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Volume 2163
Pal-ul-Don
by Cristian Sildan

Gotta admit, I caught the ERB virus. I’m probably stuck for life in writing essays on his Opus. Well, there are much more tragic things in the domain of addictions, and if one recognizes it, he’s half forgiven, right?…

Pal-ul-Don is a gem of a pocket world. One has to be a genious to squeeze a story like the one in the book upon a surface like Cyprus, and still make it monumental.

But let’s analyze the thing.

First of all I think Den is right, Pal-ul-Don comes from Pellucidar, through an Earth vortex. Why?

Well, not only both local fauna and humanity are too freaky to be from some Earthly evolution, but geology is freaky as well – let’s just think about the big quantities of gold and gems of which we are told when the temple is described - in a land where LIMESTONE almost exclusively predominates??! Everybody knows that precious metals and gems are to be found in mostly crystaline old rocks like the plateaus of Transvaal, or Siberia, or Australia or so.

Let’s do a bit of geographic identification first:

Where exactly in Africa would this little country be found?

I propose a very precise location: the so called Itigi-sumbu thicket, just between Congo, Zambia and Tanzania.

Not only is Congo too wet a place to accomodate a quite sizable waterless plain of thorn bushes that, we are so told, surrounds Pal-ul-Don day marches around…

But in addition to that, Obergatz wanted to reach South Africa from the North-East of Belgian Congo or in order to do it, the best road is due South, not South-West unless you want to come across almost all the Congolese big rivers and end up in the Kalahari desert! The straight line is the shortest distance, especially since he wouldn’t have had to cross big rivers on the way. Besides, Obergatz must have known that German Namibia had already fallen to the Brits by then. And Angola was Portuguese and Portugal had declared war upon Germany too… Plus, when you have a string of long tectonic lakes from North to South, all along the Eastern frontier of Congo, defining it, what ass you have to be not to use the fact and steal a canoe and go down the line of these long lakes, at the end of which water line lies Itigi-Sumbu…Compared with marching through the jungle, it’s almost a hiking party.

The area so named consists of thousands of square miles of high, very thick thorny bushes, so thick and resilient that even elephants have trouble forcing them and which recover in a matter of hours even if one of these elephants has trampled them. For humans, no chance to penetrate, especially not for primitive hunters or even primeval agriculturists. How did Tarzan do it? Well, he must have called an elephant to help… As for Jane and Obergatz, I don’t have any idea, unless they used the trail of another elephant, one original enough to cross the whole thicket until reaching the famous morasses surrounding Pal-ul-Don.

Itigi-Sumbu is a small area upon our world, but since we talk about the Burroughs Universe Earth, we can imagine it to be much bigger there. After all, if the country is like 10000sqkm big, the thicket shouldn’t be more than another 10000 or so. The total would still be smaller than Maryland. Minuscule, at the African scale.

Besides, even here upon our Earth, Itigi-Sumbu used to almost surround the lake Mweru, which is not unlike Pal-ul-Don as its dimensions go – around 150km length and 55 kms width.

Now according to other sources Itigi-Sumbu is just at the southern end of Lake Tanganika which is a bit eastward from lake Mweru. Dunno. Wiki and the Zambian info page differ. Anyway, we talk Burroughs Universe Earth and then anyway, we must recognize quite a match here…

Maybe Burroughs Universe Earth has Pal-ul-Don instead of lake Mweru – after all we must remember it’s a major tectonic area and since Burroughs Universe Earth has Pellucidar inside, many peculiar things are going to happen in active geological areas…like for example a bit of Pellucidar reaching the exterior surface.

As far as the human pressure upon the land is concerned, Zambian human density went above 1 hab/sqkm only around 1910, so no demographic pressure is to be invoked to make the secrecy of Pal-ul-Don’s existence unbelievable.

The thicket doesn’t resist sustained deforestation but resists very well to occasional fire, as natural accidents and slash-and-burn agriculture of primitive small tribes could bring. It’s only systematic, modern agriculture and modern demographic pressure that made Itigi-Sumbu reduce its surface in the last decades.

OK. Now, let’s enter Pal-ul-Don and see how it’s like.

Peoplement first. There don’t appear to be any Don tribes, not in the Eastern plains, nor in the Northern Valley – Tarzan crosses a good deal of the first and all the second and his fine senses don’t sniff or notice anyone’s presence, even as a far hint.

Only the cave seems to be occasionally used, but it’s obviously just for occasional hunting parties.

Why is that so? Well might be some differences in soil fertility – Aztec or Algerian examples could come to mind: the Mexico valley had maybe the million souls before Cortez, whereas many other Mesoamerican regions, not necessarily deserts, were almost wastelands. In Algeria, Kabilia had like 250 people/sqkm in 1950, whereas the West had less than 5, again without being a desert. Of course, Pal-ul-Don seems incredibly fertile everywhere. But humans – and quasi-humans also – are commodious beings, so why settle a place where yo get only 100 bushels per acre if you already sit in the one where you get 200? Especially since most of the newborns get sacrificed and so, no real demographic pressure in the next generation…

But the principal reason of the absence of people must be mostly the massive presence of the Gryfs, which seem to roam a lot these regions. They clearly aren’t very present in the valley of Jad-ben-Otho – the cities have no walls which would be a vital must with such giant carnivores loitering around. No frequent sightings of them are reported within the valley as is the case in the territories across the central range – it’s written that Tarzan frequently senses their presence there. But in the great valley hey seem to fancy mostly the Kor that bears their name, and the mass of humans, curiously, doesn’t act like a bait for them since we don’t hear of any of them attacking a town.

Why are they omnivorous, by the way? Is it an adaptation? Well, an adaptation mechanism would be too costly if meat forms only 5% of the food or so: let’s think that the poor big guy has to change its entire digestive system, undergoing deep hormonal transformation, chemical storm inside each cell, even in the genes! Energetically, that would be a stress of suicidal proportion for the species… unless it’s worthy. Meaning, meat must be far more disponible than some occasional animal or human. It must have been very profitable for their ancestors to switch from vegan to omnivorous. So, where do they find it, the plentiful meat?

Let’s build the hypothesis that it’s the fish in the marshes that constitue the bonanza for the Gryfs, the marsh reptiles and some of the tigers and lions.

We can imagine some subaquatic ecosystem of tremendous fertility driven by subterranean leakings of hydrocarbs: in small enough quantities, the hydrocarbs don't poison the waters. I’ve read that Iran is fighting desertification by sprinkling a small layer of oil upon the sand dunes, which layer becomes a nice primitive soil for plants. So, no poisoning of the nature. Especially not if you have around some proper bacteria and algae that decompose the hydrocarbs and turn them into consumable residue. Small fish eat both algae and residue, and are at their turn eaten by bigger fish… which are eaten by the carnivores. But how does it occur? I mean, the big undefined water reptile that appears to guard the marshes, it’s simple: it’s an aquatic predator. A tiger, we can imagine it fishing a big slow fat fish. But a Gryf, it’s not exactly a seal…

Well, the dry season provides the occasion for massive harvest when waters recede, and since savage animals have a huge capability to replenish their bellies, the Gryfs can store fat reserves for the less good times by eating all the tons of marooned fish that the retreating waters leave behind. That would provide an explanation for the scarcity of Gryfs in the big valley, since the lakes of the inner valley are always well filled with water, which would deter the Gryfs from searching for fish inside. Jad Pele Valley must be rich and fertile too, but as far as fish are concerned, not as much as the marshes since it's quite isolated from them. But in its case, the Don can fish much better than a Gryf, so I don’t think the fish ressource goes unused in the Jad Pele valley either. Speaking of Don, the Gryfs must have given them up, as a general rule, long ago: since the Don are arboreal creatures and the valley is mostly forrested, and with a continuous cover of big trees, guess what are the odds for a Gryf to fill its belly with Don mush? Not much. True, it appears to have almost unbelievable stealth and patience. Nevertheless, no chance for such a lumbering beast to catch many of these much swifter creatures, especially in a difficult environment.

Fish from seasonally receding marshes, that’s the most likely source of easy protein in Pal-ul-Don for the Gryf.

The fish must be eaten by predatory birds as well. And since the birds are likely to raise their young mostly upon the rocks of the mountain walls, we can safely assume that, apart the hydrocarbs in the water, the general fertility of all vegetation must have a simple source – bird droppings. Let's not forget the importance of the Guano for agriculture before the artificial fertilizers.

But even with fertile marshes, would there be enough food for Gryfs and water reptiles, for not to count the tigers and lions?

Well, I have a friend who owns a small pond which is filled with fish. He never feeds them, and the pond is as usual as a pond can be. Yet, in this volume not bigger than 4 average appartments or so, there are around 150 kgs – around 300 lbs – of fish. I don’t know how they do it but they thrive. They are big and fat. And my friend eats a lot of them. As another example, I visited once a hot water pond, not far from my place. Well, this one I believe it had almost more fish than water… And it was a small lake, 3-4 hectares or so. Just amazing. What I want to show by these examples is that incredible quantities of fish can show up in rather usual places. So in an exceptional place, even more noticeable quantities are likely to be found.

So, after extrapolating the data from my friend’s pond to the size of the marshes of Pal-ul-Don – which would be around 500 sqkm – it appears there would be enough food in them for 1000 giant triceratops and 1000 water reptiles. (I’ve also calculated about how much these would eat, as omnivorous beasts. But I won’t spend informatic space on that here). Besides, the fish would constitue a substantial alimentary help for 2-3000 lions and 2-3000 tigers, as a supplement apart the gazelles and whatever else they eat.


Demography

Let’s see now how many humanoid souls walk and tree-swing through this charming place.

We know there are 12 tribes of Waz-Don, and that they usually take around 100 warriors for a fighting expedition; we also know that another 100 remain to guard the village – as it appears in the fight episode and as Ta-Den implies it at one moment.

So we can roughly extrapolate 1000 members for a big tribe, especially since there are likely more females than males because of the big losses the latter are more likely to sustain in battle and hunting: around 200 adult males means around 400 males and there can be very well 600 females. Which means that the 12 tribes of Waz should gather around 10000 souls, or so.

But how many are the Ho-Don? Well, we know they have 3 cities and some villages, but there are obviously more than just 3 cities: at the end of the book, the council of the chiefs elects the new king but by then, the ones of A-Lur and Tu-Lur are both dead, so Ja-Don should be alone in the room. True, it doesn’t appear like there are dozens of towns in the valley. Besides it’s said Ja-Lur is the single one in the North or the North is roughly 1/5 of the named valley.

It’s also said many chieftains stand upon the lower levels of the pyramid of the throne. True, they can be also village notables. But still, the important ones seem to me like they are more than three.

So let's say there's 7 of them towns – I just love this number, besides Waz tribes are 12 so let’s keep it symbolic – plus 3-4 villages for each (not many nor very important, since it’s said they are “scattered”).

Bu-Lur is obviously not counted since the Waz-Ho are not described as taking any part in the story outside of Obergatz’s misadventures.

How many people may there be, ultimately?

We know A-Lur has many buildings of 100 feet high – that's 10 story ones. And you don’t build that for a hamlet – so it logically needs to be at least 20000 or so.

Tu-Lur is smaller but not much so – let’s say around 10-12000. It’s said it’s smaller but expressions like “half as big” or so are never used.

Each other city must be around the same size – it is never said Tu-Lur is much bigger than the others, either.

Basically there should be in the 90000 urban Ho-Don and maybe 30000 rural ones.

Plus maybe 5000 Waz-Ho – their place is described as a "village", it is true, but sometimes the towns themselves are described so – but villages don’t have skylines of high buildings nor domes. Expressions like these prompt me to give them populations like the above-average medieval towns or so. But without pushing above 30000.

The Tor-o-Don must be scarce, around 1000 or something like it.

So the total must turn around the 130-140000 souls.

Sounds much? It relatively is: considering the valley around 4000 sqkm with the kors, that’s a density of around 40 per sqkm(90 per sqm) – even 45 if we subtract the lakes which must cover 10% of the surface or so…

How come there’s still a lot of jungle and much savage fauna around? Medieval Europe had a similar density and the savage areas were very reduced as soon as the 1500's.

But we must remember that the likely big output of the lakes, even if not as big as the one of the marshes, must supply a lot of food for both humans and carnivorous beasts.

Plus, there’s not much question of agriculture except among the Waz – quite strange since they are reputed to be the most barbarian – but we must remember the Ho have easy access to the lakes, unlike the Waz. Also, we must keep in mind that the Waz have in fact very high densities of peoplement: each tribe of 1000 or so inhabits a small valley of at most 2x2 miles or so, which means they have densities of 200-250 per sqkm! Occasionaly they go to hunt in the big Jad Pele valley or in the uninhabited lands to the East and North-East, but that can’t be the main source of sustenance for the tribe: this role must be held by the local agriculture.

We must also consider hunting-gathering, especially for the Ho, and let’s not forget the formidable fertility of the soils and the abundance of fruit-bearing plants.

Maybe the lands used for agriculture are marginal and naturally fertilized with the guano-charged water from the droppings in the mountains, which allows to cultivate the same small plots continuously without being forced to clear another patch of jungle.

To put it briefly, might be that less than 6% of the surface of the valley is really touched by human activity.

And now let’s discuss demographic behavior proper.

The sacrificial victims, we can estimate them at 2x365x7cities = that’s 5110/year.

The aditional shrines of the main temple might be just for special occasions like most of the throne rooms of the Forbidden Palace of China for example.

The Ho don’t appear to fight often, only palaces have walls, and some blocks, and in general the throne fight appears to be solved by matrimonial alliance.

Throne fight is likely rare and relatively well handled since some families appear to have survived its loss – see the one of Tu-Lur - and others have reigned since many generations.

The battles between Ho and Waz, I tend not to see them as very deadly since Ho need the prisoners alive and Waz are often outnumbered. Of course Waz might want to kill as many Ho as possible, but if the battle is setup as a well organized ambush, and if they must have good training at it, they are likely to fall upon the Waz by surprise, or to take female and kid prisoners in the fields and use them as shields, or other methods like that.

Mostly females appear to work in the fields, in the low and most easily reachable parts of the kors.

Methinks also, the Ho also breed prisoners for the rites, otherwise it would be too costly and difficult, it’s so much easier to breed than to hunt.

Some grisly calculus: 365 captured Waz females, all knocked up during the year = 365 babies to drown and 365 moms to stab at the end of it – and so the functionning of the main temple appears to be insured…

The Ho Don don’t seem to love war as a rite in itself, like the Aztecs, with their “flower wars”. They just need meat for the sacrifices, but otherwise they seem pretty detached and quite preoccupied with economising fighters by wise tactics, and they mock the Waz for their bravado and intestine fights.

Speaking of intestine Waz fights, the battle in which Korak takes part makes the Kor-ul-Jas to loose 6 people, and it’s the biggest loss recorded – so I’m ready to bet they don’t have much more than the double of this number in yearly deaths…

What about the natural death rate – what life span do the Don have? Well, they are reputed as superhumans and their’s is a land of plenty, isolated from the exterior miseries…

Why not a 120 year lifespan, if no accidents and violence? After all there’s this tribe that has the secret of immortality which they give to Tarzan, and there are all these aliens who live enormous lives, so 120 years, it’s even modest upon Burroughs Universe Earth…

I’m ready to estimate total deaths per year around 7000 or so – that’s 5 to 6% of the population.

So they need a birthrate of 6% to offset the death rate - in a society like the African one here upon our Earth, that would mean an average of 7.5 kids per woman since the fertile period of an African woman would be roughly between the ages of 15 and 40 and the lifespan around 50.

In Pal-ul-Don, maybe the fertile period would extend between 18 and 68 or something – that would give 3-4 kids/woman, as by the way, Pan-At-Lee’s family seems to have.

Let’s now try to figure out the spiritual and social life of the Don.

Ho-Don religion first: it looks like it’s all about feeding the god, without mystical rapture like the Aztecs and as it seems, without other public rituals than sacrifice itself; a bit as if Greeks somehow combined with the Aztecs, and by doing so, obtained a thing gory and stately but little more than social – very little mystic feeling is involved.

We can’t help to think, is this procedure more like the Romans and their circus killing? Temples are oval, is this another similarity with Roman arenas?

The temple is within the palace, not opposite like in Egypt – which means it’s the king that makes the cosmic order, while the Priest, at least originally, submits to him.

The King has his throne upon a pyramid – and a pyramid, as we know, symbolizes the outpouring of light/divine energy from the sky to the earth. Big indication that the kings used to be Great Priests as well, for only a priest can transfer the sacrality from heaven to earth.

Roughly circular temples might also symbolize the horizons: the sacrifices are less about bringing divine order upon earth, as one signifies when one builds things that have to do with the divine dimension like pyramidal or cubic structures, or whatever vertical geometric buildings. It looks more like it’s about maintaining or restoring something that is earthly. Affirming earthly routine, maybe. Let’s not forget that temples dedicated to female earthly godesses are round or oval, like among the Anasazi or in ancient Malta. Of course, Jad-Ben-Otho is male. But Order might be a feminine concept.

Drowned newborn, stabbed adults…

Most victims were stabbed, all along various times and regions… Not very original.

Drowning newborns is more interesting, it changes from the usual: symbolically, drowning means accessing the celestial “waters”, the skies. It clearly conveys the idea that the Sun is “helped” in its course by the infusion of energy from the soul of the child.

We later learn that the Sun is considered to be the spirit of the god. But why does it need help to do a routine activity? Yes, I know, the Aztecs were believing the same. But they had a very clear mythology about the possible demise of the sun, and its inevitability even, at the end of well-calculated cycles of time. Their gods themselves had their fragility, many being in fact quite mortal. This lacks in the beliefs of the Don. Besides Jad-Ben-Otho being a monotheistic god, his image is far less fragile in the eyes of the believers than that of a god of the sun, one among many and who submits to the cyclicity of time. And the Sun being his soul, it’s clear that its heavenly trajectory shouldn’t suscitate the same thrill as to an apocalyptic polytheist. But then, why the mass sacrifices? What event was so “scarificationally” tatooed in the engrams of the Don psyche to make them do the massacre they were doing?

Besides, what does the “spirit” of the god doing outside of his august body? Maybe this is the very question that brings us the answer to the mystery.

Maybe, just maybe, they obsess with the course of the Sun because they started sacrifices when they saw it moving for the first time?… obviously, if they come from Pellucidar, the “new” movement of the Sun must have been a horrible, apocalyptic show to them. The whole universe collapsing…

Maybe they conglomerated the fight in the arena – which is in fact a sort of state-arbitered massacre of the symbols of disorder (beasts, slaves, criminals, other inferior beings) in a place controlled and surrounded by civilized citizens – with the desire to “repair” some occurrence that was unnatural to them – like the Sun moving for example. The first idea requires a king, the second a priest. Maybe the first started, well, first. This explains the – obviously outdated by the time of Tarzan – subordination of the temple to the palace.

Maybe, being monotheistic, they could not deify the Sun, but they could not consider it just a part of the creation nor get along with the idea of it moving “up there”, so they imagined it as the soul of Jad-Ben-Otho taking an unnatural and perilous journey out of his body…

The temple hoards gold, whereas it seems no money are employed in the Pal-ul-Donian economy. So, what value does gold have for the Don – is it god blood? Like for the Incas? Quite possible.

Another exotic element in the local spirituality is that the temples and rituals have a very ubiquitous representation of the Gryf – including masks to be worn continuously. And then there are the emasculated priests with the exception of the Great one. We don’t know of any reason why these things are the way they are. No explanation is given and it must be a quite complicated one. But we can try to find one: being monotheistic is not necessarily a state that has been eternal for the Don religion. We see the Don give various human/personal traits to some things like the Moon (“Bu has eaten”) or the Sun (which is the spirit of the god). Therefore we can infer they could have been polytheistic once upon a time, and that they kept a part of their folklore alive. The Gryf being the biggest animal of the Creation, as they saw it, must have been at least a metaphor, if not an incarnation, of the divine power. And they kept the reverence for it even after turning monotheistic. A bit like the cow in Eastern Europe, which is still held in some greater respect by some peasants, surely as an atavism from the animistic times when cattle were quasi-divine. Even today we have here legends about the Virgin Mary blessing the cows, and stuff.

As for the emasculation of the priests, I don’t know, it’s not that current actually, in history. But it is reported that the priests of Hercules-Melkart in Syria and Phenicia were castrated… Quite curious for a god of sheer power, to be revered by diminuated men. But this serves to prove how devious the human mind is, and how things might turn out to be total opposites of what would seem logical at first. Thinking about it though, the Sultans and Chinese emperors kept a lot of eunuchs as administrators and harem guards. Maybe in the case of Pal-ul-Don, this group just shifted to the religious job. Maybe they started by guarding the future “spouses of the god” – aka the future victims.

Anyway the reason for the Great Priest for not be castrated is surely that he must have been from a royal lineage. Lineage that had to continue. Maybe some kings ceased to be both king and priest, at some moment, and divided the job between brothers. But this measure, likely originated with the purpose to stop some succession conflict, while solving it on the short term it created the huge competition between religion and state in the long run, and led to the relative eclipsing of the monarchy by the same temple which was originary just the annex of the palace.


Geography

Why is Pal-ul-Don so peculiar? Well, if it comes from Pellucidar, it has all the reasons to be so. But let’s see how it formed the way it is.

The circular morass must come from the rim of the earth vortex that brought the land at the surface of Earth.

The lands between the morass and the interior mountains aren’t reported to be peculiar, except by their fertility. But we gave some reasons for it on the first pages.

The most important structure of landscape is the ring of mountains and the Jad Pele valley that it surrounds. I guess they must be treated as one geographical unity.

What is this valley and how did it come to be the way it is?

We see that except for the pass to the south, there where Bu-Lur lies, the valley appears to be totally enclosed by high limestone escarpments, which are also quite difficult to scale, although less so, on their exterior side. We also see this wall of rock isn’t very thick, despite having at least one mile or so in average height. It can’t have a width of more than 3 miles or something like that, and except for Pastar-ul-Ved, it appears the top is a rolling plateau rather than a succession of peaks and ravines. Well, what if these are not real mountains?

Maybe the central river of the valley eroded a very old limestone plateau like it happened in Roraima – they talked about in on National Geographic, and Arthur Conan Doyle knew about it since he placed his Maple White Lost World thereupon; Roraima is really strikingly spectacular, with its 2 miles high vertical walls of limestone and waterfalls. But the erosion of the Jad-Pele plateau was more interior than exterior, maybe there was a really big stream in the middle of the old plateau, starting to cleave caves inside and ending up hollowing it into a karstic depression.

Now only the margins survive from the plateau, and the hollowed interior constitues the Jad Pele valley with its hillocks of compressed, finely grained limestone (as one should expect the limestone from deep strata to be); as for the kors, they represent the further encroachment of the water upon the wall of the plateau: they exist because small affluents carved them in the interior side of the wall. They are not reported at its exterior, maybe because the main phreatic reserve is found under the middle of the valley and this is why water infiltrates the rock more towards the interior. There could also be that the evaporation from the lakes condenses more upon the inner walls of the valley…

Wouldn’t such a geographical feature be too big for its kind? Well, not really, after all, the whole central South Africa and Lesotho is one giant eroded plateau, with the Drakensberg range and the famous kopjes as remains of its original height.

Marshes around Pal-ul-Don seem to be tributary to some exterior water sources, since they decrease during the dry season, but not so the rivers and lakes of Jad Pele – must be the internal stream, very big, that supplies them continuously.


Economy and society

We really don’t know much on these subjects but let’s try something, to see things just a little more clearly.

One of the things that startled me the most was one phrase, specifying that Ja-lur was quite isolated, which explained its more seditious spirit… But wait a second… isolated?! Isolated in a country the size a bit bigger than Rhode Island?! (We count only the Jad Pele valley). Exchanges must be really small between the communities of the valley… How else could they be isolated when there’s never more than a dozen of miles between them? Which means that the people of each community produce pretty much everything they need inside their little neck-of-the-jungle. Only the religion and the political hyerarchy unites them. But they must still be incredibly parochial.

King makes priests except the Great Priest… one more reason to suspect a royal origin for the priestly family.

Nobility seems to be removable but still there is a certain status about it – this makes me remember the situation of our very own nobility in my native Eastern Europe: there was no clear status for it here, and the Prince often took advantage of this lack of class system to mow entire swaths of it, on occasions. The nobility, of course, answered in the same manner, and I don’t think more than say 25% of the princes died naturally, crown upon head and within our borders. But at the same time, the political, matrimonial and economical connections between Crown and Aristocracy were so intricate that no Price could make abstraction of the nobles. Basically, each side was trembling because of the other and at the same time was revering the other. Maybe Pal-ul-Don is similar.

Blocks have walls around them – that could be a good sign of autonomy of the particulars towards the central power. How else could citizens erect walls around their neighborhoods, autonomy symbol par excellence, if not because they had it? Especially since these people don’t know any siege machine, not even complex weapons. A wall is THE total dissuasion from control. On the other hand, this means most of the sacrifices must be freely accepted by the population, because if not, the local communities could defend themselves easily. We can infer that at least for the kids, most of the sacrifices could in fact be religiously justified infanticides. The adults might be mostly Waz plus all sort of infractors, disobedient characters, ruined guys… One could wonder though, where could they find so many rebels and dregs, since the local communities are autonomous and the Ho population is at peace and since life is easy. But maybe they have some sort of sacred lottery or something, like in “Logan’s run”or whatever similar to this was the name of the movie…

Isn’t Pal-ul-Don too small for sporting a civilisation? Well, let’s think Easter Island, Crete… and after all, Etruria was something like 15000 sqkm big… And Egypt didn’t cover much outside the Nile valley, which means 33000 sqkm. Pal-ul-Don is small, but not necessarily too small, to host a civilization.

Wouldn’t people that are prisoners in such a small world,  for so long, become sort of depressive? It is part of the human mind to dream of large horizons. The Cult of the bird-Man upon Easter Island is an example of this longing… and the mass sacrifices in Pal-ul-Don could prove just the existence of such a psychological mass discontentment.

Speaking of sacrifices, we see they are more current among the civilized Ho. The reason for this is simple: they are the ones with more elaborated phylosophy, and therefore the most likely to realize the smallness of their universe and to search for a placebo of escapism, something to give them the impression to control the march of the universe, to connect with the gods. Waz don’t religiously mass kill because they are tribal – these are so much in communion with each-other and with the surrounding nature that their egos are immersed in their little universe, however small. The Ho have superior perception of the world and life, clearly, they want more and since they can’t have more, so they tend to escape by the thrill of mass murder – results from this idea some serious skepticism about if Tarzan's reform could endure : it gave some short thrill and show of miracles, and a revelation of something exterior to their world, but didn’t provide any solution; so, would they just be content with exploring their feminine side, as their new religion mandated them to? This is a serious question, especially since they didn’t make peace with the other Waz tribes and besides, Waz among themselves are untouched by the reform and therefore, still in war ; and the fauna is still wild – so there are still plenty of occasions for violence.

And now a bit of demographic futurology, since some members of our club have touched the problem.

With sacrifices gone, there would be roughly 5000 new citizens a year, 90000 in 18 years

From then on, 10000 new people each year.

Briefly, the population would be triple around 1955 compared to 1919 – and 1955 would be the year the world discovers them, at the latest . Why so? Because back then population was growing, unrest and progress made inroads even in Africa, and tourism and air transport and exploration did it too.

It wouldn’t be a serious crisis for the culture yet, though : most of the kors appear to be uninhabited in 1919, since the Waz are said to be only 12 and the kors clearly are 2-3 times more than that, since they appear to be quite regular along the line of cliffs and theis one is long enough, having something like 200 miles all around.

As for the Ho, they would have gone from using 5% of the surface to using 15% - not that big a change.

Plus, maybe they will keep doing infanticide under various guises, plus warfare; Tarzan might have been their epiphany, but we all know how difficultly old habits die – read the Old Testament about the frequent relapses into polytheism of the children of Israel.

From their discovery on, their future would depend upon what the world would do, how energetic the UN would be about protecting the newly acquainted species and polity from its quite unruly neighbors of Congo and Zambia.

Would the Don succumb to the illnesses? Maybe yes, maybe no – PreColumbians have, Africans not; plus the Don are reputed superhumans; of course this doesn’t guarantee any immunity, but it can help.

Africa seems to confer better immunity to its natives than the Americas did to theirs, because despite not really being a traditional land of epidemics, it’s been one of many endemic diseases. So, the bodies have continuously to endure the vicious assault of some bug. It should immunize the Don against many nasty things.

So, the future depends upon how quickly a sort of international protectorate would be instituted in the area. Especially for biological considerations, with so many astounding species to come into contact with, and especially the new form of human. I think Pal-ul-Don doesn’t, normally, have very much to loose from its discovery. Actually, they could do things like allow the hunting of 10 or so Gryfs a year, for say $2 million piece. Same for the water reptiles, or the other local megafauna. As touristic curiosities they would have quite a quaint future. Unless they catch the tedium vitae that is the global illness today…

We still have the possibility that the place is in some sort of small limbo, that opens only in special occasions, like Brigadoon or something…

So, here we are. I hope I helped you to better structure your dreams.



J. Allen St. John interior art for Tarzan the Terrible 


Pal-ul-Don References in ERBzine
Monkey Men of Pal-ul-Don by Den Valdron
Tarzan the Terrible Compendium
Jane in Pal-ul-Don: Russ Manning Series
Tarzan Returns fo Pal-ul-Don: Russ Manning Series
Tarzan's Pal-ul-Don Adventure Continues: Russ Manning Series
Maltheusian Decimation in Pal-ul-Don by Rick Johnson
ERB C.H.A.S.E.R: Tarzan the Terrible



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