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Volume 1660a
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs

#10  Tarzan And The Ant Men
Part I: Tarzan And The Alali
by
R.E. Prindle
I am no historian or chronicler of facts, furthermore, I hold a very definite conviction that there are certain subjects which fiction writers should leave alone, foremost among which are politics and religion.  However, it seems to me not unethical to pirate an idea occasionally from one or the other, provided that the subject be handled in such a way as to impart a definite impression of fictionalizing. ~ E. R. Burroughs: Tarzan The Invincible
Pagination text:  Tarzan And The Ant Men, Ballantine Paperback Editions, 1963 et subs.
 

I. Tarzan And The Alali


A.

Dutch edition 1950sBoris Vallejo art 1978

  Probably the biggest whopper Burroughs ever told was that he had a firm conviction that religion and politics had no place in fiction.  I won't say that that's all he talked about but if you removed the two topics from his novels you would have a short pamphlet.

     The power of suggestion is such that he disarmed my investigations for a while.

     The twenties signified great social and political changes which continue to reverberate today.  Burroughs tackles most of them in this very important novel.  But, you have to read it carefully.

     On August 18, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified enabling women to vote in the Fall elections.  Today, if one were foolish enough to denounce the amendment one would be lucky to get out of town alive.  Perhaps the same was true in 1923 because Burroughs makes no mention of the amendment even though that must be what he's talking about in the Alalus story.  But then, as he says, 'highly fictionalized.'  On page 27 he says:

The hideous life of the Alalus was the natural result of the unnatural reversal of sex dominance.  It is the province of the male to initiate love and by his masterfulness to inspire first respect, then admiration in the breast of the female he seeks to attract.  Love itself developed after these other emotions.  The gradually increasing ascendency of the female Alalus over the male eventually prevented the emotions of respect and admiration for the male being aroused with the result that love never followed.
     That's a serious piece of social and political commentary and a condemnation of the Suffragist Movement.  In ERB's mind the process is Respect>Admiration>Love.  The Alali males (read Euroamerican males) forfeited the first two so there was no love in Alalusland.  In fact the females have a use for the male only in rutting season.  At that time they go out into the forest to catch a male, keep for a couple weeks for insemination then release him.  Pretty much the rutting season of animals.  Pretty clever on ERB's part.

     Now, this result was a gradual process.  One may assume that at some previous time the Alalus male was in a dominant position which he for some reason forfeited.  One may then assume that ERB considered the Nineteenth Amendment a first step in the emasculation of the American male.  Silly?  Maybe not as silly as it might seem at first glance.  In fact, ERB may have been more perceptive than one thinks even though he couldn't have known all the ramifications of the problem.  In fact an assault on the manhood of the Euroamerican male was beginning.

     Let us go back to look again at Sigmund Freud and his Group Psychology And The Analysis Of The Ego.  Freud was himself a Jew who was promoting Jewish hegemony through his notions of psychology.  In 1920 or so the shift in emphasis toward immigration was from the concept of the Melting Pot to the concept of Multiculturalism.  The latter emphasizes the distinctions between cultures and not their similarities.  I will follow the Freudian Jewish model.

     Euroamericans are always a little on the thick side.  Jung ridiculed the Freudian Jewish Viennese school in the first and second decades because they were concentrating on the notion of castration.  That effect is included in the concept of Emasculation.  Jung didn't catch the significance of this.  While the Jews have historically denied any revelation of their intent and behavior, since 9/11 the situation has become quite clear.  If you haven't paid attention to the Irving and Zundel situation, you should.

     To emasculate the Euroamerican male was the goal of Freudian psychology.  Jung should have been more alert.  Thus the Euroamerican female had to be made to lose her respect and admiration for males of her own kind.  That means that the males of other cultures in this multicultural society had to be made more respectable and admirable than the Euroamerican male.  Burroughs apparently picked up on the effect but he probably didn't realize the source.

     This is where the tenets of Freudian Group Psychology are connected to the Analysis Of The Ego.  It was not coincidental that Freud united the two concepts in his essay.  Group psychology - all cultures opposed to one - would be used to paralyze the ego of the Euroamerican male.  I give the examples of Blair, Bush and Chirac.

     Freudian tenets then emphasized bigotry promoting equality.  Every time the Euroamerican male asserted his manhood in relation to other cultures he was called a bigot.

     Gradually all other cultures but the Euroamerican began to be classed as 'victims.'  The Freudian school then promoted 'hate' laws.  If a Euroamerican male complained about his emasculation at the hands of multiculturalism he was denounced as a 'hateful bigot.'  He could actually be arrested for objecting to his emasculation.  How's that for fancy footwork on the part of the Freudians?  Hence the Holocaust was erected as a shield against self-assertion.  The holocaust does not represent the pain and suffering of the Jewish people so much as it does the 'guilt' of the Euroamerican, hence paralyzing his will and emasculation, castration in Freudian terms.

     The men of other cultures thus take on the appearance of masculinity hopefully causing Euroamerican women to prefer the men of other cultures to their own.  This has to a very large degree happened so that in somewhat less than a century Freud has led his people like Moses to within an ace of their promised land no matter how many setbacks, like the holocaust, they have suffered which is to say battles they have lost.  Once may win every battle and lose the war as the ancient Greek general Pyrrhus found to his cost.

     Thus Burroughs grasped the general direction of the Nineteenth Amendment.  Under the Liberal umbrella as Freudian 'victims' women have gained preferential treatment while men have been penalized thus furthering their emasculation.  The result of emasculation should be a rise in homosexuality.  Eh voila?  Unless you're blind.

     So under the cover of 'entertainment' Burroughs is offering a vision of the future not the past.  As he grew older his misogyny evolved so in this story he is very hard on the Alali women.  This is how he describes their physical appearance:

     Along the forest trail slouched a mighty creature, manlike in its physical attributes, yet vaguely inhuman; a great brute that walked erect upon two feet and carried a club in one hairy calloused hand.  It long hair fell, unkempt, about its shoulders, and there was hair upon its chest and a little upon its arms and legs, though no more than is found upon many males of civilized races....Its large feet were bare and its white skin tanned to a light brown by exposure to the elements.  The illusion of great size was suggested more by the massiveness of the shoulders and the development of the muscles of back and arm.  (Sounds like the Great Sandow)  than by height, though the creature measured close to six feet.  Its face was massive, with a broad nose, and wide, full lipped mouth; the eyes, of normal size, were set beneath heavy, beetling brows, topped by a wide, low forehead.  As it walked it flapped its large, flat ears and occasionally moved rapidly portions of its skin on various parts of its head and body to dislodge flies, as you have seen a horse do with the muscles along it sides and flanks.
     It moved silently, the dark eyes constantly on the alert, while its flapping ears were often momentarily stilled as...
     There is not only the illusion of great size here but we have the illusion of a primordial monster of some species rehabilitated from the mists of long time past.  Comical and ridiculous enough we wait with bated breath to find what this composite creature with elephant ears, a gorilla nose, the lips of a chimp, and the physique of a bodybuilder may be.  King Kong hadn't been discovered yet... so, what?  Why it's a woman.  That's all, but what a woman.

Zertalacolol and Tarzan by Milan Fibiger ~ 1992 Czech edition     She carries a club the size of which would have staggered Heracles and she know how to swing it.  There's Tarzan laying on the trail with the illusion of being bigger than he is, unconscious, suffering from yet another concussion.  His concussion is as nothing compared to the slapstick, Keystone Kops comedy that will ensue when the woman, The Big Fella tossed over her shoulder returns to camp.

     As might be anticipated the Alali are cliff dwellers living in caves up some fantastic cleft in a mountain.  Sounds slightly sexual, doesn't it?  Recent research indicates that there were cliff dwellings and ruins near Camp Grant in Arizona.  So ERB would have had his interest piqued by the cliff dwelling exhibit at the 1893 Columbian Expo confirmed by what little part of the Army tour of duty he served in Arizona.  Cliff dwellers inhabit his stories whenever he can work them in.

     The story of the Alali allows Burroughs to work in two of his favorite themes to exhaustion: that of his flight from John the Bully and the bashing he took in Toronto.

     In the movies this scene would have been represented by a pie in the face with pies flying everywhere although people are also always being clubbed in the forehead in the silents.  One imagines both these scenarios made ERB flinch.   P. 18:

     She had approached close to the cave...when one of those who followed her darted suddenly forward, and clutched at Tarzan.  With the quickness of a cat...the woman turned upon the temarious one ... with lightning-like celerity felled her with a heavy blow to the head...
--
...her victim suddenly sat erect, rubbed her head for a moment and then after looking about dully, rose unsteadily to her feet.  For just an instant she swayed and staggered...
     The above is only one of many descriptions of ERB's characters getting brained.  They are all descriptions of aspects of his braining in Toronto.  Boy, that must have hurt while the consequences were enormous as we will see in the story of Tarzan and Esteban Miranda.

     That's one description.  Almost immediately ERB gives another.  The Third Woman, even bigger than the First Woman returns with a man over one shoulder and an antelope over the other.  These are not just women but big women, flapping ears and all.

     The First Woman and the Second Woman, still woozy from her braining, one imagines, challenge the Third Woman.  Pp. 20-21:

     As the three women came together it seemed inevitable that the Third Woman would go down beneath the bludgeons of the others, but she warded both blows with the skill and celerity of a trained fencer and stepping quickly into the opening she dealt the First Woman a terrific blow upon the head that stretched her motionless upon the ground, where a little pool of blood and brains attested to the terrible strength of the wielder of the bludgeon...
     Her guarry, the man, gets up to run away.  The Third Woman knocked him unconscious by a stone thrown to the back of his head.

     Then turning on The Second Woman who was stealing her antelope, p.22:

     The Second Woman possessing more courage than good sense, prepared to defend her stolen flesh and took her stand, her bludgeon ready.  As The Third Woman bore down upon her, a veritable mountain of muscle, The Second Woman met her with threatening cudgel, but so terrific was the blow dealt by her mighty adversary that her weapon, splintered, was swept from her hands and she found herself at the mercy of the creature she would have robbed.  Evidently she knew how much mercy she might expect.  She did not fall on her knees in an attitude of supplication-- not she.  Instead she tore a handful of the pebble missiles from her girdle in a vain attempt to defend herself....The huge destroying bludgeon had not even paused but swinging in a great circle fell crushingly on the skull of The Second Woman.
     Wow! No more headaches for her.  Thus, ERB reenacted his clubbing three times in a few pages while the Big Bwana himself was unconscious from a mild concussion.  Burroughs books are just filled with bashings to the forehead and head.

     And then, regaining consciousness in the holding pen of the First Woman Tarzan is threatened by her daughters, all with clubs of their own advancing threateningly on him.  He's still woozy, but not that woozy.  In this fight or flight situation the jungle trained have enough sense to flee.

     Thus we find ERB attempting to deal with the other big traumatic experience of his life - his emasculation at the hands of John the Bully on the way to Brown School.  It seems quite clear that when John threatened him he ran from him as fast as he could.  Even though John was much bigger, the fight being unequal, in these schoolyard battles the runner away is branded a chicken.  Once branded the brand is impossible to efface.  But the appellation is unfair.  It's not that way in the jungle.  P. 30:

     To the jungle born flight from useless and uneven combat carries with it no stigma of cowardice.
--
     ...not only was Tarzan of the Apes jungle-born and jungle-raised but the stripping of his clothes from him had now, as always before, stripped away the thin and unnatural veneer of his civilization...
--
     ...It was a savage beast that faced the screaming Alalus women-- a cunning beast as well as a powerful one--  a beast that knew when to fight and when to flee.
     The mighty a-Ape Man then takes to his heels running from a pack of women.  This is high comedy.  P. 31:
     Had Tarzan realized why the women were pursuing him he would have run even faster than he did...
     Burroughs thus tries to make a farce of his running from John as Tarzan is chased by a few girls but as one jungle-born and jungle-raised he knows when to fight and when to flee.  ERB doesn't entirely convince himself as the theme is recurrent throughout the rest of the oeuvre and the corpus as a whole.

     As soon as the Big Guy hit the trees he disappeared from sight as he took to the lower terraces.


B.

 
 

Tarzan escapes from the corral with the son of the First Woman - Axel Mathiesen, 1933  The Son of the First Woman had escaped with Tarzan.  The Big Guy, the Great Civilizer, undertakes to educate this Alalus lad.  Tarzan needs the very thinnest veneer of civilization as he is running around buck naked.  The things Burroughs gets away with are absolutely amazing.  I had to have this fact when I was a kid but I must have thought there was nothing more natural and glided right over it; didn't really register at all, probably wouldn't now except that I'm analyzing this stuff.

     The first order of the day then is to make some weapons, kill a deer and use a portion of the hide for the thinnest of all veneers of civilization, the g-string.  Thus clothed Tarzan is ready to apply a thin veneer to the Alalus lad.

     I said, kill a deer.  As we all must know there aren't any deer in Africa.  Burroughs' contemporary readers knew it too.  They must have told him so.  When they told him there were no tigers in Africa he rather shamefacedly changed them to female lions thus smudging an otherwise perfectly good story.  He isn't going to do that this time, he's apparently more attached to deer than tigers.  Besides he's worked up a fair explanation.  Pp. 34-35.

     ...Tarzan swung off silently through the branches of the forest along the elusive trail of the ruminant, the scent of which was always translated to the foster son of Kala the she-ape as Bara the deer, though in fact, as practically always, the animal was an antelope.  But strong are the impressions of childhood and since that long-gone day upon which he pored over the colored alphabet primer in the far-off cabin of his dead father beside the landlocked harbor on the West Coast, and learned that "D stands for Deer," and had admired the picture of the pretty animal, the thing that most closely resembled it, with which he was familiar in his daily life, the antelope, became for him then, and for always remained Bara the deer.
     There you have it.  Bara the deer is going to called Bara the deer from force of habit whether they're antelopes or not.  So Tarzan was wearing a deer pelt for a g-string.

     Just as an aside, there were no colored primers back in 1888 or so.

     While he was out hunting for a g-string Tarzan was downwind from the herd of antelope while a lion was upwind.  Tarzan caught the scent but the antelope didn't.  Burroughs explains; p.36:

     The ape man concluded that one of those freaks of the air currents that so often leaves a motionless pocket directly in the path of the flow had momentarily surrounded the antelope, insulating them, as it were, from their immediate surroundings.
     Uh, ya, as it were.  I'm too involved with writing this right now so I'll work out the physics of that later and get back to you...insulated the, as it were...hmmm.  Like I say, Burroughs can be comic when he wants to be.  Check this out.  On culinary distinctions, p. 37:
     Into the raw flesh, hungrily, sank the strong white teeth of the English lord, while the Alalus youth, gazing at him in surprise, sought materials for fire making.  Amused, Tarzan watched him until the other had succeeded in preparing his food as he thought it should be prepared-- the outside burned to a cinder, the inside raw, yet it was cooked food and doubtless imparted to its partaker a feeling of great superiority over the low beasts that devoured their meat raw, just as though he had been a civilized epicure eating decaying game and putrid cheeses at some fashionable club in London.
     Tarzan smiled (which we remember he seldom did and never laughed out loud) as he though how vague, after all, the line that separates primitive from civilized man in matters pertaining to their instincts and their appetites.  (Thin veneer of civilization again.) Some of his French friends, with whom he was dining on a certain occasion were horrified when they learned that in common with many of the African tribes and the apes he ate caterpillars, and they voiced their horror between mouthfuls of snails they were eating with relish at the time.  The provincial American scoffs at the French for eating frogs' legs, the while he munches on the leg of a pig!  The Esquimaux eat raw blubber, the Amazonians, both white and native, eat the contents of the stomachs of parrots and monkeys and consider them delicacies, the Chinese coolie asks not how his meat came by its death, nor how long since, and there is a man in New York, an estimable and otherwise harmless man, who eats Limburger Cheese on Bartlett pears.
Tarzan teaches the son of the First Woman how to make and use weapons - Motoichiro Takebe, ca. 1967     Anyone who considers Burroughs an ignorant fantasist writer after that dissertation isn't paying attention to the amount of reading Burroughs did to acquire those facts.  On the other hand he may have been copying out of the weekly Parade Magazine from the Sunday paper.

     There Tarzan was, a member of the English House Of Lords being sneered at by an Alasus sub-savage, who could neither speak nor write, had no language at all, if fact.  Strange world, isn't it?

     So, Tarzan gets the kid started on the road to some sort of civilization when he encounters an Alalus woman engaged in a battle with the Ant Men.  Tarzan rescues the Ant Men then going off with them having had about enough of the ignorant Alalus lad.  Before he left he had planted the seeds of civilization no matter how primitive.  If you haven't read West African history you will find if you do that they all recount the appearance of a White man who introduced them to the rudiments of civilization.

     While Tarzan is off with the Ant Men the lad falls in with some other fellows who he introduces to the ways of limited civilization as Tarzan taught him.  Now armed with bows and arrows and spears these men are more than a match for the women of whom they slaughter quite a few.  Naturally Burroughs has reversed the relative sizes making the men small and delicate.

     Burroughs does include an astonishing scene in the evolution of the Alalus into manhood.  The Alalus lad links up with another couple males hunting and eating together.  His proficiency was greatly increased by the bow and arrow, the use of which didn't unduly impress his friends until a woman pursued them.  The lad motioned the woman to desist and go back which she refused to do.

Morrison headpiece art - Argosy All-Story Weekly 1924    He then shot and killed her creating a sensation among his fellows.  Pp. 60-61:

     They examined his bow and arrows and again and again they returned to the wound in the woman's chest.  It was all quite too amazing.  And the son of The First Woman?  He held his head high and his chest out and strutted proudly.  Never before had he or any other man been cast in the role of hero and he enjoyed it.  But he would impress them further.  Seizing the corpse of the woman he dragged it to a nearby tree where he propped it up in a sitting posture against the bole; then he walked away some twenty feet and, urging his fellows to observe him closely, he raised his heavy spear and hurled it at his realistic target,  through which it passed to embed itself in the tree behind.
     The others were greatly excited.  One of them wanted to attempt this wondrous feat and when he had thrown and missed, his fellows insisted upon having a turn.  later they craved practice with bow and arrow.  For hours the three remained before their grisly target, nor did they desist until hunger prompted them to move on...
     Sounds like some really suppressed resentment on Burroughs' part but I don't want to speculate further.

    But our lad doesn't like to cook, or at least, eat his charbroiled stuff, so rather than killing a captive female he demands she cook for him.  She refuses so he bats her to the ground.  Impressed with this sort of savagery she swears to cook for him forever.  Thus civilization as it was known in Burroughs' time came into existence in Alalus land.  Nowadays of course a great many men have opted to return to the joy of cooking.  So, what goes around come around.

     Because of the gifts bestowed on him by Tarzan the lad considers Tarzan a god.  Actually Tarzan did come from the sky as a god delivering superior knowledge much like those intergalactic nomads who are said to have educated early man.  Perhaps history repeats itself here.

     Thus at the end of the story when Tarzan and some Ant people are fleeing pursuers as they enter the forest they encounter the Alalus youth and some companions.  Recognizing his miniaturized god the Alalus rescues him and his party.  Not questioning how his god has become one fourth of his former size the lad sets the ape man on his way back through the Great Thorn Forest.

     So ends this Oz-like spectacular story of Tarzan among the Alali.

The Themes and Variation Series by R.E. Prindle
#10: Tarzan and the Ant Men
Introduction & Prologue
I.  Tarzan And The Alali
II.  Tarzan And Esteban Miranda
III.  Tarzan And The Ant Men
Continued Next Week . . .

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