Everyone knows that Burroughs most famous creation was not Barsoom or Pellucidar, but rather Tarzan. Burroughs' Tarzan novels outnumber his Barsoom, Pellucidar and Venus series piled all together. Throw in his Caspak and Moon series and Tarzan still wins out. John Carter never got a movie, Tarzan has a revolving door to Hollywood.
It’s no surprise that Tarzan, particularly in the pulp heyday from the 1920s to the early 50s spawned numerous imitators. By some counts, there were forty or fifty jungle lords and ladies swinging through the jungles in pulps, comics, movies and television. Some of these you may even have heard of. Ka-Zar of the Savage Land and Shanna She-Devil are alive and well in Marvel comics, and Shanna even got her own (terrible movie) a few years back.
Jungle lords showed up not only in Africa, but in the Himalayas (Morgo), South American jungles (Bomba and Jan), Burma (Tam), Australia (Jongor), or just about any place that could pretend to be remote and inaccessible or which could sprout a patch of jungle or at least thick forest.
Some of these actually became franchises in their own right. Bomba the Jungle Boy, for instance, spawned some 25 books, and I believe a movie or movie serial or two. Steve Servello is ably chronicling Bomba, for Erbzine, so I’ll leave that one to him.
Ki-Gor of Africa was probably the most successful of Tarzan’s imitators, carrying his own pulp magazine and having more chronicled adventures than Tarzan himself. If you hunt around on the net you can find some of Ki-Gor’s adventures as Ebooks. Otherwise, you’re looking at real money hunting down ancient and very delicate pulp magazines. Unfortunately, or fortunately, perhaps due to copyright or trademark issues, Ki-Gor was one of the few pulp heroes who didn’t get a second chance at life during the paperback explosion of the 60's and 70's.
Otis Adelbert Kline actually spawned two Tarzan clones, Jan of the Jungle, and Tam, Son of the Tiger. Jan managed to get a couple of novels and even a movie serial.
For myself, I was never really a big fan of Jungle Lord books. There might be something compelling in the notion of a noble savage rejecting or growing up outside of civilization. But for me, running around the jungle in a loin cloth just didn’t appeal. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a town on the edge of a forest and I knew what the bush was really like... cold, scratchy and full of bugs. Tarzan didn’t really do it for me. Someone wants to run around in a loincloth and beat up poachers, well, good for them, but I’m not going to beat down the door to read it.
For me it was John Carter and the exotic romance of Barsoom. Or Pellucidar, because dinosaurs were really cool. The Tarzan stories I loved most were the outre ones, where he visits Pellucidar or Pal-Ul-Don, or finds himself among Ant-men or Romans.
So this obviously shapes the essays that I write. Lots of interplanetary, lost world and lost civilization stuff. Not much Jungle Lord.
Anyway, this takes us to Robert Moore Williams, born in 1907 and died in 1977. His first published story was “Zero as a Limit” in Astounding in 1937. He was a prolific pulp author, as were so many of the pulp writers. Writing primarily science fiction, he was able to make a modest but consistent living, with an output of roughly 150 novels and stories over three decades. His last published works appeared in 1972 and 1973.
To be honest, I don’t know a lot about the guy, apart from reading his Jongor books. He doesn’t seem to have been one of the great pulp writers. Rather, he was simply a journeyman, chugging out product, never quite spectacular, mostly reliable. One of many, and mostly forgotten. He made a living as a writer, which is something to be respected.
One of his most enduring creations was Jongor, the jungle name of John Gordon, hero and Jungle Lord, Jongor, a Tarzan clone who was king of a lost land in the Australian outback, battling dinosaurs, monkey men, centaurs and giants, through three magazine serial adventures - Jongor of Lost Land, Jongor Returns, and Jongor Fights Back, published between 1942 and 1951, and reproduced in paperback as a trilogy in 1970. I’ll be honest, its that whole ‘lost world shtick’ that sucked me in.
THE JONGOR NOVELS, SYNOPSIS
To be honest, they’re a bit of a mess. The science is tosh, the narrative focus wanders, the description lacks. Reading Moore’s Jongor brings a new appreciation for guys like Burroughs and Kline, who were definitely first tier adventure writers, or even for the works of Resnick and Carter, who might not have been at Burroughs level, but clearly knew how to tell a story.
Let’s start out.
Jongor of Lost Land
Jongor of Lost Land starts out with Ann Hunter and her companions, Varsey and Hofer, stuck out in the Australian desert. Ann has mounted an expedition to track down her twin brother Alan, who has been lost on an expedition to the area. Things are going badly. Their native bearers have abandoned them right at the edge of a mountainous region called ‘Lost Land’, and then, even worse, a mysterious voice comes from the air, calling upon the natives to exterminate the white interlopers.
Things look pretty grim, but at the last minute, a giant, almost naked, bronze-skinned muscleboy appears to drive the natives off with his bow and arrow. Unfortunately, one of the panicked whites takes a shot at him, and he vanishes. They pursue him into the Lost Land...
All right, let me stop the narrative for a second here to make a couple of observations. First, Williams portrait of the Australian aborigines is nakedly racist and fairly out of touch. He seems to treat them as interchangeable with notions of natives and native bearers out of darkest Africa. Either smiling porters or cannibalistic savages. His word for them is ‘blackfellows’, and the racism of his portrayal is diminished only by its stereotypical superficiality and brevity. The truth is that for the most part, he just doesn’t spend enough time on the subject to get really offensive.
The other problem I have is that this is Australia. Even by 1942, Australia was pretty much settled and mapped, the aboriginal population pushed to social margins. It’s like setting a lost world in New England, for Pete’s sakes. And what makes it particularly obnoxious is that Williams gives almost no acknowledgement to the notion that it is Australia. In three books, Australian flora or fauna (kangaroos) are mentioned only once. No Australian characters appear, except for the Aborigines, who are treated as indistinguishable from African savages.
These things show a lack of effort, a reliance on cliche. It wouldn’t have taken Moore much effort to sprinkle a little Australia-ism into his adventure. A bit of slang, perhaps some geographical references or city names. But it doesn’t even seem as if he even bothered to crack open an encyclopedia. There’s a laziness here that permeates much of the series.
Anyway, back to the plot: Jongor, having been shot at, retreats and watches. Ann and her companions make their way into the Lost Land through treacherous mountain passages. Then pterodactyls attack.
These are no ordinary pterodactyls either. No, these are savage saw toothed predators so big that they can barely fly. They’re the size of a man or a calf, and they occupy the high cliffs, from which they drop and glide onto unsuspecting prey. Turns out that pterodactyls have only been extinct for a few hundred thousand years. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. I thought it was more like 65 million years. But Williams, operating with authorial majesty and without the need to actually check up on details, sets us straight. Yep, another example of lazy writing.
There are dozens, or hundreds waiting hungrily on the cliffs, and Ann and her friends are on the menu, and soon fighting for their lives. Once again, Jongor comes to the rescue, showing up riding a dinosaur. Once things are all sorted out, there’s a tense conversation which leads to this little gem:
“If I was human?” Jongor asked, smiling at her. “Yes, I’m human!” Quickly he gave her the story of his life.
Listening to the gray-eyed giant tell simply and directly of his life here in Lost Land, of the death of his parents, of the incredible odds he faced daily in just staying alive, was a startling experience for Ann. She knew he was telling the truth but the story was so foreign to her background and to her limited knowledge of the world that she found she was doubting what he said.
At this moment, to this young woman everything in the world was unreal. She kept telling herself that everything that had happened to her had taken place in a bad dream that she was having and that she would presently awaken from this nightmare.
She listened to Jongor tell of his life here in Lost Land. As he talked, he leaned against the right foreleg of the dinosaur. Standing quietly, the great beast seemed to have gone back to sleep.
“And that’s the story,” Jongor finished.
Holy shit, but that’s some bad writing going on! Jongor decides to tell the story of his life, but Williams is apparently so uninterested in his hero that he can’t be bothered to relate it. Instead he delves into Ann’s sense of displacement? Good god!
To be fair, Williams has previously clumsily dropped a lot of Jongor’s biography by this time, and will drop more later, but always in a fairly impersonal and distanced way.
For the record, Jongor is John Gordon. Son of Captain Robert Gordon, one time United States naval aviator who crashed with his wife while trying to fly over the Lost Land. It seems the Lost Land has killer air currents. They survived the crash and went on to have a son, John. Presumably Robert Gordon was not flying with a pregnant wife, so we can assume that John was born within six months to a year of the crash. Given that the first story takes place in 1942, and that Jongor is probably somewhere between 20 and 30, this would put his dad’s fatal flight somewhere between 1912 and 1922.
Anyway, his parents survived until John Gordon was about twelve years old, at which point they were eaten by pterodactyls. This left young Jongor with a permanent hatred of pterodactyls. By twelve he’d already learned English, and a set of survival skills, which included making and using bows and arrows. The usual prescription is that a twelve year old in that situation will grow up malnourished, sickly and pretty damned weird. But by the time of the novel, John has morphed into an adult Jungle God/Superman, with muscles piled on top of muscles on his bronzed six foot frame.
The bottom line is that Jongor, for all his exotic setting and bulging muscles, is practically a regular guy. Orphaned at twelve, he’s obviously intended to be the power fantasy of a twelve year old reader. Unlike Tarzan or Jan, he doesn’t have the fascinating quality of a truly inhuman man raised by apes. The extent of his ‘jungleness’ is that he occasionally has to ask what a word means.
Oh, and he has an amulet which allows him to control dinosaurs... Which is how he winds up riding in on a brontosaurus to save the day. There’s no real background on the amulet, where he got it, how long he had it, how he learned to use it, whether there’s an adventure connected to it. It’s just a magical amulet left over from the civilization of Mu. Later on, we’ll encounter Muros who have other amulets which control pterodactyls and humans, but nothing much is made of them. It’s just part of the shtick, like Superman’s wearing his underwear on the outside, we’re not supposed to ask.
Speaking of that dinosaur, we only guess it’s a brontosaurus. Williams doesn’t waste any words bothering with a description. What colour is it? How big is it? What type of dinosaur is it? No idea. Amazingly for a lost world series, Williams gives us only the most vestigial descriptions of two kinds of dinosaurs, and in fact, dinosaurs barely appear in the story (unless Jongor is riding them). Except for the pterodactyls, no other prehistoric animal is mentioned.
Again, that just strikes me as lazy writing, although to be fair, perhaps this was a pulp convention - after all, artists were going to be producing gorgeous illustrations, and too much detail might conflict. I suspect that Williams lack of description was a deliberate choice to rely upon illustrations for gorgeous visual images. Perhaps it was Williams idea, perhaps it was his Editors. Still, in the paperbacks we don’t have these illustrations, so its simply annoying, and it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Oddly, although he’s the official protagonist and hero, Williams seems oddly reluctant to focus on Jongor. It’s as if having literally sketched out the character, Williams has no idea what to do with him, and very little actual interest. His omniscient narrator’s shifting viewpoint continually seems to slide back to Ann’s POV, and Ann’s emotional dynamics. Go figure.
Anyway, its pretty clear that there’s something going on between Hofer and Varsey on the one hand, and Jongor. The men clearly do not like each other, but Ann can’t fathom the reason why and no one tells her anything.
Instead, the tense situation is defused when the ‘shaking death’ comes along, an apparently guided whirlwind or tornado. They successfully evade the whirlwind hiding out in the trees. Ann trash talks Jongor and he leaves in a huff. Later that night an airship comes looking for them with searchlights. Quickly, the airship’s belly opens to disgorge a group of pursuers who capture the white explorers.
It turns out that their captors are not human. Rather, they’re described as ‘missing links.’ Monkey men with apelike faces, human craniums, prehensile feet and long tails. The Monkey Men take their captives back to a ruined city, a former colony of Mu, where they designate Ann to be the bride of the shining god... A great honour which involves being fried like an ant under a giant magnifying glass.
Luckily, there’s a schedule to these things, so Ann gets to spend some time among the Muros, learning their language and culture. We don’t actually find out much about the Muros culture. Apparently, they are the descendants of a lost pre-human civilization from the Island of Mu in the pacific, now sunk into barbarism. Or perhaps they were the slaves of that civilization. We don’t actually really know that, this is just the explanations that the white characters make up to explain the monkey men and ruined civilization. It appears to be endorsed by the omniscient narrative. But they’re just guessing, it could be something completely different.
They still have a few relics of high technology - thus tornado control and an airship, but mostly they’re reduced to spears and clubs. They were formerly a mining colony, so they’re loaded with jewelry and gold. Basically, think a bit of Pal-Ul-Don, a bit of Opar, and you’ve got it.
Anyway, things drift for a few months, and then everything goes into tumult. The old withered monkey king is dead, shot by Varsey’s rifle. Ann thinks that Varsey has recovered his rifle and is rescuing them, but really, he’s just gotten a little too involved with local politics and is participating in a coup de etat. Ann is still on the menu to be fried like a poached egg, or a bride of the new monkey-king. Needless to say, she feels a bit peeved. She punches out the new Monkey King, Alcan, and flees into the jungle.
Then Ann gets mopey. She’s stuck in the godforsaken jungle, she doesn’t have a thing to wear, and the Muros are going to track her down, so she decides to jump off a cliff. Jongor, who has been missing for the last 33 pages (and we’re only up to page 90, so the guy is barely appearing in his own novel) suddenly appears to rescue her.
They have a tearful reconciliation and exchange a kiss, but then just as Jongor is about to get some, the Muros attack, leading to a pretty good action scene.
After that, Jongor brings out her twin brother, Alan, who he’s been caring for all this time. It seems that Varsey and Hofer had previously been with Alan on his expedition, betrayed him and left him for dead. Jongor had come along and rescued Alan, which is why he knew and didn’t like Varsey and Hofer.
Varsey and Hofer have returned to the Lost Land with Ann for their own reasons. Varsey’s just a thief, in it for the gold and jewels of the Muros. He gets his comeuppance. But Hofer is an anarchist who gets control of the tornado machine as part of some plan to destroy civilization with super-science. Exposed, he tries to destroy Jongor and his friends with a tornado. But Jongor escapes and uses his control of dinosaurs to stampede them into the Muros city and wreck the tornado machine.
Then Jongor, Ann and Alan prepare to leave the Lost Land. End of book one.
How does it stack up? Not that great. Jongor is absent or peripheral for large parts of the book, and the focus is generally on Ann. The plot is contrived so that Jongor is required to be a bit of an ass. If he’d spent five minutes talking with Ann at the start, all the hugger muggery with Varsey and Hofer would have been avoided.
The lost world is there, but its barely described and poorly thought out. The lost city of the Muros, and the Muros race are presented, but relatively little is done with it. Compare this stuff with Edgar Rice Burroughs who often went into anthropological level of detail with his lost races. When Burroughs describes Horribs, for instance, a quick throwaway race occupying a couple of chapters in Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, he tells us all about Horrib society, their dwelling, their child rearing, their technology, their outlook on life. Burroughs goes out of his way to make the Horribs vivid and exotic. In contrast, we don’t learn much about the Muros.
Truthfully, its just off the shelf stuff: The Muros are merely the long-tailed monkey men from Burroughs Pal-Ul-Don. Its already been well established by Burroughs, so Williams doesn’t feel the need to go into unnecessary detail. By the same token, the lost city of treasure and ancient super science is just Burroughs Opar, or H.Rider Haggard’s Kor, or any of a number of movie serial lost cities, so he doesn’t need to bother with that too much. Mu is off the shelf, taken straight out of Madame Blavatsky and Frank Churchward. And everyone knows what dinosaurs are, so why bother describing them?
Well, except that when Burroughs got his hands on a triceratops, he spruced it up quite a bit and made it an interesting and scary beast called a Gryf. Williams is being lazy, relying upon our knowledge of cliches or other, better works, to simply phone in his novel. Like I said, it’s a consistent problem, Jongor is absent for long passages. He can’t be bothered to read up on Australia, or check when pterodactyls became extinct, or realize that long tailed monkey-men are not on the human lineage. The problem is that if he’s got so little commitment to his own novel that he can barely bother with writing it, why should we read it?
To be fair, it moves along at a brisk pace and doesn’t really lag. And it’s got some rip roaring action scenes. So it probably passes the minimum standards for pulp accountability, which was to deliver action and adventure. And I suppose that the audience of the pulps were able to fill in the details with only a little prompting, so the sort of minimalism was something that Williams could get away with.
If the book has a genuine strength, it is probably in the character of Ann Hunter, who is the real protagonist and the real dramatic center. It really is all about her, rather than Jongor. She is the actor who gets the second expedition underway, she’s the person lied to by Varsey and Hofer. She’s the one who has the argument and later romance with Jongor. She’s the one who pops the Monkey King with a punch in the nose, and has the gumption to flee into the jungle. The novel spends a lot of time exploring Ann’s emotional state as she confronts allies and enemies. With only a little more pushing, this novel could have been a straightforward girls romance featuring Ann Hunter.
Perhaps this is what gives Jongor its cachet, which makes the series appealing enough to push into two more novels. At the heart of it is the driving character of Ann. She may not have been the most vivid female protagonist - sure, she’s smart, plucky and observant, but on the other hand, she tends to veer into cliche. Still, she’s really who the book is about.
I’ve written elsewhere that at heart, what Burroughs wrote were romances. Romances on other planets or in the jungle, romances with monsters, war, genocide and whatnot, romances without a hint of sex, romances with naked characters but not a mention of a nipple, but always at the core, romances. I think that the key to his success was that beyond the action, beyond the vivid description, his stories had a resonant emotional centre which was the romance.
Nowadays the burgeoning field is paranormal romance. Women getting it on with vampires or werewolves or aliens. But really, this is what Burroughs was writing - paranormal romance. Tarzan was a naked savage with the mind of an ape, living as lord of a primeval jungle - it’s Jane who makes him human. John Carter is a man stranded and adrift upon an incomprehensibly alien and violent world - it’s Dejah Thoris who gives him a home. I dunno, it strikes me that if the Burroughs estate was smart, they’d try to re-market Barsoom and Tarzan as paranormal romances.
I think that by making Jongor of the Lost Land about Ann, Williams might have hit on something that gave his novel a little more oomph, that perhaps pushed it out of the category of generic imitations.
The Return of Jongor
The Return of Jongor was the second novel in the series, published four years later in 1946. I assume that if Jongor was coming back after a four year hiatus, the original must have been well received, and perhaps with a lasting popularity, but wasn’t a breakout success.
The Return of Jongor starts off with Ann, Jongor and Allan on their way out of the lost land, when Jongor receives a message written in water from Queen Nesca, demanding his assistance.
It seems that that Muros are not the only people inhabiting the lost land. There are also a race called the Arklans, who seem to have kept a lot more of their super-science and civilization. Queen Nesca once saved Jongor’s life, and then they got really tight, if you know what I mean. So Jongor is honour bound to answer the summons.
Of course, Ann gets really jealous and upset, they have a lovers quarrel, and the two go their separate ways. Ann and Arthur head for the exit to the Lost Land. Unfortunately, they’re captured by Blackfellows (Aborigines) who tie them to stakes and prepare to roast them. A couple of other explorers, Morton and Schiller, are also found tied to stakes. Once again, things look bad.
Luckily, Jongor comes to the rescue, riding on his pet dinosaur. After a titanic battle with the entire tribe, he manages to run them off and free his friends. Jongor and Ann fight some more, because she’s still jealous and wants to get the hell out of the Lost Land, taking Jongor with her. Eventually they all settle the matter by agreeing to travel with Jongor to see Queen Nesca.
Ah, but it turns out that Queen Nesca didn’t send the message. It’s all a ruse to lure Jongor and Ann back into the clutches of the Muros, where Jongor will become a pin cushion and Ann will become a french fry (or perhaps bride of the latest ape king). It seems that the Muros are kind of pissed about Jongor running a bunch of dinosaurs through their city. Anyway, they enlisted Mozdac of Nesca’s people, with a bribe of jewels.
Mozdac, by the way, is a centaur.
That’s right. Head, arms and torso of a man, body of a shetland pony.
The Arklans are a race of centaurs.
In the middle of Australia.
Okay, sure, why not.
It’s not clear where the Arklans come from. Williams writes as narrator that they were created by the Muros. On the other hand, Queen Nesca later claims that her race was not created by the Muros, whatever they might think. The Muros might have altered the centaurs, she concedes, but that their race and civilization is even older than the Monkey men of Mu.
Anyway, it turns out the whole thing is a put on. So the Muros pay off Mozdac and then put their fiendish plan into motion. This involves using a mind control amulet tuned to humans to kidnap Ann. Oddly, they only use it once and to grab her, and then seem to forget about it. I’m wondering why they don’t use it on her more. Or better yet, why they didn’t use it on Jongor in the first place. But that’s just my noticing Williams laziness and bad writing again. They cleverly know that Jongor will follow them and plan to lead him into ambush.
Unfortunately, they drag Ann off in the middle of the night, and Jongor realizes its foolhardy and insane to try and track anyone in the dark. So much for best laid plans. Later, during the day, when he does start tracking, he figures its so obvious it has to be a trap. So he’s ready for the ambush.
Meanwhile, Ann manages to escape the Muros, and flees into the night, eventually being treed by a lion. Maybe it wasn’t the best escape plan. But, you have to admit, the girl has pluck. She doesn’t take things lying down, and she’s not afraid of the dark.
Jongor eventually comes along, tracking Ann to the tree, and discovers she’s gone. The lion has been scorched with an electrical bolt. So Jongor correctly concludes that the Arklans have come along and taken her.
By this time, Jongor is getting pretty suspicious. So he goes to the Arklans city, where he meets Queen Nesca. She gives Ann back to Jongor, and tries to rush them out the door.
It seems that Mozdac has used his jewels to stage a coup. Arklans tradition has it that when there’s a change of government, the old rulers and their supporters are put to death. Queen Nesca and her followers are waiting to be executed. It’s all very voluntary and fatalistic.
Jongor convinces her to put up a fight. There’s another rip roaring battle. Queen Nesca makes a speech about how the time for her race is done, how they tried and failed, and how Jongor’s people can still have a future. Then she blows herself and all the Arklans up.
It’s all very poignant and noble, but I can’t help thinking that if Jongor had minded his own business, the Arklans and their civilization would still be around. Maybe with a different king, but what the hell, kings and queens don’t live forever.
Ironically, the return of Jongor is simultaneously the best and the most unfocused of the Jongor books. It’s chock full of action and adventure, including three major action/battle sequences, as well as dastardly villains of every stripe - human, muros, centaur. That said, the plot is completely disjointed, shifting unevenly from Muros scheming to an Arklans civil war. The subplot involving the human interlopers Morton and Schiller is underdeveloped and they barely appear. The battle with the aborigines is completely gratuitous and unrelated to the overall plot.
Having said that, this time, Williams invests time and effort into writing about his centaurs. He gives them personalities, he gives their story a kind of fatalistic grandeur, he makes them both strange and compelling. In truth, he never approaches the anthropological levels of detail that Burroughs used to make his creations live and breath. But in writing his Arklans, in having Jongor and others describe them, and in letting them speak for themselves, he gives them a bit of magic, a life and poignancy that manages to elevate the whole book. And Williams also works a lot harder on jazzing up both the scale and the visceral impact of his battle scenes, so that stands out as well.
Once again, Ann remains as the unacknowledged center of the book. It’s her jealousy that breaks her and Jongor apart and leads to their capture by aborigines. Later its Ann’s kidnapping that leads to Jongor’s confrontation with the Muros. Ann rescues herself once again, and is rescued by Queen Nesca, which brings Jongor directly to Arklans and into their civil war. In the end, the emotional catharsis is Ann’s own growth and regret of her jealousy.
Jongor Fights Back
Jongor Fights Back came out six years later in 1951. Despite the passage of six years, it picks up literally days after the destruction of the Arklans. Ann and her friends are still trying to get the hell out of the Lost Land. The Muros are still after them.
A giant, an actual nine footer, wearing armour, swinging an axe, confronts Jongor. Apparently, somewhere in the Lost Land, there’s a third culture - a race of giants. What are they like? We don’t ever get to find out. We only see the one giant, and not much of him.
Basically, he has an axe, he wears metal armor, he’s superstitious and vain, and he’s in it for the jewels that the Muros are paying him to wax Jongor. That’s it.
You know, if Burroughs was writing this, that Giant would have had a goddammed soliloquy. Maybe a couple of them. If Burroughs had written it, we might have ended up visiting the village of the Giants just to see how they lived. The Giant would have been asked about his life and goals. And if no one else did, then eventually Tarzan would have walked up and said “So, you’re a giant. What about that?”
Williams, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to know what to do with the character. He introduces the giant in a flashy and very impressive opening scene, and then immediately runs out of steam. The giant doesn’t do anything after that, he simply tags along with the Muros, getting an occasional mention, but is effectively dropped from the plot and the narrative. There isn’t even a rematch with Jongor. In the final appearance, the giant is busy killing Muros for no clear reason, and Jongor and his friends simply walk by with a ‘whazzup dude?’
Seriously, who sticks a giant in a story and doesn’t do anything with them? What’s up with that?
In the ensuing confrontation, Jongor kicks the giant’s ass. Unfortunately, he also sustains a head injury which leaves him with amnesia.
Where have we read that before? Yep, Williams has dragged out the amnesia dodge. He has officially run out of ideas.
The Muros, now called Murtos (yet another bit of obviously sloppy writing - he couldn’t be bothered to keep his races name straight?), quickly capture Ann and Alan. Jongor, dealing with amnesia, could care less. He doesn’t remember even meeting them, so he can’t possibly be thinking of rescuing them. Eventually, they figure out that rescue is not coming and manage to escape on their own. Then later, Alan and Ann are separated, and Alan disappears from the novel for most of its length.
Meanwhile, Jongor encounters yet another pair of white explorers who have made it into the Lost Land. Given the time frame of the books, that would make it seven outsiders visiting inside of a few months. The Lost Land is turning into Grand Central Station.
Feeling lonely, he tries to talk to them. But they take him prisoner and try to force him to lead him to the city of the Muros. Luckily, Jongor is able to summon a dinosaur to run them off.
Eventually the Muros manage to recapture Ann. Then they run across the latest group of explorers who profess friendship. Ann is used to translate for the Muros, but gets upset when it becomes all too clear that they’re willing to use their rifles to punch Jongor’s ticket for their new monkey friends.
Luckily, Jongor manages to escape the ambush when Anne screams a warning. To riposte, he comes back armed for bear with three dinosaurs. Meat eaters this time.
That’s Jongor for you. Any time he runs into trouble, he reaches for the dinosaurs. It’s the running cliche for the series. It’s irritating in that apart from using them as a plot device, Williams doesn’t really describe them and doesn’t do much else with them. When not in use by Jongor, the dinosaurs literally go offstage to their swamps to wait for their next curtain call.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this time. The white hunters, realizing that Jongor controls the thunder lizards, take Ann hostage. Even though Jongor doesn’t remember Ann he still surrenders.
Jongor and Ann are taken as prisoners to the Muros city, with the white hunters and the giant following along as guests. There things take a turn for the worst as a weird noise rises from the mining pit. The Muros believe it’s their ‘Great Unknown God’ and a sacrifice is required. Luckily, the Muros seem happy to volunteer to throw themselves into the pit.
But this gets our heroes and villains descending into the pit, where the origin of the strange noise becomes clear. It seems that the ancient mining machinery of the original Mu is still functional, and its been revving up. It’s noise is the sound of the Great Unknown God.
The White Hunter villains, in one of the very few imaginative wrinkles, are not after the gold and jewels of Muros. They’re after its lost technology. And the anti-gravity and matter dissolving technology of the mining system will make them trillionaires.
At this point, Alan shows up. How did he get down the mine shaft ahead of everyone else? Who knows. But it turns out that he was responsible for the noise when he was messing with the machinery.
Anyway, Jongor gets his memory back, defeats the bad guys, wipes out the enemy Muros, climbs out of the pit with Alan and Ann, and once again, they’re on their way home. The end.
In some ways, this Jongor tale most closely resembles a typical later Tarzan story (when Burroughs was running out of ideas). Substitute Elephants for Dinosaurs, Opar for Muros, and you’ve got it. Amnesia, narrow escapes, interlocking villains, bizarre coincidences and close encounters, its all there.
But the resemblance serves only to highlight the essential weakness of the Jongor series, and its derivative and sloppy nature. ‘Jongor Fights Back’ plays as a third rate version of a second rate Tarzan story. It simply suffers in comparison to the master, its pale and it makes obvious mistakes that Burroughs normally avoids, with the giant and with Allen.
Once again, there’s a disappointing lack of detail. We don’t get much more of a picture of the Muros, of their city, or of the Lost Land and its dinosaurs. As noted, its off the shelf.
Once again, Ann is the central character in the book’s narrative. But this time, with the benefit of Amnesia, Williams seems finally willing to follow Jongor as a character, and a large portion of the book focuses fully on him. As before, the pace moves along nicely, and there are several good action scenes, although nothing on quite the epic scale as the battle sets in the second book.
I looked up Jongor in part because Richard Lupoff’s bio of Burroughs, Master of Adventure, cited the Jongor series as one of the better Tarzan clones. If so, then I think it does much to explain the eventual disappearance of the Jungle Man as a genre. Basically, few if any of the writers of such tales seem to have made much effort to go beyond formulaic copying of the superficial aspects.
The deeper psychological qualities that made the series so compelling, the literal ‘Ape-Man’ was explored outside Tarzan only rarely, as with Jan. Mostly, the Jungle men were regular guys in loin cloths, their environments increasingly bland copies, the quality of the exotic bleeding away.
The genre simply faded away.
THE LOST LAND, A PELLUCIDAR REMNANT
Jongor’s Lost Land appears to be a roughly circular mountain ringed region deep within the Great Australian desert. At one point its suggested that it might be near the coast because a part of it was an arm of the sea, but mostly it seems to be located deep inland. The mountains are high and impassable, with only a few passages through. The mountains produce ferocious up and downdrafts that have wrecked airplanes, and the place has an evil reputation with both sheep farmers and aborigines.
The inhabitants of the Lost Land, particularly the Muros, seem to have been discouraging visitors over the years. Using bodiless voices to warn people off, or occasionally hitting them with a Tornado. Despite that, people have apparently been drifting in, and as reported in Jongor Fights Back, a high flying Jet Aircraft (since all three novels take place within a few months of 1942 we have to wonder about that) has managed to take pictures.
The Lost Land is apparently large enough to support colonies of Muros, Arklans and Giants. Jongor has never before encountered Giants, so it must be in a remote area. It seems that the Muros, Arklans and Giants are able to coexist without stepping on each other, so its likely we’re looking at a substantial area.
The terrain seems to vary from rocky desert, to grasslands and forest, to swampy rain forest and jungles. The dinosaurs inhabit the swamp and rain forest regions and generally don’t venture out much unless Jongor is summoning them. Their population is described asn fairly small. Only three kinds of dinosaurs are described - some sort of long necked sauropod, a bipedal carnosaur and possibly a ceratopsian. None of them are described in any detail at all. In addition, giant predatory pterodactyls occupy some cliffs.
Apart from that, the only other fauna described are lions and deer. This is peculiar, because Lions are typically an African/Asian predator, and Deer are European/North America. Neither of these species has ever come within two thousand miles of Australia.
Also peculiar, there’s no mention of Kangaroos in the Lost Land. No Wallabies, no Koalas, no marsupials of any sort.
Truthfully, this is just bad and lazy writing. Burroughs set his adventures in Africa because it was exotic, he used lions and elephants because they were exotic creatures. Williams loses lions and deer because they’re familiar by this time.
Again, it comes down to sloppiness. Australia and its neighborhood has some of the strangest fauna on earth - Tasmanian Wolves, Tasmanian Devils, Kangaroos, Koalas, Komodo Dragons, Pythons, Platypuses, Pangolins, Emus, Moas. It has a paleantological history with even weirder specimens, including giant Kangaroos and Monitor Lizards. It is literally a Marsupial lost world.
Writers like Burroughs and Kline invested time and effort into research. They worked to make their landscapes exotic, rather than commonplace. It’s one of the things that gives their work a cachet.
Yet Williams apparently couldn’t be bothered to crack open an encylopedia and read through Australia’s natural history for ideas or insight. He could have found inspiration for all sorts of strange critters, even beyond the dinosaurs. Instead, what does he give us? Lions and deer.
In other respects, this is a fairly typical ‘Lost World’, like Conan Doyle’s Maple White Land, Burroughs Pal-Ul-Don and Caprona, Kline’s Irimatri and Setmu, or King Kong’s Skull Island. All of these places show impossible mixes of animals from incompatible time periods and incompatible geographic areas.
In short, Jongor’s Lost Land is likely a relic of Pellucidar.
Pellucidar, of course, is the ultimate lost world, a gigantic inner world with continents and oceans reversed and therefore more than three times the land area of the surface. In Pellucidar, all species from all eras and regions manage to coexist.
There are only two permanent holes in the Earth’s surface which reach Pellucidar, according to Burroughs. However, Burroughs also writes of another hollow world system - the Moon and its inner world, Va-Nah. Now the interesting thing about the Moon/Vah-Nah is that its full of holes, or entrances between inner and outer world, called Hoos.
The Moon is a smaller and cooler world, so its likely that the Hoos were formed as whirlpools or temporary openings between inner and outer worlds. But, being a smaller world, the Hoos cooled more quickly and froze open.
Earth is a hotter geologically active world. So when or if whirlpools/Hoos open between Pellucidar and the surface, they eventually close. But for a time, there are gateways between inner and outer worlds, allowing surface species into Pellucidar (what, you thought that all those tropical species walked in through the north or south polar ice caps?).
Of course, an opening to the surface on land would disrupt the surface, creating rings of mountains or chasms, making it difficult for Pellucidar life to escape into the outer world. However, the closint of a Hoos would leave a sort of scar or relic landscape - essentially, a sampling of Pellucidar life forms trapped on the surface. In this case, it’s the Lost Land of Australia.
MUROS, ANOTHER MONKEY TAILED RACE
The Muros, sometimes called Murtos, sometimes called Murians, are bipedal humanoids. They are extremely hairy, but do not appear to be fur covered. They have apelike faces, fangs but also a human or near human cranial capacity. They appear to be extremely agile in trees and may have prehensile or partially prehensile feet. They also have long tails, whose length in some cases is equivalent to head and body length. In a few cases they curl the tails flexibly, but there’s no indication that they use them as a prehensile limb.
Still, the Muros appear to be closely related to the four monkey-races seen in Tarzan the Terrible’s Pal-Ul-Don: The Ho-Don, Waz-Don, Waz-Ho-Don and Tor-O-Don. Burroughs also has two other monkey tailed races in Pellucidar, the regular Monkey-Men, and a Saber Toothed variety. For the record, Otis Adelbert Kline in Tam, Son of the Tiger, also contributes a monkey tailed race called the Hanuman. And prior to Kline or Burroughs, a long tailed monkey race is found in Preston Muddock’s Sunless City, published in 1905.
Williams himself describes the Muros as ‘missing links’ between humans and apes, ignoring the fact that apes are tail-less. He also describes them as coming from Mu, but Churchward’s Muan super civilization is entirely human and tail-less.
Let’s call a spade a spade. He got them from Pal-Ul-Don. They were off the shelf. In the context of our endless theories on pulp reality, they’re probably from Pellucidar, as we speculate above.
According to Hofer, the Muros have a language which seems to be related to one of the languages spoken by Australian Aborigines. This may or may not be true. Hofer had been to the lost land previously and may have encountered and picked up some of the Muros language. Or it may be that the Muros have picked up enough of the Aborigines language to communicate with them. Or perhaps the Aborigines have absorbed some of the Muros language.
Of course, we never get any words in that language, so we can’t compare it to any Pal-Ul-Don or Mangani language from Burroughs. Ann, however, spends enough time with the Muros to become fluent in their language, and Jongor also appears to speak it fluently.
The Muros live in their ancient city. From the size and condition of the city, it appears that they are a relict population, much of the city is overgrown and falling down. The Muros current population may represent as little as 5% of the original population. The Muros give no evidence of systematic agriculture, but they harvest many different kinds of fruit so they may practice silviculture (fruit tree farming). They also appear to be meat eaters, hunting prey as large as dinosaurs. They also maintain the art of fermenting beverages and distilling narcotics.
Technologically, the Muros possess spears, clubs and knives. All Muros, even females, habitually carry knives. It’s likely that the knives are all purpose implements, perhaps for eating food. They are aware of and can use bows and arrows, but prefer not to. They wear jewelry, including hammered metal bracelets. But they don’t seem to have metallurgy. Rather, their metalwork and jewelry seem to be derived from the ruins.
The Muros aesthetic focuses on the length and bushiness of their tails. Long and bushy tails are more desirable and bring higher status. In contrast, tail mutilation or removal can remove status entirely, a tail-less Muros is an outcast. In this respect, they’re similar to the Ho-Don and Waz-Don.
The Muros practice polygamy, but the taking of wives appears to be something for which the Chief’s permission is required. The Chief is able to award wives to followers. We can infer that women have lower status in Muros society, or perhaps that sexual relations are strictly controlled. The very little we see of social relations seems to suggest that their overall philosophy is ‘might makes right’ but within constraints of tradition, religion and politics.
Also like the Ho-Don of Pal-Ul-Don, the Muros have a complex hierarchical political and religious structure. The religious and political are not quite joined. The king or political leaders, no matter how powerful, may not easily meddle in matters of religion or religious sacrifice. The king seems to be chosen on the basis of worthiness, there’s little indication of heredity. At the same time, the criteria for worthiness seems to go beyond who’s got the biggest muscles or the baddest attitude - the original monkey-king is a pretty decrepit specimen.
Religious ceremonies appear to follow a definite calendar, Ann must wait to the appointed day to be sacrificed, and there are preliminary feasts which must be held. Again like the Ho-Don, the Muros practice human sacrifice, but require their ‘brides of the shining god’ to be perfect. For this reason, there is a tradition of making small mutilations to female babies of the Muros, such as cutting off a finger, in order to render them imperfect and not to be sacrificed. The Muros worship the Shining God (the sun) and the Great Unknown God. Their theology also appears to allow for malevolent invisible devils.
Of the Muros, we encounter, only a few of them are identified or named: The original King, Alcan the usurper King killed by Jongor. Orbo, the King after Alcan, who appears in Return of Jongor and Jongor fights back. Also in these novels are Orbo’s underlings Umber and Kego, who are pretty stereotypical henchmen.
Most of their higher technology - their flying ship, their remote voice, their control amulets and their tornado machine and mining machine, are relics of the original founding civilization.
Are the Muros the creators of the founding civilization? We don’t have any hard evidence for this one way or the other. The novels take it for granted that they were. The statements of the centaurs are ambiguous. But the speculation is put forward that the Muros were merely a slave race serving now absent builders.
Was the founding civilization Mu? Even this seems uncertain. While Mu was a staple of pulp fiction, its not clear that it reached the heights depicted. Instead, I’d like to propose that the founding civilization that established the mining colony may well have been Barsoomian Orovars. The Orovars showed up, established a colony, and enslaved Pellucidarean Monkey Men to serve them.
Anything to this notion? Well, in the Secret of Thuria at: ERBzine 1421
we have some evidence that the ancient Barsoomians had space travel and in fact were sophisticated enough to turn Thuria into a space habitat.
Turning to Otis Adelbert Kline, his novels Swordsman of Mars, Maza of the Moon and Man in the Moon, confirm that the white skinned Martians (Orovars) were a spacefaring race who warred with the Ma Gongi of the Moon. Further, the white skinned Martians established colonies and outposts on the Moon, and likely other places in the solar system, including Earth.
Mighty OAK of Barsoom I
Mighty OAK of Barsoom II
The Other Moon Maid: Maza
So, if we’ve got a super advanced technological civilization, particularly one which has mastered the technology of anti-gravity for its airships or mining equipment, its more likely that they were Orovars. Barsoomian culture, including the ancient Orovars, had a well established tradition of slavery. So its not unlikely that they might enslave or recruit a local race, such as long tailed para-hominids, to help run their colony.
Okay, fine, anything to support his?
Why yes as a matter of fact!
ARKLANS, CENTAURS OR THARKS
Back a long time ago, when trying to explain how human races wound up on all of Burroughs worlds, I conceived a theory of interplanetary projection. Basically, that humans could, by an effort of will under certain conditions, jump from one planet to another. John Carter had done it several times between Mars and Earth. Ulysses Paxton, of Master Mind of Mars, had jumped from Earth to Mars. Betty Brokol, in Escape on Venus, appears to have jumped back and forth from Venus to Earth. Tangor seems to have jumped from Earth to Polodna.
In Lin Carter’s Thanator series, we have both John Dark and Lin Carter teleporting from Earth to Callisto and Back, although there they have the aid of artificial means. Artifical enhancement also assist Otis Kline’s Outlaw of Mars, Harry Morgan, in jumping to Mars from Earth. Gustave LaRouge’s Prisoner of Mars has Robert Darvel telekinetically projecting to Mars.
In short, its pretty much established that humans are able to transport themselves through space to other worlds. Anyway, it’s a good essay, and I’d recommend it: Are Barsoomians Human?
But one passage I wrote seems to have come back to haunt me:
“In fact, each of these worlds sports intelligent humanoid species who seem more naturally in context with the ecology. There are other sentient races in the Solar System. On the moon, there are the quadruped, tribal, Va-Gas. On Thuria, there are the Cat-Psyclops Masena. On Barsoom, there are the Green Men, White Apes, and the Kaldanes. Venus features human amoeba, the Voo-Ad as well as Flying Men who mix bird, bat and human features. The non-human races do not seem to be distributed. There are no green men on Venus or Thuria, no Va-Gas or Flying Men on Barsoom. Thus, the non-human races are confined to their worlds, while human races seem common.”
Basically my point was that Earth-normal humans seem distributed throughout Burroughs worlds, while the more alien species, like Tharks, seem to be confined to their world.
Okay, true enough, if we confine ourselves to Burroughs canon. The trouble is that when we start to look at Otis Adelbert Kline, or Ralph Milne Farley, or other writers, we find races that bear a suspicious resemblance to Tharks on Earth and other worlds. This was discussed in Tharks in Space where I surveyed all the suspicious six limbed or four armed races in Kline’s and Farley’s work.
Since writing that, I’ve found indications of other four armed or six limbed races related to the White Apes/Green Men, in the Targaths of Mike Resnick’s Ganymede (pretty much a dead given). As well as hints in the works of Lin Carter and Leigh Brackett, and even in Wellman’s Sojarr of Titan. I’ve also discovered that bird winged races appear on Mars, Ganymede, Callisto and Mercury, through the writings of Resnick, Carter, Brackett and Cummings. Apparently, they do get around, although the dominant species tends to be human.
But getting back to 'Tharks in Space' one passage is significant:
“Finally, and this is stretching the borders, there is a final possible Thark race to mention, although these creatures do not appear directly in either Burroughs, Kline or Farley. (Or perhaps they do in certain short stories). This race of Tharks, of course, are the Centaurs of Greek Myth. Six limbed beings who travel on four legs. Although so far as I know, none of these writers made use of these mythical beings, they were all well aware of it, and Centaurs would be part of the mythology of their shared world.
“Now, the thing is, in Burroughs and Kline's Universe, some myths are real. Atlantis and Mu did indeed exist, the city of Opar was founded by Atlantis. There are Chinese Dragons on Maza's Moon. So, if some myths are real, then quite possibly others are too.”
Well, in the Return of Jongor, we have our Centaurs. An impossible six-limbed race. In this case, its four legged rather than four armed. But we should recall that both Green Men and White Apes can travel on their lower four limbs quite easily. And we should recall that Earth’s gravity is more than two and a half times that of Earth’s. So a transplanted Thark race might find it a lot easier to go on four legs and become a centaur in order to cope with that gravity.
The ‘Gods’ of Kline’s Irimatri, of course, are two legged and four armed giants. But they’re also equestrian giants, so they don’t need to walk or run on their own much. The Arklans have no domesticated riding animal, so they may be forced to a four limbed stance.
The Arklans, despite their resemblances to humans and horses are clearly alien. Jongor makes the point several times that their minds are even stranger than their bodies. They betray a Tharklike fatalism in their outlook. Biologically, a six limbed vertebrate, while par for the course on Mars, is unheard of on Earth.
Williams doesn’t quite have an answer for his Centaurs. He speculates at one point that the Centaurs were created by the Murans through genetic manipulation. Later on though, his Centaurs claim that they preceded the Murans, although they were later modified or altered. They were there before the Murans were. But if they were there already.... Where did they come from?
The admission by the Arklans that they were modified or altered allows us to get to the cosmetic changes that turn Green Men or White Apes into Human/Equine centaurs. So, I think its pretty much a dead giveaway.
For what its worth, if Williams is borrowing Tarzan, Monkey-Men and Lost Worlds from Burroughs, then we should just give up the ghost and assume he borrowed Tharks as well. True, he got Centaurs from the Greeks, but in the pulp science fiction context, Martian transplants are easier to swallow than Greek mythological creatures. Or to put it another way, if I can make a decent case that the Lost Land is an outlier of Pellucidar, and that the Muros are relatives of Burroughs tailed races, then inevitably, we have to accept that the Arklans are derived from six-limbed Martians.
Of course, if we accept that the Arklans are modified Tharks, then this means that they’re Martians. And the Mu-vian colony of the Lost Land with its superscience is most likely actually an Orovar colony.
Den Valdron's Fantasy Worlds of ERB
WEBJED: BILL HILLMAN
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
All ERB Images© and Tarzan® are Copyright ERB, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2007/2010 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.