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Volume 1650

Schweitzer/Tarzan Connection:
The Location of Tarzan's Birthplace
by David Adams
Additional research material and illustrations by Bill Hillman
One advantage of Tarzan's birthplace being so near the future site of Albert Schweitzer's famous hospital is the fact that we can establish some interesting detailed facts about the natives of Tarzan's jungle.  Marshall and Polling's biography of Schweitzer provides us with an amazing paragraph which established the existence of a cannibal tribe.
"The two main tribes served by the hospital were the Galoas and the Pahouins.  The Galoas were the oldest, longest established tribe in the area, a people whose geographical location and way of life had changed little since prehistory.  They were a more docile people than other tribes, which was almost their undoing.  When the French arrived in 1843, the Galoas had the area near Lambarene to themselves, but an unexplainable migration of the Pahouins, or Fangs, from the interior began to take place.  Fighting their way into the region, the Fangs, a cannibalistic people, prepared for warfare with the Galoas.  These cannibals were intelligent, quite advanced in the skills of war and quick at adaptations to living conditions required for survival.  Their greater skills, as well as their belligerence, began gradually to lead to the extermination of the Galoas when the French took matters into their own hands and stopped the warfare and invasion, decreeing that both tribes should share the land.  An uneasy peace developed after 1880.  The members of the two tribes would work together, but never fully accepted each other."  ( 124-125.)
ERB explains the presence of the cannibal tribe of chief Mbonga in chapter 9 of Tarzan of the Apes as one driven out by white ivory and rubber traders after a revolt in which they had killed a white officer and a small detachment of his black troops.
"For three days the little cavalcade marched slowly through the heart of this unknown and untracked forest, until finally, early in the fourth day, they came upon a little spot, near the bands of a small river, which seemed less thickly overgrown than any ground they had yet encountered.  Here they set to work to build a new village . . ." (104).
After building a village in a great clearing with huts, palisades, and fields planted, Kulonga, the son of Mbonga killed Kala, Tarzan's ape mother, and the enmity between Tarzan and the black tribesmen began.  We can safely assume that this people were the Pahouins or Fangs, mentioned above.  There is a good deal of information on these people in wikipedia.

Those who are interested in researching the native religion of the Fang and comparing it with ERB's description of witch-doctors much involved with Tarzan in his youth, can begin at:

Tarzan's battles with witch-doctors, or N'ganga, were on-going throughout most of his life.  In fact, the Bwiti ceremonies are practiced alongside Christianity to this day.

"Bwiti ceremonies are led by a (male or female) spiritual leader called N'ganga who is a very important member of the community and has extensive knowledge of traditional healing practices, hexes and spells. The crucial rite of Bwiti is the initiation ceremony, when young Gabonese men take iboga for the first time in the men's hut to become members of the religion. There are many ceremonies at different times of the year to give homage to the ancestors. Special ceremonies may be held to heal sick persons or drive out harmful spirits. While early forms of Bwiti excluded women, modern chapels include men and women."  from a longer article at Wikipedia - "Bwiti".
I believe that this article opens the way to an entire branch of ERB research. I find it interesting to see that the great migrations of the Fang led to the fatal contact with the young Tarzan, and that these peoples are now the successful majority in present day Gabon - among those whom Schweitzer set up his hospital to help.  Surely Lord Greystoke must have seen the irony of this situation.  Schweitzer too had his battles with the native witch-doctors when establishing his brand of Western medicine.  He was simply another witch-doctor, called "Oganga" or "White witch-doctor" with his own fetishes, including the cardboard tags the natives wore around their necks to establish some form of identity.  These tags became powerful medicine in themselves, and the people who were lucky enough to get one never misplaced it throughout their entire lives.

Marshall and Polling also note that Schweitzer had run-ins with the Leopard Men, who rather than concocting longevity pills out of the glands of young women, were an organization of what might be called animist fundamentalists.  The problem was that their young people were coming into contact with the outside world and giving up the "faith of their fathers" for Christianity or becoming outright atheists.  There was enough of the old superstition left to cast powerful spells to hold the doubting Thomas's in line, or if that failed, the quick slitting of the throat with iron leopard claws put an end to newfangled ways.  Schweitzer was careful to keep his mouth shut about religion while practicing his medicine because he noticed how these modernizing changes cut off the young people from their relatives and tribes. Pun intended.

One can speculate that Tarzan would have thought little of any Kuvuru pills he came by since if any had been produced they would have only been effective on true believers like other witch-doctor spells.  One MIGHT speculate that Tarzan had a much closer contact with the Fang in his youth and had adopted some of their superstitions, but it seems unlikely.  The only strong support for this idea would be if he had been raised by the natives rather than apes, which makes for a lot of revisionism.  I think the fact that he passed the pills around to everyone, even to his monkey friend, Nkima, shows that he really considered them to be an enormous joke.

Tarzan mentioned something about a witch-doctor ceremony which had been performed upon him that presumably gave him good health and long life, which demonstrates a fondness or at least an acceptance of native ways in later life.  Of course, he was also the chief of the Waziri tribe, but they seemed to be more transformed by the relationship than Tarzan.  According to Schweitzer's reports on as simple a thing as wishing one well greatly improving the health of natives, something as strong as a ceremony could indeed help one to live well and perhaps even longer.  However, unless Tarzan was a fetish-carrying animist, it likely that he went along with the ceremony more for the sake of the witch-doctor, who was giving him a gift, than for anything he expected to get out of it.  I would surmise that the immortal hero idea came more from Lord Greystoke's biographer than from his own lips.

Juxtaposed Timelines

Albert Schweitzer made his first sojourn in Africa, building a hospital near Lambarene, Gabon, French Equatorial Africa.

Tarzan is involved with events in The Jewels of Opar.
I think Tarzan was too busy with problems of his own to be aware of a little hospital being built near his boyhood home across the continent.
Schweitzer talks about the efficacy of the jungle drums, but it is unlikely that they went as far as Kenya!

Schweitzer's hospital on the Ogowe River was just northeast of where Farmer places the Greystoke cabin where Tarzan was born.
Farmer's location is "halfway between Iguela and Sette Cama, approximately 2 degrees south latitude, on the middle point of the coast of the Parc National du Petit Loango of the present-day Gabon Republic" (Farmer, Tarzan Alive, 14).

This map shows the location of Gabon on the African continent.

The location of Lambarene on the Ogowe river.
The location of the Loango Park
is just north of the coastal city of Gamba.

Location of the Loango Park
in Gabon 
Tarzan's birthplace.
Situated between the Nkomi and Ndogo lagoons, Loango is the jewel of Africa's western coast.

Park Highlights

A view of Tarzan's beach at Loango.

Gorillas and elephants on the beach
Loango offers tourists breathtaking panoramas with elephant, buffalo, hippo, gorilla and leopard venturing on the white beachfront, a unique sight in the world.

The largest concentration and variety of whales and dolphins after South Africa. Humpback Whales and even Killer Whales are easily observeable.

Wilderness beaches
The area has over 100 kilometers of uninhabited coast. This is the most beautiful spot on Africa's western coast where forests, savannas, wetlands, lagoons and ocean come together.


(photo by Erica Anderson)
The Ogowe River in Tarzan's jungle.
Again on the Ogowe River he comes to the place -- and the mood -- where in 1915,
as he said, the iron doors of thought yielded the phrase, "Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben."
Its English translation, "Reverence for Life" loses a nuance of awe carried by the original.

(photo by Erica Anderson)
Schweitzer walking through Tarzan's jungle.
On the well-trodden path leading through the jungle from the leper ward to the Hospital.

Schweitzer was interned as an enemy alien at Lamberene and later in a prisoner-of-war camp in Provence in 1918.

Tarzan the Untamed kept him busy with the Germans as well.

Schweitzer's second sojourn in Africa. He moved his hospital to a new site also near Lambarene in 1926.

The 1926 period included the events in Tarzan and the Lost Empire.
He was far away to the north in Uganda, the Sudan, and Ethiopia.
There is a large gap in the Tarzan chronology between 1920 and 1926.

However, Schweitzer was back in Europe during most of those years, recovering from illness and depression after the war.
It is possible that Lord Greystoke visited him upon his return to Africa at in 1924 to welcome him back to his hospital.

December 1929
Schweitzer's 3rd. sojourn in Africa.

Events of Tarzan the Invincible
Tarzan in Opar again.

April 1933
Schweitzer's 4th. sojourn in Africa.

Events of Lion Man and Quest.

February 1935
Schweitzer's 5th. sojourn in Africa.

Tarzan the Magnificent.

February 1937
Schweitzer's 6th. sojourn in Africa.

Tarzan and the Jungle Murders

February 1939
Schweitzer's 7th. sojourn in Africa.

Tarzan and the Madman

October 1949
Schweitzer's 8th. sojourn in Africa.

No record of Tarzan's movements.

December 1951
Schweitzer's 9th. sojourn in Africa.

December 1952
Schweitzer's 10th. sojourn in Africa

December 1954
Schweitzer's 11th. sojourn in Africa.

December 1955
Schweitzer's 12th. sojourn in Africa.

December 1957
Schweitzer's 13th. sojourn in Africa.

The ashes of Mrs. Schweitzer were buried at the Lamberene hospital site.
Schweitzer died in 1965 in his ninetieth year.
There is no doubt that Tarzan made other visits to Lamberene over the years, especially since it was located so near his childhood home.

Compiled by Bill Hillman

Albert Schweitzer's Hospital

Dr. Albert Schweitzer: Humanitarian, Theologian, Missionary, Organist, and Medical Doctor

In canoe with sun helmetAntelope FawnsPharmacy
Dr. Schweitzer photos: In canoe with pith helmet ~ Pet antelope fawns ~ Hospital pharmacy

At work in his study-office-bedroom ~ Playing the pipe organ ~ Students in the school room

Loango National Park
The Loango national park system is 1,550 square kilometres of lagoons, forests, savannas, wetlands and over 100 kilometres of uninhabited coastline. Part of the Congo Basin rainforest - the second largest rainforest expanse in the world - its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is perhaps the only place on earth where one can observe elephants, hippos, buffaloes, monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas and leopards venturing onto the beachfront. The area also boasts the largest concentration of whales and dolphins after South Africa.
Tarzan's Milieu

Ogoue River ~ Coastal beaches ~ Approaching storm over the rainforest

Tantor bathing in lagoon ~ Bolgani in the lower terraces ~ Duro (hippo) in the Surf

Mangrove ~ Mangani? in the upper terraces ~ Jungle river

Gorgo herd ~ Tantor's family ~ Bolgani in jungle clearing

Gomangani tribes

Thumbnail photos from the Heussler Gabon site

Lord & Lady Greystoke's Cabin
Tarzan of the Apes: First Edition Dust JacketBurne Hogarth
Nkima's view of the Greystoke cabin: Burne HogarthBurne HogarthRex Maxon
Joe KubertJoe KubertJoe KubertJoe KubertJoe Kubert
Burne HogarthBurne HogarthBurne Hogarth
Russ Manning
Joe Kubert
Cabin art by Hogarth ~ Manning ~ Kubert ~ Maxon

Anderson, Erica. Albert Schweitzer, A Book of Photographs, Harper & Brothers 1955.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice.  Tarzan of the Apes, G&D.
Farmer, Philip Jose. Tarzan Alive, Popular Library, 1972 and Bison Press, 2006
Hanson, Alan. A Tarzan Chrono-log, Waziri, 2003.
Marshall, George and Polling, David. Schweitzer: A Biography. Johns Hopkins, 2000.

Gabon National Parks: Loango
Dr. Albert Schweitzer: Humanitarian, Theologian, Missionary, Organist, and Medical Doctor
Albert Schweitzer Biography
Official homepage of the international Albert Schweitzer Association
Tarzanís Symbolic Home By David A. Adams
Operation Loango
The External Trade of the Loango Coast 1576-1870
Loango National Park
Gabon Photos by Heussler
Loango Costumes
Nkisi Monkey with woman and child carving on ivory tusk

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