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Part 1: A Very Special Someone
Consider the daring and heroic characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and who leaps to mind? Tarzan? John Carter? David Innes? Billy Byrne? Shoz-Dijiji?
Intrepid adventurers all, but no list of ERB protagonists would be complete without inclusion of his heroines. They were as brave and as bold in many ways as their male counterparts, and shone with matchless beauty as well. And taking a back seat to no one in this department is the daughter of a genteel Baltimore, Maryland, family who, over the space of 11 books, developed into a true queen of the jungle.
Jane Porter Clayton mastered the ability of coping with wild beasts and wild humans alike, without ever losing any of the grace and charm that her upbringing by a professor-minister must have included.
Here is an admirable lady indeed, one who, as Lady Greystoke, can properly entertain guests, whether in her London town house, her African bungalow, or the Cafe Savoy in Paris. She can also lead a group of city people who are stranded in the jungle, or command a platoon of jungle-wise Waziri warriors, and in many ways perform as competently as Tarzan of the Apes himself.
Fate brought her to the shores of a hostile jungle. But she came to love that jungle as much as her savage but noble mate, Tarzan of the Apes, who had been reared in that unforgiving land by the fierce mangani. If Tarzan is Lord of the Jungle, then Jane has as much right to the female version of that title as she does to the appellation of Lady Greystoke.
Dian the Beautiful, empress of Pellucidar; Dejah Thoris, princess of Helium; La, high priestess of Opar. These beauties were raised in savage surroundings and at an early age learned the art of survival in their respective worlds. But in Jane’s Baltimore there was no training for how to deal with abducting apes, hungry lions and murderous femme fatales.
If Robert Canler was the worst man she had to deal with in America, of what preparation was that for the likes of Nikolas Rokoff, Albert Werper, Lt. Obergatz, Mo-Sar, or Luvini?
Yet, Jane proved more than equal to the requirements her savage society of choice thrust upon her.
Why? How? What circumstances in her life brought about this change from soft-spoken Maryland debutante to seasoned Jane of the Jungle?
I believe there are four forces that stand out in the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs:
1. Tarzan of the Apes
2. The Waziri tribe
3. Her father, Professor Archimedes Q. Porter
4. Jane and her own indomitable spirit
Part 2: Jane’s Education by Tarzan
Neither Jane nor Tarzan would have thought of it at the time as training, but such instruction technically began right after Tarzan rescued her from Terkoz, the enraged ape, as told in Tarzan of the Apes.
Jane’s first lesson was one of observation — that a human, if properly skilled, could easily move through the middle terraces of the forest, Tarzan carrying her along as he made his way through the trees. The next lesson Tarzan taught was which jungle fruits were safe and good to eat, as he brought her an armload of sustenance.
Not exactly an intensive training course in jungle survival, but it was the seed of what was to grow into a store of know-how for Jane.
Tarzan and his mate-to-be fell in love, but the two were to endure myriad adventures alone before reunion and marriage at the end of The Return of Tarzan.
Jane’s training continued in the unrecorded moments which passed between husband and wife. Some do not regard The Eternal Lover as part of the Tarzan series, since Tarzan and Jane are only in “cameo roles.” But, in that story, we find them living on their African estate, and there were probably lots of times that Tarzan told Jane about the ways of the jungle.
We see evidence of this training in the next full-fledged Tarzan book, The Beasts of Tarzan, when we find Jane taken by enemies into the depths of the jungle. She escapes her captors and begins to put her training to work:
“That night she slept in the crotch of a tree, as Tarzan had so often told her that he was accustomed to doing….” (page 216)
What else did Tarzan tell her? We next read that Jane spies a great ape coming her way and:
“The wind was blowing directly across the clearing between them, and Jane lost no time in putting herself down-wind from the huge creature.”
It’s logical to conclude that Tarzan was also the teacher of that tactic.
The crisis past, we find Jane in the next book enacting the role of lady of the Greystoke estate, playing the charming hostess while adventure rages all about her in The Son of Tarzan.
In Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, page 177, we are again reminded of the benefits of Tarzan’s training. Escaping from captors, we read Jane “…had followed the old game trail toward the south, until there fell upon her trained hearing the stealthy padding of a stalking beast behind her. The nearest tree gave her instant sanctuary, for she was too wise in the ways of the jungle to chance her safety for a moment after discovering that she was being hunted.”
Note the italicized phrases. These can only speak of her training by Tarzan, and her experience in putting that training to use.
Jane’s presence hangs over Tarzan the Untamed, though she herself appears in the opening pages only long enough to be kidnapped by German soldiers, who maintain that captivity into the next book, Tarzan the Terrible.
This long period of captivity enabled Jane to exercise and develop her endurance and skills:
“The long and perilous journey with Obergatz had trained her muscles and her nerves….” (page 279)
It is in Terrible where Jane escapes Obergatz and comes of age at last as a Jungle Girl, ERB calling her “Diana of the Jungle” in a complimentary comparison to Diane, the goddess-huntress of Greek mythology.
Again, we read of Tarzan’s training in Terrible:
— Page 279, “She found a safe resting place such as Tarzan had taught her was best and there she curled herself, thirty feet above the ground, for a night’s rest.”
— Page 301, “As quickly as might be she skinned and cleaned her kill, burying the hide and entrails. That she had learned from Tarzan. It served two purposes. One was the necessity for keeping a sanitary camp and the other the obliteration of the scent that most quickly attracts the man-eaters.”
— Page 305. “To the woodcraft she had learned from Tarzan, that master of the art, was added a considerable store of practical experience derived from her own past adventures in the jungle and the long months with Obergatz, nor was any day now lacking in some added store of useful knowledge.”
A difference between Tarzan and Jane is that Tarzan is, at heart, as the beasts of the jungle, who can act the part of a civilized man when it is required. Jane, at heart a proper lady, can act the part of jungle survival expert when necessary, but there are some things which Tarzan would do which Jane would never do.
Tarzan, for example, upon making a kill, would be happy to sink his teeth into the still warm flesh, enjoying his “hot” meal with relish. Jane, when killing for food in Terrible, builds a fire and cooks her meat “thoroughly and all the way through.” We read on page 302:
“And never had aught more delicious passed her lips.”
Earlier, we’re told:
“She might learn to eat raw flesh as had her lord and master; but she shrank from that. The thought even was repulsive.” (page 300)
Part 3: Jane and the Waziri
When ERB wrote of Tarzan and Jane, it was because some great adventure had come into their lives, and so the idyllic times spent upon the Greystoke estate in British East Africa are seldom recorded, except to set the stage for that which will soon disrupt that tranquility.
And so, we must be satisfied with mere glimpses of what the normal life there was like, and we get these glimpses in The Eternal Lover, The Son of Tarzan, Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, Tarzan the Untamed, Tarzan and the Golden Lion and Tarzan and the Ant Men.
The Waziri tribe was a part of that Greystoke estate life, in both peace and war.
What a wonderful relationship has existed between this tribe and their mentor and leader emeritus, Tarzan of the Apes, from the time their paths first crossed in The Return of Tarzan when John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, became their white chief and led them in avenging themselves upon their enemies.
And from that time on the Waziri became Tarzan’s cavalry, manning the "fort" of his estate and — at the call of their chief and leader — charging through the jungle, their white head plumes flashing in the forest.
They would defend to the death Tarzan, his mate, his family, and in Jewels of Opar and Untamed, some of them did just that.
Tarzan surely had a hand in the training of Jane in the use of all jungle weapons, but it is the training by the Waziri of which Burroughs decides to give us details.
In her sojourn alone in Terrible, Jane finds just the right materials she will need to make a spear, the first weapon in the arsenal she had to develop to defend herself. She finds obsidian, volcanic glass with razor-like edges, just in the right shape for a spear point. Then:
“…searching out a slender sapling that grew arrow-straight she hacked and sawed until she could break it off without splitting the wood. It was just the right diameter for the shaft of a spear — a hunting spear such as her beloved Waziri liked best.”
The account continues, on page 282, revealing that Jane frequently watched the Waziri as they fashioned such spears:
“…and they had taught her how to use them, too — them and the heavy war spears — laughing and clapping their hands as her proficiency increased.”
Page 283: “Later, she promised herself, she should have others — many of them — and they would be spears of which even the greatest of the Waziri spear-men might be proud.”
Well, Terrible was one Tarzan book in which the Waziri did not make an appearance, but they no doubt saw the spear later, in its place of honor:
“Tarzan still carried the spear that Jane had made, which he had prized so highly because it was her handiwork that he had caused a search to be made for it through the temple in A-lur after his release, and it had been found and brought to him. He had told her laughingly that it should have the place of honor above their hearth as the ancient flintlock of her Puritan grandsire had held a similar place of honor above the fireplace of Professor Porter, her father.” Page 399
This was not merely pride. Tarzan also had confidence in Jane’s spear, using it himself to subdue a fierce gryf mount. The Waziri were undoubtedly proud of it, too.
Then, in Tarzan and the Golden Lion, we see another development in the relationship of Jane and the Waziri. Jane takes a leadership role over the tribe and none of them question her right or ability to do so:
Page 222: “It was the second day after her return that the Waziri, who had accompanied Tarzan, returned without him. Then, indeed, was her heart filled with fear for her lord and master. She questioned the men carefully, and when she learned from them that Tarzan had suffered another accident that had again affected his memory, she immediately announced that she would set out on the following day in search of him, commanding the Waziri who had just returned to accompany her.”
Only Korak, her son, attempts to dissuade her, but she has words of confidence for him:
“I am not alone when the Waziri are with me,” she laughed. “And you know perfectly well, boy, that I am as safe anywhere in the heart of Africa with them as I am here at the ranch….You know that my jungle-craft, while not equal to that of Tarzan or Korak, is by no means a poor asset, and that, surrounded by the loyalty and bravery of the Waziri, I shall be safe.”
The Waziri love Jane. They taught Jane. Now, they follow Jane.
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