Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Edition
Since 1996 ~ 10,000 Webpages in Archive
by Sean Phillips
Deep within the heart of Africa lies a land where
the monsters of Primeval earth still roam and slay and battle. . .
The Lost Land of Pal-ul-donTarzan explored the lost land of Pal-ul-don (whose name, among its natives translates as "Land of Man") in only one book of the original Tarzan series, Tarzan the Terrible. Tarzan comes to the lost land seeking his mate Jane, who had been abducted by the renegade German officer Lt. Colonel Obergatz. He finds a great deal more in this land forgotten by time, where weird monsters bellow, and strange races of tailed men wage eternal war with one another. Unlike in the timeless world of Pellucidar, where evolution in most species has come to a virtual standstill, those in Pal-ul-don, though they have survived extinct ions for untold millions of years, have also undergone dramatic changes . . .
Beasts of Pal-ul-don
The gryf is the most formidable and spectacular of all the beasts of Pal-ul-don. It is a huge and voracious monster, descended of the Triceratops, the mighty three-horned ceratopsian dinosaur of the Cretaceous. Though its ancestors were herbivorous, the gryfs have evolved a set of dagger like teeth, and their hoofed tows have evolved into talons. It is described as an omnivore, which means it hasn't altogether given up its original diet of plants and ferns, but relishes fresh-killed meat as well. It is a strikingly colorful animal, with a red neck-shield, blue bands encircling the eyes. The savagely beaked face is yellow. The Gyor of Pellucidar is similarly marked, but he colors are more subdued. This beast wanders over the entire land surface of Pal-ul-don, but is totally infests the region known as Kor-ul-gryf (or “gorge of the gryf”), and that place is uninhabitable.
The Tor-o-dons, or (Beast-like men), have learned to “domesticate” the gryf by whacking it once across the snout with a shaft. This subdues the frightful beasts. The Tor-o-dons can then ride the animal from behind the great bony shield. A Gryf will often tree their prey, and will wait with infinite patience, while the victim either comes down or starves. Tarzan copied the trick of the Tor-odons, and was able to ride them as well. The Ho-dons of Pal-ul-don worship and revere the gryf for its strength and power. Priests of A-lur often wear ceremonial gryf-masks, and temples and shrines are often carved in three-horned beast's likeness. A monstrous live gryf was even kept as an object of worship by Lu-don, High priest of A-lur. He would feed any who displeased him to the creature by dropping them through a trapped door. Tarzan himself narrowly evaded this fate by escaping to the outside through the Gryf's drinking pool. In the Manning newspaper strips, Ho-don veneration of this animal is carried further, as the beasts are also used by the Ho-don as war-mounts. This is at odds with Burroughs, since the Hod-don are amazed to see tarzan riding on the backs of these beasts.
The jato is black- and- yellow saber tooth lion-tiger of Pal-ul-don. It is a mixture of lion and saber-tooth, that came into being when the two species bred, and the pure saber-tooths faced extinction. Surprisingly, it is smaller than a pure lion, but very aggressive. Most illustrations of the jato, like those above, resemble a striped saber-tooth, like a smaller version of the tarag, but as a result of the lion mixture, it seems likely that they would have manes as well, and their tails would perhaps be longer.
The ja is the spotted lion of Pal-ul-don. It has long been theorized that adult lions once had spotted coats, given that spots still occur in cubs. In fact, some appear to have lingered awhile in the Ethiopian highlands (where they are called “marozi" -- and considered a separate species) where spotted lion hides have been traded by the natives. The lions of Pal-ul-don, having been isolated for millions of years, have coats as gorgeously patterned as Sheeta the leopard.
The only other Pal-ul-donian beast given direct mention in the book was a strange aquatic reptile which attacks Korak in the Great Barrier Swamp, which surrounds the land. Just what this “frightful survivor from some extinct progenitor” was we don't know, but “it was like no living thing he had ever seen, though possibly it resembled the crocodile more than any other thing with which he was familiar.” Korak is able to swim beneath the hissing saurian, and slay it by slashing its underbelly., as shown in the St. John illustration. Perhaps, like the gryf, this beast too, had evolved and was precisely identical to nothing from the fossil record. It might have been an evolved plesiosaur, or some other aquatic reptile. There did exist in Africa a genera of carnivorous (theropod) dinosaurs that sported elongated snouts similar to the crocdilia. This genera included the spinosaurus, baryonyx, and the recently discovered “crocodile mimic” suchomimus. Though bipedal, these dinosaurs inhabited swampy regions, and are believed to have fed primarily upon fish. It is certainly not unlikely that a survivor of this order could have persisted within Pal-ul-dons swamp!
Others . . .
Many other species of ancient life have persisted within this hidden realm. Tarzan sees many animals which represent either a form unaltered for countless millennia, or an entirely divergent branch of evolution. Burroughs does not describe any though, besides the few species mentioned above. The Dell comics Tarzan had it own version of Pal-ul-don, most of which was wildly inaccurate. Other Burroughsian civilizations were incorporated into the lost land, such as the lost cities of Athne and Cathne. The Ho-dons are sometimes represented in the Dell Tarzan and Korak series as tail less, and of a culture seemingly derived from ancient Greece. Numerous other creatures roam this alternate world of Pal-ul-don, some mythological, most of them prehistoric. There are pteranodons(thipdars) and phorohacas (dyals), which are inaccurately called by their Pellucidaran names, when, were these species known to be native to Pal-ul-don, they would be known by different ones, as was the gryf.
There is also the Pal-ul-donian Tyrannosaurus, which is called a ‘garth”. Of note is a species of giant eagle called an argus (one of the Greek gods) native to the mountains of Pal-ul-don, and large enough to be ridden by an adult human. Interestingly, the argus was incorporated into the Filmation TV series, which took all its other aspects from the original Tarzan novels. The comics writers probably modeled the argus on no actual form of prehistoric life, though it was discovered in the eighties that a giant bird similar to the argus did exist in South America during that continent period of isolation, millions of years ago.
While the phorohacas terrorized the ground, the giant bird, called an argentavis, terrorized the land from above. It was not quite large enough to be ridden, but it was huge enough to bear off human-sized prey, with a wingspan 25 feet across, the same as that of a pteranodon.
Comics legend Russ Manning did do an adaptation of the actual novel in the Dell series however, and his version stuck strictly to the story, though the incident with the dinosaur in the swamp was curiously absent. He also took Tarzan to Pal-ul-don on numerous occasions in his Sunday and daily strips. Manning's version of the lost land is essentially the Burroughs’ own, though the format of the newspaper strip allowed Tarzan to return to Pal-ul-don more than once, and the land is given much greater detail. Most striking is the much richer abundance of prehistoric life than was evident from Burroughs’ novel. All the human and humanoid races are tailed, as they should be. Manning also invents new place names and character names based on Burroughs' Pal-ul-don glossary. He does not stick strictly to the grammatical rules Burroughs invented for names of members the both black and white races of pithicantropi, but this would be very hard to do. In the Manning strips the T-Rex is still called a “garth”, but the phorohacas is called a “hacker”, which is different from the Pellucidaran “dyal”, as it should be.
The Waz-dons of the Manning strips ride to battle on mighty war-beasts called Jad-ben-ko, meaning “The great mighty”. Science knows this beast as the indrocotherium, or balucotherium, a giant ancestor of the rhinoceros, and the largest land mammal to ever live. He also has the Ho-don riding the gryfs as war-mounts, using the same trick of the Tor-o-don, and clash with the waz-don in spectacular earth-shaking battles.
Races of Pal-ul-don
NOTE: The races of Pal-ul-don are described by Tarzan and Burroughs as "pithacantrophi," the same species known to science as Homo Erectus or "Java man." While these races may indeed be derived from this species, and certain aspects are unchanged from this ancestral stock than modern humans (such as their grasping feet, and the Waz-don's fur), they actually represent a entirely different branch of evolution than modern humans, nearly as developed in their own way as humans of the outside world.
The Waz-don are a race of tailed humanoids sporting long prehensile tails not unlike those of New World primates, from which, in fact, Pal-ul-don's races may descend. They are covered with a sleek coat of glossy black fur, and move with a cat's quickness. They are mortal enemies of the Ho-don. The Waz-don are more primitive of Pal-ul-don's two dominant races, and live in cave villages carved high within perpendicular cliffs. They reach their homes by means of a series of pegs driven into the cliff face. The Waz-don chief is called a “Gund”, and rite of chiefdom is decided by personal combat.
The Ho-don are the hairless white men of Pal-ul-don. Their features are classical Greek, yet they retain the grasping feet and pendulous tail shared bu the land’s other races. Though their culture is stone-age, are more civilizes then the Waz-don, and live in elaborate cities carved from the white limestone of the cliffs. The shale left over from the carving is then used to pave the streets. The most kingly Ho-don city is A-lur (City of Light) capital of Pal-ul-don. In the royal palace of A-lur, the central throne room is dominated by a pyramid of steps atop which is the throne of the king, who is revered as a god. A shaft in the ceiling sends light down upon the god-king, making him a dazzling figure. The Hod-don worship a tail-less god named Jad-ben-otho, whom they believe demands blood sacrifice. This is usually obtained from captives of war, usually Waz-don slaves, or anyone who becomes the object of the high priest's disfavor. They also reverie the gryf as a sacred animal, and the horned dinosaur features in much of their religious art.
The Waz-ho-don are a mixed race that share traits of both the two dominant races of Pal-ul-don. Since any mixing between these two warring races is obviously taboo, this new race seems to be descended from couples mated, and could not return to their own people.
They founded a city of their own, called Bu-lur (Moon City), which shares similarity in construction to both the Ho-don cities, and the cliff-villages of the Waz-don. Lt. Obergatz did encounter this race and lived among them for a short time. Tarzan, Jane and Korak never encountered them though, and since Tarzan never returned in the original novels, we know nothing else of them.
Strangely, enough none of the pastiche of comics writers have touched on this race either. I have an idea for a story about the Waz-ho-don however.
The tor-o-dons are a savage race of beast-like men, with fur and fangs. They essentially unchanged from the fossil examples of Homo Erectus, and may represent the “parent race” from which Pal-ul-don's two major races descended, since they also share the prehensile tail. However, the tail indicates that perhaps the tor-o-dons, are not same the Homo Erectus from which modern humans evolved, but possibly an alternate form that arose from the New World primates, when S. America and Africa were connected in prehistoric times. Like other ape-men in the Burroughs universe, Tor-o-dons have an occasional weakness for the females of the higher races, and Tor-o-don bulls have been know to capture Waz-don and Ho-don women during their mating season. The tor-o-dons have learned to subdue and ride the wild gryfs with a whack on the snout. Tarzan does not encounter a Tor-o-don band, or village, so the communal life of this race is unknown.
In the Manning strips however, much greater detail is given to the culture of the Tor-o-don race, and much of it is similar to what Burroughs himself might have invented. The tor-o-dons live in the darkest, gloomiest stretches of forest they can find, and raise their villages high into their air. The woven huts of the tor-o-don villages are suspended high in the branches of the trees by a series vine-rope pulleys. Captives taken by the Tor-o-dons are forced to fight to the death while suspended by the ankles with vines. The strongest captives then become slaves. The tor-o-dons have also learned to ride hackers (phorohacas), which they capture when young.
Others . . .
Though Pal-ul-don is not nearly so vast as Pellucidar, other races may persist within its unknown regions. It is a shame Burroughs did not return Tarzan to the lost land, so that it could be explored in more detail. Comic writers, however, have indeed invented a few new races over the years. In the Korak and Tarzan series from Dell comics, there exist two races of humans that do not appear native in origin, but whose cultures have learned to exist in and about Pal-ul-don's great barrier swamp. Both are native Africans, not Pal-ul-don's indigenous tailed races.
One of these is the Stork-Men, a tribe whose warriors disguise themselves as giant storks, and hunt on stilts through the swamp to confuse their enemies. They live in a villages raised on poles above the water, and have learned to domesticate a species a giant river otter, which are terribly fierce in battle.
The other tribe is the Terribs, a tribe of fierce raiders, who dress in crocodile skins, and wage war on the Stork-men upon reptilian mounts similar to the gorobors (cotlysaurs ) of Pellucidar, the same war-mounts favored by the Horibs. In an early issue of The Burroughs Bulletin comics writer Bruce Jones (who was only starting out at the time) wrote and drew a few short Tarzan stories, including a rather crude Pal-ul-don story. In it, Tarzan encounters a race of “wolf-people” who worship a lizard-god idol, and are “the most dreaded creatures of the lost land”. Tarzan and a female captive are tied to a stake as food for the wolf-people's pet, a saber tooth. But they escape, and Tarzan summons a gryf to his aide. The dinosaur destroys the wolf-people's idol, and Tarzan and the girl escape. It is a simple effort, but Jones's later comics stories, including his Tarzan stories written for Dark Horse, are among the best in the genre.
By far the most “Burroughsian” of Pal-ul-don's comic-invented races are “winged men” of Manning's strips. These are very similar to the Wieroos of Caspak, but with a few striking differences. Like the Wieroo, Pal-ul-don's winged men are a race of males only, and must subsist on the females of the lost land other races, in order to procreate. Unlike the Wieroo, they are less intelligent and more animal-like. They live in the sides of cliffs in gigantic mud nests, after the manner of cliff-swallows, and roost within the nests from wooden beams like gigantic bats. They apparently branched off from Pal-ul-dons other tailed races in some remote age. In the winged men, the tails can be unfurled like that of a peacock, and for the same purpose! After a winged man has captured a woman, the two dominant males “cock fight”, to determine who will mate with her. Their grasping feet are quipped with razor-sharp fighting spurs. Captive females are taken to a “nursery” within the nests, where they will bear and raise wing men offspring. These offspring are always male, and have no characteristics of their female parent. Winged men use a small whip of “feathers”, anointed with a stinging sap, in order to subdue their captives. These weird beings do not have a language, but communicate with a series of squeals and whistles. Manning did not invent a Pal-ul-donian term for this race, but a name such as “In-dons” (“strange men”) might have been appropriate.
Also invented by Manning are the Pallids or mud men, a race of pale, albino men who inhabit crystal-caverns beneath the Great Barrier Swamp. These are tail-less, and are there most likely descended from a Negroid race of modern Africa. This article first appeared in Sean Phillips' blog at: