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

#10  Tarzan And The Ant Men
Part II: Tarzan and Esteban Miranda
by
R.E. Prindle

     II. Tarzan And Esteban Miranda

     Now we turn to Tarzan and Esteban Miranda, the second of the three stories of the novel.  Without the proper background one might find this story to be humorous as Miranda is depicted as a slightly ridiculous figure.  Of course the story turns tragic in this volume of the diptych.  However the early Miranda might be a symbolical representation of Burroughs before his success as an author, that is to say his life up to thirty-five years of age.  Burroughs found his early life slightly humiliating.

     The problem of doubles in the Tarzan series goes back to the very first novel - Tarzan Of The Apes.  Tarzan is at once the man-beast and the man-god.  Depending on how you want to look at it either a double with doubles or a trinity.  At any rate Tarzan represents human evolution from his bestial ancestors to the divine.  So while Burroughs said he found religion outside the bounds of fiction the Tarzan series is one great long religious treatise.  As Burroughs was to say, if there was a new religion it would not be represented by a supernatural being but by a man-god. He may have been priming the Big Bwana as the archetype of the Aquarian Age.  Not as ridiculous as it may sound, the build up for the transition from the Piscean Age to the Aquarian has been going on for well over a hundred years just as it did for some centuries before the advent of the Piscean from the Arien.  It's just that without a background you wouldn't recognize the signs.  The mind must be prepared for the seed.  As one is admonished- don't throw pearls before swine  and when the student is ready the teacher will appear. Perhaps Burroughs was his generation's teacher or one of them.

     There can be no doubt that if Tarzan is not a god he is repeatedly described as godlike.

     There are a number of dualities before we have this actual split in the Golden Lion-Ant Men novels.  Since the story runs over two novels it is obviously a major statement.

     In addition to the man-beast and man-god there is an actual duality between the human Tarzan and the human Blacks.  Nor do I think there is any doubt Burroughs considered the Blacks to be an earlier stage of evolution than the Whites.  Thus any inferiority is innate and not relative.  In the Carter Trilogy he refers to the Martian Blacks as the First Born.

     He picked up the phrase from a Bushman reported by David Livingstone in his Missionary Travels In South Africa, a book well worth reading.  In it the Bushman says that the Blackman was first created by God, who then made a better model in the White man.  As ERB was an evolutionist he probably took this to heart which must be an evolutionarily sound notion.  And so if one reads and rereads the series the notion becomes more and more apparent.

     Another duality is added when the Porter party is set ashore at his father's cabin.  At this point, having been a beast and a Negro, Tarzan evolves into a White but without the thin veneer of civilization.  While genetically superior to the Blacks he is still at the same level of evolvement.  The thin veneer will be added to complete his transformation when Paul D'Arnot takes him to Paris.  However, as ERB says, Tarzan's 'thin veneer of civilization' was no deeper than his clothes.  With his clothes off Tarzan reverted to his natural state as the man-beast. Even if his thin veneer was gone  he must still have had memories of it.

Murders in the Rue Morgue     In a way then Tarzan and D'Arnot are a duality much as the narrator and his double in Poe's Murders In The Rue Morgue on which this duality is undoubtedly based.  Certainly Poe was on ERB's mind in the first two novels as attested by Chapter III, "What Happened In The Rue Maule" of The Return Of Tarzan.

     And then Tarzan is also seen as two personas by Jane Porter -- one as the Tarzan who helps them and one as the mysterious jungle wild man and of course the Ape Man is also Tarzan Of The Apes and John Clayton, Lord Greystoke.

     So the personality was fractured if not split from the beginning.  Tarzan has so many identities he doesn't know who he is.

     As Korak the Killer almost duplicates Tarzan's life in Son of Tarzan he might also be seen as a double.  But the first real split occurs in the Jewels Of Opar when the roof falls on Tarzan's head during the earthquake.  This produces a case of full blown amnesia not unlike that of Esteban Miranda is this novel.  Here an actual lookalike double is produced that allows Tarzan to be in two places at once.  Burroughs can dissociate himself from his detestable earlier existence.

     Probably the distresses of success got to ERB in 1915 that had his mind coming and going as he tried to adapt.  You have to remember that he may have been only partially responsible for his actions as the concussion suffered in Toronto was still probably affecting his actions.  In a way he was trying to run away from the stresses of his success in his cross-country auto trip in 1916.

     Now that he had added the terrific stresses of running a large ranch like Tarzana coupled with the developing financial disaster of his mismanagement of the estate he shredded his personality into two distinct halves.  One was his real self who while capable enough was incompetent to deal with his new burdens.  The other was his ideal self, Tarzan, who never met a challenge he couldn't handle.  While in real life Burroughs did save himself from a complete financial disaster he was able to salvage enough self-respect to meld his personality back into one, at least temporarily or on the surface, as another double will appear as he is divorcing his wife, Emma.  While he allows Miranda to live at the end of Ant Men he kills off his other self, Stanley Obroski in Tarzan And The Lion Man.  ERB may have thought that he had become wholly Tarzan at that point.

     As Golden Lion ended, Tarzan's double Miranda had been captured by the cannibal chief Obebe.  Obebe wanted to kill and eat Miranda but his witch doctor, Khamis, swore Miranda was The River Devil wanting to keep him captive.  In this contest between the temporal power of the state and the religious power, as in real life so often happens, the religious power wins out.  So Burroughs deals with both topics he says fiction writers should leave alone.

     The real Tarzan will appear to avenge the indignities placed on the faux Tarzan but Burroughs' real objective here is to reenact the blow, once again, that he received in Toronto and explain his subsequent behavior.  As usual the sly dog gets away with things no other writer of his time did.

      Miranda escapes when he persuades a fourteen year old girl named Uhha that he is indeed The River Devil and that she will reap great rewards by freeing him.  The name Uhha is taken from Stanley's Through The Dark Continent.  As these events take place somewhere near or in the Ituri Rain Forest Burroughs is describing Stanley's Africa.

     Once freed, Miranda abducts the girl.  She quickly learns that he is neither The River Devil or Tarzan as neither would be afraid.  Having lost her respect for him she plans an escape but she wants revenge.  She doesn't know what diamonds are but as she watches him fondle them every night she knows that he values them  She plans to steal them.

     Miranda keeps this bag of jewels under his loin cloth so sly old Burroughs has the jewels next to the family jewels.  Perhaps another way of saying that what a man values most is his manhood.  Now he has Miranda, the Tarzan lookalike, bed down with a fourteen year old Black girl.  Zips right by you the way it is written but Miranda is actually sleeping with the girl.

     She waits until he is sleeping and then, pp. 73-74:

     Presently the Spaniard's breathing indicated that he was asleep.  Uhha waited a little longer to make assurance doubly sure, then she reached beneath the grasses just beside her and when she withdrew her hand again she brought forth a short, stout cudgel.  Slowly and cautiously she rose until she kneeled beside the recumbent form of the sleeping Spaniard.  Then she raised her weapon above her head and brought it down once, heavily, upon Esteban's skull.
     Then she takes his knife and cuts his loin cloth away and removes the bag or sac qua family jewels from his exposed groin.  A perfect act of castration or Emasculation.

     Certainly Burroughs is reenacting symbolically here his own bashing in Toronto which had the effect of emasculating him.  Shall we say his character was changed as he wandered half groggy through the streets of Chicago hardly knowing where he was?  Here's how Burroughs describes Miranda's awakening, pp.74-75:

     When Esteban regained consciousness...He felt weak and dizzy and his head ached.  He put his hand to it and found his hair thick with coagulated blood.  He found something else as well-- a great wound in his scalp that made him shudder and turn sick, so that he fainted.
     This is not an exact replication of what happened to Burroughs in 1899 in Toronto but it certainly describes what his situation had been.  The man had a serious injury, the consequences of which would plague him for years if not for life.  In a letter to the Editor of the BB NS#59 also included in my Four Crucial Years Pt. IV on ERBzine I posited the following taken from Per Brodal: The Central Nervous System: Structure And Function, 3rd Ed.  p. 433:
     A peculiar form of amnesia occurs together with confabulation: that is the patient invents stories (without knowing they are not real).  Most of the patients have a lesion involving the substantia innominata, the medial hypothalamus, and the orbito  frontal cortex (usually caused by a ruptured aneurysm in the anterior cerebral artery).  The often bizarre stories can usually be traced back to real events although they consist of various unrelated fragments from memory.  It seems the patient is unable to suppress irrelevant associations, and cannot check them against reality.
     My discovery was treated with a fair amount of derision, but ERB describes almost the exact symptoms here and following.  His story is certainly bizarre enough and it can be traced back to real events.  Let us pursue Esteban's injury.  Pp. 84-85:
     He was sitting up now  and presently he regarded his nakedness in evident surprise.  He picked up the loincloth that had been cut from his body.  Then he looked all about him on the ground--his eyes dull, stupid, wondering.
---
         He was naked but he did not know it.  His diamonds were gone, but he would not have known a diamond had he seen one.  Uhha had left him, but he did not miss her, for he knew not that she had ever existed.
     Blindly and yet well, his muscles reacted to every demand made upon them in the name of the first law of nature.  He had not known why he leaped to a tree at the sound of Numa's growl, nor could he have told why he walked in the opposite direction when he saw where Numa lay up with his kill.  He did not know that his hand leaped to a weapon at each new sound or movement...
     Uhha had defeated her own ends.  Esteban was not being punished for his sins for the very excellent reason that he was conscious of no sins nor of any existence.  Uhha had killed his objective mind.  His brain was but a storehouse of memories that would never again be raised above the threshhold of consciousness.  When acted upon by the proper force they stimulated the nerves that controlled his muscles, with results seemingly identical with those that would have followed had he been able to reason.  An emergency beyond his experience would consequently have found him helpless, though ignorant of his helplessness.  It was almost as though a dead man walked through the jungle.
Frank Frazetta: Girl from Farris's - FP same as cover - contains collection of related art     That's a very good almost clinical description but it is absolutely unnecessary to the story.  Burroughs is compelled by his horrific memories to tell it now just as he has been telling variations on the theme in every story.  The Girl From Farris's  is almost as complete as this while describing Burroughs real life reaction.

     Once hit on the forehead rupturing the anterior cerebral artery the bleeding collected between the prefrontal lobe and the skull forming a clot.  This may have progressively worsened over a week or two.  The resulting pressure caused Burroughs severe headaches as in his description here and caused his inability to remember faces and names which resulted in so much grief for him as related in Girl From Farris's.

     Burroughs took heroic measures to combat this problem rather than giving in.  He undertook health measures probably inspired by the regimes of Bernarr Macfadden.  Porges apparently found no records of medical treatment in his examination of the archives yet in both Girl and Ant Men Burroughs mentions medical treatment.  Records of such may yet exist in the Tarzana archives.

     In Ant Men Burroughs tells of medical treatment in this way.  Miranda disappears into the jungle. The faithful Waziri Usulu discovers him feeding off a rotting carcass that the vultures apparently overlooked.  Thinking him the Big Bwana, and by this time familiar with the Big Guy's periodic amnesias, he leads him back to the Estate.

     As he was a babbling idiot Jane went to London to enlist the services of a great London brain specialist.  The Great One examined the patient. P. 185:

     There was pressure on the brain from a recent fracture of the skull.  An operation would relieve the pressure and might restore the patient's mind and memory.  It was worth attempting.
Paralyzed by fright, he advanced     The operation was performed and apparently was successful.  As Jane was about to embrace Esteban, Flora Hawkes, the new maid from Golden Lion, recognized Miranda as himself.  Tarzan at the same time steps into the room returning from the Ant Men three inches shorter.  He and Jane are reunited.

     What happened to the double is left undecided until Tarzan And The Lion Man when ERB will kill him off in the person of the double, Stanley Obroski.

      Thus the rather remarkable and exciting story of Esteban Miranda and Tarzan comes to its close.  One should read the diptych of Golden Lion and Ant Men together to get the full flavor of this strange and wonderful story.

     As I say, next to Tarzan I consider Esteban to be one of ERB's finest creations.


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

R. E. Prindle welcomes your comments at:
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