A Review Pt.4: Tarzan The Invincible by Edgar Rice Burroughs

June 19, 2010


A Review

Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#14  Tarzan The Invincible

Part IV of X


R.E. Prindle

I’ve Looked At Both Sides Now:

Multi-Culturalism In Tarzan The Invincible

      Multi-culturalism as I see it merely heralds that it is no longer possible to keep the five great Homo Sapiens species with their various sub-cultures separate.  If one assumes that c. 12,000 years ago when the Ice Age ended the various species had not yet developed sufficient population to force them to live cheek by jowl then cheek by jowl is unavoidable now.

     The ending of the last ice age flushed a large number of comparatively highly cultured people out of the Med Basin scattering them to the four corners of the world.  It would seem civilization as such started then.  I believe all cultural innovations can be traced back to that point and that source.

     As population increased the various species both human and animal came into closer contact with each other.  So far the animals have been the big losers with dozens already driven into extinction while it is said that 25% of the remainder will vanish in the next few years.

     As an evolutionist Burroughs has written a marvelous story here in which the fauna of Africa participate equally with the Homo Sapiens.  Obviously they can no longer exist in a separate sphere either.  Multi-culturalism to ERB means the interaction of both humans and the beasts of the jungle.  Invincible might be considered a better version of Beasts Of Tarzan on that level.

     Burroughs assembles his entire cast of Beast characters to participate in this story.  Tantor the elephant, who has always been in the background takes a prominent role.  The Great Apes among whom Tarzan was raised have their place.  Jad-Bal-Ja the Golden Lion who first appeared in 1922 in Tarzan And The Golden Lion maintains his preeminent place while Little Nkima who first appeared in 1928’s Tarzan And The Lost Empire functions as the protagonist as a Mercury or messenger of the gods.  Unnamed hyenas, jackals and leopards abound.

     Tarzan as beast-man-god, intermediary between animals and humans as a man deity, completes the group.

     Nkima the messenger first notices the presence of the Communist conspirators in Tarzan’s domain.  He goes off to find Tarzan to tell him the news.  Burroughs very cleverly shows the character of Nkima as one mischievous monkey.  Mischievous nothing, he’s a quarrelsome, nasty little beast.  He can’t keep himself from gratuitously insulting or irritating anyone who comes across his path.

     Always ready for flight on his own, when on the shoulder of Tarzan or sitting on Jad-Bal-Ja where he feels immune to retaliation he is one offensive little beast.

     David Adams points out that Burroughs is always ready with the fairy tale.  When I first read David’s essays I humored him a bit but discounted the idea.  Slowly I am being convinced.  Burroughs confesses to an interest in mythology.  He was heavily influenced by L. Frank Baum who is a fairy taler par excellence.  He quotes Cinderella in Marcia Of The Doorstep.  As a child there is no reason to believe that he wasn’t familiar with Perrault, the Grimms, Hans Christian Anderson, Aesop and possible East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon.  As a young man he read Rudyard Kipling’s fairy stories of Africa and India.  This title shows clear influences of Mowgli the wild jungle boy.  Thus his Beasts exhibit fairy tale characteristics.  As in Oz, that magical fairy land where beasts can speak, Burroughs beasts do speak the universal first language which all including Tarzan can understand.

     After seeing the conspirators Nkima angers a larger monkey who chases him through the lower, middle and upper terraces.  Eluding his pursuer Nkima spots a lion below him who he begins to insult.  This is not any lion but Jad-Bal-Ja, the Golden Lion.  Tarzan has already introduced Jad-Bal-Ja and Nkima so recognizing each other they utter a pre-arranged signal in the universal language.

     Scampering down from the middle terraces Nkima leaps onto the black mane of Ja-Bal-Ja where he rides through the jungle in state insulting who he pleases.

     This little fairy tale is very charming, worth the price of admission alone.

     Of course Nkima is in his glory riding on the shoulder of Tarzan like a Ka.

     In the multi-cultural way Nkima comes upon the Great Apes in their death dance of the Dum-Dum.  Such a scene is purely fanciful on Burroughs’ part; no apes ever behaved that way.  Remember, this is ERB’s jungle.

     The Dum-dum must surely be based on the great circling of the elephants as witnessed by Kipling’s Mowgli.

     Not content to merely witness this awe inspiring scene Nkima insists on scolding the half-crazed apes.  A young light ape is sent into the trees to drive Nkima away.  Pure moonshine, of course, but in a fairy tale sense a very effective story.

     Then again, Tarzan, returning from Pellucidar, encounters the Great Apes in the jungle.  They are irritated by the intruder consequently intending to give no quarter to Tarzan.  The Big Bwana doesn’t want to have to kill a bunch of these 7’0″, 350 lb. brothers that it looks like he may have to when Jad-Bal-Ja and Nkima conveniently happen on the scene defusing the situation.

     The presence of Jad-Bal-Ja shifts the balance in Tarzan’s favor.  In the end Tarzan, the Apes, Jad-Bal-Ja and Nkima are reconciled in this jungle clearing.  Moonshine again but entirely believable in this fine fairy tale.  Even if impossible I want to believe such a thing could happen in some world somewhere.

     Thus Nkima scampers through the story.  On his final errand he goes to bring the faithful Waziri to help Tarzan defeat the Communist conspirators.

     Nkima and the faithful Waziri are at rest.  They engage in a little horseplay, p. 173:

     When they pulled his tail they never pulled it very hard, and when he turned on them in apparent fury, his sharp teeth closing upon their fingers or arms, it was noticeable that he never drew blood.  Their play was rough, for they were all rough and primitive creatures…

     So we find here and will find throughout the novel and the oeuvre that Burroughs places both the animals and the African on the far side of that little gulf Haggard notes.

     Also prominent in the story is Jad-Bal-Ja, the Golden Lion.  He interacts with the animals, Nkima and the Great Apes, as well as any animal Tarzan tells him to.  Jad-Bal-Ja remembers each and every one and they all remember him.  A feat of memory for the beasts, I am sure.

     Tarzan advises the Lion that certain people are friends who the Lion is to befriend.

     Way back in 1922 in Tarzan And The Golden Lion Tarzan had advised Ja-Bal-Ja that La of Opar was to be protected.  Eight years later without having seen her once in that time Jad-Bal-Ja remembers her taking her under his active protection.  She isn’t sure that he isn’t stalking her but when attacked by a Leopard Jad-Bal-Ja flashes by her to kill the Leopard  she realizes he is her protector but she doesn’t know why.  La has forgotten the Lion over the eight years but finally recognized him.

      Thus Jad-Bal-Ja is a prominent animal character in the story.  He brings to mind both Kipling and Baum.  There’s also an element of Aesop in these animal characters.

     Finally there is Tarzan’s great friend, in more ways than one, Tantor the elephant.

     Tarzan lazes on Tantor’s back as the big beast ambles lazily through the sunny forest.  Safe from all harm Tarzan muses on the nature of Time, or perhaps that was Burroughs.  Tarzan and Tantor merely commune.

     When Tarzan rescues Zora he calls on the big beast to stand guard over her while Tarzan hunts, nursing her back to health.  The great calm beast gently picks Zora up in his trunk setting her down within her enclosure.  Ever helpful he swims the crocodile infested river with Tarzan and Zora on his back.

     There are two sides to Tantor’s character however.  When Dorsky has Tarzan bound and threatens him Tarzan lets out a piercing call for help that Tantor answers.  Charging into camp he throws Dorsky down trampling him backwards and forwards side to side until the only evidence Dorsky existed is a dark spot on the ground.  Nor could Tarzan make the angry beast desist until he had fully avenged his friend.  then, like Tarzan in the Rue Maule, Tantor reverts to his placid self.

     Next follows what David Adams would identify as a fairy tale.  Tantor picks the still bound Tarzan up placing him gently on his back.  Tantor deposits Tarzan under a tree then leaves.  Tarzan still has to free his hands.  He calls to some monkeys in the tree but they refuse to help him.  Once again Tarzan shrieks the trouble signal far and wide.  Nkima hears him but so do the jackals and hyenas.

     Tension is created between Tarzan and the attacking hyenas as Nkima struggles to free Tarzan before the hyenas attack.  Unable to untie the knot Tarzan advises him to chew through the bonds.  As Nkima chews, the hyenas grow bolder finally charging in for the kill.  With a might flexing of his rolling muscles Tarzan breaks the partially chewed bonds.

     Having strangled a hyena he tosses him aside as Tantor arrives on the scene to serve the hyena as he had served the Communist, Dorsky.

     In this multi-cultural paradise…”the three friends stood in the silent communion that only beasts know, as the shadows lengthened and the sun set in the forest.”  Walt Disney could have learned a lot from Burroughs.

     If that doesn’t get you soft and gummy nothing will.  You will note that here Tarzan is a beast among beasts and yet a god to them.

     This most charming jungle fantasy forms an integral part of  the story as do Tarzan’s relations with the humans.  On to the Conspirators.


     In the old days these would be described as an international band of characters.  But in today’s jargon with the term ‘nation’ in disfavor we have to refer to it as a multi-cultrual assemblage.   Liberals, perhaps, posing as wizards, believe that by merely wishing they have removed differences of culture, nationality and speciation.  One gets the impression from their jargon that as they believe ‘race’ does not exist neither do cultural differences although they still call their fantasy multi-culturalism.  In their fantasy no one struggles to be top dog but all commune as equals like the beasts Nkima, Tarzan and Tantor.  The missing point in their equation, is that Tarzan is the god calling the shots.  He is the top dog.  He is the dominant culture.  So, one asks, in their fantasy which culture represents Tarzan?

     So, in this human multi-cultural assemblage  Peter Sveri, a Russian Communist calls the shots until a greater than he, Tarzan Of The Apes, upsets his plans.  There’s two people you don’t was to mess around with- Mother Nature and Tarzan.

     Multi-Culuralism as I see it merely heralds that it is no longer possible to keep the five great species of Homo Sapiens with their various cultures in separate spheres.  The Darwinian evolutionary struggle for survival requires the elimination of all but one of the competing species in a family following the same economy.  Tolerance or cooperation is out of the question.  Intolerance will trample the tolerant like Tantor on Dorsky.  Only the strong  and determined survive.  Any other fantasy, such as Liberal multi-culturalism leads to extinction.  Bless the peacemakers but get them out of the way, we’ve got work to do.

     Certainly the invasion of Eurasia by Gengis Khan in the thirteenth century was a fairly recent indication that independent development was no longer possible.  Then beginning in the fifteenth century when Europeans prematurely ventured out into the world to impose their culture the fate of species was inextricably engaged. Be it remembered that there were many thinkers who saw the inevitble result of joining combat of which Burroughs is only one.  Once engaged Europeans had to follow through.  The problem was that Europe’s own house was not united.  Rather than acting as a unit, the various nation states were competing with each other.  The competition resulted in the two world wars.  The first war let the world know how vulnerable Europe was while the second destroyed the self-confidence of the West itself.  Why I don’t know.  Hence one has this ridiculous feeling of guilt caused by the conflict betwen the two socialist ideologies International Communism and National Socialism.  Just to make my position clear Socialism is the Liberal ideology.  Neither Hitler nor the Nazis were conservatives.  The conflict was between two versions of Liberal ideology.  All the actions of National Socialism can be traced back to the French Revolution which was Liberalism par excellence.

     I am not a socialist  nor was Burroughs.  I abhor socialism and collectivity so in discussing Communism, Fascism or Nazism I am discussing abhorrent Liberal ideologies.  Liberals will have to live with that taking responsiblity for their own actions as abhorrent as that is to them.

     It should also be borne in mind that multi-culturalism is only a Euroamerican ideological fantasy.  It is not shared by the othr Homo Sapiens species although Liberals think and act as though it were.  The events in Darfur should confirm this.  The Mexican invasion of the US to establish what they call Aztlan (Liberals deny such a concept) should be evidence that they do not share this Liberal fantasy.  Nor do the Semites or Mongolids.  All of those species are ethno-centric, who if successful will establish a world according to the ideals and customs of their species.

     That is today, while we are here talking of the world of ERB’s time.  At that time the tool for establishing multi-culturalism was International Communism.  That ideology was the common language that allowed these cultures to communicate across cultural lines just as the universal language of the beasts of Tarzan allows all the animal species to communicate with each other.

     In this story one has Africans of various cultures, the Semitic culture of the Arabs, a Filipino, a Mexican and of the Liberal Whites several Europeans, Russian culure, a Hindu and a number of Oparians.  With the exception of the Oparians the cultures are all held together by the Communist ideology.  While Kitembo and his Basembos are not strictly Communists they intend to benefit under the Communist aegis.

      The expedition will fail not because of ideology but because of the failure of individuals to subordinate their personal desires to the ideology.

     Raghunath Jafar, the Hindu, sacrifices his life for his passion for a White woman.  He is killed in the attempt to impose his sexual desires on Zora Drinov.  Burroughs uniformly denigrates his Hindu or Indian characters.  In this story he makes Jafar grossly obese and greasy.  ERB comments that Indians are generally believed to have occult powers which notion is unwarranted.  Of  course this is true which may account for his antipathy to the Hindu or Indian.  He may have been influenced by Harold Gray, who created the Little Orphan Annie comic strip in the twenties.  The great Daddy Warbucks employs the Indian, whether Hindu or Sikh, I’m not sure, who make people disappear by magic.  Punjab would be a recognition of the general belief that Hindus had magical powers.  You know, rope climbing, mind over matter, that sort of thing.  People still believe Indians can do those things.  Live for months buried in a coffin, incredible stuff.  In India.  Of course, they have difficulty replicating the same feats in the U.S.

     The Filipino, Tony Mori, and the Mexican, Miguel Romero, are portrayed very advantageously as compared to the Russians, especially the leader, Zveri.  Next to the American, Wayne Colt, Romero is the bravest, most alert and intelligent of the conspiritors.  On the negative side Burroughs has him hating all Gringos which is entirely plausible.

      Mori is portrayed as more dependent hoping to acquire his share of the Rockefeller and Ford millions.  When the big distribution occurs he hopes to buy fine clothes.

      Both men abjure Communism in the end when Zveri proves to be a cowardly and inept leader.  They discover that the ideology is merely a cover for self-gratification.

      The Arabs led by Abu Batn are impelled by the desire to rid Africa of the Nasrany or Christians.  They hate all Nasrany.  Their goal appears to be to drive out the European or Christian colonists.  They offer Zveri little help being more of a hindrance.  During the second assault on Opar they pack up heading out into the jungle leaving Zveri to shift for himself.

      ERB portrays the Arabs as of the white Bedouin type he used in The Return Of Tarzan and The Lad And The Lion.  Portrayed positively in those two stories the Arabs of Invincible are more negatively portrayed.

      Actually the story takes place in the area which the Mahdi of the 1880s reigned.  He who defeated General Gordon at Khartoum.  The Arabs of the area were Arab in culture but assimilated to the Negro in color.  Their customs also were somewhat different than the Arabs Burroughs portrays.   Of course, his could have been recruited from the Mahgreb.

      The African chief Kitembo of the Basembos is of interest.  He is said to be Kenyan from the railhead on Lake Victoria.  This story was written in 1930.  By this time the African resistance was gaining force.  The Africans had never been so much subdued as dominated.  As Burroughs exhibits an up-to-date and profound knowledge of Communism it is quite possible that he was much better informed about African affairs than might be apparent from a casual reading.

      I don’t say that he was but he might have been aware of the incipient Uhuru (Freedom) Movement in Kenya of which Jomo Kenyatta was already prominent.  At this time Kenyatta was in England stumping for recognition of Uhuru among the bedsheets of England’s plumpest and finest.   First things first, as Burroughs consistently notes White women are the most desirable women to the other species.  Within a year Kenyatta would go to Moscow to study there.  So there may have been an element of  Kenyatta or other Kenyan leaders in Kitembo.

     An additional element may have been from the story of the Unyoro king Kaba Rega picked up from Samuel Baker.  Kaba Rega was deposed for refusing to accept Egyptian sovereignty although in real life he was sent to the Seychelles in exile.  But here Burroughs may have worked his grievance into the story.

     Kitembo and his Basembos are separated from the conspiracy by the program of terror undertaken by Tarzan.  Tarzan recognizes the role of the terrorist in destroying morale.  He then plays upon the religious superstitions of the African to get them to refuse to cooperate with the Europeans or White Men as he puts it.

     This was helped along considerably by Zveri’s ineptness and cowardice.  Kitembo himself is killed by Tarzan when he tries to abduct Zora.  The Africans are portrayed as being on the far side of the gulf of Haggard or evolutionarily anteceding the Europeans.

     The faithful Waziri also play a part by assaulting the Communist front on the march to Italian Somaliland.

     Wayne Colt, as has been hinted throughout the story, is a double agent working for the US.

     The Russians are Zora Drinov, Peter Zveri, Paul Ivitch nd Michael Dorsky.

     Zora, who is a beautiful woman, while not a double agent is playing a false role.  She has two stories.  In one she tells Wayne Colt she is a daughter of a peasant who was killed by the Czar.  She seems to be too cultured for this so this story is probably a cover.

     At the book’s end she says that her father, mother, brother and sister were murdered twelve years earlier by Peter Zveri.  That may make Zveri Jewish.  Twelve years earlier wouold have been 1918 so it is quite possible that Burroughs means to imply that she is the lost princess, Anastasia.  Thus Burroughs who favors Princesses slyly mates Wayne Colt with a princess.  That’s just a guess.

     Peter Sveri is about to shoot Colt as a traitor, which he was, when Zora drills him from behind.  It is then  she explained that Zveri murdered her family.

     Dorsky is of course trampled to death by Tantor.  Little more can be said about that.

     Zveri fails because of various character flaws such as cowardice and ineptness while being shot in the end by Zora.

     Paul Ivitch reflects back to a villain of the Russian Quartet, Paulvitch.  He’s an ancilliary character  here without much purpose.  Tarzan magnanimously allows him to leave Africa which may refer to earlier animosities.

      As usual the Russians are treated very harshly by Burroughs.  Of all the nationalities, pardon me, cultures, ERB is consistently hardest on the Russians.  The Germans even come off better.

     Burroughs’ attitudes seem to have been fully formed by 1900 changing little thereafter.  On page 68 of Porges’ biography of ERB he reproduces a cartoon ERB drew but is undated.  Opposite on Pge 69 is a cartoon showing TR carrying the Republican Party on the way to the White House captioned:  Slightly handicapped but still a safe bet.  This implies to me that it was drawn for the 1912 Bull Moose campaign.  The cartoon on page 68 is of the exact style which would imply that it also was drawn c. 1911.  The cartoon shows the Jews and the Russians at their perpetual war.  Russians bayonet Jews while Jews blow up Russians as Uncle Sam and John Bull look on.  The caption is:  How would you like to be a Russian?

     Porges includes the cartoons in text related to the pre-1900 years so he apparently associates them with the Chicago Art Institute.  No matter, ERB had the same attitude from early on.  The attitude never varies from his first book to his last.  So his portrayal of Russians is consistently negative.

     His portrayal of multiculturalism is accurate.  Apart from being a Liberal dream each culture pursues its goals without consideration for any of the others.  The dream falters on the rock of self-interest.  Even the superficially unifying ideology of Communism is not sufficient to weld the cultures into a single unit.  The success of multi-culturalism can only be the imposition of one culture on all the others as a guiding force.  Burroughs accurately identifies the Russians as making the attempt.

     So in our day Liberals must fail as they can never impose their ideals on all cultures that must and will reject any ideal that refuses them the dominance they crave.

     I suspect that the multi-culturalism of the Liberals will fail for the precise reason that nobody believes in it but themselves.  The ideal is even shabby as a Utopian scheme that can be imposed only by force.  As with the implementation of all Liberal schemes since the French Revolution to the present, its success can depend only on the mass extermination of any dissidents who stand in the way of its implementation.  Thus Hitler was a descendent of Maxmillien Marie Isadore de Robespierre.  The extermination of the Jews was no different than the extermination of the royalists of La Vendee and served the same purpose.  Extermination is the way of the Liberal.  You can look forward to the creation of a new worldwide Gulag system to exterminate Liberal opponents if they are not checked.

     But let’s move on to the premise of Burroughs’ novel.

Proceed to Part V of X


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