Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#5 Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar
Du Maurier, George: Peter Ibbetson
Dudgeon, Piers: Captivated: J.M. Barrie, The Du Mauriers & The Dark Side Of Neverland, 2008, Chatto And Windus
Hesse, Herman: The Bead Game
Neumann, Erich: The Origins and History Of Consciousness, 1951, Princeton/Bollingen
Vrettos, Athena: “Little Bags Of Remembrance: Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson And Victorian Theories Of Ancestral Memories” Erudit Magazine Fall 2009.
While it is today commonly believed that Sigmund Freud invented or discovered the Unconscious this is not true. As so happens a great cataclysm, The Great War of 1914-18, bent civilization in a different direction dissociating it from its recent past.
Studies in the earlier spirit of the unconscious continued to be carried on by C.G. Jung and his school but Freud successfully suppressed their influence until quite recently actually. Through the fifties of the last century Freud’s mistaken and harmful, one might say criminal, notion of the unconscious held the field. Thus there is quite a difference in the tone of Edgar Rice Burroughs writing before and after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
There are those who argue that Burroughs was some kind of idiot savant who somehow knew how to write exciting stories. In fact he was a well and widely read man of varied interests who kept up on intellectual and scientific matters. He was what might be called an autodidact with none of the academic gloss. He was very interested in psychological matters from hypnotism to dream theory.
The scientific investigation of the unconscious may probably be dated to the appearance of Anton Mesmer and his interest in hypnotism also variously known as Mesmerism and Animal Magnetism. The full fledged investigation of the unconscious began with hypnotism. Slowly at first but by the last quarter of the nineteenth century in full flower with varied colors. Science per se was a recent development also flowering along with the discovery of the unconscious.
While Charles Darwin had brought the concept of evolution to scientific recognition in 1859 the key discipline of genetics to make sense of evolution was a missing component. It is true that Gregor Mendel discovered the concept of genetics shortly after Darwin’s Origin Of Species was issued but Mendel’s studies made no impression at the time. His theories were rediscovered in 1900 but they were probably not widely diffused until after the Great War. Burroughs knew of the earlier Lamarck, Darwin and Mendel by 1933 when he wrote Tarzan And The Lion Man. His character of ‘God’ is the result of genetic mutation.
Lacking the more complete knowledge of certain processes that we have today these late nineteenth century speculators seem ludicrous and wide of the mark but one has to remember that comprehension was transitting the religious mind of the previous centuries to a scientific one, a science that wasn’t accepted by everyone then and still isn’t today. The Society For Psychical Research sounds humorous today but without the advantage of genetics, especially DNA such speculations made more sense except to the most hard nosed scientists and skeptics. The future poet laureate John Masefield was there. Looking back from the perspective of 1947 he is quoted by Piers Dudgeon, p. 102:
Men were seeking to discover what limitations there were to personal intellect; how far it could travel from its home personal brain; how deeply it could influence other minds at a distance from it or near it; what limits, if any, there might be to an intense mental sympathy. This enquiry occupied many doctors and scientists in various ways. It stirred George Du Maurier…to speculations which deeply delighted his generation.
Whether believer or skeptic Burroughs himself must have been delighted by these speculations as they stirred his own imagination deeply until after the pall of the Revolution and Freud’s triumph.
Burroughs was subjected to dreams and nightmares all his life. Often waking from bad dreams. He said that his stories were derived from his dreams but there are many Bibliophiles who scoff at this notion. The notion of ‘directed dreaming’ has disappeared from popular consideration but then it was a serious topic. Freud’s own dream book was issued at about this time. I have already reviewed George Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson on my blog, I, Dynamo and on ERBzine with Du Maurier’s notions of ‘Dreaming True’. It seems highly probable that Burroughs read Ibbetson and Du Maurier’s other two novels so that from sometime in the nineties he would have been familiar with dream notions from that source.
Auto-suggestion is concerned here and just as support that Burroughs was familiar with the concept let me quote from a recent collection of ERB’s letters with Metcalf as posted on ERBzine. This letter is dated December 12, 1912.
If they liked Tarzan, they will expect to like this story and this very self-suggestion will come to add to their interest in it.
Athena Vrettos whose article is noted above provides some interesting information from Robert Louis Stevenson who developed a system of ‘directed dreaming’ i.e. auto-suggestion. We know that Burroughs was highly influenced by Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde while he probably read other novels of Stevenson. How could he have missed Treasure Island? Whether he read any of Stevenson’s essays is open to guess but in an 1888 essay A Chapter On Dreams Stevenson explained his method. To Quote Vrettos:
Rather than experiencing dreams at random, fragmented images and events, Stevenson claims he has learned how to shape them into coherent, interconnected narratives, “to dream in sequences and thus to lead a double life- one of the day, one of the night- one that he had every reason to believe was the true one, another that he had no means of proving false.” Stevenson describes how he gains increasing control of his dream life by focusing his memory through autosuggestion, he sets his unconscious imagination to work assisting him in his profession of writer by creating “better tales than he could fashion for himself.” Becoming an enthusiastic audience to his own “nocturnal dreams”, Stevenson describes how he subsequently develops those dreams and memories into the basis for many of his published stories, most notably his 1886 Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.
Now, directed dreaming and Dreaming True sound quite similar. One wonder if there was a connection between Stevenson and Du Maurier. It turns out that there was as well as with nearly the entire group of English investigators. Let us turn to Piers Dudgeon again, p. 102:
Shortly after they met, the novelist Walter Besant invited [Du Maurier] to join a club he was setting up, to be named ‘The Rabelais’ after the author of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Its name raised expectations of bawdiness, obscenity and reckless living, (which were not in fact delivered) as was noted at the time. Henry Ashbee, a successful city businessman with a passion for pornography, and reputed to be Robert Louis Stevenson’s model for the two sides of his creation, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, denounced its members as ‘very slow and un-Rabelaisian’, and there is a story that Thomas Hardy, a member for a time, objected to the attendance of Henry James on account of his lack of virility.
Virility was not the issue however. The members of the Rabelais were interested in other worlds. Charles Leland was an expert on fairy lore and voodoo. Robert Louis Stevenson was the author of The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1886) which epitomized the club’s psychological/occult speculations. Arthur Conan Doyle, who became a member of the British Society For Psychical Research, was a dedicated spiritualist from 1916. Henry James was probably more at home than Hardy, for both his private secretary Theodora Besanquet, and brother William, the philosopher, were members of the Psychical Society.
In many ways the Rabelais was a celebration that [Du Maurier’s] time had come. Parapsychological phenomena and the occult were becoming valid subjects for rigorous study. There was a strong feeling that the whole psychic scene would at any moment be authenticated by scientific explanation.
Du Maurier was obviously well informed of various psychical ideas when he wrote Ibbetson. In addition he had been practicing hypnosis since his art student days in the Paris of the late 1850s.
So this was the literary environment that Burroughs was growing up in. As Bill Hillman and myself have attempted to point out, ERB’s mental and physical horizons were considerably broadened by the Columbian Expo of 1893. Everything from the strong man, The Great Sandow, to Francis Galton’s psychological investigations were on display. The cutting edge of nineteenth century thought and technology was there for the interested. Burroughs was there for every day of the Fair. He had time to imbibe all and in detail. The Expo shaped his future life. That he was intensely interested in the intellectual and literary environment is evidenced by the fact that when he owned his stationery story in Idaho in 1898 he advertised that he could obtain any magazine or book from both England and America. You may be sure that he took full advantage of the opportunity for himself. As this stuff was all the rage there can be no chance that he wasn’t familiar with it all if he didn’t actually immerse himself in it. Remember his response to Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden was instantaneous. Thus you have this strange outpost of civilization in Pocatello, Idaho where any book or magazine could be obtained. Of course, few but Burroughs took advantage of this fabulous opportunity. It should also be noted that he sold the pulp magazines so that his interest in pulp literature went further back than 1910.
In addition ERB was enamored of the authors to the point of hero worship much as musical groups of the 1960s were idolized so he would have thirsted for any gossip he could find. It isn’t impossible that he knew of this Rabelais Club. At any rate his ties to psychology and the occult become more prominent the more one studies.
It seems to me that longing as he did to be part of this literary scene, that if one reads his output to 1920 with these influences in mind, the psychological and occult content of, say, the Mars series, becomes more obvious. He is later than these nineteenth century lights so influences not operating on them appear in his own work making it more modern.
At least through 1917 the unconscious was thought of as a source of creativity rather than the source of evil impulses. If one could access one’s unconscious incalculable treasures could be brought up. Thus gold or treasure is always depicted in Burroughs’ novels as buried. The gold represents his stories, or source of wealth, brought up form his unconscious. The main vaults at Opar are thus figured as a sort of brain rising above ground level. One scales the precipice to enter the brain cavity high up in the forehead or frontal lobe. One then removes the ‘odd shaped ingots’ to cash them in. Below the vaults are two levels leading back to Opar that apparently represent the unconscious. Oddly enough these passageways are configured along the line of Abbot’s scientific romance, Flatland.
In Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar the gold is taken to the Estate and buried replicating the vaults. Once outside Opar and in circulation, so to speak, the ingots are accessible to anyone hence the duel of Zek and Mourak for them. The first gold we hear of in the Tarzan series is brought ashore and buried by the mutineers. This also sounds vaguely like Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The watching Tarzan then digs the gold up and reburies it elsewhere. In The Bandit Of Hell’s Bend the gold is stolen and buried beneath the floorboards of the Chicago Saloon. Thus gold in the entire corpus is always from or in a buried location. These are never natural veins of gold but the refined ingots.
Not only thought of as a source of treasure during this period the unconscious was thought to have incredible powers such as telekinesis, telepathy and telecommunication. One scoffs at these more or less supernatural powers brought down from ‘God’ and installed in the human mind. As they have been discredited scientifically Western man has discarded them.
On the other hand Western Man deludes himself into accepting the oriental Freud’s no less absurd assertion that the unconscious exists independently of the human body somewhat like the Egyptian notion of the ka and is inherently evil while controlling the conscious mind of the individual. This notion is purely a religious concept of Judaism identifying the unconscious as no less than the wrathful, destructive tribal deity of the old testament Yahweh. Further this strange Judaic concept of Freud was allowed to supersede all other visions of the unconscious while preventing further investigation until the writing of C.G. Jung were given some credence beginning in the sixties of the last century.
In point of fact there is no such unconscious. The supernatural powers given to the unconscious by both Europeans and Freud are preposterous on the face of it. For a broader survey of this subject see my Freud And His Vision Of The Unconscious on my blogsite, I, Dynamo.
This so-called unconscious is merely the result of being born with more or less a blank mind that needs to be programmed. The programming being called experience and education. The maturation and learning process are such that there is plenty of room for error. All learning is equivalent to hypnosis, the information being suggestion which is accepted and furthers the development of the individual. Learning the multiplication tables for instance is merely fixing them in your mind or, in other words, memorizing them. All learning is merely suggestion thus it is necessary that it be constructive or education and not indoctrination or conditioning although both are in effect. Inevitably some input will not be beneficial or it may be misunderstood. Thus through negative suggestion, that is bad or terrifying suggestions, fixations will result. A fixation is impressed as an obsession that controls one’s behavior against one’s conscious will, in the Freudian sense. The fixation seems to be placed deep in the mind, hence depth psychology. Thus when ERB was terrified and humiliated by John the Bully certain suggestions occurred to him about himself that became fixations or obsessions. These obsessions directed the content of his work.
To eliminate the fixations is imperative. This is what so-called depth psychology is all about. The subconscious, then, is now ‘seprarated’ from the conscious, in other words the personality or ego is disintegrated. The goal is to integrate the personality and restore control. Once, and if that is done the fixations disappear and the mind become unified, integrated or whole; the negative conception of the unconscious is gone and one is left with a functioning conscious and subconscious. The subconscious in sleep or dreams then reviews all the day’s events to inform the conscious of what it missed and organize it so that it can be acted on. No longer distorted by fixations, or obsessions, the individual can act in his own interests according to his abilities. The sense of living a dream life and a real life disappears.
That’s why experience and education are so important. What goes into the mind is all that can come out.
But, the investigation of the unconscious was blocked by Freudian theory and diverted from its true course to benefit the individual in order to benefit Freud’s special interests.
So, after the War ERB forgot or abandoned the wonderful notions of the unconscious and was forced to deal with and defend himself against Freudian concepts. The charactger of his writing begins to change in the twenties to meet the new challenges of aggressive Judaeo-Communism until by the thirties his work is entirely directed to this defense as I have shown in my reviews of his novels from 1928 to 1934.
Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar then reflects this wonderful vision of the subconscious as portrayed by George Du Maurier and Robert Louis Stevenson
Then the grimmer reality sets in.
End Of Review.
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Review by R.E. Prindle
Civilization And Its Malcontents
Let us say that for the fifty years or so before the 1920s there was a growing sense of societal malaise. This malaise was reflected most notably in the creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ psychological projection, Tarzan Of The Apes. One has to account for the immediate acceptation by society of such an absurdity. Tarzan, in fact, completely rejected civilization for the life of the romantic ‘unrestrained freedom’ of the jungle. The noble savage in fact.
Thus in a metaphor Burroughs reflected the malaise of his time so brilliantly that his creation was accepted as virtually a real person. Writers like Grant and Stoddard put the same theme into more scholarly terms. As noted, contrary to Richard Slotkin’s idea, Grant had little or no influence on Burroughs while the slightly later Lothrop Stoddard whose three relevant works appeared only from 1920 to 1922 could have had no influence on Burroughs’ formative years. It seems probable that Burroughs did read Stoddard and was influenced by his work but only after his ideas were fully formed. Even then The Revolt Against Civilization appeared after Burroughs had examined some of the same problems in his rejected manuscript, Under The Red Flag of 1919.
The problem of the malcontents and their war on civilization was examined by a number of writers during the twenties and thirties so why Slotkin singled out Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard isn’t as clear as it might be. Postwar German cinema was intensely concerned with the matter as why should it not? Germany was under asault by what Stoddard called the Underman. Nor need Slotkin think Stoddard was alone. I’m sure there were dozens of forgotten books prophesying the end of the world by one means or another including the Undermen of Communism.
The Underman, or the Communist, was not even a term unique to Stoddard. Gustave Le Bon, the French scholar on whose work Sigmund Freud based his study Group Psychology And The Analysis Of The Ego wrote prolifically on the psychological foundations of the Underman. Freud based his book on Le Bon’s 1895 study The Psychology Of Crowds. Unless I’m mistaken he based his 1930 study Civilization And Its Discontents on Le Bon’s 1921 book The World In Revolt: A Psychological Study Of Our Times.
On the cinematic side the problem was examined in the great silent films The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and Fritz Lang’s 1922 film Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler. Lang would follow that ten years later with the sound film The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse.
Even though Buroughs’ Under The Red Flag was rejected in 1919 he persisted, rewriting and extending the text into the 1926 story, The Moon Maid. This story reflects a possible reading of The Revolt Against Civilization but such a reading was much more evident in 1934’s Tarzan And The Lion Man.
The development of the problem was evident to all these writers which it seems to have escaped Slotkin who attributes the recognition of societal evolution to mere ‘racism’ in the writers. One thinks that perhaps Slotkin is too involved in his own agenda.
Rider Haggard enunciated the problem quite clearly in his 1888 novel Allan Quatermain in which Quatermain grouses about the ‘strict limits’ of civilization compared to the ‘natural’ life of the African Zulus. It might almost seem that the idea of Tarzan arose in Burroughs’ mind from that observation. In fact science was undermining all the comforting beliefs that mankind had been settled in for a hundred thousand years. During that long period characterized by the mental mode of what is called mythopoeic thinking man’s mind devoid of true knowledge projected a vision of reality that resulted in the notion of God. Thus reasoning from insufficient knowledge man’s mind came up with an erroneous result. You can’t get out of a mind what isn’t in it; all education is suggestion.
As Freud was to say, man’s settled view of reality received its three great shocks when Galileo disproved the geocentric notion of the universe, Darwin disproved the uniqueness of man’s position in the animal kingdom and he, Freud, displaced the conscious mind with his vision of the unconscious mind. Once again Le Bon was there ahead of him.
Thus as the nineteenth century opened and progressed the bases of mankind’s notions of reality were shattered leaving him emotionally and intellectually bereft of foundations of belief. Adrift without an anchor.
As if that were not bad enough the great cataclysm that ushered in the modern era, The French Revolution, was based on the the absolute notion that not only were all men created equal but remained equal in all aspects of their existence. The advance of civilization would toss this certainty into the trash can of history also.
As civilization placed greater and greater demands on the intelligence and self-discipline of men and women the incontestable gap between those less intelligent and those more intelligent became more and more obvious. Thus as the century progressed the notion of the Overman and the Underman began to become clear.
At the same time the first tentative efforts at measuring the intellectual potential of the individual began to become possible. Of course the basic inequality of men and women in its physical aspect had always been apparent. Some men were naturally stronger and better muscled than others. But, even that was changing. The science of physical culture was making it possible for the 98 lb. weakling to develop himself into a man mountain. Thus artifically developed srongmen like the Great Sandow ushered in the golden age of the strong man topped off by Charles Atlas who guaranteed he could turn you into a man mountain if you followed his program.
There was the promise that you could dethrone that bully and kick sand back in his face. On the other side Francis Galton was originating the first primitive tests to measure intelligence potential. Burroughs would have seen both proponents during his miraculous summer of 1893 at the Chicago Columbian Exposition. I mean to say that both facts entered his mind where they could be digested and emerge later. Nothing can come out of your mind that didn’t go in it.
And then after the turn of the century Binet devised he first actual IQ test. Thus, just as Sandow and Atlas could measure the size of muscles, the psychologists became able to measure the intelligence potential. Those with high IQs were set up; those with low IQs were cooked. The upshot was that all men were not created equal nor could they ever attain intellectual equality.
To a very large extent what became the Communist Party recognized the inequality while demanding equality against reason. Recognizing subconsciously, perhaps, that men could never be intellectual equals rather than try the futile task of raising the less fortunate they sought to destroy education which brings out the inequality but doesn’t create it. No matter what happens there are always going to be the more intelligent just as there will always be the physically stronger. As Le Bon points out, if you needed to hear it, nature don’t know from equality.
Thus the Communist Party devised the well sounding slogan- From each according to his ability; to each according to his need. Good plan for the needy, slavery for the able. The needy were organized beginning their struggle to achieve superiority by collective action. This was accomplished in Russia in 1917. The battle was joined.
Just as individuals are created with different capabilities so are peoples and races. Some can achieve and some can’t. Slotkin who must be a Communist thus takes offence at what he perceives to be, and is, an attitude of White Supremacy in Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard. While I am aware there are those who will disagree with White superiority it is nevertheless not an attitude but an evolutionary fact. That is the reason Communists have Darwin under attack. While Darwin doesn’t say it, it is the inevitable result of his studies. Just as it was necessary for the Undermen to destroy education in the hopes of creating intellectual equality so it became necessary to destroy White achievement of the last five hundred years. The whites must be demonized and made to feel evil and inferior morally. That is the import of Slotkin’s Gunfighter Nation.
At that level all three writers are guilty. As has been stated in Canadian courts- Truth is not a defense. So there’s nothing to discuss. Might is right and whoever has the might will prevail.
It is a fact that all three writers were anti-Communists so it may be assumed that whatever Communists believe, they didn’t. And why should they? Might may be right but it can still be nonsense. Communism is a flawed ideology based on a false premiss. It always fails wherever it is introduced. Failure is not evidence of a bad plan in Communist eyes. One just continues to shovel sand against the tide and pray. So succeed or fail they always think they can succeed by the same flawed ideology. The fault for failure lies elsewhere.
In that sense Burroughs was wasting his time assailing this religion of failure with his Under The Red Flag and its successor The Moon Maid. The only people who would applaud his effort would be we non-Communists but he could never convince anyone with Communist leanings. Of course that wasn’t well understood at the time.
If Burroughs were accused of not believing in equality that would be true. Not only are John Carter and Tarzan superior to any contemporaries on two worlds but Burroughs has a whole hierarchy of value. John Carter is the Warlord of Mars ruling from the top city of Mars, Helium. The races of Mars pretty much reflect those of Earth and their relative stations. The main exception is the ruling Red race. As Whites do and have existed on Mars in Burroughs stories while at one time being the dominant race perhaps the Red race is some sort of amalgam of the various Eropean immigrants of the United States. I believe the Green Men represent the American Indian. Both roam the great plains while being essentially savages.
Tarzan though always spoken of as being White is described as a bronze giant. Bronze is a fairly dark metal so that Tarzan and the Red men of Mars may be more or less identical in color.
Tarzan is the man-god so there are none superior or even equal to him. Below him come the English who are the cream of mankind. Perhaps slightly below the English are the French and then the rest of the Whites. Tarzan himself is psychologically an animal having been raised by the Apes. Not your ordinary gorilla or Chimp but a species intermediate between Gorilla and the Negro. Slotkin hasn’t read enough Burroughs to make an intelligent comment but the undeniable attitude of Burroughs is enough for Slotkin to condemn him as an unregenerate bigot. The reader may believe as he likes. I have stated my opinion eslewhere and that is enough. Whether any of these opinions of Burroughs influenced American soldiers at My Lai is open to question. The burden of proof is on Slotkin and he hasn’t provided it.
Along with the Undermen however, speaking through Tarzan, Burroughs is heartily discontented with civilization.
The spectacle of Chicago of the 1890s as a dirty unpleasant place haunts Burroughs. In contrast to the great White City of the Columbian Expo was what was afterwards known as the Black City of everyday Chicago. The contrast was so strong and so offensive to the Undermen that within a year of the Expo’s closing the entire White City was burned to the ground with the exception of one building. Hence perhaps the decayed crimson and gold ruins of Opar and the crimson and gold twin cities of Helium. One wonders what effect the sight of the ruin of the White City had on Burroughs when he revisited the site sometime after his miraculous summer of ’93. The mind creates nothing from nothing so there must have been models of the great cities of ERB’s imagination.
There are points at which Burroughs and Communism have quite similar views. It will be remembered that Burroughs only reluctantly married and throughout his life expressed discontent with the institution. To some extent or other ERB must have been an advocate of free love. Communists would have heartily approved of ERB’s women who went nude except for certain ‘adornments.’ Communists of course want women to be accesible to any man who wants them at any time while they have always advocated bare breasts.
In many ways when the Communists appropriated Tarzan for the MGM movies it took but slight changes to make Tarzan conform to their ideals. The MGM Tarzan and Jane were not married. While Burroughs’ Tarzan was a highly educated on-again off-again sophisticate the MGM Tarzan was a stupid illiterate oaf and one who rejected the attributes of civilization high up there in the Cloud Cuckoo Land of the Mutia Plateau.
On the essentials though Burroughs rejected the demands of the Underman as The Moon Maid clearly shows. There was very little in Stoddard’s The Revolt Against Civilization that Burroughs would have disagreed with. At the same time there was probably very little he didn’t already believe although he had never codified his information as Stoddard had. Slotkin’s contention that Burroughs was influenced by either Grant or Stoddard is surely wrong. ERB had already taken hs positions before either men had begun to write.
Each writer was, in his own way, an advocate of White Supremacy. It now become clear that White Supremacy has nothing to do with a fringe element in Liberal ideology. All Whites are White Supremacists in that ideology unless they reject ‘White skin privilege’ whatever that is. Ayers and Dorhn explain in their recent Race Course In White Supremacy. Interestingly constructed title. Nor as Slotkin would have it is the attitude based on mere racial pride and bigotry but on a solid record of achievement unattained by any other people. The quesiton is not was it right for some people to rule or be supreme because in the nature of things some people will rule and be supreme but which of the peoples are most qualified to be supreme.
All people have had equal opportunity so that one can only conclude that the race has gone to the most qualified participant. In the contest the Whites unified the other peoples against them as must inevitably be the consequence of being the top people. As they say, getting there is the easy part; staying there is the hard part.
Slotkin merely represents the envious losers, the Undermen. who clutch at any firebrand to burn the White House down. Who is most to be admired and emulated? Builders or destroyers?
Finis of Thuvia, Maid Of Mars Review
August 18, 2008
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#16 Tarzan And The City Of Gold
R. E. Prindle
The City Of Gold itself, which is a white and gold city, evokes the image of the red and gold ruin of Opar and the Forbidden City of the same title, as well as The White City of the Columbian Exposition. As Burroughs was writing construction was going on for Chicago’s second great exposition on the fortieth anniversary of the first. Chicago, incorporated in 1833, was about to present its Century Of Progress expo of 1933-34. So Burroughs would have had his mind redirected to the scenes of his childhood.
What I am going to suggest may seem far fetched to many but having gained some idea of the way Burroughs’ mind worked I think the suggestion plausible. Emmett Dedmon tells the following story about the Great Sandow at the ’93 Expo. If anyone doesn’t know Sandow by now he was the first great bodybuilder who also performed at the Expo. As Florenz Zeigfeld was representing Sandow there is a no reason to think of the story as other than a publicity stunt, but I leave the judgment to you. (Emmett Dedmon, Fabulous Chicago, 1953, NY, p. 235)
Amy Leslie, the drama critic for the News, described Sandow as a fascinating mixture of brute force and poetic sentimentality. On a walk through the Wooded Island…Sandow snipped a tiny cup from a stock of snapdragon. “now, when we were little in Germany,” Sandow told the astonished Miss Leslie, “we took these blossoms and pressed them so, and if the flower mouth opened, why that was a sign they were calling us home.” As Amy reported it, “he touched the tinted bud and its rosy lips parted in a perfumed smile.” Just as Sandow finished his sentence, a Columbian guard shouted that he had violated the rule against picking flowers. To emphasize the reprimand the guard seized Sandow by the elbow and attempted to push him away. At this effrontery Sandow lifted the surprised guard off the ground and held him at arm’s length, examining him as though he were a curious discovery. Miss Leslie, more conscious of the dignity of the law, persuaded Sandow to put the guard down, which the strong man did with an ouburst of German expletives and an explanation (in English) to Miss Leslie that he did not think much of humans as guards. “I prefer nice well-bred dogs,” he said.
This made a great story that made the rounds of the fair. The question is did 17 year old Burroughs hear it and did it make an impression on him? Strangely enough we can definitely answer that question in the affirmative. Nearly twenty years later Burroughs borrowed the incident for his first Tarzan novel. Not only that but he has Tarzan play the part of Sandow. So, Sandow, Tarzan; Tarzan, Phobeg.
At the end of Tarzan Of The Apes Burroughs replicates the Sandow scene on the Wooded Island when he terrorizes Robert Canler holding him at arms length with one hand. Thus in this novel Tarzan not only holds Sandow/Phobeg at arm’s length but raises him above his head throwing him into the stands. Burroughs usually has his characters going their models one better as Tarzan does here.
As Sandow was strolling through the Wooded Island with Miss Leslie so Tarzan strolls through town with Gemnon. Instead of picking a flower Tarzan notices a lion eating a human while no one takes any notice. Cosmopolitan Tarzan inquires for an explanation. Gemnon calmly explains the quaint custom just as Sandow so pleasantly explained his snapdragon story. Dragons, lions, all the same thing. Burroughs does a neat parody and makes his joke but the original was such a great story he can’t let it go.
Indeed, Tarzan’s habit of picking men up and tossing them around can probably be traced back to this one arm trick of Sandow’s. Like I said, you’ll probably think it’s a stretcher but I think it both plausible and probable. Can’t be absolutely proven of course, but we can and have proven that the incident left an indelible imprint of ERB’s memory.
That said and moving along to 1920-24 there is also a flavor of H.G. Wells’ utopian novel Men Like Gods to be found here. Once again Burroughs turns Wells’ utopia around a bit but the tour of Cathne with Gemnon seems to be a paraody of a similar tour in Men Like Gods. ERB was still in the thick of his literary duel with Wells at the time.
The plot involving Nemone is slightly more complex and better worked out than is usual for ERB. Tomos, Erot, M’Duze and Nemone reflect other influences. The plot has the feel of French overtones. Of course we know that ERB read Eugene Sue’s The Mysteries Of Paris, Dumas’ Three Musketeers and The Count Of Monte Criisto, while the prisoner behind the golden door points in the direction of The Man In The Iron Mask. We also know that ERB had read Victoy Hugo’s Les Miserables.
All these may have provided some inspiration. However more directly influential I believe are two other books found in ERB’s library as listed on ERBzine. ( www.erbzine.com ) They are Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche and Stanley J. Weyman’s Under The Red Robe. Never heard of Stan Weyman? Me neither but, believe it or not, there is a Stanley J. Weyman Society on the internet that you may join if so inclined.
Both books were hugely influential in Hollywood, each being filmed several times with at least one version getting very good reviews. Let’s start with Sabatini. While Weyman, one would believe is all but forgotten, Sabatini enjoyed an excellent reputation down to at least my graduation from high school. Probably not so much lately although my copy of Scaramouche is the Common Reader edition published in 1999 so there must be fans out there.
Sabatini was Burroughs exact contemporary- 1875-1950. Like Burroughs he had to defend himself against charges of plagiarism. His stuff all reads like you’ve read it somewhere before, so in Scaramouche he presents an extended defense of himself.
Nevertheless he writes in a simple direct style that is ‘easy to uderstand’ but cleverly presented. Sabatini was obviously one of the first to understand that stories written like movie scenarios had a better chance of selling to the movies.
Like Burroughs he has his point of view which is admirably presented. Also like Burroughs he was intellectually unsympathetic to Communism. His reaction was less emotional that ERB. Although Scaramouche is about the opening years of the French Revolution Sabatini gives it only a slanting attention as he concentrates on people who are caught up in the flood much against their wishes. In that sense there is very little politics in the novel. The participants are merely caught up in the political events.
Scaramouche is a country lawyer unsympathetic to revolutionary ideology but he becomes a revolutionary fugitive when his Red friend is murdered by a reactionary nobleman. The story is well developed and an exciting one with a lot of swordplay. In fact Scarmouche become the fastest swordsman of France. You can see what drew ERB’s attention to the novel.
Of more importance for ERB and an undeveloped subplot of City Of Gold is one that involves Scaramouche’s ancestry. Bearing in mind that ERB became a voluntary orphan when he was sent to the MMA I think Burroughs found the mystery of Scaramouche’s ancestry compelling. Scaramouch is named after the clown of the Italian Comedia Del Arte which also nests neatly with the clown aspect of ERB’s psychology.
It is thought that Scaramouche was the illigetimate son of a village nobleman. The fact that the boy was well looked after by this man seemed proof. In fact, as we learn later in the book Scaramouche is the bastard son of his foster father’s sister, the noblewoman, Madame de Plougastel. She bore Scaramouche illegimately then trusted him to her brother. Thus on one side Scaramouche was of noble birth. An orphan or pretended orphan’s dream. His father remains a mystery for the moment.
Scaramouche’s friend had been murdered by the nobeman Le Tour d’Azyr. Scaramouche had sworn an eternal enmity to him. At a crucial moment in the story Scaramouche learns that this same La Tour d’Azyr is his father. I should have seen it coming from a long way off but I didn’t. It is possible that ERB was surprised too. Sabatini handles it well. Thus Scaramouche the illegitimate child is a nobleman by birth on both sides but the Revolution invalidates this advantage.
It would have been normal for Burroughs to have concocted a fantasy in which his parents now dead to him were not his real parents but some mysterious others. In fact he did concoct two fantasies: the one of John Carter who has been alive forever but can remember no parents and Tarzan whose parents were killed with the result that he was raised by ape foster parents. Not exactly noble people in the ordinary sense but his deceased parents were. One imagines the impact this really good story had on him although he first read it in the early twenties.
In any event he attempts to weave in a subplot providing mysterious parentage for Nemone and her brother Alextar. The subplot isn’t very well developed. On the one hand we are asked to suspect that Nemone was the child of the old king and a Black M’duze who in her youth was tall and beautiful while on the other hand it is insinuated that Nemone is the child of Tomos and M’duze. The latter through her machinations has placed Nemone on the throne and imprisoned Alextar. So Burroughs throws in some misceganation which has always been the most excing literary topic of America, then as now.
Not convincingly done by ERB he had nevertheless carried the story of Scaramouche around in his head for a decade waiting for the opportunity to employ it.
Another book in ERB’s library which is influential here is Stanley J. Weyman’s Under The Red Robe. Like Scaramouche this story was very well thought of in Hollywood being filmed more than once. It seems a fact that ERB saw the 1923 silent film. He was so impressed that he went out and bought the 1923 Grosset and Dunlap Photoplay Edition. I obtained an identical copy so as to to have read the same text and viewed the same plates.
I think I’ll have to include a few of Burroughs’ experiences at the MMA to bring this all together. It would seem that Sabatini considered himself a psychological orphan also. The man was born in Italy to an Italian father and an English mother. As they were traveling actors, not unlike what Scaramouche becomes at one point in his story, they sent young Rafael back to England to live with relatives. As Sabatini’s stories often concern orphans it follows that his reaction to being put away from his parents was that he considered himself an orphan.
Burroughs was also put away by his father. Three times. He was sent to Idaho, Massachusetts and Michigan. Thus he too was put away by his parents. As his reaction was to play the clown developing an off beat sense of humor we know that he reacted negatively to all this shuffling about. His exile to the Michigan Military Academy was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He rebelled, running away. The incident is treated rather uncomprehendingly by Porges in his biography which of course is my authority.
From ERB’s point of view the MMA was an elite reformatory school where bad rich boys were offloaded by their parents. Thus the boy was declassed and slgihtly criminalized in his own mind. As he treated his own sons and the Gilbert boy the same way it is easy to see how seriously he was affected by the experience. ERB was cast adrift with no direction home which happened so many times to characters in his stories, most notably in the original short version of The Lad And The Lion. ERBzine should publish the magazine version of this novel
Having run away from the MMA he was promptly escorted back by his father becoming in his own mind an orphan as in Tarzan’s case and a motherless child as in John Carter’s. Like the race horse Stewball of musical fame, Carter just blew down in a storm. Another standard orphan’s solution to being forced outside society.
Stanley J. Weyman’s (1855-1929) novel also meshes with this persona. As a result of his mistreatment Burroughs developed a very negative self-conception. He became, in fact, a ne’er-do-well. Much to his father’s satisfaction I might add. This self-conception would explain his eccentric behavior from the time he left the MMA in 1896 through 1903 if not for the rest of his life. The man was conflicted. On the one hand he knew he was very capable and on the other he felt worthless so he sought failure.
A fact easily glided over is his quarterbacking and captaincy of the MMA football team. One’s team members don’t elect one captain unless they have confidence in you. One also cannot be quarterback without their confidence while quarterbacking requires organizational and executive abilities. In fact the Burroughs led team defeated all comers in their class and while yet high schoolers they played the varsity teams of Michigan and Notre Dame. The Burroughs led MMA fought the U of M to a tie.
As a result he was offered a football scholarship to the University. He might well have become a football hero having an entirely different kind of life. ERB inexplicably declined the U of M offer. He offered some lame excuse that both his brothers had attended Yale and it was Yale or nothing for him. Possible but hardly probable. Most likely he felt comforatable leading the juvenile delinquents of MMA while he didn’t feel respectable enought to lead the Wolverines.
Leaving for the Army as an enlisted man instead he and a few other ne’er-do-wells formed a group calling themselves The Might Have Seen Better Days Club. You don’t have to be a Freudian to figure that one out. So I think his history in these years can be explained by his negative orphan self-image.
There is one very crucial event, the shame of which never left him, that figures into the Nemone story. That was when in Idaho he gambled away his and Emma’s last forty dollars. Certainly this was a turning point in his life.
In Weyman’s Under The Red Robe the hero is a ne’er-do-well who has exhausted all his chances but one. Named de Berrault the story opens when he is accused of using marked cards in a French game of the early seventeenth century. “Marked Cards!’ are the opening words of Weyman’s novel.
Indeed it would seem certain that Burroughs felt he had been cheated of his forty dollars. In my experience of card games I’m certain he was. De Berrault insists he didn’t use marked cards but that he used the mirror behind the player. Perhaps Burroughs said to himself when reading this: Yeah. that must have been it. At any rate thirty years later the incident was green in his mind and Why Not?
While The City Of Gold is crtical of Nemone/Emma ERB could never forget that he had done Emma wrong in gambling away those forty dollars. Perhaps as much as anything his shame required a separation. Perhaps he thought Emma was too good for a ne’er-do-well like himself.
And then there is this very interesting passage in Under The Red Robe p. 208:
I stood a moment speechless and disordered; stunned by her words, by my thoughts- so I have seen a man stand when he has lost all, his last at the table. Then I turned to her, and for an instant I thought that my tale was told already. I thought she had pierced my disguise, for her face was aghast, stricken with sudden fear. Then I saw that she was not looking at me but beyond me, and I turned quickly and saw a servant hurrying from the house to us.
Just as I admired ERB’s version of this device of looking past the intermediate person so he admired Weyman’s.
The line ‘I stood there speechless and disordered, stunned by her words, by my thoughts- when I have seen a man stand when he has lost his all, his last, at the table…’ must have resonated with ERB from the time he had experienced the same emotion in 1903 as Emma waited for him upstairs.
It becomes seen how ERB wove his various influences into his writing. At this point I would like to bring up another very long novel that formed a backdrop to ERB’s writing in general. the novel is the ten volume, five thousand page work of George W.M. Reynolds entitledThe Mysteries Of London or alternatively, The Mysteries Of The Court Of London. Modeled after The Mysteries Of Paris Reynolds lacks the lunacy of Eugene Sue but maintains a fantastic level of excitement all the way through. ‘The Master Of Adventure’ may very well have learned his own mastery from the pages of Reynolds.
The further one gets into ERB library the more clear things become but to really understand the man I highly recommend the reading of the Mysteries of Paris and London.
Another almost irrelevant theme ERB takes up in this novel is the theme of the Grand Hunt or the Man Hunt. The idea is no way original to ERB; he seems to be in reaction to it, repelled by it. I can’t pretend to trace the story back to its origins but the theme has been used repeatedly in movies and on television. The story is attributed to Richard Edward Connell who is credited with writing the original short story in 1924 for which he received the O. Henry Prize for that year, entitled The Most Dangerous Game. Perhaps the story was original to him but it doesn’t seem likely.
The story was made into a movie starring Joel McCrea in 1932. Whether this movie was released early enough in the year to influence City Of Gold I don’t know, or, perhaps Burroughs saw an advance screening. At any rate ERB gives the idea an extended treatment and prominent place in his novel, actually using it twice.
If Connell did indeed orginate the story in 1924 which seems unlikely than Buroughs treatment comes as close to plagiarism or, perhaps, appropriation as any story could. That he is in raction to the story condemning its implications is obvious.
In his version Tarzan defeats the aims of the hunters by carrying their intended victim to safety while adding the filup that he too was an intended victim. At the very least the Man Hunt is one of the least disguised influences in the corpus. Extraordinary in that no ruckus was raised by his appropriation of the story. Either ERB was not taken seriously or he led a charmed life.
Should I stay, Or Should I Go?
The crux of the story is Tarzan’s relationship with Nemone or, in other words, ERb’s relationship with Emma. If the oeuvre is a guide ERB had already decided to throw his lot with Florence. That seems clear from Tarzan And The Leopard Men. City Of Gold then is mere procrastination. One imagines that Florence was pestering him to break the news to Emma. He would only muster the courage to do this at the end of 1933. For now he seems torn and indecisive.
The appearance is that Tarzan and Nemone would have gotten together but for two things. The first was M’duze who seemed to exert some sort of hypnotic control over Nemone and the other was her pet lion, Belthar.
M’duze was determined to maintain control over Nemone while Tarzan just left a bad taste in Belthar’s mouth. It were well that Tarzan kept his distance.
In point of fact Tarzan was a prisoner on parole. He could easily have escaped or walked away but for two things: one was his fascination with Nemone and the other was that he was bound by oath to Gemnon to not escape. In those days people had a sense of honor.
ERB had constructed an interesting psychological situation in the female image of Nemone. ERB has been really successful in portraying the Xy male construction of the Anima and Animus throughout the corpus but this is his first attempt as far as I know of constructing the XX of the female.
This is always the qustion of whether he knew what he was doing. This is a difficult question to answer but the enidence in the writing seems to imply he did. The situation seems too perfect to be accidental. As I’ve noted elsewhere when the chromosomal division took place and sexual identities came into existence of the four possibilities, XXX and y, the male received an X and the y with the y making him male. You can’t be male without the y, you can’t be female with it. Boys are boys and girls are girls. Now, this is not an ‘oh wow, isn’t that interesting’ type of fact; the fact has consequences.
For instance the whole burden of child bearing became the female’s portion. I am not interested in all the different possibilites of how young are fertilized, incubated and born, yes, there are myriad possibilities but none of them apply to human beings but this one. The method for human beings is impregnation in the womb, a nine month incubation period and then birth followed by a very long period of helpless development outside the womb.
These simple facts determined the post partum relationship of the role of the male and the female. When paternity was unknown the result was close knit communities held together by the offspring. It was a question of interdependence whether Freud thought so or not.
Physiologically the male required the female for sexual release while the female was attracted by the y chromosome of the male, the penis envy for which Freud was castigated for uttering. He wasn’t always right but he was right on this.
While the female is XX chromosomally still one X is received from the mother which is of the passive ovum; the other X is received from the father’s mother through him in the form of an active X sperm. The two Xes while both X are not identical. If both were passive the female would be virtually immobile.
Thus ERB posits the ovate X as M’duze who dominates Nemone’s Anima, which would be correct, while the male lion Belthar provides the activity of the X of the Animus. Whether Burroughs thought this out or not, it works out. Could be accidental, I suppose.
Lacking the y chromosome which she formerly enjoyed during the sexless period the female has an uncontrollable longing for the male or penis. Thus Nemone and her desire for Tarzan. Now, this is classic, no matter how indifferent or rude Tarzan is to her Nemone continues to have an intense longing, or love, for the Big Guy.
This may or may not reflect Emma’s attitude toward Burroughs but Tarzan’s attitude toward Nemone certainly reflects Burroughs attitude toward Emma. In point of fact, Emma’s fidelity is nothing short of marvelous.
Also in Weyman’s Under The Red Robe which is an influence on City a subplot concerns the relations between a Mademoiselle de Cocheforet and the protagonist, de Berrault. The lady distrusts the gentleman, as well she might as Cardinal Richelieu has suborned de Berrault to surreptitiously arrest her brother as a Huguenot. De Berrault conceals his intentions but is found out when he arrests Mademoiselle’s brother. Construing the arrest as a betrayal of her trust, which it wasn’t de Berrault forfeits the lady’s trust.
Thus the novel combines the fateful card game with the forfeiture of Emma’s trust. Having lost her trust ERB was never able to gain it back even though Emma continued with him loving, one supposes, the man despite his faults. Quite possibly the situation between Tarzan and Nemone portrays the actual relationship between ERB and Emma in which as they were about to unite the past comes between them.
Thus in Tarzan and Nemone’s first encounter Tarzan has fallen under Nemone’s spell being about to succumb when M’duze, or Nemone’s Anima, appears as though from the past, taps the floor with her staff breaking the spell while ordering Nemone from the room. Belthar, Nemone’s Animus, rears up on his chains roaring and clawing the air at Tarzan.
Thus both the Anima as represented by M’duze and the Animus as represented by Belthar interfere in Nemone’s attempt to realize her desire for Tarzan.
The scene is repeated in reverse later in the novel as Nemone is about to succumb to Tarzan’s spell M’duze appears once again to disrupt the relationship. Thus as in real life neither Burroughs nor Emma could get past that fatal card game.
In the end then Tarzan presumes on Nemone’s desire too much. She turns on him in the fury we all saw coming making him the object of the Grand Hunt. One sees the influence of The Most Dangerous Game in ERB’s mind. He is given a head start and then Belthar is released to pursue him. Thus he is about to be destroyed by Nemone’s Animus. ERB probably felt this way about Emma in real life.
We have never seen the resourceful ape-man so defenceless and helpless before but now without his father’s knife to murder virtually defenseless lions Tarzan calmly awaits death after a game attempt to outrun Belthar. He should have played dead; we all know that story by now.
Not to worry. All during the novel a mysterious lion has been tracking the Big Bwana appearing at intervals in the story. Perhaps some people were mystified as to who this lion was but not this writer, no sirree, Bob. I knew it was Jad-Bal-Ja all along. I was just surprised the Golden Lion hadn’t brought Nkima with him.
Now just as Belthar rears to cut the Big Guy down to size Jad-Bal-Ja flashes past Tarzan to destroy Nemone’s lion. As ERB says, Jad-Bal-Ja won because he was bigger. Does that mean that ERB’s ego was bigger than Emma’s?
The oeuvre needs a complete analysis of Tarzan and his relationship to animals for on one hand he is a beast. The lion situation is complicated by the fact that originally there were to have been both lions and tigers in the series. That would have changed the complexion of the stories.
However after the magazine publication of Tarzan Of The Apes the readers created an uproar about the fact that there were no tigers in geographical Africa so Burroughs was forced to change tigers to lions for book publication. I am unaware whether changes were made to the newspaper serialization of the story.
The appearance is that Burroughs intended tigers to be villainous while lions were intended to be noble, as witness Jad-Bal-Ja. In that situation most, if not all, the lions Tarzan killed would have been tigers. Thus while as David Adams points out Tarzan kills a lion to put a seal on a sexual situation the very likely killing would have been a tiger.
So the psychological aspect of the story gets skewed. Just as Burroughs has insisted that Tarzan killed deer while there are no deer in Africa so his readers forced him to change Bara the deer to Bara the antelope by Tarzan The invincible.
The climax of the story returns us again to the problem of lions in Burroughs. As David Adams points our Tarzan kills a lion to put a seal on a sexual situation. In this instance Tarzan is helpless but Jad-Bal-Ja his Anima substitute comes to his rescue which is the same as Tarzan killing Belthar. Thus the killing of Belthar seals off Tarzan’s relationship to Nemone and ERB’s to Emma.
I’m sure David Adams would take exception with me but I see Jad-Bal-Ja as an Anima figure of Tarzan/Burroughs while I see Belthar as the Anumus figure of Emma/Nemone. I know both lions are males but the lion male or female is associatied with the goddess or Anima in Greek mythology. A case can be made that the six gods and six goddesses are generalized archetypes of the character types.
Now, Jad-Bal-Ja came into the oeuvre at a critical time in the lives of ERB and Emma and at a critical juncture. It is known that ERB walked out on Emma several times in the course of their marriage. These instances are not well documented at this time. It would appear that a very serious conflict in the marriage began at the time of Tarzan The Untamed through the period leading up to the writing of Tarzan And The Golden Lion.
As Golden Lion opens Tarzan, Jane and Jack are returning from Pal-Ul-Don from whence Tarzan has retrieved Jane.
As I read the story there seems to be a certain coolness and distance between Tarzan and Jane on Tarzan’s part. At this point the lion cub who will become Jad-Bal-Ja makes his appearance standing in the middle of the trail. David’s sexual seal of the killed lion would be the cub’s mother who was accidentally killed by a Native who stumbled on the lioness and cub. As a defense mechanism against Emme/Jane Tarzan/Burroughs adopts the cub as an Anima surrogate.
In an email to me of 1/23/07 David makes these comments:
Through the first nine Tarzan novels the hero gradually establishes the lion symbol as his own until in Tarzan And The Golden Lion he is completely aligned with his source of power in the merging of lion symbol and self/Jad-Bal-Ja. Even though Jad is described as a glorified dog, this is only his personal devotion to the ape-man being explained in easy terms. Tarzan himself always respects Jad, saying “A lion is always a lion.” he is far from the domesticated ones in Cathne in purpose and spirit.
My thinking is that David is right in that the lion symbol and self are united but not within the ego but separately as the Anima and Animus. So what we have is Anima/Jad-Bal-Ja and Animus/Tarzan. Tarzan is sort of doubly armed with two masculine sides with Jad-Bal-Ja being associated with the goddess and partaking in some way of her femininity.
There wouldn’t be too much of a conflict between the female Anima and the Male Anima figure as ERB’s Anima was subsumed by the male fencing master Jules de Vac of The Outlaw Of Torn. De Vac killed ERB/Norman’s Anima figure Maud and then assuming female attire lived with Norman in the attic of a house over the Thames for a fairly long period of time thus becoming a substitute Anima.
Thus the anomaly of a male lion Anima is easily explained. As a symbol of the goddess Jad-Bal-Ja is, as it were, clothed in female attire as was De Vac. Further Jad-Bal-Ja is always indifferent to Jane/Emma. Jane has no real relationship with the Golden Lion.
David once again:
The mad queen of Cathne, Nemone, is an example of negative Anima, a feminine power corrupt and dangerous. Her lion Belthar is the dark shadow opposite of Tarzan and Jad who are symbols of power and light and sun. Her lion is treated as a dark god and is linked to Nemone’s own dark soul. When Jad kills Belthar, Nemone kills herself because the source of her power is gone. It is an archetypal case of light overcoming darkness. The masculine power of light overcoming a dark feminine anima.
In the general sense I have no problem with David’s analysis although I would argue that Belthar is Nemone’s Animus. Nemone is playing the part of Circe in the myth of Odysseus while that story is the triumph of the male ego in freeing itself from matriarchal sexual thralldom. This whole series of novels is related to the Odyssey. So that, in that sense Tarzan is imprisoned by the charms of Nemone/Circe. He is being emasculated, deprived of his will, by the feminine will by one might say, the maneater, Nemone.
In fact Nemone as ruler of Cathne has emasculated the leonine male power. As David Adams sagely observes:
In Cathne lions are employed as domesticated animals for the purpose of pulling chariots, hunting and racing. This is a reduction of the power of the lion symbol to the mundane, even to the point of being ridiculous. It is a degradation and humiliaton of ERB’s ultimate symbol of power and virility.
Yes, and that would be in keeping with the story of Circe who turned Odysseus’ crew into swine and would have Odysseus except that he had a pocketful of Moly, a charm to set Circe at naught. Likewise the queen of the City of Gold of the Legends Of Charlemagne who enchanted the paladins of that king, except for one who then freed the others.
So, Nemone had Tarzan at her mercy except for the strange situation of the lion of ERB’s Anima defeating the lion of Nemone’s Animus.
Once this was done the charm of Nemone/Circe/Queen of the City of Gold was destroyed with the City of Gold being restored to male supremacy and Alextar restored to his rightful throne. Things were then returned to their rightful order as in the domains of Circe and the Queen. We are led to believe that a Utopian age begins. This may be a slap at Wells and his Men Like Gods.
This review completes this very important series of five novels. Obviously I consider the key novels to be Tarzan The Invincible, Tarzan And The Leopard Men and Tarzan And The Lion Man. These novels are more directly concerned with ERB’s political and religious opinions. A trilogy concerning ERB’s sexual problems could be made up of Tarzan Triumphant, Leopard Men and City Of Gold bracketed by Invincible and Lion Man but Triumphant and City Of Gold appear to me to be more minor key than the other three.
Nevertheless these five novels usually treated as the least significant of the series are the most crucial to the understanding of Burroughs while being very good stories in themselves.
Excluding Tarzan And The Foreign Legion that is outside Burroughs’ psychological development, although a good story, ERB published only another three Tarzan novels in his lifetime and they were all decidedly inferior to that which preceded them, still good stories, but ERB’s concentration had been broken. Tarzan’s Quest is the best of the last three but just as Lion Man ends with Burroughs’ dreams going up in flames so does Quest. Perhaps eccentric best describes Tarzan And The Forbidden City. The title says it all. He was never to find salvation; the doors of the Sacred City remained closed to him. Tarzan The Magnificent while having exciting episodes just doesn’t come together.
Magnificent less Foreign Legion concluded the oeuvre until Castaways and Madman were discovered twenty years later. However Burroughs himself chose not to publish those books so they must be an addendum to the series. The two posthumous novels complete ERB’s psychological development being important in that respect for the student.
Further his psychological development was brought to a head during the writing of these five novels. In this tremendous struggle between ERB, the Communists and the Jews ERB was routed by the time he wrote Tarzan And The Lion Man. He didn’t think his tactics and strategy through to the end.
Thus ERB’s whole life was a prelude to the Gotterdamerung that ended as Tarzan fled the City of God.
ERB’s whole life is a magnificent adventure that in itself would make a tremendous movie with the right and unfettered treatment. It could the grandest of grand opera worhty of Mozart. I’d like to see it; even better i’d like to write it.
August 16, 2008
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs #16
Tarzan And The City Of Gold
Tall, magnificently proportioned, muscled more like Apollo than Hercules,
Garbed only in a narrow G-string of lion skin
With a lion’s tail depending before and behind,
He presented a splendid figure of primitive manhood
That suggested more, perhaps, the demigod
Of the forest than it did man.
This novel follows Tarzan And The Leopard Men in the sequence in which the novels were written. Ballantine lists it as number sixteen while placing Leopard Men in eighteen in the sequence in which they were published. In order to understand Burroughs’ psychological development however Leopard Men should be read before City Of Gold.
The amazing use of symbolism in Leopard Men is continued in City Of Gold. I am convinced that at this
time Burroughs was investigating the Indian religion of Vedantism. Swami Prabhavananda had established a temple in Hollywood at the beginning of the decade which quickly took hold. The symbolism would be employed by the Vedantists while Burroughs’ interest in symbolism itself was piqued. Shortly after this novel ERB purchased a 1932 volume entitled The Scientific Dream Book And Dictionary Of Dream Symbols by one Johnathan B. Westerfield. Thus ERB was investigating the psychological origin of his dreams. The man was trying hard.
It is clear that this sequence of novels is heavily influenced by Homer, especially by his Odyssey. Homeric motifs run all through these five novels while as Doctor Hermes and David Adams have pointed out Burroughs uses the Athenian monetary unit, the drachma, as the currency of Cathne.
A third probable source would be from the Legends Of Charlemagne volume of Bulfinch’s Mythology. In the last Bulfinch tells of a City Of Gold in which an enchantress keeps the paladins of Charlemagne captive. That story seems to be based on Homer’s story of Circe and Odysseus, or Ulysses in the Roman telling, so Burroughs combines both stories in his own enchantress, Nemone, of his City Of Gold. One may take the City Of Gold to be the Sacred City of the Iliad.
The rival kingdoms of Cathne and Athne- my spell check just pointed out to me that Athne respelled is Athen which is very close to Athene or Athens- have Greek sounding names reinforcing the Homeric connection.
While the sexual symbolism of Leopard Men is dark and brooding placed in a swamp not unlike the Lernean Swamp of Greek mythology in which Heracles fought the furious female Hydra, The City Of Gold is much brighter and airier, more intellectual than the darker urges of the subconscious.
Having now read many of the Tarzan novels four-five and even six times I am astonished at how well they maintain their freshness from reading to reading. Rather than weary me, each reading is a fresh experience that opens a whole new vista of possibilities. The more I seem to understand of what I’m reading the more signficance the words have as the story seems to rise from the page to form concrete living images, as it were.
In this novel expecially I am impressed by the pacing, the effort put into preparing the scenes and the masterly execution in which each word assumes its independent value almost as though ERB had put as much care into word selection as, say, the poet Tennyson. Of course we all know ERB read Tennyson as well as other verse and poetry while also being familiar with song lyrics. Thus while writing prose he is able to maintain a poetic intensity.
The opening scene is an excellent example of his skill. Tarzan is out hunting when he is spotted by some shiftas. He’s in Ethiopia at the end of the rainy season. We aren’t told why he is there but he has commanded Nkima and Jad-Bal-Ja to stay home. As a corollary, just before he leaves Emma two years later he will take a solo vacation to the mountains of Arizona. The spatial arrangement conveyed in this scene is that of Tarzan between the shiftas and the prey he is hunting. While he is silently stalking the prey the shiftas are more noisily stalking him. The movement of the shiftas which can be seen by the prey but not by Tarzan who has his back to them is caught by the prey who looks past Tarzan to the shiftas. Tarzan noticing the prey looking beyond him also looks back to spot the shiftas stalking him.
The spatial concepts involved are astonishing while three views of time are also evident. I only picked up on this aspect with my fifth reading. My interest was thus piqued and heightened so that the novel took on an entirely new aspect. The scene as written is so well paced and spaced that it made a vignette I’m sure I shall never forget, while I now long to duplicate such a scene in my own writing.
The patient lulling slow pace of Tarzan’s hunt was now broken. As Tarzan’s quarry fled, the action between Tarzan and the shiftas became fast, furious and frenzied, while the sexual symbolism bursts into one’s consciousness.
As the shiftas bear down upon him Tarzan realizes that he cannot escape by running. If he could have he would have because as Burrughs never tires of noting there is no disgrace in running from a force majeure. Instead Tarzan shot arrows among the the shiftas. Than as a shifta bore down on him lance leveled:
There could be no retreat for Tarzan; there could be no sidestepping to avoid the thrust, for a step to either side would have carried him in front of one of the other horsemen. He had but a slender hope for survival, and that hope forlorn though it appeared, he seized upon with the celerity, strength and agility that make Tarzan Tarzan. Slipping his bow string about his neck after his final shot, he struck up the point of the menacing weapon of his antagonist, and grasping the man’s arm swung himself to the horse’s back behind the rider.
Abilities like that make Tarzan Tarzan and I’m sure such a feat could be done in reality as in the imagination although possibly not if Tarzan had had the bunchy muscles of the professional strongman. Smooth ones flowing beneath the skin like molten metal are undoubtedly a prerequisite.
Dispatching the shifta Tarzan is now symbolically seated on a horse. The horse directly plunges into a river to swim to the other side. In mid-stream the horse and rider are attacked by a crocodile that Tarzan kills or disables. Emerging from the river Tarzan gallops into a forest where he abandons the horse for the security of the trees.
There in a short passage we have a wealth of symbolism that tells in a few paragraphs what ERB could have developed in many chapter if told in straight prose.
The horse is a symbol of the female. Thus Tarzan as Animus is symbolically united with his Anima. the horse plunges into the river which is also a female symbol representing the waters of the unconscious. Still mounted Tarzan is in the conscious sphere above water while the horse is submerged in the subconscious. The crocodile also a female symbol representing the greedy, devouring, emasculating aspect of the female attacks. The horse turns upstream in an attempt to flee the croc. Tarzan strings his bow firing an arrow, as a masculine symbol, into the crocodile’s mouth disabling it thus escaping the disabling aspect of the feminine while with strange violence sending the arrow down the throat. One has to think about these things.
The horse scrambles up on the opposite bank signifying a change in life, then gallaps into the forst of the subconscious where one goes in search of oneself. The forest here is the same as all those underground mazes in Burrough’s corpus.
Once in the forest Tarzan abandons the horse, or Anima for the security of the trees where he is above it all. Apparently there is a deep cleavage between his Animus and Anima. Now begins a very strange encounter. Burroughs apparently felt he left something of himself on the other side of the river so he goes back for it.
Coming upon the camp of the shiftas he notices that they have a bound captive. As this appears to be what he returned for one can only speculate that the bound captive is an aspect of himself. Perhaps the captive represents his marriage to Emma in which he is in the bonds of matrimony wishing to escape them. Tarzan takes action. At this point Burroughs offers this rather remarkable passage describing the Ape-Man. p. 15:
It was difficult for Tarzan to think of himself as a man, and his psychology was more often that of the wild beast than the human, nor was he particularly proud of his species. While he appreciated the intellectual superiority of man over other creatures, he harbored contempt for him because he had wasted the greater part of his inheritance. To Tarzan, as to many other created things, contentment is the highest ultimate goal of achievement, health and culture the principal avenues along which man may approach this goal. With scorn the ape-man viewed the overwhelming majority of mankind which was wanting in one essential or the other, when not wanting in both. He saw the greed, the selfishness, the cowardice, and the cruelty of man; and, in view of man’s vaunted mentality, he knew that these characteristics placed man upon a lower spiritual scale than the beasts, while barring him eternally from the goal of contentment.
In the above quote ERB outlines the central problem of mankind. In the evolution of mankind from beast to homo sapiens the much vaunted mentality of HS has failed to make the transition from the pure mentality of the beast to that of, essentially, the god. In orther words his origins are dragging him back as he tries to make the leap to the next stage of evolution and development.
While having a godlike intelligence rather than using it to elevate himself above primal desires as the direction of the nineteenth century was going, in the early twentieth century Freud undercut the drive to perfection dragging mankind back down to primal desires. This is Freud’s great crime for which he should be burned in his effigy of Satan once a year in a great world wide holiday. Thus as Man uses his intelligence to get at the root of things, and I think we’re very close to understanding all, Man’s primal desires lapsing back into the ‘unconscious’ of Freud, and make no mistake the current conception of the unconscious is of Freuds’ personal devising, devise even more fiendish ways of evil as that knowledge increases. Thus rather than aspiring toward a spiritual contentment Man chooses to give in to desires that lower him beneath the hyena.
Thus Tarzan, who has attained spiritual contentment, and become godlike, looks with scorn and contempt on the humanity of his fellows preferring to think of himself as a ‘spiritually pure’ beast.
While this attitude is a theme throughout the oeuvre and the corpus as a whole perhaps this rant was sharpened by the developing difficulties at MGM. Shortly after this was written Tarzan, The Ape Man hit the screens scrambling ERB’s vision of Tarzan forever. The screen Tarzan has no intellect. In the movie Tarzan’s Desert Adventure Boy even has to read Jane’s letter to him.
On his way to the shifta camp the ever present Numa is between him and the desperadoes. Taking to the trees of the forest to pass over Numa he spots a strangely garbed man in the shifta camp. Still smarting because he lost his quarry and operating on the primitive logic that since the shiftas had deprived him of dinner it would only be right to deprive them of something they wanted, he decides to free the captive.
He was about to fail in his attempt when the ever present Numa saves his skin by attacking the shifta camp. In the confusion Tarzan and the prisoner escape. The man turns out to be an Athnean named Valthor. Having escaped they must put up for the night. Sheeta the panther is abroad. As David Adams is wont to point out, for Burrough Sheeta is a sexual symbol, so the next scene has strong homoerotic overtones.
The question is who does Valthor represent. He is curiously vague in personality. As Burroughs was obsessed with the Jekyll and Hyde notion at this time I suspect that Valthor is an aspect of Burroughs’ own personality with some sort of relation to Tarzan as Jekyll to Hyde. Valthor’s life is saved as Sheeta leaps for him so that one feels he may be related in some way to Stanley Obroski, another alter ego of Tarzan, who will actually die in the succeeding novel, Tarzan And The Lion Man.
In this novel, in putting up for the night, Tarzan with his superior junglecraft, finds a tree where two horizontal branches fork. He cuts some smaller limbs to form a pallet for himself for the night. He had eaten but he is unconcerned whether the able bodied Valthor has eaten or not. Tarzan does not hunt for other men. If he hadn’t already eaten he would have made a kill and shared the abundance.
Valthor lies down on the ground. Sheeta is watching silently. So silently even Tarzan does not hear him breathe, until readying himself to springs, he quietly brushed a leaf or two. Tarzan hears for his ears are not as yours or mine. As Sheeta launches himself on Valthor Tarzan shouts a warning while rolling from the pallet to descend on Sheeta’s back.
Now, this scene replicates a similar scene in Beasts Of Tarzan when Tarzan leaps on Sheeta’s back in midair as she was about to leap on the ape, Akut. I hadn’t thought of homoerotic overtones between Akut and Tarzan but they may be there. It may be signficant that Akut later became the mentor of young Jack Clayton otherwise known as Korak The Killer.
In the instance of Akut, the ape became sort of a vassal of Tarzan, while in this story Tarzan and Valthor become fast friends although the relationship is one of superior to inferior- Batman to Robin. After killing Sheeta, Tarzan takes a more motherly attitude toward Valthor, making a bed for him in the tree because he knew Numa was prowling the forest. That undoubtedly he knew that before was he leaving Valthor for Numa?
They awoke in the morning. p. 26:
Nearby, the other man sat up and looked about him. His eyes met Tarzan’s and he smiled and nodded. For the first time the ape-man had an opportunity to examine his new acquaintance by daylight. The man had removed his single garment for the night, covering himself with leaves and branches. Now as he arose, his only garment was a G-string and Tarzan saw six feet of well muscled, well proportioned body topped by a head that seemed to bespeak breeding and intelligence. The wild beast in Tarzan looked into the brown eyes of the stranger and was staisfied that here was one who might be trusted.
Not exactly a description of love at first sight but a definite tinge of homoeroticism. Brown eyes. In fact Tarzan and Valthor become fast friends. Quickly learning each other’s language by the point and name system, or at least, Tarzan learning Valthor’s language, they are soon chatting away amiably.
Valthor comes from the mountains but after they wander around for a week he admits he is lost. Tarzan gets the general direction then setting out in a bee line. Their goal is the huge extinct volcano, Xarator, which they soon locate. Just as Leopard Men was cast in the erotic swamps of the feminine as Old Timer lusted and panted after Kali Bwana so The City Of Gold is located in a valley high in the mountains where heaven and earth meet and the cold incisive intellect works best. Tarzan is not going to lust; like brave Ulysses he is going to resist the sexual blandishments of his Circe, Nemone.
Both City Of Gold and Tarzan Triumphant take place near or in volcanos so the volcano must link the two stories. The extent of emotion involved in this one is indicated by the atmospheric conditions as the two men enter the valley. Compare this scene with that of Tarzan The Invincible when Tarzan and La leave Opar. the symbolism is ferocious.
The scene is set in the mountains of Ethiopa. The rainy season is about to end but the last and most furious storm of the season bursts on the two. It seems certain here that Valthor is another aspect of Burroughs’ Animus in the Jekyll-Hyde sense. In this case the two are not so widely divergent as Jekyll and Hyde but are closer in aspects . Tarzan is still definitely superior and Valthor inferior.
Athne and Cathne are twin cities in the valley but they have to pass through Cathne- The City Of Gold which is to say perfection- to get to Athne. Athneans are Elephant men while Cathneans are Lion Men. As the two begin to cross the valley the great storm breaks. The storm no doubt symbolizes that storm feared by Burroughs of actually separating himself from Emma, certainly one of the most difficult thing he would ever have to do.
The separation must have been terrific internal trauma so that ERB kept putting it off rather than face it. One imagines that as in a situation like this Florence was continually asking him when he was going to tell Emma. It would be another two years before he could force himself to make the break. It is significant that just before he left he took a leave of absence from Emma returning to Arizona where, as here, he stayed in the mountains, the White Mountains of the Apaches. Thus his time in the Army must have had more significance for him than we credit. He must have thought, as miserable as he appeared to be, that those were the happiest days of his life.
In Cathne the rains came down. This was the mother of all storms. Between the thunder, lightning and literal sheets of rain the two were severed from all reality. They were walking ankle deep along the road. Once again they have to cross a stream. ERB has seen such a stream in Arizona, so this whole situation seems to be recalled by his Army days. Actually the nine months he spent in Arizona was a fairly rainy period of fourteen inches. In February 1897, I believe, four and half inches fell probably in one stormy period. ERB records a stream that became a raging torrent in his last Western novel. To some extent then he was writing from experience but already thinking of the good old days before he married.
As hard as it was raining in Cathne the river should have been unfordable but art has its demands.
Valthor knowing the ford begins to lead Tarzan across. He gets too far ahead. Tarzan in his uncertainty misses a step being swept away by the flood. He is now in the possession of the waters of the feminine, that is, his female problems, just barely able to get his breath. He is swept from side to side by the violent action of the waters, tumbled head over heels, but he keeps his mental presence. There is a great waterfall ahead of him which threatens certain death. The symbolism should be clear. In a last ditch effort Tarzan catches a rock hauling himself from the water, if I am correct, on the same side of the river, in other words, Emma. He doesn’t cross which is symbolically important. Refer that back to the earlier crossing in which he actually crosses but then returns.
Gathering his senses about him he sees some lights, going to investgate. He unwittingly stumbles into Nemone’s garden. Out of the frying pan, into the fire so to speak.
Brave Ulysses has found his Circe.
The scent of the big cats fills this book. Already Sheeta and Numa have had nearly equal billing with Tarzan and Valthor; now lions are given prominence. Now Tarzan emerges from the flood, which symbolizes a major life change, into the land of lions and lion worship. the ownership of lions is a mark of distinction in Cathne, Cahtnean chariots are even drawn by lions which brings to mind the chariots of goddesses like Cybele, Harmonia and Cadmus. Nemone will promise to reward Tarzan with three hundred lions, apparently an incredible number making him the top Lion Man. Remember the next novel Tarzan And The Lion Man will continue the theme.
Continuing an old theme from Tarzan And The Golden Lion a lion is even the god of Cathne. The symbol of Nemone’s Animus is a great black maned male lion named Belthar. The novel will devolve into a battle between Nemone’s lion, Belthar, and Tarzan’s lion, Jad-Bal-Ja. Also continuing an old device employed in Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar by the jewels and in Tarzan And The Ant Men by Tarzan’s locket this story is unified by the image of a great lion drawing ever nearer to Tarzan. So amid all these lions is the true Lion Man, Tarzan’s personal lion. His own guardian animal.
It does seem clear that ERB associates the big cats with sexuality.
ERB is building this story very carefully with great attention to spacing and pacing. Captured by the
Cathneans ERB takes care to ingratiate the Big Bwana with the troops. He has Tarzan and the Cathnean soldiers enter into a spirit of camaraderie as he introduces them to and instructs them in the use of the bow. Nemone is instroduced but seems to take little notice of the Big Guy condemning him to fight in the arena.
Taken to a prison cell he and we are introduced at some length and in some detail to a character named Phobeg. Phobeg is billed as the strongest man in Cathne.
ERB devotes an amazing amount of space to his confrontation between Phobeg and Tarzan. His development of such a minor character is unusual. I think what we have here is a confrontation between Tarzan and the actual man who inspired Burroughs to create Tarzan, the man who was the physical basis of the Lion Man. Phobeg can be no other than the first important body builder in the world- The Great Sandow. Just as in Tarzan The Magnificent Burroughs takes care to indicate that Tarzan has now replaced H.M. Stanley as the symbol of Africa, so here he puts down ‘the strongest man in the world’ in favor of his hero.
Sandow (1867-1925) had died a few years earlier. While other muscle men had replaced Sandow, most notably Charles Atlas, Burroughs was still obsessed by the man he had seen at the Columbian Expo of 1893. It would seem certain that ERB occasionally picked up a copy of Physical Culture Magazine to keep up on the latest builds. He couldn’t have missed the memorial copy devoted to Sandow, the greatest and still the greatest of the body builders. The award given to Mr. Olympia is called the Sandow.
While bowled over by the strongman, and strongmen, ERB was always offended by the bunchy muscles created by body building. he repeatedly makes allusions to strongmen throughout the corpus while Tarzan himself is both the antithesis and the perfection of the strongman. That is why Tarzan has smooth muscles flowing like molten metal beneath his skin while in this case Phobeg as a Sandow surrogate has the knotted muscles of the body builder.
If Burroughs found Sandow’s build offensive he would have gone apoplectic at the most recent champions who seems to have developed musculature as far as it can go. Unlike builders like Charles Atlas, Gordon Scott or Arnold Schwarzenegger who aspired to the Apolline figure, Ronnie Coleman and his successor Jay Cutler have opted for muscle upon muscle until there is nothing but muscle with no attention to a human shape. As an example check out Jay Cutler the current Mr. Olympia and holder of the Sandow at www.emusclemag.com. This guy is only 5’9″ but bulks up at 320 lbs., paring down to 275 for performance. And that is literally all muscle. One look at Cutler and ERB would have been foaming at the mouth
Just as Sandow was billed as the strongest man in the world, so Phobeg is billed as the strongest man in
Cathne. ERB makes him a braggart in relation to Tarzan but if he was the strongest man in Cathne he had little reason to respect Tarzan’s physique which was more like ‘Apollo than Hercules.’ Tarzan’s strength though greater than Phobeg’s was disguised.
At they are to fight each other to the death in the arena this allows Burroughs to introduce another of his interests which may be related, that of professional wrestling. Burroughs had Tarzan jokingly suggest that they stage the fight much as professional wrestlers. Burroughs who still attended the matches was disgusted becasue the matches were pure entertainment, something he should have applauded. Then as now the professional wrestling matches were staged. Professional wrestling then as now has more to do with entertainment than sport. Either you can get caught up in the fun and drama or you can’t. ERB obviously did although as he still thought of the shows as wrestling he felt put upon.
After several pages of Phobeg’s bragging and Tarzan’s false humility the ‘really big shoo’ begins. Tarzan and Phobeg are the last act on the program and they would have been a difficult act to follow.
ERB must have loved this part as the lenghty description of the gambling taking place is many times more detailed that he usually is. Whether the gambling aspect went on at the wrestling matches he attended or not, I don’t know. The odds naturally are for Phobeg, whose Cathnean reputation is immense and accurate as concerns the past. Everyone expects the inveterate gambler Nemone to bet on the sure thing as was her custom. They hedged their bets when they could at fantastic odds. Nemone then surprised them by betting on Tarzan. Nearly bankrupted the whole coterie of Lion Men.
Tarzan wins of course but refusing to kill Phobeg he instead does his trademark thing lifting Phobeg above his head and tossing him into the stands at Nemone’s feet. Now that is one hard act to follow.
Having now won his liberty, a lion man named Gemnon is assigned custodian of Tarzan taking him under his wing. Up to this point there seems to be no reference to contemporary affairs except for Sandow and wrestling. At this point ERB displays a numerous and surprising set of literary references.
Go To Tarzan And The City Of Gold part two.
July 9, 2008
Men Like Gods
Tarzan Pays Homage To Heracles
First published in the online Magazine: ERBzine
The Golden Age of Strongmen had captured the imagination of the world between 1890 and 1910….Into the 1920s the strongman continued as a living wonder and inspiring vision that could be had for the modest price of admission
-Ed Spielman: The Mighty Atom:
The Life And Times Of Joseph L. Greenstein
When I was a child and youth in the 1940s and ’50s the legendary strongmen of the turn of the twentieth century were, if no longer living, living legends. At least one, Bernarr Madfadden, the father of American bodybuilding, was still going strong.
The most legendary of the strongmen was Frederick Mueller who was known professionally as the Great Sandow.
In his heyday Sandow was so strong that he was capable of ‘exploding’ or breaking the ‘Test Your Strength’ machines in the arcades of Vienna, Austria. There were so many broken machines that it was thought a vandal was destroying them but when apprehended it was discovered that Sandow was not only testing his own strength but the strength of the machines. He flippantly suggested that they be made of better materials.
On stage as Spielman relates, Sandow, who was trained as a turner, could do a back somersault over a chair with a thirty-five pound dumbbell in each hand. He could do a one arm chin-up with the grip of any of his fingers of either hand, including his thumbs.
He could…wait a minute! I’ve heard something like that before. Oh yea, I remember now. In Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan And The Lion Man he has Tarzan leap up to seize stakes pointing down from a ten foot high wall, then draw himself straight up until his torso was above the stakes, then roll over the top defeating the purpose of the stakes. Was he thinking of the Great Sandow when he wrote that?
I think he was.
Burroughs was a fan of boxing and a great admirer of the strongmen of the Golden Age, although he didn’t like the bulky physiques. He repeatedly denounces the physical build of the Strongmen in preference for Tarzan’s ‘smooth rippling muscles.’ In my day the bodybuilders were ridiculed as being ‘muscle bound.’ But the ladies panted when they said it. Tarzan is as strong or stronger than the strongmen but sleek.
Next one asks is there any place that it can be shown that Burroughs ever saw Sandow? yes, and where else? The Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. The Expo was a life changing experience for 17 year-old Ed Burroughs. Bill Hillman of ERBzine has written a wonderful series on the influence of the Fair on young Burroughs.
The influence of the Fair was as moving for the rest of America and the World as it was on Our Man. There apparently has never been so influential a World’s Fair as that of Chicago of 1893.
One of the best attended features of the Fair was put on by the Great Sandow. Bodybuilding had already gotten started in England. Sandow was a student of the innovative Professor Attila in London. He came to the attention of Florenz Ziegfeld while performing in New York. Ziegfeld brought him to Chicago for the Expo. Sandow was a sensation.
He created quite a stir at the fair. Not only did Burroughs see him there but so did a man named Bernarr Macfadden. At the time he was known as Bernard McFadden but he chose Bernarr because it sounded more like a lion’s roar and Macfadden because he thought it looked more distinguished in print. As a result of seeing Sandow Macfadden became the father of bodybuilding and the health movement in the United States. John Dos Passos spoofs him in Vol. III, The Big Money, of the his USA Trilogy.
Macfadden was the discoverer of isometric exercises, which his student, Charles Atlas, renamed Dynamic Tension and made a fortune.
Unless I’m mistaken Macfadden would cross ERB’s path sometime between 1908 to 1912.
Sandow made bodybuilding a rage after the Fair while Macfadden organized the sport around his magazine ‘Physical Culture’ which he began publishing in the wake of the Fair. Sandow also opened the way for a number of strongmen to build careers on their physiques.
They all passed through Chicago. How many of them ERB paid the modest price of admissio to see we can’t know, but as he always speaks of the strongmen in the plural one assumes that he saw several.
Anyone who has watched the Strongest Men In The World competition on cable TV will understand how impressive both the feats and the physiques of these men were.
In ERB’s day a man called Warren Travis Lincoln could lift a platform that held twenty-five men with his back. That was a weight of about 4200 pounds.
G.W. Rolandow could stack three decks of playing cards and tear them in two. One assumes that was before they were plastic coated.
Emil Knaucke who weighed in at five hundred pounds, a spectacle in itself, could hold a car above his head with one hand. Spielman doesn’t specify make or model.
Louis Cyr, one of the most famous strongmen, could restrain a team of horses on either side at the same time. Really spectacular stuff.
A man like Arthur Saxon of the Saxons was considered to be the strongest man in the world. He could do a bent press of nearly five hundred pounds. As in the photo, in the bent press a lifter raised a barbell above his head with one hand in a bent posture then raised another weight with his other hand.
Eighteen ninety to nineteen-ten were formative years for ERB. He would have from fifteen to thirty-five so that when he saw Sandow in ’93 at seventeen he was at a most impressionable age.
ERB turned 40 in 1915 and 50 in 1925.
By the twenties vitamins and food supplements had been discovered and were being developed for commercial use. Vitamins were still novel when I was kid in the late forties. Not everyone knew of their value as late as then.
The Great Sandow, Louis Cyr, and a trio of German strongmen called the Saxons were all naturally strong but by the 20s it was possible to build muscular Adonae from the scratch of a 98 lb. weakling. With vitamins, food supplements and a rigorous regimen for bodybuilding a normal body could be turned into as mammoth a specimen as Tarzan, as witness Arnold Schwarzenegger and his contemporaries who emerged from New York City gyms in the 1960s.
In point of fact you didn’t even need all that gym equipment. If you followed the body building plan of the most famous Adonis of the 40s and 50s, Charles Atlas, all you needed were your own opposed muscles.
Atlas took Macfadden’s isometric exercises and called them the more commercial sounding Dynamic Tension. By pitting one muscle against its opposite fantastic results could be achieved.
Charles Atlas, who changed his name from Angelo Siciliano, was voted the world’s most perfectly developed man in 1922 by his mentor, Macfadden and Physical Culture magazine.
Angelo, born in 1894 in Acri, Sicily came to the US in 1904, thus he would have been 18 in 1922, 18 in 1912.
Siciliano actually had been a 98 lb. weaking who had sand kicked in his face by a bully. His girl friend actually did walk away from him. Siciliano then built himself up into what I’ve always considered to be the image of Tarzan and changed his name to Charles Atlas.
I was not as successful with the Dynamic Tension plan Chuck sold me in the 50s but then I didn’t try that hard and I couldn’t afford the food supplements which are indispensable. Nevertheless it had become possible to turn out ‘Men Like Gods’ on an assembly line basis.
It is more than likely that Burroughs was very familiar with the bodybuilding or fitness program of Macfadden. That photo of him flexing his muscles on the dock at Coldwater is that of a man who has been working out. I can’t beleive that a man who was interested in magazines as Burroughs was couldn’t be familiar with Physical Culture Magazine. Not only would he have the living memory of the Great Sandow in his mind from the Expo but Bernarr Macfadden had moved his headquarters from Battle Creek to Chicago in 1908. He had a very prosperous looking facility.
During these years from 1899 when ERB was bashed in the head in Toronto to 1910 at least, he complainedof excruciating headaches that began when he got up in the morning and lasted through half the day. These would have been very enervating affecting his ability to work. In The Girl From Farris’s he has his hero Ogden Secor suffering from the same headaches going from doctor to doctor ‘tinkering with his skull’ in hopes of finding relief. The doctors could do nothing for Secor so he undertook a fitness regime which eased his situation. So must have ERB.
Once again, the picture of ERB standing with his legs apart flexing his muscles on the dock at Coldwater in 1916 shows that he was either proud of a moderate physique or he was trying to develop those ‘rippling’ muscles like Tarzan and Charles Atlas.
At fifty in 1925 ERB probably thought himself beyond the age when he could develop his physique into a semblance of his creation, Tarzan. Ten or twenty years younger and you might have seen Burroughs as another Charles Atlas or Tarzan.
There is every reason to believe that sometime between 1908 and 1912 he developed an interest in Macfadden’s program.
When he sat down to begin his Tarzan series at the end of 1911, Burroughs’ mind must have been filled with the feats of Sandow and the other strongmen. Anent this, Tarzan’s leopard skin loin cloth was borrowed from the strongmen. Leopard skin shorts were de riguer for the bodybuilding crowd.
Of course the role models for these strongmen were Samson and Heracles. The latter is better known in his Roman usage as Hercules. For the purposes of this essay I will refer to him as Heracles in hs Greek manifestation.
Especially in his original manifestation Heracles was a Sun god as the companion of the Earth Mother, Hera. When the Patriarchal system was imposed on the Matriarchy Hera was wed to Zeus while her former consort, Heracles- The Glory Of Hera- was demoted to the role of Holy Fool and the strngest man in the world.
ERB often refers to Tarzan as a Jungle God and a latter day Hercules. Burroughs had a good Greek and Latin education so one might asume that he had some familiarity with the cycle of myths devoted to the feats and tribulations of that ancient type of all strongmen, Heracles.
In fact, without stretching the point unduly, one can posit a relationship between the Pelasgian Sun God, Heracles and the Flaming God of Opar and through them to Tarzan; they can be construed as one.
Whether ERB was conscious of what he had done in conflating the three cannot be determined for sure but as he was manipulating valid historical data why shouldn’t he have been conscious of what he was doing? The Aztec ritual of tearing the heart out to offer to the sun god is implicit in scenes where Tarzan lies across the sacrificial block, pardon me, altar. The annual sacrifice of the queen’s consort is implicit once again as La raises the sacrificial knife. A blatant resemblance to Cybele and Attis.
While the subconsious is always important it is the conscious mind that organizes, plots and writes. As a writer I may have subconscious motives which may emerge but assembling and organizing my material is a conscious intellectual act. It is axiomatic that one cannot write what one does not know.
One of the great mysteries of mythological studies has been the relationship of Heracles to his namesake the former Matriarchal Earth Goddess, Hera. I noted just previously, during the matriarchy as the Sun, Heracles would have been appropriately called ‘The Glory Of Hera’ or of the Earth. The same notion can be applied to Mesopotamian and Egyptian mythology. For instance, as David Adams points out somewhere, the lion is a symbol of both the sun and the matriarchy. It is a fact that the body of the Sphinx at Memphis is older than the head. The head of the original has been replaced by that of a man. It therefore follows that the Sphinx was carved during the Matriarchy having either a lion’s or a woman’s head. After the succession of the Patriarchy the head was changed to reflect the New Order.
In the Greek Oedipus myth the Theban Sphinx was still represented as the original matriarchal symbol of a lion with a woman’s head. Woman-lion/sun/Heracles. The answer to her riddle after which she committed suicide was ‘man’ which denied the Matriarchy, hence she had to kill herself as the Patriarchy thus symbolically replaced the Matriarchy. Apply that to the Egyptian Sphinx and the change of heads.
Now, the original Egyptian Sphinx was exactly the same as the Theban Sphinx: a woman’s head on a lion’s body. the Sphinx is positioned to be looking due East at sunrise in the Age Of Leo. Thus, perhap, the secret of the Sphinx is simply that as Mother Earth she sat waiting for her consort Heracles (or his Egypian counterpart) to appear on the horizon each morning.
The notion has simplicity to recommend it.
As we all know, Oparians were a group of Atlanteans isolated from the main body when mythical Atlantis broke apart and sank beneath the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The worship of the Flaming God was inherited from the parent civilization by Opar.
Thus whether Burroughs knew what he was doing or not he always gets the sequence of events right.
Without getting into any discussion of if, where or when Atlantis may have existed, let me say, neverttheless, that all the evidence points to a predecessor civilization anterior to Crete, Pelasgian Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia in much the same way Atlantis preceded Opar.
The predecessor civilization must have existed in the Mediterranean Basin during the last ice age when ocean levels, scientists tell us, were several hundred feet lower than they are today. There are evidences of quarrying several hundred feet below sea level on the flanks of the island of Malta for instance. Given this as a fact, then when the ice melted and the waters rose during the Great Flood to their present levels any society or civilization that existed in the Mediterranean Basin was forced to move to higher ground which is to say above the present sea level.
One thing is certain, if the Basin was habitable it was inhabited.
The disruption caused a long dark age from which mankind only slowly recovered. At the same time these relatively highly developed people moving into less developed savage societies had a fertilizing influence introducing more sophisticated ideas and methods such as agriculture.
Lower Egypt, one of Two Lands, was obviously settled by the displaced Libyan dynasty. After centuries of warfare the Upper Egyptians succeeded in conquering Lower Egypt uniting the Two Lands. The Third Dynasty was a Libyan Dynasty so that the warfare was translated from an external one to an internal one in which the Libyans defeated the Upper Egyptians. During the Libyan Dynasty the great pyramids were built reflecting in some way the the flooded predecessor civilization.
So Crete and Pelasgian Greece received survivors also. The Sumerians of Mesopotamia attribute their civilization to the advice of Oannes, John in English, who came from the sea.
Often ignored by classical scholars but obviously part of this great Mediterranean culture is ancient Spain. Now, Spain has one of the great traditions of the worship of Heracles as a Sun god. This tradition preceded and was uninfluenced by any Patriarchal tradition from Greece. In point of fact the Patriarchal Heracles went West to annex the Spanish traditions to the Patriarchal cause. In the process he rounded up the cattle of the Sun i.e. the Matriarachal Heracles to bring back to Greece. Throughout history, including modern Africa, lifting another man’s cattle transferred his authority to oneself. See the great cattle raid of Cooley in Irish mythology. It therefore follows that the Greek Patriarchal myths of Heracles are built on an earlier Matriarchal mythological cycle while being perverted or converted to Patriarchal needs.
Heracles was originally a sun god. He was the original of the Flaming God. I can’t say Burroughs knew this either consciously or subconsciously, however as we will see there is substantial evidence to indicate that he was consciously manipulating the material.
The city of Seville in Spain is built over a Sun Temple in which Heracles was the sun deity. This site beneath Seville can still be vistited today. Assuming that the history of the Spanish Heracles developed independently of the Greek Heracles which after all is a Greek interpretation of a Pelasgian god then it follows that the two traditions must have come from a common source. That source cannot have been other than the ante-deluvian civilization of the Mediterranean Basin.
It follows then that whatever names they were known by in this anterior civilization Hera was the Great Mother Goddess while her ‘Glory’ Heracles must be no other than the Flaming God, the Sun. What else could the ‘Glory’ of the Earth Mother be?
Thus when the Great Flood, which must be the same as that spoken of by the Sumerians who would have gotten the story from Oannes, destroyed the civilization of the Mediterranean Basin the inhabitants fled to the former highlands surrounding them taking their traditions with them. The Spanish Heracles was yet identical to the Pelasgian and Cretan models which later became variant.
When the Greeks entered Pelasgia at the beginning of the Arien Age, the Zodiac dates back to the anterior civilization, they found this remnant of the ante-deluvian civilization with immemorial religious traditions occupying the land. As the Arien Age began a great shift in the mental and social organization of man progressed in its evoltuion. The shift was from a Matriarchal consciousness to a Patriarchal consciousness. In other words, the God replaced the Goddess as the most important sex. Fecundation became more important than actual reproduction.
This meant that all the divine myths had to have all the sexual relationships reversed so that the God took precedence over the goddess. Hera could no longer be allowed to have a male god as her subordinate ‘Glory’, the roles had to be reversed. Hera would have to become the dependent of Zeus.
Homer’s Iliad is one key in the story of this reversal.
As Hera was unwillingly made subordinate to her Lord and Master, Zeus, Heracles had to be appropriated by the God. The Patriarchy then turned Heracles into a scourge of Hera and she his enemy in ridicule of the previous dispensation. Kind of a Burroughsian style sly joke.
The meaning of the name Heracles as the glory of Hera was thus lost. Heracles lost his identification with the Sun becoming a buffoon as the greatest of men; a physical giant of somewhat dim intelligence. Hera’s glory was turned into a laughing stock but still a good sort of fellow who could aspire to godhood at death.
In the Patriarchal myths Heracles destroyed various Matriarchal cult centers such as the Hydra at Lerna, the Stymphalian Swamps, the Stag of Artemis, the Nemean Lion and others. His cycle of adventures was involved in replacing the Matriarchal with the Patriarchal sarcastic ‘Glory’ of Hera.
To make a feeble Patriarchal attempt at accounting for the meaning of Heracles’ name Homer tells the following story in book XIX of the Iliad. Zeus, influenced by the goddess Folly, announced to the assembled Gods on Olympus that before the day was out a descendant of his lineage would be born to a mortal woman who would be the greatest man in the world.
Hera, who hated the infidelities of Zeus, heard his proclamation with scorn. She knew her husband but too well. She knew he referred to Alcmene who was bearing Heracles but she also knew that a son was to be born to the wife of Sthenelus who was only seven months pregnant. Sthenelus was of the lineage of Zeus.
Hera rushed off to visit Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, to ask her to hasten the birth of Eurytheus while delaying that of Heracles. The former having been born first became the greatest monarch of the age after the Patriarchal fashion but by Matriarchal means.
Hastening back to Alcmene Eileithyia uncrossed her legs allowing Heracles to be the younger son of Zeus born on that day. While Heracles was the bravest and strongest of men he was nevertheless compelled by Hera’s resourcefulness and prompt action to be subservient to Eurystheus. Thus the will of Zeus which could not be averted was perverted by Hera to thwart the Big Guy’s will.
Heracles was still the strongest man alive but he was subordinate to the will of Hera through Eurystheus, portrayed as one of th weakest and most cowardly men of his time hiding behind his mother’s skirts but by the grace of Hera and the matriarchy, the greatest ruler.
Zeus, appalled by his lapse of judgment threw Folly off Olympus from which she is still banned.
In that sardonic manner Homer explained the meaning of Heracles as the glory of Hera. She had used him to Ace Zeus. Heracles had been stripped of his role as the glorious Sun companion of Hera. He comes down to us as the strongest man who ever lived. In the Roman nomenclature of Hercules he became the role model of every strong man who ever lifted a dumbbell. Yet they all wore leopard skin shorts, the leopard being a symbol of the Matriarchy. You can’t fool Mother Nature.
To Burroughs who was a student of Greek mythology the great strongmen of the Golden Age must have appeared as men like gods. Their feats of strength, their marvelous physiques, were so far beyond the abilities of ordinary men that they must have seemed to be in a class by themselves far above mortal men.
In that sense Tarzan is the greatest of the strongmen, above Sandow, Arthur Saxon and even Heracles.
Heracles himself had been demoted to a mere mortal although his legend was so great that he was allowed immortality by the Patriarchy after his mortal death. Unwilling to grant him too much credit he was allowed to be the doorman of Olympus. He held this position throughout the Arien Age being replaced by St. Peter in the New Dispensation of the Piscean Age.
Burroughs, familiar with the mythic cycle of Heracles, however he understood it, plays with both identities of Heracles in the person of Tarzan at Opar. He also brings in a number of elements from H. Rider Haggard’s novel She. There can be no doubt of the influence of Haggard. Burroughs even names his heroine La which is what ‘She’ is designated as in French translations of Haggard’s novel. The palance of Opar is also based to some extent on the labyrinthine caves of She.
There are many literary influences for the creation of Tarzan not least of which are the real life H.M. Stanley and Haggard’s fictional heroes Sir Henry Curtis and Allan Quatermain. I would now like to direct attention to a third, that of the heor of She, Leo Vincey.
If one closely examines Vincey it will be discovered that he too was a Sun King whose death had been caused in an earlier incarnation by She. The cartouche which contains the name of Leo’s distant Egyptian ancestor was translated as ‘The Royal Son Of Ra’ or son of the Sun as in Egyptian mythology Ra is the sun.
Leo also translates from the Latin as Lion so we have the Son of the Sun who also is a Lion Man which is how Burroughs refers to Tarzan in ‘The Invincible’ and undoubtedly as how he always thought of his creation.
Haggard translates Vincey as the Avenger. Tarzan is the ‘Avenger’ or guard of Africa. Haggard describes Vincey as almost inhumanly beautiful while Tarzan is the most handsome man in the world not unlike Charles Atlas.
Haggard’s She is indescribably old kept forever youthful by having bathed in the fire of eternal youth. Hera was also eternally youthful and a virgin queen. She restored her youth and virginity by bathing annually in a holy spring. Hera’s bath obviously refers to the Spring rains which inundated Mother Earth just prior to vegetation springing forth in virgin birth. After the summer heat the vegetation dies down and Earthy Hera becomes barren once more to await her bath and return to virginity.
So a connection can be made between Sun>Heracles>Vincey>Tarzan and Mother Nature>Hera>She>La.
Burroughs La was neither ancient nor immortal in the personal sense although she was the latest in an immortal line of Priestesses. She is a priestess of the Sun or Ra, The Flaming God.
Haggard’s Leo Vincey was the direct descendant of Kallikrates She’s great love of two millennia past. She, or Alyesha, to use her name, had killed Kallicrates in a rage. Kallikrate’s descendants were sworn to avenge the murder. Thus Vincey travels from England to far off Africa to locate this fabulous woman.
Kallikrates was the love of Alyesha’s very long life. When she recognizes Leo Vincey as her lost lost love she saves his life while offering him eternal youth if he will only bathe in the flames of eternal life. He hesitates to do so. To encourage him Alyesha steps once again into the flames which was a serious miscalculation. She crumbled to dust. Thus while Leo Vincey doesn’t actually avenge the death of Kallikrates she is nevertheless his victim.
Tarzan while actually born in Africa was conceived in England so he made the trip to Opar from England although he is ignorant of La. When Tarzan is captured in Opar he is laid on the altar of the Flaming God, La with the sacrifical knife raised, looks down on this Jungle God, this man like a god, and falls in love. Thus we have a replay of the She-Kallikrates situation.
Unable to take Tarzan’s life, La releases him begging him for his love. Alyesha’s full title was She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed in the Matriarchal sense. The old conflict arises, Tarzan is more on the Patriarchal side, he has his moly in the waistband of his loin cloth, monagamous we are led to believe, happily married, so the Lion Man Sun King declines the honor of being mated to La>Hera. He asserts his Patriarchal prerogative to disobey although he always has a soft spot in his heart for La.
In a fairly masterful way ERB conflates the legend of Heracles, the fiction of H. Rider Haggard and the incredible strongmen of the Golden Age and his own little bit to write a charming and beautiful story which is fairly simple on the surface but one which becomes immensely rich with a deeper understanding of the sources.
Ernest Hemmingway once said that before one sat down to write one should have ten time the information in your possession as you put on paper else the story will seem shallow and contrived. It would seem that the sources upon which Burroughs was drawing, from the bodybuilding strongmen of his day to the legendary cycle of Heracles to the adventures of H.M. Stanley and the fiction of H. Rider Haggard might well fulfill Hemingway’s dictum.
When one searches for the sources of Burroughs one finds layer after layer of golden riches while discovering that in fact ERB did indeed create a man like a god- Tarzan The Magnificent.
This is a quote taken from Bonzo Dog’s song Mr. Apollo. I don’t know whether the reader is familiar with the Bonzos but they were one of my favorites. Several glorious LPs. Neil Innes came from them as well as the great but tragic Viv Stanshall. Leave those drugs alone, boys.
Follow Mr. Apollo,
Everybody knows a healthy body
Makes a healthy mind.
Follow Mr. Apollo,
He’s the strongest man the world has ever seen.
If you take his courses
He’ll make you big and rough.
And you can kick the sand right back in their faces.
A few years ago I was a four stone apology-
Today, I am two separate…Gorillas.
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
Long may they wave.