new reading. Opar coincided with his completion of reading Gibbon’s Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire. What effect that may have had on Opar I’m not sure.
At the foundation of ERB’s approach to his stories are the three titles of Twain’s Prince And The Pauper, Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy and Wister’s The Virginian. After 1914 he would refer to Jack London and write a series based on the style of Booth Tarkington. While he continued to produce during the twenties, the period was also one of intense reading that produced the magnificent stories of the early thirties. That need not concern us here.
While his favorite three books were the rock on which he built his church, the Oz stories of Baum contribute to the superstructure as they do so prominently in Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar. The second chapter is even titled: On The Road To Opar. ERB only left out the yellow brick and changed the Emerald City to Opar. It is clearly indicated that Opar is based on the Emerald City.
Rather than being emerald Opar is red and gold. La, the high priestess of Opar can be considered a combination of Baum’s Ozma and Rider Haggard’s She.
The Baum connection is strengthened by the fact that, as I believe but can only conjecture at this point, Burroughs visited Baum at his Hollywood home during ERB’s residence in Southern California in 1913. One guesses but it is probable that ERB got some pointers from Baum on how to keep the Tarzan series going as Baum was producing volume after volume of Oz stories. In point of fact Baum had run out of ideas in 1910 attempting to close off the series. He was compelled to restart the series in 1913 at the insistence of his fans.
Burroughs had effectively closed the Tarzan series with The Son Of Tarzan. Son is a favorite of a lot of people but for me it’s pretty much a rehash of the first three stories; I call the four The Russian Quartet after the villains of the series. Tarzan was already old in Beasts Of Tarzan but by Son he had to come out of retirement. There was no future then, so the Big Bwana had to be reborn. The old Tarzan ended with Son; the new Tarzan began with Jewels Of Opar. A fine new beginning it was.
The Ballantine edition of 1963 prefaces the story with a quote titled: ‘In Quest Of A Lost Identity’, that might easily be changed to ‘A Search For A New Identity’, for in fact, Burroughs old identity had been lost when he gained success and riches. ERB wanted to go forward not back:
Tarzan staggered to his feet and groped his way about among the underground ways of Opar. What was he? Where was he? His head ached, but otherwise he felt no ill effects from the blow that had felled him. He did not recall the accident, nor aught of what had led up to it.
At last he found the doorway leading inward beneath the city and temple. Nothing spurred his hurt memory to a recollection of past familiarity with his surroundings. He blundered on through the darkness as though he were traversing an open plain under a noonday sun.
Suddenly he reached the brink of a well, stepped outward into space, lunged forward, and shot downward into the inky depths below. Still clutching his spear, he struck the water and sank beneath its surface…
Tarzan loses his memory at great stress points in Burroughs’ life. They take place at Opar in underground caverns surr9unded by a wealth of gold. One might think then that they are related to Burroughs’ financial success and through La to his sex life.
One must bear in mind that ERB came into the beginnings of his success just as he was edging into the mid-life crisis. Given a reasonable amount of money in 1913 he reacted in a nouveau riche manner. Remembering back to 1899 and his private railcar trip to NYC and back he tried to relive it with Emma. His trip with Frank Martin troubled his memory. He recalled it 1914 when he took the job on the railroad in Salt Lake City. In 1913 he packed the family aboard with all his belongings and rode out to Los Angeles and San Diego. He may very well have rented a whole Pullman car for himself and family that would be equivalent to a private car but we don’t know for sure at this time. We only know that he was fixated on a private car and that he rode first class.
We can be sure that he was realizing all his dreams as fast as he could earn the money to pay for them or perhaps before he had the money.
He was moving through uncharted territory thus ‘he blundered on through the darkness as though he were traversing an open plain under a noonday sun.’
ERB has his eyes wide open but the unfamiliar demands being placed on him were equivalent to darkness: he couldn’t be sure whether he was making the right decisions. ‘What was he? Where was he.’ This is a dilemma of the newly successful. And then by late 1914, early 1915 he realized that he was in over his head.
Suddenly he reached the brink of a well, stepped outward into space, lunged forward, and shot downward into the inky depths below. Still clutching his spear, he struck the water and sank beneath the surface…
What? Of course. McClurg’s released the first Tarzan as a book in 1914 treating the release in what seems a peculiar way. The contract had been signed, apparently perpetual and unbreakable, ERB, Inc. only bought it out in the fifties, so he must have realized that he had been had. He committed the same error in 1931 when he signed his contract with MGM so he didn’t learn much over the years.
His contract would certainly have been a contributing factor but there may have been other sources that put him in over his head. It is significant that Tarzan didn’t drop his spear; he was still capable fo defending himself.
Now, one would have to believe that Burroughs was at least famous in Chicago. By 1917-18 Tarzan was a household word recognized it seems by everyone. It would be odd indeed if sexual temptations weren’t placed before him. Literary groupies surrounded authors then as groupies did musicians in the ’60s.
La herself is a repressed sexual image while the novel abounds in sexual images. Perhaps signficantly when the rutting elephants charge the priests of Opar Tarzan takes refuge in a tree high above the ruckus. Even then the rutting elephants try to uproot his tree to bring the Big Bwana to earth but do not succeed. One may infer that while temptation was strong ERB remained faithful to Emma.
However by 1918’s Tarzan The Untamed, note the title, Jane is killed while Tarzan’s eye immediately wanders forming a near dalliance with another woman. It was also at this period that ERB walked out on Emma. As told in Tarzan The Terrible, note the title, and Tarzan And The Golden Lion Tarzan and Emma were separated through those two novels and Tarzan The Untamed.
So, Jewels of Opar may be describing the dark side of success when the master tempter attacks you at your most vulnerable plus Burroughs was in full blown mid-life crisis by 1914-15.
The forces of change were shaking him like a terrier shaking a rat. His situation was terrible and wonderful at the same time. So, with Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar he launched himself on his career as a professional writer.
The novels of Burroughs previous to Opar had flowed from his experience and early reading. The reading had provided the framework that ERB fleshed out with his interests, ideas and experience in essentially an allegorical form. David Adams quite justly points out that Burroughs relies quite heavily on a fairy tale format although it took me a long time to recognize it. ERB’s wonderlands are lands of enchantment as much as that of Mallory’s and Pyles Arthurian England. That is certainly clear in this book.
Now Burroughs has to actually invent and construct a story from scratch. Once again he relies on his reading. The first chapter titled The Belgian And The Arab encapsulates his reading and perhaps watercooler discussions of the Belgian administration of the Congo with the depredations of the Arab slaver Tippu Tib as gleaned from Stanley’s two tremendous adventures, Through The Dark Continent and In Darkest Africa.
In the first Stanley encountered Tib on the upper Congo, Lualaba he calls it, when Tib was just beginning to extract the Congo tribes for slaves. A few years later Stanley encountered Tib on his way across the Congo from the West to East. By that time Tib was halfway across the Congo basin toward the West depopulating it on his way. In this story Achmet Zek is based on Tippu Tib while Albert Werper, the Belgian, meets him well into the Congo moving up river as in Stanley’s In Darkest Africa.
Werper, as a Belgian, epitomizes King Leopold of Belgium’s administration of the Congo. For a few decades the entire Congo Free State as it was then known was his personal possession Tippu Tib or no. As such he had to make it pay and make it pay he did. Rubber was the engine of that prosperity. As the tree was not yet cultivated as Firestone would in Malaya, the Africans were required to collect balls of rubber from the wild. Not naturally inclined to collect rubber some harsh disciplinary measures were required to give them incentive. One method if they failed to bring in their quota was to cut off their right hand. Seemingly counter-productive it was nevertheless effective although there were a lot of Africans walking around with only a left hand. In Leopold’s defense the method was suggested by Africans themselves.
Leopold made money but incurred the hatred of Africans while giving himself an atrocious reputation in Europe and America. The Belgians removed the Free State from his administration after which it became known as the Belgian Congo. Thus Burroughs unites two men of evil reputation in the Belgian Albert Werper and the Arab Achmet Zek. They naturally conspire evil.
ERB also leans on Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness for his opening episode. Heart Of Darkness was Conrad’s most famous work and it may be said his reputation has been founded on it. A sensation when published it is or was still widely read today.
The opening scene takes place at the Stanley Pool where the Congo begins its descent from the plateau. Perhaps the post was the nascent Stanleyville. Werper commits his crime then flees into the jungle where he is captured by the Arab Achmet Zek/Tippu Tib.
The Belgian and the Arab are two of a kind forming a natural partnership with Zek being the senior partner. Zek may have been able to carry on his depredations without hindrance except for the Great White Lord of the jungle, Tarzan. Thus Burroughs rectifies the situation in his imagination. Prior to Werper Zek had no way to reach the Big Bwana but with the European Werper he has an entree.
Jane, of course, will be captured to be taken to the North to Algiers or Tunis to be sold into a Moslem harem. That would have been a nifty trick from the Congo to the Mediterranean. The walk alone might have taken a year or more.
So, as the chapter ends the plan is to kill Tarzan giving Zek a free hand and capture Jane.
Chapter two ‘On The Road To Opar’ introduces what will be a recurrent theme in Tarzan’s life- insolvency. In this case the Big Fella has made a bad investment, not unlike Burroughs’ habit, and been wiped out. Being now impoverished he has to recruit a new fortune by taking several hundred pounds of gold from the vaults of Opar.
Tarzan justifies himself:
…the chances are that they inhabitants of Opar will never know that I have been there again and despoiled them of another portion of the treasure, the very existence of which they are as ignorant of as they would be of its value.
Thus, the Zen question, are you stealing from someone if you take what they don’t know they have or its value somewhere else? I would be interested in ERBs justification of what seems to be a felony. After all Tarzan isn’t going to show up with a brassband and waving banners; he’s going to sneak in and out hopefully unnoticed. It’s too late to ask now.
The raid on Opar may have reflected ERB’s financial condition after 1913-14’s stay in San Diego. He had to write another Tarzan novel to recoup his finances.
As Tarzan is about to leave, Zek and Werper have concocted their plan. Werper is to gain admittance to the household under guise of being a lost great white hunter and prepare the way for Zek. Werper posing as the Frenchman Frecoult overhears Tarzan and Jane discussing Opar quickly realizing there is more at stake here than killing Tarzan and selling a White woman into a Sheik’s harem in the North.
He warns Zek while following Tarzan on the road to Opar.
Chapter 3 is titled The Call Of The Jungle. As On The Road To Opar reflects Baum’s Oz stories so the Call Of The Jungle resonates rather well with Jack London’s Call Of The Wild. the jungle that Tarzan inhabits is a wonderful place, no bugs, no mosquitoes. In Africa the land of fevers that would still be unknown if Europeans had not invaded the continent Tarzan never has one. We know that ERB read Stanley. That explorer speaks of no romance of the jungle. For him it was a dark dank horrible place he couldn’t get out of fast enough. He not only suffered terrible fevers but so did everyone else. Yet in Burroughs’ imagination the jungle becomes a paradise.
Perhaps that might reflect thte lost paradise of America conquered by industrialism and cities. Perhaps in its way it represents the White City of the Columbian Exposition as opposed to the Black City of industrial Chicago. Idaho vs. Chicago; something of that order.
Now hungry Tarzan kills a deer with his favored bare hands method plunging Dad’s knife deep into its heart. Dad’s knife and plunging it into the heart of its victim. There’s an image. ERB had a terrible relationship with his father. Perhaps he visualized the relationship as his father killing him with heartaches. Haven’t actually worked out the meaning yet. Interrupted by a lion he retreats to a tree with a haunch between his strong white teeth. Another sexual image. Now, here we have another psychological problem. Tarzan is a very unforgiving guy, petty even. Having been disturbed in his dinner which surely must have been a frequent occurrence in the jungle, he is not going to let the lion eat his kill in peace. Up in his convenient tree he finds another tree nearby bearing hard fruit. Not the soft mushy kind but hard. He bombards the lion until it leaves the kill.
The lion slinks off after his own game, a lone African witch doctor. Tarzan doesn’t care if the lion kills the African but just as his dinner was disrupted he wants to punish the lion by depriving him of his. So just as the lion mauls the African Tarzan jumps on the lion’s back and kills him merely for interrupting the Big Guy’s dinner. You know, that’s capital punishment for a very minor offence. This is a little excessive to my mind.
What does it say about ERB’s own state of mind? Was he also unforgiving and draconian in his revenges? ERB himself mostly stood in his relationships as the African to the lion. There is a certain irony in the symbol of MGM being Leo The Lion. In his last major confrontation with MGM, Leo mauled ERB pretty badly. There was no room left for revenge in that struggle.
The mauled witch doctor had appeared in Tarzan Of The Apes. He recognized Tarzan but was unrecognized by the latter.
In his youth he would slain the witch-doctor without the slightest compuncition, but civilization had had its softening effect on him even as it does upon the natives and races which it touches though it had not gone far enough with Tarzan to render him either cowardly or effeminate.
From this we may infer that ERB believed Europeans and Americans to have become effeminate and cowardly. Perhaps so.
The witch doctor reminds him of Mbonga’s village of the old days when they made Tarzan the god Munango-Keewati and now he makes a prophecy:
…I shall reward you. I am a great witch-doctor. Listen to me, white man! I see bad days ahead of you…A god greater than you wil rise up and strike you down. Turn back, Munango-Keewati! Turn back before it is too late. Danger lurks ahead of you and danger lurks behind; but greater is the danger before. I see…
And then characteristically he croaks. Werper was behind and Opar ahead. But what was danger to the Big Bwana; danger was his life. Of course ERB could have been talking about himself as well. Certainly by this time ERB must have realized that success and fame was going to be no bed of roses. He needed more money to continue his new life style. Could he get it now that his first spurt was finished. He had been warned by his editor Metcalf that most pulp writers had success for a couple years but then exhausted their sources. He must have feared that he was already there.
A new period of anxiety loomed before him, probably debt behind. As Tarzan is about to lose his memory, stress may have been addling ERB’s brain. Nevertheless impelled by necessity- onward.
Part II in another post.
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
Apparently at this time in his life ERB’s mind was focused on hypnotism. The raison d’ etre of the novel seems to be his explanation of hypnotism and some of its effects. He certainly makes a fascinating story of the phenomenon. In fact the whole story concerns hypnotism with a few embellishments to get Carthoris and Thuvia to Lothar and once he’d exhausted the possibilities of his hypnotic theme he ended the story and even then he ends on a wild hypnotic note.
Thuvia was his fourth Mars novel and his first without John Carter. The hero is Carthoris the son of John Carter and Dejah Thoris. ERB’s father, George T. had died about a year previous to the writing. This novel was written shortly after The Lad And The Lion. As it includes a scene of psychological rebirth it may be a declaration of independence from his father, severing the relationship more denfinitely than did Lad.
On entering the land of the Lotharians Carthoris passes through a cave quite similar to the birth canal. There are Banths, Martian lions, before and one huge one behind him. Those before seem to vanish while the one large Banth remained behind him; that would be the memory of his father and the past. Carthoris placed himself in a posture of defense in the dark but the charging Banth passed to his side missing him much as a ghost from the past might do. Thus ERB seems to dispense with the Old Looney aboard ship in The Lad And The Lion who did represent ERB’s dad.
Thuvia had been kidnapped by a disappointed suitor who had her taken to Aanthor, one of the innumerable dead cities lining the shores of the vanished seas. There she was captured by the Green Men who fled through the cave to Lothar. There Carthoris and Thuvia are delivered to the scene of the action by ERB.
Carthoris then finds Thuvia in the possession of the Green Men who are waging a gigantic battle against the Phantom Bowmen of Lothar, themselves aided by large prides of both phantom and real Banths.
Piles of Green Men killed by little arrows lie about amongst legions of Bowmen who have been cut down, and still they stream through the city gates. Carthoris who has gotten to the side of Thuvia and she marvel at the carnage. They turn to watch the defeated Green Men flee. When they look back they are astonished to see that the dead Bowmen have all disappeared while the dead Green Men no longer have phantom arrows sticking in them. The pair are at a loss for an explanation. The Banths however were real and were now gorging themselves on the remains of the Greenies.
As a nice touch ERB has Thuvia essentially hypnotize the Banths. Rather than fear them as Carthoris does she merely makes a low melodic warbling sound that so charms the Banths that they come fawning before her.
This may seem improbable or even impossible and yet I have seen it done but with house cats. What can be done with one size cat I’m sure can be done with all sizes. The effect was quite astonishing with the woman I saw do it but the result was exactly as ERB describes it. Apparently he’d seen it done too. ERB thus establishes the ability of Thuvia that will be even more important soon.
Thus they gain access to the city of Lothar by passing through the Banths with safety. As a nice touch ERB gives Lothar an exotic round gate that rolls back into a slot. Perhaps he had seen a house with such a door somewhere. Once inside they meet the Lotharian Jav who begins to unfold the story while unfolding the hypnotic power of the mind.
If ERB had read H. Rider Haggard’s Cleopatra that deals quite extensively with hypnotism in a scenario somewhat similar to this one Haggard may have been another source for Thuvia. Quite possibly ERB had ingested and digested his earlier reading so that he wasn’t aware of how close he was to the originals. After all, anyone who could learn of Numa, the Roman King, from his Jr. High studies and think he had invented the name Numa for the king of beasts twenty years later, which he says is what happened, probably could think he was inventing his details himself.
Many strange phenomena appear to the pair on their way to the palace of the despot who was named Tario. They see marching files of Bowmen who appear and disappear. But the Bowmen are not real they are a projection of the mind of Tario who has hypnotized the pair into seeing what isn’t there.
While it is clear that ERB is quite familiar with Homer’s Odyssey it isn’t quite so clear what he knows of Homer’s Iliad or Greek mythology in general. One hesitates to give him too much knowledge and yet elements from the Iliad and Greek mythology seem to materialize before one’s eyes like the Phantom Bowmen of Lothar.
One can’t know whether ERB read the Iliad more than once and whether that once was in the seventh or eighth grade. How much he understood of an early reading like that would be questionable. I first read the Iliad in the seventh grade but got nothing but impressions of the action from it. The gods, goddesses and humans were very confusing. Lot of boy and girl stuff that was well beyond my experience. I have read the book seven times in various translations since. It was only in the fifth, sixth and seventh readings that I began to develop what I would consider any real understanding of Homer’s message.
One of the things I understand is that the Iliad is a story about the power of mind and its limitations. Zeus, of course had the mind of ultimate power that gave him the advantage over mortals and the other gods. Tario in Thuvia has the most powerful mind in Lothar which keeps him in authority over the few permanent emanations in Lothar. But, these are all figments of his or someone’s imagination.
It seems that long generations before the women had all died out leaving only the men who over a period of time would also have died out but they survived by being able to imagine themselves. Here we have a possible reference to Poe’s The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar. In that story Valdemar was a dying man who was first hypnotized and then expired. Being under hypnosis while alive he could not actually die as he was hypnotized alive. This is somewhat the condition of the Lotharians.
Taking hypnosis a step further ERB posits that there are phantom ‘realists’ who believe they can wish themselves into a permanent corporeal existence of which Jav is one. Opposed to them are the phantom ‘etherealists’ represented by Tario who believe they must remain imaginary.
Getting back to Greek mythology in which we do know that ERB was read the ‘realists’ believe that they have to eat so they conjure up ‘ephemeral fruits’ on which to gorge themselves.
Ephemeral fruits make their appearance in the myth of Typhon and Zeus. So there is a possibility that Jav and Tario is a version of that myth. Hera in her squabbles for supremacy with Zeus conjures up the monster Typhon to take on Zeus. Typhon makes mincemeat of Zeus removing his sinews and bones and placing them in a leather bag in a cave in Caria. Sad plight for the Big Fella with the all powerful mind and no sinews. Worse yet, as a god he is immortal so there he and his all powerful mind are in his sack perhaps for all eternity.
While Apollo and Hermes come to the Big Guy’s aid by putting the dry bones back together and reattaching the sinews the nymphs feed Typhon ‘ephemeral fruit’ that looks like the real thing but lacks nourishment. Thus when Zeus is reassembled and ready for action he faces an enfeebled Typhon who this time he easily defeats. Great story when you think about it. So there you have two stories reflected that ERB may or may not have read but having read them probably didn’t consciously remember them as he was writing. I can’t guarantee ERB read those stories but I can state with assurance that ERB just didn’t make this stuff up. He never does; it all has been suggested from someplace. It is not impossible that he heard similar stuff from Baum and the Theosophists in California. ERB does have a retentive memory that provides him with a lot of material.
Thuvia and its successor Martian novel- The Chessmen Of Mars- are an examination of mind and matter. The later Mastermind of Mars and the Synthetic Men Of Mars are examinations of the application of mind to matter. In the Chessmen the mind and body were separate entities. It will be remembered that the Kaldanes were also skilled hypnotists.
Here ERB is interested in a projected reality, in itself a form on insanity in an unbalanced mind. PP 66-67, Ace paperback:
Jav speaking: “(The Banths) that remained about the field were real. Those we loosed as scavengers to devour the bodies of the dead Torquasians. This thing is demanded by the realists among us. I am a realist. Tario is an etherealist.
“The etherealists maintain there is no such thing as matter- that all is mind. They say that none of us exists, except in the imagination of his fellows, other than as an intangible, invisible mentality.
“According to Tario, it is but necessary that we all unite in imagining that there are no dead Torquasians beneath our walls, and there will be none, nor any need for the fierce scavenging banths.”
‘You, then do not hold to Tario’s beliefs?” asked Carthoris.
“In part only,” replied the Lotharian. “I believe, in fact I know, that there are some truly ethereal creatures. Tario is one, I am convinced. He has no existence except in the imaginations of his people.
“Of course, it is the contention of all us realists that all etherealists are but figments of the imagination. They contend that no food is necessary nor do they eat, but anyone of the most rudimentary intelligence must realize that food is a necessity to creatures having actual existence.”
“Yes,” agreed Carthoris, “not having eaten today I can readily agree with you.”
“Ah, pardon me,” exclaimed Jav. “Pray be seated and satisfy your hunger,” and with a wave of his hand he indicated a beautifully laden table that had not been there an instant before he spoke….”It is well,” continued Jav, “that you did not fall into the hands of an etherealist, then indeed, you would have gone hungry.”
An interesting passage laden with humor and a joke or two. On the one hand this is a takeoff on Bishop Berkeley and those who believe that nothing is real but only a figment of our imaginations. They do believe that when you close your eyes the world ceases to exist. I could never follow the argument, and on the other hand the ideas can be construed as a variation on the Theosophical belief that the gods were first ethereal becoming more materialistic as existence descended to man who is most material. Thus Tario is visible air, as it were, as an ethereality while Jav is condensed into, as he believes, permanent air/matter while Carthoris and Thuria are solid matter as humans.
The food Jav produces is ephemeral food. It looks real but having no real substance has no nourishment. As he smirkingly says: It is well that you did not fall into the hands of an etherealist. Then, indeed, you would have gone hungry.” A funny joke. But Jav has hypnotized the pair into seeing the food even though Carthoris is not so hypnotized as to not realize it is not real food. He eats it anyway.
Once in this land where nothing is real but the Banths, one wonders that we don’t have a situation that was replicated later in the movie The Manchurian Candidate. In that movie the hypnotized soldiers imagine they are at a ladies social and actually see American women where Korean people are.
Perhaps Carthoris and Thuvia are standing in an empty field talking to themselves. Perhaps the Lotharians exist only in their own imaginations but have conjured Carthoris and Thuvia out of thin air. Pretty spacy stuff.
As Carthoris is hypnotized he is easily persuaded to do things he wouldn’t ordinarily do such as letting Thuvia be led away alone to Tario. He does and Thuvia meets Tario alone mystyfied that Carthoris would let her out of his sight. Seeing Thuvia the etherealist’s phantom cojones are aroused and he makes an all out assault on Thuvia. As he doesn’t exist, of course, the assault can only have force in Thuvia’s imagination. Just as those little arrows the Torquasians believed were real killed them one wonders what effect a phantom penetration would have on Thuvia. Would she have a little phantom child after a phantom pregnancy?
We’ll never know because she pulls out her thin blade stabbing Tario to his phantom heart. He falls apparently dead seemingly oozing out his lifeblood. But, as we know he is an etherealist hence only a figure of someone’s imagination we know he must be feigning death with phantom blood.
Hearing Thuvia’s screams Carthoris races to the rescue followed by Jav. Jav, who should have known better, is overjoyed confessing his desire to replace Tario. It was almost like a plan. Tario leaps up explaining he always thought Jav did and now he is going to execute him.
Here ERB evades the issue taking a cheap but effective way out. These two guys are actually magicians and should be made to match powers in efforts to do the other in. ERB isn’t up to it so he has Jav cave just awaiting his fate that he could always evade with his hypnotic powers. Now, we’ve all been advised not to trust our senses so whether any of this happened is open to question. Nevertheless a hole opens in the floor, the floor dishes so that all falls into the memory hole. The three are ostensibly history.
They are precipitated into the chamber of the Lotharian god. One might expect this god to be pure essence but instead he is pure matter. As so often is the case a Burroughsian god turns out to be a lion or the Martian Banth. Why Jav should be concerned isn’t clear as he has no real substance and can’t be eaten while with his hypnotic powers he could make the Banth believe it was a mouse.
Carthoris draws his sword but this one’s a piece of cake for Thuvia. Using her own particular hypnotic talents she charms the Banthian god and all four walk out through the Banth’s quarters as chums.
At this point Jav calls into existence old Lothar for us all to see.
Outside the gates of Lothar Jav conceives a desire for Thuvia. Using considerable hypnotic talent he persuades Carthoris that he and Thuvia are heading for the woods. Carthoris walks off alone convinced he is leading Thuvia by the hand. He is soon disillusioned. Returning he finds the realist Jav really mauled by the Banth and dying. Thuvia and the Banth have headed back to Aanthor. Carthoris has no choice but to follow.
Now, what’s been going in addition to this hypnosis stuff is ERB’s ongoing attempt to reconcile his Anima and Animus. He has followed the usual Pyche and Eros storyline of Apuleius’ Golden Ass of Greek mythology. The Anima and Animus get together, circumstances separate them, then during the rest of the novel they try to get together amid difficulties, finally succeeding.
In Lad And The Lion ERB introduced the lion as his totem. Even though a male lion it is associated with his female Anima. At the risk of repeating myself, just in case anybody has been reading this stuff for the last four or five years the cause and evolution of his dilemma progress thusly:
In 1883 or 1884 ERB was terroized on a street corner by a young thug he identifies only as John. Possibly Emma was with him and kept walking abandoning him to his fate. Thus it was suggested to his subconscious that his Anima had abandoned him. John being the terrorist filled the vacancy. Thus ERB had the seemingly impossible anomaly of a male representing his female Anima.
We know this was the result because ERB writes incessantly about it. In the Outlaw of Torn the king’s fencing master, De Vac lures young Prince Norman/Burroughs outside the gate. Norman’s nurse Maud representing his Anima noticing too late rushes to the scene to be struck down dead by De Vac. Thus ERB’s Anima is murdered. How does ERB handle this? In his dream image ERB has De Vac take Norman to London where they live in the attic of a house over the Thames River. The house is a symbol for self, the attic being the mind. Water is a symbol of the female. The house extending out over the water but separated from it indicated the separation from the Anima. To compensate for the impossible situation of a male on the Anima, De Vac improbably dresses as a woman for the three years they live together in their attic. At the end of the novel Norman/Burroughs kills De Vac.
In the succeeding novel The Mucker he associates himself with the Irish thug Billy Byrne. Byrne being paired up with the socialite Barbara Harding is also an impossible match. It would seem probable that ERB’s father and John were two of the components clothing ERB’s Animus. Thus ERB has this very strong feeling about having a dual personality that he talks about constantly.
In Lad And The Lion we have the improbable situation of a powerless ship, representing the self, drifting up and down the Atlantic endlessly, manned by the deaf and dumb Old Looney, the Lad, and a Lion in a cage on deck. That the Old Looney who represents ERB’s father was deaf and dumb probably indicates he wouldn’t listen to ERB and had nothing to say that the Lad/ERB wanted to hear. So, the Lad was brutally abused the whole of his childhood. That’s how ERB saw the Bad Father. It would seem that John Carter represents the Good Father as ERB would have liked him to have been.
With De Vac and John dead the Lion begins to take his place as the male aspect of ERB’s Anima which has now been reoccupied by a female reprsentative. The male lion becomes a permanent aspect of the Anima in 1922s Tarzan And The Golden Lion as Jad-Bal-Ja. In Lad he and the Lion go ashore after the death of the Old Looney, or, in other words, his father, where the lion is loosely associated with the Arab princess Nakhla. Lad was written a short two months before Thuvia.
Now Thuvia wows Carthoris/ERB by charming the raging Banths/lions of the battlefield and the Lotharian God. Thuvia and the god become as one as she walks by his side her fingers twisted in his mane. So the traditional goddess of the male Anima is united with a male god to form ERB’s Anima. The female Anima who moved closer to reassuming her place in Lad now definitely becomes part of ERB’s psyche.
They pass through the tunnel before Carthoris. As ERB exits the tunnel he encounters his doppelganger Kar Komak. This is great stuff actually. Komak is literally a new man. He was the first successful materialization of an hypnotic imaginary man of the Lotharians. That’s likely enough, isn’t it?
He comes running through the scarlet furze, naked, to greet Carthoris. Well, picture that. Nakedness is something else appearing regularly in ERB”s works most notably in Tarzan And The City Of Gold. (See my review.)
The duo then continue on to Aanthor where as they arrive they are met by Torquasians who upset the plans of the men of Dusar who had come back to pick up Thuvia. We know that Carthoris for sure represents ERB because he takes a sword swipe to the forehead that lays him out. Thus the novel has the obligatory bash to the head recalling ERB’s adventure in Toronto.
When the sleeper wakes he finds the dead carcass of Thuvia’s lion lying half across his body. Probably his left half that derives from the ovum. Must have been uncomfortable to say the least. Thus the male half of his Anima is now dead and the female half in possession of the Dusarians. ERB gets her back and as in Psyche and Eros the Anima and Animus we may assume are permanently reunited.
Not quite but that will take us too far afield to discuss it this moment. I deal with the future development of the problem in my reviews of Out There Somewhere (The Return Of The Mucker), Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid (The Oakdale Affair) and Marcia Of The Doorstep.
A Part 3 will follow that attempts to deal with the bigotry charges against Burroughs. If there is such a thing as guilt concerning the issue, ERB is not guilty, of course.
March 14, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Review by R.E. Prindle
This very interesting sdtory was written shortly after ERB returned to Chicago from his first San Diego excursion. It was placed between the Girl From Fariss’s, the last story written in San Diego and The Cave Man.
The material deals almost exclusively with suggestion and hypnosis. Although hypnosis is a recurring theme in Burroughs one is startled by his concentration on the subject and his seemingly informed ideas of it, especially the role of suggestion.
One wonders why his interest surfaced at this time and where ERB learned or developed this information. He was just back from San Diego and I’m going to suggest he picked it up from his hero, L. Frank Baum. As Baum was such a significant influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs perhaps it may be worthwhile to attempt an assessment on Baum’s role in literature and history. There can be no question but that the OZ series of Baum took a central place in the American psyche and a place in the European psyche. Baum’s books have been in demand since 1900 when he began writing them to the present. Baum put Kansas on the map. The Wizard, Dorothy and Toto are household names. Baum’s play from the Wizard was a box office success while MGM’s movie is certainly in the top ten of influential movies, perhaps even in a tie for first with Gone With The Wind. Even American Negroes made their own Black version called The Wiz. The list goes on.
I’m going to suggest that Fritz Lang, the movie Director, was highly influenced by Baum as reflected in his important film, The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lang was also very familiar with Burroughs.
Baum himself was a committed Theosophist. Introduced to the religion by his mother-in-law Baum picked up his card in 1893. By 1913 when he met Burroughs he had been a practicing member for twenty years. When he left Chicago he first went to Coronado across the Bay from San Diego. Katherine Tingley had established her Theosophical organization on Point Loma near that city. Baum must have been an important member of that congregation. Perhaps he had a falling out with Tingley but he did remove himself to Hollywood in 1910. In Hollywood he undoubtedly connected with the Pasadena Theosophical Society that at present is the mother organization.
As a Theosophist Baum would have had to have been familiar with the works of Madame Helena Blavatsky. Her great works are Isis Unveiled and The Secrect Doctrine. Theosophy of course is on a par with the Semitic religions of Judaism and Christianity. While Madame B is often referred to as nonsense she is in fact very learned in the ancient religious doctrines of the human mind that went to form all Middle Eastern religious expressions. Hence while Madame B’s works are metaphysical in nature they are no less relevant to the development of the human intellect than say, St. Augustine or others of the metaphysical ilk.
Madame B had some strong opinions on hypnotism. Hypnotism had come to the fore of Euroamerican consciousness in the years preceding the French Revolution through the efforts of Dr. Franz Mesmer. Though discredited as as a charlatan he was dealing with the real thing as subsequent history shows. He originally called hypnotism Animal Magnetism. That was changed to Mesmerism and then to Hypnotism. As far as possible influences on Burroughs it will be remembered that Edgar Allan Poe wrote Mesmeric Revelation in 1844 and The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar in 1845. There are clear indications that ERB was familiar with the Valdemar story.
Now, the essence of hypnotism is the suggestion. Suggestion is perhaps the most important intellectual or psychological phenomenon. Suggestion isperhaps the basis of intellect, intelligence and psychology. C.G. Jung in his investigations of symbols was dealing with the nature of universal suggestion from nature. Freud early learned to separate suggestion from the hypnotic trance. Artfully used suggestion obviates the need for trancelike states. Thus people don’t understand that and how they are hypnotized by movies and TV.
The art of successful literature is merely to suggest scenes and situations and have the reader visualize them in his own mind. Once accepted the suggestion becomes part of the intellect of the reader. He may be able to reject it later but that is a separate volitional act. The great writers realize this. Freud understood perfectly, while Baum developed the art of the concrete image to a remarkable degree. His works are a series of remarkable images. If Freud had had Baum’s skill, and he wasn’t far short, he would have been even more effective than he has been.
The prescient Fritz Lang picked up on Freud, Baum and hypnotism in his remarkable Dr. Mabuse series of movies. The first story, Dr. Mabuse The Gambler of 1922, concerns a Freudlike megalomaniac named Dr. Mabuse. Freud’s activities during the Great War and after would be known to the cognoscenti. It would be foolish to think that Adolf Hitler and other Volkish leaders wouldn’t have been aware of what Freud was up to. Mabuse is into all kinds of criminal activities to undermine society and the State, as was Freud. He is also a master hypnotist as was Freud. In a scene reminiscent of the scene in Thuvia where Jav says ‘You want to see them? Then, look.’ The scene of ancient bustling Lothar then appears to Carthoris and Thuvia’s wondering hypnotized eyes. As well as mine, certainly. I had no trouble seeing what Burroughs wanted me to see. So Dr. Mabuse in his role of stage hypnotizer, the man wore many hats, makes a parade appear before the wondering eyes of his audience. It can be done. I saw a man make Diamond Head disappear before the whole world on TV. Pretty amazing.
At the end of the movie Mabuse is captured and conveniently tucked away in an insane asylum. He goes catatonic until 1930 or so when Lang made the sequel The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse. The Dr. emerging from his catatonic state makes signs that he wants pen and paper which the head of the asylum, one Dr. Baum, provides.
Mabuse then turns out page after endless page of instructions to destroy civilization not unlike what Herr Dr. Freud was doing from his study in Vienna. The writing had an hypnotic effect on Dr. Baum who executes the plans of the cell bound Dr. Mabuse.
The use of the name Baum could be a coincidence but Dr. Baum like the Wizard Of Oz is an unseen superior. He issues orders but is otherwise an unknown to those he directs. In issuing his orders we are led to believe that he sits behind a curtain unseen while giving his directions. Then, just as Dorothy did, the hero dares to pull back the curtain and he finds…a phonograph player. Unlike Dorothy who finds a tubby timid little imposter, there is no one there. Surely this is a parody of Dorothy’s famous scene which makes the name Dr. Baum less of a coincidence.
So it would seem that L. Frank Baum’s influence extended to Germany and an originator of film noir. Not so unlike as Baum’s stories are much darker than they might appear at first reading. At any rate his literary images make long remembered illusions of reality not unlike that of Dr. Baum while being of a suggestive hypnotic nature. I can still visualize Dorothy pulling the curtain back exposing the mild mannered Big Brother sixty years after. I can remember the image I formed.
So, my suggestion is that L. Frank Baum was the direct inspiration for Thuvia of Mars. As noted ERB was probably familiar with Poe’s stories of hypnotism while I am certain that he had read George Du Maurier’s Trilby concerning the hypnotist Svengali and probably also Du Maurier’s other two novels, Peter Ibbetson, and The Martian both related to unusual psychological states. Len Carter believes that ERB read William Morris who also uses some hypnotic themes in his fantasy novels. Lew Sweetser, ERB’s mentor in Idaho via Yale, might also have given him some information on hypnotism while ERB was still a boy. Plus I’m sure hypnotism was a hot topic of popular discussions.
ERB’s emphasis on suggestion as the operative means of hypnotism points to some more direct instruction. Most think that ERB first met Baum in 1916 which means the two formed a fast friendship immediately. I think it more likely that they met in 1913 renewing the acquanitance in 1916. Whether Baum had read any of Burroughs’ stories in 1913 which seems would be paying pretty close atention to literary trends in pulp magazines he may have heard of Tarzan. Probably aware of this ERB may have brought along a magazine or two to show Baum. If Baum then read the proffered stories he certainly would have seen his influence in the Mars stories if ERB didn’t actually point them out to him hoping for the Zeusian nod of approval from the master.
Probably flattered Baum would have encouraed the relationship. Assuming that to be true the two men having similar interests would certainly engage in conversations on Theosophy, hypnotism, writing techniques and whatever.
Certainly Burroughs writing style which while always colorful was a little heavy on the narrative side seems to open up to a more allusive suggestive style blossoming significantly in 1915’s Tarzan And The Jewels of Opar.
I can’t find a more immediate source for ERB’s sudden interest in hypnotism. But, on to the story.
February 16, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
The Golden Handcuffs
And now comes the part that readers find the most fascinating, that of the contest on The Field Of Honor. Gladiatorial contests are frequent occurrences in the novels of ERB. This one seems to combine Arthurian influences as well as Roman.
Burroughs’ tenure of a couple years at the Chicago Harvard Latin School must have made an indelible impression on him. The recurrent, one might say underlying, Homeric influence from the Odyssey of Homer would indicate that the school concentrated on that work of Homer although not on The Iliad as there seem to be few references to the latter poem. In later years ERB would complain that he had learned Latin before English cramping his English style.
Perhaps, but I don’t see anything glaringly wrong with his English style. His psychology makes him a little stiff but that’s not through a lack of understanding English. It would be nice to know the curriculum of the Latin School and what texts he did study. Late in life when he wrote I Am A Barbarian his background as evidenced by the reading list he appended was shallow while not mentioning the great classical scholars. Still Roman themes are a recurring motif in the corpus. About this time he was rereading Plutarch’s Lives that compares the lives of various Greeks and Romans so that the Lives may have been a text at school. Especially as he says that while rereading it he discovered that Numa was the name of a Roman king while he thought he had invented the name for the Lion.
Also Arthurian references pop up in Chessmen. In 1912 when his editor Metcalf of Munsey’s asked him to write a medieval story that turned out to be the Outlaw Of Torn he claimed to have little knowledge of the period. Now, the Manatorian party leaving the city after Gahan entered is more reminiscent of Arthurian stories than Roman. The city of Manator itself also has a decidedly Camelot feel. The party’s subsequent return and capture of Tara and Ghek has more of the courtly flavor than the Roman. In 1928’s Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle ERB would create a medieval society of lost Crusaders deep in the heart of darkness. So while he claimed to know nothing of medieval themes in 1912 by this time he seems to have done some reading in the field.
In many ways Manator bears a great resemblance to Mythological, Graustarkian and Ruritanian stories that he did admire as a young man. Combining all those influences with the Oz of Baum we have Manator.
Thus in addition to Roman gladiatorial contests we also have a similarity to medieval battle melees where the favors of women were of paramount importance.
Here we have the great mock battles and actual battles to the death played out on a gigantic Jetan board. Burroughs modifies the Earthly game of Chess to create a similar Martian game of Jetan complicated by the grotesque addition of battles to the death between the live ‘pieces.’ Indeed as is explained there had been games recorded in which the only survivors were the the two female prizes and one of the Jeds. Once again mimicking Arthurian literature ERB describes sword blows that cleave the opponent through the brain pan down to the breast bone. ERB seems to delight in the most violent and gruesome details. And lots of them.
A-Kor, his cellmate, fills Gahan in on what he must do to enter the games conveniently giving the latter enough money to bribe his team, get this, while returning the remainder to his purse.
The strategy is all very probable. The number of slaves from Gathol in Manator is enormous so Gahan has no difficulty in enrolling a team of Gatholians who will be fighting for their freedom. Gahan is famiiar with Jetan as played elsewhere on Mars on a board so he has no difficulty with strategy. The main change in strategy is that when a piece captures another the pieces then draw swords and fight to the finish. Thus a piece can successfully evade capture negating strategy.
Relying on the prowess of his men and his own incomparable swordsmanship Gahan then makes a drive directly for the opposing Jed, U-Dor.
Can it be a coincidence that he who stands between himself and Tara is a man called U-Dor (door)? Considering the important roles doors play in these stories it would seem that U-Dor is one more door he must hack his way through to get to his objective.
The only other work I’ve seen where doors were so important was the old TV show, The Mod Squad. In that TV series doors of every description were constantly being slammed; not just closed but slammed. I haven’t quite figured out ERB’s obsession with doors as yet.
While Chess and one imagines Jetan are supreme games of strategy Gahan seemingly abandons the fine points and gamesmanship and makes a drive straight for U-Dor. ERB says he was a good Chess player while I have never played to perhaps the moves he describes are possible especially as any move is good or bad depending on which player is the better swordsman. Gahan is the best so he experiences no difficulty in reaching U-Dor who he cuts down.
Tara and he are seemingly reunited. But while Tara thought she killed I-Gos he was only wounded. Present at the games he denounces Gahan and Tara who flee as aforesaid to the pits. Then begins the spectacular double climax; that of Gahan/ERB’s triumph over John the Bully/O-Tar and the subsequent triumph of Gahan/ERB over Frank Martin/O-Tar.
To a large extent Chessmen is an examination of ancestor worship. Certainly the Taxidermist of Mars preserved ancestors going back at least five thousand years to the reign of O-Mai. ERB explains Gahan’s and perhaps his own ideas on the significance of ancestors.
Gahan, a man of culure and high intelligence held few if any superstitions. In common with nearly all races of Barsoom he clung more or less inherently, to a certain exalted form of ancestor worship, though it was rather the memory of legends of the virtues and heroic deeds of his forefathers that he deified rather than themselves. He never expected any tangible evidence of their existence after death; he did not believe that they had the power either for good or for evil other than the effect that their example while living might have had on following generations; he did not believe therefore in the materialization of dead spirits. If there was a life hereafter he knew nothing of it, for he knew that science had demonstrated the natural phenomenon of ancient religions and superstitions.
The above is probably as close to a confession of faith as ERB is going to give. It is certainly one that I can accept for myself. The above may also be a reference to spiritual seances in which dead ancestors supposedly spoke through mediums. Harry Houdini was debunking such seances around this time much to the chargrinof ERB’s literary hero, Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame, who did believe is such ancestral contacts.
There may be a joke in that case when Gahan arose from O-Mai’s bed ululuing and putting the fear of God into O-Tar exposing him as a coward.
Having thus disposed of O-Tar/John ERB turns to debunking O-Tar/Martin.
When Gahan was playing his joke on O-Tar I-Gos stole Tara away. He delivers her to O-Tar who is so smitten that he decides that he will marry her and take his chances with this she-banth.
O-Tar immurs Tara in a tower not unlike the story of Rapunzel. Her location is pointed out to Gahan who then makes a perilous climb of the tower in order to tell her that no matter what it looks like on the morrow’s wedding date he will rescue her and she is not to commit suicide.
While talking to her through the grated window a eunuch sleeping at the foot of the bed awakes moving toward him sword in hand. Tara instead of shrinking back removes her little blade from her harness running the eunuch through the heart.
There must be significance to this scene as ERB is retelling the story of both John and Martin. If Emma was with ERB on the corner and abandoned him to his fate by walking on it would appear that ERB never forgave her while having Anima trouble ever after. Here he rectifies the situation by having Tara come to his defense acting with a both a blade and heart of steel. Thus not only has his Animus surrogate Gahan proved John/O-Tar to be the coward but Tara the Anima figure defends Gahan/ERB from a similar attack by John absolving his Anima.
We now go to the wedding. Of course, having read the book several times in my case we know the story so I will just follow it. In the book John Carter tells ERB the details after the fact.
I-Gos has allied himself with Tara and Gahan against O-Tar. Before the wedding O-Tar retires to the Hall of Ancestors to commune with the dead. I-Gos has let Gahan into the hall where he sits as though stuffed on a stuffed Thoat. When O-Tar pauses beside him Gahan falls on him striking him on the forehead with the butt of a heavy spear.
Thus we establish that at this point O-Tar has become Frank Martin. Just as Gahan/ERB proved O-Tar a coward by merely rising in O’Mai’s bed and making weird noises so now he reverses the situation in Toronto. Instead of ERB being struck on the forehead Gahan/ERB strikes O-Tar/Martin in the same place leaving him for dead.
Now, this is strange. Donning O-Tar’s Golden Mask Gahan goes foth in O-Tar’s guise to marry Tara. The Golden Mask undoubtedly refers to Martin’s money bags to which ERB undoubtedly attributes whatever success Martin had with Emma. Why Gahan/ERB wore O-Tar’s mask is fairly clear but why ERB would have isn’t. Also if O-Tar hadn’t recovered from the blow Gahan would have been married to Tara in O-Tar’s name.
Perhaps ERB in a reversal means to imply that Emma would actually have been marrying him but won by Martin’s ‘golden mask.’ By the process of reversal then ERB would have recovered and stolen Emma from Martin on the altar so to speak. Or, as he actually did.
The symbolism of the golden handcuffs then would mean that the proposed wedding of Emma and Martin would have a mere commercial transaction. Or, perhaps, he felt himself attached to Emma for financial reasons when he’d rather not be. Complications, complications.
While the two antogonists Gahan and O-Tar are staring each other down the ‘cavalry’ Gahan sent for has arrived. Carter and troops from Helium, Gathol and Manatos arrive to end the story.
O-Tar himself then falls on his sword like a true Roman thus redeeming his miserable life. Perhaps ERB is saying that that is what Martin should have done- left the couple alone rather than constantly interfering.
If as Sigmund Freud argued dreams are based on wish fulfillment the Chessmen of Mars proves his case. In this series of dreams or nightmares ERB attempts to reverse the results of the three greatest disasters of his life.
John the Bully and Frank Martin are a matter of history. That ERB links his fiancial disaster with these two earlier disasters indicates that he knows he has crossed the line in his mistaken purchase of the Otis estate. He knows that he as no way out as he has the ‘cavalry’, John Carter and the united forces of Helium, Gathol and Manatos come to the rescue. In the final denouement of this error in 1934’s Tarzan And The Lion Man even the cavalry can’t help. Tarzan/ERB leaves the burning castle of God a defeated man.
His great dream of getting back to the land and becoming a Gentleman Farmer has crashed to the ground. His attachment to his fantasy can be traced in his letters with Herb Weston. Weston warned him as strongly as friendship would allow that it would be a mistaken approach to farming in any other way than on a factory basis with profit firmly in mind. ERB chose to ignore this sound advice probably believing that between books, magazines and movies his future was golden.
Unfortunately for himself his income crested in this very year, 1921. Undoubtedly because of his strong anti-Communist stance and his resistance to the Semitism being imposed on him his sources of income came under attack. Nineteen twenty-two was the last year he received income from movies until 1927-28. Publishing difficulties with McClurg’s and G&D increased. His long time publisher, McClurg’s, even refused outrightly to publish his opus of 1924, Marcia Of The Doorstep.
His foreign royalties once so promising slowly dried up because of political pressures. Later in the decade his troubles with McClurg’s became so intense that he was forced to abandon that long standing relationship. No other major publisher would touch him. Why, will probably never be clear. After a tentative stab with a less established publisher he turned to forming his own publishing company. This move was apparently successful enough to float him through the early part of the thirties before the spring of his inspiration began to dry up.
In a desperate attempt to save Tarzan he attempted many expedients, none successful. He incorporated himself to protect his income from creditors. He subdivided a portion of Tarzana, he attempted to sell off acreage, he tried to turn part of the estate into an exclusive golf club, he turned part into a movie lot attempted to lease that out, he invited oil geologists to find oil on his land. He invested in airplace engines and airports. Nothing came of anything. In the end the magnificent estate slipped through his hands.
A premonition of all this can be found in the The Chessmen Of Mars. Even the name of the story indicates the he is involved in a chesslike game of many moves.
Stress was now to be ERB’s other name.
A world famous figure, nominally rich, still retaining many of the trappings of wealth he had gone from prince to pauper, regained his princely stature and now slipped back to the role of a prince in exile from the Promised Land.
Nothing daunted he went on working. In the end his magnificent intellectual property, Tarzan Of The Apes, would always save him from a fate worse than death. A form of wish fulfillment in itself, I guess.
January 21, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
Nobody Gets Out Of Bantoom Alive!
Tara descends in the land of Bantoom ruled by the Kaldanes. I think the Kaldanes can be traced to Baum’s Emerald City Of Oz. In that title Baum writes of a queen who when she wished to change her hair style selected one from a number of heads, removed the head she’s wearing and places a new head on her shoulders.
Unlike the queen the heads of the Kaldanes and the bodies of the Rykors are separate entities.
The Kaldanes exist independently of the Rykors but mount their shoulders to use them essentially as slaves. When their purpose is satisfied they abandon the Rykors or bodies that then, without directing intelligence, just lie or flop around like the proverbial chicken.
The picture ERB presents of them through the first vision of them by Tara is fairly repulsive. It would by itself explain why the Post and the other slicks rejected the story.
Either I’m reading things into the story or ERB is making some very subtle examinations of certain problems troubling society. The three issues I have noted concern labor, sex and evolution.
To take the first.
In the world there are many forms of disagreeable labor that people would rather not do. Much of the industrial labor is hot, dirty and heavy with a lot of unpleasant bending and stooping. Still the job has to get done.
In England once the so-called Industrial Revolution ethos first took place a very large percentage of the work force was essentially bestialized to work the mines and factories, especially the women and children. This is an unightly and unpleasant situation.
In the US and colonial areas African slaves were imported to do the stoop labor. It should be noted as Michael Hoffman points out in his studies that White slavery preceded that of Black slavery. Even at the time of the American Revolution Hoffman found many White slaves still existing the US. A White man was sold to a Negro in Chicago in the 1840s for tweny-five cents.. Africans only gradually replaced the Whites. Thus just preceding Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin after which African slavery exploded there were White slaves in the US.
Slavery is inseparable from Burroughs’ works. He can’t imagine a society without slaves. Chessmen opens explaining the relationship between Tara and her personal slave girl.
Slavery was abandoned in the US at about the same time serfdom was abolished in Europe. The Russian serfs which you can read as slaves were liberated only as the US’ own civil war was being fought. While industrial slavery is too distant in the past for us to imagine it slavery was a very recent phenomenon to Burroughs. He read. He must have been aware of Russia in which the vast majority of the population were slaves as serfs, hence Russia was up to 1861 a vast slaveocracy no different than the US South.
The question then was how to get the hard work done without slaves. The industrial system of the time merely left the population nominally free while paying very low wages making the bulk of the population actual wage slaves.
The hard labor was definitely nothing anyone who could avoid it wanted to do so the industrialists imported vast numbers of laborers at a liguistic disadvantage who then had no choice but to become wage slaves. Burroughs, very sensitive to social issues then, may have thought he was only reflecting the existing situation in his stories. After all this is the period of the horrors of the sweat shops.
This problem preoccupied society so that in 1931 a mere ten years after Chessmen Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World that presents a different solution than ERB’s. Huxley presents a world of test tube babies in which certain poisons are placed in tubes to create chemically altered humans. The least intelligent of these were the Gammas who were given the least desirable jobs on that basis that they wouldn’t have the brains to complain.
Burroughs solution is somewhat different. The Rykors are essentially slaves; as Greek mythology put it the Rykors were mere bellies with arms and legs, lacking any intelligence whatever they were unable to complain and being deaf, dumb and blind couldn’t revolt.
The slave driver was the Kaldane on their shoulder who directed the Rykor in the unpleasant tasks without consequences to himself. When the Kaldanes came back from the fields at night they abandoned their Rykors and went about their business of thinking, fresh and without fatigue.
Thus ERB has very cleverly solved the problem of stoop labor- the labor the Kaldanes wouldn’t do.
ERB also gives himself room to toy with the idea of sex. He models Bantoom after a beehive which was a common device at the time. He changes the sexual primacy by making Luud a kingbee rather than a queen bee. All the Kaldanes have been hatched from eggs laid by King Bee Luud so Luud is truly the ‘father of his country.’ The jokes are there. Whether ERB was a sly old dog or whether he just wrote this stuff with no humor prepense is up to the reader to decide. Either he was intending humor or else he was naturally one of the funniest men alive.
It seems that all Kaldanes were male while the Rykors were either male or female. Thus any Kaldane could choose to be a man or woman for the day. This may possibly refer back to Greek mythology where Teiresias was the only person who had been both a man and a woman. He was then called on to say who got more sexual pleasure men or women. He thought women definitely. Any Kaldane could have answered as well.
ERB plays with the idea briefly but doesn’t take it too far. As far as the slicks were probably concerned he had so many strikes against him they didn’t even want to look at him. Given their attitude it even seems remarkable that the pulps paid good money for the story. This is really pretty strange stuff and it keeps getting stranger. ERB just skirts the accusation of a deranged mind in this story. Times have changed, of course.
Then there is the matter of the evolution of intelligence. This is a perennial topic in science fiction. At the presentt time the ultimate intellect is usually portrayed a as giant head on a spindly unathletic body incapable of much but feeding itself.
At the time it was thought that the mind and body were two separate things. In the fifties when I grew up wrestling with the idea Burroughs’ key Martian novels were available from G&D but I never read them. I was scandalized that Burroughs would write anything but Tarzan novels. It didn’t seem right to me that he would write anything else.
So, Burroughs tackles the mind/body relationship by completely separating brain and body. These brains were anaerobic, they could exist without oxygen. This was by design because when the oxygen plant will have failed and Mars changed from a dying planet to a dead one the Kaldanes were going to retire deep into the mars and live out their existence thinking. Bye bye Rykors.
ERB explains this quite succinctly. Evolution on Mars:
You do not understand…It is too big for you to grasp, but I will try to explain it. Barssom, the moons, the sun, the stars were created for a single purpose. From the beginning of time Nature has labored arduously toward the consummation of this purpose. At the very beginning things existed with life, but no brain. Gradually rudimentary nervous systems and miniscule brains evolved. Evolution proceeded. The brains became larger and more powerful. In us you see the highest development; but there are those of us who believe that there is yet another step- that some time in the far future our race shall develop into the super thing- just brain. The incubus of legs and chelae and vital organs will be removed. The future Kaldane will be nothing but a great brain. Deaf, dumb and blind it will be sealed in a great, wonderful, beautiful brain with nothing to distract it from eternal thought.
Right. I saw the movie. It was called Hitler’s Brain and it was a great one. Burroughs always seems to have figured out the entire B movie and sci-fi catalog. If I didn’t know better, and I don’t, I’d think his writings have been cribbed for the movies from his day to this. Burroughs is surely one of the most influential intellects from his time to the present. He is a baffling phenomenon, no one wants to give him credit but theyuse his ideas constantly.
The passage quoted is a fair synopsis of the course of evolution while dealing with a debating topic of his day and ours.
It’s quite clear ERB put everything he had into this effort.
Having landed in a Bantoom that might be compared to Baum’s Land of the Munchkins, although a rather disquieting comparison. Baum is actually a very strange writer. the Shaggy Man Of Oz left me very uneasy. I remember as a child a woman lamenting the book because she thought it would make it easy for weird old men to lure little girls away. The book was weird as was The Emeral City Of Oz. Burroughs takes weirdness a stride or two beyond those books. There’s always this uneasy quasi-pornographic feel behind his stories.
Tara is baffled by the overseer Kaldanes and slave Rykors working in the field. She waits until nightfall to go in search of food coming very close to the hive. Burroughs will develop this image shortly in Tarzan And The Ant Men. Night falls and the Banths come out. Tara can’t understand why these Martian lions are so plentiful in the valley. Shortly she will learn the reason is that the Kaldanes throw the dead and worn out Rykors into the fields for the Banths. It’s just gruesome little details like this that probably got ERB his reputation for being too far on the edge. Doesn’t bother us though, does it?
Now, a Banth steals up on Tara but God is on her side, she’s got a head start for the ubiquitous tree. Here we have two ambivalent images in Burroughs. Tree and lions are symbols of both safety or danger.
On the one hand Burroughs finds comfort and safety in trees, most conspicuously in the Tarzan stories. There all Africa with the exception of some lands deep in the Sahara is covered by one giant forest with conviently low branches unlike the picture we see of Baobobs and whatever. Tarzan is at home in the trees moving faster and with more ease than you and I trudging along on the ground.
If there’s danger in the lower terrace Tarzan moves up to the middle terrace or even the upper terraces where the little monkeys play. If he has a quarrel with Jane he has favorite trees in which to spend the night. He is sometimes treed as he was in Tarzan At The Earth’s Core. Here Tara is treed in a close replica to the treeing of Schneider in Tarzan The Untamed.
In that story Tarzan took Schneider to an enclosed natural bowl with a creek trickling into a cave. In the center was lone tree and a hungry lion. Tarzan viciously placed Schneider in the tree. It was up to Schneider to evade the cat when thirsty finding his way back up the tree in a game of cat and mouse.
Burroughs replicates the scene here. Tara drinks from the stream then being chased up the tree by the Banth who keeps watch till morning before stalking away.
So here the tree is both safety and a trap. Perhaps as ERB’s financial troubles developed he felt like Schneider so he replicated the situation with Tara as himself.
Martian rosy fingered Dawn appears. In trying to get back to her flier Tara is captured by the Kaldanes. The episode of her capture is well done as she discovers the secret of the Kaldanes and Rykors. Her captor is a Kaldane named Ghek who is to become a principal actor in the story.
Tara’s descent into the hive gives Burroughs time to philosophize and ruminate before Tara is taken up to her near brush with a fate worse than death at the hands of the Rykor of Luud.
At the beginning of Chapter VI ERB ruminates on the rough treatment given him by the literary mavens:
What the creature had told her gave Tara of Helium food for thought. She had been taught that every created thing fulfilled some useful purpose and she tried conscientiously to discover just what was the rightful place of the kaldanes in the universal scheme of things. She knew it must have its place but what that place was it was beyond her to conceive. She had to give it up. They recalled to her mind a little group of people in Helium who had foresworn the pleasures of life in the pursuit of knowledge. They were rather patronizing in their relations with those whom they thought not so intellectual. They considered themselves quite superior. She smiled at the recollections of a remark her father had once made concerning them, to the effect that if one of them ever dropped his egotism and broke it it would take a week to fumigate Helium.
It appears that ERB is smarting from the rejection of the literary types even though he longed for their approval. ERB himself chose not to parade his knowledge as literary types are wont to do, not that I would ever do that myself, while ERB can claim to be well read while profound enough in his writing and observations.
Eugenics, for instance, was under attack from its origins although widely accepted at this time. There is something offensive about it to the human spirit while the notion would certainly be socially abused if given free rein. ERB cleverly skirts the issue here while affirming the benefical results that could be achieved. Following the above quote he notes the superb physical condition of the Rykors and says that they had been bred to perfection. In other words they are the product of eugenics the same as thoroughbred horses or pedigreed cats and dogs. Being bodies without minds, in other words not complete humans, anyone who caught it probably took no offense. The closer you get the better ERB looks.
In the descent into the hive Tara idly hums an air which completely charms Ghek who asks what the noise is that Tara is making. She then sings for him which overwhelms Ghek’s senses thereby definitely preserving her life. Impervious to female beauty Ghek is transported by music. Universal language you know.
This will figure into the story soon. Tara is expected to fatten up to make a good meal for the Kaldanes who fatten up certain Rykors to make a good lunch. Thus ERB interjects the ever present theme of cannibalism. Away from the air and sunshine Tara is pining away so she pleads to be allowed to go outside. Luud grants this. Tara tries to escape, is caught and taken to Luud to meet her fate which encounter follows shortly.
Gahan in his pursuit of Tara had fallen from his flier into the arms of the storm. This is interesting. Always heroic he was trying to rescue a companion who was caught in mooring lines flapping beneath the flier. In the effort the wind catches a line with a heavy buckle at the end giving Gahan/Burroughs the obligatory bash between the eyes. He loses his hold but rather than plunging directly to mars the wind catches him like a leaf carrying him along with it. Then after a series of ups and downs gently deposits him on the crimson sward.
Impossible you say? No, it is not. ERB refers to a story he had read somewhere at sometime in which a baby caught up by tornado had been carried miles from its home and deposited gently on the ground unhurt where it was found. These things all sound preposterous; they have happened.
In a clever handling of time differentials while Tara was going through her travails that lasted weeks Gahan at almost the same time Tara landed in Bantoom picked himself up from the sward hundreds of miles away and began walking in the direction he hoped was toward Gathol. Thus weeks later he arrives in Bantoom at the precise moment to observe Tara’s escape attempt. Not bad.
Not only that but having decided to rescue the Red Woman he didn’t then recognize he discovers the flier, kills a Banth or two and drifts, no propeller, directly over the wall of Luud encountering Ghek who fretting for his life agrees to take him to Tara on condition that he can leave with them. No problem.
As they are making this deal Tara is struggling to preserve her…oh…integrity. Luud has set his headless but magnificently built Rykor on her while always a voyeur, he watches.
Luud has a powerful mind. He has not hypnotized Tara but is able to control his brainless Rykor while not being attached. This means that by remote control he is able to connect to the spinal nerve ending of the Rykor. Good stunt.
Gahan and Ghek enter just as the Rykor is poised for the downward thrust. ERB comes close here.
Gahan is warned to avoid eye contact but fails to do so becoming hypnotized. Hypnosis is a significant theme in Burroughs’ work. In this case he seems to be influenced by George Du Maurier’s novel Trilby with its great character Svengali. In that story the heroine has no musical talent but Svengali is able to hypnotize her into becoming a second Jenny Lind. The key point is that while Trilby is singing Svengali must make eye contact from his theatre box. When contact was broken Trilby immediately began croaking not knowing a note from a hat box.
ERB does a reverse variation here. It become apparent that Gahan is entranced by Luud and all is lost. But in holding Gahan Luud had to relax his hold on his Rykor who went limp (no pun intended) releasing Tara. The quick minded Tara knowing the hold her singing had on Ghek immediately bursts into full throated song trilling out that wonderful old Martian standard- The Song Of Love.
Thus ERB reverses the Trilby/Svengali scenario. Tara’s singing dissolves Luud’s hold on Gahan and it’s all over for Luud.
An exciting chase scene and battle and the three comaradoes are drifting off to meet another fate in another freak city. This one is called Manator.
The Bantoom story thus becomes a preliminary tale to the main story.
January 13, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
The Dance Of Barsoom
See Post I for Intro.
The twenties were a difficult financial period for ERB, indeed, as was the rest of his life to be. The substantial sums he had made in Chicago were spent before he left. ERB had saved nothing. He arrived in LA with no other resources than his current income. That income was very substantial by any measure but unequal to ERB’s massive spending capabilities so that at the time he wrote Chessmen he was already strapped for cash and headed for deep debt.
Always envious of the fabulous sums paid Zane Grey by the slick magazines ERB wanted to sell this story for ten thousand dollars to one of the big slicks. There were no takers so that the story went to the pulps for thirty-five hundred. Adding insult to injury he was told that the stories were too preposterous to be considered.
Part of ERB’s literary problem was that genre categories were not yet well developed. H.G. Wells’ early sci-fi efforts were labeled Fantasias, a term that could be understood by the literary arbiters, while still considered what we would call today, literary fiction. Even George Du Maurier’s trilogy of essentially science fiction novels- Peter Ibbetson, Trilby and The Martian have never been considered anything but literary fiction. They are three terrific stories of psychological dissociation while it would seem certain that Burroughs read them and was probably influenced by them. I can heartily recommend them. Very choice.
So the genres were taking shape at the period but had not yet evolved as they would during the thirties, forties and fifties until today fantasy, horror and sci-fi dominate the fiction best seller lists. If Chessmen was thought preposterous in 1920 one wonders what his critics would have thought of such movies as The Exterminator or The Predator. God, those people were so awkward and unevolved. Well, it’s the price you pay for being an innovator. Remember what the Pope told Galileo.
So, ERB was stuck in the pulps. Perhaps smarting from this rejection ERB would try to break out of his pulp rate with several realistic novels. the first was The Girl From Hollywood, a very decent attempt at a literary novel, that ERB’s long time publisher refused to publish. Following in the burro tracks of Zane Grey ERB wrote a couple of Westerns only one of which he could get published at the time. I read a lot of Westerns in the fifties while a kid. I thought ERB’s efforts were as good as what I read then. They’re all potboilers, even the so-called classics.
He even attempted a couple of Indian epics that I found so-so but I know other people who liked them a lot. Not so critical as myself, I guess. Oh, right, he couldn’t get Marcia Of The Doorstep published either. So he was type cast as a sci-fi/fantasy writer. At least he knew he could do that very well.
Zane Grey wrote some pretty strange Westerns. He himself was quite a womanizer and his novels pander quite successfully to the distaff side. He knew women well. Probably that was why he was paid those great prices by the Saturday Evening Post et al. Oh heck, ERB was just too outre for the Post.
In Chessmen ERB gives feminine appeal his best shot. I would imagine he was trying to reach the ladies when he describes Tara’s fabulous bath. Either that or he was trying to titillate us boys. Worked with me. But let’s assume he was trying to broaden his appeal as the title was offered to the slicks.
Chessmen was based on his three favorite novels as are all his books- The Viginian, Prince And The Pauper and Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Thus Tara teases Papa John as her ‘Virginian.’ We are then introduced to Gahan of far Gathol. ERB presents him first in his princely guise as, indeed, he is a prince of Gathol. ERB chooses to present him as a fop dressed all in diamonds and platinum. Tara forms an ill impression of him as she thinks no real fighting man would dress in such a fashion. Shortly Gahan will exchange his dress duds for the plain leather gear of the Martian mercenary thus changing from prince to pauper. Of course he will resume his role of Prince by novel’s end.
Fauntleroy was born to the manor in England but spent his youth learning what it meant to be a real American boy before reassuming his English title. Ah, American dreaming.
Recalling his battle for Emma’s favors with Frank Martin Tara has been betrothed since at least young girlhood to Djor Kantos whose father is friends with the family. So like ERB Gahan has to overcome this parental resistance. Speaking of Frank Martin Chessmen is the only novel I can recall in which the hero doesn’t get bashed on the head two or three times.
At the ball being given Djor Kantos fails to claim Tara in time for the first dance so that Gahan leads Tara in the Dance Of Barsoom. Some sort of Grand March. ERB explains that before Barsoomian youths can attend balls they have to first have learned three formal dances- The Dance Of Barsoom, that of their country and that of their city. After that they can take up stuff like the Martian equivalents of the Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hug, Charleston and Black Bottom. Kids being kids on Barsoom the same as on Jasoom.
While the concept is quite charming one wonders of the source. Burroughs himself was no slouch concerning the hit parade.
I think we can trace the rigamarole back to the patron saint of old timey music, Henry Ford.
Amongst all his many other enterprises Henry was revolted by the music and dances of the Jazz Age as the twenties are sometimes known. Even though his very own flivver is billed as being responsible for some new objectionable habits and traditions Henry clung stubbornly to the old. Thus in full revolt against the Jazz Age Henry was promoting the dances and music of his youthof around, oh say, 1880 or so.
Ford had begun his publication of the Dearborn Independent in 1920 making him a newspaper man also. It seems clear from internal references in Marcia Of The Doorstep that ERB was following developments in the Independent. He would then certainly have learned of the evils of the new music and the virtues of the old.
Just as Henry Ford was trying to rivive the old dances on Jasoom, on conservative, behind the times Barsoom Jazz has never even been given a chance. The Dance Of Barsoom is just as fresh and lovely as the first time it was danced millennia before. Martian kids didn’t mess with tradition so much so Gahan led Tara in that lovely old relic of Mars- The Dance Of Barsoom.
Pledging his love during the dance Gahan was sternly rebuffed by Tara.
The preliminaries finished the story begins in earnest.
The following day Tara is fascinated by a cloudy stormy sky which is such a rare occurrence on Mars that she had never seen one before. As I mentioned in the intro ERB borrows the next sequence from Baum whose Dorothy was wafted to Oz on a tornado. Tara ascends into this tornado like storm where her flier is caught by the winds and she is driven before them. When she lands she had been driven like Dorothy to Oz to a far land that has been all but forgotten if it had ever been thought of.
The hero and heroine of Chessmen are Tara of Helium and Gahan of far Gathol, or rather, they are the Anima and Animus of ERB. ERB always writes Anima and Animus novels. As dreamers will he may have recognized the X chromosome or Anima in the green pastures of his sleep or, it is quite possible that as a Latin scholar at Chicago’s Harvard School he was required to read the myth of Psyche and Eros from Apuleius’ The Golden Ass. I only mention a couple of possibilities. He may or may not have been familiar with Psyche and Eros but he was certainly familiar with the fairy tales derived from it such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
While Apuleius is given credit for the story his version is certainly only a redaction of the tale or philosophical speculation dating much further back in history. The Ancients were well familiar with the concept of both the male and female versions of the Anima and Animus. In popular mythology the male chromosome is represented by the Goddess as X chromosome and the Bull as the y. The female is represented by the two snakes as in the pictorial representations of Crete. It will also be remembered that the Greeks imported Cretan priests to manage the Apollonian shrine at Delphi.
The myth is that the two aspects were once united then driven apart wandering the world in search of each other. Duly at long last they do find each other are reconciled and allowed by the Goddess of Love to reunite. Thus the stories of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty evolved from Psyche and Eros and who knows how many other stories besides those of Burroughs.
The question is was Burroughs only following a plot line, a pattern he had absorbed or was he consciously aware of what he was doing? Had he thought the problem out? Just as Tarzan and Jane were apparently mismatched in Burroughs’ dreamscapes so were ERB and Emma in real life. In Tarzan And The Golden Lion Tarzan and Jane had no sooner returned home from Pal-ul-don than Tarzan fled to his Anima in far off dreamland Opar leaving Jane/Emma to more or less shift for herself in a very dangerous world. Misfortune usually hit her too.
In ERB’s dream couple of John Carter and Dejah Thoris the Anima and Animus seem to be united although we see little of Dejah Thoris in the series and not at all in this novel. Even their son who may represent ERB is not present at all. Even with Carter and Dejah Thoris the classic separation and reuniting form a major part of the Martian Trilogy.
In this dream tale with Tara and Gahan ERB follows the classic formula- separation, the long pursuit and final reconciliation. He appears to know what he is talking about but since he never discussed his ideas on the subject we can only infer that he did or doubt or deny that he did. The psychological motifs he expresses throughout Chessmen leads me to believe he did.
What are dreams and what is a dream story? Freud originated the rational approach to dream interpretation. ERB gave some thought to the problem. Once can’t be sure he had read Freud’s Interpretations Of Dreams although in his short story Tarzan’s First Nightmare ERB used elements contained in Freud’s theory to explain the causes of Tarzan’s nightmare. At the very least we can say that dreams and nightmares from which ERB suffered all his life were of great interest to him. In the thirties he would buy at least one book on scientific dream interpretation.
What is the basis of dreams? It can only be experiences combined with memory. That’s it. Think about it. You don’t have to look any further. Nothing mysterious about them. The basic problem can be expressed in the question of what is the unconscious or subconscious. Is it some ultra mysterious process of the mind that can’t be penetrated, understood or accurately located? Is it as Freud believed an organ independent of the body and mind yet which somehow controls the actions of the individual from outside him? Or, once again, is it merely a combination of experience and memory, a faculty for interpeting the experiences of the day?
Freud touched on a key concept when he realized that the mind, which never rests, processes the incidents of the previous day in the sleeping and dreaming state. Burroughs also takes this approach in Tarzan’s nightmare whether he picked it up from Freud, Sweetser or realized it himself.
In point of fact experience happens to us so rapidly and from so many angles at the same time that it is impossible for the conscious mind to process it all as it is happening. Can’t be done. So, it follows that the subconscious or back up mind retains, as it were, photographs of the day’s activities that it reviews in sleep for either discarding, repression or action. How many times have you awakened with possible solutions to problems facing you?
The problem with the subconscious mind is that analysis of situations is affected by fixations, more expecially by the central childhood fixation. Childhood is that perilous time of life when the inexperienced mind is subject to being presented with challenges for which it has no programmed or immediately adequate response. Defeated in analysis the challenge is encrypted and encysted in the subconscious where it interprets all similar challenges through the lens of the defeated challenge and response. Thus all those strange compulsive behaviors we have.
As it chances we know Burroughs’ central childhood fixation. That was when he was eight or nine and he was challenged on a street corner on the way to school by a twelve year old Irish bully. Terrified ERB broke and ran apparently thereafter branded as a coward. Thus the central theme of his work is fight or flight and the state of cowardice. He examines the matter endlessly throughout the entire body of his work. These elements are all especially prominent in Chessmen.
We know that ERB was stressed to the breaking point as he wrote in 1921. Whenever he was stressed his personality fragmented, splitting at least once. In Chessmen the Kaldanes are two separate entities, the physical Rykors and the mental Kaldanes. Tara and Gahan, the ritual Burroughs’ surrogates are driven apart by the terrific storm.
This is a dream story abounding in dream images. One can provide an analysis of the storm scene based on the incidents occurring in ERB’s life at the time.
The image presented to us is of this very rare Martian storm of very high winds as in a tornado. Tara although warned against it takes her flier up. Perhaps ERB was warned against buying Tarzana, I would certainly think that Emma was at the least apprehensive. Tara navigates well beneath the clouds but wants to be in a cloud where she has never been before, i.e. Burroughs buys Tarzana. Here she is buffeted about so to escape she rises above the cloud or storm where the winds abate. But she has to get back down so she must reenter the storm. She is then taken by the winds tumbled head over heels by their extreme violence arriving half dead in the land of the Kaldanes.
Now, how does this represnet ERB’s actual situation in dream images.
ERB left Chicago under one presumes, sunny skies. His original intent was to buy twenty acres to raise hogs. Instead he bought over five hundred acres. He then began a massive building and improvement program with what appears to have been a substantial payroll and a not very well thought out plan. He overspent his income so that by 1921 his bills must have been greater than his income forcing him to borrow. He found he had neither the skills nor the talent bo be a ‘Gentleman Farmer’ so that he was forced to auction off most of his tools, implements and livestock in an effort to raise money and cut expenses. Also at this time his sources of income came under attack as the movies refused to film his intellectual properties while his royalties also came under attack.
In what I consider a purely defensive move he was forced to incorporate himself assigning all his income, copyrights and what not to the corporation in an effort to secure the means of his livelihood by putting his income beyond the reach of his creditors. In what I consider a questionable move he subsequently transferred a portion of Tarzana to the corporation. So, shortly after this storm broke on his head he became merely an employee of his corporation.
At the time he wrote Chessmen then he was caught in the turbulence of this storm he had created. Unable to get back down as with Tara he tried to rise above it in some way but was forced back into the problem where he was being blown along head over heels no longer in control of his affairs.
In the relative calm of 1924 he wrote Marcia Of The Doorstep that chronicles and looks back at this period.
Tara’s flight then is ERB’s day to day situation presented in dream images.
The rest of the book deals with past and present in a series of dream images to which we proceed.