Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#10 Tarzan And The Ant Men
Part III: Tarzan And The Ant Men
III. Tarzan And The Ant Men
...since all life is trouble, the only thing is to achieve a position where we may select varieties...
Nero Wolfe as reported by Rex Stout
The story of the Ant Men is one of the more charming idylls in the oeuvre. The story is actually one novella in a trilogy of stories under the title Tarzan And The Ant Men. When you subtract the framing story, Alalusland and the Miranda episodes you have barely a hundred pages in a hundred and eighty-three page volume.
Burroughs writes in such a condensed but vivid manner that, perhaps, the stories expand in the mind creating individual variations that may be shared by no one but oneself but which are amplified in each mind in endless variations. In other words these are very nearly interactive stories. A lot depends on what you bring to the stories.
In this novella Burroughs presents virtual dissertations on Science and the nature of life, the income tax, prohibition, the nature of war and peace, Women's Suffrage and religious matters. I'm sure there are others I'm missing at the moment. There may even be a discussion of Einstein's Relativity but it seems so improbable that I may be over reaching and yet the traces can be seen.
And still Burroughs makes the narrative flow. He may only handle the occasional religious or political theme in a highly fictionalized manner but it's smooth; there are no gaps or lacunas. This is fairly amazing in a novel with three separate themes written over only five months under the most stressful personal conditions. One wonders how he could do it.
The story centers on the Sixteenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the Constitution. It appears to be heavily influenced by events of the Harding Administration including the Naval Disarmament Conference of 1922. Disarmament will also appear in 1931's Tarzan The Invincible.
As a kid I picked up on the allusions to Prohibition and the Income Tax. I can't recapture what I found so profound about the slave quarries but those episodes overwhelmed my mind as a youth.
Perhaps I associated the incidents with my own situation on the conscious level and the Anima and Animus on the subconscious level.
I find the story as exhilarating at my age today as I did then.
The Ant people are a very militaristic people always prepared for war. Their military bearing and ardor when Tarzan first encounters them battling an Alalus woman attracts him to them. As he removes the Alalus woman from the battle the Ant Men accept him as a comrade in arms. Having no particular love for the Alalus lad Tarzan abandons him loping off after the Ant Men.
For those who have read the corpus it should be clear that Burroughs considers war the natural state of mankind. He doesn't actually believe peace will ever be possible. Judging solely from events since 1923 his opinion would seem to be vindicated. He himself witnessed the two most destructive wars in history as well as several of the Indian Wars of the nineteenth, the Boer etc. I have vague memories of WWII but my mind has not been conditioned by them or any of the subsequent conflicts which show no sign of ending. Like Burroughs I see conflict as the natural state of mankind. As Nero Wolfe said, settle in and pick your favorites. ERB's Beyond The Farthest Star of 1940 before the shooting started posits a world in which war never ends, its is a normal state of affairs. Not too different from our own reality in which wars are being waged everywhere on the planet.
A probable cause of ERB's distaste for the 'peaceniks' was the Washington Naval Disarmament Conference of November 11, 1921 through February 6, 1922. The purpose of the Conference was to limit naval armaments of the five great naval powers. One intent was to head off the growing friction in the Pacific between Japan and the Western powers.
One can gauge the success of the agreements by the results. To Burroughs, as to any reasonable person, the results were predictable. Any such discussions between belligerents may always be characterized as expedients to deceive. Japan went right ahead with their plans disregarding the 'Spirit Of Locarno' of 1925, another disarmament fiasco as well as further disarmament conferences in the thirties even as the country launched their offensive against China.
Perhaps ERB by getting his two cents worth in hoped to instill reason into the discussion. If so, he had no chance of success. The spirit of the age -- the Zeitgeist -- embraced the fantasy of agreements which were never meant to be kept. In our Zeitgeist of multicultural harmony the same is true. There won't be any multicultural harmony no matter how hard everyone talks it. Any apparent agreements are merely timeserving and won't be kept. As Burroughs says here, accept the facts, and be prepared. As he knew that defensive wars could not be won he believed a good offense is the best defense. We should do the same but as he couldn't affect the Zeitgeist of his period I doubt that there is anyone to listen or act on the voice of reason today.
Apart from his times Burroughs was of a military turn of mind. He had been entranced by the Army ever since his days at the Michigan Military Academy. His descriptions here are intriguing. The world of the Ant Men, like Beyond The Farthest Star, is organized around the concept of perpetual war. Each of the Ant Men cities is perpetually attacking one or the other in the hope of obtaining slaves on which the Ant Men economy is based. Or else capturing Princesses into the royal house.
ERB must have been reading works on Totemism and Exogamy, either books or magazine articles because he gives a fairly detailed account of the benefits of Exogamy. Exogamy is, of course, marrying outside the group. In fact, one of the purposes of capturing slaves is as breeding stock. It goes without saying that Exogamy is a form of Eugenics. That horrid word again.
At some time in the past the Trohanadalmakusians, among which Tarzan is, had become effete due to inbreeding. In the state of perpetual warfare they got wiped. The reasons for losing weren't due to strategy or weaponry but because the invaders had greater bodily vitality through the exogamous practice of interbreeding with slaves.
Being more rational than people nowadays the practice of exogamy was introduced and the people were now as vital as anyone else. Problem solved.
Now, according to Burroughs, there are two types of armies. The one is the rough and ready outfit that puts all its effort into efficiency like the Trohanadalmakusians, and the army that puts its effort into showy uniforms and fancy maneuvers such as the Veltopismakusians among whom Tarzan become a slave.
The Big Guy witnessed a military execution which greatly impressed him. Lines of warriors faced each other atop their diadets, or mounts, the Royal Antelope, smallest of all the antelope breeds, then charged directly at each other. The antelope don't run per se but take eight to twelve foot bounds so just as it looked as though the lines were about to crash into each other one line soared over the top of the other. Tarzan was duly impressed but as he noted, such showy maneuvers don't win battles. That didn't explain why he was captured but that was his opinion. Actually the Veltops were unable to penetrate the Trohans outer line of defense so maybe the observation was valid.
As the Ant Men were only eighteen inches tall and Tarzan had been four times their height one might wonder how he could be kept enslaved. Quite simply through the genius of the Walmak, Zoanthrohago, of the Veltops. The Big Guy was shrunk to eighteen inches. However, and this will be important, he has retained all his former strength. Thus he is four times stronger than any of the Ant Men. This is one of the details that I think probably relates to Einstein's Relativity. When John Carter went to Mars he was no stronger than he had been but gravity on Mars is relatively much less than on Earth so he had the appearance of greater strength. With Tarzan here, Earth's gravity remains the same but Tarzan's strength relative to his size is four times greater. Thus like Carter on Mars Tarzan can jump to incredible heights. He takes a standing leap from the floor well through an opening in the ceiling. He actually tears the head off an Ant Man with his bare hands. Burroughs is carefully manipulating relativity.
Even though he had been four times taller than the Ant Men his lack of comprehension is such that he can't imagine how the Ant Men became as tall as he is. His friend the Prince Adendrohakis, who was captured at the same time as he was has to explain that the Ant Men weren't taller but that he was shorter. Yeah! Imagine that.
Tarzan has a hard time doing so but his friend explains how.
Here we are introduced to the prototype of the Great Ras Thavas, The Mastermind Of Mars.
I am indebted here to the ERB scholar Vishwas Gaitonde, who wrote in the Burroughs Bulletin, for putting me solidly on the thread of ERB's fascination with creating or altering life. Gaitonde wrote some very exciting essays for BB. If he's out there he should submit some to the ERBzine.
Of course, ERB mentions Frankenstein at least a couple times in the corpus. Once again this book that was very influential on him is not found in his library. One wonders why he never purchased a copy or perhaps hundreds of titles are missing.
Mary Shelley's story must have entranced his mind. Thus his eighth story published is The Monster Men which deals with the creation of life. Dr. Case must himself have been an early version of Ras Thavas. Case was about as successful as the Great Ras whose creative efforts go haywire in The Synthetic Men Of Mars. Just before that effort 'God' in Tarzan And The Lion Man makes a mess of things in his efforts.
Zoanthrohago is closer to 'God' than Case and Ras as he isn't trying to create life so much as to manipulate the end result. Zoan has it in mind to discover a process by which to enlarge a division of Ant Men who will be able finally to subdue all the various cities in Minunia. This guy is no Ras Thavas but no slouch either. I'm surprised Stalin didn't put his scientists to work to create troops who could step over tanks to help with the ape men his boys were working on.
Unable to enlarge men Zoan has discovered a way to reduce them. How do you suppose he does this? C'mon now, this you could have guessed. Think back to 1899 in Toronto. Yeah, right. You hit them on the forehead.
Now, when the Veltops attacked the Trohans Tarzan was in the van. First he heard the Veltops coming by pressing his ear to the ground spoiling their surprise attack then in some dim witted notion, the Big Bwana makes some surprising goofs after he breaks a bough from a tree to sweep the invaders away. He fails to fall back with the Trohans. Surrounded he is knocked down by the bounding antelopes. He loses consciousness but doesn't know how. Once again we have a reenactment of 1899.
Tarzan loses consciousness at about the same time Miranda, his double, is bashed. The awakenings of Esteban and Tarzan coincide. In fact they wake up on opposite pages of two adjoining chapters. Therefore both are related to Toronto. Miranda wakes up with addled brains while Tarzan wakes up one fourth his size. Figure that one out. Alice in Wonderland stuff.
Zoanthrohago, the leading scientist of his age was in the van of the invaders. It was he who knocked Tarzan down rendering him unconscious in some 'mysterious' way. Obviously he bopped the Big Bwana on the forehead as that was the method of reduction.
So, we have a miniature Tarzan, a slave, working at the mill in Gaza, so to speak. He is sent to the quarries. However the king, Elkomoenhago wishes to see him. Tarzan and the Prince, acting as interpreter as Tarzan is supposed to speak an unknown language, are taken to the laboratory of Zoan.
Of course Tarzan can understand every word. Zoan goes into a dissertation on his process. Tarzan learns that his shrinkage is not permanent as the process is imperfect and that he may return to his former size at any time. As he is on the top floor or the royal dome of the Veltops this begins to cause him some anxiety.
Zoan then gives a demonstration of his process on a mouse. For those who don't think Burroughs knew anything of Esoterica or Theosophy this should enlighten them. I'm not real clear on this nor have I worked out the arithmetic but it involves multiples of seven and materials made of the seven different metals. All those sevens and the seven different metals indicate ERB has been reading something off there in the Occult.
Elko suggests that if hitting in the forehead makes one smaller then hitting in the back of the head should make one larger. You see, one side makes you larger, one side makes you smaller. It works with mushrooms. Zoan didn't laugh out loud but he might as well have.
While Zoanthrohago is the mastermind of Veltopismakus he incurs the jealous displeasure of Elko right after this demonstration from which he is escorted to the dungeons.
So Burroughs combines his science with a form of the esoteric.
In many ways the Great War running from 1914-18 masked the end of nineteenth century ways and the emergence of twentieth century ways. While Women's Suffrage, what had been known as the Temperance Movement and the Income Tax had been developing for decades they seemed to become a concrete reality just after the war ended ushering in a world with a completely different appearance and newer, faster tempo. It really was a New Era when the twenties came into existence. Just evolution of society really, but the transition was sharp.
Burroughs was forty-five years old in 1920. The time was one of the exciting ones when everything you know is wrong. Whatever worked yesterday doesn't work today. It's a new paradigm, a brand new way of looking at things. You go to sleep in one world and it's a new world when you wake up in the morning. Isn't that exactly what happened to Tarzan? Thus Burroughs had some new puzzlements to deal with. Specifically they were the Sixteenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
The Sixteenth brought the income tax into existence, the Eighteenth took legal booze out of existence and the Nineteenth which gave women the vote changed the whole structure of society. The first story about the Alalus dwelt on the Nineteenth Amendment quite extensively. The Income Tax and Prohibition, as Temperance was now known, came in for a full treatment in this tale.
This book was written as the Harding Administration ended. Harding himself died under mysterious circumstances in August of 1923 just after ERB began this story. While I personally think Harding was a much better President than most evaluations there can be no question that he didn't keep close tabs on the shenanigans of his associates. On the other hand we must remember that the period following the War was one of unparalleled lawlessness. Even if some of Harding's associates were corrupt they were more honest than society at large. Shall we say the people got the administration they deserved. Take a lesson. Harding's Postmaster General, Will Hays, was able to bring the endemic mail robberies under control establishing order there. That he was then coopted by Hollywood should tell us something of what was going on.
The so-called Tea Pot Dome oil scandal is blown completely out of proportion.
However Harding's crony, Harry Daugherty, may be represented by Vestako, an advisor of Elko, who extracted so many slaves from the other members of Elko's 'cabinet' in exchange for silence.
The Sixteenth Amendment itself was passed during the administration of Republican William Howard Taft. The Amendment was first proposed on February 25, 1913 just before Woodrow Wilson and the Democrats assumed the reins of government.
Rates were still very moderate at the time ERB was complaining. They would remain so during the Coolidge and Hoover administrations. The tax would become a tool of expropriation in the hands of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the 'Democrats.' The criminal expropriatory rates would balloon during the thirties reaching 90% in the forties. As an expropriatory tool of the 'masses' against the 'capitalists' there were no consistent rules that could be followed by the taxpayer, nor were the rules published. What was supposedly valid one day would be disallowed the next. ERB's complaints in 1920 became really valid under FDR. Nevertheless ERB goes on like this, p. 139:"It is seldom," (the publican) said, "that warriors rich enough to possess gold come to our poor shop. Pieces of iron and bits of lead, with much wooden money, pass into my coffers; but rarely do I see gold. Once I did, and many of my customers were formerly of the richest of the city. Yonder see that tall man with the heavily wrinkled face. Once he was rich-- the richest warrior in his dome. Look at him now! And see there in the next room performing menial services, men who once owned slaves so prosperous that they in turn, hired other slaves to do the meaner duties for them. Victims, all of them, of the tax that Elkomoelhago has placed upon industry.A few years later William Randolph Hearst, a critic of FDR, would find himself in just that situation. Probably ERB needed those taxes to help him out of the financial hole he was digging for himself. As a boy of the old pre-income tax school he found the tax frustrating. The times can change but why should they change that way, eh?
"To be poor," he continued, "assures one an easier life than being rich, for the poor have no tax to pay, while those who work hard and accumulate property have only their labor for their effort, since the government takes all from them in taxes.
"Over there is a man who was very rich. He worked hard all his life and accumulated a vast fortune. For several years after Elkomoelhago's new tax law was enforced, he struggled to earn enough to ensure that his income would be at least equal to his taxes and his cost of living; but he found that it was impossible.
The Eighteenth Amendment prohibiting the use of alcohol he found not so much frustrating as incomprehensible. Indeed the insanity of the law is such that one wonders how otherwise reasonable people would have thought it could have been effective. The extensive criminality that developed from it had already found expression in ERB's writing in 1922's Girl From Hollywood.
Here, as he and Trohan are escaping from the royal dome they enter a storeroom in which confiscated alcohol is kept. The men guarding it are all stone drunk. The storeroom may reflect the fully stocked concealed cellar that came with Tarzana when ERB bought it.
The Minunians seems to be singularly free of religion. ERB has nothing to say of their religious practices. He seems rather to insist on the godlike quality of Tarzan. He expresses this in Tarzan's refusal to consider himself a 'victim.' Burroughs accepts difficulties as part of the process of life. His characters survive difficulties most of us never see. They are, for instance enslaved time and time again. Yet, they never succumb to victimhood as Trohan is willing to do. John Carter's motto is 'I still live.' Thus neither Carter, Tarzan or any other heroic character become bitter or sour. They never whimper or cry. They are self-sufficient.
While I wasn't conscious of this quality as a kid when I first read this stuff I'm sure it attracted me then as it is that something of value I received from Tarzan then and cherish now.
I am sure that it is this quality of manhood and independence that the masters of victimhood so resent in Burroughs that they still carry on a vendetta against him. Fellows like Richard Slotkin and his kin who set up monuments to victimhood and then defame anyone who won't bow down to these citadels of death. I live. I live until I die and when I die I want no monuments set up for my death. I live and I want my memory to live and I won't worship death. Let those who will do but don't defame me because I reject their cult of death.
Thus Trohan keeps telling Tarzan that there is no way to escape, that they must remain victims until they die. Tarzan says he will escape. Trohan says he doesn't believe it. Now, this is interesting, Tarzan accuses Trohan of having no faith in him. Appropriate for a god but a little over the top for a mere mortal. Set back on his heels Trohan says he does have faith in Tarzan. So they go about escaping. What was that Frankie Boy sings? 'I did it my way?'
So, yes, I too had faith in Tarzan. I, too, believed that whatever it was, could be done. I didn't have to be a victim. Whatever knocks life gave me and I've had my share, I could overcome them.
I heard a little piece of ephemera I'm sure no one remembers anymore by Freddie Hart- does anyone even remember him?- that I took to heart:
Now, there stands a blind man,
A man that can't see.
He's not complaining,
Why should you or me.
Don't tell me your troubles,
I've got enough of my own.
Be thankful you're livin'
Drink up and go home.~ Freddie Hart
Alright. Enough of that. Let those who would be victims be victims and leave the rest of us alone.
One hears that Burroughs was a formula writer. All literature posits a problem or problems that have to be solved. The problem has to be presented to the reader. The question is not whether one follows a method for presenting the problem, or in other words a formula for doing so but the variety of detail in doing it. Burroughs borrows his method or formula from H. Rider Haggard. If one ignores the details all Haggard novels can be said to be the same, follow a formula, as with Burroughs. The kicker is that both Haggard and Burroughs know that they have a method, varying the details in clever and imaginative ways. I've read most of Haggard at least once and all of Burroughs two or more times. I know what to expect in their manner of presentation but the execution of the formula is always breathtaking. While one criticizes this or that I find no real fault in either writer. Either you like them or you don't. I like Haggard a lot and have reverence for Burroughs' Tarzan novels.
Tarzan is indomitable. One almost believes the Big Bwana is reciting W.E. Henley's Invictus as he roils through his adventurous life.
W.E. Henley 1849-1903
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.
(Boy, do those two lines have meaning for ERB and Tarzan)
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.
And more, much more than this, I did it my way. (Paul Anka) Well, maybe not his way but ERB rose above a cruel fate that had consigned him to the bottom of the heap and if Tarzan doesn't do it his way he doesn't do it anyone else's way either.
If one reads Invictus carefully and with feeling one finds the central meaning of the Tarzan series and ERB over all clearly expressed. The point itself could be epitomized in John Carter's slogan - I still live. The poem also expresses ERB's concern with the soul. The Monster Men revolves on the problem of the soul; the Bolgani of The Valley Of Diamonds are said to have the souls of men. One imagines then that the line: I am the captain of my soul- is charged with special meaning for Burroughs. Nor do I think there can be any question that ERB read Invictus. This is perhaps as famous a poem as can be found in the English language. I don't know that ERB had it committed to memory but I wouldn't doubt it.
So, in this story ERB follows the Haggard formula to a T. After a series of minor skirmishes he sets Tarzan the problem of delivering himself from slavery. In Minunia delivering himself would be too easy so he also delivers his friend Prince Trohanadalmakus and the hidden princess, the slave girl Talaskar. Not only that but he has to descend once again into the lowest level of the slave quarries to get her. To hell and back twice.
While the story casually read comes across as some lightweight pulp adventure novel Burroughs has actually set himself a formidable task.
The details of military maneuvers, diadets and the building of the great hives housing thousands of Minunians, as the Ant People are collectively known is quite fascinating. Now, all this is done in just over a hundred pages so Burroughs leaves no breathing space for the reader. As a kid I was panting from start to finish. I had no trouble visualizing all this stuff so I was literally living the story alongside Tarzan and Trohan. There are those who say Burroughs is not a good writer but no writer can do more than involve the reader completely in his story. I was involved then while I can immerse myself today.
I'm not aware that there were glaciers in Africa, perhaps Burroughs was merely showing off the geological knowledge he acquired at the MMA, but the Minunian cities are built on a terminal moraine hence there are lots of stones for building materials.
The stones are mined by slaves captured in war. Incredibly in this brief novella Burroughs creates a whole organization of society including the institution of slavery. Slaves with green tunics are first generation slaves who have no hope of changing their status. Their offspring become white tunicked slaves who live above ground and have the chance of intermarrying with the freemen.
ERB takes only a few lines to tell this fairly complicated organization. It is necessary for the reader to know it because after an idyll of a few weeks Tarzan is captured in the Veltopismakusian attack and consigned to the quarries as a green tunicked slave. He is not only consigned to the quarries but taken to the bottommost level, thirty-six levels and hundreds of feet down. Tarzan is literally buried alive. The night that covers him is the Pit. He has nothing but his will and his unconquerable soul to deliver him from this dark, dark night. Of course it doesn't hurt to have four times normal strength and an unbroken string of incredible luck. But then, as the saying goes- luck favors the prepared mind and Tarzan's is prepared to make his breaks as well as take advantage of them.
In the quarries he finds his friend Trohan who was captured at the same time and a gorgeous 'cook' Talaskar.
Tarzan is no ordinary Minunian although he has been reduced in size from 6'0" to the average Minunian height of 18". He is a slave of the scientist or Walmak, as they are known in Minunia. A Walmak translates as a man who can work miracles through science. The Minunians who have never seen his like assume that he is an Alalus. As Tarzan, like any other sullen beast, had never spoken this turns out to be an asset. Trohan pretends that he speaks a strange language that is Tarzan's. He appoints himself an interpreter even though Tarzan can understand and speak the universal Minunian language.
Thus when Zoan and Elko have him brought up to the royal dome for examination Trohan goes along. At this point Tarzan learns that he may regain his original stature at any time.
The two men are placed in a holding room before being transferred back to the quarries on the morrow. As Tarzan realizes that 'beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the Horror of the shade' he sets to work to escape. Of course, Trohan says that escape is impossible so why even try. Well, 'in the fell clutch of circumstance (Tarzan) has not winced or cried aloud' he simply asks if Trohan has faith in him. Trohan has faith so they set to work. As the Irish say, the wind was at their backs all the way. They manage to descend from the top of the dome to street level while still getting a good night's sleep, a hearty breakfast and a lecture on the income tax.
Now comes the hard part. They have to reenter the quarries, descend to the lowest level for Talaskar and escape again. Here the Great One's character really shines. Boy, as a kid this one really got me. Trohan figures 'What the heck, we're out, let's slide out of town. Forget the girl.' But no, Tarzan remembers the kindness of a stranger and says he's going back for Talaskar whether Trohan comes or not. What kind of guy would walk out on his best friend? Trohan sighs and goes along.
In the interim the Vental- a Vental is the Lieutenant of an ental, has bought Talaskar and taken her to his quarters. This guy is a bad one. Undaunted Tarzan and Trohan find the Vental's quarters where he has Talaskar but they are recognized by Caraftap, a slave snitch who informs the Vental in his quarters.
By this time the alarm is out and the three slaves, the Vental and Caraftap are trapped in the Vental's quarters. With extreme brutality, even for Burroughs, Tarzan barehandedly tears the head off Caraftap then dispatches the Vental.
Now, this is all pretty exciting if you don't stop to examine details. The passageway runs through the chambers with locked doors at either end. There appears to be no way out. But, looking up Tarzan notes an opening in the ceiling. Why it's there is anybody's guess especially as it must have been twice the size of a manhole.
Remember, although Tarzan is reduced to a fourth, Tarzan has the strength of four. From a standing jump he soars through the opening pulling Talaskar and Trohan after him . Their pursuers apparently don't look up.or notice this gaping hole or else they're so familiar with it they ignore it.
Tarzan does find a way out. He has to crawl on his belly in the night that covers him through a very narrow aperture before he enters a cavity where a tall man can sit up. Midgets apparently can walk erect. It's still pitch dark. For me this would be a harrowing experience. Such situations as this prevented me from being a spelunker.
Calling his companions to him they can now light a candle without fear of discovery. I don't think I've mentioned it before but these candles are marvelous, they make the radium lights of Mars look like child's play. The whole Minunian civilization is dependent on them. Some early Walmak discovered a way to reverse the usual process so that instead of consuming oxygen the candles release oxygen providing fresh air in these tightly enclosed places. Pretty nifty.
The three follow the passageway which gradually widens until they enter a chamber. As they look around they discover a number of shadowy bodies lining the walls. Dead men. This used to be some powerful person's private prison. Tarzan touched one and it crumbles to dust. Always the scariest part of any movie.
'Been here a while.' Tarzan opines.
'Not necessarily so.' Trohan replies. It seems until recently the Minunians had let ants scavenge their dead. Dead or alive, what's that to an ant, right? In the ensuing war the ants were wiped out. Nice little dissertation on how to go about it too.So these lumps could have been hollowed out by the ants fairly recently.
But wait, Tarzan hears a voice on the other side of a panel they discover. On the other side is Elko's daughter who naturally has a big crush on Tarzan who she has seen.
She brazenly puts it to him while he modestly declines. Maneuvered over a trap door Tarzan slips to near certain death at the fangs of two cats waiting in a cell below. Ensues the usual comedy of errors.
Zoan has been arrested by Elko and placed in a cell adjacent to the cats. The door between isn't locked so he draws Tarzan inside. Meanwhile, a floor or so above, the Princess is wrestling with Talaskar who she thinks is her rival for Tarzan, down into the Pit they go. Trohan left alone does the right thing leaping into the Pit.
Well the rest is all pretty straight forward adventure writing, they combine forces and escape, finding refuge in Trohan's city. As usual with Burroughs Trohan wants to marry the slave girl. The king waives any rules, customs and traditions which was unnecessary as Talaskar is actually a Princess of Mandalamakus. Mandala-makus. For those who don't find a Theosophical connection a mandala is a mystic symbol. So, it's almost magic.
Tarzan thinks its time to go home so the Minunians turn him over to the Alalus lad who conducts him to the inside wall of the Great Thorn Forest. Being small Tarzan has no difficulty walking through this huge natural boma. Recognizing the nausea that seizes him at the outer edge as his return to normal size he makes it into the grass on the other side.
Just as Tarzan and Miranda lost consciousness and recovered it at the same time earlier so now their careers act in unison but with different agents reversing their positions. This is clever.
Usulu, as mentioned before, finds Miranda feeding on the rotting buffalo carcass. Miranda looked like Tarzan but as there were two lookalikes roaming the jungle their might have been some doubt in Jane's mind as to whether Usulu conducted Tarzan or Miranda home.
ERB has brilliantly prepared for this exigency.
It will be remembered that Tarzan always wore the diamond encrusted gold locket with his parents pictures around his neck.
Back in Alalusland at the beginning of these three stories when Tarzan was unconscious in the First Woman's quarters a boy stole the locket from him. The boy was subsequently killed. When Ska the vulture fed on the boy the locket double looped around its neck. When Ska descended on this same buffalo carcass Esteban is feeding on the locket caught on the horn of the dead buffalo. A lion approached, Ska tried to fly away but connected to the buffalo by the locket she became meat for the lion. The locket is there on the horn.
Usulu recognizing the locket as Tarzan's places it around Miranda's neck. Thus when Esteban is led into Jane's presence the locket is proof that this is the real Tarzan.
Rather nicely done, I thought.
As Esteban was laying in the grass, so to speak, so a few miles away Tarzan duplicates the scene as he recovers from his expansion. The witch doctor, Khamis, happens along duplicating Usulu, in this case capturing Tarzan and imprisoning him in Obebe's village. Thus Burroughs neatly links the fates of the Tarzan twins- Tarzan and Miranda- reuniting them once again in Tarzan's living room. Both personalities in the split recombine into one, one presumes, as Burroughs leaves the issue hanging in the air.. As mentioned, in Tarzan And The Lion Man his double will be carried off by a fever. The first fever I can recall being mentioned in the series although Africa is the land of fevers.
In forming these problems ERB may have resolved them in his mind while having thus written himself out on Tarzan. In any event there is a four year hiatus between this novel and the next, Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle.
I organize the oeuvre into four sets of novels for my convenience. The first four-- Tarzan Of The Apes, The Return Of Tarzan, Beasts Of Tarzan and The Son Of Tarzan I group as The Russian Quartet because they are held together by the feud between Rokoff, Paulvitch and Tarzan. I am of the opinion that Rokoff and Paulvitch represent Frank Martin and R.H. Patchin who carried on a vendetta against Burroughs because he took Emma from Martin. I think research will prove this.
The next seven novels from Jewels Of Opar through Lord Of The Jungle I call the Jungle Idyll just to give them a name. The following nine beginning with Lost Empire and ending with Tarzan's Quest I call Political Undertones because of the feud between the Left and ERB.
Tarzan The Magnificent, the two novels unpublished during his lifetime and Foreign Legion I bunch as the Final Four. So, while the Jungle Idyll is complete with this diptych, Golden Lion - Ant Men Lord Of the Jungle gets tacked on as a coda. Written in 1927 Lord Of The Jungle was written after ERB began his affair with Florence Gilbert. Thus the succeeding nine novels might also easily be called the Adultery novels as equally with politics they concern ERB, Emma and Florence.
The tone of the future novels then changes a great deal. ERB begins to address a new set of problems largely setting aside these earlier ones.
Time also passes. Just as the few novels written between 1918 and 1923 reflect a different world than ERB had known as a young man so the thirties washed out the twenties. Time may give us all the time we need or can use as ERB states in Tarzan The Invincible but all that time may be more tumultuous than we desire.
Appendix To The Diptych
The unanswered question is when did the notion of Tarzan form in Burroughs' mind? I think we have the clue to the beginning of the genesis presented in Golden Lion and Ant Men.
As is well known the fictional Tarzan was given birth in 1888. Now, the Old Man in Golden Lion was a stowaway on the ship that brought Henry Morton Stanley to Africa for the 1888-89 relief expedition for Emin Pasha. Stanley wrote his account of his adventures on the expedition in Egypt immediately after. Incredibly his thousand page account- In Darkest Africa- was written in thirty days being published shortly thereafter.
In 1888-89 ERB was from 13 to 16 years old. That is to say that he was aware. He surely followed the exciting story in the newspapers as the dispatches came in. The expedition may have been the last great adventure story of the nineteenth century while it has never been topped since.
We know that Stanley made an indelible impression on the boy as, why not? While Stanley is disparaged today by the Liberal crowd for his derring-do Stanley's story is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, adventure story of all time. I respect the guy.
Stanley came to represent Africa for the world and for both the young and mature Edgar Rice Burroughs. In his last Tarzan novel published in his lifetime, save Tarzan And The Foreign Legion which is outside the psychological continuum, ERB states explicitly that Tarzan has replaced Stanley as the symbol of Africa. Tarzan in his mind was in competition with Stanley as the avatar of the Dark Continent.
My suggestion then is that Stanley and Tarzan stand to each other as do Miranda and Tarzan. Further that the reason Tarzan was born in 1888 is that that was the year ERB had his mind blown by the fantastic adventure of Stanley up the Aruwimi. That is why so much of the oeuvre takes place in and around the Ituri Rain Forest.
So, I believe Tarzan was born in Burroughs mind in 1888 from the exploits of Stanley although many other elements went into the development of the Big Bwana.
When questioned Burroughs either wouldn't or couldn't say exactly how the idea of Tarzan was born. The dating of 1888 for his birth is however a dead giveaway.
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