Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells
Wold Newton Mythology
It Came From Outer Space
For some decades now I have been struggling with the problem of a new mythology for the scientific consciousness. When the old mythopoeic mythology was invalidated by science it left sort of a void in the human psyche. In the Arthurian sense we had entered the Wasteland of disappointed expectations, otherwise known as depression.
Over the last twenty years of unremitting labor I have been either trying to discover or create such an existing scientific mythology. Perhaps my efforts have been rewarded. I modestly offer the following for your approval.
When The Student Is Ready…
Unlike the internet where I get most of what passes for news by current standards, this day I was reading the newspaper. I hadn’t come to that, it was just lying handy and I had the idle moment. owever I read that our giant combined new and used Pulsar Book Store had laid off a couple dozen employees, or workers as they are sometimes amusingly described, because of declining in store sales. I further read that sixty percent of Pulsar’s sales were over the internet.
I’ve been doing all my book buying over the internet and hadn’t been in the Pulsar store for years. Casting about for a reason for a decline in sales, apart from a growing illiteracy in the body politic, it occurred to me that on line electronic transmission of books was cutting into book sales deeply. I mean, Amazon offers oodles of older books free, many of which you will never see in books stores but are offered by Print On Demand publishers over the internet. Ask yourself when you last saw a Charles King? Lots of them for free on Amazon. That has to hurt sales. I then reasoned that Pulsar’s shelves must be groaning. I might be able to find a superb selecion at good prices, and I was right.
I was rewarded with an armful of books at my first stop in the Bs. I picked an armful of hard to find Balzac titles dirt cheap, thousand page nineteenth century omnibus volumes for six dollars and ninety-five cents each, Good God Almighty. As close to heaven as you can get without taking the chance of dieing.
Then I bethought myself to check the H.G. Wells section. I have a complete collection of Wells’ fiction but I’m still missing a few titles of the non-fiction. The Wells shelf was loaded and with cream, titles that I had had trouble finding over the year were now there in profusion. I had to laugh to see nearly a whole shelf loaded down with copies of Wells’ Seven Science Fiction Novels in many editions. I bought my copy of that at sixteen when it became the foundation of my psychic reality. There were a number of editions I had never seen before. In a fit of curiosity and affection I pulled a copy out just to fondle it. As I did a small slim volume concealed between thetwo larger ones tumbled out and fell to the floor.
I picked the paperback up. It was by one Garrett P. Serviss titled Edison’s Conquest Of Mars and sub-titled as the Original 1898 Sequel To The War Of The Worlds. I laughed at what seemed ludicrous and slid it back on the shelf. I must not have been adept because it fell out on the floor again.
I stood looking at it for a few seconds then decided that a mysterious power was bidding me to read it. I know how ridiculous that sounds but it happens to me often and always with an important book for me to read. Call it serendipitous, call it destiny, I follow my star. They wanted nine-ninety nine for a paperback of two hundred pages. I had an armful of thousand page, hundred year old, hard backs on really good paper for six ninety-five each. I wavered. But then I rememberd the mysterious way it had been concealed between two books destiny knew I would look at. I thought of the old esoteric adage, when the student is ready the teacher will appear. This same thing had happened to me many times before. Often when my mind had been prepared a book had suggested itself. Here it was, deja vu all over again. Was I going to let a little literary bigotry stand between me and my obvious destiny? Not I. I begrudged the ten dollars but when I got home and examined the tiny volume I saw that I had discovered the missing link. I can now make a case for a new scientific mythology.
When It All Comes Down, I Hope It Lands On Me
The search for a new mythology goes on apace. Perhaps the catalyst in the organization of the search was a sci-fi writer named Philip Jose Farmer. Back in 1972 he formulated a scheme in his fantasy novel Tarzan Alive called the Wold Newton Universe. He provides a very rigorous framework for the search. Farmer posited that a meteorite fell to Earth near Wold Newton in the North of England in 1795, which is true, a meteorite did come down. He further posits following the lead of H.G. Wells novel In The Days Of The Comet that this 1795 comet produced a change in men’s minds, and in point of fact there was a change of consciousness that occurred at this exact time.
Several years ago, decades now, I bought a collection of the British magazine The Monthly Review, a run from 1781 to 1795. Isn’t this spooky? These volumes reflect a late medieval consciousness. As an example the volumes use f for s internally in a word- paf try for pastry for instance while beginning and ending esses are the convention letter s. After 1800 this form disappears. I wondered at what precise time The Monthly Review changed its orthography. Through the wonders of the internet I was able to determine that precise date. It was at the beginning of 1796, the volume following the last I own. Thus 1795 is, in fact, a very good date for the change to the modern consciousness.
After 1795 then Euroamerica looked at reality with different and fresh eyes. Also a new literary style arose that led into the genre literatures of the present. A magic generation of writers then arose with one foot in the medieval world and the other in its successor, with modern orthography of course. Shelley and Byron, Peacock and the greatest of all, the father of modern fiction, Walter Scott. Scott has lost nearly all his glamor now but he was the presiding genius of nineteenth century fiction. I mention only the great French Bohemians Honore De Balzac and Alexandre Dumas. Toss in Edgar Allan Poe.
Searching For The Thread
Thus in Tarzan Alive Philip Jose Farmer began a classification system for the new approach to mythology. Currently there are two Wold Newton systems- The French Wold Newton Universe and the Anglo-American. Generally speaking a Wold Newton author’s whole work, or the major part of it, is a series of novels, a roman a fleuve, built around a character or a theme, thus Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Baums Oz stories or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and John Carter/Mars stories. All the Wold Newton novels develop the new scientific mythology. Some themes are developed by several hands such as the Vampire corpus or that of Frankenstein/artificial life.
A major writer falling somewhere between literary and Wold Newton fiction is H.G. Wells. He neither created a great fictional character nor works that fit easily into nor works that are exactly genre literature. Still, Wells is at the center of the Wold Newton mythology.
There are three novels of Wells that I think can fit into and define the Wold Newton Universe. These are The War Of The Worlds, When The Sleeper Wakes and Tono Bungay. With the exception of the Seven Science Fiction novels, of which only four have made an indelible impact, the rest of Wells’ novelistic corpus is today disregarded having apparently no relevance to the modern world.
Of course I like Wells and I have read the entire fiction corpus. There are a few novels that I think merit attention but in the hundred years since they first began appearing the body of fiction that has been written obscures all but the brightest stars of novels so that vas amounts of meritorious fiction is only read by the specialist or literary enthusiast exploring the past.
War Of The Worlds is what got me started on this investigation, isn’t it? I’ve read War Of The Worlds three or four times now and each time it’s a new book and not the one portrayed on the screen or what I perceived from my childhood reading. I’ve come to the conclusion that the book isn’t really all that good although it has set the world on its ear. It must have played into the fears of a society desperately grappling with a sea change in history. Every conventional way of viewing the world was falling into the dust as the old mythology vaporized as before the Martian tripods and a new mythology was as invisible as Griffin in Wells’ Invisible Man. When you removed the wrappings of Griffin there was nothing there but the invisible power of the past.
Perhaps Wells’ Martians symbolized the all too visible power of the new scientific reality destroying the old magical religious vision of reality. At any rate the book was received with startling avidity at its publication in 1898. An nowhere was this book seized upon with such voracity as in America. The effect has also been enduring including the radio broadcast of Orson Wells in 1938 and a number of movie treatments. We often think Wells created this genre but not so.
In fact the space opera centered on Mars was an exciting new genre that developed rapidly during the nineties and the first decade of the new century. Burroughs with his great Martian Trilogy was merely taking advantage of an established theme which he epitomized so well that his books are a culmination of Martian writing to that point. His were the apex of the nineteenth century Martian theme, a new starting point for the future.
He was apparently well read in the genre although apart from a few obvious titles one can’t be sure how deeply he had read.
Robert Godwin explains in the introduction to Edison’s Conquest Of Mars:
Late in 1897 the great H.G. Wells struck gold when he submitted for publication- in Pearson’s Magazine of London- the future-war story to end all future-war stories, The War Of The Worlds. It was not the first story of aliens coming to Earth, Edgar Allan Poe had done that sixty years earlier. It was not even the first to involve humans fighting Martians, that had been done by Percy Greg in 1880, while German author Kurd Lasswitz had brought Martians to Earth to wage war with the British earlier that year. It was Wells who brought this novel idea home with star realism. The War Of The Worlds has little dialogue and few characters but is literally dripping with paranoia. His invading Martians were completely alien and they had the technology to rampage right across the capitol city of the most powerful nation on Earth. The War Of The Worlds soon appeared in America through the pages of Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Will This Nightmare Never End?
Perhaps the dripping in paranoia was the key to Wells’ American success. America is a very paranoid ountry and the paranoia is shared equally by both the Right and the Left. If War Of The Worlds dripped with paranoia it was as nothing compared to Wells’ next book, When The Sleeper Wakes. Sleeper is all bombs, sirens and searchlights playing across the dark night skies. Sleeper is the masterpiece of paranoia. I just love it. Wells must hav been going through a period of deep anxiety when he wrote it. Sleeper is one great long anxiety attack wich he translated into a fear of being buried alive. The hero, Graham, is actually buried alive although above ground. He’s placed in a glass case where he sleeps for a couple hundred years until one day he awakes to find himself in possession of all the wealth in the world. His money had been in trust gathering interest for all these centuries until his estate equalled the world’s wealth. Of course he is more dangerous awake than asleep so he begins running scared.
But that fear or paranois also characterized The War Of The Worlds which is one long flight from danger. Godwin continues:
Cosmopolitan was not cheap and so it would not be until the following January that the impressionable and imaginative young inventor Robert Goddard would first encounter Wells’ Martian war machines. Copyright laws in America were still somewhat tenuous and newspapers were at liberty to do as they pleased. Obtaining permission was often the last thing a newspaper editor would worry about and this modus operandi was especially prevalent in the smaller newspapers such as the New York Evening Journal, The Milwaukee Sentinel and the Boston Post. Many of these newspapers decided to jump on Wells’ bandwagon.
In the Boston Post, a Sunday, January 9th 1898, an entirely revised version of The War Of The Worlds appeared under the title Fighters From Mars- or, The Terrible War Of The Worlds, as it Was Waged in or Near Boston in the year 1900. What is particularly remarkable about this is that the story is completely transposed from London to Boston. All of the familiar scenes which take place in south London are suddenly taking place in Concord Masschusetts. The Boston Post was fairly well circulated in the New England area and Robert Goddard soon learned of the remarkable serial. The Post certainly did their part to stoke the fires of enthusiasm, they repeated the first chapter the next day in Monday’s newspaper and then not a day went by for the next few weeks without another installment appearing. On the 3rd of February the serialization was complete and Wells’ great story was soon destined to appear in America as a full fledged book.
Then something altogether unexpected happened. The editors of the Boston Post revealed that they had acquired a “sequel” to Wells’ story, the advert in the Post read. “Edison’s Conquest Of Mars- A Sequel To ‘Fighters From Mars’… written in collaboration with Edison by Garrett P. Serviss the well known astronomical author.”
A truly astounding development. Here was immediate impact to be followed forty years later by the even more astonishing reaction to Orson Wells radio script of the novel which was accepted as fact, real by the radio listeners who grabbed their shotguns and ran into the streets to repel the Martian invaders. Obviously the novel answered a deep seated psychological need of Americans which would be reflected in a series of movies such as The Day The Earth Stood Still with Gort an Klaatu as well as such later developments as Roswell, New Mexico and Area 51. Aliens and space were united to the New Mythology. Of course such aliens are only God thinly disguised. After all such characters as Klaatu are always preaching to us to mend our misbegotten ways or else. Religion or no religion.
A Giant Leap For Americans
The remarkable thing is that the Boston Post or one or more of its editors got a British copy in their hands, or the Cosmopolitan reprint, read it had his mind transformed on the spot immediately beginnning the transposition from London to Boston while at the same time beginning he process to create a sequel that was ready to begin publishing as soon as the original finished. Plus Edison had to be immediately amenable to the idea so as to give his permission to use his name.
Now, all this is transpiring during the Spanish-American war and the insurrection in the Philippines. Also as if one phenomenon weren’t enough this was also the moment that Kipling’s poem The White Man’s Burden appeared. Kipling’s poem was, of course, a commentary on the Philippine insurrection.
Serviss then had probably no more than a month to draft his sequel. Serviss himself had a scientific background which he fully employs in his sequel. He was up to date on Martian theory. As incredible as it may seem the book could have been a pilot for Star Trek. He got it all in one book. The Boston Post serialization ran and then the story disappeared. It never made book form at the time. In 1947 it was unearthed and published in a truncated form so unless by a miracle the Post episodes were seen by Edgar Rice Burroughs they had no influence on him although it seems like they could have. However Percival Lowell the astronomer who is often mentioned as an influence on Burroughs was from Boston. By 1899 he had already established his observatory in Flagstaff and written the first of his three Martian books, ‘Mars.’ He might then have had an influence on Serviss. Lowell’s other two Martian books Mars And The Canals and Mars As The Abode Of Life written in 1906 and 1908 respectively might have been influenced by Serviss. As a budding Mars expert it is likely that he might have had his attention called to both Wells’ and Serviss’ efforts. If Burroughs read Lowell he would have been indirectly influenced by Serviss. Anyway Serviss has a full discussion of how the water imagined to be on Mars flowed from the South to the North because the South Pole was thought to be elevated over the North and water, of course, flows down hill. Serviss doesn’t explain how the water gets back to the South Pole.
Serviss and undoubtedly Lowell have the water flowing on the surface so Burroughs has it flowing underground somehow.
At the time Edison’s reputation was at its zenith as a technologist. He was the epitome of the American can do attitude. Serviss was pretty fair at this first attempt at sci-fi. One has to assume that all the scientific ideas were in the air but Serviss skillfully blends them together in that can do attitude within virtually days.
Edison creates a fleet of anti-gravity ships within thirty days. The anti-gravity ship is a plausible way of inter-planetary travel while the ships are designed in the projectile shape of current rockets. The disintegrator guns Edison designs, also within thirty days, eliminate the bonds between atoms also in a plausible manner thus scattering the stricken entity to the winds.
Thus a few years before the Wrights not only does Edison have heavier than air craft but the Martians have huge air fleets along the line of Burroughs. So, as I say, Burroughs was stepping into an established genre not originating anything.
Serviss merely makes the Martians giants so we essentially have a Gullivar and the Lilliputians story reversed. It’s a reasonably good story while being a very proper scientific novel. There is nothing really for future writers to add, just rearrange the details. And that was in 1899.
The Boston response to the invasion from Mars was to ‘organize’ its own invasion of Mars and annihilate them as a psychological projection. Very interesting.
From One Dark Spot To Another
I have found no response from Wells to this rewrite of War Of The Worlds and its sequel. H.G. got busy writing another fantastic futuristic sci fi effort title, When The Sleeper Wakes. This book can actually be bundled with 1909’s Tono Bungay. Both wonderful paranoid books. These two books plus War Of The Worlds form the core of my psyche and if the truth were known probably a large part of the psyche of Edgar Rice Burroughs; most especially he was influenced by Tono Bungay which can be readily traced.
Sleeper is a wonderfully paranoid tone poem. By 1898-99 Wells was realizing his ambition of rising above his origins while his Anima-Animus problem was becoming paramount. Wells was born into the lower social level of society with almost no hope of realizing his considerable potential. He was seemingly condemned to a life as a Draper’s Assistant which was little above servitude or even slavery. On his own efforts he rebelled seeking a way out through education. He achieved this after enduring several years on the razor’s edge uncertain as to what his future would be. Combining his scientific background with his literary skills he began to rise above his origins financially although he was never to escape the psychological stigma of his lower class origins.
Thus through his short stories which were sensational at the time and some still are he got a foothold in the literary scene. Wells wrote at least two or three masterpieces. His The Time Machine put him in the writer’s top notch class. War Of The Worlds and When The Sleeper Wakes, close to a diptich, written out of acute anxiety as to his future put him over the top. He was a force to be reckoned with.
Thus both novels pit his heroes against overwhelming forces that they must defeat. In the War Of The Worlds the enemies fade away through natural causes. In Sleeper, Graham the Sleeper, awakes to find himself the richest man in the world only to discover that all is to be taken away from him. This is normal anxiety for someone on the rise. The new man is always resented and his way made difficult. He is to be prevented if possible. Hence the intense fear and paranoia of Sleeper. In the denouement Graham takes to the air in the last remaining airship to single handedly drive back the Negro police summoned from Africa. Prescient really. The Sleeper’s plane spirals into a crash but then Wells takes the copout that it is only a dream. At any rate in real life he wakes up to find that he is now a guru. His non-fiction Anticipations- a guide to the future- published two years later in 1901 established him irrevocably as a ‘futurist’. All he had do then was write passable books.
Both of his masterpieces Worlds and Sleeper also dealt with Wells’ troubled sexuality. As in the life of all men his Anima became estranged from his Animus which Wells was never able to reconcile as he developed a rather bizarre sex life as he searched for a way to recover his Anima.
In WOW as the populace was fleeing the Martians his hero was driving a cart along with his Anima figure. The two became separated when a crowd came between them and she was lost. In Sleeper Graham finds his Anma but once gain events separate them and he is about to crash his plane alone.
And then ten years later Wells crowned his work with the very wonderful Tono Bungay. Not close to the finest story ever told it is nevertheless one of the world’s great novels. The book had a profound influence on me. I first read it when I was twenty while I have subsequently read the book three times. I cherish my first reading because I projected myself into the story so much that I rewrote the book in my imagination to suit my own needs. Tono Bungay was an entirely new book in my last reading. I hope to show that the book had a profound influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs as his and Wells lives touched as the 1930s arrived. It’s always a strange world.
Wells seems to have been interested in the patent medicine businss in the US during the first decade of the century. Strangely it is not impossible that the story refers to the situation of a Dr. Stace of Chicago. I’m just guessing now. Stace’s partner was a young man named Edgar Rice Burroughs. So it may be coincidence that Edward Ponderevo, the inventor of the tonic Tono Bungay, and George Ponderevo his nephew, may have been based in part on Stace and Burroughs. I mean, the patent medicine stories are identical. Probably a coincidence though but I’m just guessing.
During the first decade of the twentieth century the patent medicine business had developed in the United States to magnificent proportions. As great national magazines arose the potential of the business rose accordingly. The active ingredient in the patents was usually alcohol although drugs, which were unregulated were frequently used. It is well known, for instance, that the Coca in Coca Cola referred to the cocaine with which the drink was laced. Coke was a real pick me up back then. Amphetamines were isolated in 1897 so imagine Methedrine Cola. Quite an idea.
The US government saw the dangers of these patent medicines, not a few of which used the opium based laudanum. I mean, these were loose times, they used to give infants opium based laudamun to keep them quiet. Better than TV. So, during the teens the government was forced to conduct a campaign against patent medicines. First they came for the patent medicines then they came for the alcohol and then they came for the cigarettes. Now they’re working on sugar and salt and caffeine. You’re next, you miserable user you. Wells was watching this fascinating activity from Britain. In one instance Edward Ponderevo remarks that six or seven go-getter Americans would wake England up. Then he invented Tono Bungay, the patent medicine par excellence.
Strangely, leading the anti-patent medicine campaign in the US was Samuel Hopkins Adams who would affect Stace-Burroughs then and sixteen years or so later would upset Burroughs’ life when he published his very successful novel, Flaming Youth. Strangely, strangely how many people who have never met can be so influential on others. Almost paranormal.
So, Burroughs took up with Stace in the sale of patent medicines just as the government was cracking down on them, putting them out of business, filing legal complaints, doing the double nasty. Stace and Burroughs developed a close relationship, almost as close as father and son or, uncle and nephew. Even after the two were put out of business they continued in another line of business before parting. Erwin Porges in his biograpy of ERB doesn’t go into a lot of detail over this relationship, maybe from a mistaken sense of delicacy, but this was a big event in Burroughs’ life perhaps straining his marriage with Emma. I believe it was here that he gained his personal experience of sheriffs and grand juries.
Stace may have been a big enough operator to come to Wells’ attention so that he was captivated by this story of the older man and his younger acolyte.
At any rate Edward Ponderevo goes bust in a provincial town through his aggressive business practices removing to London where he develops the idea of Tono Bungay. Wells then diverges from the patent medicine story as Ponderevo, who was a real go-getter, develops an empire based on legitimate products, like soap, so that Tono Bungay takes a back seat in his success story.
Interestingly Ponderevo buys a huge estate not unlike Tarzana around which he begins to build a ten foot high wall some eleven miles in length. Then, of course, he overextends himself and goes bust.
In reading this story, as I’m sure Burroughs did, he must have really related to the patent medicine story while probably rewriting the story in his mind to suit his circumstances. In this story too, Wells finds his perfect soul mate or Anima who once again he loses.
If by chance Wells was aware of the Stace story and did know he had a junior partner, Burroughs, he undoubtely forgot about him and the patent medicine business in the turmoil of the years to come.
The story of Ponderevo, his large estate and the eleven mile ten foot high wall must have stuck in Burroughs’ mind. The story may have been instrumental in his decision to buy Tarzana while it appears spectacularly in 1933’s Tarzan And The Lion Man.
Let me say that this whole group of writers who would nearly all find a place in the Wold Newton Universe read each other. While Kipling, Haggard, Wells and Doyle were reading Burroughs after he became famous as well. Indeed, Wells in Sleeper mentions three stories that had a profound effect on all these writers: Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King, Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness and Henry James’ The Madonna Of The Future. Writers appearing after ERB’s fame appear to have been universally influenced by his, too. Haggard and Kipling’s Love Eternal was a response to ERB’s The Eternal Lover and unless I’m oversensitive they talked to him in it, too.
In a way then this was a form of telepathy, so controversial a topic at the time- true long distance communication and this would continue through the thirties if you’ve read enough and thought about it.
Anyway Burroughs read extensively incorporating almost everything that impressed him into his stories one way and sometime or other. I’m sure he was unconscious of using most of the sources. Thus the story of Tono Bungay, Ponderevo and the ten foot fence entered his subconscious.
In 1919 he left Chicago for LA for good. His intent was to buy twenty acres or so to raise hogs. This he could easily have afforded avoiding all the subsequent economic pain. However Harrisons Gray Otis, the publisher of the LA Times had died in 1917 and his 540 acre estate, Rancho Del Cabrillo, was on the market. ERB made an abrupt about face and bought it. I’ve often wondered why, what was the impetus? If one reads of Ponderevo’s estate in England one has a pretty good match of Tarzana. Burroughs has been quoted as saying he would have liked to have a large estate that he could build a ten foot high wall around. Of course he had the estate and lost it. But the Ponderevo estate seems to have been on his mind.
This may sound completely conjectural but let’s move ahead to 1933 when ERB penned what I consider his magnum opus, Tarzan And The Lion Man. He includes a novella in the story that might be entitled, Tarzan And The City Of God. This is a pretty good story. By 1933 the talkies had been in existence for five years. Many of the more magnificent early horror stories had already been filmed. I may be a sucker for these early horror films but given the limitations of the industry at the time they have never been equaled. So, in addition to all the books stored in ERB’s mind, fifteen years or so of silent films, he now added a full catalog of talkies. Himself a virtual father of all B movies with his own catalog of novels all these B horror films reinforced his imagination. Even though he had little to do with the filming of his own movie starring Herman Brix as Tarzan, The New Adventures Of Tarzan, the movie was nevertheless perfect of the B genre. Sort of an a correction and example to MGM.
Tarzan And The City Of God is perfect in the Pulp genre which is the literary counterpart of the B movie but now ERB seamlessly joins the Pulp to the B genre.
Tarzan And The Lion Man mocks the making of MGM’s film, Trader Horn. As I have pointed out in other reviews in 1931 ERB signed a contract with MGM that removed the Tarzan character in the movies from his control to MGM. MGM then proceeded to mock the Tarzan character on the screen in an attempt to destroy ERB’s creation. Of course, the mockery failed, Tarzan going on to greater glory and an immortality he might not have attained otherwise.
At the same time ERB was locked in a battle with Joseph Stalin and, at the risk of seeming preposterous, the Soviet Union. This war was brought to the surface n 1930’s Tarzan The Invincible. Now, Stalin and the Communists of all countries were attempting to discredit all pre-Revolutionary writers who rejected the Communist program. ERB was one of these while, oddly, Tarzan was one of Stalin’s favorite characters, especially in the MGM movies.
H.G. Wells who accepted the Revolution in substitution for God in about 1920 was one of Stalin’s literary hatchet men. During this period Stalin assigned State prostitutes to service certain Western literary men to report back to him on their doings. Moura Budberg had been assigned to H.G. Wells. Amazingly Wells fell deeply in love with her although he had to have known that he was her job. One of Wells’ targets was Edgar Rice Burroughs. Thus beginning in the twenties Wells began parodying and vilifying Burroughs in various books to which Burroughs replied in other of his own books. Thus, in a sense, there was telepathic communication.
In 1933 the combined attack of MGM, one imagines Louis B. Mayer, Wells and Stalin had overwhelmed Burroughs.
In 1930’s Tarzan The Invincible Burroughs had been forced to abandon the valley of Opar and La to Wellsian and Soviet interference. The Communists invaded Opar destroying ERB’s imagined paradise. So now, in a masterful creation he attacks Wells, MGM and the Communists in the City of God, London, England transposed to the Mutia Escarpment in Africa The Mutia Escarpment was MGM’s imaginary location for the Tarzan movies named after an African actor who appeared in Trader Horn. We do have telepathic communication here if you’ve got your radio turned on and tuned in. So there is layer after layer of mockeries in what is actually a titanic combat involving film and literature carried on right before the eyes of an unseeing world. Stalin, Burroughs, Wells and L.B. Mayer knew but virtually no one else. I might never have caught on but for the internet and the availability of films on DVD and flat screen TVs programmed through my wireless computer network. I have a complete collection of ERB’s novels, nearly all of Wells, and a nearly complete collection of Tarzan DVD’s. There’s always one or two that elude you. So I can read and watch at will. Rather amazing really. All one’s intellectual influences on one shelf while every library and film archive is only a click away. Isn’t God good to us?
So, Tarzan scales the Mutia Escarpment which at his point of attack is a sheer wall of granite. this probably indicates the difficulties ERB was facing. As usual there is an easier ascent for the ladies but Tarzan knows nothing of it. In real life, the location of Van Dyke’s Trader Horn was Murchison Falls on the Nile and the plateau would have been the land around Lake Victoria.
On the plateau Tarzan approaches the City of God/London which is surrounded by a, guess what, ten foot high wall. The circumference must have been at least eleven miles. Thus we have a replica of Ponderevo’s estate as imagined by H.G. Wells of London, England. Instead of Ponderevo’s modern ‘castle’ we have a replica of what might be Frankenstein’s castle or some othe horror film castle with the requisite village at its base.
Now, ‘God’ who was a ‘formerly handsome Englishman’ had come to this country in 1859. This is now 1933 so 74 years previously. As God will tell Tarzan shortly he was a biological scientist experimenting in evolution and creating artificial life a la Frankenstein, when his studies involving corpses brought the authorities down on him forcing him to flee England but not before he had removed, essentially DNA, which ERB calls ‘germs’, from the corpses of Henry VIII and his court buried in Westminster Abbey. In London, Africa God had forced the evolution of a tribe of gorillas turning them into barbaric replicas of Henry VIII and his court. Still having the appearance of gorillas they have more or less human minds speaking and acting as archaic Englishmen.
Tarzan having scaled the impossible cliffs of the plateau is now faced with a ten foot wall with sharply pointed wooden stakes pointing downward making a leap and hoist impossible. ERB has left out the overarching tree in this instance so Tarzan does his strongman act. The body builders are never far from ERB’s imagination. Tarzan pulls off an impossible stunt. Leaping up he grabs a couple stakes lifting himself over his wrists until he was above the wall then rolled forward. Only time that trick’s ever been performed. Thus ERB enters that ‘sacred city.’ The sort of Troy that refused Achilles.
The scaling of the cliffs, the clearing of the wall might have been suggested to ERB by his struggle to achieve success which he had done for one brief moment. Lifting himself by his bootstraps, as it were, he had gained entry into that sacred city. His success was to be shortlived and almost as tragic as Tarzan’s visit to the City of God or ERB’s Tarzana or Ponderevo’s estate.
While Wells was born to poverty ERB’s course in life had been different; he was a Golden Child with the highest expectations. And then in his teens it was all taken from him as he was plunged into poverty although not as abject as he makes it out to be. Thuse he had a different personal myth than that of Wells. He identified with Mark Twain’s Prince And The Pauper in which the Prince changes places with his impoverished doppelganger, then regains his position. His other favorite book of this type was Little Lord Fauntleroy in which a British heir lives a normal life in America until he inherits his English title. Thus these two books combined with Tono Bungay suggested a course to his life that he actually realized and as the three titles suggest lived his life in a boom and bust fashion. as though compelled to gain and lose, lose and gain his fortunes until he died in bed a comparatively well off man. ERB was a very suggestible guy. At this point in his life he was heading into a major bust part of the cycle and this story tells of it.
Once inside the walls there sits the castle, The City of God, the City on the Hill, the sacred city of Achilles, his goal. Tarzan mounts a very long flight of steep stairs as ‘God high above on the castle ramparts watches with grim satisfaction. the fly has come to the spider. Just like L.B. Mayer and MGM he’s got his man all but trapped.
Having just been trapped by his enemies ERB belatedly has it all figured out. Tarzan enters a oyer faced by three doors. At this point all decisions are Tarzan’s. He can go back or he can go forward. He elects to go on. Two of the doors are locked while one is ajar. This scene of Tarzan and the doors is repeated several times in the corpus. I’ve tried to figure it out. The nearest I can come is a short story of 1898 by Frank Stockton titled The Lady Or The Tiger.
Since this was a very famous story I, for myself, have no doubt that ERB read it and was suitably impressed. This is arbitrary, I know, however there is a great deal of similarity between this story and the story of Queen Nemone and Tarzan in the arena from Tarzan And The City Of Gold. Now, in the Lady Or The Tiger the story hinges on two doors, behind one of which is a tiger and the other a gorgeous lady. This is the trial by ordeal that Stockton’s king has chosen to decide his criminal cases. In his story a young lowly man has dared to love the king’s daughter. She is inn attendance but displeased because the lover will possible marry another. She indicates to him to take the right hand door. The question is left unanswered whether the lady or the tiger was behind the door by Stockton leaving it to the reader whether the one or the other was the man’s fate.
In the city of God, of course, the choice has been made for Tarzan as the middle door is left unlatched. Tarzan enters descends some steps, passes through another door that latches behind him to find himself facing…the lady. Well,I don’tknow, could be unrelated to Stockton’s story, but then, again….
At any rate it relates to ERB’s obsessions with tigers. As we all know the magazine story of Tarzan Of The Apes had both tigers and lions that public opinion forced Tarzan to change as the literalists pointed out that there were no tigers in Africa. ERB changed the tiger to a lioness he called Sabor so that female lions can be thought of as tigers. I think most of the lions Tarzan kills are females. If tigers and ladies are associated in ERB’s mind then in City of God Tarzan got both the symbol and the real thing, who was his preferred Anima figure Rhonda. I’m pretty sure that’s how ERB’s mind worked.
Speaking of tigers, for those lovers of the Pulp and B movie genres, a perfect of its kind, the grande finale of the genre so to speak is Fritz Lang’s Indian diptich The tiger Of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb of 1959. Set in India but pure Burroughs with plenty of tigers, as there are no lions in India as everyone knows. Stunning color and the perfect pulp story of the twenties and thirties. Three or four hours of bliss.
So Tarzan/ERB is in a cage with his other half, his Anima. He’s been in tight spots before but this is it, the real thing, the place that’s a leap too far. Rider Haggard all over again. While the Big Guy and Rhonda are talking things over their captor, ‘God’, makes his appearance. A jolly fellow, a formerly handsome Englishman, now piebald, who might go by the name of H.G. Wells.
As I said Wells is one of my favorites and when I was younger and slightly more obtuse Wells struck me as he probably did ERB as a stunning writer. Later as I learned of Wells’ politics and other failings he lost much of his gitter but the glory pretty much remains although resented. Burroughs had much more reason to consider Wells a ‘formerly handsome Englishman’. Thus he takes a certain malicious pleasure in making his God character half black, half white, half ape and half human. There’s a lot more to analyze in the character of God but I’m working this side of the track right now.
The reason God is half and half is because as he aged he took germ cells from the apes to rejuvenate himself thus slowly adopting ape characteristis, regressing as it were in an evolutionary sense and making a fine joke on the Stokes Trial in Tennessee of a few years earlier. God is delighted to have captured two such fine White DNA specimens as he hopes their germ cells may restore him to his former splendor.
We’ll never know now because while God absents himself, in the best pulp/B movie fashion Tarzan feels a breeze stirring. This leads to what is hopefully an escape oute but merely tuns into an avenue leading to Tarzan’s Gotterdamerung. A fire starts rising up through the flue Tarzan found and ascended so that the whole City of God on the hill perishes in flames.
While Burroughs may have said back in the teens that he had never read Wells, that may be dismissed. Actually when one delves behind the obvious facts one finds a fairly intimate connection with their careers contacting on the psychological level, that is to say ‘telepathically’, several times. Between Wells and Burroughs almost continuously from, say, 1908 to the thirties.
If one assumes that Wells was aware of the Stace-Burroughs situation, which is only a possibility, then Wells formed part of Burroughs subconscious with his Tono Bungay. That influence probably surfaced when Burroughs purchased Tarzana and then became continuous through the twenties and thirties when Wells became Stalin’s literary hatchet man.
Wells eludes the Wold Newton because he never created a mythic character or series of novels although the psychological situations of the seven science fiction novels and Tono Bungay along with many of his short stories give him a significant place in the Wold Newton mythos. The WNU is of course a state of mind giving mythological form to history since 1795 when the meteor landed altering consciousness.
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
ERB was born in 1875 before education had been affected by the ideologies of either the Communists or Dewey. He was given a Classical versus scientific education in his critical Jr. High years. Thus he must have known Latin reasonably well.
The current High School system of the US came to fruition only during the twentieth century. Universal literacy only became realizable a very short time ago. Child labor didn’t disappear until after the Second World War. Thus ERB really had a favored childhood. ERB must have been familiar with memorization and drill; methods of education now highly discouraged. Therefore his education was directed toward a full consciousness than sink into the inherently criminal unconscious which Communist method prevails today. As there was no audio-visual culture at that time his was a print mentality through say 1910 when the movies began to have significance. By 1920, at least, he was fully involved in a print-movie culture hence a more unconscious mode of thinking. Still, his early training led him to a conscious approach to experiencing and analyzing.
One can’t know for sure which year he became aware but it is safe to assume 1888-90. Thus his immediate past extended back to about 1850 just as for me the twenties and thirties form my immediate past. Yours can be computed as about twenty years before you were born. As we grow up these years form the topic of discussion we overhear from our elders.
ERB’s near past then can be calculated as about 1800 so that dying in 1950 as he did his life straddled, as it were, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The nineteenth century was quite stunning in its diversity. As a boy and young man ERB was alive at the time of ‘the winning of the West.’ His early life was lived in the high tide of ‘Western world supremacy.’ His heroes such as Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wister epitomized the high tide. The ‘Scramble For Africa’ of the last quarter of the nineteenth century formed the centerpiece of his literary corpus, that of Tarzan Of The Apes. Also a key to his world outlook was the American Civil War that ended only ten years before he was born. While I have found no direct evidence of the San Domingo Moment that occurred at the very beginning of the nineteenth century it is possible that he conflated San Domingo with the Civil War in the Martian series when the First Born, or Negroes, defeated the White Holy Therns nearly exterminating them. Thus while ERB’s works are ‘pure entertainment’ if you look closely you’ll find some serious historical and social commentary. If it weren’t there you wouldn’t have the Liberal Coalition condemning him as a bigot. They do.
For the purposes of this essay I will use a professor from Case-Western Reserve by the name of Richard Slotkin as a representative of the Liberal Coalition or Communist school. In his essay Gunfighter Nation he lays the blame for everything he dislikes at the feet of Burroughs and two other writers- Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard. We will get there soon enough but first lets consider the ‘humanitarian’ record of the Coalition. In one form or another the Coalition and its constituents date back to the French Revolution and hence San Domingo. Thus the Coalition was born in blood and murder. Murder on a grand scale, genocide in fact. The ideology of the Coalition is that of the Communists. The men Slotkin so roundly condemns are all anti-Communists so the ideological differences are clear.
Over the two centuries plus since the Revolution over a hundred million people have been murdered by units of the Coalition with hundreds of millions more projected for the near future. Yet Mr. Slotkin proposes to represent our trio as indescribably evil because he attributes the My Lai Massacre in Viet Nam not to them personally but as a direct result of their writings.
So there we have the basic issues. The hypocrisy of Mr. Slotkin should be self-evident.
What was the opinions of Messers Burroughts, Grant and Stoddard that so inflame Mr. Slotkin?
Quite simply they are conscious, objective scholars as opposed to the unconscious method of Liberal writers. Liberal views are products of the unconscious and cannot stand up to critical analysis. The unconscious is selfish and criminal hence wishful. The attitude is not what is but what I want.
The high tide of Western world supremacy was ending as it was cresting. This was noticeable to more acute intellects as early as 1900 and perhaps a decade earlier. Burroughs hints at this when he describes the Lotharians as an ancient auburn haired White race who ruled a thalassocracy or a maritime empire. Thus in his hierarchy of Martian races there was an earlier White race than the Therns.
The Lotharians sailed forth to win Mars for the city at home much as European mariners won the world for Europe beginning with the Portuguese voyages of the fifteenth century, Columbus and all the sea captains of the glorious age of discovery. The seamen were only defeated by the stay-at-homes who sabotaged their efforts.
Burroughs gives a valid interpretation of the age of European exploration and conquest from the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. Thus the story of the Lotharians, now shadows of their former selves, is a very poetic rendering of that history.
The period ended with the 1899-1900 enunciation of the Open Door Policy in China by the American SecretaryOf State, John Hay. China was in the process of being acquired by the European States at the time which the Open Door prevented thus guaranteeing China’s integrity. This was a sea change in world politics. the conquered peoples now began their counter offensive against the West.
This change was noted by Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard.
Madison Grant was of the earlier generation of TR while Burroughs and Stoddard were near contemporaries. Burroughs born in 1875, Stoddard in 1883. They both died in the same year, 1950.
None of the three applauded the sea change but lamented it, running counter to Liberal ideology which applauded the change and latterly aroused the ire of Prof. Slotkin. Thus he and his Coalition fellows demonize the three.
They were only writers.. Until recently Grant and Stoddard had been all but forgotten. Grant’s two best known works are The Passing Of The Great Race of 1915 and Conquest Of A Continent of 1933. His main offence in the eyes of the coalition is that the Great Race is the Nordic race, which implies superiority, and his use of the term Nordic. There was a tremendous effort at the time to ridicule and deny Nordics and Anglo-Saxons. This is most notable in the vitriolic work of the bigot H.L. Mencken. Nordic is a curse word within the Coalition.
The Great Race is an interesting period piece but seems obsolete in its science. Conquest is still usable as a guide for the Nordic migrations within the US. I think it questionable that Burroughs was influenced by Grant who wrote after ERB had already committed himself although as Great Race made a splash it isn’t improbable that he read it.
Lothrop Stoddard is a different story. Here is a scholar done a great injury by the likes of Slotkin and the Coalition. Stoddard wrote several books that might even be considered prophetic. As noted he was eight years younger than ERB while graduating from Harvard. Unlike Grant I think Slotkin is right that he was an influence on Burroughs but only after 1920 when Burroughs was fully formed. It is possible that ERB accessed his research for his own purposes.
Stoddard’s first book in 1914 was a terrific examination of the San Domingo Moment titled The French Revolution in San Domingo. while the book was issued too late to affect ERB’s knowledge for use in Thuvia in 1914 events were transpiring that would have put Haiti, San Domingo’s later name, in his mind’s eye. Beginning in January of 1914 several US warships landed troops in a very disorderly Haiti. The bankers had precipitated yet another financial crisis by imprudent lending practices. As was to become customary they called on the US government to bail them out. In order to insure their loans the taxpayers were called upon to foot the bill. The occupation of Haiti by the Marines began the next year and that lasted until well into the thirties before the troops were withdrawn. Having gotten Haiti into trouble the bankers than looted the country for a couple decades.
Another interesting sidelight in Haiti and the Caribbean was that 1914 was the year that McClurg’s released Tarzan Of The Apes. Now, Ogden McClurg the ostensible owner of McClurg’s was only a figurehead. The company had become employee owned after the last fire about 1900. Ogden McClurg was living ERB’s fantasy life. He was an officer in the Navy having spent the decade or so previous to 1914 as an operative in the Caribbean during a period when the US was famous for gunboat diplomacy among the Banana Republics. It’s possible that he often worked undercover as a secret agent.
ERB’s contact was Joe Bray who actually ran the day to day operations of the firm. I’ve been told that McClurg had little to or no contact with the authors and indeed, it seems unlikely he could have being out of the country so much, yet ERB seems to have formed a jealous relationship with McClurg speaking of him as though he did know him. That could only have been between 1914 and 1917. Ogden was in Europe for three years or so during the war and after while ERB left for LA in 1919. Deserves investigation.
Back to Stoddard. In 1920, 21 and 22 he issued his three most important books, the ones that so infuriate the volatile Liberal Coalition. The titles were The Rising Tide Of Color Against White World Supremacy of 1920, The New World Of Islam of 1921 and 1922’s The Revolt Against Civilization- The Menace Of The Underman.
All three were prophetic and indeed, as of today, the prophecies have come to pass. The first volume, The Rising Tide Of Color needs no explanation for the violent reaction of the Coalition. By this time their agencies of the ADL, AJC and NAACP operating under the umbrella of the Communist Party were well able to defame anyone they chose with immunity from prosecution.
The mere mention of White Supremacy was enough to make them foam at the mouth. The reasons are clear and they were already formulated by the Revolution of 1792, Now, we do have the problem of slavery which casts a pall over all discussions. There is no justification for slavery although the institution still survives having now spread to America and Europe and it will flower everywhere once again before the century is half over. So, really, the slavery issue is irrelevant. ERB himself accepted the practice as a universal fact of life; the practice exists in all his stories.
Stoddard: This analysis applies to the US of today as aptly as that of San Domingo in 1792. “These men’ are the proto-Communist Jacobins of the French Revolution:
“If you (the San Domingan Whites) are sufficiently united to follow my counsel, I guarantee the salvation of San Domingo. But, in any case, let no one cherish the hope of mercy from these men, let no one be deluded by their sly tricks of policy; the negroes alone find room in their affections, and all the whites without distinction, all the mulattoes as well, are doomed; all whites are dangerous to their projects, all alike will be sacrificed as soon as these men shall have disposed of the officers, gotten rid of the troops of the line, and become at last the undisputed masters.”
As San Domingo in 1792, so Euroamerica in 2010. We were promised change but none has or will ocuur. Two hundred years later same words, same tune. So, Slotkin would have us believe that decent self-respecing scholars and writers such as Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard were responsible for My Lai rather than Robespierre,Danton and Murat. Well, you can fool some of the people all the time….
Just as his first of this trio of books prophesied the coming race wars, so Stoddard’s World Of Islam prophesied the current invasion of Euroamerica and the religious wars, for that is what ‘terrorism’ is. The third book The Revolt Against Civilization has also come to pass as the asault on Western culture, which is to say, civilization continues on an accelerated pace.
It was this book that had the greatest influence on ERB that would surface in 1934s Tarzan And The Lion Man. Stoddard is much influenced by the evolutionary theory of Auguste Weis. Especially the notion of body and germ cells that ERB embraced so enthusiastically in 1934. ERB’s interpretation was certainly pure entertainment but based on current scientific knowledge nonetheless.
As for ERB’s notions he was expressing developed opinions on the social scene under cover of entertainment long before he could have been influenced by either Grant or Stoddard so Richard Slotkin is quite wrong in his prejudicial interpretation of ERB as in ignorant spouter of bigotry based on the other two.
In fact Slotkin ignores the content of all three men to denounce them as ignorant, uninformed bigots who were nevertheless taken so seriously by gunslinging Americans that by Slotkins own words they caused the My Lai Massacre. But enough of Slotkin who sabotages his own thesis by confessing to inadequate research. A much more interesting topic is The Revolt Against Civilization of which it can truly be said that revoltagainst civilization applies to ERB as well as his arch enemies- the Liberal Coalition.
Part III-C will involve civilization and its malcontents.
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
What We Have Here Is Change
In the recent American presidential campaign in the US the winner won by promising the inevitable, Change. A very safe promise as the history of the world is one of change. Indeed, the life of the individual is one of unending change from the cradle to the grave. Change is now and forever. The question is, what response is made to the changes.
The times of Edgar Rice Burroughs were a period of the most earth shaking and rapid of all. At the same time most perilous, as the evolution of actual scientific knowledge in all fields was in its infancy and subject to misinterpretation. One might say in Burroughsian imagery that a series of doors stood before mankind, entering the right door would be more beneficial than the wrong doors.
Burroughs and others made tantative moves for the right door but others entered by the wrong door drawing most others through with them. What looked like progress turned into a regression. To shut up criticism the regressives began to demonize all those of different opinions. Burroughs was among those.
Some say he adapted poorly to the flood of change but the peole who do so are so confident in their opinions that to disagree with them is to be accused of being not only wrong but either criminal or insane. One doesn’t take their opinions too seriously as change will certainly demonstrate their opinions as ludicrous if it hasn’t already. Nevertheless as they are quite vocal in their condemnation of Edgar Rice Burroughs we have to consider the accuracy of their accusations as well as that of their own viewpoint. How well do they understand the issues?
ERB has some interesting observations on the changes occurring in the history, society and racial matters of his times as well as the concealed role of hypnotism in the transformation of that society. The basis of hypnotism is suggestion. As ERB say in Thuvia all is based on suggestion and counter-suggestion. If one conciders life and learning from that angle it presents some interesting possibilites.
What is learning? What is suggestion?
When the child is conceived he must of necessity have a mind with a blank slate. Freud, Jung and many others seem to seriously believe that newborns can inherit ancestral memories even though there is no one beyond the womb who has ever recalled any.
In fact without experience or learning that has has been introjected into the mind there is nothing for the mind to consider, hence no cogitation at all. This mind can only begin to form with the ejection from the womb. This occurs with a brain still in the process of formation. The development of the brain can only be considered completed shortly after puberty.
It seems obvious then that you can’t get out of a mind what isn’t in it. It behooves society then to begin loading the mind of a child as soon as the child is capable of handling education. The education of the mind must be built step by step to provide a firm foundation for the intellectual superstructure. Whatever is in the mind must come from or be suggested from outside the mind. There is no internal system of knowledge. Thus all knowledge is suggested to the child’s mind by his caretakers. They may be good or bad, well or ill intentioned. The brain is organized to receive suggestions or, in another word, experience. The reactive structure may already be in place dut to experiences in the womb and the actual birthing process but the actual learning process begins the moment the newborn emerges from the womb and receives a slap on the bottom to get his lungs started.
Thus the mind of the child is extremely malleable during the time until about puberty and shortly thereafter. If education is neglected during this early period and shortly thereafter it is unlikely that the adult can ever make up the lack. For instance if the basics or reading, writing and arithmetic are not loaded into the brain during this malleable period it is very rare that the skills can be acquired at a later time.
Thus, as it was always known that the child is father to the man various doctrinaire organizations such as the Jesuits believed that if they could form the education of the child or, in another word, indoctrinte him, they could shape the future in their own image. In Burroughs’ time the mechanisms of education were more fully understood. Various schemes were proposed to revise educational methods many of which were just odd or crude, but the better thought to change the direction of society toward a higher ideal.
The Communists were well are at the time that suggestion was the basis of education. Lothrop Stoddard writing in his The Revolt Against Civilization of 1922 quotes Eden and Cedar Paul from their book Proletcult of 1921:
“There is no such thing as “scientific” economics or sociology. For these reasons…there should be organized and spread abroad a new kind of education, “Proletcult.” Thus…in a fighting culture aimed at the overthrow of capitalism and at the replacement of democratic culture and bourgeois ideology by ergatocratic culture and proletarian ideology…” The authors warmly endorse the Soviet government’s prostitution of education and all other forms of intellectual activity to Communist propaganda, for we are told that the “new education” is inspired by the “new psychology”, which “provides the philosophical justification of Bolshevism and supplies a theoretical guide for our efforts in the field of proletarian culture…. Education is suggestion. The recognition that suggestion is auto suggestion, and that auto suggestion is the means whereby imagination controls the subconscious self, will enable us to make a right use of the most potent force which has become available to the members of the human herd since the invention of articulate speech.
I’m sure you can find appropriate application of the doctrine since Stoddard wrote in education, movies, TV, books and phonograph records and CDs. While I would disagree with the Pauls’ notion of suggestion and auto suggestion the Freudian influence is quite clear. This would be abetted by John Dewey’s notions on education that deemphasized the educational foundation while directing it more toward ideological considerations, or ‘relatively unstructured, free, student-directed progressive education.’
God only knows what free, progressive education is but this sort of social engineering was the wrong turn being taken in this era of rapid change.
So, loading the brain to deal with life’s exigencies is of necessity a slow process. As the brain continues to develop outside the womb there is plenty of room for malfunction. As man is incapable of creating anything original the education of the child may be compared to the loading of a computer. First the operating system. Whether consciously or unconsciously since all man knows is his own brain he has replicated it in his machine. A computer functions just like a brain, which should astound no one, as man can only devise what he already knows.
Now, human experience dates back about a hundred thousand years. I intentionally leave out the African development as it had nothing to do with the education of mankind. The African contribution is nil. Education began outside Africa. Having painfully and laboriously accumulated the huge fund of knowledge it must be entered into the brain of the new being. This sort of suggestion is called education. There’s not much room for anything called ‘free’ or ‘progressive.’ Getting it ain’t going to be free, the child has to work like a mule. This is a slow, laborious process as extensive foundations must be laid down before any superstructure can rise. Thus years are consumed just to teach the child reading, writing and arithmetic. With these three tools he can learn anything else. Inexplicably this fact seems to have been lost sight of in today’s educational theories unless of course the Pauls’ dictum is being followed.
Once the foundation has been laid, a form of suggestion and actually hypnosis, the child, now a student, must be taught how to manage and interpret what he learns at an increasingly rapid pace. Unfortunately there will be children left behind; any other expectation is fatuous, some are just brighter than others. Managing and interpreting comes from within the experience of the organism. Here’s the real problem because the same data will by analyzed differently and produce different results and opinions.
Along with learning factual matters the child must at the same time develop emotionally and psychologically. Nasty work. This is a difficult part. As the child has little ability to understand and even less ability to accurately analyze it he has to reason from faulty premisses. This ignorance of reality is what forms Freud’s notion of the unconscious or Id. Correcting this unconscious to consciousness is the conversion of Freud’s Id to Ego. A child misinterprets suggestions. Some become fixated in his un- or subconscious. The fixations are what distort consciousness from the subconscious interfering with the integration of the subconscious and the conscious. While the child is made more conscious in his ability to understand and reject harmful suggestions these fixations like post-hypnotic suggestions control his responses. The fixations must be exorcised which is the intended function of the psychoanalysis of Freud and Jung.
Once again, suggestion is everything outside your mind. Your mind cannot function without these suggestions because there will be nothing in the mind to function. Be carefull of what you put into your mind or, at least, that you do put something of value into it. Whether ERB realized this or not, his ideas of hypnosis and suggestion indicate he might have, he pursued a program of continuing education all his adult life. At the time of writing Thuvia he was working through Edward Gibbons’ Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, a vast minefield of amazing and truly educational suggestion.
Part B follows.
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.
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.
November 16, 2008
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
ERB scholars have long noted that the entire corpus of novels reads almost as one long book. I believe this is because ERB records his life in his novels. If one reads the novels in the sequence in which they were written and if one understands the symbolism used by Burroughs against a background of what’s happening in his life ERB actually records his mental state of the moment.
In this essay I am going to concentrate on a role of John Carter in the Mars series and that of Ulysses Paxton in the Mastermind Of Mars.
In real life before ERB began writing he was powerless on earth. I would call him an abject failure but even though he appeared one he was only on the verge of being one and if his attempt at a writing career in 1911 had failed he would have been plunged into the abyss.
As he was a failure or at least an unfulfilled seeker in 1911 he makes John Carter into a mold he admired, that of a Virginian and a soldier who was seeking his post-Civil War fortune in the deserts of the Southwest. Carter, whose initials are JC, actually finds his gold mine but attacked by Indians he escapes death by transporting himself to Mars.
Mars has a lesser gravity than Earth so on Mars he has superhuman powers. Thus unable to realize any of his ambitions on Earth ERB transports himself in his imagination to Mars as the Superman, John Carter.
Amazingly the idea struck a responsive chord in his soon to be Editor at Munsey’s, Metcalf, who bought the story. It doesn’t matter for how much, the point is it validated ERB’s lofty opinion of his destiny. Fortified by this response he brought himself down to Earth in the fantastic form of Tarzan Of The Apes in an imaginary Africa. Here was the gold mine he as John Carter was seeking. There was no one, no Indians, to drive him off so he was off to the races.
The first rush carried him through the line into 1920 when he left Chicago behind and fled to Los Angeles.
In LA his careless financial habits soon led him into hot water virtually bankrupting him but definitely stripping him of his assets. By 1926 when he wrote The Mastermind Of Mars he was virtually financially prostrate.
The hero of Mastermind is Ulysses Paxton. Ulysses can stand for the Greek wanderer and seeker Odysseus or for the great warrior, Ulysses S. Grant. So what we have is a duplicate of John Carter.
ERB is on record as saying that he thought that every man was two persons not unlike Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, some more divided , some less. Under stress the two personas like Jekyll and Hyde became distinct.
Now, in 1911 ERB was an unrealized genius but in 1926 he was a failed genius. In other words he had had his legs cut from beneath him. He might as well have been dead. Therefore Ulysses Paxton while serving in the Great War has a shell explode beside him. When he comes to he realizes his legs have been blown away. While he lies dying he looks up to Mars as John Carter had fifteen years before. When he next comes to his legs are restored and he is standing in a garden on Mars.
Thus in real life ERB imagines himself figuratively in Paxton’s situation returning in his imagination to the Red Planet in the hope of making lightning strike twice.
He hadn’t written a Tarzan novel since Ant Men four years previously. He was black listed by the movie colony that refused to make any Tarzan movies even though they would have been lucrative. He was under attack nationally and internationally by the Reds who were doing everything possible to destroy his sales and reputation. ERB truly had his back to the wall or figuritively had had his legs cut off.
Fortune would once again favor him when FBO Studios broke the blacklist against him. After a couple fumbling attempts at Tarzan novels he would hit a magnificent stride through the Tarzan novels from 1929 to 1936.
The Mastermind Of Mars was his attempt to recover his career. His style while revered by his fans was old hat by 1926 so he could no longer take the world by storm as he had in 1911.
Mastermind is a complex novel of which I haven’t completely broken the code but let us concentrate on two aspects. The first is ERB’s troubled state of mind over his marriage. Thus he invents the story of Xaxa and Valla Dia as he fights to deal with his sexual problem. The second is the religious problem caused by his confrontation with the Jews beginning in 1919 and continuing not only through 1924’s Marcia Of The Doorstep, and 1926 but to the end of his career.
In 1926 ERB had not yet met Florence Dearholt although he was probably already familiar with her husband Ashton and through that acquaintance he may already have seen her, and perhaps, also on the screen as she was an actress. He did meet her in March of ’27 when Dearholt approached him on a movie deal and was either immediately smitten or had the opinion of her he already had confirmed.
In Mastermind ERB expresses the thought that he has a wife to whom he owes everything but who he hates. This strong emotion would be realized at his own Emma’s death.
In this novel Emma is represented by the brain of the horrid Xaxa. Ras Thavas, the demon mastermind of Mars and physician nonpareil, has transplanted the brain of Xaxa into the beautiful body of Valla Dia and vice versa. Dia is Latin for goddess. I don’t know what Valla means.
The body of Xaxa containing the brain of Valla Dia is held in suspended animation by Ras Thavas. Bringing the body to life Paxton is smitten by the beauty of Valla Dia’s brain. Knowing that her body is of incomparable beauty he conceives the notion of restoring her brain to her body and taking her to wife. Valla Dia may also be seen a version of Helen of Troy.
I interpret this to mean that ERB’s Anima ideal was the beautiful Valla Dia, perhaps as he had once viewed Emma. But to his mind Emma had developed an ugly mind that animated the body of his Anima ideal. the beautiful mind he sought was thus in an ugly body while an ugly mind was in a beautiful body. ERB’s dilemma was to shuck Emma and find a beautiful mind in a beautiful body. When he met Florence in 1927 he thought he had found his Anima ideal of a beautiful mind in a beautiful body. His problem then was how to rid himself of Emma.
On that level then ERB is struggling with his sexual problem. In this book his struggle would take the form of an astonishing number of dual and split personalities. This is quite a study in that sense and an indication of ERB’s extreme stress. Perhaps Mastermind is a worthy successor to Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.
The second and less resolvable problem is the religious issue. At this moment in time the Jews of Hollywood have got ERB boxed. Indeed, they have cut off his legs. The logjam was about to be broken by FBO Studios which would free ERB up until the late thirties when he was forced into exile in Hawaii. For now though he has to deal with this very difficult problem. He has by now learned that freedom of speech ends where Judaism begins. If I am right he was denied publication of Marcia Of The Doorstep because of the manner in which he discussed his dilemma.
In Mastermind while the religious issue assumes primary importance ERB puts it into an ecumenical form denouncing all religion. Does he refer to his Jewish situation in any cloudy form? I think he does.
The god in this story is a huge several story high idol named Tur to which all must bow down. The name Tur is an odd name for a god, at least in my mind. I have said before you cannot talk about that which isn’t in your mind. If you haven’t studied religions there is nothing you can say about them. As ERB has a great deal to say it is obvious that he knows something about religion and religions. Theology isn’t the issue here, that is a separate matter.
Given ERBs method, when he learned he had a problem with Judaism I’m sure he went out and learned something about it. It isn’t necessary that he had a profound knowledge; it is only necessary that he learned some things. We can’t be sure what. The word Tur is signficant in Jewish historiography. His use of Tur may be a coincidence but there you have it- Tur is Tur any way you turn it, frontwards or backwards, Tur is Tur.
The word Tur appears in Judaic lore in this manner:
…Rabbi Jacob (Yaakov) ben Asher (1270-1343) the “Baal ha-Turim” compiled the Arba Turim, first printed in 1458. “Tur” is used as shorthand for both the title of the whole work and for Rabbi Asher himself since it is customary in Judaism to call a compiler by the name of his compilation. The Tur is the predecessor of Rabbi Joseph Karo’s Schulchan Aruch. The four part structure of the Tur and its division into chapters (simanim) were adopted by Karo in the later code, Shulchan Aruch. Each of the four divisions of the work is a Tur, so a particular passage is cited a Tur…
p. 127 Hoffman, Michael, Judaism Discovered, 2008
While one can’t be certain ERB learned the above fact it isn’t particularly recondite and might have been easily learned. At the least the use of Tur for the god is a remarkable coincidence.
Making Tur an idol to which all must bow would have been an egregious offence to the Jews and one which any knowledgeable Jew, who might have read the book, always a precondition, would have picked up on it whether Burroughs intended it or not. Paranoia strikes deep.
The idol itself could possibly be modeled on the Alexandrine Egypto-Greek god, Sarapis. Burroughs would have known of this from the Bible if not from his readings in the classics. We know he reread Plutarch’s Lives at least twice with one of those times just previous to writing Mastermind. If he read the Lives twice he undoubtedly read other classics so there is no reason to believe that he didn’t have knowledge in these matters.
The manner of Paxton’s posing as Tur and bamboozling the bamboozlers is a mockery of religion in general although given the context of the word Tur the application of the mockery might have been taken more personally.
Forced to use the most discreet measures to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism ERB may have thought he was undetectably clever while he is certainly having a good laugh. Paxton congratulates himself and gives himself a couple pats on the back at the success of his ruse.
The end result, of course, is that he frees the people from the bondage to the false religion of Tur.
I’m not quite clear on the nature of Ras Thavas who is named after the Ethiopian Prince Ras Tafari who became the Emperor Haile Selassie and the namesake of the Jamaican Rastafarians.
The book is a worthy of the attempted second birth of ERB’s faltering career. The characters are magnificent and finely drawn. Ras Thavas is surely one of the great characters of pulp fiction. Mastermind paired with The Synthetic Men Of Mars makes for one of the greatest diptyches of science fiction.