by R. E. Prindle
As always ERB is the consummate multi-culturalist both ethnic and social. Barbara is the daughter of the English Lord Whimsey, Smith is a college professor, Capietro is an Italian Communist renegade, Stabutch is a Russian Communist, the Midianites represent an ancient religious culture derived from the Jewish, Tarzan is Tarzan and Lord Passmore and then we have a cast of animal characters including a tribe of baboons who interact with Tarzan on the cultural level. All are represented as culturally distinct. ERB is more of a right multi-culturalist rather than being of the leftist sort.
If a culture is in fact a culture it must be distinct or it couldn't qualify as a culture. To be of the French culture there must be characteristics that can be identified as specifically French. Else, why call yourself French? The Left Multi-culturalists need to define their terms a little better. They come across as rather shabby intellectually.
Then, of the hundreds, probably thousands of cultures are they all to be considered equal? For instance is it considered desirable to be of the Prison culture? Drug culture? Pedophile culture? No, of course not; not all cultures are equally beneficial. Each culture must be evaluated on its own merits and faults, completely analyzed by objective analysts. No particular culture need be nor can be taken at its own evaluation. Obviously many cultures are to be avoided completely. Others should be isolated. Which is which can only be determined by an analysis of its positive contributions. The results of analysis can be unkind; the truth frequently hurts. As the French say: C'est la vie.
In his analysis of group cultures ERB does draw conclusions. There's no doubt he thinks that the Communist culture is a negative to be avoided. Thus Zveri in Invincible was ignominiously defeated by Tarzan as Stabutch will be in Triumphant.
In almost every case ERB is very hard on religious cultures as he will be in this novel. Is he unjust or is the truth about religion just too hard for devotees to bear? Everyone will have their own opinion while I have made my position abundantly clear: the religious consciousness is outdated, having been surpassed by the vastly superior Scientific Consciousness. I won't be changing soon.
Lady Barbara Collis is about to parachute into a culture two thousand years in the past. ERB commits a major gaffe here in the opening pages of his novel. Lady Barbara is attempting a non-stop flight of 7500 miles in a 1930 plane, clearly impossible. Rather than taking a direct route up the Nile she is lost several hundreds of miles to the East over Ethiopia and, get this, already running on empty.
I don't know who calculated her fuel needs but I should imagine he would be looking for a new occupation. But, that doesn't interfere with my enjoyment of the story any more than the donut atmosphere of Poloda in Beyond The Farthest Star. Who knows what goes on beyond the farthest star. They probably even suspend the laws of gravity.
There Lady Barbara is, way up there without the means of propulsion. She does the manly thing: she jumps out. This is real Twilight Zone stuff; little does she know she will land in 80AD or so. The Land Of Midian has been frozen in time for the last two millennia.
The Midians assembled within the walls of their crater hear the drone of the airplane, which sound they are unable to identify and then to their amazed eyes a little white cloud appears through the mist with a human form dangling below it. To their religiously distorted senses it must be the Angel Of The Lord.
Thus we have a nice confrontation between two different cultures. The modern scientific of Lady Barbara and the ancient religious culture of the Midians. The Midians could stand as a metaphor of the religions of Burroughs' day which, not unlike the Midians, were rooted in a culture two thousand years old and of a different and inferior consciousness. Not only had the Scopes trial recently ended but the sensational affair of Aimee Semple Mcpherson was still fairly warm, plus ERB had recently read Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry. The novel did not sit well with ERB, nor does it sit well with me. Burt Lancaster's movie Elmer Gantry, by the way, is totally dissimilar to the Gantry of the book.
According to ERBzine Burroughs took offence at Elmer Gantry, deploring Lewis' habit of ridiculing and demeaning people rather than presenting the story as entertainment. Lewis does ridicule and belittle every character in his book in a detestable holier than thou manner which is very annoying. Burroughs turns the story around and disparages practices which I suppose makes it entertainment. For instance both the fictional Gantry and the real like Mcpherson are what are known in military slang as 'Sky Pilots.' Thus there is a certain amount of humor in Lady Barbara as an angel of the lord sky piloting into the religious Land Of Midian.
When the Midians drown a young woman while dragooning her, lady Barbara, after the manner of Mcpherson, brings her back to life by a 'laying on of hands', that is artificial respiration. Clever of ERB. It will be remembered that Mcpherson had a roomful of crutches and wheelchairs from people she had supposedly cured by a laying on of hands. I have no idea how many might have gotten the joke even when the novel was released but there the joke is if you care to look for it.
So we have the Scopes Trial, Aimee Semple Mcpherson and Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry all rolled up in a series of jokes 'highly fictionalized.' There is probably more to be found if one could steep oneself in the ephemeral culture of the time.
As mentioned, Lady Barbara parachutes through two thousand years of time to find herself among a Pauline Christian sect that hadn't changed one iota since c. 80AD. The emphasis on Pauline Christianity is important. At about this time ERB was becoming involved with the Vedantist mission in Hollywood so discussions of early Christianity may possibly have made an impression on him. Paul was, of course, a Jew who adapted the Jewish Christian sect for dissemination among the Gentiles. The Catholic Church was founded on Sts. Peter and Paul while the medieval Knights Templars based their Christianity on the Gospel of John thus being Johannites. There was a cultural divide between the Church and the Templars which did necessitate action. ERB's emphasis is intended to indicate the Jewish origins of the Midianites.
It will be remembered that Angustus was a Jewish Christian who arrived in company of a Nordic slave girl. So for two thousand years the Midianites have been inbreeding. ERB is considering the results of inbreeding, as a year later he will write Pirate Blood that deals with the famously inbred Jukes family. Pirate Blood is perhaps his most despairing story as his mind tips toward Lamarckian evolution in an apparent attempt to explain to himself why he can't resolve his psychological problems.
Thus the genetic and Lamarckian traits of Angustus and the slave girl have been passed down through approximately seventy generations. Angustus' genes have predominated while those of the slave girl appear occasionally in sports.
Angustus was characterized by a huge nose that was an actual deformity, a chinless face and epilepsy. Thus of one imagines this, Lady Barbara is confronted by a group of people with huge noses covering most of their faces with no chins, the throat sweeping back from just under the lips and writing on the ground in epileptic fits..
There can be no mistaking that ERB is caricaturing the Jews. Angustus was a Jew and he was a Pauline Christian. As a Christian, ERB disguises his Jewish nationality. The leader of the Midianites, Abraham the son of Abraham certainly puts the Midianites into a Jewish context, as does the fact that they consider themselves the 'chosen people.'
ERB's caricature is one that was prevalent when he was a young man, while one that couldn't be missed by the gentlemen of the ADL/AJC and MGM. They would neither forgive nor forget. In fact Tarzan would be portrayed in The New Adventures Of Tarzan as chinless and with a huge nose. While Herman Brix/Bruce Bennett had neither a bulbous nose nor was chinless the effect was achieved through photographic lighting and shadow. Either that or the film has deteriorated through time to achieve that effect. (DVD, The New Adventures Of Tarzan, Alpha Home Entertainment, www.oldies.com )
If you think there isn't a war going on, look more closely.
Even though of Jewish descent, the Midianites are Christians, but of the most primitive stripe; they make sects like the Nazarenes look liberal. Their minds are uncompromisingly dark. The girl who was dragooned was sentenced to death for smiling. Joy was considered of the devil in Midian. Here ERB characterized a number of Christian sects correctly.
Among the people who greeted Lady Barbara was a genetic sport who harked back physically and mentally to the original slave girl. She is Jezebel. She and Lady Barbara are immediately attracted to each other by their beauty. The attractive and intelligent Midianites were invariably fair haired and blue eyed while the unattractive ones were dark haired, brown eyed and stupid. Little doubt that the AJC/ADL would consider this book 'racist.'
Jezebel is an interesting character in that she is a little more than light headed. She is governed entirely by surface appearances. As in Lion Man where the hybrids were expelled from Henry's village, so the more attractive males were exiled to the other side of the crater. They were more warlike than the Midianites occasionally raiding them. Jezebel remarks that they are so good looking she hopes they capture her. When the Midianites honor 'the angel' with her own cave and offering of food, Jezebel is depicted laying back eating grapes like a spoiled young thing and a box of bon bons. ERB later describes her as a Golden Girl which relates her to Balza of Lion Man and hence to Florence.
Whatever ERB tells himself about Florence in his conscious life his depiction of her in his unconscious life seems to be quite different.
At first Lady Barbara is treated quite well but familiarity breeds contempt. Abraham ben Abraham begins to suspect her divinity. Even the miracle of the laying on of hands that restores the girl to life in no less a miracle than the raising of Lazarus cannot dissuade Abe Ben Abe from testing Lady Barbara. Thus she too is dragooned but instead of being dunked three times she is thrown into the lake with the net weighted. Here is proof positive that ERB read Dumas' The Count Of Monte Cristo. The scene replicates Dantes being thrown into the sea from the Chateau d' If.
Lady Barbara has her handy jackknife so that she is able to cut her way free. Thus we leave her here crawling gaspingly ashore while we check in on Lafayette Smith and Danny 'Gunner' Patrick.
Themes And Variations: The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Lady Barbara Drops In
Two Peas & the Pod
Born Again Lafe Smith
In the Footsteps of the Lord
Threads & Strands of the Web
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