Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#5: Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar

by

R.E. Prindle

Part 1:

On The Road To Opar

 

     I have put off reviewing this Tarzan several times.  I like it but I find it difficult.  This may have been the first Tarzan book I read, probably in 1950.  While I have always liked Tarzan And The Ant Men and Tarzan The Terrible Opar was always my favorite.

    Of course in 1950 one’s choice was limited to eight or ten, not including the first, so I read the later novels only recently.  Tarzan And The Lion Man is my current favorite.  Opar was written in 1915 about a year after the commencement of The Great War, the occupation of Haiti and war scares with Mexico.  This was also after ERB’s first spurt that ran from 1911-1914.  The latter year emptied the pent up reservoir containing the residue of his early reading and experiences.  That period may be described as ERB’s ‘amateur period.’  The latter part of 1914 began what may be described as his professional life as a writer.  The spontaneous automatic period was over; he had to think out his stories.  That meant he had to do some new reading.  Opar coincided with his completion of reading Gibbon’s Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire.  What effect that may have had on Opar I’m not sure.

     At the foundation of ERB’s approach to his stories are the three titles of Twain’s Prince And The Pauper, Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy and Wister’s The Virginian.  After 1914 he would refer to Jack London and write a series based on the style of Booth Tarkington.  While he continued to produce during the twenties, the period was also one of intense reading that produced the magnificent stories of the early thirties.  That need not concern us here.

     While his favorite three books were the rock on which he built his church, the Oz stories of Baum contribute to the superstructure as they do so prominently in Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar.  The second chapter is even titled:  On The Road To Opar.  ERB only left out the yellow brick and changed the Emerald  City to Opar.  It is clearly indicated that Opar is based on the Emerald City.

      Rather than being emerald Opar is red and gold.  La, the high priestess of Opar can be considered a combination of Baum’s Ozma and Rider Haggard’s She.

     The Baum connection is strengthened by the fact that, as I believe but can only conjecture at this point, Burroughs visited Baum at his Hollywood home during ERB’s residence in Southern California in 1913.  One guesses but it is probable that ERB got some pointers from Baum on how to keep the Tarzan series going as Baum was producing volume after volume of Oz stories.  In point of fact Baum had run out of ideas in 1910 attempting to close off the series.  He was compelled to restart the series in 1913 at the insistence of his fans.

     Burroughs had effectively closed the Tarzan series with The Son Of Tarzan.  Son is a favorite of a lot of people but for me it’s pretty much a rehash of the first three stories; I call the four The Russian Quartet after the villains of the series.  Tarzan was already old in Beasts Of Tarzan but by Son he had to come out of retirement.  There was no future then, so the Big Bwana had to be reborn.  The old Tarzan ended with Son; the new Tarzan began with Jewels Of Opar.  A fine new beginning it was.

     The Ballantine edition of 1963 prefaces the story with a quote titled:  ‘In Quest Of A Lost Identity’, that might easily be changed to ‘A Search For A New Identity’, for in fact, Burroughs old identity had been lost when he gained success and riches.  ERB wanted to go forward not back:

     Tarzan staggered to his feet and groped his way about among the underground ways of Opar.  What was he?  Where was he?  His head ached, but otherwise he felt no ill effects from the blow that had felled him.  He did not recall the accident, nor aught of what had led up to it.

     At last he found the doorway leading inward beneath the city and temple.  Nothing spurred his hurt memory to a recollection of past familiarity with his surroundings.  He blundered on through the darkness as though he were traversing an open plain under a noonday sun.

     Suddenly he reached the brink of a well, stepped outward into space, lunged forward, and shot downward into the inky depths below.  Still clutching his spear, he struck the water and sank beneath its surface…

     Tarzan loses his memory at great stress points in Burroughs’ life.  They take place at Opar in underground caverns surr9unded by a wealth of gold.  One might think then that they are related to Burroughs’ financial success and through La to his sex life.

     One must bear in mind that ERB came into the beginnings of his success just as he was edging into the mid-life crisis.  Given a reasonable amount of money in 1913 he reacted in a nouveau riche manner.  Remembering back to 1899 and his private railcar trip to NYC and back he tried to relive it with Emma.  His trip with Frank Martin troubled his memory.  He recalled it 1914 when he took the job on the railroad in Salt Lake City.  In 1913 he packed the family aboard with all his belongings and rode out to Los Angeles and San Diego.  He may very well have rented a whole Pullman car for himself and family that would be equivalent to a private car but we don’t know for sure at this time.  We only know that he was fixated on a private car and that he rode first class.

     We can be sure that he was realizing all his dreams as fast as he could earn the money to pay for them or perhaps before he had the money.

     He was moving through uncharted territory thus ‘he blundered on through the darkness as though he were traversing an open plain under a noonday sun.’ 

     ERB has his eyes wide open but the unfamiliar demands being placed on him were equivalent to darkness:  he couldn’t be sure whether he was making the right decisions.  ‘What was he?  Where was he.’  This is a dilemma of the newly successful.  And then by late 1914, early 1915 he realized that he was in over his head.

          Suddenly he reached the brink of a well, stepped outward into space,  lunged forward, and shot downward into the inky depths below.  Still clutching his spear, he struck the water and sank beneath the surface…

     What?  Of course.  McClurg’s released the first Tarzan as a book in 1914 treating the release in what seems a peculiar way.  The contract had been signed, apparently perpetual and unbreakable, ERB, Inc. only bought it out in the fifties, so he must have realized that he had been had.  He committed the same error in 1931 when he signed his contract with MGM so he didn’t learn much over the years.

     His contract would certainly have been a contributing factor but there may have been other sources that put him in over his head.  It is significant that Tarzan didn’t drop his spear; he was still capable fo defending himself.

     Now, one would have to believe that Burroughs was at least famous in Chicago.  By 1917-18 Tarzan was a household word recognized it seems by everyone.  It would be odd indeed if sexual temptations weren’t placed before him.  Literary groupies surrounded authors then as groupies did musicians in the ’60s.

     La herself is a repressed sexual image while the novel abounds in sexual images.  Perhaps signficantly when the rutting elephants charge the priests of Opar Tarzan takes refuge in a tree high above the ruckus.  Even then the rutting elephants try to uproot his tree to bring the Big Bwana to earth but do not succeed.  One may infer that while temptation was strong ERB remained faithful to Emma.

     However by 1918’s Tarzan The Untamed, note the title, Jane is killed while Tarzan’s eye immediately wanders forming a near dalliance with another woman.  It was also at this period that ERB walked out on Emma.  As told in Tarzan The Terrible, note the title, and Tarzan And The Golden Lion Tarzan and Emma were separated through those two novels and Tarzan The Untamed.

     So, Jewels of Opar may be describing the dark side of success when the master tempter attacks you at your most vulnerable plus Burroughs was in full blown mid-life crisis by 1914-15.

     The forces of change were shaking him like a terrier shaking a rat.  His situation was terrible and wonderful at the same time.  So, with Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar he launched himself on his career as a professional writer.

Part 2.

     The novels of Burroughs previous to Opar had flowed from his experience and early reading.  The reading had provided the framework that ERB fleshed out with his interests, ideas and experience in essentially an allegorical form.  David Adams quite justly points out that Burroughs relies quite heavily on a fairy tale format although it took me a long time to recognize it.    ERB’s wonderlands are lands of enchantment as much as that of Mallory’s and Pyles Arthurian England.  That is certainly clear in this book.

      Now Burroughs has to actually invent and construct a story from scratch.   Once again he relies on his reading.  The first chapter titled The Belgian And The Arab encapsulates his reading and perhaps watercooler discussions of the Belgian administration of the Congo with the depredations of the Arab slaver Tippu Tib as gleaned from Stanley’s two tremendous adventures, Through The Dark Continent and In Darkest Africa.

     In the first Stanley encountered Tib on the upper Congo, Lualaba he calls it,  when Tib was just beginning to extract the Congo tribes for slaves.  A few years later Stanley encountered Tib on his way across the Congo from the West to East.  By that time Tib was halfway across the Congo basin toward the West depopulating it on his way.  In this story Achmet Zek is based on Tippu Tib while Albert Werper, the Belgian, meets him well into the Congo moving up river as in Stanley’s In Darkest Africa.

      Werper, as a Belgian, epitomizes King Leopold of Belgium’s administration of the Congo.  For a few decades the entire Congo Free State as it was then known was his personal possession Tippu Tib or no.  As such he had to make it pay and make it pay he did.  Rubber was the engine of that prosperity.  As the tree was not yet cultivated as Firestone would in Malaya, the Africans were required to collect balls of rubber from the wild.  Not naturally inclined to collect rubber some harsh disciplinary measures were required to give them incentive.  One method if they failed to bring in their quota was to cut off their right hand.  Seemingly counter-productive it was nevertheless effective although there were a lot of Africans walking around with only a left hand.   In Leopold’s defense the method was suggested by Africans themselves. 

     Leopold made money but incurred the hatred of Africans while giving himself an atrocious reputation in Europe and America.   The Belgians removed the Free State from his administration after which it became known as the Belgian Congo.  Thus Burroughs unites two men of evil reputation in the Belgian Albert Werper and the Arab Achmet Zek.  They naturally conspire evil.

     ERB also leans on Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness for his opening episode.  Heart Of Darkness was Conrad’s most famous work  and it may be said his reputation has been founded on it.  A sensation when published it is or was still widely read today.

      The opening scene takes place at the Stanley Pool where the Congo begins its descent from the plateau.  Perhaps the post was the nascent Stanleyville.  Werper commits his crime then flees into the jungle where he is captured by the Arab Achmet Zek/Tippu Tib.

     The Belgian and the Arab are two of a kind forming a natural partnership with Zek being the senior partner.  Zek may have been able to carry on his depredations without hindrance except for the Great White Lord of the jungle, Tarzan.  Thus Burroughs rectifies the situation in his imagination.  Prior to Werper Zek had no way to reach the Big Bwana but with the European Werper he has an entree.

     Jane, of course, will be captured to be taken to the North to Algiers or Tunis to be sold into a Moslem harem.  That would have been a nifty trick from the Congo to the Mediterranean.  The walk alone might have taken a year or more.

     So, as the chapter ends the plan is to kill Tarzan giving Zek a free hand and capture Jane.

Part 3.

     Chapter two ‘On The Road To Opar’ introduces what will be a recurrent theme in Tarzan’s life- insolvency.  In this case the Big Fella has made a bad investment, not unlike Burroughs’ habit, and been wiped out.  Being now impoverished he has to recruit a new fortune by taking several hundred pounds of gold from the vaults of Opar.

     Tarzan justifies himself:

…the chances are that they inhabitants of Opar will never know that I have been there again and despoiled them of another portion of the treasure, the very existence of which they are as ignorant of as they would be of its value.

     Thus, the Zen question, are you stealing from someone if you take what they don’t know they have or its value somewhere else?  I would be interested in ERBs justification of what seems to be a felony.  After all Tarzan isn’t going to show up with a brassband and waving banners; he’s going to sneak in and out hopefully unnoticed.  It’s too late to ask now.

     The raid on Opar may have reflected ERB’s financial condition after 1913-14’s stay in San Diego.  He had to write another Tarzan novel to recoup his finances.

     As Tarzan is about to leave, Zek and Werper have concocted their plan.  Werper is to gain admittance to the household under guise of being a lost great white hunter and prepare the way for Zek.  Werper posing as the Frenchman Frecoult overhears Tarzan and Jane discussing Opar quickly realizing there is more at stake here than killing Tarzan and selling a White woman into a Sheik’s harem in the North.

     He warns Zek while following Tarzan on the road to Opar.

     Chapter 3 is titled The Call Of The Jungle.  As On The Road To Opar reflects Baum’s Oz stories so the Call Of The Jungle resonates rather well with Jack London’s Call Of The Wild.  the jungle that Tarzan inhabits is a wonderful place, no bugs, no mosquitoes.  In Africa the land of fevers that would still be unknown if Europeans had not invaded the continent Tarzan never has one.  We know that ERB read Stanley.  That explorer speaks of no romance of the jungle.  For him it was a dark dank horrible place he couldn’t get out of fast enough.  He not only suffered terrible fevers but so did everyone else.  Yet in Burroughs’ imagination the jungle becomes a paradise.

     Perhaps that might reflect thte lost paradise of America conquered by industrialism and cities.  Perhaps in its way it represents the White City of the Columbian Exposition as opposed to the Black City of industrial Chicago.  Idaho vs. Chicago; something of that order.

     Now hungry Tarzan kills a deer with his favored bare hands method plunging Dad’s knife deep into its heart.  Dad’s knife and plunging it into the heart of its victim.  There’s an image.  ERB had a terrible relationship with his father.  Perhaps he visualized the relationship as his father killing him with heartaches.  Haven’t actually worked out the meaning yet.  Interrupted by a lion he retreats to a tree with a haunch between his strong white teeth.  Another sexual image.  Now, here we have another psychological problem.  Tarzan is a very unforgiving guy, petty even.  Having been disturbed in his dinner which surely must have been a frequent occurrence in the jungle, he is not going to let the lion eat his kill in peace.  Up in his convenient tree he finds another tree nearby bearing hard fruit.  Not the soft mushy kind but hard.  He bombards the lion until it leaves the kill.

     The lion slinks off after his own game, a lone African witch doctor.  Tarzan doesn’t care if the lion kills the African but just as his dinner was disrupted he wants to punish the lion by depriving him of his.  So just as the lion mauls the African Tarzan jumps on the lion’s back and kills him merely for interrupting the Big Guy’s dinner.  You know, that’s capital punishment for a very minor offence.  This is a little excessive to my mind.

     What does it say about ERB’s own state of mind?  Was he also unforgiving and draconian in his revenges?  ERB himself mostly stood in his relationships as the African to the lion.  There is a certain irony in the symbol of MGM being Leo The Lion.  In his last major confrontation with MGM, Leo mauled ERB pretty badly.  There  was no room left for revenge in that struggle.

     The mauled witch doctor had appeared in Tarzan Of The Apes.  He recognized Tarzan but was unrecognized by the latter.

     In his youth he would slain the witch-doctor without the slightest compuncition,  but civilization had had its softening effect on him even as it does upon the natives and races which it touches though it had not gone far enough with Tarzan to render him either cowardly or effeminate.

     From this we may infer that ERB believed Europeans and Americans to have become effeminate and cowardly.  Perhaps so.

     The witch doctor reminds him of Mbonga’s village of the old days when they made Tarzan the god Munango-Keewati and now he makes a prophecy:

     …I shall reward you.  I am a great witch-doctor.  Listen to me, white man!  I see bad days ahead of you…A god greater than you wil rise up and strike you down.  Turn back, Munango-Keewati!  Turn back before it is too late.  Danger lurks ahead of you and danger lurks behind; but greater is the danger before.  I see…

     And then characteristically he croaks.  Werper was behind and Opar ahead.  But what was danger to the Big Bwana; danger was his life.  Of course ERB could have been talking about himself as well.  Certainly by this time ERB must have realized that success and fame was going to be no bed of roses.  He needed more money to continue his new life style.  Could he get it now that his first spurt was finished.  He had been warned by his editor Metcalf that most pulp writers had success for a couple years but then exhausted their sources.  He must have feared that he was already there. 

     A new period of anxiety loomed before him, probably debt behind.  As Tarzan is about to lose his memory, stress may have been addling ERB’s brain.  Nevertheless impelled by necessity- onward.

Part II in another post.

A Contribution To The

Erbzine Library Project.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Science And Spiritualism

Camille Flammarion, Scientist and Spiritualist

by

R.E. Prindle

 

The last story in Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles is about the expulsion from Earth of the various supernatural or imaginary beings such as fairies, elves, the elementals, all those beings external to ourselves but projections of our minds on Nature, to Mars as a last resort and how they were all dieing as Mars became scientifically accessible leaving no place for them to exist.

On Earth the rejection of such supernatural beings began with the Enlightenment.   When the smoke and fury of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic years settled and cleared it was a new world with a completely different understanding of the nature of the world.  Science, that is, knowing, had displaced belief as a Weltanschauung.

The old does not give way so easily to the new.  Even while knowing that fairies did not exist the short lived reaction of the Romantic Period with its wonderful stories and fictions followed the Napoleonic period.

Supernatural phenomena displaced from the very air we breathed reformed in the minds of Men as the ability of certain people called Mediums to communicate with spirits although the spirits were no longer called supernatural but paranormal.  Thus the fairies morphed into dead ancestors, dead famous men, communicants from beyond the grave.  Men and women merely combined science with fantasy.  Science fiction, you see.

Spiritualism was made feasible by the rediscovery of hypnotism by Anton Mesmer in the years preceding the French Revolution.  The first modern glimmerings of the sub- or unconscius began to take form.  The unconscious was the arena of paranormal activity.

Hypnotism soon lost scientific credibility during the mid-century being abandoned to stage performers who then became the first real investigators of the unconscious as they practiced their art.

While the antecedents of spiritualism go back much further the pehnomena associated with it began to make their appearance in the 1840s.  Because the unconscious was so little understood spiritualism was actually thought of as scientific.  The investigators of the unconscious gave it incredible powers and attributes, what I would call supernatural but which became known as paranormal.  Communicating with spirits, teleportation, telecommunications, all the stuff that later became the staples of science fiction.

Thus in 1882, Jean-Martin Charcot, a doctor working in the Salpetriere in Paris made hypnotism once again a legitimate academic study.

The question here is how much innovation could the nineteenth century take without losing its center or balance.  Yeats’ poem The Second Coming presents the situation well.  Freud, who was present at this particular creation, was to say that three discoveries shattered the confidence of Man; the first was the Galilean discovery that the Earth was not the center of the universe, the second revelation was Darwin’s announcement that Man was not unique in creation and the last was the discovery of the unconscious.  Of these three the last two happened simultaneiously amidst a welter of scientific discoveries and technological applications that completely changed Man’s relationship to the world.  One imagines that these were the reasons for the astonishing literary creativity as Victorians grappled to deal with these new realities.  There was a sea change in literary expression.

Key to understanding these intellectual developments is the need of Man for immortality.  With God in his heaven but disconnected from the world supernatural explanations were no longer plausible.  The longing for immortality remained so FWH Myers a founder of the Society For Psychical Research changed the word supernatural into paranormal.  As the notion of the unconscious was now wedded to science and given, in effect, supernatural powers under the guise of the paranormal it was thought, or hoped, that by tapping these supernormal powers one could make contact with the departed hence spiritism or Spiritualism.

While from our present vantage point after a hundred or more years of acclimatizing ourselves to an understanding of science, the unconscious and a rejection of the supernatural, the combination of science and spiritualism seems ridiculous.  Such was not the case at the time.  Serious scientists embraced the notion that spirtualism was scientific.

Now, a debate in Burroughs’ studies is whether and/or how much Burroughs was influenced by the esoteric.  In my opinion and I believe that of Bibliophile David Adams, a great deal.  David has done wonderful work in esbatlishing the connection between the esotericism of L. Frank Baum and his Oz series of books and Burroughs while Dale Broadhurst has added much.

Beginning in the sixties of the nineteenth century a French writer who was to have a great influence on ERB, Camille Flammarion, began writing his scientific romances and astronomy books.  Not only did Flammarion form ERB’s ideas of the nature of Mars but this French writer was imbued with the notions of spiritualism that informed his science and astronomy.  He and another astronomer, Percival Lowell, who is often associated with ERB, in fact, spent time with Flammarion exchanging Martian ideas.  Flammarion and Lowell are associated.

So, in reading Flammarion ERB would have imbibed a good deal of spiritualistic, occult, or esoteric ideas.  Flammarion actually ended his days as much more a spiritualist than astronomer.  As a spiritualist he was associated with Conan Doyle.

Thus in the search for a new basis of immortality, while the notion of God became intenable, Flammarion and others began to search for immortality in outer space.  There were even notions that spirits went to Mars to live after death somewhat in the manner of Bradbury’s nixies and pixies.  In his book Lumen Flammarion has his hero taking up residence on the star Capella in outer space after death.  Such a book as Lumen must have left Burroughs breathless with wonderment.  Lumen is some pretty far out stuff in more ways than one.  After a hundred fifty years of science fiction these ideas have been endlessly explored becoming trite and even old hat but at the time they were

Camille Flammarion

excitingly new.  Flammarion even put into Burroughs’ mind that time itself had no independent existence.  Mind boggling stuff.

I believe that by now Bibliophiles have assembled a library of books that Burroughs either did read or is likely to have read before 1911 that number at least two or three hundred.  Of course, without radio, TV, or movies for all of Burroughs’ childhood, youth and a major portion of his young manhood, although movies would have become a reality by the time he began writing, there was little entertainment except reading.  Maybe a spot of croquet.

As far as reading goes I suspect that ERB spent a significant portion of his scantily employed late twenties and early thirties sitting in the Chicago Library sifting through the odd volume.  It can’t be a coincidence that Tarzan lounged for many an hour in the Paris library before he became a secret agent and left for North Africa.

I have come across a book by the English author Charles Howard Hinton entitled Scientific Romances of which one explores the notion of a fourth dimension .  Hinton is said to have been an influence on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.  It seems certain that Burroughs read The Time Machine while he would have found many discussions of the fourth dimension as well as other scientific fantasies in the magazines and even newspapers as Hillman has so amply demonstrated on ERBzine.  We also know that ERB had a subscription to Popular Mechanics while probably reading Popular Science on a regular basis.  Popular Science was established in 1872.

It is clear that ERB was keenly interested in psychology and from references distributed  throughout the corpus, reasonably well informed.

I wouldn’t go so far as to maintain that ERB read the French psychologist Theodore Flournoy’s From India To The Planet Mars but George T. McWhorter does list it as a volume in Vern Corriel’s library of likely books read by Burroughs.  The book was published in 1899 just as Burroughs was entering his very troubled period from 1900 to 1904-05 that included his bashing in Toronto with subsequent mental problems, a bout with typhoid fever and his and Emma’s flight to Idaho and Salt Lake City.  So that narrows the window down a bit.

However the book seems to describe the manner in which his mind worked so that it provides a possible or probable insight into the way his mind did work.

ERB’s writing career was born in desperation.  While he may say that he considered writing unmanly it is also true that he tried to write a lighthearted account of becoming a new father a couple years before he took up his pen in seriousness.  Obviously he saw writing as a way out.  His life had bittely disappointed his exalted expectations hence he would have fallen into a horrible depression probably with disastrous results if the success of his stories hadn’t redeemed his opinion of himself.

Helene Smith the Medium of Fluornoy’s investigation into mediumship was in the same situation.  Her future while secure enough in the material sense, as was Burroughs, fell far short of her hopes and expectations.  Thus she turned to mediumship to realize herself much as Burroughs turned to literature.  She enjoyed some success and notoriety attracting the attention of, among others, the psychologist Theodore Flournoy.  Fournoy who enjoyed some prominence at the time, was one of those confusing spiritualism with science because of his misunderstanding of the unconscious.  Thus as Miss Smith unfolded her conversations with the inhabitants of Mars it was taken with some plausibility.

If any readers I may have have also read my review of Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson he or she will remember that Peter and Mary were restricted in their dream activities to only what they had done, seen and remembered or learned.  As I have frequently said, you can only get out of a mind what has gone into it.  In this sense Miss Smith was severely handicapped  by an inadequate education and limited experience.  While she was reasonably creative in the construction of her three worlds- those of ancient India, Mars and the court of Marie Antoinette- she was unable to be utterly convincing.  In the end her resourcefulness gave out and the scientific types drifted away.  She more or less descended into a deep depression as her expectations failed.  Had she been more imagination she might have turned to writing as Burroughs did.

If Burroughs did read Flournoy, of which I am not convinced, he may have noted that Miss Smith’s method was quite similar to  his habit of trancelike daydreaming that fulfilled his own expectations of life in fantasy.

In Burroughs’ case he had the inestimable advantage of having stuffed his mind with a large array of imaginative literature, a fairly good amateur’s notions of science and technology, along with a very decent range of valuable experience.  His younger days were actually quite exciting.  He was also gifted with an amazing imagination and the ability to use it constructively.

Consider this possibility.  I append a poem that he would have undoubtedly read- When You Were A Tadpole And I Was A Fish.  Read this and then compare it to The Land That Time Forgot.

Evolution

by

Langdon Smith

When you were a tadpole and I was a fish

In the Paleozoic time,

And side by side on the ebbing tide

We sprawled through the ooze and slime,

Or skittered with many a caudal flip

Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,

My heart was rife with the joy of life,

For I loved you even then.

 

Mindless we lived and mindless we loved

And mindless at last we died;

And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift

We slumbered side by side.

The world turned on in the lathe of time,

The hot lands heaved amain,

Til we caught our breath from the womb of death

And crept into light again.

 

We were Amphibians, scaled and tailed,

And drab as a dead man’s hand;

We coiled at ease ‘neath the dripping trees

Or trailed through the mud and sand.

Croaking and blind, with out three-clawed feet

Writing a language dumb,

With never a spark in the empty dark

To hint at a life to come.

 

Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,

And happy we died once more;

Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold

of a Neocomian shore.

The eons came and the eons fled

And the sleep that wrapped us fast

Was riven away in a newer day

And the night of death was past.

 

Then light and swift through the jungle trees

We swung in our airy flights,

Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms

In the hush of the moonless nights;

And, oh! what beautiful years were there

When our hearts clung each to each;

When life was filled and our senses thrilled

In the first faint dawn of speech.

 

Thus life by life and love by love

We passed through the cycles strange,

And breath by breath and death by death

We followed the chain of change,

Till there came a time in the law of life

When over the nursing side

The shadows broke and the soul awoke

In a strange, dim dream of God.

 

I was thewed like Auroch bull

And tusked like the great cave bear;

And you, my sweet, from head to feet

Were gowned in your glorious hair,

Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave,

When the night fell o’er the plain

And the moon hung red o’er the river bed

We mumbled the bones of the slain.

 

I flaked a flint to a cutting edge

And shaped it with brutish craft;

I broke a shank from the woodland lank

And fitted it, head and haft;

Then I hid me close to the reedy tarn,

Where the mammoth came to drink;

Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone

And slew him upon the brink.

 

Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes,

Loud answered our kith and kin,

From west and east to the crimson feast

The clan came tramping in.

O’er joint and gristle and padded hoof

We fought and clawed and tore,

And cheek by jowl with many a growl

We talked the marvel o’er.

 

I carved that fight on a reindeer bone

With rude and hairy hand;

I pictured his fall on the cavern wall

That men might understand,

For we lived by blood and the right of might

Ere human laws were drawn,

And the age of sin did not begin

Till our brutal tush were gone.

 

And that was a million years ago

In a time that no man knows;

Yet here tonight in the mellow light

We sit at Delmonico’s.

Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,

Your hair is dark as jet,

Your years are few, your life is new,

Your soul untried, and yet-

 

Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay

And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;

We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones

And deep in the Coralline crags;

Our love is old, our lives are old,

And death shall come amain;

Should it come today, what man may say

We shall not live again?

 

God has wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds

And furnished them wings to fly;

He sowed our spawn in the world’s dim dawn,

And I know that it shall not die,

Though cities have sprung above the graves

Where the crook-bone men make war

And the oxwain creaks o’er the buried caves

Where the mummied mammoths are.

 

Then as we linger at luncheon here

O’er many a dainty dish,

Let us drink anew to the time when you

Were a tadpole and I was a fish.

With something like that stuffed into his subconscious what wonders might ensue.  Obviously The Land That Time Forgot and The Eternal Lover.

As Miss Smith had turned to spiritualism and mediumship, Burroughs turned his talents to writing.  According to himself he used essentially mediumistic techniques in hiswriting.  He said that he entered a tracelike state, what one might almost call automatic writing to compose his stories.  He certainly turned out three hundred well written pages in a remarkably short time with very few delays and interruptions.  He was then able to immediately begin another story.  This facility lasted from 1911 to 1914 when his reservoir  of stored material ws exhausted.  His pace then slowed down as he had to originate stories and presumably work them out more rather than just spew them out.

Curiously like Miss Smith he created three main worlds with some deadends and solo works.  Thus while Miss Smith created Indian, Martian and her ‘Royal’ identity Burroughs created an inner World, Tarzan and African world, and a Martian world.

Perhaps in both cases three worlds were necessary to give expression to the full range of their hopes and expectations.  In Burroughs’ case his worlds correspond to the equivalences of the subconscious in Pellucidar, the conscious in Tarzan and Africa and shall we say, the aspirational or spiritual of Mars.  In point of fact Burroughs writing style varies in each of the three worlds, just as they did in Miss Smith’s.

Having exhausted his early intellectual resources Burroughs read extensively and exhaustively to recharge  his intellectual batteries.  This would have been completely normal because it is quite easy to write oneself out.  Indeed, he was warned about this by his editor, Metcalf.  Having, as it were, gotten what was in your mind on paper what you had was used up and has to be augmented.  One needs fresh experience and more knowledge.  ERB was capable of achieving this from 1911 to about 1936 when his resources were essentially exhausted.  Regardless of what one considers the quality of the later work it is a recap, a summation of his work rather than extension or innovatory into new territory.  Once again, not at all unusual.

As a child of his times his work is a unique blend of science and spiritualism with the accent on science.  One can only conjecture how he assimiliated Camille Flammarion’s own unique blend of spiritualism and science but it would seem clear that Flammarion inflamed his imagination setting him on his career as perhaps the world’s first true science-fiction writer as opposed to merely imaginative or fantasy fiction although he was no mean hand at all.

 

 

A Review

Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs #16

Tarzan And The City Of Gold

by

R.E. Prindle

 

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.

E.R. Burroughs

     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

The Swami

The Swami

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.

B1

     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

Gordon Scott As Tarzan

Gordon Scott As Tarzan

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

Jay Cutler In Full Pump

Jay Cutler In Full Pump

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.