A Review

Themes And Variations

The Tazan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs



R.E. Prindle

Part IV

Cast Of Characters

The Shaggy Man Of OZ


The Shaggy Man

     This novel is fairly rich in well conceived and well executed characters.  Even though an obvious adventure novel it is certainly at the top of the list of the genre.  All novels, even historical novels, reflect the time in which they were written.  The novels of ERB are no exception.  In addition they always reflect his state of mind at the time.  In this first section I will deal with the three big characters- Oldtimer, Kali Bwana and The Kid.  This story does not seem to have political connotations but is a pure reflection of ERB’s sexual trauma.

Jerome K. Jerome

   ERB always writes on several diffent levels and this one is a humdinger of the kind.  I have already mentioned the concealed jokes in the names of Jerry ‘The Kid’ Jerome- Jerome K. Jerome- and Old Timer’s given name -Hi- probably related to Lewis Carrol’s Hunting Of The Snark.  Old Timer’s real last name is never given, he is actually nameless.  Kali Bwana is called that by the natives while her name is Jessie Jerome of which I can make nothing.  Following the idea of the author Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men In A Boat this story could be titled Three People In A Boat.

     All three characters are based on the Peru, Trader Horn and Nina T. of Ethelreda Lewis’ book Trader Horn  and the movie version of W.S. Van Dyke.  Thus the scene in Chapter 4 which Burroughs couples with the story of Sobito the witch doctor, replicates the opening scene of Van Dyke’s movie when Peru and a grizzled old timer of a Horn portrayed by Harry Carey, sit around a campfire discussing life.

     As Bill Hillman points out there is a certain irony in Old Timer/Burroughs assuming Carey’s role.  In the early twenties ERB requested his movie rental agency to never send him Carey movies.  Perhaps he had had a run in with Carey upon his arrival in LA where Carey insulted him.  According to Van Dyke’s record of the filming of Horn, Horning Into Africa, Carey was an aggressive sort of guy.  Ye olde so-called Alpha male.  You can read that ‘unspeakable boor.’  Perhaps by this time ERB had made up with Carey or maybe he was satirizing him.  At any rate it is interesting to see ERB assume the Carey role, or even to have gone to see  Trader Horn.

     In keeping with the very dark themes of this novel Old Timer is very despondent.  He had met the Kid a year previously teaming up with him.  The Kid, who probably is modeled on Ashton Dearholt, plays the minor role of essentially giving Old Timer his sister, Kali Bwana.  So Dearholt must have relinquished his wife Florence.  If the woman wants to leave what are you going to do about it?

     Suspense isn’t really ERB’s long suit so he could have explained why the Kid was on the lam at the beginning but he saved it for the end where the ‘surprise’ which the reader is waiting for is pretty lame.

     Back home in Indiana or wherever the Kid came from he thought he had killed a man.  In what seems rather cliche Burroughs explains on p.190 of 192, he really saved that surprise for the last, didn’t he?  Kali Bwana speaking:

     Jerry thought he killed a man.  I am going to tell you the whole story because you and he have been such close friends.

     Jerry was in love with a girl in our town.  He learned one night that an older man, a man with a vile reputation, had enticed her to his apartment.  Jerry went there and broke in.  The man was furious, and in the fight that followed Jerry shot him.  Then he took the girl home, swearing her to secrecy about her part in the affair.  That same night he ran away, leaving a note saying he had shot Sam Berger, but giving no reason.

     Berger didn’t die and refused to prosecute…

     Personally I think Berger was in the right and Jerry in the wrong; he was lucky Berger didn’t want to prosecute.  It a man invites a woman up to see his etchings and she goes she obviously is not in love with a feller like Jerry.  My sympathies are with Berger.  It would be reasonable to think from the name that Sam Berger was Jewish so the sharp eyed boys down at the ADL/AJC would probably take that as an anti-Semitic reference.  Names are important.  As Kali Bwana says of Old Timer:  She loved this nameless man of rages and tatters. (p. 180).  It might be interesting to see the ADL/AJC file on Burroughs.

      All we know of this nameless man of rags and tatters is that he answered to Old Timer, Hi or any loud cry, and that he has been exiled into the forest far from the haunts of men by ‘what that woman did to him.’  Nor are we allowed to know what that one woman did do to him.  Old Timer is a misogynist.  And the woman made a ‘bum’ of him.  One might also refer to the Shaggy Man Of Oz by Baum as a reference.

     We don’t know how long he’s been on the run from society but he’s been poaching ivory for two years and teamed up with the Kid for one.  We are advised that it were better for us not to be curious and ask no questions.  P. 33:

     People who ask questions should be taken gently, but firmly, by the hand, led out behind the barn and shot.  It would be a better world to live in.

     Alright.  I’m not going to ask any questions.  I’m just going to form conclusions from the evidence.  The world would probably be a better place to live in without me too and someday in the not too distant future it will be.  However, like the Dalai Lama, my successor has already been chosen and he’s not going to be as nice as me.

     Having settled that let us ask the question of how closely is Old Timer pattered on ERB?  I think following ERB’s ‘highly fictionized’ manner the two are identical.

     ERB specifically calls his character a ‘nameless man of rags and tatters.’  Since he’s nameless he has a serious identity problem.  That means he’s been taught to be ashamed of himself.  This is not unusual.  A great many people have had their identities destroyed.   When the Bibliophiles began publishing my essays I had five identities I hid behind.  Over the intervening years I have come to assume my proper identity of R.E. Prindle.  In this novel of personal crisis ERB is grasping for his own proper identity, his name.  Will he be able to stand tall as the real Edgar Rice Burroughs?  The issue still seems unresolved at novel’s end as Old Timer still answers only to ‘Hi!’ or any loud cry as he and Kali Bwana stand looking downstream toward ‘civilization’ which he may or may not be able to join and regain his identity. One can’t be nameless in civilization only out in the jungle.

      As ERB is now 57 at novel’s end he has been struggling to resolve this problem for some time.

     We are reasonably certain as to the women in ERB’s life.  Until the age of 53 there was only Emma and his mother.  Those are the only two women who could probably have affected his attitude toward real women.  There doesn’t appear to be anything Emma actually did to him to make him a misogynist.  I sense a lack of warmth and closeness to his mother but I can’t pick up any references to her and she wouldn’t have ‘done’ any womanly thing to make him a misogynist.

      That leaves only the Anima.  As I have pointed out, in the bilateral arrangement of the human body the male has an X and y chromosome while the female is XX.  This fact is of great significance.  It means the female has no male component but still has an active X provided by the male which serves as her Animus while the passive X provided by the female contributor forms her Anima.

     Therefore the male always carries within his mind an ideal woman which no living woman can do more than approximate.  Freud and Jung picked this up as ‘bisexuality.’  In the sixties we were admonished  to ‘get in touch with our feminine side.’  If this is understood outside the notion of sexual intercourse with other males both the psychologists’ notions are approximations of the truth.

     Over the course of life the relationship between a male’s Anima and Animus will become estranged and/or perverted.  Hence it is indeed necessary to get in touch with your female side or in other words to reconcile your Anima and Animus to form a healthy mind to go with your healthy body, if you have one.  One of the reasons why an unhealthy mind means an unhealthy body is the psychosomatic reaction.

     Now let us review the definition of rags and tatters from the Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, p. 782:

     (rags and tatters) are the symbol of anxiety and lesions of the psyche.

     I know from personal experience the above definition is true.

      It seems that in this novel ERB is using a volume such as the Penguin as a guide.  Perhaps he was studying with the Theosophists or Vedantists or some related esoteric discipline.  Let us assume that he had a nearly identical definition of ‘rags and tatters’ to work from so that his understanding is identical to Penguin’s and mine, if not yours.

     Thus ERB is admitting to anxiety and psychic lesions.

     What could have caused this anxiety and these psychic lesions?

     Yes, you’re right, his confronation with John the Bully at the age of eight or nine.  ERB’s Anima had failed him making a ‘bum’ of him from age eight or nine.  His father from a very early age said the ERB was ‘no good.’  We know very little about his childhood so from the time we know him he has always been a ‘bum’ and ‘no good.’

     Therefore if a ‘woman’ did it to him she did it when he was eight or nine.  That’s as close an analysis as I can do.  If it doesn’t satisfy you it satisfies me.

     Being a ‘bum’ is a man’s confession that he can’t deal with life.  For whatever reason he would rather voluntarily renounce his mahnood rather than compete and try.  ERB learned of bums and hoboes firsthand while working at his father’s office down on the Main Stem of Madison Avenue in his native Chicago.  He may have met and talked to a great many of them.  He was a ‘bum’ before he married Emma.  She had nothing to do with his feelings of inferiority although she may have amplified them over the years.

     During the first two decades of the twentieth century ERB was fascinated by hoboes.  He writes of them extensively including his hobo trilogy The Mucker, “Out There Somewhere’ or The Return Of The Mucker and Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid, or The Oakdale Affair.  After the last title the hobo recedes or disappears from his corpus to reappear here in Leopard Men at this sexual and psychological crisis in his life.  The psychic lesions have split his mind asunder.

     He has become the Shaggy Man.  The notion of the Shaggy Man had probably been working away in his mind since 1910’s The Emerald City Of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  David Adams has gone to pains to point out that Baum was extremely influential on Burroughs.  As the two men not only knew each other but were familiar while ERB reverenced Baum it follows that Baum must have imparted some authorly wisdom to Burroughs.  The Emerald City Of Oz was the last Oz book Burroughs read before going West in 1913 to meet his hero.

     As David points out Baum was an esotericist and Theosophist in particular.  Thus Baum’s rather extraordinary character of the Shaggy Man in Emerald City is worth examining in relation to ERB.  Leopard Men could be interpreted as an ‘adult’ version of Emerald City.

     It would appear that Baum knew what the image of the Shaggy Man, a man of rags and tatters, meant.  To give a slightly different reading to Baum’s character, Penguin, p. 782:

     (Rags and tatters) denotes as well a disguise by princes, princesses and wizards or cloaks inner riches under an appearance of wretchedness…

     The Shaggy Man of Baum is a wizard while under his frightful appearance he disguises his great inner worth.  Rather remarkably Baum has him lure the little girl Dorothy away from Aunt Em’s farm down the Road to Anywhere.  One wonders how many little girls were led astry by strange bums because of the Emerald City Of Oz?

     So in a sense Leopard Men had been gestating in Burroughs’ mind since his 1910 reading of Emerald City.  Now, in 1931, he is able to combine it with Trader Horn, book and movie.  So in the complex makeup of Old Timer, who is the Shaggy Man, he also has to be seen as Burroughs’ version of Trader Horn.

      The Kid and Old Timer go off on their separate ways in search of ivory.  Old Timer hears a shot and goes to investigate.  He comes upon Kali Bwana who has been abandoned by her safari after she refused to ‘be good’ to her Negro headman, Golato.  ERB puts together a strange scenario here in that the safari is composed of ‘low browed’ West African Blacks.  That would mean that Kali Bwanan began her trek from somewhere on the West Coast.  Congo or Gabon.  She must have been out there for months as the safari was now in the heart of the Ituri Rain Forest.

     When the Old Timer broke camp after grousing about the horrors of women the Kid joked that he would fall for the first ‘skirt’ he met.  Now, here in the middle of the Ituri Rain Forest Old Timer does just that.  A little humor.  He is stunned at the sight of Kali whose hair is of the platinum blonde variety.  As mentioned she is certainly based on Jean Harlow who had recently starred in Howard Hughes’ Hell’s Angels.  ERB must have been knocked out by the movie.

     Old Timer is gruff and offensive openly insulting to all women.  Kali dismisses him as ‘an unspeakable boor.’  This was a major conflict for him as the fires of lust burst into flame in his heart.  He immediately conceived the notion of rape.  Rape seems to be Kali’s fate although she does manage to avoid it.

     As evidence of the lesions of the psyche associated with the Shaggy Man Kali thinks Old Timer is crazy.  He himself thinks maybe he is.  So, in this period of stress one alter ego, Tarzan, characteristically loses his memory while his other walks around mumbling that maybe he is crazy while he’s making plans to rape a woman.  Leopard Men is definitely not a children’s book.

     Old Timer leaves a man behind to look after Kali while he goes off in search of ivory.  On the way back he has an unusual soliloquy.  P. 51:

          When he turned back toward camp at the end of his fruitless search for elephant signs a new determination filled him with disquieting thoughts and spurred him rapidly upon the back trail.  It had been two years since he had seen a white woman, and then Fate had thrown this lovely creature across his path.

What had women ever done for him?  “Made a bum of me,”  he soliloquized; “ruined my life.  The girl would have been lost but for me.  She owes me something.  All women owe me something for what that one woman did to me.  This girl is going to pay the debt…

Old Timer was saved from this unspeakable crime because in his absence the Leopard Men had abducted Kali Bwana.

From this point to her rescue from the Pygmy village the story of Old Timer and Kali Bwana does not seem to relate to Burroughs’ personal life.

The abduction by the Leopard Men may relate to Dearholt’s decision to take Florence land yachting.  Dearholt probably noted with alarm the developing relationship between Florence and Burroughs so he pitted one adage against another: Out of sight, out of mind vs. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.  The latter won.

There is no question as to how the romance between ERB and Florence began.  On the one hand Joan thought she was used by Florence to inveigle her way into proximity to ERB.  After the divorce Joan refused to speak to Florence.  On the other hand ERB is said to have fallen in love with Florence at first sight for which the Leopard Men offers some evidence.  The question is when was this first sight?  Astute ERB researcher Woodrow Nichols believes it may have been as early as 1922 when she made a Western with Ashton Dearholt.  If so, Burroughs must have been carrying the torch for her for a few years when chance threw her in his way when Ashton Dearholt, since married to her, asked ERB to finance a movie project.   As the saying goes ERB chased Florence until she caught him.

While land yachting Florence may have been so yearning to return that Dearholt just threw in the sponge and came back notifying Burroughs that they had returned.  The return was more than Burroughs could bear hence we have this novel redolent of symbols of sexual desire at which Kali Bwana/Florence is the center.

The combination of the Scottsboro Boys, Trader Horn, the MGM contract and the return of Florence evidently made ERB/Old Timer crazy and ran Tarzan off the tracks.  One wonders how Emma was taking this other than walking out during the showing of Trader Horn.  Actually as her drinking escalated at this period we do know how she took it.  Make no mistake on my position, drinking is not a reason to violate the for better or worse clause of the marriage contract especially when you’re the reason for the drinking.

So between Kali’s abduction by the Leopard Men and her abduction from the Pygmys’ by Old Timer was the time Florence was land yachting.  The abduction by Old Timer then must represent the serious beginning of the affair which would result in ERB’s walking out on Emma two and a half years later.  These two and a half years would be some of the most traumatic of his life.

ERB hoped or thought that Florence would redeem his life even as he was intent on hurting her as he felt he had been hurt.  He apparently thought that Florence could cleanse his soul restoring him to princely status from a man of rags and tatters.  Thus as he is still harboring evil rape thoughts he seizes Kali roughly forcing a kiss upon her.  Having learned to trust this disreputable looking man she is hurt and astonished.  Her reaction wakes him from his ‘boorishness’, he becomes contrite and like the frog redeemed by the kiss of the princess in the story, Old Timer is redeemed becoming ‘uncrazed.’

A neat little story with a moral if you follow the symbolism.

The tale then ends with the implication that the two will live happily forever after as they leave the forest of iniquitous desire for the trading posts and civilization down river.  Very pretty.

Buy, you know, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.  Extricating oneself from previous commitments is neither easy nor pretty:

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

To pick up on one and leave the other behind?

It’s not often easy,

And not always kinds,

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

–John Sebastian and Lovin’ Spoonful


The Goddess Kali

There was no science of social processes at all.

People were not trained to remark

The correlations of things.

For the most part they were not aware

That there was any correlation between things;

They imagined this side of life might change

And that remain unaltered.

–H. G. Wells, The Shape Of Things To Come p. 78

     One sees ERB as a lone individual without any connection to the world scheme; this vast struggle against the forces of oppression by the forces of freedom.   Put another way the struggle of knowledge against the forces if ignorance, the unconscious versus the conscious, fear versus confidence, timidity versus daring.

      Will there be a retreat to the cocoon of religion or will mankind dare the metamorphosis to the butterfly?  This is the serious question of our times.

     Ever since the two species clashed in Ur of the Chaldees and the ignorant Semitic religons overwhelmed the emerging science of the Sumerians the great culture clash has been between science and religion.  Europe versus the Semites.  The great Greek upsurge toward knowledge and intelligence led by Aristotle  had been thwarted by the Semitic takeover of the intellect of Europe, not unlike that of the former  takeover of the Sumerian intellect.  Slowly all intelligence was crushed in the name of Semitisim.  The fertile developing intellectual life of Greek science and the alternate religious speculation of the Middle East and Egypt was outlawed, crushed beneath the Iron Heel of Semitism.  The great library of Alexandria was burned to the ground in contempt of all secular learning.  Desperate to save any part of learning alternate religious tracts and scientific papers were buried in the sands to be discovered millennia later.

     Intelligence was driven underground.  Any who dared to challenge the religious orthodoxy of Semitism were murdered, imprisoned or forced to recant, their minds closed by the iron jaws of bigotry, not unlike today.

     But resistance to tyranny works forever beneath the surface.  Sabotage of Judaeo-Christian systems of repression came from the Moslem world as a result of the Crusaders attempt to impose Judaeo-Christian beliefs on the Middle East.

     Outside the reach of Judaeo-Christianity the great Hindu system of mythology waited to fructify Western religious thought.

     And so science and esoterica overthrew Judaeo-Christian oppression as the eighteenth century drew to a close.  The Judaeo-Christian reaction set in immediately, weakly flickering at first but gaining strength slowly even in the teeth of the rapidly developing scientific knowledge which laid bare the intellectual folly of revealed religion.

     By the time Burroughs began writing in 1911 the religious reaction was nearly on a parity with the scientific revolution.  The so-called Russian Revolution of 1917 tipped the scales once again in favor of religion.  Now the impetus was once again in favor of Judaeo-Communism as the Semites discarded their outworn cover of Christianity.

     By 1930 Edgar Rice Burroughs was clearly enmeshed in the coils of his personal struggle in the five thousand year old war between Europeans and Semites now in its new guise of Judaeo-Communism.

     A German-Swiss student of mythology, J.J. Bachofen, a former lawyer, was always amazed at how two different lawyers could analyze the same facts to arrive at opposing conclusions.  For that reason I hesitate to recommend any books.  However as background for the ’30s is necessary may I suggest Eugene Lyons’ The Red Decade.  This is a contemporary history written as the decade closed.  Up front and personal.

     A word about Lyons.  Eugene Lyons is of course not his real name.  He was born in 1898 into a Jewish household.  He found it convenient to assume a goy disguise.  He beame an ardent Communist serving as a correspondent in Russia from 1927-34.  He claims to have become an apostate to the Communist faith, a sort of proto-neocon.  One needn’t take his apostasy at face value.  His first loyalty was always to his Jewish Culture while as his later career demonstrates he never gave up his Communist faith.

     He probably was only revolted by the goy Stalin who gave up on International Communism, the Jewish version of the faith, for Communism in one country, a version of fascism as Lyons notes, which at this time was almost as successful at purging Jews as Hitler.  That may have influenced Lyons while it is also possible that Lyons was merely a paid Stalinist agent posing as a renegade so that he could bore from within.  He tells us nothing new.  Reading his book is like talking to God; you aren’t going to learn anything you don’t already know or couldn’t surmise.  Lyons merely confirms speculations.

     However, it is clearly stated while coming from an inside source.  A student of his times like Burroughs either was or could have been aware of everything Lyons says so one may assume that ERB was fighting the good fight in awareness.  One can hardly believe otherwise when one follows the story from Invincible through Quest.

     Lyons was one of a number of so-called apostates or renegades all of whom were well rewarded for their apostasy, probably from both sides.  Lyons himself received good paying jobs from ‘conservative’ magazines running the gamut from American Mercury to a plum at Reader’s Digest to his founding of the neocon magazine National Review with William Buckley as an Anglo-Saxon figurehead.

     The Digest rewarded a number of renegades such as Lyons and Max Eastman with terrifically good paying jobs that might better have gone to loyal Americans.  Thus the reward for Communists came from both sides of the fence.  I have no doubt they were all still on the Soviet payroll as Stalin laughed up his sleeve at us.

      From the Digest Lyons was intrumental in launching the National Review.  Which nation was never made clear.  As a complete greehorn of 22 in 1960 it took me about three issues to tear aside the veil of the phony conservatism of the National Review.

     But to return to the thirties.  A couple of key chapters of the Red Decade are X: The Liberals Invent A Utopia through XVI: The Incredible Revolution Spreads.

     If one equates the cult of the Leopard Men with Judaeo-Communism, as I do, then one of the more striking images in the book is that of the Leopard Men leading Kali Bwana as the goddess Kali through the steaming jungle with a rope around her neck.  This could be interpreted to symbolize the Semitic capture or supordination of Hindu mythology in the West.

     One may argue that Burroughs wouldn’t have been conscious of such an intent which while it may possibly be true is irrelevant.  The point is that ERB had the knowledge in his brain to conceive such an idea whether consciously or unconsciously.  One cannot get out of a brain what isn’t in it while anything in it will inevitably come out.  For instance, I first read Lyon’s book twenty years ago.  The info went in but I couldn’t recall the source or even the specific info.  On the rereading I recognized a great many facts and ideas that had gone into forming my own opinions.  Thus while I couldn’t have acknowledged Lyons as a source he, in fact, was one.  So whether consciously or unconsciously Burroughs used what he read or observed to form his images.

     In addition Kali Bwana is not only named after the Hindu goddess of birth, death and regeneration but she serves the same functions for Old Timer.  At the same time that Judaeo-Communism was taking over Hollywood and LA the great esoteric religious tradition was also firmly seated in LA and the suburbs.  This novel is clear evidence that Burroughs was familiar with one or even all of them.  He was an open minded and curious kind of guy.

     There was plenty to be curious about in the Southland too.  There were more esoteric outfits there than you could shake a stick at.  There were the Rosicrucians down in Oceanside, Aleister Crowley’s Golden Dawn out in Barstow, Manly Hall was advising the studios on esoteric matters, the Theosophists had their university but perhaps most important were the Vedantists.  It will be remembered that the founder of Vedantism, Swami Vivekananda, probably came to the young ERB’s attention during the 1893 Columbian Expo.  Vivekananda went back to India to teach after founding the Chicago temple which still exists.  In the year of the Fair by coincidence a man was born in India who undoubtedly left his mark on the ERB of the current period.  The Swami Prabhavananda was born in the year of the  Fair. ( http://www.vedanta.org/vssc/prabhavananda.htm )   He graduated from Calcutta University and then joined the Ramakrishna Order.  In 1923 he began his mission in the United States, serving first in San Francisco then migrating North to Portland.  In 1929 he established the Vedanta Society of Southern California.  There was a monastery in Hollywood.

     If we cut to 1936’s Tarzan’s Quest we will find ERB’s character Swami Kavandavanda and his monastery.  It would seem that between 1930-31 and 1936 that ERB was involved with the Vedanta Society.  In later years Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood would be involved with the Vedantists.  One wonders who ERB may have met in his years with the Vedantists.  Harry Carey?  Wouldn’t that have been a good joke.

     With the appearance of the goddess Kali in this book along with the wealth of female symbolism it would seem certain that by sometime in 1930 ERB became interested in Vedantism.  This means that the Broadhurst/Adams faction of the Bibliophiles who noted ERB’s esotericism whether Theosophical or not are right.

     Once within the temple of the Leopard God Kali Bwana is surrounded by the priestesses who are wearing only the skimpiest of g-strings.  They tear at Kali’s clothes until as ERB says she was wearing less than they were.  Must be totally naked as Mickey Spillane would say, here’s where we learn whether Kali Bwana is a true platinum blonde or not.  I’m betting she was.  Throughout most of the rest of the novel Kali Bwana was walking around nude.

     Once naked the priestesses dress, or adorn her, in the most barbaric but gorgeous fashion.  The goddess Kali is portrayed with a necklace of skulls.  ERB doesn’t give Kali Bwana a necklace of skulls but he does give her one of human teeth which is almost the same thing.  I don’t think there can be any mistaking that Our Man has been talking to Swami Prabhavananda.

     Decked out Kali Bwana is stood beside the Leopard God gazing out over a spectacular image of drunken dancing Africans leaping about.  As the Africans fall into a drunken stupor Chief Bobolo offers to help Old Timer and Kali Bwana escape.  At this point she becomes the universal White Woman under threat of rape by the Black hordes.

     As we clearly saw from Tarzan The Invincible the desirability of the White Woman for the other races or species was a sore point for ERB.  The fear of miscegenation apparently occupied his mind.  The gang rape of the two White Women by the Scottsboro Boys undoubtledly confirmed his worst fears.

     While Kali was undoubtedly influenced by Edwina Booth of the movie Trader Horn in which she was sensational ERB combined her with Jean Harlow to make her the whitest, blondest woman ever seen in the jungles of Africa.  She is so white she glows in the dark.  She is under threat of rape from the Africans not to mention Old Timer.

     Probably this protective attitude toward White Women is a large part of the reason Liberals denounce Leopard Men as Burroughs’ worst book.  Their purpose is to eliminate the White species; to wipe Whites off the face of  the earth by having White women subjected to ‘coloreds’ bearing colored children.  So that Burroughs attitude represents everything they hate.

      There are a couple sites on the internet that explain this issue quite bluntly.  Though they are ‘hate’ sites I’m not going to obscure the issue in name calling.  The facts speak for themselves.  One Peoples Project outrightly advocates violence against people who disagree with this viewpoint.  This attitude is, of course, sound Liberalism as attested by Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.  The other, more academically inclined site is called Race Traitor.  Their motto is- treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.  Such a slogan could be construed as anti-Semtitic.  They make no bones about eliminating Whites from the face of the earth.  In a paper delivered at UC Berkeley over 4/11-13/97, what I’m quoting must be a condensed version, the founder of Race Traitor, Noel Ignatiev, formerly of Harvard since transferred to the Massachusetts College of Art, explains his position thusly:

     Various commentators have stated that their aim is to identify and preserve a white identity.  Abolitionists (of the Whites species) deny the existence of a positive white identity.  We at Race Traitor, the journal with which I am associated, have asked some of those who think whiteness contains positive elements to indicate what they are.  We are still waiting for an answer.  (From whom, specifically, Professor Ignatiev does not indicate.)  Until we get one, we will take our stand with David Roediger, who has insisted that whiteness is not merely oppressive and false, it is nothing but oppressive and false.  As James Baldwin said, “So long as you think you are white, there is no hope for you.”

     …Whiteness is not a culture…Whiteness has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with social position.  It is nothing but a reflection of privilege, and exists for no other reason than to defend it.

     (Here comes the clincher.)  Either America is a very democratic country where cab drivers beat up city councilmen with impunity…(or what?

     It goes on like that.  One doesn’t argue with such logic even if the speaker is a Harvard educated professor and intimate of Rabbi Schneerson.  It goes without question that the professor is of the Jewish Culture.  He is also associated with Harvard’s W.E.B. Dubois Institute for African-American Research as well as with his own Race Traitor.

      The question here is as an abolitionist how does one abolish a human species?  Prof. Ignatiev twists logic here, which should surprise no one, from abolishing a thing- slavery- to abolishing a people- genocide.  How does an abolitionist go about committing genocide of a billion, never mind six million, people or so?  What in his mind makes eliminating a billion more just than eliminating six million.  Liberals can talk like this without the least hint of shame.

     Very likely he will employ the time honored manner– kill the men, appropriate the women.  In this case convincing White Women it is their duty to pair with non-White men.  Burroughs’ worst fears realized.

     If White women bear colored children ‘whiteness’ disappears.  Easy enough.  Convincing them isn’t that hard.  The males, whether they pair with colored women or not will die out.  If they do, more colored children.  It’s a dream but not that far fetched.  It will be noted that Prof. Ignatiev of Harvard has not paired with a black woman however so as not to dilute his Jewish ‘genes’ per Rabbi Schneerson.

     One can plainly see an ideological basis for condemning Tarzan And The Leopard Men as well as Burroughs in general as Prof. Slotkin does.  Thus when one reads that Leopard Men is Burroughs’ worst one has to ask on what basis.  I’ve read it very carefully and find it certainly no worse than the rest of the oeuvre while on many levels I find it better.  People like Prof. Ignatiev aren’t going to say the real reason they don’t like the book is because Burroughs is intent on preserving women of the ‘White race’ because that does sound bad but just that the book is ‘bad’ in general.  No reasons needed.  But their distaste is because of ‘race’ because this is the most racially conscious novel in the oeuvre.

     A main source of tension is whether Kali Bwana will have Black men forced on her.  Burroughs was horrified at the prospect.  He expects that the reader will share his revulsion also.

     While I have not found the reason that Leopard Men was not released in 1932, possibly because the publishing program was already set in Burrough’s mind, City of Gold being next, a probable reason for its being released in 1936 was the continued agitation for the release of the Scottsboro Boys by the Communists.  It would be intgeresting to note any changes made in the story between the magazine edition of 1932 and the book version of 1936.


Tarzan, The Utengans And The Leopard Men

Why have historians, sociologists and economists

Nothing to tell us now?

There may indeed be some excuse

For the failure of politicans under democratic conditions

But have our universities

Been doing nothing about it?

Is there indeed no science of these things?

Is there no knowledge?

Has history learnt nothing of causes,

And is there no analysis of the social processes that are destroying us?

–H.G. Wells, The Shape Of Things To Come pp. 122-23

          There is little more obvious than that Leopard Men was a spur of the moment inspiration that Burroughs acted on.  At the same time hsi mind became marvelously focused.  Overall he wrote four books in 1931.  And he wrote very quickly.  Tarzan Triumphant was written in 82 days.  He took 47 to knock out Tarzan And The Leopard Men, 34 days to write Pirates Of Venus and another 47 days to set down Tarzan And The City Of Gold.   That’s a lot of material.  I’m not here to discuss literary quality; suffice it to say that all four are still being read today.

     I have already discussed several probable inspirations for Leopard Men.  We will examine religious matters in some detail here.  There is a curious dissociation here between the story of Tarzan as Muzimo and the story of Old Timer and Kali Bwana.  For most of the book they are two stories running side by side that only begin to blend about halfway through the book and then with very little emotional involvement on the part of Tarzan.  In the sort of split personality of Burroughs it is as though Tarzan has no interest in Burroughs extra-marital affairs, perhaps even revolted by them.

     That Burroughs himself was struggling with his problems is evident from the fact that Tarzan is bashed once again suffering amnesia yet another time.

     If one has read only one or two of the Tarzan books the problem of repetition does not come up but if one has read the complete oeuvre at least once several themes and variations present themselves with enough regularity to be troublesome if one doesn’t try to penetrate their meaning.  As is evident from the title of this series of reviews I try to understand this repetition as various themes and variations with meaning that is signficant to ERB’s psychology.

      The single most frequently used motif is the bashings that Tarzan suffers from novel to novel while in this novel he takes two incredible blows to the head while being stunned unconscious falling from a tree in the Pygmy viillage.

     In a variation of the blows received in Ant Men when a blow to the forehead makes Tarzan smaller and it is facetiously suggested that a blow to the back of the head would make him larger, in Leopard men one blow makes his lose his memory while a second causes him to regain it.

     One has to question the consciousness changing nature of these blows to the head.  They obviously all refer to the blow to the forehead ERB received in Toronto which caused him so much trouble.  The blow was obviously the kind one never forgets.  The closest I can come for comparison is when I fell on the back of my head while ice skating during high school.  I don’t think I was out but I might have been for a few seconds.  I literally saw stars.  I can  relive the experience today and I can still visualize the stars, so there is every reason to believe that ERB relived the Tornonto incident every day if not every moment of his life.  If one counted the bashings in the corpus they would probably number in the thousands.  many, many authors have written stories without one such incident.

     In this novel Tarzan loses his memory at the very beginning when a tree falls on his head.  Yes, a tree.  This gives some indication of how the Toronto blow felt.  It too was a life changing experience.  In this story even though unconscious of the purpose of his visit to the Utenga country Tarzan fulfills his purpose destroying both the village and temple of the Leopard Men.  One wonders if that isn’t how Burroughs saw his life, a sort of unconscious realization of his hopes and dreams so that like Tarzan he was thankful for the blow.  I think it unlikely but perhaps his literary career did stem from the blow in Toronto.

     He does say that he was able to get lost in his storyline for periods of time returning only after having written them.  What sort of dual life was the man living while lost in the ozone?  I think the problem bears some examination.  ERB may be giving clinical details of his own plight after Toronto.  Read Girl From Farris’s carefully.

     When he awakens he encounters the Utengan Orando who is out hunting.  Orando was named afer a dead ancestor.  Each Utengan had a a guardian angel called a muzimo who he was named after.  So Tarzan who Orando mistakes for his muzimo is actually named Orando in the story although his descendant Orando calls him Muzimo.  Probably saves a little confusion.  As Tarzan has no other identity he accepts Orando’s evaluation at face value becoming Orando the Muzimo.  ERB refers to him only as Muzimo during this part of the story.  ERB skillfully blends the natural deeds of Muzimo into a supernatural matrix in Orando’s mind.  Thus the natural and supernatural become one.  I’m sure we can all see that ERB is heading in the direction of another of his religious analyses.

     In a fashion Tarzan returns from the dead.  As the ancestor of Orando he has come back.  Without committing myself to the notion one still recalls that at this time there was a great interest in spiritualism.  A sound intellect like Conan Doyle’s played seriously with notions of communicating with the dead on the ‘other side.’  Seances were a social event.  H.G. Wells wrote a novel disparaging the idea a couple years previously so it is possible that ERB is weighing in with his little joke.

     Of interest is the fact that Harry Houdini ne Ehrich Weiss died Halloween night of 1926 vowing to return if it was possible.  People believed that if anyone could do it this great escape artist was the man.  Ever since seances have been held on Halloween night in the hopes of contacting Houdini.  It is also interesting to note that Houdini and his then partner performed at the Columbian Expo in 1893 so it is possible that ERB saw Houdini then and may have remembered him.  It’s a stretcher I know to even hint that ERB had Houdini in mind for a background for Muzimo but in Orando’s mind Muzimo does break on through from the other side.  I would  seriously argue that there is a reference to spiritualism.  I think it clear that ERB is once again ridiculing supernaturalism.

     Let us analyze the scene when Muzimo meets Sobito.  As the story opened a Utengan, Nyamwegi, had been murdered by the Leopard Men.  He was Orando’s friend.  Just as Orando projected the identity of muzimo on Tarzan so he projected the spirit of Nyamwegi on the monkey, Nkima, who was Tarzan’s companion.  These identities were accepted by Orando’s fellow tribesmen with the exception of the witch-doctor Sobito who was also a secret Leopard Man hence disloyal to the Utengas.

     ERB describes the encounter thusly:

     There was one skeptic, however.  It was the village witch-doctor, who doubtless felt it was not good business to admit too much credence in a miracle not of his own making.  Whatever he felt, and it is quite possible that he was as much in awe as the others, he hid it under a mask of indifference, for he must always impress the laity with his own importance.

     The attention bestowed on this stranger irked him; it also pushed him entirely out of the limelight.  This nettled him greatly.  therefore to call attention to himself, as well as reestablish his importance, he strode boldly up to Muzimo.  Whereupon the Spirit of Nyamwegi screamed shrilly and took refuge behind the back of his patron.  The attention of the village was now attracted to the witch-doctor, which was precisely what he desired.  The chattering ceased.  All eyes were on the two.  This was the moment the witch-doctor had awaited.  He puffed himself to his full height and girth.  He swaggered before the spirit of Orando’s ancestor.  Then he addressed him in a loud tone.

     “You say that you are the muzimo of Orando, the son of Lobongo; but how do we know your words are true words?  You say that the little monkey is the ghost of Nyamwegi.  How do we know that, either?”

     ‘Who are you, old man, who asks me these questions?”  demanded Muzimo.

     “I am Sobito, the witch-doctor.”

     “You say you are Sobito, the wtich-doctor, but how do I know that your words are true words?”

     “Everyone knows that I am Sobito, the witch-doctor.”  The old man was becoming excited.  He discovered that he had suddenly been put on the defensive, which was not at all what he had intended, “Ask anyone.  they all know me.”

     “Very well, then,”  said Muzimo:  “Ask Orando who I am.  He alone knows me.  I have not said that I am his muzimo.  I have not said that the little monkey is the ghost of Nyamwegi.  I have not said who I am.  I have not said anything.  It does not make any difference to me who you think I am.  But if it makes a difference to you, ask Orando,” whereupon he turned about and walked away, leaving Sobito to feel that he had been made to appear ridiculous in the eyes of his clansmen.

     Fanatical, egotistical, and unscrupulous, the old witch-doctor was a power in the village of Tumbai.  For years he had exerted his influence, sometimes for good, sometimes for evil, upon the village.  Even Lobongo, the chief, was not as powerful as Sobito, who played upon the superstitions and fears of his ignorant followers until they dared not disobey his slightest wish.

     What we have here is the clash of two religious systems one led by Tarzan and that of the Leopard Men led by Sobito.  It should be remembered that Sobito has infiltrated Utengan society and in Communist terminology is ‘boring from within’.  His first loyalty is to the Leopard Men so that he advises Lupingu to betray Orando’s expedition against the Leopard Men.  Thus he betrays his ostensible people while sabotaging their ends.

     Tarzan, or Muzimo, on the other hand works loyally to defeat the enemy of Orando and his Utengans.

     As I maintain one cannot separate Burroughs or his writing from the political and religious trends of his time.  Nor should his understanding be distorted by today’s religious or political evaluation of his times.  ERB acted according to the knowledge and understanding of his time.

     Thus the Leopard Men must represent the Judaeo-Communists.  There is no accident that Sobito is a religious figure more powerful than the temporal figure, Chief Lobongo.  Sobito has been able to conceal his identity as a Leopard Man.  Only Muzimo (Tarzan really has no other identity in this part of the story) is able to ferret out the true identity of Sobito.

     So in American society Judaeo-Communists preferred disguises to being identified in their true guises.  Exposure would have led to discreditization.  It was somewhat like the Arthurian romances when knights wore other men’s armor so that they could only be identified by people familiar with their characteristics.  Or in contemporary society being exposed as a racist or anti-Semite.

     Tarzan, as we learn later, came into this country to discover the Leopard Men’s haunts.  Working from within Utengan society in the disguise of Muzimo he is able to destroy them.  Very much, one imagines as ERB wanted to do with the Judaeo-Communists in Hollywood.

     One can almost envision Rabbi Schneerson in all his magical paraphernalia as the witch-doctor Sobito.  Indeed there isn’t much difference between the two and this was probably ERB’s intent.  Of course he had his own models as Schneerson came later.

     In an effort to ‘expose’ Muzima as a fake, equivalent of anti-Semite, Sobito has performed a number of magical rites, p. 40:

     Suddenly he halted and stooping low tossed some powder from his pouch upon the fire and then with the root of the Hyaena tail he drew a rude geometric figure in the dust before the blaze.  Stiffening, he closed his eyes and appeared to be listening intently, his face turned partially upward.

     In awestruck silence the warriors leaned forward, waiting.  It was a tense moment and quite effective.  Sobito prolonged it to the utmost.  At last he opened his eyes and let them move solemnly about the circle of expectant faces, waiting again before he spoke.

     “There are many ghosts about us,”  he announced, “They all speak against this war, those who go to battle with the Leopard Men will die.  None will return.  The ghosts are angry with Orando.  The true muzimo of Orando spoke to me, it is angry with Orando.  Let Orando beware.  That is all; the young men will not go to war against the Leopard Men.”

     The warriors gathered behind Orando looked questioningly at him and at Muzimo.  Doubt was written plainly on every face.  Gradually they began to move, drifting immperceptively away from Orando.  Then the son of the chief looked at Muzimo questioningly.  “If Sobito has spoken true words,”  he said, ‘You are not my muzimo.”  the words seemed a challenge.

     “What does Sobito know about it?”  demanded Muzio.  “I could build a fire and wave the tail of Dongo.  I culd make marks in the dirt and throw powders on the fire.  Then I could tell you whatever I wanted to tell you, just as Sobito has told you what he wanted you to believe; but such things prove nothing.  The only way you can know if a war against the Leopard Men will succeed is to send warriors to fight them.  Sobito knows nothing of it.”

     Surprisingly reason triumphed here.  The Utengans did fight the Leopard Men and with the ‘more powerful magic’ or reason of Muzimo they succeeded.

     One notices the similarity between the magical methods of Sobito and those of Rabbi Schneerson.  They date nearly from the same psychologcial period of evolution as do those of Sobito.  Rather than a hyaena’s tail the Rabbi has more attachments than a computer on his body.   The box on his head is supposed to put him in direct contact with not only his Muzimo or god, but what he fancies is the universal god.  His coat of colors is arranged just so, straps and fringes, all with their special magical meanings abound.  In the old pre-scientific days his people were ‘chosen’ by their god; in the light of subsequent scientific knowledge the Rabbi has created out of whole cloth the notion that there is a genetic difference between his people and all others, indeed, that they are a separate and superior species.  Thus, by his reckoning there are two species of humans in the world, us and them.  Nothing has changed but the justification.

     You can hear Burroughs laughing through Tarzan’s mouth.  Religious blather is religious blather.

     Having thus set up a conflict between the Utengans and the Leopard Men on a religious basis replicating the Judaeo-Communist situation  of the West and Hollywood ERB then has Muzimo set about destroying them.  The rest of the story of Muzimo among the Utengans is the story of the conflict between the two religions in which, of course, the Leopard Men are destroyed and the Utengas triumph.

     Once Tarzan regains his memory  the Big Bwana becomes involved in solving the problem of Old Timer and Kali Bwana.

     But that can be dealt with in relating that plot in Part V.

A Review

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

Themes And Variations



R.E. Prindle


Edgar Rice Burroughs.

    While Tarzan And The Leopard Men is not well thought of by Bibliophiles being considered the worst of the series, I can’t find any reason to believe this.  I couldn’t place it in the top five but the book is on a general par with the rest of the series, perhaps a little better.

     I think the problem arises because it is thought to portray the African in a negative light.  As with the Mafia there are those who deny the Leopard cult because it is offensive to their sensibilities.  They prefer to see the African as a ‘noble savage.’  I have no problem with this attitude but I prefer historical accuracy to anything I might wish to believe.

Trader Horn

    The existence of the Leopard cult in no way diminishes the character of the African.  Secret societies are part of every culture in this multi-cultural world.  Many of them are murderous.  The Assasins of Hasani Sabah of Persia are a notorious example.   The Illuminati who were responsible for the worst atrocities of the French Revolution are another.  The Freemasons who while perhaps not so violent function, have functioned and do function as a secret brotherhood who help each other against society.  The Mafia and Organized Crime in general are secret societies on a par with Leopard Men.  During the thirties Lepke Buchalter ran the infamous Murder, Inc.  So I see no reason to lower one’s opinion of the book because it may seem to certain sensibilities, by no means shared by all,  to  disparage the Negro.  The events in the Congo after independence and the events in Shonaland happening now are so horrific they make the Leopard Men seem like novices.

     The book Tarzan And The Leopard Men was written over July-September of 1931; a trifle of a rush job even for a fast writer like Burroughs.  The story was published in Blue Book from Auguast 1932 to January 1933.  Book publication was delayed until 1936 so there may have been some editing to reflect personal events over that period.

     As the novel shows a rather direct influence from both the book and movie of Trader Horn Burroughs may have received some criticism from the magazine publication hence delaying book publication until time had dimmed the memory.

     When Burroughs formed his publishing company he had expected to write a Tarzan novel a year.  That schedule would have been adhered to except for this novel that was interjected into the series out of order of its writing.

     The cause of the disturbance is very easy to find.  In February of 1931 MGM released it great African epic Trader Horn.  According to the ERBzine Bio Timeline for the 1930s, on February 23 ERB and Emma drove into Hollywood to catch the show.  So we do know exactly when he saw the movie, or, at least, the first half of it.  At intermission Emma remembered that they were to babysit for daughter Joan drawing her husband from the theatre.  I’m sure ERB steamed over that for more than a day.

     At that date he was in the midst of writing Tarzan Triumphant but Trader Horn aroused him so much that he began to plan a rejoinder.  After completing Triumphant in May he conceived Leopard Men and rushed it through.  Perhaps ERB thought Horn infringed on the Big Bwana’s African domain as Leopard Men is a virtual reformulation of Horn using elements from both the book and movie.  Of course ERB ‘adapted’ Horn for his own needs.  Trader Horn was to be an influence on the rest of the series.

The African Chief

     Trader Horn as a book first appeared in 1927.  It was a non-fiction best seller in both ’27 and ’28, in the top five for both years, a tremendous success.  That alone might have aroused ERB’s jealousy.  Whether he read the book between its issue date and his viewing of the movie isn’t known but that he had read it by the time he wrote Leopard Men is clear.  The title does not appear in his library although Director W.S. Van Dyke’s 1931 story of the African filming, Horning Into Africa,  does.  ERB undoubtedly used Van Dyke’s book as background for his 1933 effort, Tarzan And The Lion Man.

     Don’t look for a copy of Van Dyke in your library; the book was privately printed and distributed.  Copies are available on the internet but at collector prices of from one to several hundreds of dollars.  Thus it will readily be seen how large a space Trader Horn formed in ERB’s consciousness.

     I’m sure that when Emma dragged him from the theatre to babysit, ERB had no idea how influential Trader Horn was going to be in his life.  For at least three years his career centered around it.  In 1931 he saw the movie, possibly read the book for the first time and wrote Leopard Men.  In ’31 the contract with MGM surrendering the rights to the portrayal of his Tarzan characters was signed.  Then Van Dyke and Hume fashioned Tarzan, The Ape Man after Trader Horn.  Tarzan, The Ape Man was a major success changing the public’s understanding of the character of Tarzan from a literate cosmopolite to feral child.  In answer Burroughs wrote a parody of Van Dyke’s African filming of Trader Horn.  When the screen Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, gave up the role in the late forties he put on some clothes and became Jungle Jim who might very well have been modeled on Trader Horn.  Perhaps an inside joke.


Trader Horn and Ethelreda Lewis

     At the time Alfred Aloysius ‘Wish’ Smith otherwise known as Trader Horn told his story to the woman who wrote it up and got it published, Ethelreda Lewis,  he was a seventy year old derelict living in a doss house in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Etheldreda Lewis was a well-known South African novelist.

     Horn made his meager living by making wire gridirons and selling them door to door.  He had developed a sad sack routine meant to induce housewives to buy his gridirons out pity.  It worked with Mrs. Lewis.

     She engaged him in conversation.  As a novelist she realized he had a story to tell, she encouraged him to do so.  Horn wrote up a chapter a week bringing it to her on Mondays.  As she treated him respectfully offering him tea and cakes and a last chance at self-respect before he peeled off for the other side of the river he managed to prolong his story over twenty-six chapters and one presumes as many weeks of tea and cakes.  Trader Horn the book is indicated to be Vol. I.  There is a volume two telling of his other adventures.  Vol. I is currently in print for 16.95, probably less on Amazon.  Highly recommended.

     In addition to Horn’s story Mrs. Lewis also recorded their weekly conversation which she appends to each chapter.   Horn makes some very interesting and timely observations, a little sad but on the knowing side.  I’m sure ERB was sympathetic as Horn confirmed his own beliefs.  Altogether a very interesting and entertaining book  which should have been a best seller not only for two years but more.

     Horn’s experiences were so wonderful that naturally the question has arisen as to how accurate his recollections may be.  I have read a number of vulgar opinions stating that Mr. Horn was a liar.  I take offense at such an assertion.  The man was relating his life.  He may possibly have gotten a few details wrong but, as they say in Hollywood, his life was based on a true story.

     I have read the book five times now within the last four years.  My opinion as to Horn’s veracity is this.  He very much wants to please and prolong a pleasant interlude to a rather grim life at the time.  He had read a number of books including Burroughs and Du Chaillu.  He claims to have known the French explorer De Brazza.  He was an educated, intelligent and experienced man.  He had apparently always had literary leanings.

     Everyone has to be somewhere every moment of their lives and I have no doubt that Horn was on the Ogowe River in Gabon  at the time he says he was.  As a reader I hope I can perceive the ring of authenticity in a man’s reminiscences .  Also I have been around myself enough to have seen some things, even seen some repeatedly, for which I get looks of incredulity, so just because I haven’t seen some things doesn’t mean they aren’t true.  I reserve the right to question them to myself but stranger things have happened than I’ve ever seen.

     While Horn is telling his own story I think he tries to make a good story better combining fiction with a factual tale.  One questions his story of the White Goddess, Nina T.  That story just doesn’t ring true.  It seems like he borrows a little from ERB.  Nina T. has been the Egbo goddess since the age of four, five or six being now in her twenties.  She was the daughter of an English trader George T.  who died when amongst the Blacks.  They then appropriated her to groom as their White Goddess.

     While Horn is plotting to spirit her away he has to communicate with her in writing, one imagines cursive.  He has to explain how she can read, write and understand English.  Nina T. and Tarzan should have gotten together.  Horn explains that before George T. died he taught the very young Nina how to read and write using a picture alphabet book.  Over the intervening twenty years or so Nina never forgot, itself a great feat of memory.  Not quite as amazing an accomplishment as Tarzan teaching himself to read and write from possibly the identical picture alphabet book but still very impressive.

     The natives also have a giant ruby as a fetish that Horn says he lifted by having a replica made solely from a description he sent to his friend Peru.  As he was the first White man to be initiated into Egbo such a betrayal  of his oath doesn’t speak well for his integrity or trustworthiness.

     Thus, while I don’t have any trouble believing his trading and hunting adventures I have to conclude that as Burroughs would say, he was ‘fictionizing’ the rest.  Nevertheless it makes a good story and if relating it  made him feel good so much the better.  No reason to call him a liar and his story lies.

     One has conflicting reports on his subsequent life.  On one hand there is a story he lived well off the proceeds of the book in England.  When he was about to die the story goes that he said:  Where’s me passport, boys, I’m off to Africa.  Famous last words, indeed.  On the other hand it is said that he died in 1927 in SA before he received the fruits of his labor.  I would like to think he lived long enough to see a version of his story on the silver screen.  If he had one imagines he would have been brought to Hollywood for the premier.  He wasn’t.

    So, whichever way he went, a tip of the hat for you Trader Horn.

Filming Trader Horn


Horn, Van Dyke, Hume and Burroughs

     Had ERB known of Trader Horn in far off South Africa turning in his weekly installments to Mrs. Lewis I doubt if he would have realized how large a part Horn’s story was to play in his own life.

     When the book was published and became a bestseller, something which Burroughs must have heard of, there must have been a glimmer of interest but still no recognition of Horn’s future impact on his life.  When he saw Van Dyke’s movie he was duly impressed  and was influenced but still probably had no idea of what loomed ahead.

     By 1932’s MGM movie, Tarzan, The Ape Man, he had begun to realize the significance of Trader Horn to his own life.  When he sat down to write Tarzan And The Lion Man the Old Campaigner was aware.  While no copy of Trader Horn found its way into his library we know for certain he read it.  A book that did find its way into his library was W.S. Van Dyke’s account of the filming of Trader Horn, Horning Into Africa of 1931.  This book was used as the basis for Tarzan And The Lion Man.

     It seems certain that Van Dyke read Trader Horn shortly after issue.  By 1929 as the book was moving down the charts Van Dyke, a cast of many and several tens of tons of equipment were moving to Africa to form a safari to end all safaris.  Not since Henry Morton Stanley in his quest for Livingstone had Africa seen such a spectacle.

     Trader Horn was the first entertainment  film shot on location in Africa.  All the footage was authentic except those scenes shot on lot in Hollywood.  I’m learning to talk Hollywood…all, except.  The movie was a mind blower when it hit the theatres being one of the biggest grossers of all time.  Burroughs saw it, picked up his pen, dictaphone or whatever, and following the script and book closely dashed off Tarzan And The Leopard Men leaving out the bit about the music box.  Let’s compare the three versions of Trader Horn.

     In the book Horn is the central character.  He is a young man of seventeen or eighteen who has run away from school.  Peru, his schoolhood chum, does not enter the story until the very end.  His faithful Black companion, Renchoro, plays a very secondary auxliary role.

     In the movie Horn is a grizzled Old Africa Hand tutoring his young pal, Peru.  In the opening scene they are sitting around the campfire before setting out for the interior.

     Burroughs follows the movie  in having Old Timer teaming up with his young pal, The Kid.  Even though the character of Old Timer seems to be based on a man of Burroughs’ age it is explained that he is under thirty while the Kid is twenty-two.  Maybe ERB looked old but felt young.

      In Horn Nina T. is a dark haired beauty the daughter of an Englishman George T. and an octaroon which means Nina is one sixteenth Negro but not so’s you could tell.  She is literate, after a fashion, being able to read Horn’s handwritten notes in English.  Horn buys her European clothes which she wears while yet a goddess.

     In the movie Nina is a real primitive with the brain of an ape.  Burroughs may have been thinking of her when he created Balza of Lion Man.  She is astonishingly well played by Edwina Booth who has a mane of blond hair that would have gained her entrance as the queen of the Hippies in the sixties.  A very exciting appearance.  Just as Van Dyke and Hume made Tarzan an illiterate they show no favors to Nina.  She couldn’t have begun the the alphabet let alone recite it.

The White Goddess And Her Subjects

   In the book her mother died before her father.  In the movie Horn and Peru encounter her mother walking through the jungle in search of a daughter lost twenty years previously.  I laughed.  I wouldn’t know if anyone else did as I was watching alone in front of my TV.  By the way the VHS I was fortunate enough to buy new for twenty dollars, now out of print, is advertised on Amazon for up to one hundred seventy-five dollars.  What a strange world.  I hope they issue it on DVD.  Maybe this essay will spur enough interest.

     Horn coyly refused to give Nina’s last name as she is an heiress to the T. fortune which had been claimed long before.  The movie boldly proclaims her as Nina Trent.

     As Burroughs tells it, the future White Goddess is known as Kali Bwana, a name the natives gave to her.  Her real name is Jessie Jerome.  Her brother is Jerome Jerome.  This is probably a coy reference to the English writer Jerome K. Jerome whose classic Three Men In A Boat was in ERB’s library as well as Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow.  Three Men is supposed to be one of the most comic books in the English language.  If so, it was too subtle or too broad for this reader.  I didn’t find it amusing.  ERB must have liked it.  Jerry Jerome covers the Jerome Jerome parts of the name while the K of Kid provides the middle initial.   Jerome K. Jerome.

     The names are conceald from us until the very end of the book so there must be a haw haw there for the knowing reader.  ERB calls Jerome Jerry never calling him Jerome Jerome.

     Kali Bwana or Jessie Jerome is ‘what is known as a platinum blonde.’  So the goddess has gone from dark hair to the blondest.  Jean Harlow had starred in Howard Hughes 1930 production of Hell’s Angels making her the Blonde Bombshell of Htown so ERB was duly impressed.

     In the book Horn was a bright young man, in the movie, an old African hand.  In Burroughs although ‘not yet thirty’ he is an Old Timer, a bum because of what a woman done to him.  Since Kali Bwana/Florence redeems his attitude toward women we are free to assume that Emma was the woman what done it to ERB.

     Kali Bwana is deserted in the jungle by her safari because she refuses to submit to the embraces of her Negro headman.  Old Timer discovers her camp where she tells him she is looking for her brother Jerry Jerome, in yet another parody of Stanley and Livingstone.  Old Timer and the Kid have never asked each other’s names so Old Timer has never heard of Jerry Jerome, even though he is Old Timer’s partner.  Thus the rest of the story need never have happened had they known each other’s names.  ERB likes this sort of thing, using it often.

     Old Timer puts Kali Bwana under his protection which proves ineffective against the Leopard Men who seize her and carry her away to their Josh house to be their goddess.

     In the book Renchoro is merely an associate of Horn.  In the movie Renchoro becomes virtually a romantic interest of Horn.  Several scenes are tinged with homosexual overtones, especially Renchoro’s death scene while when Peru and Nina T. board the paddle wheeler for the return to civilization and Horn remains behind a big balloon containing a picture of Renchoro appears as a hearthrob for Horn.  Horn returns to the jungle presumably to find a substitute for Renchoro.  Interesting comment on the Black-White relationship.

     In the Burroughs’ story the Black-White relationship is removed to one between Tarzan and Orando.  Tarzan has a tree fall on his head as the story opens not unsurprisingly giving him another case of amnesia.  Orando happens along.  He is about to put an arrow through the Big Bwana  when Tarzan speaks to him in his own dialect.  A handy thing to not only know every dialect in Africa, human and animal,  but to know when to employ the appropriate one.  Probably has something to do with a refined sense of smell.

     Speaking of ape languages, Spain is about to vote on a measure  giving apes human status in the country.  So not only is the human species to be counted politically in Spain but leaping the Last Hominid Predecessor, an entirely different evolutionary strain is to be accounted human.  It will be interesting to see how the Spanish ape population votes.

     Orando then mistakes Tarzan for Muzimo or his guardian spirit.  Thus for most of the book the relationship between Muzimo and Orando is that of the movie between Horn and Renchoro.  And also between God and Human.

     Horn traded on the Ogowe River in Gabon.  Much of his story concerns his navigation of the Ogowe and its tributaries.  Unlike every other African explorer I have read Horn makes Africa seem a wonderland.  Every other writer makes Africa dark and forboding with piles of human skulls laying around, walkways lined with skulls.  Horn’s Africans are laughing back slappers who are merry even as they are shooting and killing each other.  The rain forest along the Congo depresses all other explorers but Horn finds the Ogowe otherwise.  The skulls are still there but Horn apparently finds them amusing.  The river Horn navigates unlike those of Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness or Stanley’s Through The Dark Continent and In Darkest Africa is a  bright cheery place.  Maybe it’s all a state of mind.

     Van Dyke has only one river and that does not play a central role while it is on the dark side, a river of death.  It is also the Nile in East Africa.  Most of the movie takes place on terra firma.

     Burroughs makes the rivers central to his story but they are dark, violent rivers of death.  ERB borrows more heavily from Stanley on this score than he does from Horn.  Actually, if one is looking for similarities there is some resemblance of Horn’s story to the Beasts Of Tarzan, but the latter is based on Edgar Wallace’s Sanders Of The River.  We don’t know what of Burroughs Horn read; it is quite possible that he read a few of the six or seven Tarzans available in his time.

     Horn has the Egbo fraternity practicing their rites in a long building quite similar to that employed in Burroughs’ Cave Girl of 1913.  Horn would have had to have read that in magazine form which is possible but seems a stretch.

     Van Dyke has his rites practiced in the open.  Horn originates the idea of crucifying the victims upside down so that when the head is cut off the blood drains into a pot for ritual uses.  Van Dyke includes an upside down crucifixion but leaves out the more grisly details.

     Burroughs dispenses with the crucifixion scene entirely relying on his often used cannibalism.  This may be one of the reasons the book is disliked.  In the sixties the traditional cannibal cooking pot was derided as a false stereotype of the African.  It was denied that cannibalism had ever been practiced in Africa.  Black musical groups in the US like Cannibal And The Headhunters ridiculed the facts.  Thus imputing cannibalism to Africa became bad taste.  Perhaps when Leopard Men was reprinted in 1964 its heavy reliance on such rituals prejudiced a certain mental outlook against it so the story was derided as the worst of Burroughs novels.  While very dark and even gruesome the story isn’t noticeably inferior to any of the others.

     In the book Horn is not only on good terms with the various tribes but he was the first White man initiated into the Egbo society.  Egbo is at its most innocent a sort of Freemasonic society and at its worst on a par with the Leopard Men.  Horn describes Egbo as a sort of vigilante society who do in anyone  any member has a grievance against.  Neither Egbo nor Leopard Men figure into Van Dyke’s movie.  As I understand it , Nina T.’s people merely practice savage primitive rites.

     Burroughs who has moved his story from the Ogowe of Gabon to the Aruwimi of the Ituri Rain Forest with which he was familair from Stanley’s account in his In Darkest Africa relates the Leopard cult that was notorious at the time.  Horn does have a lot of leopards in his story giving a detailed description of how their talons leave cuts looking like they were sliced by knives.  His natives wear a lot of leopard skins.  There isn’t much on Egbo available on the internet except a notice that it originated on the Calabar Coast which, if I’m not mistaken is where the Leopard cult comes from.

     Fellow Bibliophile David Adams gives a good short account of the Leopard Men.

     Burroughs undoubtedly  had sources so that his presentation is based on facts of the Leopard Men but adapted for his own purposes.  Thus he makes the Leopard Men  the central idea of the story.  Tarzan becomes involved with the Leopard Men through his role as the Muzimo of Orando.  As an ally of Orando’s Utenga people Tarzan engineers the destruction of the Leopard Men’s village and cult in that part of his domain.

     In Horn’s book as a member of Egbo he is familiar with the Negroes, a member of the cult and has full access  to the ldge and, in fact, Nina T.  He has no difficulty in rescuing her whatever.  He had just previously defeated the Egbo chief in battle so that worthy was thoroughly cowed refusing to even give chase.

     In Van Dyke’s movie Horn and Peru wander into an African Chief’s village attempting to trade.  The chief is uninterested in trading seizing them as victims for his sacrifical rites.

     Horn and and Peru as trade goods offer the chief a music box that the chief scorns.  In the book the music box is known as Du Chaillu’s Music Box.  At some earlier time Du Chaillu while researching gorillas had left a music box and compass behind that enthralled the Africans.  Peru shows up with another that they leave behind, presumably in payment for the monster ruby.

     Van Dyke apparently thought the music box ridiculous while Burroughs doesn’t use it at all although he does follow the movie scene with the African chief closely.

     In his version the Old Timer in pursuit of Kali Bwana learns that she was abducted by Gato Mgungu and taken to his village.  Gato means cat so perhaps the name has some reference to leopards.  Gato Mgungu is chief of the Leopard Men.  Old Timer who has traded with Mgungu before barges into his village alone demanding he release Kali Bwana.  In the movie the chief is a tall, extremely well built, handsome fellow.  Quite astonishing actually, while Burroughs gives Mgungu a huge pot belly.  Old Timer is given as short a shrift as the movie Horn.  He is seized, dumped in a canoe and taken down river to the Leopard Men’s lodge also, as in the movie, destined for the stew pot.

     In the book Horn and Nina T. are well acquainted.  She trusts him and is eager to be rescued.  They easily escape down river in Horn’s boat.  In the movie Horn and Peru are shown o Nina T. who falls in love with Peru.  Somehow an escape plan is concocted that she more or less leads.  They are hotly pursued by her people.  The band finds its way to the trading post on the river although Renchoro is killed.

     Burroughs has Kali Bwana taken to the lodge where with titillating details involving gorgeous nudity she is prepared to serve as chief goddess of the Leopard King who is a real leopard along the lines of the various lion kings of Burrough’s stories.

     Old Timer is held captive among the crowd of Leopard Men gathered for the rites.  As Kali Bwana is led out they both recognize  each other and gasp.  Unknown to everyone the Big Bwana is up in the rafters observing everything.  From then on he becomes the agent of deliverance.

     In the book Nina T. having been rescued, Horn provides the happiest of endings.  Horn and Peru have only one goddess between them.  She must go to one or the other.  The happy-go-lucky goddess is willing to take either the one or the other so they flip a coin for her.  The outcome is obvious since Horn didn’t marry her.  Peru wins the toss and gets the goddess.  Peru is the son of the owner of one of the richest silver mines in the world in his namesake Peru.  He has just come of age so he is one Porfirio Rubirosa.  Nina T. has left the jungle to fall into unimaginable wealth.  As I see her as nearly a feral child I do not envy Peru.

     The two are married aboard ship by the captain then after a pleasant interlude in Madeira Peru and Nina go their way while Trader Horn and his ruby go another.  Horn sells his ruby to Tiffany’s from whom he does quite well.  The stone while large has flaws so he didn’t do was well as he might have.

     In this volume at least Horn doesn’t mention ever hearing from Peru and Nina T. again.  He may mention them in volume two but I haven’t read it.

     In the movie with Nina’s tribesmen hot on their trail Nina and Peru go off in one direction while Horn and Renchoro lead the tribesmen on a wild goose chase.  Renchoro is killed but Horn makes it back to the trading post.  Peru and Nina are now an item.  She has either quickly picked up enough English to understand a proposal and say yes or she just likes the color of Peru’s eyes.  They offer to take Horn with them but that balloon of Renchoro pops up with the implication that Horn can find himself another African ‘boy’, which he seems to prefer.  The paddlewheeler steams down the river with Nina and Peru while Horn turns back toward the jungle presumably in search of another ‘boy.’

     Burroughs version is much more involved.  Suffice it to say that after many tribulations the French army shows up to suppress the remnants of the Leopard Men who were destroyed by Tarzan and the Utengas.  Jerome K. Jerome locates Old Timer and the goddess Kali Bwana.  The latter two have been reconciled and now are in love with each other.  When Old Timer learns that her real name is Jessie Jerome he fears the worst.

     In one of Buroughs, name games Kali Bwana had refused to give him her real name insisting he should call her Kali.  Old Timer refused to give his last name but confessed to being named Hiram.  Perhaps his last name was Walker.  Kali could him ‘Hi.’ Just as there is a joke in the Kid being Jerome K. Jerome there is probably a joke in Old Timer being called Hi.

     I refer you to Lewish Carroll’s Hunting Of The Snark:

There was one who was famed for the number of things

He forgot when he entered the ship- but the worst of it was

He had wholly forgotten his name.

He would answer to “Hi!” or any loud cry,

Such as “Fry me!” or
Fritter My Wig!”

     There is a copy of The Hunting Of The Snark in ERB’s library so he must have read and reread the poem, as well as, one might note, The Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam, so I think telling Kali Bwana she could call him Hi or any old thing is another of his literary jokes which are sprinkled throughout the novels.

     Old Timer is overjoyed when he learns that Jerry and Jessie are brother and sister instead of husband and wife.  As they are about to board the old paddle-wheeler, as in the movie, Jessie asks Old Timer to come with her.  (Old Timer plays coy.)

     The sun was sinking behind the western forest, the light playing on the surging current of the great river that rolled past the village of Bobolo.  A man and a woman stood looking out across the water that plunged westward on its long journey to the sea, down to the trading posts and the towns and the ships, which are the frail links that connect the dark forest with civilization.

“Tomorrow you will start,” said the man.  “In six or eight weeks you will be home.  Home!” There was a world of wistfulness inn the  simple, homely word.  He sighed, “I am so glad for both of you.”

She came closer to  him and stood directly in front of him, looking straight into his eyes.  “You are coming with us,”  she said.

“What makes you think so?”  he asked.

“Because I love you, you will come.”

It can be plainly seen how all three versions of this scene are related while being derived from the original of the novel.  As Burroughs adapted the movie version of the relationship between Horn and Peru he followed the movie ending.

Thus the novel and movie reoriented his own approach to Tarzan novels.  The relationship of the three stories has literary repercussions.  While it is plainly seen that Burroughs was, shall we say, highly inspired by Horn’s novel and Van Dyke’s movie, what might not be so apparent to the untrained eye is the extent to which both Horn and Van Dyke were influenced by the work of Burroughs which preceded theirs by a couple decades.

Horn admits to being familiar with the Tarzan stories.  He was a first time writer here, while he had his own story to tell, he needed a format.  He has chosen to emphasize many characteristics of the few Tarzan novels he could have read by 1925.  While the Ogowe River figures in his life he probably would have been excited by the river scenes in Beasts Of Tarzan.  He treats elephants and gorillas that he had actually seen in the wild differently than Burroughs but includes generous doses of both because they have worked for Burroughs.

Viewing from a distance as we are compelled to do one loses the savor of the times.  A Burroughs reading Horn carefully might easily have picked up many references that slip by us.

Van Dyke and Hume on the other hand had been exposed to Tarzan movies for a dozen years or so.  What they read can’t be so obvious.  But the very format of the jungle thriller would have derived from previous Tarzan movies.  ERB may have felt he was entering a turf war as the Big Bwana’s domain was being invaded.

Timber Raft On Ogowe River

He may have believed himself justified  in expropriating the expropriators.  If Horn died in 1927 his opinion no long mattered.  What Ethelreda Lewis may have thought isn’t known.  She apparently had a hand in writing the movie script for Swiss Family Robinson.  Whether she came to Hollywood to do it I am not informed although she was around the movie capitol for a number of years.  A meeting between her and ERB would have been interesting.

What Van Dyke and Hume may have thought I am equally uninformed, however between the release of Horn in February 1931 and the release of Tarzan, The Ape Man in March of 1932 was a year during which a contract was negotiated between MGM and Burroughs for the use of his characters but not of any of his material on April 15 of 1932.  (Erzine Bio Timeline, 1930s).  Within nine months then the movie Tarzan, The Ape Man was in the theatres.

The generally expressed view is that Hume first wrote up a script involving a combination Horn and Tarzan story.  This was before they might have seen Leopard Men in print.  To quote William Armstrong from ERBzine 0610:

     Cyril Hume who had turned the filming of “Trader Horn” in Africa into a suitable story outline, was given the assignment of writing the script for Tarzan The Ape Man, Hume’s original script had Trader Horn leading an expedition to Africa to search for a lost tribe.  En route, they discover Tarzan, who kidnaps the woman scientist member of the safari.  She eventually returns to the safari and they are captured by the tribe they seek (who worship the moon), and are to be human sacrifices to a sacred gorilla.  Tarzan leading a pack of elephants, arrives in time to save the safari.  The woman scientist decides to stay with Tarzan while Trader Horn and his party return to the trading post.

Map Of Gabon And Ogowe River

This script may give some idea of how conventional Hollywood minds viewed both Horn and Tarzan.  Apparently the relationship between th two was very close in their minds.  This script leaves little room for the development of the Tarzan yell while it gives the feel of making Tarzan a subordinate character to Horn.  Tarzan might or might not have been a part of the next Horn movie.  If MGM continued to use Harry Carey in the Horn role he may very likely have had a stronger film presence than Tarzan who, one imagines would still have been portrayed as a feral boy as he essentially was in Tarzan, The Ape Man.

It would be interesting to know when MGM decided to film a Tarzan movie and in what connection to Trader Horn.  The success of Horn may have prodded them but one is astonished at the speed at which the project was conceived and executed especially as we are led to believe that they had no actor to play Tarzan in mind when the contract with ERB was signed.

As Leopard Men was probably not even fully conceived in ERB’s mind when he signed it could have had no effect on the signing.  The release of Tarzan, The Ape Man in 1932 did have an effect on Burroughs.  After writing Tarzan And the City Of Gold from November of 1931 to January of 1932 he was stunned by the MGM characterization of his great creation.

That shock resulted in early 1933’s novel  Tarzan And The Lion Man.

As influential as Horn was for the main frame of the story of Leopard Men ERB had all his usual themes and variations to employ which he lavishly did.  This is a very dark story that I do not fully understand.  The Trader Horn connection was the easy part.  Now to the hard stuff.


A Review

Themes And Variation

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#18  Tarzan And The Lion Man

Part 3 of 10 parts


R.E. Prindle

First published on the ezine- ERBzine


Part 3: The Source


     Unlike the rest of Burroughs’ novels you don’t have to look very far for the main source of this one.  While Tarzan And  The Leopard Men was heavily influenced by the MGM movie Trader Horn Lion Man is the story of the famed MGM expedition to Africa to film it.

     In Chapter 1 ERB provides  a fictional account of the decision to make the expedition.  In the next few chapters he gives a fictional account of the safari.  Excising the story within the story Burroughs’ account is reasonably accurate, allowing for a little authorial license that is.

     The safare was active for seven months in 1929.  The safari was a cause celebre in Hollywood as the expedition ran up what were enormous costs for the time.  While they were in Africa Black Friday, the collapse of the stock market, occured plunging the nation into depression so that money became of more consequence to MGM.  There was speculation that the dirctor, W.S. Van Dyke would bankrupt the company.  Like Howard Hughes’ famous difficulties with Hell’s Angels of 1930 the bills kept rolling in but when the receipts were counted like Hughes’ movie there was a tidy profit left over.  If nothing else the hullabaloo was mere advance publicity and cheap at the price.

     MGM even liked the movie so much they did it again in 1953’s Mogambo.  While I see Mogambo as a remake of Trader Horn the movie site lists its antecedents as Red Dust, 1932 and Congo Maisie of 1940.  Haven’t seen either. 

     The 1929 expedition was incredibly audacious.  On the liner notes of my VCR copy of Trader Horn MGM describes the expedition like this:

     When this landmark film ws made, parts of Africa were still uncharted.  The savannahs teemed with big game, the rivers with crocodiles and snakes.  Few Europeans or Americans dared enter what was then called the Congo.

     That was true and still is, MGM rushed in where few Europeans and Americans dared to tread.  Africa was to transit from the stone age to the age of science in the blink of an eye.  As Van Dyke noted, barely pacified, already the Kikiyu or Kukuas as Van Dyke called them were organizing resistance.  A mere savage like Jomo Kenyatta was attending Oxford University in England.  Truly astonishing that a stone age African with no familiarity with either techonology or science could be listened to attentively by the most highly educated Europeans.  What could Kenyatta actually understand?  Would they have given equal attention to the mutterings of an Appalachian farm boy?  The mind boggles.

     It had been a mere forty years since Henry Morton Stanley had covered the same ground to relieve Emin Pasha.  Only Forty years earlier Stanley had been the first Euro-American to penetrate the Ituri Rain Forest  Only forty years earlier Stanley could claim the discovery of the fabled Mountains Of The Moon.  In the interim few Euro-Americans had been there.  Gosh, even the great beast the Okapi had just been discovered in the Ituri..

     Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda were now occupied by British governors.  The ancient kings of Uganda and Unyoro were no more.  As Van Dyke states, the Africans were held down by the few Europeans with an Iron Hand.  Ah, you say, the European Iron hand.  Abominable.  But when weren’t the African tribesmen held down by an Iron Hand.  But then it was Black or Moslem and not White.  The venerable ancient kings of Uganda wanted to hold a funeral for some distant relative during the time of Stanley so they selected a couple thousand Ugandans, slit their throats and dumped them in the grave as company for their dead relative.  The Ugandan king slaughtered a few of his own people in an attempt to amuse Stanley.  TV had not reached Uganda back then.

     King Mteses’ gangs roamed the countryside after dark murdering any citizens they met.  Well, that was normal.  Now White Bwanas arrested troublesome tribesmen and threw them in jail for a period rather than killing them.  That wasn’t normal.  Dead men file no complaints.

     So a benign rule in White hands was less desirable than a malign rule in Black hands.  Such is the way the human mind works.  In the African case the native king owns everything including oneself and that is acceptable.  In another invaders occupy a few thousand acres producing food that makes you better fed than ever you were on your own and that is bad.  Better savagery among equals than civilization as an inferior.

     Africa was not yet familiar with the wheel when a guy with the nickname ‘Woody’ shows up with nine-ton genearator trucks.  Sound trucks!  The talkies had been around only two years and they already had sound trucks.

     Van Dyke in his justification of himself to MGM in his Horning  Into Africa has this to say.  p. 212:

    On the screen we had over thirty-five varieties of African big game, with our actors working in the scenes with them.  We had the dances, the songs, the native life of over fifteen African tribes, and on our film was a thin dark strip running down the edge which constituted the sound they made in all their different activities.

     …on our film we had a thin dark strip running down the edge which constituted the sound they made in all their different activities….  Think of it.  Stone age Africans captured as stone age people by equipment of which the Africans could have no concept, no possible way of accounting for, let alone understanding it, that might have as well have been the work of aliens beamed down from outer space or one of Bertie Well’ visitors slipped through the plane of a parallel universe.  Was there any difference between Wells’ English visitors to his utopia of 1923 when he viewed the men of a parallel universe as gods and the Hollywood Mutia and Riano saw when transported from or ‘beamed’ down from Africa?  Not much I would say.

     If the Africans thought Henry Morton Stanley was supernatural what in the world did they think of Woody Van Dyke, his cameras and fleet of trucks.

     What did Van Dyke think about, talk about, such an excellent adventure?  p. 26:

     I did not realize what he meant by the adjective “amazing”.  It made me think of certain American film producers.  The only thing about it that had been amazing, to my mind, was its inception.  After all, for a Hollywood producer (Irving Thalberg) to conceive the idea of sending twenty-five or thirty Hollywood motion picture actors with ninety-two tons of equipment into the center of Africa, to go prancing around over the thorn bush terrain, considering the great cost in dollars and cents involved was a rather amazing idea.  Nobody but an adventurer would have thought of it, no one but a goof would have tried to do it, and no but a clown could have gotten away with it.

     Van Dyke considering the term ‘amazing’ further:

     Previous to our debut the largest safari to enter Africa had been that of Prince Edward, a stupendous undertaking with about a dozen whites, fifty blacks, ten or twelve cars, and possibly seven or eight tons of equipment.  His safari had not been underway many days when his Royal Highness was called home by the illness of his fathr, King George, but the fact that the white hunters had maneuvered such a large safari over several miles of Africa without a casualty and with no one dying from fever was considered remarkable.

     We had been in Africa more than seven months with thirty-five whites, one hundred ninety-two blacks, thirty-four cars, one generator truck and two sound wagons.  The speedometers on the cars showed that we had traveled over nine thousand miles of African soil, to say nothing of rail, lake and river travel and distances covered on foot, and we had brought everyone back- black and white.

     And furthermore they not only had it on a film strip, which was old technology by white standards but unimaginable by African standards and running down that strip of film was a thin black line indicating sound.  What would a stone age African think seeing and hearing himself on film going around and around on reels like wheels which in themselves had been but recently seen in Africa.  Jomo Kenyatta was at university in England.  They would have laughed at that Appalachian farm boy if he showed up for registration.

     So, MGM and Van Dyke provided ERB with a readymade story of epic proportions.

     We know he read the book.  The question is did Van Dyke regale him with other stories and details during ERB’s five week stint on the MGM lot, a little additional color not found in the book.

     Now we can turn to Burroughs’ story and align it with that of Van Dyke.  ERB is writing a novel so he doesn’t have to stay too close to the facts, he can play fast and loose with them.  Let’s see how he does.

     In the first place he converts the story from that of Trader Horn to Tarzan, The Ape Man.  Rather than filming Trader Horn they are filming the story of a feral boy who was raised among the lions.  p. 9

     “Joe’s written a great story- it’s going to be a knock-out.  You see this fellow’s born in the jungle and brought up by a lioness.  He pals around with the lions all his life- doesn’t know any other friends.  The lion is king of beasts; when the boy grows up he’s king of the lions; so he bosses the whole menagerie.  See?  Big shot of the jungle.”

     “Sounds familiar.”  Commented Orman.

     Yes, it does sound familiar, ERB says with tongue in cheek and a wink at we readers.  It sounds familiar to us too.  As the Lion Man the studio has picked Stanley Obroski, a giant cowardly fellow.

     As Harry Carey, a bete noire of ERB, played Trader Horn Burroughs may be projecting a little Carey into Obroski’s cowardice as vengeance although one assumes that Johnny Weissmuller is the model but Obroski isn’t that similar to him either.

     As a leading lady ERB creates Naomi Madison.  I’m sure there are a lot of insults and jokes about MGM in the book.  A lot or most of them may be lost on us today.  However Naomi may have been modeled on Irving Thalberg’s wife Norma Shearer.  Naomi=Norma.

     Some say Shearer made it on her own while there are those backbiters who say she got all those plum roles because she was married to the producer, Irving Thalberg.  I’m not too hep on early thirties films but it is possible a little favoritism may have been involved.  In the novel Burroughs casts Naomi in a rather unfavorable light as the lover of Director Orman.  Perhaps Thalberg saws such things in a negative light.

     It may be possible that Shearer was or was reported to be seeing someone on the side.  If so, ERB was taking some chances.

     He does have her down as having been a hash slinger before becoming The Madison.  There was a period in New York when the Shearer family was down at the heels when Norma was seeking theatrical work that she waited tables.  Bringing up that fact would not have endeared ERB to the Thalbergs or MGM.  Norma would probably have been more dangerous than Irving.

     The Thalbergs wouldn’t have mattered too much because Irving had a heart attack in 1933.  When he returned to work several months later Mayer had stripped him of his position.  He became just another producer for a couple years before he died in 1936.  Shearer got no more roles, plums or otherwise.  So as it turned out ERB wouldn’t have had to worry about either.

     ERB doubles Naomi with a stunt woman named Rhonda Terry.  As no comparable figure was on the safarie she must have been only necessary for the story.

     Van Dyke organized and led the expedition being the supreme authority, the actual Big Bwana.  As might be expected of a safari of this size and complexity there were numerous problems naturally occurrring while Van Dyke himself as a Hollywood director trying to realize his vision of the movie was rather cavalier with the landscape.  The native hierarchy was in disarray from the time of Stanley now having a Birtish hierarchy overlain on the native.  But the British had only been there for a couple decades while the native revolt led by Kenyatta and his Kikiyu was already underway.  As Burroughs indicates Leopard Men were roaming Africa while the Kikiyu would erupt as the Mau Mau only twenty years hence.

     The African chiefs considered every human, every animal, every stick or tree on their territory as their personal private property.  There hadn’t been enough time as yet for that understanding to die out.  And now we have a real muilti-cultural conflict brewing.  Van Dyke shows up with a fleet of cars and trucks such as was new to the sight of the Africans.  Van Dyke proceeds to drive these trucks all over Kenya, Uganda, the Congo and Tanganyika as they were then known.  Along the way he chops down trees that don’t belong to him, if you see what I mean, as though he was the sovereign of the land and not the chiefs.

     From the African point of view the man was contemptuous of Africans and disrespectful.  Van Dyke, in what we must assume was his innocence, was completely unaware of his desecrations.  His culture was not only White American, which would have been insult enough to the Africans, but he was of the fiilm capitol of the world, Hollywood, which respects no man or mountain in making a movie.  Van Dyke’s mind functioned on one premise alone- make this movie.

     At one point he wanted to shoot a scene near Lake Albert, probably didn’t even make the final cut.  At that point of the lake a volcanic dyke serveral feet high formed a barrier preventing access.  There was no way to get the trucks and equipment over the barrier.   The solution seemed rational to Van Dyke.  When no one was looking he got some dynamite and blew a big hole in this barrier.  Problem solved from Woody’s point of view.  I don’t know what the Africans thought about this desecration of the landscape but Van Dyke does report what seems to be a fair amount of unrest among the African bearers.

     In Burroughs’ story the movie company goes directly to the Ituri Rain Forest but Van Dyke began his filming at Murchison Falls where the  Nile flows from Lake Victoria.  After having brought his crew and equipment to the railhead at Jinja he crossed the lake to Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda.

     He wanted to film at Murchison Falls where, as he says, the entire flood of the Nile passing from Lake Victoria passes through a gorge only fifteen feet wide.  As he said a good broad jumper could leap the Nile at that point.  If he wanted to take the chance.

     Now, the British had determined the area at the foot of the falls to be so infested with the sleeping sickness bearing Tsetse flies that they had made it off limits to man and beast.  Well, Woody had a movie to make and wanted to make it in that exact spot.  In fact several scenes in Trader Horn are filmed there.

     Disregarding what we must assume were the real dangers of the place Van Dyke cajoled an exception for this safari taking his cast and bearers into this Tsetse infested area.  It will be remembered that Edwina Booth, the female star, was incapacitated for life because of diseases contracted in Africa.

     What seems normal to a movie maker may seem bizarre to a less interested observer.  Van Dyke wanted a crocodile scene involving an island.  There was no island where he wanted so he loaded the spot with fill until there was one.  Another neat job of problem solving.  Then he wanted a large nuber of crocodiles around the island so he slaughered game as lure for the crocs.  They came, they saw, the ate, but they wouldn’t spend the night as Woody wanted.

     So now Woody shoots some more wild life to lure the crocs to the island while he built a large barrier.  Once the crocs were within he closed the gate.  Well and good from Woody’s point of view but from the multi-cultural point of view of the crocs they either just broke through or climbed the six foot barrier.  Wasn’t high enough.

     W.S. Van Dyke was one determined guy.  He had a movie to make.  His next step was once the crocs got inside and they wanted out at, oh say, 2:00 AM, Woody got his whole crew of actors armed with torches and poles to place themselves between the crocs and freedom to force them to stay inside.  In a quite thrilling description he tells of stuffing burning torches down the throats of crocodiles.  When he said stay, he meant it.  Harry Carey, apparently some sort of testosterone driven madman, was a stalwart but Van Dyke even had Edwina Booth on the barrier torch in hand.  Van Dyke lauds his crew as well he should have but one is struck by a certain degree of lunacy.  Or, perhaps, Scotch.

     Burroughs draws inference away from Van Dyke by making Tom Orman a different physical type but as ERB was working from Van Dyke’s Horning Into Africa and possibly personal communication from Van Dyke, or members of his crew it is impossible for Orman not to reflect W.W. ‘One Shot’ Woody Van Dyke.

     Burroughs makes Orman a drunk or at least a real tyrant when he has been drinking.  Van Dyke records some heavy drinking of his own.  He slipped right into the colonial practice of’Sundowners’, that is when the sun went down the bottle came out.  There may be some factual basis then for Orman’s behavior.

     Orman heads for the Ituri through an area he has been warned not to go that would correspond to Van Dyke’s insistence on filming at the Murchison Falls where he ws forbidden to go but overcame the injunction.

     The attack of the Bansutos is ERB’s invention however there were a couple serious native disaffections in the safari.  Late in the expedition the Kikiyu show up, which I would think meant that they were unhappy with the expedition while Van Dyke describes them as a surly lot.

     In Burroughs’ story the safari falls apart after the Bansuto attack but then at the end of the story he reforms the safari at the Omwami Falls in the story or Murchison Falls in fact.  The party atmosphere at the Falls may reflect his impression of Van Dyke’s account.

     It was probably with a sigh of relief that the British bid farewell to this troublemaking Hollywood film crew.  Or perhaps, just perhaps, they wired MGM to get these people out of here.  I don’t know but I wouldn’t be surprised.

     So far as I know the only two accounts of Van Dyke’s excellent African adventure are his own and that of Burroughs.

     It is a pity MGM didn’t have the foresight to compile an extended account of the safari with hundreds of pictures.  In the liner notes to my VCR copy they say:

…director W.S. Van Dyke and his heroic cast and crew camped there for a year, hauling eighty tons of equipment through the equatorial jungle.  They battled disease and predators, to risk their lives to film this story of two men- legendary trader Alfred Aloysius Horn (Harry Carey) and his naive protoge Peru (Cisco Kid Duncan Renaldo)- and their struggle to reclaim a beautiful woman (Edwina Booth) who was lost in the jungle as a baby and raised by indigenous tribes.

     True enough as far as it goes.  Van Dyke’s obviously sanitized narrative takes it a little further, Burroughs’ fiction may reveal a little more, but Edwina Booth who was never able to work again adds another detail.  She petitioned MGM for compensation but MGM refused to consider it for this heroic, crocodile battling member of the cast who battled predators and disease and lost.

     What a fabulouss story.  ERB had a lot to work with and turned out a fabulous effort.

Next Part four of ten parts: The Safari To The Capture Of Stanley Obroski





A Review

Themes And Variations

The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#18 Tarzan And The Lion Man

Part one of ten parts


R.E. Prindle

First published on the ezine-ERBzine


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     “The Ituri Forest.”

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

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


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

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

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

     “Who says there ain’t?”    

     “I do,”  replied Orman grinning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go to:  Part 2:  Doubles And Insanity