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Volume 0239
 

ICONS & ERB
St. John Golden Lion~~~~~~~~~

The Archetypal Vision in the Works
of Edgar Rice Burroughs

by

David Adams


Tarzan and the Golden Lion by St. John



Part V
The Sacred Icons of



I must drink deeply at this pool of Icons, for I am still athirst.

I must see what St. John has given us, for he is the first of the inspired ones.  In some ways, all fall short of his vision, even the god-like Frazetta, for they did not have his boyish simplicity in his approach to Tarzan.

St. John made some Icons of Tarzan of the Apes that stand stronger than any of ERBís own words.  They are so strong that they are almost religious in their presentation; they inspire that same sort of sacred awe.

Everyone knows the rugged strength of his dust jacket illustration for Tarzan and the Golden Lion because it is the logo of the Burroughs Bibliophiles.  It is probably everyoneís favorite St. John illustration.  Yet it is more than a picture; it is a sacred ICON.

Knew you nothing of Tarzan, the ICON would have the same force.  It is the image of man and beast together in a harmony that almost defies description.  Both creatures in the picture are beasts of nature, strong limbed and straining forward, the tension in the scene is nearly unbearable.

Tarzan has his left arm around the lionís neck in an embrace of friendship, yet (although we cannot see it) we are certain that he his holding the rough hair of the lionís mane tightly in his clenched fist, for he is the one in control of the situation.  The lionís great front legs are firmly planted upon the rock upon which they both stand, yet their feet are hidden in the tall, waving grass that licks around their legs like fire.

Tarzan is lean, yet his athleteís muscles strain through his skin with a graceful power that we can see through his forward movement.  The attitude of the bodies of both beasts is onward; Tarzan is in mid-stride with his right leg ahead of his left.  A subtle touch is portrayed with the lionís right rear leg actually ahead of Tarzanís left leg, so they are touching, actually striding together as one beast.  The lionís tail is also affectionately touching Tarzanís left leg the way all cats communicate their friendship.

Tarzan dark hair echoes the lionís dark mane in its unruly nature, and it is the darkest part of the visual feast.  Both have tassels hanging below their shoulders, forming inverted Vís.

Tarzan carries a short spear in his right hand pointed toward the ground.  It is looped around his wrist with a thong, and he carries it near the end of the shaft, which shows that it is a thrusting weapon like those employed by the Zulu.  The lionís tail points in the same direction as the spear.

Tarzanís loins are girt with the skin of an animal, fur-side out and fastened with a grass rope.  The top of the skin near his waist is folded over, and it is roughly cut.  He carries no knife at his right side.

The lion is looking straight ahead in the act of roaring, while Tarzan is looking toward his left over the back of the lion.  Thus the lion sees the danger ahead, while Tarzan is scanning the horizon for further danger.  They are working as a team.

Since Tarzanís head is turned away from the viewer, we only get a part of a profile, allowing us to place any face we want into the picture. It is invariably our own.

Man and beast are nearly the same height, except for some of the lionís blowing mane, and since Tarzan is standing nearer to the viewer and lower on the grassy knoll, he would become taller if they would stand on
level ground, as a normal man would be.

The action in this icon moves to the right, and there are two strong lines created by the bodies of he beasts running from the bottom left to the upper right.  These lines are slashed in the opposite direction four times by:  the lionís tail, the spear, Tarzanís right leg, and the lionís right leg.

However, the whole picture is a great circle, and within this circle there are four others.  There are three great circles created by the lionís tail and Tarzanís right leg; a circle created by the attitude of Tarzanís body and the lionís right leg, and the circle of the lionís head.

Tarzanís own head forms a fourth, smaller circle at the top of the very  center of the picture.  Since this is a sacred ICON, we might presume that it is a halo.

[Essay #4 was written for Bill Hillmanís site on July 29-30, 1999.]

Tarzan and the Golden Lion: Colour St. John
Tarzan and the Golden Lion: B/W Line


St. John Golden Lion
Burroughs Bibliophiles Banner
All-Story Pulp Magazine - First Appearance of Tarzan of the ApesJungle Tales of Tarzan Frontispiece: St. JohnJames Pierce and the Golden LionTarzan and the City of GoldTarzan and the Jewels of OparNuma Line Drawing by St. John


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