ERB'S EMBRYONIC JOURNEY:
THE TRIMESTERS OF CASPAK
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
(Dedicated to George McWhorter)
THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT
F. Tom Billings (continued):
Tom Billings and his hot savage babe, Ajor, have just survived days
inside the caverns that honeycomb part of the great cliff barrier that
surrounds Caspak. Now they are stranded on the mesa that tops the cliffs,
which contains ample fruit, but no meat, except for small game.
“We spent two days upon the cliff-top,
resting and recuperating. There was some small game which gave us meat,
and the little pools of rain-water were sufficient to quench our thirst.
The sun came out a few hours after we emerged from the cave, and in its
warmth we soon cast off the gloom which our recent experiences had saddled
Now, if your imaginations are finely tuned, you should have seen bare naked
women with well-formed breasts swimming in that pool. As you recall, when
Tom first scoped them out, they were topless, wearing only a snake-skin
around their waists. But now they are bare naked and there is much more
for Billings to appreciate. To Ajor, the sight is as natural as the sun
rising every monrning.
“Upon the morning of the third day we set out
to search for a path down to the valley. Below us, to the north, we saw
a large pool lying at the foot of the cliffs, and in it we could discern
the women of the Band-lu lying in the shallow waters, while beyond and
close to the base of the mighty barrier cliffs there was a large party
of Band-lu warriors going north to hunt. We had a special view from our
lofty cliff-top. Dimly, to the west, we could see the farther shore of
the inland sea, and southwest the large southern island loomed distinctly
before us. A little east of north was the northern island, which Ajor,
shuddering, whispered was the home of the Wieroo – the land of Oo-oh. It
lay at the far end of the lake and was barely visible to us, being fully
sixty miles away.” (PTF/4.)
“From our elevation, and in a clearer
atmosphere, it would have stood out distinctly; but the air of Caspak is
heavy with moisture, with the result that distant objects are blurred and
indistinct. Ajor also told me that the mainland east of Oooh was her land
– the land of the Galu. She pointed out the cliffs at its southern boundary,
which mark the frontier, south of which lies the country of Kro-lu – the
archers. We now had but to pass through the balance of the Band-lu territory
and that of the Kro-lu to be within the confines of her own land; but that
meant traversing thirty-five miles of hostile country filled with every
imaginable terror, and possibly many beyond the powers of imagination.
I would certainly have given a lot for my plane at that moment, for with
it, twenty minutes would have landed us within the confines of Ajor’s country.
Don’t you just love how ERB drew our eyes once again to those lovely naked,
fullbreasted women in the pool. He could have used the big guy in front
of Tom as the pistol-shot target, now, couldn’t he have? Instead, we get
another peep show. God bless his soul.
“We finally found a place where we could slip
over the edge of the cliff onto a narrow ledge which seemed to give evidence
of being something of a game-path to the valley, though it apparently had
not been used for some time. I lowered Ajor at the end of my rifle and
then slid over myself, and I am free to admit that my hair stood on end
during the process, for the drop was considerable and the ledge appallingly
narrow, with a frightful drop sheer below down to the rocks at the base
of the cliff; but with Ajor there to catch and steady me, I made it all
right, and then we set off down the trail toward the valley. There were
two or three more bad places, but for the most part it was an easy descent,
and we came to the highest of the Band-lu caves without further trouble.
Here we went more slowly, lest we should be set upon by some member of
“We must have passed about half the Band-lu cave-levels
before we were accosted, and then a huge fellow stepped out in front of
me, barring our futher progress.
“‘Who are you?’ he asked; and he recognized me
and I him, for he had been one of those who had led me back into the cave
and bound be the night that I had been captured. From me his gaze went
to Ajor. He was a fine-looking man with clear, intelligent eyes, a good
forehead and superb physique – by far the highest type of Caspakian I had
yet seen, barring Ajor, of course.
“‘You are a true Galu,’ he said to Ajor, ‘but
this man is of a different mold. He has the face of a Galu, but his weapons
and the strange skins he wears upon his body are not of the Galus nor of
Caspak. Who is he?’
“‘He is Tom,’ replied Ajor succinctly.
“‘There is no such people,’ asserted the Band-lu
quite truthfully, toying with his spear in a most suggestive manner.
“‘My name is Tom,’ I explained, ‘and I am from
a country beyond Caspak.’ I thought it best to propitiate him if possible,
because of the necessity of conserving ammunition as well as to avoid the
loud alarm of a shot which might bring other Band-lu warriors upon us.
‘I am from America, a land of which you never heard, and I am seeking others
of my countrymen who are in Caspak and from whom I am lost. I have no quarrel
with you or your people. Let us go our way in peace.’
“‘You are going there?’ he asked, and pointed
toward the north.
“‘I am,’ I replied.
“He was silent for several minutes, apparently
weighing some thought in his mind. At last he spoke. ‘What is that?’ he
asked. ‘And what is that?’ He pointed first at my rifle and then to my
“‘They are weapons,’ I replied, ‘weapons which
kill at a great distance.’ I pointed to the women in the pool beneath us.
‘With this,’ I said, tapping my pistol, ‘I could kill as many of those
women as I cared to, without moving a step from where we now stand.’
“He looked his incredulity, but I went on. ‘And
with this’– I weighed my rifle at the balance in the palm of my right hand
– ‘I could slay any one of those distant warriors.’ And I waved my left
hand toward the tiny figures of the hunters far to the north.” (PTF/4.)
“The fellow laughed. ‘Do it,’ he cried
derisively, ‘and then it may be that I shall believe the balance of your
This amounts to an all-racist joke. It doesn’t matter what color your skin,
or your rank in society, human nature has a clear ability to create a feeling
of being better than others, regardless of where you were before your advance.
How many times have you seen this in your own experience?
“‘But I do not wish to kill any of them,’ I replied.
‘Why should I?’
“‘Why not?’ he insisted. ‘They would have killed
you when they had you prisoner. They would kill you now if they could get
their hands on you, and they would eat you into the bargain. But I know
why you do not try it – it is because you have spoken lies; your weapon
will not kill at a great distance. It is only a queerly wrought club. For
all I know, you are nothing more than a lowly Bo-lu.’
“‘Why should you wish me to kill your own people?’
“‘They are no longer my people,’ he replied proudly.
‘Last night, in the very middle of the night, the call came to me. Like
that it came into my head’ – and he struck his hands together smartly once
– ‘that I had risen. I have been waiting for it and expecting it for a
long time; today I am a Kro-lu. Today I go out into the coslupak” (unpeopled
country, or literally, no man’s land) ‘between the Band-lu and the Kro-lu,
and there I fashion my bow and my arrows and my shield; there I hunt the
red deer for the leathern jerkin which is the badge of my new estate. When
these things are done, I can go to the chief of the Kro-lu, and he dare
not refuse me. That is why you may kill those low Band-lu if you wish to
live, for I am in a hurry.’” (PTF/4.)
Anyway, through this semi-intelligent savage man, we receive more information
on the evoultionary process on Caspak. We see that people change from one
race to another over time when they receive a “calling,” that gives them
instinctual knowledge of a change coming.
Because each race has a necessity to kill the others out of survival,
the likelihood of a single person surviving from ape to Galu must be very
rare. However, the genesis of this strange evolution has yet to be explained
and we must wait till Bradley’s story in order to discover it.
“‘But why do you wish to kill me?’ I
Ah, that’s a scene right out of a modern horror flick. What a guy, that
ERB. We yet get another chance to ogle these naked beauties, this time
being menaced by a huge lion, their screams at a high, bloody pitch, their
breasts bouncing as they run in panic. Don’t you just love it!
“He looked puzzled and finally gave it up. ‘I
do not know,’ he admitted. ‘It is the way in Caspak. If we do not kill,
we shall be killed, therefore it is wise to kill first whomever does not
belong to one’s own people. This morning I hid in my cave till the others
were gone upon the hunt, for I knew that they would know at once that I
had beome a Kro-lu, and would kill me. They will kill me if they find me
in the coslupak; so will the Kro-lu if they come upon me before I have
won my Kro-lu weapons and jerkin. You would kill me if you could, and that
is the reason I know that you speak lies when you say that your weapons
can kill at a great distance. Would they, you would have long since have
killed me. Come! I have no more time to waste in words. I will spare the
woman and take her with me to the Kro-lu, for she is comely.’ And with
that he advanced upon me with raised spear.
“Just as I thought I should have to fire, a chorus
of screams broke from the women beneath us. I saw the man halt and glance
downward, and following his example my eyes took in the panic and its cause.
The women had, evidently, been quitting the pool and slowly returning toward
the caves, when they were confronted by a monstrous cave-lion which stood
directly between them and their cliffs in the center of the narrow path
that led down to the pool among the tumbled rocks. Screaming, the women
were rushing madly back to the pool.” (PTF/4.)
“‘It will do them no good,’ remarked
the man, a trace of excitement in his voice. ‘It will do them no good,
for the lion will wait until they come out and take as many as he can carry
away; and there is one there,’ he added, a trace of sadness in his tone,
‘whom I hoped would soon follow me to the Kro-lu. Together we have come
up from the beginning.’ He raised his spear above his head and poised it
ready to hurl downward at the lion. ‘She is nearest to him,’ he muttered.
‘He will get her and she will never come to me among the Kro-lu, or ever
thereafter. It is useless! No warrior lives who could hurl a weapon so
great a distance.’
Someone will have to come up with a reasonable theory about why this cave-lion
is one of the only species on Caspak to know that it is dead the instant
it is dead. My guess is that sometimes the action of the drama dictates
an artistic contradiction. I can think of no other reason, can you? Here,
the teaching of the new Kro-lu the fact that the rifle can kill at a great
distance is more important than consistency in the plot.
“But even as he spoke, I was leveling my rifle
upon the great brute below; and as he ceased speaking, I squeezed the trigger.
My bullet must have struck to a hair the point at which I had aimed, for
it smashed the brute’s spine back of his shoulders and tore on through
his heart, dropping him dead in his tracks. For a moment the women were
as terrified by the report of the rifle as they had been by the menace
of the lion; but when they saw that the loud noise had evidently destroyed
their enemy, they came creeping cautiously back to examine the carcass.”
And lest we forget, we get to see yet again those beautiful naked babes
as they explore the lion’s carcass for signs of an entrance wound. Beauties
and the beast.
“The man, toward whom I had immediately
turned after firing, lest he should pursue his threatened attack, stood
staring at me in amusement and admiration.
This is the main cultural analysis of ERB on his own times, which is most
obviously expressed in his Tarzan novels. The more evolved man becomes
the more subtle of a liar and the less of a soul he seems to have. ERB
was bored with mainstream society; he liked to write about outsiders and
outlaws. After all, this is where the adventure was.
“‘Why?’ he asked, ‘if you could do that, did
you not kill me long before?’
“”I told you,’ I replied, ‘that I had no quarrel
with you. I do not care to kill men with whom I have no quarrel.’
“But he could not seem to get the idea through
his head. ‘I can believe now that you are not of Caspak,’ he admitted,
‘for no Caspakian would have permitted such an opportunity to escape him.’
This, however, I found out later to be an exaggeration, as the tribes of
the west coast and the Kro-lu of the east coast are far less bloodthirsty
than he would have had me believe. ‘And your weapon!’ he continued. ‘You
spoke true words when I thought you spoke lies.’ And then, suddenly: ‘Let
us be friends!’
“I turned to Ajor. ‘Can I trust him?’ I asked.
“‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘Why not? Has he not asked
to be friends?’
“I was not at the time well enough acquainted
with Caspakian ways to know that truthfulness and loyalty are two of the
strongest characteristics of these primitive people. They are not as sufficiently
cultured to have become adepts in hypocrisy, treason and dissimulation.
There are, of course, a few exceptions.”
“‘We can go north together,’ continued
the warrior. ‘I will fight for you, and you can fight for me. Until death
will I serve you, for you have saved So-al, whom I had given up as dead.’
He threw down his spear and covered both his eyes with the palms of his
two hands. I looked inquiringly toward Ajor, who explained as best she
could that this was the form of the Caspakian oath of allegiance. ‘You
need never fear him after this,’ she concluded.
I have a vivid picture of them being pursued like the Beatles with their
girl fans, with all of those beautiful breasts bouncing in the pursuit.
ERB sure knew how to satisfy his readers.
“‘What should I do?” I asked.
“‘Take his hands down from before his eyes and
return his spear to him,’ she explained.
“I did as she bade, and the man seemed very pleased.
I then asked what I should have done had I not wished to accept his friendship.
They told me that had I walked away, the moment that I was out of sight
of the warrior we would have been become deadly enemies again. ‘But I could
so easily have killed him as he stood there defenseless!’ I exclaimed.
“‘Yes,’ replied the warrior, ‘but no man with
good sense blinds his eyes before one whom he does not trust.’
“It was rather a decent compliment, and it taught
me just how much I might rely on the loyalty of my new friend. I was glad
to have him with us, for he knew the country and was evidently a fearless
warrior. I wished that I might have recruited a battalion like him.
“As the women were now approaching the cliffs,
To-mar the warrior suggested that we make our way to the valley before
they could intercept us, as they might attempt to detain us and were almost
certain to set upon Ajor. So, we hastened down the narrow path, reaching
the foot of the cliffs but a short distance ahead of the women. They called
after us to stop; but we kept on at a rapid walk, not wishing to have any
trouble with them, which could only result in the death of some of them.”
“We had proceeded about a mile when we
heard some one behind us calling To-mar by name, and when we stopped and
looked around, we saw a woman running rapidly toward us. As she approached
nearer, I could see that she was a very comely creature, and like all her
sex that I had seen in Caspak, apparently young.
Yes, that’s supposed to sound like Easter Sunday, for Caspakian evolution
is a series of resurrections. This is a deliberate reference to Christianity,
and perhaps a fingers under the chin gesture toward it. At least, that’s
how I see it.
“‘It is So-al!’ exclaimed To-mar. ‘Is she mad
that she follows me thus?’
“In another moment the young woman stopped, panting,
before us. She paid not the slightest attention to Ajor or me; but devouring
To-mar with her sparkling eyes, she cried: ‘I have risen! I have risen!’”
“‘So-al!’ was all the man could say.
This is a very touching scene if you can get into the mind-set of Caspak.
For lovers to come up together must be a very rare and precious occurance.
We can see this in the sadness of To-mar as he contemplates the death of
his lover, So-al, as the cave-lion closes in on her, as well by the mutual
joy of her salvation. After all, they had come up together from the beginning.
“‘Yes,’ she went on, ‘the call came to me just
before I quit the pool; but I did not know that it had come to you. I can
see it in your eyes, To-mar, my Tomar! We shall go on together!’ And she
threw herself into his arms.” (PTF/4.)
“It was a very affecting sight, for it
was evident that these two had been mates for a long time and that they
had each thought that they were about to be separated by that strange law
of evolution which holds good in Caspak and which was slowly unfolding
before my incredulous mind. I did not then comprehend even a tithe of the
wondrous process, which goes on eternally within the confines of Caprona’s
barrier cliffs nor am I any too sure that I do even now.
Yes, I too was wondering if So-al managed to get her snake-skin covering
as she went to examine the lion. Because otherwise she would be bare naked
at the time Tom gives us his physical observations. What does he mean by
her being a tigress yet sweet and womanly?
“To-mar explained to So-al that it was I who
had killed the cave-lion and saved her life, and that Ajor was my woman
and thus entitled to the same loyalty which was my due.
“At first Ajor and So-al were like a couple of
stranger cats on a back fence but soon they began to accept each other
under something of an armed truce, and later became fast friends. So-al
was a mighty fine-looking girl, built like a tigress as to strength and
sinuosity, but withal sweet and womanly. Ajor and I came to be very fond
of her, and she was, I think, equally fond of us. To-mar was very much
of a man – a savage, if you will, but none the less a man.” (PTF/4.)
Perhaps this meant something specific in 1917, but I can’t be sure if
I am imagining it correctly. At least I’ve got a picture of her breasts
in my mind. Your guess is as good as mine.
“Finding the traveling in company with
To-mar made our journey both easier and safer, Ajor and I did not continue
on our way alone while the novitiates delayed their approach to the Kro-lu
country in order that they might properly fit themselves in the matter
of arms and apparel, but remained with them. Thus we became well acquainted
– to such an extent that we looked forward with regret to the day when
they took their places among their new comrades and we should be forced
to continue upon our way alone. It was a matter of much concern to Tomar
that the Kro-lu would undoubtedly not receive Ajor and in me in a friendly
manner, and that consequently we should have to avoid these people.
At first you might conclude that Billings has succumbed to the same fatalism
as Bowen and Lys, but I find that I must disagree with that. Billings has
just accepted the fact that we all must die someday and so a certain fatalistic
attitude of acceptance of one’s finality is just being realistic and pragmatic.
Billings cares about someone else more than he cares about himself, and
that is what is makes it all worthwhile. Thus ends Chapter 4.
“It would have been very helpful to us could
we have made friends with them, as their country abutted directly upon
that of the Galus. Their friendship would have meant that Ajor’s dangers
were practically past, and that I had accomplished fully one-half of my
long journey. In view of what I had passed through, I often wondered what
chance I had to complete that journey in search of my friends. The further
south I should travel on the west side of the island, the more frightful
would the dangers become as I reared the stamping-grounds of the more hideous
reptilia and the haunts of the Alus and the Ho-lu, all of which were at
the southern half of the island; and then if I should not find the members
of my own party, what was to become of me? I could not live for long in
any portion of Caspak with which I was familiar; the moment my ammunition
was exhausted, I should be as good as dead.
“There was a chance that the Galus would receive
me; but even Ajor could not say definitely whether they would or not, and
even provided that they would, could I retrace my steps from the beginning,
after failing to find my own people, and return to the far northern land
of Galus? I doubted it. However, I was learning from Ajor, who was more
or less of a fatalist, a philosophy which was as necessary in Caspak to
peace of mind as is faith to the devout Christian of the outer world.”
See you next time for Chapter 5.
(Continued in Part Fourteen)