Edgar Rice Burroughs'
THE MAD KING
Summary and Comments
By John Martin
INTRODUCTION AND CONTENTS
PRELUDE TO THE MAD KING - 1: A Fortuitous Find
I had the old newspaper from someone whose business it was to sell it to me or to any other. I may credit the seductive lure of Old Meissen for my initial garage sale purchase of the box of dinnerware, and my own curiosity about old, musty newspapers for the balance of the fortuitous find.
The plates and saucers were packed into a cardboard box, carefully wrapped in dusty and yellowed newsprint. After paying the bargain price of $10 for it all, I brought it home, little realizing that one of the wrappings would be the true treasure.
As I unpacked the dishes, I spread the newspaper sheets out carefully and placed some spare Edgar Rice Burroughs books on them to flatten them out. Later, when I looked at them, I saw they were in a foreign language. But one word in the gothic-style typeface at the top of the page stood out clearly. It was the word "Lustadt."
Immediately, I thought of the kingdom of Lutha, whose capital was Lustadt, and all the events which had taken place in the Burroughs book, "The Mad King." I had heretofore supposed the story was merely fiction. But now I wondered because, if there was really a Lustadt, could the events ERB described have been real?
Excited, I looked up a local college professor with experience in foreign languages.
He spent several weeks working on a translation while I agonized and fretted, wondering what he would discover and hoping the newspaper would not just end up across the bottom of the cage used by the parakeet in his office. The only clue to the contents of this front page was a photograph showing a bland section of mountain highway with a "Danger: Curve" sign in the foreground. Nothing to get very excited about.
At last he telephoned me and I rushed to his office to learn what he had found. He gave me neatly typed manuscripts of the four stories on page one, as well as the headlines. Unfortunately, the old newspaper had been creased right at the point which carried the exact date of publication, and that part had disintegrated due to age and wear.
However, I think you will find the four translations of extreme interest.
The name of the newspaper was "The Lustadt Ledger" and a banner headline proclaimed: Lutha's Mad King on the Loose.
Beneath it were four stories, only one of which had to do directly with the banner headline. But I think that readers of "The Mad King" will recognize a familiar thread in all of them.
So as not to overtax readers, I'll share just one of these stories per day in a facebook post. For starters, here is the text of the story which appeared beneath the photo of the mountain road:
ROAD WORK DUE
TAFELBERG — Repairs long overdue are set to be made on the mountain road near here next month, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation said today.
"The road was all right when there were just horses and horsecarts," said the spokesman, "but with more fast automobiles using these roads, that stretch of highway is becoming an accident waiting to happen."
Plans call for widening of the narrow highway, which has a 100-foot drop in places on one side, and 10- to 15-foot high banks on the other. Dirt will be removed from the banks to permit the widening.
"I was out looking at the road the other day," said the spokesman, "and two machines could not have passed on it. There was room for a horse alongside a car, but just barely."
PRELUDE TO THE MAD KING - 2: A Royal Rider
Continuing with my reprints of The Lustadt Ledger from a time long ago, and apparently very much tied in with events described in "The Mad King" by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Here is the second story translated from the fragile newspaper which I found wrapped around some Old Messien dinnerware at a garage sale:
PRINCESS TO TRAIN
TANN — The public was urged today to avail itself of an opportunity to participate in a new series of horsemanship classes, to be held at Riverside Stables here.
Perhaps the biggest attraction to the lessons, other than the fact that the class will be taught by experienced riders on leave from the Royal Horse Guard, is the fact that Princess Emma von der Tann herself will be enrolled.
"In a way, I don't need any lessons," said the princess, "because I ride much. But I can always stand to learn a few new tricks, just like anyone else."
In addition to lessons in basic horsemanship, the classes will also include instruction on how to handle dangerous situations, such as how to stop a frightened, crazed, berserk, runaway horse.
"I'm looking forward to the lessons," said the princess.
Enrollment starts the first of next week with classes to begin in 10 days.
PRELUDE TO THE MAD KING - 3: Black Mountain Brigands
This is the third of four stories that were translated for me from an early 1900s edition of "The Lustadt Ledger."
I can only conclude that these stories are directly related to the historical account titled "The Mad King" by Edgar Rice Burroughs:
BRIGANDS A THREAT
LUSTADT — Despite a decline in the number of brigands roaming the Luthan highlands, the outlaws are still in abundant enough numbers to pose a problem to the careless traveler or rural dweller, a palace communique warned today.
The official document said many of the brigands are headquartered in rockbound, impregnable places, where can be found natural clearings and sheltered hollows.
One of the most notorious of the criminals, a blond giant known as "Yellow Franz," is thought to be operating out of such a headquarters in the Black Mountains.
Franz is readily recognizable by his outfits of gaudy colors, his deceptive wide grin, his lavishly decorated knives and pistols, and his huge, ham-like hands.
His band of followers are evil-looking fellows who ride stocky, rough-coated ponies and sport villainous weapons.
They rob, murder and kidnap without compassion.
The number of brigands has declined in recent years, in proportion to the increasing influx of tourists, which have included a large number of adventure-seeking, self-styled "cowboys" from such American states as Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska and other parts of that country's "West."
Having apparently shot up all the outlaws and savages in that once-untamed land, many frustrated do-gooders are coming to this country fully armed in hopes of encountering and dispatching our outlaws.
They have indeed accounted for a large number of brigands who have infested the Luthan hills, and the brigands have, likewise, taken their toll in gun-toting tourists.
NEXT: The big news of the day, fear mixed with sorrow for the plight of the nation's unbalanced and unshackled monarch
PRELUDE TO THE MAD KING - 4, Hexed Rex
From the pages of a long-defunct Eastern European newspaper, here's the last story that was translated for me by the college professor:
"The Lustadt Ledger"BLENTZ — Fear, both for the life of Leopold, king of Lutha, and for the lives of those with whom he may come in contact, gripped the kingdom today with news that the so-called "mad king" had escaped from Castle Blentz here.
LUTHA'S MAD KING ON THE LOOSE
--Nation in Uproar--
According to a highly placed royal spokesman, the king, 23, had been missing from his quarters for about 12 hours at press time.
Prince Peter of Blentz himself, the regent who rules in place of the incapacitated king, was quoted as saying Leopold is "a dangerous maniac." He promised a handsome reward for his safe return.
Placards with descriptions of the missing monarch are to be placed today on trees, fence posts and at all rural post offices.
For most Luthans, the last glimpse of their king was when he, up to the age of 13, and a handsome lad, had ridden out nearly every morning from the palace with his father, the old king, for a canter across the broad plain that lies at the foot of the mountains near Lustadt.
The Rubinroth family has held onto the royal throne with an unbroken line which stretches back 300 years.
The madness overtook the youthful king coincidental with his father's death.
It has been speculated that his father's death was too much for the lad and the madness was a direct outgrowth of his grief.
Said a palace spokesman, "We have always hoped that God, in his infinite mercy, shall see fit to restore to us in full mental vigor our beloved monarch."
Making the sudden disappearance even more tragic was the news that a Dr. Stein, a specialist in his field, had just arrived at the palace and hopes were high that he could resolve the king's situation once and for all.
So that's what I found. I tell you, it got me excited -- so excited that I sat down and read "The Mad King" all over again.
And, chapter by chapter, I will be sharing a summary of the story, along with my occasional comments, here in ERBzine.
NEXT: "The Mad King," Part 1, Chapter I, A Runaway Horse.
On-going Mad King comic strip by Martin Gately, script;
Enrique Alcatena, artist, and Josh Aitken, letters,
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THE MAD KING SUMMARY AND COMMENTS
By John Martin
ERBzine 6787: INTRO and CONTENTS
BK I: CHAPTERS 1-6
BK I CHAPTERS 7-12
BK II: CHAPTERS 1-8
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