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Chattering From The Shoulder
April 6, 2000
Land of Terror
Questing in Mad Old PellucidarIntroduction
Land of Terror was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 28 untitled chapters in 1938 -1939. It was published by ERB, Inc. in 1944. It was never published in magazine form, being rejected by all of his usual publishers. This was his fifth novel set in the inner world of Pellucidar.
ERB finished writing his Synthetic Men of Mars in late July or early August of 1938. On Aug. 19 he went to Honolulu with Florence, and arrived home by Oct. 11 via Vancouver to begin Land Of Terror. It was not completed until April 17, 1939. "Tarzan and the Jungle Murders" was written in the middle of work on this novel in January of 1939.
David Innes is surprised when Jason Gridley informs him that is is 1939. He has lived in Pellucidar for 36 years; yet in a land without time, he looks and feels to be only 20. He muses "tongue in cheek" on the blessings of civilization Abner Perry has brought: gunpowder, a fleet of sailing ships, and he is working on poison gas.
David and his band of Sarians are returning across Pellucidar from Lo-har to Sari on the shore of Lural Az. while crossing a river, they are attacked by bearded warriors in canoes. Although they have rifles, they are captured through the ruse of a smoke screen. The bearded men are really women who talk about men the way men sometimes talk about women in a comic role-reversal situation. The leader of the women is Gluck of the village of Oog. She wants the secret of the rifles.
David muses about the helplessness of 20th. Century man - - dependent upon inventions he himself could not invent. The men in the village hate the women, but since they are smaller and weaker, they must serve them. Glula, a man owned by Gluck is put in charge of David to show him the ropes. Glula introduces him to Zor, another slave, and they work together hoeing a garden. Zor belongs to Rhump. They are guarded by warrior-women sentries. David is overworked and half starved. When he tries to eat a tuber from the garden, he gets into a fight with a guard and punches her out. Gluck then beats the guard for trying to beat one of her slaves. (David muses that women given power turn into brutes.) The guard (Gung) is killed by Gluck.
Zor tells David how he was captured while searching for a lost love (Rana). (He had been briefly held by the Jukans.) He tells David of a girl from Sari who was held prisoner there. Some Juloks arrive riding on giant birds. The warrior women fight from the backs of Dyals, huge, flightless, prehistoric birds. In a pitched battle filled with smoke, David and Zor escape upon a Dyal. They travel swiftly toward snow-capped mountains and the land of the Jukans. The Dyal does not like the snow, so they have to turn him loose.
Being nearly naked, Zor and David are very cold in the mountains. they are treed by a tarag, a saber-toothed tiger, then late come down and find a cave for safety and sleep. David plans to make weapons.
David makes bow and arrows while Zor makes 2 spears. David shoots an antelope, but before they can eat it, they are approached by 20 Jukan warriors. They are taken to the village of Meeza, the King of the Jukans. Jukans think they are very intelligent though they are a race of half-wits. They see a man hitting himself with a rock and a woman trying to cut her own child's throat. The Jukan god is Ogar (a hideous, obscene, half man-half beast idol) in front of which their priests 'pray" by doing cartwheels. While they wait to meet Meeza, they are invited to make mud pies.
David and Zor ask for food and Goofo, their keeper, makes 3 girls eat it all in front of them to see if it is poisoned. Goofo sends them to sleep, and they discover that one of the girls is sane, so they get fed. She is Kleeto from the land of Suvi. they learn from her that a girl from Sari is held prisoner in the palace. She says everyone is an imbecile and the King and his son are cruel, sadistic maniacs.
Goofo is stabbed, so Noak becomes the majordomo of the palace. He is more dangerous because he is smarter and crueler than the others. David and Zor decide to dress up in monkey skins to pass as Jukans but are overheard by Ro, one of Noak's henchmen. They cut Zor's hair short and give him monkey clothes, and when Noak comes in to confront them about their planned escape, David kills him with a stone knife, so they each have a disguise.
They bury Noak in their sleeping quarters. David, and Zor try to leave the city with Kleeto, but a guard turns them back. Next, David and Zor try to find Meeza's secret exit in the crazy maze of the palace. There is no darkness of night on Pellucidar, so two-thirds of the people are always awake. They are always among madmen doing mad things - - it's like wandering though an insane asylum. They wander for 3 sleeps then sit down to eat at King Meeza's table by mistake. Ro remembers them and betrays them to the King. Zor is accepted as one of the Jukans (because of his name) but David is taken to a cell to be sacrificed to Ogar.
David muses it is odd that these are the only Pellucidarians who live in villages instead of caves, yet they are mad. He discovers that the idiots have locked him in a corridor instead of a room. He hears Moko, the King's son arguing with a girl behind a wooden door. David rushes in in time to kill Moko and save Dian. From Moko's conversation, they know they can escape from the city by going down the corridor, but David wants to save Zor and Kleeto. Checking to see if the escape route is really there, they go to the end of the corridor and find a heavy wooden gate.
They find a cave which leads out of the city. They descend a 20 foot drop by means of a nearby tree, then find another cave in the cliff face and set up a camp. Dian tells David how she came to the city of the Jukans. On an expedition to find him, she was captured by Do-gad, nephew of the King of Suri, who wanted to marry her. Dian convinces the King that she should be free to continue her search, but ambushed and followed by Do-gad, she wandered far afield and was captured by the Jukans. David makes bows and arrows and spears and makes plans to go back and rescue his friends, which he feels honor bound to do.
David disguises himself by staining his face with nut juices. He leaves Dian behind (but well supplied) in the cave and goes to the Jukan city gate asking to see his friend Zor. (He says he is a visitor from Gamba.) A guard starts taking him to Zor and tells of the events of the past few days. Bruma, the Chief Priest, needs a sacrifice to offer Ogar to find out what happened to David, Dian, and Moko.
The guide takes him to Bruma, but has an epileptic fit before he can suggest David for the sacrifice. David tells Bruma he is Napoleon Bonaparte. He almost gets Zor to go with him, but Bruma decides, "This Napolapart will make a good sacrifice."
Moko staggers into the room looking like a corpse! Everyone runs out to look for David, whom Bruma guesses is responsible for Moko's state and the disappearance of Dian. David and Zor find Kleeto. The guards will not let a woman out of the city, and David does not know how to find the corridor to the cave, so David and Zor decide to enter the cave from outside the city and backtrack to the corridor, then to Kleeto. Zor goes back alone to retrieve Kleeto because only one man need risk his life again and it should be relatively easy if the gate at the end of the corridor is unlocked. Zor says he will return in 2 sleeps.
David goes to the cave and discovers that Dian is gone! The weapons are still there, so he takes them and goes in search of his mate. He guesses she has not been taken back to the city because the camouflaged entrance has not been disturbed, so he heads the way Dian told him Sari lay. (Of course, David does not have the homing instinct all Pellucidarians are born with.)
After going 20 miles, David sleeps in a tree. When he wakes up he finds the footprints of a man and a woman and decides to follow them. He finds Zor and Kleeto being attacked by 2 jalocks. David kills the wild dogs with arrows and spears. They tell him that Dian is not with the Jukans. David tells them he feels like going back to Sari to raise an army and wipe the Jukans off the face of Pellucidar. They go on together, then David discovers one of his arrows in the skeleton of a deer. They must be on the right trail.
Zor and Kleeto are in love. She tells him why she left Suri, about the unwelcome lover, Do-gad, nephew of the King. Now both David and Zor have an account to settle with him. (A description of Pellucidar's people and animals is presented here.) They save a mastodon calf from drowning in a marsh. They are followed by the mastodon's father and mother. Maj is the Pellucidarian name for mastodon. David pets the mastodon calf and they become friends. The mastodons follow them and keep other animals away. They find Dian's mark in a cave -- an equilateral triangle with a dot in the center.
The mastodons leave them. In the middle of a great storm, they are captured by 7 foot high giants -- ugly men with tusk-like, yellow teeth -- the man-eating giants of Azar. They are tied to trees inside a palisade enclosure with other humans. David learns that Dian has escaped the same Azarians during the storm with Do-gad!
36 years to the day ago, the cruel Azarians are making a cooking pit for David, Zor, and Kleeto. Just as they are about to prepare Kleeto for supper by breaking all of her bones, David calls the mastodons (Maj with his mate and calf). David alone gets carried off and saved by Maj.
David describes his perspective view in Pellucidar. He tells of the great seas and mysterious islands. He says that the facts about the Mahars being the dominant race and the land to water ratios are all speculative theories. He sleeps in a cave and the mastodons leave -- never to be seen again. Alone, he makes new weapons. David comes upon gigantic 6-foot long ants. Worker ants are caring for planted fields guarded by soldier ants. David fights some soldier ants but is captured and carried off and down into their nest.
David is placed in a chamber with another prisoner, U-Val of Ruva. They are being force fed honey to fatten them up. (Ruva is a Floating Island in the Bandar Az.) U-Val is selected for feeding the ants and they prepare to fight.
They kill one ant, then are saved by a gigantic ant bear. They escape together and find U-Val's canoe to travel to Ruva. (He always knows where his island is even though it has floated out of sight.) U-Val has deep black skin with a copper glint. They make more spears, and David makes a bow and arrows. U-Val binds David as he sleeps. He plans to take him to Ruva as a
David is bound in the bottom of the canoe. U-Val kills a small saurian with a 20-foot spear. U-Val frees David to help with the paddling and defense. They argue and U-Val tells David he doesn't know how to act like a proper slave. David makes a sail for the canoe which is something new to U-Val.
David turns the tables on U-Val as they approach land. U-Val promises to introduce him to his people as a friend rather than a slave. David tells the Ruvans he will teach them how to sail and how to bow fish if they accept him as a friend. The bow fishing is a success, but there are no trees on the island strong enough to make bows from the wood.
David makes a sailboat (a lateen rigged outrigger) for the Ruvans. The black race of Ruva have white slaves, which they consider to be inferior beings. However, the slaves are treated well -- better than the role-reversal on David's world. "Perhaps I was getting a lesson in true Democracy." Raiders from Ko-van arrive, and David tells Ro-Tai, the King, how to set an ambush along the trail to the village. The Ruvans easily kill all 20 raiders. They are delighted with this new trick. David learns of a female captive of the Ko-vans called Amar, born in Amoz, who lived with her mate in Sari.
U-Val wants to marry O-Ra, but she wants a man who owns a slave. U-Val decides to claim David as a salve, but Ro-Tai, the King, gives him his liberty due to his great services. They have a feast, and U-Val gets drunk on tu-mal. He picks a fight with David but gets punched down and jujitsued to death. As David works on the canoe-sail boat for an escape from the island, he learns that Amar is really named Dian.
David plans a raid on Ko-Va with the King to free Dian. The sailboat works to their amazement. "What will they think of next? To think that I should live to see a thing like this!" They are all savagely painted, even David. David's plan is to surround the entire village before attacking. They quickly take the advantage, but spare the Ko-Va men for future raids. They take their slaves back, but Dian has again been taken away by Do-gad. David asks Ro-Tai to have a girl from Suvi as a slave. She is Lu-Bra. (He needs her as a guide when he escapes.) On their return to Ruva, a great storm rocks the island like a boat. They land deep in the forest, tossed by a mighty wave. The fate of the other canoes is in question.
Everyone lands safely. In secret with Lu-Bra, David begin to repair his sailing canoe and build up supplies for his escape from the island. Lu-Bra knows he is really David, Emperor of Pellucidar. They almost escape during a feast, but O-Ra wants to go along as David's mate. They are pursued but escape by a fortunate gust of wind.
They sail for weeks without reaching land. David learns that Lu-Bra and Kleeto were childhood friends. Just as they are dying, they are picked up by one of the vessels of their home fleet led by Ja the Mezop. Dian is aboard! She has killed Do-gad. Zor and Kleeto also have reached Suvi and have had a son. David has been gone a long time!
Land of Terror is basically divided into five adventures:
The Oog Women, chapters 1-4
Among the Jukans, chapters 5-15
With the Azar giants, chapters 16-18
Captured by the giant Ants, chapters 19-21
On the Floating Island of Ruva, chapters 22-28
Nearly half of the novel has to do with the Jukans, which makes one wonder if this was the 1938 section of the novel. There is an interesting break in chapter 16 in which ERB describes the people and beasts of Pellucidar as though he were reminding himself what his story was all about. He does the same sort of thing in chapter 19 at the beginning of the Ant section, and this is the one that has David questioning his knowledge of Pellucidar itself. The Ant section flows more naturally into the last section on the Floating Island.
E S S A Y
This is a novel that seems to be on everyone's "Worst of ERB list," however, like all of his late works it is a novel filled with humor and is quite a merry romp. Here Burroughs is playing with his time-honored and well-worn themes with a vengeance, and what may appear on the surface to be a toss-off novel is actually a cleverly crafted tale. It reminds me of Beethoven's Piano Sonata in B-flat major, Opus ? that plays fast and loose with cliches used by seemingly everyone at the time, and like Beethoven, Burroughs come up with a delightful scamper through the la-la land of the familiar.
He begins with his gender role-reversal theme where women act and men and men act like women, and plays it out with the same grim flair he demonstrated in Tarzan and the Ant Men . (ERB had also recently used this gambit in his 1937 Carson of Venus.) David picks up a side-kick, Zor, who goes with him to the mad city of the Jukans, and never has his never-never land been so lightly fiddled. Here the archtypal mad city, first developed in Tarzan the Untamed under the name of Xuja, is given a new comic twist that is somehow pleasing even in its mad-cap terror.
Even Lewis Carroll's Wonderland has an edge of uncomfortable terror to it, which is inevitable when the theme of madness is played out in literature. The world as asylum is a theme employed by Jonathan Swift in his Gulliver's Travels and by Mark Twain in his Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and in his No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger. It is a difficult comedic theme that in modern times is sometimes called "black humor."
This increasingly prevalent bent toward satire and dark comedy in ERB's late work is one of the elements that was misunderstood by his publishers and is certainly a factor of the disapproval found in these works by many of his fans to this day. The fact of the matter is: Burroughs was tired of writing about the hero who wins every battle with ease, and so he diminished the stature of his main characters to more human proportions. His Carson of Venus is a bumbler who goes to another planet by mistake, and all of the adventures in that series have a new, bitter, satiric slant that certainly reflects both his personal feelings toward life and toward his writing in general.
The great theme is Land of Terror is not the commentaries on role-reversals, although there is another one near the end in the Floating Island of Ruva where black men keep white slaves. Burroughs is merely playing with Swiftian satire. The real theme is the quest of David, Emperor of Pellucidar, for his mate.
Land of Terror is a brilliant example of what might be termed an "anti-quest." David is not an anti-hero, for he retains all the hallmarks of the heroic figures found in all of ERB's writings. It is the journey itself that carries the burden of another hidden role-reversal.
Everything moves with a great ennui in this Odyssey. David is confused by his lack of homing instinct, yet he pushes on, seeking whatever help comes his way. Dian is always one step ahead of him throughout most of the story, and he must shove through a great world that has swallowed its Emperor, a fact that makes him a very small hero indeed.
Burroughs gives us clues to his anti-quest intentions in his descriptions of Pellucidar throughout the whole story -- its stationary sun with no way to compute time; its enormous curving surface that defies human mapping. In chapter 19, Burroughs himself almost despairs at the land he has created.
"How little I knew of this land in which I had spent so many years! When I first came here, I spoke authoritatively upon many subjects concerning which I realize now I had little or no knowledge."
David tells us that the Mahars may not be the dominant race in Pellucidar and that the ratio of land and water as a reversal of the surface of the earth is only a theory that may not be true at all. He seems disgusted with his own quest, "As I have repeated, probably ad nauseam, I do not know how long I slept," and "Once again I set to work making weapons. It may seem to you that I had very bad luck with my weapons, constantly losing them as I did (Ch. 21).
The sectional arrangement of encounters with strange beings in strange lands is certainly acceptable in a questing story. However, the quick wrap-up at the end may seem gratuitous, and it is all of that. ERB may have reached the end of his word-count for this particular book, or he may have just tired of it. The fact that there is no final killing of the suitor, Do-gad" by the hero doesn't mean that ERB had forgotten Ulysses, but it does greatly weaken the story.
Burroughs was brazen enough to write this paragraph instead of allowing David his just revenge for being driven for years across the face of Pellucidar in search of his beloved.
"She had helped Do-gad escape from Ko-va, on Do-gad's explicit promise that he would respect her and help her to return to Sari; but he had broken his word to her, and she had killed him. Of this metal are the beautiful daughters of Amoz."
It's as though Odysseus had returned to Ithaca to find out that Penelope could take care of herself. She had poisoned the suitors years ago and was now settling into comfortable retirement as her bedraggled husband crawl up on the doorstep.
Poor David does become an anti-hero at this moment. All of his worry and derring-do was for nothing. David says he is "contented and happy," but he was cheated out of his final battle -- and that had to hurt just a little.
Burroughs has a penchant for this quick ending, and it is found in many of his novels. One gets the feeling that he liked writing the adventurous passages, which he did very well, but when it came to closure, he simply said, "The prince came home and found the princess. That's all kiddies, now go to sleep." Maybe he was just telling bed-time fairy tales, not writing novels, so who are we to complain?
Personally, I liked the novel very much. I like all of late Burroughs because I think he lets his characters slip their classical heroic masks to show real human faces underneath. He almost writes about real human beings.
Burroughs seemed to be afraid to write of humans with weaknesses. Anyone weak had to be a complete madman or a degenerate of some sort. Normal people in his world were all heroic and strong. He had to knock Tarzan silly will a blow to his head to move him around in believable scenes at all.
I like it when his formulas were allowed to shatter and we get glimpses of the writer's own humanity. A Great Stomping David, Emperor of Pellucidar, is not a pretty picture, and even he parodies Perry's bringing "civilization" to Pellucidar in this story. "When I left Sari on this expedition I am about to tell you of, Perry was trying to perfect poison gas. He claimed that it would do even more to bring civilization to the Old Stone Age." John Carter of Mars could stand such bringing down a peg.
I am looking forward to reading more of these late stories with their bow to less than perfect heroes. A serial writer worth his salt comes to a point of writing parodies of his own characters, and ERB was finally becoming such a writer. Had he lived long enough, he may have even found a way to let Tarzan die. Of course, this is not likely since Burroughs was Peter Pan in the flesh. His Tinker Bell kept on whispering, "I still live!"
It is likely that the Jukans were loosely based upon the infamous Jukes family that has been given so much bad press lately in John Taliaferro's account of ERB's alleged leanings toward radical eugenics in his Tarzan Forever.
Taliaferro mentions the findings of "The Jukes: A Study in Crime, Pauperism, Disease, and Heredity," which appeared in 1877 -- the most influential work on American heredity and criminology in the 19th. Century, a seminal document in the American eugenics movement. He links ERB to this movement by quoting from his newspaper articles written during the Hickman trial of 1927.
"If we hang him we have removed . . . a potential menace to the peace and happiness and safety of countless future generations, for moral imbeciles breed moral imbeciles, criminals breed criminals, murderers breed murderers just as truly as St. Bernards breed St. Bernards" (Taliaferro, p. 230).