Springtime For Edgar Rice Burroughs III
By R. E. Prindle
3a. In The Beginning: The Renascent Burroughs
The psychological release Burroughs experienced when he began to realize the potential he had always felt must have been especially gratifying. In all likelihood he believed he was beginning a new life, born again, as it were. It wouldn’t have been unusual in this circumstance that he wished to dissociate himself from his entire past of failure.
For this reason it is possible that California loomed as the destination in which his new life would unfold. Making the change was difficult and would take him six years to consummate. One asks, why California? Why not Florida, for instance. I think the answer may be in his three most favorite novels: Mark Twain’s Prince And The Pauper, Little Lord Fauntleroy and Owen Wister’s The Virginian. Wister posits the West as a place of redemption and fulfillment while Burroughs youthful visit to Idaho may have had that effect on him. Hence Waldo the consumptive lands on an island as primitive as Idaho was to Chicago and becomes a man. So Burroughs may have viewed his visits in the West.
In the Prince And The Pauper a Prince becomes a Pauper and a Pauper becomes a Prince. In Fauntleroy the unknown princeling discovered his true identity thus exchanging the role of Pauper for a Prince while his alter ego the pauper Dick The Shoeshine Boy is transformed as well and through luck and pluck assumes a role of success in California as a rancher at the end of the story.
The Burroughs born a princeling then disinherited to a Pauper reassumed his role as a Prince but he had been inefaceably declassed hence though now a Prince as Fauntleroy he retains the psychology of the declasse as in the character of Dick The Shoeshine Boy. Dick at the end of Fautleroy moves to California where he finds work on a rach eventually becoming a success as a rancher himself.
It seem obvious that burroughs considered Little Lord Fauntleroy a book of destiny. Thus California would appear as his destiny. I believe that the reason for the six year delay in the actual move was necessitated by a need to combine the Fauntleroy and Dick the Shoe Shine Boy or The Prince and the Pauper into one identity. He had to have enough money to support the appearance of the Prince. I haven’t figured out why he wanted to raise hogs as yet but when he moved he anticipated only buying 20-40 acres which was well within his means, but when he arrived there Colonel Otis’ magnificent estate presented an opportunity to realize both identities in a property he couldn’t resist although he may have known he was acting in an unwise manner.
Even then it may have been possible to sustain the property if his economic situation hadn’t come under attack by the Judaeo/Red/Liberal Coalition in the early twenties.
A second very major p;roblem for him was Emma who now definitely became unwanted baggage. But, he also had the three children who were also as definitely wanted baggage. It is possible that for their sake he didn’t abandon Emma until they were grown.
His Anima ideal was foreshadowed in Dejah Thoris while in Tarzan Of The Apes he creates the stodgy but beautiful Jane Porter as a flesh and blood woman but not an Anima ideal.
The actual split begins to occur in The Return Of Tarzan when Burroughs bursting with confidence realizes that he is about to realize his visions of self-worth. At that point the past and all related to it becomes hateful to him. As might be expected he wanted to put all that behind him. Thus in creating a land of his fossilized past in Opar he also creates a vision of the ideal woman he would like to have in La of Opar. In Return the conflict between Jane and La becomes apparent when La is about to sacrifice Jane on the altar of the Flaming God. That she doesn’t means that Burroughs has elected to stay with Emma undoubtedly for the children’s sake.
But he begins to toy with ideal images in resolution of his sexual dilemma. Another woman becomes a possiblity that didn’t exist before. It would seem apparent that as Burroughs fame grew and he became a desirable sex object to women that opportunities for philandering would present themselves. At one time I believed for certain that he didn’t. Now I am less certain but there is nothing to indicate he did.
Nevertheless he does begin to explore other ideal possibilities. Nadara of Cave Girl can be seen as one of those explorations. Having created other possibilities in La of Opar Burroughs begins to develop the idea with the cave girl, Nadara. She is perhaps the most human of all of Burroughs’ Anima ideals. She is the daughter of civilized French aristocrats raised by a caveman to be a primitive woman. Thus she has none of the civilized inhibitions especially toward sex. Burroughs will now begin a series of novels concerning the sexual relationship well in advance of what he may have heard about Freud.
Once Nadara has accepted Waldo as her mate she is ready to cohabit. Burroughs seems to be advocating this as a sociological ideal; a revolt against the strict limits of civilization. However in a clash of cultures Waldo who is subject to the strict limits of civilization finds it impossible to establish sexual relations unless they have married according to civilized rites and customs. As there is no one in this stone age society to perform these rites Waldo keeps putting consummation off until such an opportunity arises, if it ever shall.
Bearing the psycho-sexual situation in mind an interpretation of The Cave Girl is possible on a number of levels. The story is set in motion with a variation of what will become the familiar ship wreck motif. In this case the Prince, Waldo, is washed off the deck of the ship by a huge wave that deposits him on the strand of a large stone age island in the South Seas. Thus Waldo has to begin life without any survival skills, born again as it were as a new born babe. He has become the Pauper.
At this point it might be best to introduce the major sources for the story that I have found. As usual there are several.
And then I received an email a day or so before this writing from Mr. Caz Cazedessus of Pulpdom Magazine. Having read the first couple sections he pointed out that Mr. J.G. Huckenpohler had written an article in the first Pulpdom issue relating Cave Girl to Zane Grey’s Heritage Of The Desert. I haven’t read Huck’s essay but I have read The Heritage Of The Desert which I have just reviewed. I can see a possible line of argument that shows a number of similarities in the plotting of the two novels.
Heritage was published at some point in 1910 while Cave Girl was written in February-March of 1913. That does leave a sufficient window for Burroughs to have read Grey's book but it seems a little light especially as Grey was a newish author at the time without a definite reputation. However whether or not he may have read the book earlier it is possible that he read the book shortly before writing Cave Girl having elements of his plot suggested to him.
Thus both Waldo and John Hale, the hero of Heritage, are consumptives or ‘lungers’ as they say Out West. Waldo is from Boston, Hare from Connecticut. Hare goes West to Mormon Country to begin his regeneration while Waldo lands on his island. In both cases a woman is involved and two enemies are overcome by their respective heroes. So, as I say, I don’t know Huck’s argument but I’m sure it’s a good one. There are good reasons to believe that the plot line was an influence, an additional influence, on Cave Girl. Thus Heritage would be another influence on Cave Girl. OK, Caz?
As Burroughs was beginning life over there is also a definite influence from the first eleven chapters of Genesis from the Bible which I will make apparent in my essay.
Another very major influence seems to be the King Arthur mythology. I will make this apparent as I go along. While there is no doubt that Burroughs would have been familiar with Genesis it might do to try the root out his possible Arthurian influences.
While we have at least a portion of Burroughs’ library listed here on ERBzine we should never gorget that while growing up ERB would have had access to the libraries of his brothers as well as that of his father. George T.’s library would have gone back to the 1840s and probably earlier not including the then English classics such as Milton’s Paradise Lost, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, et al.
One imagines that there were Arthurian titles in the collections, at least Mallory’s Arthur. If the young Burroughs didn’t read the volumes through he would at least have handled them, browsed them and looked at the pictures, if any. We know his brothers recommended the related Greek mythology to him.
Certainly the medieval world was more often discussed in papers and magazines then than in our day. And then Burroughs did like Tennyson having his collected poems in his library. Thus ERB was likely familiar with the poet’s Idyls Of The King dealing with Arthurian stories. And those not following Mallory. Perhaps the most important Arthurian influence was Howard Pyle’s four volume retelling that while similar to Mallory’s differs significantly while Pyle adjusts the story to his own perceptions and moral concepts.
The reputation of Pyle would have loomed large to ERB. There is one Pyle title in his library, Stolen Treasure, but Pyle’s reputation as an illustrator would have drawn ERB’s attention to him. Pyle was the most influential illustrator of his time and perhaps in US history. His disciples were legion including Burroughs’ own illustrator, St. John. Pyle founded what is known as the Brandywine school of illustration.
It should be borne in mind that Burroughs had an aborted career as an illustrator before he began his successful career as writer. Burroughs was very proud of the time he spent at the Chicago Art Institute. So it would seem that ERB would have kept up on Pyle, Maxfield Parrish and others.
Pyle began rewriting the Arthurian story in 1903 completing the last volume in 1910 so Burroughs had plenty of time to ingest and digest the work before he began to egest it. Nor would Pyle and Tennyson be his only Arthurian influences.
I didn’t catch this in time to include the idea in my review of The Lad And The Lion but that story seems to be highly influenced by Pyle’s telling of the story of Percival from Pyle’s second volume, The Champions Of The Round Table. Naturally Burroughs borrows elements rather than the complete story.
Percival, I follow Pyle, was an orphan living in the forest with his mother far from the haunts of men. P. 263, prologue to Percival.
Nor did he ever see anyone from the outside world, saving only an old man who was a deaf mute.
So Burroughs took the hint of the deaf mute and elaborated the idea.
The Lad’s entry into the world follows that of Percival. So also the Lad’s first sight of the desert horsemen replicates Percival’s first view of the ‘angelic’ knights.
As I did mention in my review there is a similarity between lad’s being named Aziz, translated as Beloved, by Nakhla and Percival’s thinking his name was ‘Darling Boy’ as his mother referred to him. If this last connection is valid then Burroughs also read some other Arthurian story as Pyle doesn’t tell his version in that way.
So, as usual, Burroughs mines the literature of the world to tell his story. Just as I was not aware of the influence of Grey’s Heritage Of The Desert I’m sure there are more I haven’t noticed. I may even find more as my essay unfolds.
Across the strand at no great distance is a forest representing the search for self-discovery and realization. On the mragin of the forest at dusk a figure appears. As we will learn this is the beautiful Nadara but Waldo in his hyper-fear and cowardice imagines the form to be some kind of monster of which he is terrified. The monster stands between him and the food and water he needs. In a metaphoric way then he is between the devil and the deep blue sea. He cannot go back and he is afraid to go forward.
In Burroughs own situation as he is making the fateful decision to quit his day job to devote his life to full time writing the meaning of the metaphor is quite clear.
There is also a way of looking at the tale as retelling of the Biblical Genesis. This opening scene may be represented as the Biblical chaos in which nothing is differentiated with the upper and lower firmaments resting on each other. Then a divine wind arose which separated the upper and lower firmaments.
Waldo is a comic figure while the novel itself is intended to be a comic or satiric novel. Thus Waldo who can stand the tension between the devil and the deep blue sea no more runs howling and screaming into the forest to do or die against the monster.
The shrieking may be seen as a humorous representation of the divine wind. Man having been created first as it seems pursues the phantom who turns out to be a woman. Thus Waldo and Nadara represent Adam and Eve.
Waldo’s charge into the wood can also be seen as a representation of Burroughs’ decision to become a full time writer. This must have been as stressful a decision for him as was Waldo’s charge against the demon. Once through the wood Waldo is presented with a sheer cliff that appears to be inpenetrable. So, another barrier presents itself.
Having traversed the forest that was after all fairly narrow Waldo had seen a woman scrambling up the barrier. Rather than pursue her directly Waldo reenters the wood to pick fruit and refresh himself.
This can be seen as Burroughs’ desperate attempt to become a writer. Another view of the strand and the demon of the forest- between the devil and the deep blue sea- is that Burroughs had to make the desperate attempt to redeem his life by writing. Thus that original difficult decision that might possibly be compared to Waldo’s being washed off deck by the wave while now Burroughs is faced with the even more difficult decision of working at it full time. Thus the charge through the woods might represent his giving up his day job.
It would be interesting to know at what point in the story’s composition his father died. What is even more interesting is that his father’s death did not interrupt his writing schedule. In fact in a year packed with traumatic occurrences nothing did; Burroughs continued to turn out his stories at two month intervals no matter what. It is true that he had several incomplete stories in this year which means he hadn’t thought the stories through so that it is possible that while he averted severe writer’s block when he reached the end of his chain of thought he just stopped, resuming the story when he had thought it out.
A prime example would be The Girl From Farris’s that he began about this time finishing it nearly a year later. The Cave Girl was completed at this point while The Cave Man its other half and sequel was completed the following July and August of 1914. It is possible Burroughs was trying to double his monetary return but I think it more probable that he was writing so fast with such a tight schedule that he didn’t have time to worry over completion so he just terminated his story at a convenient point and moved on to the next one that was also only half thought out.
As all this stuff is based on autobiography I am truly astonished that Burroughs was so undisturbed by the happenings in his life that he had so little reaction. I have read of authors who found writing personal stuff so difficult that they were driven to bed for a week or two at a stretch. I have never faced a long stretch like that but I have sought refuge in bed for a day or two a couple times. So Burroughs writing achievement here over 1913, ‘14 and ‘15 is fairly remarkable.
At any rate having made the decision to become a full time writer as symbolized by the charge through the wood. Burroughs if faced with an unforeseen barrier so he goes back to pick fruit. This could possibly be seen as having written his intial ideas out, that is John Carter and Tarzan, he had to organize his second crop of stories none of which had the impact of Carter or the Jungle God. Grey’s Heritage may fit in here as Burroughs searching for ideas and plot lines may have the read Grey’s stories at this time or just previously.
Led on by the woman Waldo had mistaken for a demon he now faces the new barrier seeking a way through. He has difficulty finding the path but once on it he discovers the opening through the wall. This is a motif Burroughs will use a number of times most notably in The Land That Time Forgot and Tarzan Triumphant, not to mention the entrance to Opar.
Now, all these openings resemble the birth canal or being born again. In the instance of The Cave Girl the result of the rebirth is self-evident as well as perhaps Tarzan Triumphant when he is about to leave Emma for Florence. The Oparian episodes would have to be examined more closely from that point of view especially as the four episodes occur at critical points in Burroughs’ life while involving sexual conflict between himself and Jane/Emma and another woman represented by his Anima ideal La. Thus, in Golden Lion when Tarzan leaves Opar with La to enter the Valley of Diamonds is it possible that he had a dalliance with another woman? One wonders.
At any rate Waldo squeezed through the opening to come out on a wonderland on the other side. There is never a thought of going back. In fact a cave man places himself between Waldo and the opening driving him forward. This could correspond to the flaming sword protecting the entrance to the Garden of Eden which would continue the biblical motif.
At the same time we have a clear reference to Alice In Wonderland or down the rabbit hole. We know Burroughs was familiar with the two Lewis Carroll stories.
Yet another barrier presents itself. Another cliff is before Waldo this one of cave dwellers another favorite motif of Burroughs especially during this period. Burroughs would have been familiar with actual cliff houses from his sojourn in Arizona with the Army while he would have been fascinated with the replica built for the Columbian Expo of ‘93. At this point God created Woman as Waldo pairs up with nadara. Thus Waldo’s fears on the strand when he projected the character of a demon on this beautiful and compliant female were totally unjustified. But if Nadara represents the success that had eluded him for so long then his fears born of hysteria were warranted by his past. This is a comic novel at least at the beginning when Waldo begins his transition from the skinny, consumptive academic bookworm to that of a man of Tarzanic proportions. Thus at this stage of the book Waldo is a bumbling buffoon.
Burroughs is obviously ridiculing the Boston Transcendalist school of Ralph Waldo Emerson as Waldo’s name merely leaves off the Ralph and adds the ridiculous hyphenated Smith-Jones. The latter of course has pretensions to nobility but is compounded of the two most plebeian and common English names. Waldo’s name is as comic as Burroughs could make it. Worth a laugh or two on its own.
He may also be making a snub at his fellow students of Phillips Academy when he went East. It is well known that Easterners of the time, if not still, deprecated Westerners. Burroughs would have had to put up with much jesting and ridicule while there so perhaps he is now ridiculing those who ridiculed him.
Also he may be ridiculing his own former self.
Burroughs is fairly hostile to New England throughout his writing. He is positive on the South having more than one hero from Virginia while he is considerate of the middle states. Thus Waldo beginning as an effete New Englander will turn into something resembling John Carter/Tarzan or the Virginian of Owen Wister’s strange novel. Thus if one views Waldo in light of Burroughs three most favorite novels, The Prince And The Pauper, Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Virginian the basic tenor of all the stories is made apparent.
Waldo being pursued toward the cliff dwellings by the cave men with his legs pumping up to his chin and the stick twirling in his hand resembles a scene from a newspaper comic strip. It would seem that Burroughs was an ardent reader of the newspaper Funnies. David Innes Earth Borer was undoubtedly taken from a newspaper comic strip also. This incessant modeling or borrowing may explain a bit of the contempt for his work by contemporaries. ERB comes real close from time to time.
Having paired up with Nadara she and Waldo hold off the cave men slipping away in the night to Chapter 3, The Little Eden, which is a key chapter.
b. It’s A Lover’s Question
This chapter is so compacted I find it difficult to find a starting point. If Burroughs’ marriage with Emma had not run smoothly from 1900 to 1913 their relationship would become even more stressed from 1913 to 1920. The marriage apparently barely survived a major crisis c. 1918-20 finally being terminated in 1934.
The relationship of ERB and Emma is very difficult to comprehend. It seems clear that ERB had no intention of actually marrying her but wished to keep her on a string. This arrangement was doing well until Frank Martin entered the scene in 1897 or ‘98. Martin forced Burroughs’ hand who was then compelled to marry Emma in 1900.
Over the years from 1900 on Burroughs developed an intense antipathy to Emma which expressed itself in its most naked form at the time of her death when ERB did everything but desecrate her grave. There must have been some deep psychological cause for this that isn’t apparent from what we know for sure of the relationship.
Perhaps the most critical event in their lives occurred on that streetcorner on the way to Brown School in the fifth grade when ERB was emasculated by John the Bully. Burroughs was then removed to the girl’s school a few months later. I have no evidence that ERB and Emma were walking to school together on that the fateful day but subsequent literary evidence points in that direction.
As a result of his emasculation it would appear that ERB was fixated in such a manner that he was unable to form relationships with women after that date and that Emma was the only female with whom he retained one. But as she reminded him of that fateful day he both rejected her and couldn’t do without her. Thus he refused to marry her yet didn’t want her to marry anyone else. When circumstances forced him to marry her this may have begun his irrational resentment toward her. As there was no other woman possible for him until the beginning of his psychological liberation in 1913 he may have tolerated her, but just.
Success seemed to liberate repressed areas of his personality and we find him dreaming of an ideal mate quite different from Jane/Emma. If one assumes that John Carter is an idealized Edgar Rice Burroughs although Burroughs projects the role of uncle on him while maintaining a dissociation from him until the end then Carter’s affiliation with Dejah Thoris on Mars would be ERB’s first Anima projection. However Dejah Thoris is more closely related to Jane. In La of Opar and Nadara Burroughs’ Anima ideal shifts more toward a wild or nature woman. This aspect of the ideal is realized in Balza, The Golden Girl of 1933 who is also represented by Florence.
So, in Cave Girl an emaciated, consumptive, over intellectualized Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones mates with the primitive Nadara who still retains the imprint of her civilized parents down by the river in the Little Eden. Thus we have Adam and Eve in the Garden before they leave never to return.
The problem of male-female relations is a dominant theme in Burroughs’ writing. Indeed the theme is one that preoccupies all writers of fiction in one degree or another. In this aspect Freud is merely a prominent writer on the sexual condition of men and women. He is perhaps more systematic but not necessarily more profound.
For instance Freud asked in a title to one of his essays What Does Woman Want and gives neither a profound nor very thoughtful answer. If he had read E.M. Hull’s 1921 novel, The Sheik, he would have have had somthing of an answer written by a woman. Burroughs did read the Sheik. He understood what Hull was saying. His answer was the major burlesque of the Alalus people of the Tarzan And The Ant Men of 1922. In this charming story of the The Cave Girl he give his 1913 answer to the question of what woman wants in a credible manner.
The answer in this case is age old. The answer was clear from ancient times to E.M. Hull’s clear story. Mostly it would appear what woman wants is a powerful protector willing to perform her will when a problem exceeds her own powers thus recompensing her for the missing X and more especially the missing y chromosome. The latter what Freud called Penis Envy. One can only conclude that woman wants to be whole, to be chomosomally undivided. Thus as a famed LA procuress once said: A woman is only as powerful as the man beside her.
Now, Nadara projects a character on Waldo as her fierce and powerful protector. As love begins in Waldo’s heart the spectre of sex arises in their little Eden in the form of the Black Panther Nagoola. Is it a coincidence that the first syllable of both names is the smae while both end in a long A? Nadara the sexual temptress.
Prompting Waldo she demands whether he could kill Nagoola. That may have a couple meanings. It may mean could he despatch the animal and it may mean can he conquer or control the sexual urge. In Waldo’s case the anwer will be yes to both questions.
He does kill Nagoola in a comedy of errors in this comic novel. In its sequel The Cave Man he will adorn Nadara with the pelt of Nagoola thus making her the physical incarnation of sexual desire. Who says Burroughs wasn’t subtle.
Too desirous of impressing Nadara as a man of prowess he allows her to think he has already killed several Nagoolas.
Very pleased to hear this she says: ‘Good. When we get to my village I want you to kill Korth and Flatfoot.’ Well now, there was a committment that Waldo had no intention of honoring, at least in his present condition.
Thus, we have a demonstration of the thesis that women are responsible for conflict. Woman proposes, man imposes.
As they can’t stay in their little Eden forever they make the trek to Nadara’s people. Waldo is committed to killing the fearsome Korth and Flatfoot. He is terrified to confront them as well he might be. As they approach the village Waldo sends Nadara ahead then legs it out of there.
Thus we have the flight or fight dilemma that is another major theme of Burroughs. At this point in his career he isn’t ready to articulate his feelings as he will later. The dilemma relates to his confrontation with John the Bully in the fifth grade. At that time as Waldo in this story Burroughs elected to run. Now, you will notice that Waldo is with Nadara which is a pretty sure indication that ERB was with Emma that fateful morning on the way to school.
In point of fact either Korth or Flatfoot would easily have killed Waldo at this stage in his career as John would have cremated the much younger Burroughs. When he would later rationalize it there is no dishonor if fleeing overwhelming force which is surely true but has its consequences.
Thus Waldo like Burroughs was sent into the Wasteland. His problem now will be to figure out how to return to kill Korth and Flatfoot to reclaim Nadara.NEXT: 4c. How Waldo Became A Man
Renascent Burroughs -
A Lover’s Question
Became A Man
From ERB's Library
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