A Review

Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#18 Tarzan And The Lion Man

Part one of ten parts


R.E. Prindle

First published on the ezine-ERBzine


     As has been seen 1931 was a very eventful year for ERB.  The viewing of Trader Horn was a seminal event in his life.  The movie became a major influence on his next Tarzan novel- Tarzan And The Leopard Men.  As has been noted, in April he signed the contract with MGM.

     Reports vary but it appears that he may have sold the movie rights for the first film for twenty-two thousand dollars plus a five week employment contract at a thousand dollars a week.  It is fair to assume that ERB spent his five weeks on the MGM lot in Culver City.

     During that period of time he obviously attended conferences with Irving Thalberg so his descriptions of the ‘Boy Wonder’ are taken first hand.  One imagines that he became acquainted with the Director Woody ‘One Take’ Van Dyke.  I like to think they hit off with ERB getting some first hand accounts of Africa that showed up in Lion Man.  As he had a copy of Van Dyke’s privately printed Horning Into Africa in his library it would seem obvious that Van Dyke presented him with a copy.  Thus ERB had a fund of first hand information lacking in his earlier novels.

     One also imagines he met the African stars Mutia and Riano when they visited Hollywood.  They would have been the first Africans he had met.  There is a world of difference between Africans and American Negroes.  Perhaps for these reasons his Leopard Men varies somewhat from his usual hidden civilizations formula.

     And also he would have met his script writing counterpart Cyril Hume.  His new partner one might say.  And coincidentally Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’ Sullivan.

     One is astonished at the speed with which MGM signed Burroughs, developed a script, found actors for Tarzan and Jane, made a movie and released it a bare ten months later.  What orgzainization.!

     We know that ERB watched the result with sinking heart and bitter remorse for signing the contract.  The MGM version of his creation was the antithesis of his own.  Rather than a literate, cosmopolitan Tarzan at home both in the jungle and the capitols of Europe and cities of America the MGM Tarzan was a feral boy who wasn’t even a lord, let alone  the lord of the jungle.

     Our Man had just finished Tarzan And The City Of Gold  when he viewed the movie.  Now with his brain reeling in shock it would be a year before he got out his reply.

     In my estimation it would be his last great Tarzan novel.  The Big Bwana had been emasculated.  But the greatest of the Tarzan novels was the result.

     ERB also made it a Hollywood novel, perhaps as trenchant a criticism of the film capitol as his 1922 effort The Girl From Hollywood.   He ridiculed the whole thing.  MGM, Thalberg, the African expedition, the movie Tarzan and in a closing chapter Hollywood itself.  In his pain and hurt he drove himself to heights he had never before attained.

     Stunned by the duplicity of MGM his novel is a story of duplicity, of doubles and more doubles until one has doubles coming out one’s ears.  The story within the story, the double of the story itself, of God in Heaven but all wrong with the world is a masterpiece of imaginative fiction that transcends even the exploits of his Martian creation, Ras Thavas.

     As Leopard Men was permeated with sexual desire with a hint of madness, Lion Man is deeply involved with madness, insanity and a complete feeling of unreality.  As Tarzan says:  Sometimes I think I must be dreaming.  Yea, verily, brothers and sisters.  This story is one of dreams and nightmares but a dream of a story.


     In the novel Burroughs had two major objectives: 1.  To ridicule and humiliate MGM and 2.  To show them how to use all new material in a much more imaginative way than Cyril Hume had.  Hume is probably ridiculed as both the writer Joe in the foreword and the scenarist Pluant in the Hollywood afterword.

     There can be no mistake that the introductory story refers to the Trader Horn expedition while Burroughs includes a planning session with Milt Smith/Irving Thalberg in his MGM/BO office.  Let us look at the introductory chapter carefully.

     There can be no doubt that Burroughs was included in such sessions concerning the movie Tarzan, The Ape Man so that the chapter ‘In Conference’ is an authentic snapshot of how business was conducted.

     The opening sentence is:  Mr. Milton Smith, Executive Vice President In Charge Of Productions was in conference.  There is no doubt that here Burroughs is referring to Irving Thalberg.  Burroughs goes on to describe Thalberg’s actions which were considered peculiar by everyone in Hollywood.

     Mr. Smith had a chair behind a big desk, but he seldom occupied it.  He was an imaginative dynamic person.  He required freedom and space in which to express himself.  His large chair was too small; so he paced about his office more often than he occupied the chair, and his hands interpreted his thoughts quite as fluently as his tongue.

p9.  Smith was walking around the room, acting out the scente.  He was the girl bathing in the pool in one corner of the room, and then he went to the opposite corner and was the Lion Man.

     That doesn’t sound unfriendly or hostile to me but as ERB has already identified MGM as BO (Body Odor) or Stinky Pictures Louis B. Mayer, MGM’s president, may have taken all ERB’s comments from then on as intended insults.

     In point of fact ERB’s descriptions of Smith/Thalberg seem to be accurate.  Thalberg was the subject of Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished final book The Last Tycoon.  The novel was made into a movie of the same name in 1976, the last movie directed by Elia Kazan.  Thalberg is portrayed exactly as Burroughs depicted him.

      The conventional mind seems to be unable to grasp the idiosyncrasies of genius.  The genius of Thalberg was that he was able to visualize the film in the manner Burroughs describes, alsmost as the author.  Had he failed he would have been merely weird but as he was the greatest and surest producer of the studio era the seeming eccentricity becomes an attribute of his genius.  As a writer of genius I think ERB saw Thalberg that way; how the latter of MGM interpreted ERB’s remarks may have been less generous.

     The director, Tom Orman’s character is quite similar to that of Woody Van Dyke although as the physique of Orman is opposite that of Van Dyke it is clear that Orman is intended to be more fictional.  The name Or-man can interpreted as Gold-man from the French Or which translates as gold.  As Goldman ERB may have been slamming the Jews.  ERB was less than careful in that respect in the novel.  In the last chapter ERB definitely characterized Abe Potkin as a Jew placing his conversation in dialect.  By Abe Potkin ERB may have been referring to Louis B. Mayer.  The introduction of Clayton to Abe leaves this open to conjecture.  p. 186:

     This is Mr. Potkin, John Clayton, Abe Potkin, you know,  (italics mine)

     If ERB did ridicule both Thalberg and Mayer or was perceived as doing so then he was definitely asking for trouble.  Fighting the Law in Hollywood as it were.

     Like Van Dyke who had been called in to relieve director Robert J. Flaherty on a behind schedule film White Shadows On The South Seas in which Van Dyke was successful so Orman had been called in to complete a picture being shot in Borneo.

     Just as Van Dyke was then assigned Trader Horn on location in Africa so now Orman is assigned to make the biggest African picture ever in the Ituri Rain Forest.

     ERB probably met Van Dyke in the summer of ’31 on the MGM lot.  It would seem that the two men hit it off as Orman is as well treated as Lion Man allows.  It  is to be presumed that Van Dyke presented ERB with a copy of his privately printed Horning Into Africa  at that time.

      The rest of the chapter is joshing around in a light hearted banter that was characteristic of this type of conference and introducing the members of the cast thus establishing the nature of their characters.

     A detail of interest is the following quote.  p. 8:

     “And are we going to shoot:” inquired Orman, “fifty miles from Hollywood?”

     ‘No, sir!  We’re going to send a company right to the heart of Africa to the -er-ah- what’s the name of that forest, Joe?’

     “The Ituri Forest.”

      “Yes, right to the Ituri Forest with sound equipment and everything.  Think of it, Tom!  You get the real stuff, the real natives, the jungle, the animals, the sounds.  You ‘shoot’ a giraffe and at the same time you record the actual sound of his voice.”

     “You won’t need much sound equipment for that, Milt.”


     “Giraffes don’t make sounds; they’re not supposed to have any vocal organs.”

     “Well, what of it?  That was just an illustration.  But take the other animals for instance; Lions, elephants, tigers- Joe’s written a gret tiger sequence.  It’s going to yank them right out of their seats.”

     “There ain’t any tigers in Africa, Milt,”  explained the director.

     “Who says there ain’t?”    

     “I do,”  replied Orman grinning.

     “How about it, Joe?”  Smith turned toward the scenarist.

     “Well, Chief, you said you wanted a tiger sequence.”

     “Oh, what’s the difference?  We’ll make it a crocodile sequence.”

     In this instance ERB is spoofing himself.  Over the years he had all kinds of complaints for faunal inaccuracies.  The tiger bit probably hurt him the worst.  He had written a great tiger scene for the first Tarzan novel that had to be changed from the All Story magazine version to the book version.  ERB finally gets a chance to exorcise his frustration over that one.  He was also criticized for having deer in Africa, Bara the deer, of which there are none.  He first tried to bull his way through by saying he just wanted Bara the deer there.  He gave in by Tarzan The Invincible  and spoke of Bara the antelope.  This also apparently proved unacceptable as in Leopard Men he speaks of Wappi the antelope, while the name Bara disappears completely.  In the joke about the giraffe voice he is showing off knowledge while venting a little steam.

     Thus he sets the scene for the first stage of the novel, the penetration of the film company into the Ituri Rain Forest.  I found this sequence as well handled as any movie version might have been.  ERB doesn’t try to follow Van Dyke’s narrative but creates his own story based on Van Dyke’s.

     I have no doubt that there are references in this introduction and throughout the book to real people and real incidents that have gone over my head.  I have located what I can with my present knowledge but I’m sure the novel is loaded with many others.

Go to:  Part 2:  Doubles And Insanity

Exhuming Bob IX

Chronicles I

Pensee 5


R.E. Prindle

Younger Pete Seeger

Younger Pete Seeger

     Larry Sloman has an interesting interview with Mike Bloomfield in his On The Road With Bob Dylan of 1978.  It takes up twelve pages- 286-297- of the 2002 Revised Edition.

     Mike Bloomfield was, or course, the White Southside Chicago Blues guitarist who rose to fame as the lead guitarist of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.  Butterfield’s LP East-West was one of the seminal records of the sixties.  If you’re hip and don’t know the record, you should take care of that as soon as possible.

     The interview is interesting in a number of ways.  Bloomfield who was a Jew ‘hanging out with ‘the niggers’ on the Southside as he puts it, has a rather surprising attitude toward Blacks and opinions on Dylan.

     Born in ’43 Bloomfield was two years younger than Dylan thus his mind was more malleable to the propaganda of the fifties as he turned fifteen only in ’58, graduating, if he did, in ’61.  The tremendous persecution indoctrination and conditioning of the mid to late fifties in the Jewish community would likely have influenced his mental state more profoundly than Dylan’s.

     The Jewish community has always been affected by the Negro mental situation.  A low down Jew in his own community was frequently designated a ‘nigger’ often carrying the nickname of Nig or Big Nig.  Sloman, also a Jew, repeatedly refers to himself as the ‘nigger’ of the tour while designating Ronee Blaklee as his female nigger counterpart.

     While not having enough information to diagnose Bloomfield’s mental state nevertheless since he abjured the White world for the Black world of the Blues it would seem that he interpreted the intense Jewish indoctrination as meaning that since the world hated the Jews only because they were Jews that the Jews were no better than the ‘niggers’ and that he should go live with them.  The psychological conditioning young Jews went through in the fifties was just horrid in the effects on their psyches.  Really crazy stuff.

     So, while feeling no better than the Blacks Bloomfield at the same time recognized his separateness, difference and apparent inferiority.

     This was certainly different than the image being projected to the equally impressionable youth of America who through musicians like Bloomfield reverenced the Negro.  In fact Bloomfield was a perfect catalogue of prejudices if one looks at it that way.  Another way of looking at it is that having had close contact with the various cultures he had a clear idea of their characteristics as compared to the Jews and Whites.

Mike Bloomfield

Mike Bloomfield

     Still, at Newport he was scandalized by Peter Seeger’s behavior.  Quite clearly Bloomfield was not your typical White Liberal.  p. 291-292:

     To play with anyone at a folk festival, I would have plugged my guitar into Pete Seeger’s tuchus, really man, and put a fuzz tone on his peter.  You know what fucking Pete Seeger was doing?  He brought a whole bunch of schwartzes from a chain gain to beat on a log and sing schwartze songs, chain gang songs, and he was doing that, can you believe this guy?  Here’s a white guy, got money, married to a Japanese woman, beating on a log with schwartzes singing ‘All I hate about lining track, whack, this old chain gang gwine break my back,  actually saying ‘gwine’, whack and Seeger’s doing this and he’s pissed off at us for bringing electric guitars to the fucking folk festival!  He brings murderers from a schwartze prison to beat on a log!  Oh, I couldn’t believer how fucking crazy it was!

     Schwartze italicized in the original, of course, is Yiddish for nigger.  The above is terrific scene painting that represents  about how probably 90% of America at the time would have perceived the scene.  Seeger was a Liberal Commie Red American living this incredible fantasy life in which he was the star of his own movie in which there were no consequences while the plot is perpetually arranged  to suit his convenience.

     This was the beginning of the period when White Americans believed themselves in control of the destinies of the people of the world.  Kennedy had just created the Peace Corps under whose auspices raw youths with no worldly experience were sent out into the world to supposedly tell forty and fifty year old men and women that they were doing everything wrong and these mere kids were going to tell them how to do it right.  I can’t tell you how the concept boggled my mind.  Seeger married to a Japanese while calling these Negros cons to Newport to play chain gang songs is actually treating these people as though they were his toys.  The arrogance of this Liberal so-called peace-loving, people-loving creep is amazing.

     As Bloomfield says, Seeger came unglued over the violation of his fantasy when electricity was introduced into his rural pre-Civil War fantasy while idolizing Negro murderers that he had had released from prison for the weekend.  Imagine, for his convenience without any regard for the feelings of the prisoners he had done that.  Then he has them perform a scenario where they are beating on a hollow log as caricatures of themselves of a century earlier singing railroad songs that hadn’t had any relevance for at least fifty years.

     Obviously Bloomfield while he had some fantasy that he was a psychological nigger who was at home on the Southside still longed to be Uptown with the White folks.  Hence he is so scandalized that Seeger, a man with money, in other words, while Seeger didn’t have to play with schwartzes was actually, and here Mike’s incredulity is palpable, singing Negro dialect like ‘gwine’ and going whack.

     I mean, in Seeger’s incredible movie life he’s got a Japanese wife and everything, bank account.  If he tires of that fantasy he dumps her and marries a – whatever, whoever the film running through the sprockets of his mind fancies.  I mean, the guy’s got a long lead between second and third out on the grass and nobody’s even running him down.  Bloomfield is completely flabbergasted.

     And then Dylan is toying with him and he does know that.  Dylan comes to Chicago right after the first album, Bloomfield grabs his guitar, just like in Crossroads, intending to cut Dylan down which he can do with ease and cutting is done everyday in Chicago so it is legit.  Dylan must have blanched with fear knowing Mike could do it.  Now, remember this is an intra-Jewish thing.  Rather than risk embarrassment Bob abases himself and charms Mike into believing they are friends.  Deceived, Mike lets Bob off.

Dylan At Peak

Dylan At Peak

     Now safely back in New York Dylan calls Bloomfield to ask him if he wants to play on Highway 61, the most vengeful record ever recorded.  Bloomfield accepts showing up in the enemy’s camp at Woodstock.  Now Dylan insults Bloomfield and strips him of his dangerous skills.  Bob says:  ‘I don’t want you to play any of that B.B. King shit, none of that fucking blues I want you to play something else.’  so we fooled around and finally played something he liked, it was very weird…’

     So Bob makes himself superior by taking away Bloomfield’s identity (I had to change their faces and give them all brand new names) but he takes the trouble to actually teach Bloomfield the songs because he is going to need him.

     I have to give Bob credit for being an improvisational genius.  At the Highway 61 session he and Mike are the only guys who know what they’re doing while the other musicians are keying to them.  The result in my estimation is sensational.  As a musician Bloomfield didn’t think much of it but as a listener without those kinds of professional prejudices the result is astonishing.  To be sure the sound is not as tight as a Johnny Rivers record but that is its genius.

     Bob assumes that Bloomfield knows he is now Bob’s shadow or guitar player.  When Mike goes with Butterfield Bob feels rejected.  When Bob’s feelings are hurt Bob gets revenge.  A number of years later Bob asks Mike to play on Blood On The Tracks This time he doesn’t need Mike so harking back to their first encounter in Chicago he roars through the songs in one tuning so fast Bloomfield can’t keep up.  Bob has cut Bloomfield as Mike had meant to cut him.  Bob walks out, king of the Crossroads.  Bob has ‘proved’ himself the better musician.  End of that story.  Bloomfield ODed a few years later.

     At one point Sloman asks Mike ‘What was he like?’  pp. 286-287:

     “There was this frozen guy there,” Bloomfield says.  “It was very disconcerting.  It leads you to think, if I hadn’t spent some time in the last ten or eleven years with Bob that were extremely pleasant, where I got the hippie intuition that this was a very, very special and, in some ways, an extremely warm and perceptive human being, I would now say that this dude is a stone prick.’

     Bloomfield then describes Dylan in conjunction with Neuwirth and Albert Grossman holding themselves aloof from others while indulging in savage put downs of anyone and everyone.  Bob in fact was a stone prick.  The question is why?

     After this introduction to the problem , in Pensee 6 I will return to the root of the problem built around Bob’s reverence for Mike Seeger.


Exhuming Bob IX:

Chronicles Vol. I, Pensees 4


R.E. Prindle


     The gist of Chronicles is how Bob became a songwriter.  As an auto-biography of his life he is telling us nothing but as to his intellectual development he is telling us a lot.

      I find the Lost Land chapter the most interesting in the book.  Bob goes back and constructs little dioramas to illustrate the changes he was going through.  The chapter is kind of a literary version of Salvador Dali’s picture, The Persistence Of Memory.  What is visible has to be reconstructed and interpreted.  In the interpretation lies the interest.

     Bob is interested in telling us how he became Bob Dylan while wanting to give his impression of people and events.  He recalls a concert by Bobby Vee who was riding the crest of his popularity while Bob was a mere nothing waiting in line.  He seems to want to prove to us that Vee really did know him from back in Dakota thus verifying the fact that he did play with Vee’s band.  Bob sent in his name and Bobby Vee actually came out to talk to him.  The situation is reversed now, Bob is something and Vee is a has ben but Bob still has a place in his heart for him.  Touching story.

     And then he tells his Ricky Nelson story.  Bob seemed to think more highly of Rick as singer than I did.  Time has softened my attitude to Rick as well as his song ‘Garden Party’ that I have always liked.  As Bob said Ricky mentions him in his song- ‘there was Bob Dylan in his Howard Hughes disguise’- or words something like that.

     Rick’s song, I think, gave Bob the idea for the story he tells of Camilla Adam’s party.  It is actually two parties, the one at Comill’as and another at Alan Lomax’s that Bob loosely joins together around the persona of Mike Seeger.  It’s interesting.  Bob introduces the party thusly:  p.62

…then something immediate happens and you’re in another world, you jump into the unknown, have an instinctive understanding of it- you’re set free.  You don’t need to ask questions and you always know the score.  It seems like when that happens, it happens fast, like magic, but it’s really not like that.  It isn’t like some dull boom goes off and the moment has arrived- your eyes don’t spring open and suddenly you’re very quick and sure about something.  It’s more deliberate.  Its more like you’ve been working in the the light of day and then you see one day that its getting dark early, that it doesn’t matter where you are- it won’t do any good.  It’s a reflective thing.  Somebody holds the mirror up, unlocks the door- something jerks it open and you’re shoved in and your head has to go into a different place.  Sometimes it takes a certain somebody to make you realize it.

     Mike Seeger had that effect on me.

     So the rambling account of the Bob’s next few pages is going to be a story of how Mike Seeger put Bob’s head in a different place.  It’s going to happen at Camilla’s ‘Garden Party’ combined with Alan Lomax’s affair.  Did this party really take place or is this a dream sequence Bob builds up to explain the change he’s going through?  The population of the party strikes me as improbable but then I have attended very few celebrity parties and don’t feel I can put myself forward as a judge.

     Bob doesn’t tell us when these two melded parties built around Mike Seeger too place but as most of the stories in this essay take place in the winter- baby, it was cold outside- it must have been before 1963.  Bob arrived in NYC in the winter of 1960.  In relation to Harry Belafonte he does say:  ‘I’d be making my professional recording debut with Harry, playing harmonica on one of his albums called Midnight Special.  That album was recorded in ’62 so if that was still in the future as Bob makes it sound the intellectual development he’s taking about probably took place in the winter of ’61-’62.  He bagan dating Suze Rotolo in the summer of ’61 so the part-time girl friend he was with, Delores Dixon, must have been the part of the time he wasn’t with Suze.

     There were a lot of Folk people there but Bob says they all gave him the cold shoulder except for Pete Seeger.   p. 64

     I saw a lot of people here that I’d meet again not too far off, a lot of the folk community hierarchy, who were all pretty indefferent to me at the time and showed very little enthusiasm.  they could tell I wasn’t from the North Carolina mountains nor was I a very comercial, cosmopolitan singer either.  I just didn’t fit it.

     So if not outright rejection there was probably a feeling of you don’t have to pay attention to that guy, he ain’t goin’ nowhere.  So here we have the nucleus of Positively Fourth Street.  p. 64

     They didn’t know what to make of me.  Pete Seeger did, though, and he said hello.

     So, who among the multitude had the prescience to recognize the genius of Bob Dylan and said:  Hello.  That was enough for the moment for the boy in the sheepskin coat and motorcycle boots.

     An then Bob runs through a list of attendees:  Harold Leventhal the famous Folk manager, Judith Dunne a choreographer, Ken Jacobs the filmmaker, Pete Schumann a puppeteer, Moe Asch from Folkways, Theodore Bikel, Harry Jackson the artist, Cisco Houston.

     A whole slew of authentic labor agitators, not those phony bigwigs who went to Pureto Rico to party hearty.  Irwin Silber of Sing Out!,  There were a lot of Broadway and off-Broadway actors too, a lot of musicians and singers, Erik Darling, Lee Hayes, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.  Mike Seeger of course but also the creme de la creme Harry Belafonte.  Quite a gathering which makes me believe that Bob is romancing a little.

     Bob was knocked out by Belafonte.  He eulogizes over Harry.  For myself I never really cared for Belafonte.  Harry was from New York City.  born in ’27 so he’s about eighty now.  Still kicking.  He went to live with his grandmother in Jamaica for four years when he was from eight to twelve then returned to New York City.  Studied to be an actor but first drifted into singing, picked up a folk repertory from Huddie Ledbettor who he apparently knew.  He had a hit in 1953 with Matilda and in 1954 released his LP Mark Twain of which the title song became a hit.  Harry also did a number of Leadbelly tunes like the slave songs Bring A Little Water, Silvie and Jump Down, Spin Around.

     The lyrics in the latter baffled me for decades.  In one of those classic mishearings I heard:

Jump down, spin around

Pick a bale of cotton.

Jump down, spin around,

Pick a bale of hay.

          I could never figure out the connection between cotton and hay.  Then one day I realized, or read the lyrics, I forget which and learned the last line was ‘pick a bale a day.’  Ah, made more sense.

     I didn’t understand what it was about Belafonte I didn’t like until a while ago when I subjected myself to another hearing of the first double Carnegie Hall record of ’59.  Then I knew why.  Harry treated his vocal styling from an art song point of view.  He sang Folk but through a glass darkly.  (Finally got that old saw in.  Thank you Harry.)

     He was fighting the image of the Negro as an inarticulate lout so he over compensated.  He actually mocked the English of the English on the LP, his hatred flowing out.  So he sounds like he’s performing in Porgy and Bess or like John Raitt in Oklahoma or Carousel.  Stilted.

     If one compares the records of Belafonte to those of the Scotch Folk singer Lonnie Donegan, he began his ascent at the same time, the contrast is startling.  Donegan sings as a man of the people giving the songs, same songs, a meaning and value that Belafonte fails to do.  Compare both men’s rendition of Bring A Little Water Silvie.  Belafonte sounds like he’s singing for a soundtrack of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers or something.  Lonnie Donegan sounds like he’s out there in the fields asking Sylvie to bring him a little water as he picks his daily bale of cotton.

   All the difference in the world- Lonnie Donegan is the greatest who ever rode the Rock Island Line.

     It bothers me that Bob doesn’t seem to know Lonnie.  He wasn’t that big in the US but he was huge in Britain.  You might possibly know him from the song Does The Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight.

     Of course Harry made it big when he made his sentimental Journey back to Jamaica to exhume a repertoir that really struck home.  Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) made it for him.  Then his acting career revived.  He was billed as the Negro Presence which is what Bob seems to referring to here.  Every effort was made to make Harry the Black Hero, before Poitier, transcending any Whiteness.  As popular as he was he never really caught on.  Carmen Jones, a Black takeoff on the opera Carmen was his big movie.  He not only sang like but acted like John Raitt.  The movie might have done alright at the box office, I don’t know, I didn’t think much of it and I knew it was my duty to like it too.

     That would have been 1954, the year of Brown vs. the Board Of Education, just at the time Eartha Kitt, also born in 1927, burst on the scene singing the fabulous C’est Si Bon.  Ran us right up the wall.  I always couple Belafonte and Kitt in memory.  Would have been a dream marriage, like Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor.

     Having written a great eulogy for this major influence in his life, Bob compares Belafonte with Gorgeous George.  He then gets to the crux of this story, the life changing event.  He moves immediately on to Mike Seeger.

     It was getting late and me and Delores were about to leave when I suddenly spotted Mike Seeger in the room.  I hadn’t noticed him before and I watched him walk from the wall to the table.  When I saw him my brain became wide awake and I was instantly in a good mood.  I’d seen Mike play previously with The New Lost City Ramblers at a schoolhouse on East 10th Street.  He was extraordinary, gave me an eerie feeling.  Mike was unprecedented.  He was like a duke, the knight errant.  As for being a folk musician, he was the supreme archetype.  He could push a stake through Dracula’s black heart…

      Bob rambles on, he’s got enthusiasm for Mike.  Bob’s eulogy of Mike Seeger exceeded that of Belafonte by a factor of 10, but he doesn’t say Mike could knock anybody out with one punch, his ultimate accolade that he uses for Harry..  Bob muses:

The thought occurred to me that maybe I’d have to write my own folk songs, ones that Mike didn’t know.

     And so the epiphany.  Bob knew he could never come close to equaling Mike Seeger as either a folk singer or instrumentalist..  He left the field of folksinger to Mike and apparently still feeling inferior having written some well received folk style songs he escaped Mike’s shadow by adding electricity.  There was no way Mike could go there.  And there Bob got bigger than any hundred or thousand Mike Seegers.





Edgar Rice Burroughs And The Lost Cause


R.E. Prindle

     Edgar Rice Burroughs was a man of his times.  He was a concientious observer and interpreter with a prodigious memory.  He seems to have had the remarkable faculty of being able to compartmentalize nearly everything he learned in his mind.  When he writes his sources are nearly transparent when you know the sources.  Of course the more you’ve read the novels the easier it is to see his influences.

     Underlying, perhaps, its whole intellectual structure is his understanding of the Civil War and Reconstruction.  His father was a veteran of the GAR.  One imagines that his father sometimes talked to him of his experiences although not necessarily so.  How he integrates this understanding into his personal psychology is interesting.  I have attempted to point out in my last few essays that Burroughs felt as though his early expectations in life of what was to be were destroyed at some point in his youth changing the direction of his life from success to failure.  The story of his subsequent life then was the attempt to regain this lost status. 

     In the terms of the Civil War the triumphant North represented his personal defeat while the defeated South with their Lost Cause represented his life after the loss of his expectations.

     He is fairly open about this mentioning his three favorite books The Prince And The Pauper by Mark Twain, Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Virginian by Owen Wister.

     Prince begins as Burroughs began.  Then in a sort of nightmare the Pauper who is a twin of the Prince shows up and the two identical lads exchange places, the Prince becomes the Pauper and the Pauper become the Prince.  In the end the Prince regains his rightful position.  The attempt to regain that position is the story of Burroughs’ life.  Twinning also become an important part of the plotting of the Tarzan books.

     In Fauntleroy the Prince lives a humble life after his father dies but then come back into his own.

     The Virginian, of course, must have been part of the Slaveocracy dispossessed by the Civil War then trying to find his place in the world

     While slavery enters into the issue it is not part and parcel of the Lost Cause.  The South today stil talks of Southern civilization as opposed to Northern civilization.  Both civilizations thought of the Negro in the same way but in adopting Negro slavery the slave owner thought of the Negro as another form of livestock intermediate between an animal and Homo Sapiens.  To put it bluntly the Planter saw the Negro as an intelligent ape.  Hence there was no more guilt to be associated with working the Negro than there was in working a mule.  They were both livestock.

     Thus while the North was commercially rude and crude the Southerner- The Virginian- was courtly and mannered.  The Negro livestock created a situation for such a civilization to exist.  The Civil War destroyed this situation so very pleasant for the Slaveocracy.

     So what was lost by the emancipation of the slaves was not only so much livestock but a whole conception of life.  This conception of life was the Lost Cause.  Thus Burroughs having also been deprived of his early paradisical expectations was able to identify with the Lost Cause but not necessarily with the freed Negro.

     With emancipation the whole relationship to the Negro changed.  He was no longer something of value that had to be understood and used but a competitor who had to be baffled.  The Southern Planter like John Carter and Tarzan was clearly the superior White man in pre-Civil War times and he retained that status during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era because of his superior talents- what today would be called White Skin Privilege.

     Tarzan was an alter ego of Burroughs but John Carter was not although he may have had some relationship to ERB.  It is more likely that Carter was based on Burroughs’ ideal of what his father might have been.  It is noteworthy that Carter loses his preeminence in the Martian novels after 1913 and the death of Burroughs’ father.

      Ronnie Faulkner in his recent article in Erbzine Volume 2177 makes the comment:

     When Burrughs’ heroes brought change its purpose was conservative- “to restore a lost order, to put a rightful prince back on the throne.”

     This is a perceptive observation but the purpose wasn’t conservative in the political sense.  The purpose was to right a Lost Cause or in  other words “to restore a lost order”, that order that existed in Burroughs’ childhood, “to put a rightful prince back on the throne’, that is, Burroughs himself.  The whole corpus is saturated with the Prince and the Pauper theme.

     The problem of the Negro remains.

     In the God Of Mars the Holy Therns who are White undoubtedly represent the Planters of the slaveocracy.  In American politics from the early days the South was dominant in politics.  This was aided by the slaves being counted as three-fifths of a voter but with votes being voted by the Planters.  Not the Whites but the Whites who were Planters.  The Planters were but a very small portion of the Southern population with the Blacks and poor Whites or White Trash as we were unkindly spoken of by both the Planters and the Negroes while being equally controlled by the Planters.  We po’ White Trash were forced to fight and die in the Planter’s war.

     In the same way the Therns from their center in the South of Barsoom controlled both the North by religious means and the Black First Born.  As in the popular representation of the Civil War the Blacks were the cause of the destruction of Joel Chandler Harris paradise, the wonder land of Disney’s Song Of The South.

     The First Born of Barsoom or the Southern Negroes successfully took on the Holy Therns and destroyed their hold over them and the people of Northern Helium.

     As in the South where Planters were compelled to accept their defeat and mingle with the Negroes they did the same on Barsoom.

     Emancipation solved one problem but created a few others.  The North sought by Reconstruction to place the Negro over the White.  While slavery was wrong the placing of the White above the Negro was seen as right.  That Burroughs so believed is prove by both John Carter and Tarzan.  John Carter became the Warlord of Barsoom or Supreme Commander while Tarzan was the Lord Of The Jungle, the arbiter of African fates.

     Whatever one thinks of Thomas Dixon Jr. he was the spokesman for the Lost Cause.  He wasn’t the only one who wrote Reconstruction novels.  Equally successful was a writer by the name of A.W. Tourgee.  Tourgee wrote, among others, two very successful novels:  A Fool’s Errand By One Of The Fools and Bricks Without Straw.  He wrote from a carpetbagger and Northern point of view; the Negroes were poor benighted heathen while the Whites were merely benighted but the Negroes were superior in most respects to the Whites.  Tourgee was a successful carpetbagger.  Writing beginning in 1880, three years after Reconstruction ended he preceded Dixon by a few years.  Dixon most likely was writing in reaction to Tourgee.

     Tourgee’s novels enjoyed a longish vogue so that Dixon’s and Tourgee’s would have been competing for the popular favor.  The war was over and different sentiments took precedence favoring the point of view of Dixon.

     While the North rather hypocritically tried to force Negro equality or even supremacy on the South they maintained separateness of the species in the North.  While the Negro was given the franchise in the South he was unable to vote in the North.  So that while there seemed to be sympathy for the Negro species there was little or none for the Black individual.

     This was more or less the reverse of Burroughs’ dilemma.  He honored the manhood of the Black individual but he denied it to the African species.  I don’t believe there can be any denying of this; thus Tarzan is The Lord Of The Jungle, a jungle god, the Big Bwana, the arbiter of African destinies.  It is important that Tarzan was seen as a god compared to the Africans.

     So in real life Burroughs chose Dixon over Tourgee.  I’m sure he knew of both.  While the carpetbagger pushed the superiority of the Negro in a society that no longer cared about Blacks, the war being over, Dixon advanced the interest of the White species against the African species while the Lost Cause resonated in Burroughs’ soul as it does today in any person who feels that they have been deprived of their birthright in life.

     Oddly Burroughs had only the third volume of Dixon’s Reconstruction trilogy – The Traitor- in his library.  Perhaps because John Carter’s tomb seems to be based on the tomb in the The Traitor.  There can be little doubt that the latter was the inspiration for the former.

     In The Traitor the tomb had been sealed from the ouside but there was a secret entrance to the tomb and once inside the tomb an underground passage led from the tomb to the old manse.  Of course, Carter’s tomb was sealed with the latch being on the inside.

     In 1907 William A. Dunning published his Reconstruction: Politcal and Economic which furthered the Lost Cause view and set the tone for scholarship until Du Bois published in 1935. 

     So, in  a way the South had risen again as the Southern view of the struggle gained preeminence.  The high water mark for the attitude was the filming of Dixon’s trilogy as The Birth Of The Nation by D.W. Griffith in 1915.  Political winds then turned in favor of the Blacks again.  A last salvo was fired by Claude Bowers in 1929 in his successful Reconstruction history, The Tragic Era.  Bowers’ book dealt not so much with Reconstruction as with the politics of the era that Mark Twain depicted as The Gilded Age of which Reconstruction was a part.

      Bowers book was answered in 1935 by W.E.B. Du Bois in his Black Reconstruction In America 1860-1880.  This book successfully downed the Dunning hypothesis.  The racial tide now swung in favor of the Blacks with any critics discredited and silenced as bigots.  Just as Dixon and Dunning were successfully attacked during the twenties and thirties suffering total defeat at the end of the latter decade so were any dissident voices.

     The pro-Negro point of view continued to gain strength as the century advanced.  In 1988 Eric Foner published his Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution that has become the standard view.  Today Reconstruction as the unfinished revolution is expected to be completed by the next Presidential election.  Thus it is believed that the Lost Cause will disappear forever while according to Ronnie Faulkner Burroughs will become the apostle racial integration.