Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 10,000 Web Pages in Archive
TARZAN AT THE EARTH’S CORE
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Well, we are one third of the way through our adventure, entering the middle part of our story. Poor Zuppner! First Tarzan, then Von Horst and the Waziri, and now Jason Gridley, are all lost in the strange world of Pellucidar. What is the poor German Captain to do? This is almost comedy.This is wonderful to imagine – a flying object not being highlighted against a bare sky, but just another object in an object-filled world curving upward and outward all around. And just imagine what Jason Gridley must have experienced as he was flying under the roof of the inner world. No wonder he couldn’t find any landmarks.
VI. A PHORORHACOS OF THE MIOCENE
“Where are your people?” Tar-gash asked again.
Tarzan shook his head. “I do not know,” he said.
“Where is your country?” asked Tar-gash.
“It is a long way off,” replied the ape-man. “It is not in Pellucidar;” but that the Sagoth could not understand any more than he could understand that a creature might be lost at all, for inherent in him was that same homing instinct that marked all the creatures of Pellucidar and which constitutes a wise provision of nature in a world without guiding celestial bodies.
Had it been possible to transport Tar-gash instantly to any point within that mighty inner world, elsewhere than upon the surface of an ocean, he could have unerringly found his way to the very spot where he was born, and because that power was instinctive he could not understand why Tarzan did not possess it.
“I know where there is a tribe of men,” he said, presently. “Perhaps they are your people. I shall lead you to them.”
As Tarzan had no idea as to the direction in which the ship lay and as it was remotely possible that Tar-gash was referring to members of the 0-220 expedition, he felt it was as well off following where Tar-gash led as elsewhere, and so he signified his readiness to accompany the Sagoth.
“How long since you saw this tribe of men,” he asked after a while, “and how long have they lived where you saw them?”
Upon the Sagoth’s reply to these questions, the ape-man felt that he might determine the possibility of the men to whom Tar-gash referred being the members of his own party, for if they were newcomers in the district then the chances were excellent that they were the people he sought; but his questions elicitated no satisfactory reply for the excellent reason that time meant nothing to Tar-gash. And so the two set out upon a leisurely search for the tribe of men that Tar-gash knew of. It was leisurely because for Tar-gash time did not exist; nor had it ever been a very important factor in the existence of the ape-man, except in occasional moments of emergency.
They were a strangely assorted pair – one a creature just standing upon the threshold of humanity, the other an English Lord in his own right, who was, at the same time, in many respects as primitive as the savage, shaggy bull into whose companionship chance had thrown him.
At first Tar-gash had been inclined to look with contempt upon this creature of another race, which he considered far inferior to his own in strength, agility, courage and woodcraft, but he soon came to hold the ape-man in vast respect. And because he could respect his prowess he became attached to him in bonds of loyalty that were as closely akin to friendship as the savage nature of his primitive mind permitted.
They hunted together and fought together. They swung through the trees when the great cats hunted upon the ground, or they followed game trails old beneath the hoary trees of Pellucidar or out across her rolling, grassy, flower-spangled meadowland.
They lived well upon the fat of the land for both were mighty hunters.
Tarzan fashioned a new bow and arrows and a stout spear, and these, at first, the Sagoth refused to even notice, but presently when he saw how easily and quickly they brought game to their larder he evinced a keen interest and Tarzan taught him how to use the weapons and later how to fashion them.
The country through which they traveled was well watered and was alive with game. It was partly wooded with great stretches of open land, where tremendous herds of herbivores grazed beneath the eternal noonday sun, and because of these great herds the beasts of prey were numerous – and such beasts!
Tarzan had thought that there was no world like his own world and no jungle like his own jungle, but the more deeply he dipped into the wonders of Pellucidar the more enamored he became of this savage, primitive world, teeming with the wild life he loved best. That there were few men was Pellucidar’s chiefest recommendation. Had there been none the ape-man might have considered this the land of ultimate perfection, for who is there more conversant with the cruelty and inconsideration of man than the savage beasts of the jungle.
The friendship that had developed between Tarzan and the Sagoth – and that was primarily based upon the respect which each felt for the prowess of the other – increased as each seemed to realize other admirable, personal qualities and characteristics in his companion, not the least of which being a common taciturnity. They spoke only when conversation seemed necessary, and that, in reality, was seldom.
If man spoke only when he had something worth while to say and said that as quickly as possible, ninety-eight per cent. of the human race might as well be dumb, thereby establishing a heavenly harmony from pate to tonsil.
And so the companionship of Tar-gash, coupled with the romance of strange sights and sounds and odors in this new world, acted upon the ape-man as might a strong drug, filling him with exhileration and dulling his sense of responsiblity, so that necessity of finding his people, dwindled to a matter of minor importance. Had he known that some of them were in trouble his attitude would have changed immediately, but this he did not know. On the contrary he was only aware that they had every facility for insuring their safety and their ultimate return to the outer world and that his absence would not handicap them in any particular. However, when he did give the matter thought he knew that he must return to them, that he must find them, and that sooner or later he must go back with them to the world from which they had come.
But all such considerations were quite remote from his thoughts as he and Tar-gash were crossing a rolling, tree-dotted plain in their search for the tribe of men to which the Sagoth was guiding him. By comparison with other plains they had crossed, this one seemed strangely deserted, but the reason for this was evident in the close-cropped grass which suggested that great herds had grazed it off before moving on to new pastures. The absence of life and movement was slightly depressing and Tarzan found himself regretting the absence of even the dangers of the teeming land through which they had just come.
They were well out toward the center of the plain and could see the solid green of a great forest curving upward into the hazy distance when the attention of both men was attracted by a strange, droning noise that brought them to a sudden halt. Simultaneously both turned and looked backward and up into the sky from which the sound seemed to come.Anyone who watches the science channels on cable TV must have an idea of what this dinosaur bird looks like –a gigantic killer turkey with a huge head and beak. My feral peacock, Cyrus – who flew into my backyard at the end of April 2008 because he liked my trees and stayed – has a spring-like neck that can come down so hard he can kill. He once left a hole in a squirrel’s head who had been pestering him. Harvey Catell, the feral feline from hell, got rid of the body for me. It’s really interesting watching Cyrus exercise his chicken brain as he encounters obstacles in his eternal search for bugs on the ground. Now back to our hungry searchers.Far above and just emerging from the haze of the distance was a tiny speck. “Quick!” exclaimed Tar-gash. “It is a thipdar,” and motioning Tarzan to follow him he ran swiftly to concealment beneath a large tree.
“What is a thipdar?” asked Tarzan, as the two halted beneath the friendly shade.
“A thipdar,” said Tar-gash, “is a thipdar;” nor could he describe it more fully other than to add that the thipdars were sometimes used by the Mahars either to protect them or to hunt their food.
“Is the thipdar a living thing?” demanded Tarzan.
“Yes,” replied Tar-gash. “It lives and is very strong and very fierce.”
“Then that is not a thipdar,” said Tarzan.
“What is it then?” demanded the Sagoth.
“It is an aeroplane,” replied Tarzan.
“What is that?” inquired the Sagoth.
“It would be hard to explain it to you,” replied the ape-man. “It is something that the men of my world build and which they fly through the air,” and as he spoke he stepped out into the opening, where he might signal the pilot of the plane, which he was positive was the one carried by the 0-220 and which, he assumed, was prosecuting a search for him.
“Come back,” exclaimed Tar-gash. “You cannot fight a thipdar. It will swoop down and carry you off if you are out in the open.”
“It will not harm me,” said Tarzan. “One of my friends is in it.”
“And you will be in it, too, if you do not come back under the tree,” replied Tar-gash.
As the plane approached, Tarzan ran around in a small circle to attract the pilot’s attention, stopping occasionally to wave his arms but the plane sped on above him and it was evident that its pilot had not seen him.
Until it faded from sight in the distance, Tarzan of the Apes stood upon the lonely plain, watching the ship that was bearing his comrade away from him.
The sight of the ship awakened Tarzan to a sense of his responsibility. He realized now that someone was risking his life to save him and with this thought came a determination to exert every possible effort to locate the 0-220.
The passage of the plane opened many possibilities for conjecture. If it was circling, which was possible, the direction of its flight as it passed over him would have no bearing upon the direction of the 0-220, and if it were not circling, then how was he to know whether it was traveling away from the ship in the beginning of its quest, or was returning to it having concluded its flight.
“That was not a thipdar,” said Tar-gash, coming from beneath the tree and standing at Tarzan’s side. “It is a creature that I have never seen before. It is larger and must be even more terrible than a thipdar. It must have been very angry, for it growled terribly all the time.”
“It is not alive,” said Tarzan. “It is something that the men of my country build that they may fly through the air. Riding in it is one of my friends. He is looking for me.”
The Sagoth shook his head. “I am glad he did not come down,” he said. “He was either very angry or very hungry, otherwise he would not have growled so loudly.”
It was apparent to Tarzan that Tar-gash was entirely incapable of comprehending his explanation of the aeroplane and that he would always believe it was a huge, flying reptile; but that was of no importance – the thing that troubled Tarzan being the question of the direction in which he should now prosecute his search for the 0-220, and eventually he determined to follow in the direction taken by the airship, for as this coincided with the direction that Tar-gash assured him he would find the tribe of human beings for which they were searching, it seemed after all the wisest course to pursue.
The drone of the motor had died away in the distance when Tarzan and Tar-gash took up their interrupted journey across the plain and into broken country of low, rocky hills.
The trail, which was well marked and which Tar-gash said led through the hills, followed the windings of a shallow canyon, which was rimmed on one side by low cliffs, in the face of which there were occasional caves and crevices. The bottom of the canyon was strewn with fragments of rock of various sizes. The vegetation was sparse and there was every indication of an aridity such as Tarzan had not previously encountered since he left the 0-220, and as it seemed likely that both game and water would be scarce here, the two pushed on at a brisk, swinging walk.
It was very quiet and Tarzan’s ears were constantly upon the alert to catch the first sound of the hum of the motor of the returning aeroplane, when suddenly the silence was shattered by the sound of hoarse screeching which seemed to be coming from a point further up the canyon.
Tar-gash halted. “Dyal,” he said.
Tarzan looked at the Sagoth questioningly.
“It is a Dyal,” repeated Tar-gash, “and it is angry.”
“What is a Dyal?” asked Tarzan.
“It is a terrible bird,” replied the Sagoth; “but its meat is good, and Tar-gash is hungry.”Don’t you wish that Tarzan was our Secretary of State, negotiating with Russian President Putin and the crazy leaders of the Middle East? He sure knows how to work it.That was enough. No matter how terrible the Dyal might be, it was meat and Tar-gash was hungry, and so the two beasts of prey crept warily forward, stalking their quarry. A vagrant breeze, wafting gently down the canyon, brought to the nostrils of the ape-man a strange, new scent. It was a bird scent, slightly suggestive of the scent of an ostrich, and from its volume Tarzan guessed that it might come from a very large bird, a suggestion that was borne out by the loud screeching of the creature, intermingled with which was a scratching and a scraping sound.
Tar-gash, who was in the lead and who was taking advantage of all the natural shelter afforded by the fragments of rock with which the canyon bed was strewn, came to a halt upon the lower side of a great boulder, behind which he quickly withdrew, and as Tarzan joined him he signalled the ape-man to look around the corner of the boulder.
Following the suggestion of his companio, Tarzan saw the author of the commotion that had attracted their attention. Being a savage jungle beast, he exhibited no outward sign of the astonishment he felt as he gazed upon the mighty creature that was clawing frantically at a crevice in the cliffside.
To Tarzan it was a nameless creature of another world. To Tar-gash it was simply a Dyal. Neither knew that he was looking upon a Phororhacos of the Miocene. They saw a huge creature whose crested head, larger than that of a horse, towered eight feet above the ground. Its powerful, curved beak gaped wide as it screeched in anger. It beat its short, useless wings in a frenzy of rage as it struck with its mighty three-toed talons at something just within the fissure before it. And then it was that Tarzan saw that the thing at which it struck was a spear, held by human hands – a pitifully inadequate weapon with which to attempt to ward off the attack of the mighty Dyal.
As Tarzan surveyed the creature he wondered how Tar-gash, armed only with his puny club, might hope to pit himself in successful combat against it. He saw the Sagoth creep stealthily out from behind their rocky shelter and move slowly to another closer to the Dyal and behind it, and so absorbed was the bird in its attack upon the man within the fissure that it did not notice the approach of the enemy in its rear.
The moment that Tar-gash was safely concealed behind the new shelter, Tarzan followed him and now they were within fifty feet of the great bird.
The Sagoth, grasping his club firmly by the small end, arose and ran swiftly from his concealment, straight toward the giant Dyal, and Tarzan followed, fitting an arrow to his bow.
Tar-gash had covered but half the distance when the sound of his approach attracted the attention of the bird. Wheeling about, it discovered the two rash creatures who dared to interfere with its attack upon its quarry, and with a loud screech and wide distended beak it charged them.
The instant that the Dyal had turned and discovered them, Tar-gash had commenced whirling his club about his head and as the bird charged he launched it at one of those mighty legs, and on the instant Tarzan understood the purpose of the Sagoth’s method of attack. The heavy club, launched by the mighty muscles of the beast man, would snap the leg bone that it struck, and then the enormous fowl would be at the mercy of the Sagoth. But if it did not strike the leg, what then? Almost certain death for Tar-gash.
Tarzan had long since had reason to appreciate his companion’s savage disregard of life in the pursuit of flesh, but this seemed the highest pinnacle to which rashness might ascend and still remain within the realm of sanity.
And, indeed, there happened that which Tarzan had feared – the club missed its mark. Tarzan’s bow sang and an arrow sank deep into the breast of the Dyal. Tar-gash leaped swiftly to one side, eluding the charge, and another arrow pierced the bird’s feathers and hide. And then the ape-man sprang quickly to his right as the avalanche of destruction bore down upon him, its speed undiminished by the force of the two arrows buried so deeply within it.
Before the Dyal could return to pursue either of them, Tar-gash hurled a rock, many of which were scattered upon the ground about them. It struck the Dyal upon the side of the head, momentarily dazing him, and Tarzan drove home two more arrows. As he did so, the Dyal wheeled drunkenly toward him and as he faced about a great spear drove past Tarzan’s shoulder and plunged deep into the breast of the maddened creature, and to the impact of this last missile it went down, falling almost at the front of the ape-man.
Ignorant though he was of the strength and methods of attack and defense of this strange bird, Tarzan nevertheless hesitated not an instant and as the Dyal fell he was upon it with drawn hunting knife.
So quickly was he in and out that he had severed its windpipe and was away again before he could become entangled in its death struggle, and then it was that for the first time he saw the man who had cast the spear.
Standing erect, a puzzled expression upon his face, was a tall, stalwart warrior, his slightly bronzed skin gleaming in the sunlight, his shaggy head of hair bound back by a deerskin band.
For weapons, in addition to his spear, he carried a stone knife, thrust into the girdle that supported his G-string. His eyes were well set and intelligent. His features were regular and well cut. Altogether he was as splended a specimen of manhood as Tarzan had ever beheld.
Tar-gash, who had recovered his club, was advancing toward the stranger. “I am Tar-gash,” he said. “I kill.”
The stranger drew his stone knife and waited, looking first at Tar-gash and then at Tarzan.
The ape-man stood in front of Tar-gash. “Wait,” he commanded. “Why do you kill?”
“He is a gilak,” replied the Sagoth.
“He saved you from the Dyal,” Tarzan reminded Tar-gash. “My arrows would not stop the bird. Had it not been for his spear, one or both of us must have died.”
The Sagoth appeared puzzled. He scratched his head in perplexity. “But if I do not kill him, he will kill me,” he said finally.
Tarzan turned toward the stranger. “I am Tarzan,” he said. “This is Tar-gash,” and he pointed at the Sagoth and waited.
“I am Thoar,” said the stranger.
“Let us be friends,” said Tarzan. “We have no quarrel with you.”
Again the stranger looked puzzled.
“Do you understand the language of the Sagoths?” asked Tarzan, thinking that probably the man might not have understood him.
Thoar nodded. “A little,” he said; “but why should we be friends?”
“Why should we be enemies?” countered the ape-man.
Thoar shook his head. “I do not know,” he said. “It is always thus.”
“Together we have slain the Dyal,” said Tarzan. “Had we not come it would have killed you. Had you not cast your spear it would have killed us. Therefore, we should be friends, not enemies. Where are you going?”I believe this is the same range Jason spotted from his airplane before he was attacked by the thipdar. Pellucidar has been adequately mapped (see ERBzine 3042; or google: “bouncepage.com/Pellucidar/maps”), but the only satisfactory depiction is the one I propose to make one day when I cut a globe in half and paint the inside brown and blue opposite the brown and blue on the outer surface. Only in this manner will these two-dimensional maps make sense to me.“Back to my own country,” replied Thoar, nodding in the direction that Tarzan and Tar-gash had been travelling.
“We, too, are going in that direction,” said Tarzan. “Let us go together. Six hands are better than four.”
Thoar glanced at the Sagoth.
“Shall we all go together as friends, Tar-gash?” demanded Tarzan.
“It is not done,” said the Sagoth, precisely as though he had behind him thousands of years of civilization and culture.
Tarzan smiled one of his rare smiles. “We shall do it, then,” he said. “Come!”
As though taking it for granted that the others would obey his command, the ape-man turned to the body of the Dyal, and drawing his hunting knife, fell to work cutting off portions of the meat. For a moment Thoar and Tar-gash hesitated, eyeing each other suspiciously, and then the bronzed warrior walked over to assist Tarzan and presently Tar-gash joined them.
Thoar exhibited keen interest in Tarzan’s steel knife, which slid so easily through the flesh while he hacked and hewed laboriously with his stone implement; while Tar-gash seemed not particularly to notice either of the implements as he sunk his strong fangs into the breast of the Dyal and tore away a large hunk of the meat, which he devoured raw. Tarzan was about to do the same, having been raised exclusively upon a diet of raw meat, when he saw Thoar preparing to make fire, which he accomplished by the primitive expedient of friction. The three ate in silence, the Sagoth carrying his meat to a little distance from the others, perhaps because in him the instinct of the wild beast was stronger.
When they had finished they followed the trail upward toward the pass through which it led across the hills, and as they went Tarzan sought to question Thoar concerning his country and its people, but so limited is the primitive vocabulary of the Sagoths and so meager Thoar’s knowledge of this language that they found communication difficult, and Tarzan determined to master Thoar’s tongue.
Considerable experience in learning new dialects and languages rendered the task far from difficult and as the ape-man never for a moment relinquished a purpose he intended to achieve, nor ever abandoned a task that he had set himself until it had been successfully concluded, he made rapid progress which was greatly facilitated by the interest which Thoar took in instructing him.
As they reached the summit of the low hills, they saw, hazily in the distance, what appeared to be a range of lofty mountains.Well, we now have a name for that mountain range, as Jason learned the hard way. Remember now, this mountain range does not disappear at the horizon point, since there is none in Pellucidar. Neal Adams depicts the appearance of this mountain range as it exists in Pellucidar – curving outwards and upwards – perfectly. (Google: “neal adams tarzan at the earth’s core.”)“There,” said Thoar, pointing, “lies Zoram.”
“What is Zoram?” asked Tarzan.
“It is my country,” replied the warrior. “It lies in the Mountains of the Thipdars.”By the way, if you haven’t already picked up on it, Tarzan has a very dim view of humanity's highest achievement: civilization. This view may have been ERB’s wish fantasy, but in real life ERB was a war hawk Republican and staunch capitalist, but, of course, he was never afraid of making fun of himself. By the end of his days, after experiencing firsthand America's savage war with Japan in the South Pacific, ERB changed his views and was no longer a war-monger. In fact, he found many encounters that he reported as more fierce and savage as anything he ever depicted in his fiction.This was the second time that Tarzan had heard of a reference to thipdars. Tar-gash had said the aeroplane was a thipdar and now Thoar spoke of the Mountains of the Thipdars. “What is a thipdar?” he asked.
Thoar looked at him in astonishment. “From what country do you come,” he demanded, “that you do not know what a thipdar is and do not speak the language of the gilaks?”
“I am not of Pellucidar,” said Tarzan.
“I could believe that,” said Thoar, “if there were any other place from which you could be, but there is not, except Molop Az, the flaming sea upon which Pellucidar floats. But the only inhabitants of the Molop Az are the little demons, who carry the dead who are buried in the ground, piece by piece, down to Molop Az, and while I have never seen one of these little demons I am sure they are not like you.”
“No,” said Tarzan, “I am not from Molop Az, yet sometimes I have thought that the world from which I come is inhabited by demons, both large and small.”And this is where we are left hanging this time. In the next chapter, ERB will spring a surprise on his readers by devoting nearly a whole chapter to a Pellucidarian point of view. Until then.As they hunted and ate and slept and marched together, these three creatures found their confidence in one another increasing so that even Tar-gash looked no longer with suspicion upon Thoar, and though they represented three distinct periods in the ascent of man, each separated from the other by countless thousands of years, yet they had so much in common that the advance which man had made from Tar-gash to Tarzan seemed scarcely a fair recompense for the time and effort which Nature must have expended.
Tarzan could not even conjecture the length of time he had been absent from the 0-220, but he was confident that he must be upon the wrong trail, yet it seemed futile to turn back since he could not possibly have any idea as to what direction he should take. His one hope was that either he might be sighted by the pilot of the plane, which he was certain was hunting for him, or that the 0-220, in cruising about, would eventually pass within signalling distance of him. In the meantime he might as well be with Tar-gash and Thoar as elsewhere.
The three had eaten and slept again and were resuming their journey when Tarzan’s keen eyes espied from the summit of a low hill something lying upon an open plain at a considerable distance ahead of them. He did not know what it was, but he was sure that whatever it was, it was not a part of the natural landscape, there being about it that indefinable suggestion of discord, or, more properly, lack of harmony with its surroundings that every man will understand. And as it was almost instinctive with Tarzan to investigate anything that he did not understand, he turned his footsteps in the direction of the thing that he had seen.
The object that aroused his curiosity was hidden from him almost immediately after he started the descent of the hill upon which he had stood when he discovered it; nor did it come again within the range of his vision until he was close upon it, when to his astonishment and dismay he saw that it was the wreck of an aeroplane.
INTRODUCTORY AND CONTENTS PAGE FOR
THE EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS SERIES OF ARTICLES
BY WOODROW EDGAR NICHOLS, JR.
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
All ERB Images© and Tarzan® are Copyright ERB, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work © 1996-2014 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.