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Chattering from the Shoulder
More Thoughts on
The Lad and the Lion
Nkima's The Lad and the Lion Chat,
with illustrations and reference links, appears in
The structure of the Lad and the Lion is a rather strange one. It consists of two stories that are told side-by-side in every other chapter. The only real link between the stories is Prince Michael, who becomes the lion-man, Aziz. He is the real king of a small European country that is racked by assassinations and plots when he is abducted and leaves civilization forever. Since Michael does not return to his rightful place on the throne at the end, the two stories do not have anything to do with each other other than in a slim ironical way.
Did Burroughs intend that these parallel stories should be linked in a stronger fashion than this? I do not see any evidence of this.
Aziz is a Tarzan-like character who gets the full Burroughsian treatment of a feral child. A strong young man meets a girl in peril. She is being threatened by rape. He saves the girl with the aid of a lion. They have problems communicating because they do not speak the same language. The man dresses in the clothes of the girl's people as a sign of his change of life, but he returns her to her own people without joining them. There are the usual misunderstandings during their love affair which are resolved at the end. The usual captures and rescues occur, but the story could have been written without the other one that tags along in tandem in a far away European kingdom.
This is an experimental novel the form of which fails to satisfy any logical pattern. We just get two stories that are interesting enough in themselves, but they really do not touch other than in a superficial way. Burroughs could have written each chapter to play upon the irony of the situations and thus have formed a closer union between his parallel stories, but he chose to allow each one of them to run their own course of adventure.
In fact, excepting the first two chapters and the final one, the stories do not touch at all. Burroughs did not even bother to include a little taste of irony that he so often did in his Tarzan novels such as, "Even as the lad lay his head down upon the warm side of the lion, Ferdinand pulled a silk coverlet up to his chin."
So dissimilar they are, the two stories could have been written entirely separate and then linked in this novel in a totally artificial way. Burroughs only used the African parts of his story for his first screenplay for the 1917 Selig film. He realized that what the screen needed was a great visual story with an understandable plot, so he simply left out the rather confusing parallel story without changing his lad story at all other than in minor touches here and there. (See ERBzine Volume 0450 for the entire plot of this film.)
Perhaps the most interesting thing about The Lad and the Lion, aside from its two stories which are enjoyable in themselves, is the fact that Burroughs was already experimenting with linking his themes. He did this to a certain extent in 1913 with The Eternal Lover, which caused a great deal of confusion with his Lord Greystoke-Tarzan character, and his greatest success was with his Tarzan at the Earth's Core that very successfully linked his Tarzan and Pellucidar Series. If you have Clark A. Brady's The Burroughs Cyclopaedia you can see all of ERB's story cross-referencing in the chart on page 394. This is an interesting chart, but it might have been more readily useful to fans had he used the familiar Hein's novel abbreviations.
Chapter Summary of
The Lad and the Lion
The first four chapters were summarized in the first part of Nkima's The Lad and the Lion feature. They are repeated here with the remaining 21 chapters for continuity purposes.
Burroughs began working on this 25 chapter story in February of 1914, three days after The Beasts of Tarzan was finished. It is a 40,000 word novelette with the working title "Men and Beasts." It was serialized in three parts in All-Story Weekly, June 30; July 7, 14, 1917.)
An old man and a boy walk in the palace gardens. We learn that the old man is the grandfather King and the lad a Prince with a dead father. The Prince is named Michael. Three villains consult together: Meyer, the plotter, who would be a chancellor, H.R.H. Prince Otto, the king's brother, who would be king, and Count Paul Sarnya. The old king is warned by a note not to ride out of the palace. He tells General Count Jagst to take the lad out of Europe should anything happen to him. The King goes riding and is killed. Jagst prepares to take Prince Michael out of the country.
The ship upon which Prince Michael is leaving the country is sinking in a hurricane, but the lad refuses to get on a lifeboat until all the women are saved. He is swept into the sea and knocked unconscious by a piece of the wreckage. He finds an empty lifeboat and climbs aboard. The lad is picked up by a crazy, old man on a derelict steamer. The old man beats him, then falls into an epileptic fit. The lad sees a lion in a cage on the deck of the ship. His memory is totally gone. "He did not know that the creature in the cage was a lion, or that the other upon the deck was a man, or that he himself was a boy." "He had everything to learn, as though he had just been born." He pets the lion, and the lion purrs. The old man is a deaf mute, and the boy has no memory of speech. The lad is made to fish and cook the meals. The old man tortures the lion with a sharpened iron bar, and the boy comforts the lion.
Prince Otto is now the king, but the people of his country want a constitutional government. He has a bratty son (Prince Ferdinand). Three men Andresy, Bulvik, and Carlyn --A,B, And C are trying to figure out who warned the old king that he was about to be assassinated. Sarnya has become General Count Sarnya, Chief of Staff. Meyer is dead. (It reads like one of ERB's mystery puzzles.) Bulvik swears he will kill Sarnya. Ferdinand throws an inkwell at the the head of his tutor, the Englishman Carruthers. He wants to resign. Ferdinand goes to the garden and strikes up a friendship with pretty Hilda de Groot, the head gardener's daughter. Bulvik gets a job as a laborer in the garden, hired by Martin de Groot.
The lad and the lion sail aboard the drifting derelict for years. All curious strangers are kept away by a smallpox flag on the mast head. The old man makes the lad change the name and the color of the ship after each encounter with another ship. Without a memory, the boy thinks this is the only possible form and manner of life. He thinks all ships hold old men and lions and boys. The old man teaches the boy a rude sign language, and the boy tries to teach it to the lion. The lion does not learn the signs, but the boy learns to communicate with the lion by a kind of thought transference. The lad learns to purr and roar like a lion, but the deaf-mute old man cannot hear this. This situation lasts for for years as the boy grows into the strength of young manhood. The old man beats his naked body with a heavy leather whip. One day a ship passes by close enough so that the lad can see men, women, and children. The naked boy waves and roars like a lion! The officer on the bridge calls to them over a megaphone, but no one aboard can understand him! The old man shrieks and gibbers at the boy and signals him to go below, but he resists, striking the old man, who falls into a sudden fit of epilepsy. The ship finally goes away, frightened off by the smallpox flag. The old man recovers and begins beating the boy with the whip and the iron pipe. The lion breaks out of the rusty cage, tears the face off the wicked old man, and eats him. The lion invites the boy to share in the feast, but he throws the corpse overboard. We are now informed that in the past, the old man had been forgotten and left aboard the ship when everyone else had jumped off during a fire that threatened to blow up the gunpowder aboard. He had plenty of food and water, so he had just drifted around torturing the lion cub until it became full grown. The lad came aboard later. The lad and the lion drift around for six months after the death of the old man. Finally, the ship reaches land, and the lad and the lion face a new world of unguessed romance and adventure.
Andresy, Bulvik, and Carlyn meet in the back room of a small inn because Sarnya's secret police are everywhere. We learn that Bulvik has gotten the job in the King's garden in order to assassinate Sarnya. Ferdinand will not play with Hans, the brother of Hilda. Ferdinand, who is approaching adolescence, kisses Hilda. This was observed by Hans.Bulvik tries to kill Sarnya, but is shot by him when he misses.
The lad and the lion have landed in northern Africa near a desert. They go into a nearby jungle and learn how to hunt antelope together, using brain and brawn to the best advantage. They eat the raw dripping meat together. They live in a hidden cave. One day the lad is attacked by another lion. He calls to his friend, and together they drive him away. The boy learns how to use a cudgel in this encounter. Soon all the fierce denizens of their world fear these two savage hunters. One day as the lad and the lion hunt into the desert where they see a group of Arabs. An Arab kills the antelope they were hunting with a rifle. When the Arab points the gun at the lion, the boy runs forward and frightens them away. They are spooked at a boy and a lion living together. The lad decides to follow the Arabs. He wants to see how they live and perhaps wear their beautiful white robes. They find the Arab camp and spy on them. The lad feels a strange longing and a discontent with his present lot. The lion smells the horses and camels and roars.
Prince Ferdinand hates everyone, and everyone hates him. He does however love Hilda, so on the evening of his 17th birthday party her goes with his buddy, Max Lomsk to the gardener's cottage. Ferdinand takes Hilda to his hunting lodge, and Hilda's brother, Hans de Groot, now in the Royal Military Academy, want to kill him. Andresy and Carlyn plot to kill the king. They plan to enlist the aid of Ferdinand by getting Carlyn inside the palace as a member of the Guard. Hans is arrested in the garden and tells the king that Ferdinand is with his sister. They are accosted by the king and Sarnya at the hunting lodge. Her father is discharged from his duties as the royal gardener.
Ben Saada tells his chieftain, Sheik Ali-Es-Hadji about seeing the lad with the lion. Everyone laughs at him, including the beautiful Nakhla, the daughter of the chief, whom he desires. The lad and the lion creep into the Arab corral and kill a sheep and a horse. The Arabs seen them but do not shoot because they are so surprised. The duo begin to hunt there often. The lad continues this practice out of curiosity as well as for an easy source of food. Nakhla goes into the desert alone and her horse is scared off by the boy's lion. She flees from the lad and the lion into the clutches of a group of vicious marauders. What awaited her with them was "a horrid fate worse than death." She would end up in the harem of some brutal black sultan of the far south. The lad and the lion come to the rescue.
Count Maximilian Lumsk is in exile in a hotel in Switzerland, He wants to come home, so he writes to Prince Ferdinand, but his letters are intercepted by King Otto. Max meets a rich, elderly gentleman named (Andresy) Kolchav who agrees to contact Ferdinand for him. Max thinks he would get Sarnya's post as head of staff, head of army and the secret police should Ferdinand become King. The cobbler's pretty daughter has married a wimpy, bookkeeper, William Wesl, who is a timid revolutionary, a member of The Terrorists. His wife is a staunch royalist. Andresy gets Max's letter to Ferdinand through him. Ferdinand hates Sarnya, but he asks him to reinstate Lieutenant Carlyn in the army. Sarnya agrees. Andresy tells Carlyn he is back at his post but must watch his step and stop cheating at cards.
The lad and the lion scatter the Arabs, and he frees Nakhla, killing the chief. The lad tries to communicate with the girl using the sign language the old man had taught him. She helps him dress in the rags of the marauder chief, even carrying his knife and pistol, although he does not know the use of these weapons. The lad starts to lead her in the direction she points, and she is happy to be with him. The lad is so happy that he roars like a lion, but the girl is unafraid. He knows he is leading her back to her people. The lad and the girl part outside her father's camp. A lioness roars in the distance.
King Otto wants Ferdinand to marry Princess Maria, but he says she is ugly. Hans de Groot graduates from The Royal Military Academy and becomes a second lieutenant in the cavalry. He is assigned to an outpost of the country. Martin de Groot has a nursery on the outskirts of the city. Hilda rides in an English car with a chauffeur and footman. They are very rich. Hilda is still seeing Ferdinand. He tells her about his father's plans for him to marry Princess Maria. Hilda weeps and tells him to do something about it. Andresy and Carlyn conspire together. Carlyn hopes to become and Officer of the Guard to get close enough to the King to assassinate him and probably Ferdinand as well. They also plan to use Hans de Groot since he hates Ferdinand as well. Hans comes home on leave and fights with Hilda over her love for Ferdinand.
Nakhla decides not to tell her father about the lad since he would probably not believe her. Ben Saada offers her father 20 camels for her hand in marriage, but he tells him that she must first agree to the match. She refuses. Ben Saada does not really love her but wants to use her as a stepping stone to becoming the sheik of the tribe. The boy's lion joins the lioness, so the lad lives and hunts from a rocky lair by himself. He quickly learns the use of his knife. Nakhla rides out and meets the lad. He strokes her hand in greeting. She teaches him to speak Arabic. The lad runs beside her horse when she goes home. As they part, she names him "Aziz." The same evening Aziz is about to kill a goat from the herd of the Arabs when Nakhla appears to prevent him. He agrees with her wishes and 'thus took a great stride toward humanness." When he gets back to his den he finds a fresh-killed antelope and a strange lioness that growls at his approach.
Princess Maria's father was rich, but his people are not war-like. Ferdinand's father is rather poor, but his people liked to goose-step and salute. Ferdinand is wined and dined at the capitol of Princess Maria's father. He asks for Maria's hand in marriage. King Otto is pleased. Hilda is heartbroken. Ferdinand and Maria are married. Hans still hates Ferdinand and wants to kill him.
The lad's lion intervenes, and they eat the antelope together. Now he has two lion friends. The lad makes progress with his education in Arabic, and he learns how to ride and shoot. Ben Saada follows Nakhla into the desert and discovers her secret meetings with the lad. He tells her father, Sheik Ali-Es-Hadji, and he forbids her to see the lad any more. Ben Saada tells the lad that Nakhla has married (another mate) and does not want to see him again. Aziz goes away and sees a white girl being accompanied by two Arabs against her will. He follows them, and they camp for the night in a cave opposite his own. As the girl struggles with the two Arabs, Aziz grows angry. "That the girl was of his own race may have exerted some influence upon his sleeping racial instincts -- who may guess?" Aziz attacks the Arabs. They are about to escape when the lad's two lions appear and kill them both. She is the daughter of a French colonel. He takes her back to the French camp dressed like an Arab.
Ferdinand and Maria did not go on a honeymoon in fact, they hated each other. Ferdinand wants Count Lomak back from exile to play tennis with him. Sarnya disagrees because he is keeping bad company and receiving money from a secret source. Andresy gets a message that reads, "tomorrow at midnight." William Wesl is summoned by The Terrorists to deliver a letter to man at the palace. King Otto is visited by the Italian ambassador, with felicitations from Il Duce himself, and by the ambassador rom Germany, France, and Great Britain. The smell of war is in the air. He calls the Officer of the Guard, Captain Carlyn, telling him he will inspect the 10th Regiment of Cavalry. William tells his wife that soon everyone will live in palaces. He goes to the palace to deliver the letter, and as he waits two shots ring out and something strikes the ground close to him.
The lad is the guest of Colonel Joseph Vivier for six weeks. He is the father of the girl he saved from the Arabs. Her name is Marie. He tells his story but still cannot remember what happened before he came to the deck of the strange steamer. Marie begins to teach him French. He still missed Nakhla and cannot believe she actually chose another mate. "In his nsophistication he had not yet come to realize that most men consider the gift of speech solely as a means of defeating the purposes of truth." Aziz is dressed in khaki riding clothes and attends Marie half as a servant, half as a companion. Aziz goes with the Colonel and Marie and a small escort to the camp of Sheik Ali-Es-Hadji. Nakhla sees Aziz with Maria so she snubs him when he calls to her. Ben Saada tells Nakhla that the lad has married his own kind, yet she still refuses him. "All men are fools and liars." Ben Saada kidnaps Nakhla with the aid of half dozen of his cronies. When the Colonel's party gets back to the French camp they are met by two strange officers and their wives. One of them, a Madam Semeler, who has taken it upon herself to assume toward Marie the responsibilities of her dead mother, disapproves of her friendship with Aziz. Maria tells Aziz that she had noticed that the beautiful Arab girl was not married because her eyebrows were not connected, which was the custom of her tribe. She is searching for clues to his past. She tells him that his name means 'beloved" in Arabic.
Prince Ferdinand is playing contract with several officer of the Guard at his hunting lodge when he gets a phone call that makes him turn white and drop his cards. His father has been assassinated, and the thing that landed by William was the fatal gun. Captain Carlyn shoots William to death, and the letter he was carrying marks him as the sole assassin. The .32 caliber pistol that killed the King belonged to Hans de Groot, but Carlyn testifies that it had been previously stolen from him. Otto is given a state funeral. "As it must to all men, death had come to Otto; and nobody gave a damn."
Aziz decides to ride to the douar of Sheik Ali-Es-Hadji and find out the truth. Before he leaves, he hears Colonel Vivier denouncing him before Marie and Helen Semeler behind the walls of their tent. "Evidently, regardless of character and deportment, all men were not equal." He feels hurt. He thinks he is not worthy of Nakhla either. Aziz dresses in his lion cloth and bandoleer and heads out into the desert. He does not know that his lions are following him, but even after they greet him in a friendly way, he leaves them and goes on alone into the desert. Aziz arrives at the Arab camp but is turned away by the sheik. He tells him that he is the brother of el adrea and that if he is not allowed to speak with his daughter he and his lions will ravage their goat herds forever. When the sheik looks for his daughter, he discover that she is gone and El Djebel, her horse, is gone likewise. A horseman (Brebisch, friend of Ben Saada) arrives telling them that Ben Saada has the sheik's daughter and wants a truce. Ali-Es-Hadji tells the messenger that he will come and get his daughter, and if any harm comes to her Ben Saada will be staked out upon the desert. Aziz follows the evil messenger.
Ferdinand is made king and refuses to resign his power to the hoi polloi. He fires General Count Sarnya and puts Count Maximilian Lomsk in his place. Captain Carlyn is transferred to a regiment on the frontier. Ferdinand brings Hilda de Groot into the palace as lady-in-waiting to Maria. Andresy and Carlyn decide to play their Hans de Groot card since he hates Ferdinand. Maria threatens to take her money with her if Ferdinand tires to divorce her. Hilda is unhappy in the palace even though Maria goes back to her country. She warns him not to antagonize the people, but he will not listen. "I own this country and can do what I please with it." William's wife figures out that her her husband was set up to take the fall for the king's assassination. She knows that Carlyn is guilty of two murders, and she leads him on in his foolish pursuit of her affections.
Aziz follows the galloping horseman because he loves Nakhla despite what all others think of him. When he comes to a canyon he hears a furious gun battle ahead. He sees the Arab marauders attacking an Arab camp and recognizes the messenger and the man who had lied to him about Nakhla's marriage. He follows them as they return to their own camp. That night, Nakhla escapes, but she is captured by Arab marauders led by Sidi-El-Seghir. They decide to sell her far to the south. They are followed by Aziz. The next night, Aziz climbs down the cliff to the marauders camp and rescues Nakhla. Side-El-Seghir awakens and had a presentiment of wrong. He sounds the alarm and raising their fire, they see them climbing the wall of the cul-de-sac. Aziz leaps upon the nearest man, but he is knocked unconscious by their rifle butts.
Andresy meets with six army officers at the familiar inn. They list their grievances and plan the formation of a republic and a new liberal constitution. General Count Sarnya will head the army and Andresy will represent the people. The date for the coup is set at Friday the thirteenth. Ferdinand has already had the foundation poured for his new palace. Hans is to be made a general and Hilda a countess. Captain Carlyn and the wife of the late William are lovers. Hans visits his parents and speaks of Michael and Hilda, but he does not mention Ferdinand.
The lad's two lions kill an antelope, then follow 50 the horsemen of Ali-Es-Hadji when they pass their lair. "Upon what errand?" When the lions arrive at the camp with many men they send "uncanny 'Aa-ows,"' and deep, solemn 'Goom! Goom!'" Nakhla treats Aziz's wounds, and in the morning they are taken toward the south by the Arabs. Nakhla still gives Aziz disdainful glances when she remembers the French girl. The French soldier arrive, and there is a night gun battle with the Arabs. Sidi-El-Seghir runs off with Aziz and Nakhla during the confusion. The two lions follow the escaping party. When they attack, the lion-man Aziz also springs. "Then the teeth of the lion-man found his throat and Sidi-El-Seghir's ghost glided fearfully out of the wilderness of Africa into the unknown."
Carlyn is shot to death by William's wife in their hotel room. Ferdinand tells Sarnya that he plans on marching upon the capital his father-in-law. On Friday the thirteenth, King Ferdinand and Hilda are assassinated by the six officers at the palace. Hans shoots himself through the head immediately following the death of his sister.
Aziz and Nakhla are rescued by the two lions. Aziz quickly informs the lioness that Nakhla is a friend. The lies of Ben Saada are also quickly sorted out, and finally they kiss. Sheik Ali-Es-Hadji rides up in great anger when he sees them together, but he agrees to the match. They go back to the French camp together with the two lions under perfect control. Aziz, still hurting for the gun blows to his head, falls unconscious. The lions think he is dead so they go away into the desert. When Aziz wakes up he remembers his past but he decides to remain in the douar of Sheik Ali-Es-Hadji with his Nakhla.
Aziz reads a magazine story of how Count Sarnya became the Dictator of his former country. He sends Sarnya a cablegram that says, 'Congratulations! You have my sympathy -- Michael."
The Lad and the Lion Part I
for illustrations and reference links
Text and original art by:
David "Nkima" Adams
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