A Review

Thuvia, Maid Of Mars

by

Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Part III-C

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Review by R.E. Prindle

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Civilization And Its Malcontents

     Let us say that for the fifty years or so before the 1920s there was a growing sense of societal malaise.  This malaise was reflected most notably in the creation of  Edgar Rice Burroughs’ psychological projection, Tarzan Of The Apes.   One has to account for the immediate acceptation by society of such an absurdity.  Tarzan, in fact, completely rejected civilization for the life of the  romantic ‘unrestrained freedom’ of the jungle.  The noble savage in fact.

     Thus in a metaphor Burroughs reflected the malaise of his time so brilliantly that his creation was accepted as virtually a real person.  Writers like Grant and Stoddard put the same theme into more scholarly terms.  As noted, contrary to Richard Slotkin’s idea, Grant had little or no influence on Burroughs while the slightly later Lothrop Stoddard whose three relevant works appeared only from 1920 to 1922 could have had no influence on Burroughs’ formative years.   It seems probable that Burroughs did read Stoddard and was influenced by his work but only after his ideas were fully formed.  Even then  The Revolt Against Civilization appeared after Burroughs had examined some of the same problems in his rejected manuscript, Under The Red Flag of 1919.

     The problem of the malcontents and their war on civilization was examined by a number of writers during the twenties and thirties so why Slotkin singled out Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard isn’t as clear as it might be.  Postwar German cinema was intensely concerned with the matter as why should it not?  Germany was under asault by what Stoddard called the Underman.  Nor need Slotkin think Stoddard was alone.  I’m sure there were dozens of forgotten books prophesying the end of the world by one means or another including the Undermen of Communism.

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     The Underman, or the Communist, was not even a term unique to Stoddard.  Gustave Le Bon, the French scholar on whose work Sigmund Freud based his study Group Psychology And The Analysis Of The Ego wrote prolifically on the psychological foundations of the Underman.  Freud based his book on Le Bon’s 1895 study  The Psychology Of Crowds.  Unless I’m mistaken he based his 1930 study Civilization And Its Discontents on Le Bon’s 1921 book The World In Revolt: A Psychological Study Of Our Times.

     On the cinematic side the problem was examined in the great silent films The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and Fritz Lang’s 1922 film Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler.  Lang would follow that ten years later with the sound film The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse.

     Even though Buroughs’ Under The Red Flag was rejected in 1919 he persisted, rewriting and extending the text into the 1926 story, The Moon Maid.   This story reflects a possible reading of The Revolt Against Civilization but such a reading was much more evident in 1934’s Tarzan And The Lion Man.

     The development of the problem was evident to all these writers which it seems to have escaped Slotkin who attributes the recognition of societal evolution to mere ‘racism’ in the writers.  One thinks that perhaps Slotkin is too involved in his own agenda.

     Rider Haggard enunciated the problem quite clearly in his 1888 novel Allan Quatermain  in which Quatermain grouses about the ‘strict limits’ of civilization compared to the ‘natural’ life of the African Zulus.  It might almost seem that the idea of Tarzan arose in Burroughs’ mind from that observation.  In fact science was undermining all the comforting beliefs that mankind had been settled in for a hundred thousand years.  During that long period characterized by the mental mode of what is called mythopoeic thinking man’s mind devoid of true knowledge projected a vision of reality that resulted in the notion of God.  Thus reasoning from insufficient knowledge man’s mind came up with an erroneous result.  You can’t get out of a mind what isn’t in it; all education is suggestion.

     As Freud was to say, man’s settled view of reality received its three great shocks when Galileo disproved the geocentric notion of the universe, Darwin disproved the uniqueness of man’s position in the animal kingdom and he, Freud, displaced the conscious mind with his vision of the unconscious mind.  Once again Le Bon was there ahead of him.

     Thus as the nineteenth century opened and progressed the bases of mankind’s notions of reality were shattered leaving him emotionally and intellectually bereft of foundations of belief.  Adrift without an anchor.

     As if that were not bad enough the great cataclysm that ushered in the modern era, The French Revolution, was based on the the absolute notion that not only were all men created equal but remained equal in all aspects of their existence.  The advance of civilization would toss this certainty into the trash can of history also.

     As civilization placed greater and greater demands on the intelligence and self-discipline of men and women the incontestable gap between those less intelligent and those more intelligent became more and more obvious.  Thus as the century progressed the notion of the Overman and the Underman began to become clear.

     At the same time the first tentative efforts at measuring the intellectual potential of the individual began to become possible.  Of course the basic inequality of men and women in its physical aspect had always been apparent.  Some men were naturally stronger and better muscled than others.  But, even that was changing. The science of physical culture was making it possible for the 98 lb. weakling to develop himself into a man mountain.  Thus artifically developed srongmen like the Great Sandow ushered in the golden age of the strong man topped off by Charles Atlas who guaranteed he could turn you into a man mountain if you followed his program.

     There was the promise that you could dethrone that bully and kick sand back in his face.  On the other side Francis Galton was originating the first primitive tests to measure intelligence potential.  Burroughs would have seen both proponents during his miraculous summer of 1893 at the Chicago Columbian Exposition.  I mean to say that both facts entered his mind where they could be digested and emerge later.  Nothing can come out of your mind that didn’t go in it.

     And then after the turn of the century Binet devised he first actual IQ test.  Thus, just as Sandow and Atlas could measure the size of muscles, the psychologists became able to measure the intelligence potential.  Those with high IQs were set up; those with low IQs were cooked.  The upshot was that all men were not created equal nor could they ever attain intellectual equality.

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     To a very large extent what became the Communist Party recognized the inequality while demanding equality against reason.  Recognizing subconsciously, perhaps, that men could never be intellectual equals rather than try the futile task of raising the less fortunate they sought to destroy education which brings out the inequality but doesn’t create it.   No matter what happens there are always going to be the more intelligent just as there will always be the physically stronger.  As Le Bon points out, if you needed to hear it, nature don’t know from equality.

     Thus the Communist Party devised the well sounding slogan- From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.  Good plan for the needy, slavery for the able.  The needy were organized beginning their struggle to achieve superiority by collective action.  This was accomplished in Russia in 1917.  The battle was joined.

     Just as individuals are created with different capabilities so are peoples and races.  Some can achieve and some can’t.  Slotkin who must be a Communist thus takes offence at what he perceives to be, and is, an attitude of White Supremacy in Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard.  While I am aware there are those who will disagree with White superiority it is nevertheless not an attitude but an evolutionary fact.  That is the reason Communists have Darwin under attack.  While Darwin doesn’t say it, it is the inevitable result of his studies.  Just as it was necessary for the Undermen to destroy education in the hopes of creating intellectual equality so it became necessary to destroy White achievement of the last five hundred years.  The whites must be demonized and made to feel evil and inferior morally.  That is the import of Slotkin’s Gunfighter Nation.

     At that level all three writers are guilty.  As has been stated in Canadian courts- Truth is not a defense.  So there’s nothing to discuss.  Might is right and whoever has the might will prevail.

     It is a fact that all three writers were anti-Communists so it may be assumed that whatever Communists believe, they didn’t.  And why should they?  Might may be right but it can still be nonsense.  Communism is a flawed ideology based on a false premiss.  It always fails wherever it is introduced.  Failure is not evidence of a bad plan in Communist eyes.  One just continues to shovel sand against the tide and pray.  So succeed or fail they always think they can succeed by the same flawed ideology.  The fault for failure lies elsewhere.

     In that sense Burroughs was wasting his time assailing this religion of failure with his Under The Red Flag and its successor The Moon Maid.  The only people who would applaud his effort would be we non-Communists but he could never convince anyone with Communist leanings.  Of course that wasn’t well understood at the time.

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     If Burroughs were accused of not believing in equality that would be true.  Not only are John Carter and Tarzan superior to any contemporaries on two worlds but Burroughs has a whole hierarchy of value.  John Carter is the Warlord of Mars ruling from the top city  of Mars, Helium.  The races of Mars pretty much reflect those of  Earth and their relative stations.  The main exception is the ruling Red race.  As Whites do and have existed on Mars in Burroughs stories  while at one time being the dominant race perhaps the Red race is some sort of amalgam of the various Eropean immigrants of the United States.  I believe the Green Men represent the American Indian.  Both roam the great plains while being essentially savages.

     Tarzan though always spoken of as being White is described as a bronze giant.  Bronze is a fairly dark metal so that Tarzan and the Red men of Mars may be more or less identical in color.

     Tarzan is the man-god so there are none superior or even equal to him.  Below him come the English who are the cream of mankind.  Perhaps slightly below the English are the French and then the rest of the Whites.  Tarzan himself is psychologically an animal having been raised by the Apes.  Not your ordinary gorilla or Chimp but a species intermediate between Gorilla and the Negro.  Slotkin hasn’t read enough Burroughs to make an intelligent comment but the undeniable attitude of Burroughs is enough for Slotkin to condemn him as an unregenerate bigot.  The reader may believe as he likes.  I have stated my opinion eslewhere and that is enough. Whether any of these opinions of Burroughs influenced American soldiers at My Lai is open to question.  The burden of proof is on Slotkin and he hasn’t provided  it.

     Along with the Undermen however, speaking through Tarzan, Burroughs is heartily discontented with civilization.

      The spectacle of Chicago of the 1890s as a dirty unpleasant place haunts Burroughs.  In contrast to the great White City of the Columbian Expo was what was afterwards known as the Black City of everyday Chicago.  The contrast was so strong and so offensive to the Undermen that within a year of the Expo’s closing the entire White City was burned to the ground with the exception of one building.  Hence perhaps the decayed crimson and gold ruins of Opar and the crimson and gold twin cities of Helium.  One wonders what effect the sight of the ruin of the White City had on Burroughs when he revisited the site sometime after his miraculous summer of ’93.  The mind creates nothing from nothing so there must have been models of the great cities of ERB’s imagination.

     There are points at which Burroughs and Communism have quite similar views.  It will be remembered that Burroughs only reluctantly married and throughout his life expressed discontent with the institution.  To some extent or other ERB must have been an advocate of free love.  Communists would have heartily approved of ERB’s women who went nude except for certain ‘adornments.’  Communists of course want women to be accesible to any man who wants them at any time while they have always advocated bare breasts.

     In many ways when the Communists appropriated Tarzan for the MGM movies it took but slight changes to make Tarzan conform to their ideals.   The MGM Tarzan and Jane were not married.  While Burroughs’ Tarzan was a highly educated on-again off-again sophisticate the MGM Tarzan was a stupid illiterate oaf and one who rejected the attributes of civilization high up there in the Cloud Cuckoo Land of the Mutia Plateau.

     On the essentials though Burroughs rejected the demands of the Underman as The Moon Maid clearly shows.  There was very little in Stoddard’s The Revolt Against Civilization that Burroughs would have disagreed with.  At the same time there was probably very little he didn’t already believe although he had never codified his information as Stoddard had.  Slotkin’s contention that Burroughs was influenced by either Grant or Stoddard is surely wrong.  ERB had already taken hs positions before either men had begun to write.

     Each writer was, in his own way, an advocate of White Supremacy.  It now become clear that White Supremacy has nothing to do with a fringe element in Liberal ideology.  All Whites are White Supremacists in that ideology unless they reject ‘White skin privilege’  whatever that is.   Ayers and Dorhn explain in their recent Race Course In White Supremacy.  Interestingly constructed title.  Nor as Slotkin would have it is the attitude based on mere racial pride and bigotry but on a solid record of achievement unattained by any other people.  The quesiton is not was it right for some people to rule or be supreme because in the nature of things some people will rule and be supreme but which of the peoples are most qualified to be supreme.

     All people have had equal opportunity so that one can only conclude that the race has gone to the most qualified participant.  In the contest the Whites  unified the other peoples against them as must inevitably be the consequence of being the top people.  As they say, getting there is the easy part; staying there is the hard part.

     Slotkin merely represents the envious losers, the Undermen.  who clutch at any firebrand to burn the White House down.  Who is most to be admired and emulated?  Builders or destroyers?

Finis of Thuvia, Maid Of Mars Review

Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars

A Review

Thuvia, Maid Of Mars

by

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Part I

Review by R.E. Prindle

     This very interesting sdtory was written shortly after ERB returned to Chicago from his first San Diego excursion.  It was placed between the Girl From Fariss’s, the last story written in San Diego and The Cave Man.

     The material deals almost exclusively with suggestion and hypnosis.  Although hypnosis is a recurring theme in Burroughs one is startled by his concentration on the subject and his seemingly informed ideas of  it, especially  the role of suggestion.

     One wonders why his interest surfaced at this time and where ERB learned or developed this information.  He was just back from San Diego and I’m going to suggest he picked it up from his hero, L. Frank Baum.  As Baum was such a significant influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs perhaps it may be worthwhile to attempt an assessment on Baum’s role in literature and history.  There can be no question but that the OZ series of Baum took a central place in the American psyche and a place in the European psyche.  Baum’s books have been in demand since 1900 when he began writing them to the present.  Baum put Kansas on the map.  The Wizard, Dorothy and Toto are household names.  Baum’s play from the Wizard was a box office success while MGM’s movie is certainly in the top ten of influential movies, perhaps even in a tie for first with Gone With The Wind.  Even American Negroes made their own Black version called The Wiz.  The list goes on.

     I’m going to suggest that Fritz Lang, the movie Director, was highly influenced by Baum as reflected in his important film, The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Lang was also very familiar with Burroughs.

     Baum himself was a committed Theosophist.  Introduced to the religion by his mother-in-law Baum picked up his card in 1893.  By 1913 when he met Burroughs he had been a practicing member for twenty years.  When he left Chicago he first went to Coronado across the Bay from San Diego.  Katherine Tingley had established her Theosophical organization on Point Loma near that city.  Baum must have been an important member of that congregation.  Perhaps he had a falling out with Tingley but he did remove himself to Hollywood in 1910.  In Hollywood he undoubtedly connected with the Pasadena Theosophical Society that at present is the mother organization.

     As a Theosophist Baum would have had to have been familiar with the works of Madame Helena Blavatsky.  Her great works are Isis Unveiled and The Secrect Doctrine.  Theosophy of course is on a par with the Semitic religions of Judaism and Christianity.  While Madame B is often referred to as nonsense she is in fact very learned in the ancient religious doctrines of the human mind that went to form all Middle Eastern religious expressions.  Hence while Madame B’s works are metaphysical in nature they are no less relevant to the development of the human intellect than say, St. Augustine or others of the metaphysical ilk.

     Madame B had some strong opinions on hypnotism.  Hypnotism had come to the fore of Euroamerican consciousness in the years preceding the French Revolution through the efforts of  Dr. Franz Mesmer.  Though discredited as as a charlatan he was dealing with the real thing as subsequent history shows.  He originally called hypnotism Animal Magnetism.  That was changed to Mesmerism and then to Hypnotism.  As far as possible influences on Burroughs it will be remembered that Edgar Allan Poe wrote Mesmeric Revelation in 1844 and The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar in 1845.  There are clear indications that ERB was familiar with the Valdemar story.

     Now, the essence of hypnotism is the suggestion.  Suggestion is perhaps the most important intellectual or psychological phenomenon.  Suggestion isperhaps the basis of intellect, intelligence and psychology.  C.G. Jung in his investigations of symbols was dealing with the nature of universal suggestion from nature.  Freud early learned to separate suggestion from the hypnotic trance.  Artfully used suggestion obviates the need for trancelike states.   Thus people don’t understand that and how they are hypnotized by movies and TV.

     The art of successful literature is merely to suggest scenes and situations and have the reader visualize them in his own mind.  Once accepted the suggestion becomes part of the intellect of the reader.  He may be able to reject it later but that is a separate volitional act.  The great writers realize this.  Freud understood perfectly, while Baum developed the art of the concrete image to a remarkable degree.  His works are a series of remarkable images.  If Freud had had Baum’s skill, and he wasn’t far short, he would have been even more effective than he has been.

     The prescient Fritz Lang picked up on Freud, Baum and hypnotism in his remarkable Dr. Mabuse series of movies.  The first story, Dr. Mabuse The Gambler of 1922, concerns a Freudlike megalomaniac named Dr. Mabuse.  Freud’s activities during the Great War and after would be known to the cognoscenti.  It would be foolish to think that Adolf Hitler and other Volkish leaders wouldn’t have been aware of what Freud was up to.  Mabuse is into all kinds of criminal activities to undermine society and the State, as was Freud.  He is also a master hypnotist as was Freud.  In a scene reminiscent of the scene in Thuvia where Jav says ‘You want to see them?  Then, look.’  The scene of ancient bustling Lothar then appears to Carthoris and Thuvia’s wondering hypnotized eyes.  As well as mine, certainly.  I had no trouble seeing what Burroughs wanted me to see.  So Dr. Mabuse in his role of stage hypnotizer, the man wore many hats, makes a parade appear before the wondering eyes of his audience.  It can be done.  I saw a man make Diamond Head disappear before the whole world on TV.  Pretty amazing.

     At the end of the movie Mabuse is captured and conveniently tucked away in an insane asylum.  He goes catatonic until 1930 or so when Lang made the sequel The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse.  The Dr. emerging from his catatonic state makes signs that he wants pen and paper which the head of the asylum, one Dr. Baum, provides.

     Mabuse then turns out page after endless page of instructions to destroy civilization not unlike what Herr Dr. Freud was doing from his study in Vienna.  The writing had an hypnotic effect on Dr. Baum who executes the plans of the cell bound Dr. Mabuse.

     The use of the name Baum could be a coincidence but Dr. Baum like the Wizard Of Oz is an unseen superior.  He issues orders but is otherwise an unknown to those he directs.  In issuing his orders we are led to believe that he sits behind a curtain unseen while giving his directions.  Then, just as Dorothy did, the hero dares to pull back the curtain and he finds…a phonograph player.  Unlike Dorothy who finds a tubby timid little imposter, there is no one there.  Surely this is a parody of Dorothy’s famous scene which makes the name Dr. Baum less of a coincidence.

     So it would seem that L. Frank Baum’s influence extended to Germany and an originator of film noir.  Not so unlike as Baum’s stories are much darker than they might appear at first reading.  At any rate his literary images make long remembered illusions of reality not unlike that of Dr. Baum while being of a suggestive hypnotic nature.  I can still visualize Dorothy pulling the curtain back exposing the mild mannered Big Brother sixty years after.  I can remember the image I formed.

     So, my suggestion is that L. Frank Baum was the direct inspiration for Thuvia of Mars.  As noted ERB was probably familiar with Poe’s stories of hypnotism while I am certain that he had read George Du Maurier’s Trilby concerning the hypnotist Svengali and probably also Du Maurier’s other two novels, Peter Ibbetson, and The Martian both related to unusual psychological states.  Len Carter believes that ERB read William Morris who also uses some hypnotic themes in his fantasy novels.  Lew Sweetser, ERB’s mentor in Idaho via Yale, might also have given him some information on hypnotism while ERB was still a boy.  Plus I’m sure hypnotism was a hot topic of popular discussions.

      ERB’s emphasis on suggestion as the operative means of hypnotism points to some more direct instruction.  Most think that ERB first met Baum in 1916 which means the two formed a fast friendship immediately.  I think it more likely that they met in 1913 renewing the acquanitance in 1916.  Whether Baum had read any of Burroughs’ stories in 1913 which seems would be paying pretty close atention to literary trends in pulp magazines he may have heard of Tarzan.  Probably aware of this ERB may have brought along a magazine or two to show Baum.  If Baum then read the proffered stories he certainly would have seen his influence in the Mars stories if ERB didn’t actually point them out to him hoping for the Zeusian nod of approval from the master.

     Probably flattered Baum would have encouraed the relationship.  Assuming that to be true the two men having similar interests would certainly engage in conversations on Theosophy, hypnotism, writing techniques and whatever.

     Certainly Burroughs writing style which while always colorful was a little heavy on the narrative side seems to open up to a more allusive suggestive style blossoming significantly in 1915’s Tarzan And The Jewels of Opar.

     I can’t find a more immediate source for ERB’s sudden interest in hypnotism.  But, on to the story.