THE MONSTER MEN ~ PART 4 OF 6: MONSTER MARINERS
If a movie were to be made of “The Monster Men” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a few comic relief scenes would help to ease the intensity of the repeated screen portrayal of brute force and grotesque flesh.
One of those scenes could come from Chapter VIII, where Number Thirteen and his misshapen and mentally deficient followers commandeer an enemy prahu and attempt to learn the ropes of navigation in order to follow the other canoes across the China Sea to the island of Borneo in an attempt to rescue the captive Virginia Maxon.
Because the monsters were created in Professor Maxon's lab just a few weeks earlier, they had a lot to learn, and that included the proper technique for propelling a boat.
After the human-like beasts attacked and drove off the Dyaks who were aboard the wrecked Ithaca, Number Thirteen tried to instantly train his cumbersome crew to operate the prahu that had been abandoned by the rest of the fleeing pirates. And Number Thirteen had only just figured the technique out himself:"Neither Number Thirteen nor any of his crew had ever before seen a boat, and outside of the leader there was scarcely enough brains in the entire party to render it at all likely that they could ever navigate it, but the young man saw that the other prahus were being propelled by the long sticks which protruded from their sides, and he also saw the sails bellying with wind, though he had but a vague conception of their purpose.That happenstance came when "...a vagrant land breeze suddenly bellyed the flapping sail...."
"For a moment he stood watching the actions of the men in the nearest boat, and then he set himself to the task of placing his own men at the oars and instructing them in the manner of wielding the unfamiliar implements. For an hour he worked with the brainless things that constituted his party. They could not seem to learn what was required of them. The paddles were continually fouling one another, or being merely dipped into the water and withdrawn without the faintest semblance of a stroke made.
"The tiresome maneuvering had carried them about in circles back and forth across the harbor, but by it Number Thirteen had himself learned something of the proper method of propelling and steering his craft. At last, more through accident than intent, they came opposite the mouth of the basin, and then chance did for them what days of arduous endeavor upon their part might have failed to accomplish."
The scene was, in a way, a trial run for ERB's imagination as he prepared to write his next Tarzan outing, “The Beasts of Tarzan,” which would be published about a year later in All-Story Cavalier Weekly. Tarzan had been marooned on an island by the evil Nikolas Rokoff but you can't keep a good ape-man down. After making friends with Sheeta the Panther, the native Mugambi and an ape named Akut and his furry friends, Tarzan fits a small craft for service to sail to the African mainland.
Tarzan had the advantage on Number Thirteen, the latter having no memory of anything other than what he had learned since becoming self-aware in Professor Maxon's lab.
So Tarzan at least knew what he was doing from the start, but teaching apes to man oars proved to be about as easy as teaching faux-human monsters. ERB wrote:"The next few days Tarzan devoted to the weaving of a bark-cloth sail with which to equip the canoe, for he despaired of being able to teach the apes to wield the paddles, though he did manage to get several of them to embark in the frail craft which he and Mugambi paddled about inside the reef where the water was quite smooth.Tarzan, too, was aided by the wind in making it back to Africa. "And so it was that when the first fair wind rose he embarked upon his cruise, and with him he took as strange and fearsome a crew as ever sailed under a savage master.
"During those trips he had placed paddles in their hands, when they attempted to imitate the movements of him and Mugambi, but so difficult is it for them long to concentrate upon a thing that he soon saw that it would require weeks of patient training before they would be able to make any effective use of these new implements, if, in fact, they should ever do so.
"There was one exception, however, and he was Akut. Almost from the first he showed an interest in this new sport that revealed a much higher plane of intelligence than that attained by any of his tribe. He seemed to grasp the purpose of the paddles, and when Tarzan saw that this was so he took much pains to explain in the meager language of the anthropoid how they might be used to the best advantage."
"Mugambi and Akut went with him, and Sheeta, the panther, and a dozen great males of the tribe of Akut."
1. The British Tandem paperback of "The
Monster Men," published in 1976. The artist is Jim Burns.
In a letter from Jim Burns, Laurence Dunn confirmed this: "Hello Laurence.
In answer to your question about the cover art for The Monster Men....yes that is one of mine....
painted back in the 70s, maybe early 80s..so a very old piece.
My wife modelled for the girl sprawling on the ground!"
2. Called “the savage company” and, later, “the hideous crew,” Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “The Beasts of Tarzan,”
like “The Monster Men,” also featured a motley assortment of mariners awkwardly propelling an unmotorized craft.
(J. Allen St. John art featured in ERBzine 0485)
3. Art done by Tom Floyd for a proposed edition of “The Monster Men” to be published by Dark Horse.
The comic book, to have been written by the prolific Martin Powell, was shelved before it got off the ground.
Powell has been a writer for other ERB-related projects including online comics at ERB, Inc.
THE MONSTER MEN ~ PART 5 OF 6: MONSTER MENTIONABLES
As is usual with his writings, ERB has his especially memorable phrases and passages in “The Monster Men.” There is a ship that is "wallowing drunkenly," "the lynx-eyed Sing," "savage happiness" and "frightful freight."
It is an eyebrow-raiser in Chapter II, when Professor Maxon says, "The future of the world will be assured when once we have demonstrated the possibility of the chemical production of a perfect race." No precise spoiler alerts here, other than that, near the end of the story, one gets the final evidence that the learned one is anxious to "forget forever" that particular subject!
When Number Thirteen is moving through the jungle alone, he decides to check out some nearby noises. "His experience with men had taught him to be wary, for it was evident that every man's hand was against him, so he determined to learn at once whether the noise he heard came from some human enemy lurking along his trail ready to spring upon him with naked parang...." Chapter XI
That line about every man's hand being against him brings to mind a passage in Genesis, and ERB was wont to directly quote the Bible at times, and allude to passages from it at other times. Was he doing so in this case, with a reflection on Genesis 16:12 regarding Ishmael?"And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him, and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."
Number Thirteen is known by some other names. Von Horn calls him "Jack" in Chapter V: " 'You are getting along nicely, Jack,' he said kindly, looking over the other's shoulder and using the name which had been adopted at his suggestion to lend a more human tone to their relations with the nameless man." Later, Number Thirteen adopts the name of "Bulan," which is what the natives call him. "Bulan" means "moon" in Malaysia and refers to a moon goddess in the Philippine language. Chapter IX states "Number Thirteen noticed that when they addressed him it was always as Bulan, and upon questioning them he discovered that they had given him this title of honor partly in view of his wonderful fighting ability and partly because the sight of his white face emerging from out of the darkness of the river into the firelight of their blazing camp fire had carried to their impressionable minds a suggestion of the tropic moon which they admired and reverenced." And the reader will discover one other name by which Number Thirteen is known.
"The heavy chest," sometimes called "the great chest" and sometimes just "the chest" is a much-sought prize in “The Monster Men” and many possess it briefly but none ever seem to have it quite long enough to open it up and look inside.
So what are its contents? Perhaps if ERB fans were after this container, they would hope it contained 29 McClurg ERB books in pristine jackets. But it's more logical to assume that it is full of gold, or another kind of negotiable treasure.
One man, besides Professor Maxon, is said to know what is in the heavy chest. It is Sing Lee, the camp cook. In Chapter II we read: "But he muttered much to himself the balance of the day, for Sing knew that a chest that strained four men in the carrying could contain but one thing, and he knew that Bududreen was as wise in such matters as he."
Well, did Sing really guess what was in the chest? And did he and Bududreen, another villain who is onstage for awhile, both have the same idea about what was in the chest? We don't get the reactions of either when the contents of the chest are finally disclosed, so we'll just have to imagine what their reactions were, or might have been, to its contents.
ERB writes of the magic of a woman's smile: "Virginia Maxon sent back an answering smile -- a smile that filled the young giant's heart with pride and happiness -- such a smile as brave men have been content to fight and die for since woman first learned the art of smiling." Chapter VIII
In describing the different levels of human-like development which the diverse monsters had reached, ERB provided a definition for what makes one a human: "These were by far the most dangerous, for as the power of comparison is the fundamental principle of reasoning, so they were able to compare their lot with that of the few other men they had seen, and with the help of Von Horn to partially appreciate the horrible wrong that had been done them." Chapter VII
1. Frontispiece by J. Allen St. John for the first edition of “The
Monster Men” by Edgar Rice Burroughs
(Hi-Def image in ERBzine 0756)
2. Art done by Tom Floyd for a proposed edition of “The Monster Men” to be published by Dark Horse.
3. Promotional art for “The Monster Men” online comic strip at Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
The strip is the work of Tom Simmons, Erik Roman, L Jamal Walton and Cristian Docolomansky.
THE MONSTER MEN ~ PART 6 OF 6 MONSTER MEANINGS
A Glossary of some of the uncommon terms ERB uses in Monster Men:
* Bulan (Earlier referenced in Part 5 of 5, Monster Mentionables) – Malaysian word for “moon,” usually a reference to “moon goddess” in the Philippine language. Chapter IX states "Number Thirteen noticed that when they addressed him it was always as Bulan, and upon questioning them he discovered that they had given him this title of honor partly in view of his wonderful fighting ability and partly because the sight of his white face emerging from out of the darkness of the river into the firelight of their blazing camp fire had carried to their impressionable minds a suggestion of the tropic moon which they admired and reverenced."
* Cabalistic -- Relating to or associated with mystical interpretation or esoteric doctrine. After burying "the heavy chest" stolen from Professor Maxon, Ninaka and cohorts "buried the treasure at the foot of a mighty buttress tree, and with his parang made certain cabalistic signs upon the bole whereby he might identify the spot when it was safe to return and disinter his booty." Chapter XIII
* Camphor Crystals -- A waxy, flammable, white or transparent solid with a strong aromatic odor. It is found in the wood of the camphor laurel, a large evergreen tree found in Asia (particularly in Sumatra, Indonesia and Borneo) and also of the kapur tree, a tall timber tree from the same region. It also occurs in some other related trees in the laurel family, notably Ocotea usambarensis. Dried rosemary leaves, in the mint family, contain up to 20% camphor. It is used for its scent, as an ingredient in cooking (mainly in India), as an embalming fluid, for medicinal purposes, and in religious ceremonies. "The head hunters had been engaged in collecting camphor crystals when their quick ears caught the noisy passage of the six while yet at a considerable distance, and with ready parangs the savages crept stealthily toward the sound of the advancing party." Chapter XI
* Celestial -- Sing Lee, the Chinese cook for the Arthur Maxon scientific camp, is first referred to as an "oriental" and then several times as a "celestial." Celestial was a term referring to Chinese emigrants to the U.S., Canada and Australia during the 19th Century. The term was widely used in the popular mass media of the day. The term is from Celestial Empire, a traditional name for China. Chapter VI, et al
* Cognomen -- An extra personal name given to an ancient Roman citizen, functioning rather like a nickname and typically passed down from father to son. "Both the name and the idea appealed to Number Thirteen and from that time he adopted Bulan as his rightful cognomen." Chapter IX
* Contumely -- Insolent or insulting language or treatment. After Professor Maxon referred to Number Thirteen as "that horrid, soulless thing,"..."At the very moment that he spoke the object of his contumely was entering the dark mouth of a broad river that flowed from out of the heart of savage Borneo." Chapter IX
* Court of Mystery -- Name coined by Von Horn for the part of the compound where Maxon makes his monsters in his secret lab. "For days and nights at a time Virginia never saw him [her father, Professor Maxon], his meals being passed in to him by Sing through a small trap door that had been cut in the partition wall of the 'court of mystery' as Von Horn had christened the section of the camp devoted to the professor's experimentations." Chapter II, et al
* Dyak -- The Dayak or Dyak or Dayuh are the native people of Borneo. It is a loose term for over 200 riverine and hill-dwelling ethnic subgroups, located principally in the interior of Borneo, each with its own dialect, customs, laws, territory and culture, although common distinguishing traits are readily identifiable. ERB described the Dyak pirates in terrifying terms, with tiger teeth sticking out of their faces.
* Effete -- We all are familiar with this word from many of ERB's books, but what does it actually mean? The dictionary says: "(of a person) affected, overrefined, and ineffectual." Chapter XV: "At the sight of the mighty figure reduced to pitiable inefficiency and weakness, despite the knowledge that her protector could no longer protect, the fear of the jungle faded from the heart of the young girl -- she was no more a weak and trembling daughter of an effete civilization."
* Gudgeon -- A socket-like, cylindrical (i.e., female) fitting attached to one component to enable a pivoting or hinging connection to a second component. The second component carries a pintle fitting, the male counterpart to the gudgeon, enabling an interpivoting connection that can be easily separated. Designs that may use gudgeon and pintle connections include hinges, shutters and small boat rudders. "Here he [Von Horn] found that the rudder [of the Ithaca] had been all but unshipped, probably as the vessel was lifted over the reef during the storm, but a single pintle remaining in its gudgeon." Chapter XI
* Gunung Tebor -- a locale in Indonesia. "...it being Ninaka's intention to dispose of the contents of the chest as quickly as possible through the assistance of a rascally Malay who dwelt at Gunung Tebor, where he carried on a thieving trade with pirates." Chapter XIII
* Incontinently -- In a way that lacks self-restraint, no control (in modern sense, mostly refers to lack of control of bowels or urination) "For a moment they stood valiantly before his attack, but after two had grappled with him and been hurled headlong to the floor they gave up and rushed incontinently out into the maelstrom of the screaming tempest." Chapter VIII, et al.
* Kris (kriss) -- an asymmetrical dagger with distinctive blade-patterning achieved through alternating laminations of iron and nickelous iron (pamor). While most strongly associated with the culture of Indonesia the kris is also indigenous to Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Singapore. The kris is famous for its distinctive wavy blade, although many have straight blades as well. Both the spelling of "kris" and "kriss" are used in “The Monster Men.”
* Lascar -- A lascar was a sailor or militiaman from the Indian Subcontinent or other countries east of the Cape of Good Hope, employed on European ships from the Indian Subcontinent or other countries east of the Cape of Good Hope. The word (also spelled lashkar, laskar) derives from Persian laškar, meaning military camp or army, and al-askar, the Arabic word for a guard or soldier. The Portuguese adapted this term to lascarim, meaning an Asian militiaman or seaman, especially those from the Indian subcontinent. Lascars served on British ships under "lascar agreements." These agreements allowed shipowners more control than was the case in ordinary articles of agreement. The sailors could be transferred from one ship to another and retained in service for up to three years at one time. The name lascar was also used to refer to Indian servants, typically engaged by British military officers. In “The Monster Men,” ERB uses the term to refer to refer to some of the natives who assisted, as well as attacked, the expedition. "The gravel bottom of the rivulet made fairly good walking, and as Virginia was borne in a litter between two powerful lascars it was not even necessary that she wet her feet in the ascent of the stream to the camp." Chapter II
* Malay -- Member of an ethnic group of Austronesian peoples predominantly inhabiting the Malay Peninsula, eastern Sumatra, southernmost parts of Thailand, south coast Burma, island of Singapore, coastal Borneo including Brunei, West Kalimantan, and coastal Sarawak and Sabah, and the smaller islands which lie between these locations -- that collectively are known as the Alam Melaya. These locations today are part of the modern nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand. Numerous mentions throughout book; along with the Dyaks, the chief antagonists of the expedition.
* Mias pappan -- A native name for the orangutan. "As she looked she saw a huge mias pappan cross the stream, bearing in his arms the dead, or unconscious form of a white-skinned girl with golden hair." This was a Virginia sighting later reported to von Horn by an unidentified native woman. Chapter XII
Nostrum -- A medicine, especially one that is not considered effective, prepared by an unqualified person. Sing Lee's "first thought when he had made Professor Maxon comfortable upon the couch was to fetch his pet nostrum, for there burned strong within his yellow breast the same powerful yearning to experiment that marks the greatest of the profession to whose mysteries he aspired." Chapter VII
* Ourang outang -- Was apparently a popular spelling of the name of beast more commonly rendered as orangutan today. First used in “The Monster Men” as a hyphenated word and thereafter as two words. This was the spelling in Poe's Murders in Rue Morgue, published in 1841. Chapter X.
* Panglima -- A Malay noble of secondary rank, a petty raja. The word has also been used as the name for a "fun, fast vocabulary game." This is the rank of Ninaka of the Sibnana Dyaks, cohort and rival of Rajah Muda Saffir, chief villain. Chapter X
* Parang -- A collective term for swords, big knives and machetes hailing from all over the Malay archipelago. Used throughout the story. One example: "They had entered a narrow canon when Number Twelve went down beneath a half dozen parangs." Chapter XIV
* Pintle -- See gudgeon, above
* Prahu -- A type of sailing boat originating in Malaysia and Indonesia that may be sailed with either end at the front, typically having a large triangular sail and an outrigger. Used throughout the book.
* Sumpitan -- A kind of blowgun for discharging arrows, - used by the savages of Borneo and adjacent islands. Definition evident from context: "A shower of poisoned darts blown from half a hundred sumpitans fell about them, and then Muda Saffir called to his warriors to cease using their deadly blow-pipes lest they kill the girl." Chapter XIV
* Tuan Besar -- A European boss in colonial Malaysia, used twice in Chapter XI to refer to Von Horn. The first time it is used in the original editions, it is misspelled as "Taun."
* USS New Mexico-- A battleship (BB-40) in service with the U.S. Navy from 1918 to 1946. She was the lead ship of a class of three battleships. New Mexico was extensively modernized between 1931 and 1933 and served in World War II in both the Battle of the Atlantic and the Pacific Theater. After her decommissioning she was scrapped in 1947. New Mexico was the first US Navy ship named for the U.S. state of New Mexico. The second such ship is a Virginian Class submarine (SSN 779) placed in service March 27, 2010. Since the book version of “The Monster Men” came out in 1929, it would have been logical for readers to assume BB-40 was meant. However, the story was first published in All-Story magazine in 1913. So, the name with which ERB christened his ship was fictional, at the time. Five years later, a real USS New Mexico was launched by the Navy.
ERB identifies his New Mexico as "flagship of the Pacific Fleet," which would usually mean it was a rather large ship with an admiral aboard. The one in his story, however, is identified as a cutter, a much smaller and more maneuverable fighting ship. And that would be smaller, as well, than the battleship which eventually bore that name. Chapter XVII
And it’s a pleasure to note that ERB gathered together all of these unusual words – many not generally known in America at the time – without the aid of the internet!!
The Monster Men: History ~ Art: Covers, Interiors, Pulp ~ Reviews ~ Comics
The Monster Men: Read the e-Text Edition
The Monster Men and the Magic Number by John Martin I
The Monster Men and the Magic Number by John Martin II
Monster Glossary by John Martin III
Mahlon Blaine's Monster Men Art for the Canaveral Editions
Burroughs Bulletin: No. 8: Monster Men Edition
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