Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 15,000 Webpages in Archive
Volume 6788
Edgar Rice Burroughs'
Summary and Comments
By John Martin

PART I: Chapters 1-6

Part I: Chapter I: A Runaway Horse

Most Edgar Rice Burroughs fans can quote the opening two sentences to this novel: "All Lustadt was in an uproar. The mad king had escaped."

It is a good beginning — short, action-packed sentences that capture the reader's attention and raise questions that will be answered only by further reading: Where is Lustadt? Are the people in an uproar because they are happy, angry, or perhaps frightened? Who is the mad king? Why and how did he escape, and from where? Who was holding him prisoner, and why?

The first chapter then races through scene after scene which answers some questions while continually raising others.

The mad king had not been seen since 10 years before, when his father died and young Leopold was rushed to Castle Blentz and was said to have become insane through grief. Prince Peter of Blentz, whom the reader instinctively recognizes as a villain because he dwelt in the "grim castle" of Blentz, was named Regent to rule in Leopold's stead.

Coblich, Blentz's partner in crime, feared some of their hidden motives over the years might have come to the attention of "old Von der Tann" (Prince Ludwig) and, since he is an enemy of Blentz, we realize he must be a good guy.

Captain Ernst Maenck was summoned by the two and dispatched with the Royal Horse Guard to arrange a convenient "accident" for Von der Tann.

Meanwhile, a roadster with a greedy maw was being refilled at a gas station and its owner, Bernard (Barney) Custer, is revealed to have a full face of whiskers due to an election bet. This establishes him as a fun-loving but noble character, since only a fun-lover would make such a bet, and only a noble man would honor his debt when he lost, even in Lutha, far away from his home range of Beatrice, Nebraska, where no one would know if the beard had been shorn or not.

And what was Barney Custer doing in Lutha, the country in which the town of Lustadt is located? Well, a little bit of sport hunting and sight-seeing, but also visiting for the first time the country of his mother, Victoria, who was stolen away as a bride years before by his adventurous father.

Barney was a man of action, which we quickly discover when he encountered a beautiful woman on a runaway horse on a narrow mountain road. Barney risked all to save her, and almost gave all, with his car, the horse and himself all plunging into a ravine, but doing so in such a way that the girl herself was left sprawled, but safe, on the mountain road.

(And so briefly described it goes almost unnoticed is a paragraph that tells of an onlooker, wearing a beard much like Barney's, who briefly listened to the purring of Barney's approaching roadster, and then slunk off into the underbrush.)

Having heard reports of the escape of Lutha's mad king, and being a bit of a devil-may-care kind of guy, Barney, with a verbal wink, at last identified himself to the delivered damsel with a chapter-closer that demands the reader go on, introducing himself to the lady by saying, "I am the Mad King of Lutha."
- - - - -
1. What color is Barney Custer's roadster?
2. During the reign of Peter of Blentz, Regent of Lutha, taxes (a) doubled, (b) tripled, (c) became oppressive.
3. What language do they speak in Lutha?
Answers to follow

1. "The Mad King" originally appeared in All-Story Weekly on March 21, 1914.
A sequel, "Barney Custer of Beatrice," saw print in August of 1915. See ERBzine Pulp Bibliography
Both parts were combined into a book in 1926 under the title of "The Mad King."
2. The interior illustration for the first Ace paperback edition of "The Mad King" by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
3. Barney Custer sees danger ahead as he drives his roadster on a mountain road in Lutha. Art from a two-page panel by Mike Royer in ERBzine 0758

THE MAD KING, Part I, Chapter II: Over the Precipice
--Summary and Comments--

When Barney Custer rescued a lady from a runaway horse, he jokingly introduced himself to her as the Mad King of Lutha. Instead of hearing her chuckle, however, Barney saw a look of wonderment and concern on her face. He actually bore a striking resemblance to the king and the girl, who had not seen the king since he was taken from public view at the age of 13, believed he really was the rightful king. She called him Leopold and displayed appropriate protocol, and immediately, the situation became complicated.

Barney tried to straighten her out, but she believed he was just trying to cover his true identity by claiming that he was someone named Barney Custer.

Her insistence on believing that was so intense, and so sincere, in fact, that soon Barney Custer started believing that, if anyone was insane, it was the young lady herself. Humanitarian that he was, he became determined to help her find her way back to the asylum from which she had no doubt escaped.

However, he also couldn't help but take a bit of a fancy to her, and the reader notices that a bond was developing as they made their way through the forest, even though each thought the other was insane. In one instance, Barney had to carry the woman, who has introduced herself as Princess Emma von der Tann, across a stream, and it felt so good to have her in his arms that he engineered the stream crossing so it took longer than it otherwise would. She, on the other hand, noticed the lengths to which this insane — and yet likable — man was going to cross a simple waterway, but she liked it, as well as him.

She was guiding him to Castle Von der Tann, near the Tann River. She explained that her family had been loyal to the house of Leopold for the past 300 years. Barney, meanwhile, hoped that they were really heading toward the insane asylum, since he believed this princess and castle stuff to be part of her delusion!

But their journey was interrupted when a brigand burst from the bushes, brandishing a pistol. First, he intended to collect money. Then, he saw a chance for even more money, as he, too, "recognized" the missing Leopold in his clutches, and was not a fat reward offered for the mad king - dead or alive?

The brigand ordered Barney to reach and Barney reached, not for the sky but for the outlaw's gun and soon the two were locked in combat. Emma grabbed a rock to try to bonk the brigand on the head, but before she could hit him (or, by mistake, Barney), they both rolled over a precipice and down into a ravine.

About that time, three troopers showed up and accompanied the princess as she scrambled down the embankment to see if her new friend was okay. At first, she thought he was dead, and revealed his identity to the soldiers, who were pleased that they would be able to bring their ruler the news.

“The king is dead," the officer said and, in a reference to Peter of Blentz, added: "Long live the king.”
- - - - -
1. Until what date was Barney pledged to wait until he could shave off his beard?
2. If Barney had not been willing to grow a beard as a consequence for losing his election bet, he would have been honor-bound to do what?
3. What three colors stood out on Barney's head?
4. What color were the eyes of Emma von der Tann?
1. Barney's roadster was gray.
2. (a) Taxes doubled under the rule of Peter of Blentzdoubled.
3. Luthans spoke German

A brigand accosts Barney Custer and thinks he has gotten Leopold, the mad king of Lutha, in his clutches.
Princess Emma von der Tann sheds a tear, believing that Leopold, her king, has just been killed.
Art courtesy of Martin Gately from his on-going Mad King ERB, Inc. comic strip

THE MAD KING, Part I, Chapter III: An Angry King
--Summary and Comments--

The title of this book suggests insanity. But the word "mad" has more than one meaning, and the title of this chapter brings out the other, in the reaction of Barney Custer to the disrespect shown to his new acquaintance, Princess Emma von der Tann.

The last chapter closed with the princess thinking that Barney, who she believed to be Leopold, the mad king of Lutha, was dead. A few soldiers who happened along at the right time stood in awe at the death of a king, while Emma cradled his head in her lap, and mourned, but also took his wrists, hoping for a sign of life.
Suddenly, Barney opened his eyes and the quick-thinking Emma immediately regretted she had told the soldiers this was the king and, at the same time, attempted to keep them from discovering he was still alive.

She wanted the soldiers to leave her in the forest to mourn, but they insisted on taking the body to Peter of Blentz, along with her, since their orders were to bring back anyone found in the company of the escaped, mentally unbalanced king.

About that time, Barney fully woke up and tossed out a couple of clever one-liners. As the soldiers prepared to take him in, he tried to explain that he was not really Leopold. But, of course, that proved he was, indeed, Leopold, since only a mad king would claim not to be one.

As they rode to the Castle of Blentz, Barney began to realize that Emma might not be insane, as he previously thought, since the soldiers addressed her as "princess."

Not as respectful, though was the keeper of the castle gate, one Karl Schonau, who refered to Emma as a wench, prompting the first manifestation of the angry king, as Barney leaped from his horse and decked him. Schonau drew his sword to run Barney through, but one of the soldiers, Lieutenant Butzow, and Emma herself came to his defense.

Butzow then respectfully delivered Barney to his superior, Captain Ernest Maenck. Once again, Barney tried explaining to the captain his true identity and petitioned for the immediate release of himself and the princess. However, once again his explanation was taken for the ravings of a madman. Worse, since the true king had been kept in isolation for ten years, Maenck had never laid eyes on him. And, further, all of the palace staff — those who would have been familiar with the true king — had been replaced after his escape, to get rid of any who may have had a role in his break for freedom.

Emma didn't like the way Maenck addressed her king, and she told him so. She was aware of all the "nasty stories of Maenck's past life," too.

Maenck ordered Barney to be confined and, at the same time, insulted Emma.

Once again, this caused the angry king to surface, as Barney charged Maenck, pummeling him before Butzow pulled him off and tried to get between "the king" and the captain. In the dust-up, Maenck took a sword swipe at Barney but the American fended it off. Butzow then did something the reader may not have expected. With drawn sword, he ordered his superior officer to cease his efforts to harm the king. He had sworn an oath to protect the king of Lutha, and he intended to keep it. He hinted that he would have no choice but to slay Maenck should the king order him to do so.

Since Butzow was known as a master swordsman, Maenck wisely backed off. Barney demanded he apologize to Emma, and that, too, came grudgingly from the lips of Maenck.

However, Barney still had to go directly to jail, his prison a small apartment on an upper floor, with locked doors.
- - - - -
1. When Emma thought "the mad king" was dead, she took his wrists and did what?
A. Felt for a pulse
B. Chafed them
C. Held them to her cheek
D. Kissed them
2. What did Barney use to fend off Maenck's first sword thrust?
1. November 5 was the date when Barney would be able to shave off his beard.
2. If Barney didn't want to grow a beard, he would have had to wear a green wastebasket bonnet trimmed with red roses for six months.
3. The colors on Barney's head: Gray (eyes), brown (hair) and reddish-brown [chapter 2] or just plain red [chapter 1] (beard).
4. Emma's eyes were brown

1. The Ace paperbacks introduced many modern-day fans to "The Mad King,"
a story previously available only in rare old pulp magazines and volumes in used book stores.
2. Ernst Maenck has his eye on Emma von der Tann but she does not have her eye on him.
He sees some possibilities in Chapter III of "The Mad King" and will attempt to further his prospects in Chapter IV.
Art courtesy of Martin Gately.

THE MAD KING, Part I, Chapter IV: Barney Finds a Friend
--Summary and Comments--

After Barney was taken away, Captain Maenck made an attempt to sweet-talk Emma but she, of the noble house of Von der Tann, preferred being a prisoner in Castle Blentz to being a guest. She was led to luxurious apartments but was not locked in. She took care of that herself, throwing the bolt to keep out unwanted visitors. Despite its stateliness and comfort, the apartments were less than friendly, due to an overpowering portrait of a former princess of Blentz, who seemed to look at the intrusion of her apartment with intense disapproval.

Meanwhile, Barney was brought to his quarters and a Dr. Stein (perhaps a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein who shortened his name to avoid notoriety!) informed Barney that he needed to take medicine in order to have his insanity cured. Barney's keeper, a man named Joseph, would see to it that he took it as directed, or else he would be force-fed.

However, as soon as the doctor and the soldiers left, Joseph revealed himself to be a secret ally of Von der Tann, and he was there to help Leopold escape. Further, he revealed, the medicine was in reality Bichloride of mercury, and just one dose would kill him within a few days.

Barney said he would not escape unless Princess Emma could come along too, and as soon as Joseph learned that the princess was on the premises, he agreed. At the same time, Barney learned from Joseph that, years ago, the fathers of Emma and Leopold had betrothed them to be married.

Joseph also noticed that Barney was not wearing the Royal Ring of Lutha, and was indignant that the Blentz crew had ripped it off from him. Barney, however, said the fact that he did not possess the ring was proof that he was not the king. However, Joseph said that, to the contrary, "the fact that you have not the ring is positive proof that you are king and that they have sought to hide the fact by removing the insignia of your divine right to rule in Lutha."

The only way of fetching Emma appeared to be through busy hallways, until Barney, learning from Joseph something of the details of the castle's secret passage system, figured they could probably navigate through such passages to find a less populated way to Emma's quarters.

They took the secret passage to the upper floor, where they headed down an empty hallway to a window directly overlooking the moat and, one floor below them, the window to Emma's apartment.
Just then, Barney heard voices from the apartment below and, after listening a moment, determined that immediate action was needed. "The rope, Joseph!" he said. "And for God's sake be quick about it."
- - - - -
1. Joseph, in his thoughts, applies a certain word to Emma, and it is a word of respect. In the previous chapter, Captain Maenck applied the same word to Emma, out loud, and it was a sign of disrespect. What was the word?
2. Joseph, upon being left alone with Barney, immediately showed him a sign of respect due the king. Emma had shown the same sign at the start of Chapter 2. What was the sign?
3. How did ERB describe the face of the former Princess of Blentz as it peered out from the portrait:
(A) cruel and ruthless
(B) cold and repellent
(C) haughty and overbearing.
4. The centerpiece of the Royal Ring of Lutha was a large ruby. According to legend, from what substance was the ruby formed?
1. B. Emma chafed, or rubbed, Barney's wrists when she thought he was dead.
2. "Barney turned the first thrust of Maenck's sword with his forearm.

1. Joseph noticed that the Royal Ring of Lutha was missing from the hand of the man he thought was King Leopold. Art courtesy of Martin Gately.
2. First-day postal cover celebrating "The Mad King" with Edgar Rice Burroughs stamp alongside a Nebraska stamp
from "Greetings from America" sheet issued by the USPS in 2002 with the 37-cent rate.
The same stamp images had been issued a year earlier with a 34-cent rate.

THE MAD KING, PART I, Chapter V: The Escape
--Summary and Comments--

This chapter might better be titled "Escape and Recapture." Sometimes in the world of ERB it seems as if captives don't stay captives for long, and free men don't keep their freedom for long. The hero must always have a new challenge to overcome.

After being in her mink-lined prison for half an hour, Emma heard noises that sounded as if they were coming from behind the portrait of the austere looking Blentz Princess. Then, the portrait began to move and the one doing the moving was the sinister Captain Maenck himself.

"What would you have here?" she demanded.

"You!" he replied.

But Emma was not interested in being had, and moved to put a table between her and Maenck and then hurled a heavy, copper bowl at him, laying open the flesh on his cheek.
Enraged, Maenck chased her down and, his fingers on her throat, began shaking her as a terrier might shake a rat.

But about that time, Barney, in the room above, had secured his rope and came crashing through the window.

Maenck, a craven coward, escaped through the portrait portal. Barney slashed the portrait in an attempt to find a way through, but couldn't. He shut out the lights so they wouldn't be seen by the castle guards outside, then helped Emma onto the rope to be pulled up by Joseph. But before she ascended, the impetuous and smitten Barney told her he loved her and she, a willing participant in this whirlwind courtship, responded in kind.

As Joseph pulled her up, men — marshaled by Maenck — burst into the room and Barney hollered for Joseph to escape with Emma. Then, Barney leaped from the window, making a perfect shallow water dive into the castle moat.

Once on shore and away from the castle, Barney figured he must trust that Joseph would be successful in getting Emma away safely and he saw his own mission as heading for the Castle of Prince von der Tann to summon help. He wandered for days until he met two "evil-looking fellows."

He asked directions and the fellows pretended to help by leading Barney to his destination but, in reality, one in front of him and one behind, they had him surrounded.

Eventually, he began to realize he may have erred, and told the men he'd decided to strike off on his own. But, they informed him, while brandishing what ERB calls "wicked-looking pistols," that he was, indeed, a prisoner.

With typical American nonchalance, he said, "...on second thought, I have decided to go with you."
- - - - -
1. What did Emma do for the first half hour she was imprisoned in the castle room?
A. Read a magazine
B. Paced the floor
C. Checked out the refrigerator
D. Looked for something sharp to use as a weapon.
2. What did Peter promise Maenck in return for the capture of Leopold?
A. A baronetcy.
B. A new roadster and 50 dancing girls.
C. The chancellor's post.
D. A promotion to general of the Luthan Army.
3. In this chapter, ERB refers to pistols as "wicked-looking." How did he refer to the carbines carried by the "evil-looking men"?
A. Sinister-looking
B. Deadly-looking
C. Fear-provoking
D. Ugly-looking.
1. Both Maenck and Joseph addressed Emma as "Mistress."
2. Joseph and Emma both kissed Barney's hand
3. (B)The portrait of the former princess of Blentz was described as "cold and repellent"
4. The ruby in the royal ring was said to be made from the blood of Charlemagne

1. Barney Custer and Emma von der Tann pledged their love as he helped her escape from the castle or Peter of Blentz.
2. Emma von der Tann lets Maenck have it after he attempted to force himself upon her. Art courtesy of Martin Gately.
3. J. Allen St. John's art was used for the McClurg first editionn and Grosset & Dunlap reprints of "The Mad King" by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
ERBzine's ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. Online Encyclopedia

--Summary and Comments--

His captors led Barney through a ravine into a rock-bound, impregnable clearing, where 20 brigands warmed themselves before a fire. A big, blond giant wearing guady apparel, along with pistols and knives with fancy, decorated grips, introduced himself as Yellow Franz.

Franz had a poster describing the missing mad King Leopold and had no problem identifying Barney as the sought monarch. A young lad named Rudolph stood in awe of Barney, believing him to be the king.
Barney was placed into a shack to the accompaniment of much sarcasm and "king-baiting" from the men. But Barney laughed along with them.

Rudolph, alone with Barney, explained that he was a prisoner of Yellow Franz due to a debt his father owed. Franz frequently killed people in cold blood, the lad revealed.

Franz sent a runner to make a ransom offer to Peter of Blentz but the reply was that Peter didn't care about getting the king back alive, but would pay 100,000 marks for proof of Leopold's death. In fact, Peter — planning to have himself crowned king — had already publicly announced that the king was dead, so he needed only to make his words come true.

Since the prince was offering 100,000 marks for a dead Leopold, Barney offered 200,000 for his life, but Yellow Franz has already made his decision. He prepared to shoot Barney but first gave him a chance to pray. Barney prayed a very long prayer, and finally Franz became impatient. But just then Franz fell dead to the tune of a pistol's boom. Rudolph, with a smoking revolver, had saved the day by blasting the big bandit in the back.

The men assumed the shot was fired by Yellow Franz himself, so they didn't come running, giving Barney and Rudolph a chance to escape. For three weeks they wandered in hiding until finally Rudolph became ill from exposure.

Two brigands from Yellow Franz's band came upon them at about that time and started a gunfight, killing little Rudolph.

Barney shot the two killers and then mourned Rudolph.

Barney realized Rudolph has died in the service of the man he thought was his king and vowed that he should not have died in vain.
- - - - -
1. What precious commodities decorated the handles of Yellow Franz's pistols and knives?
A. Pearls and rubies
B. Gold and pearls
C. Silver and gold
D. Silver and pearls
2. Yellow Franz introduces himself to Barney as "Yellow Franz of...."
A. Sherwood Forest
B. The Black Mountains
C. The Red River Valley
D. The Rubinroth Hills
1. (A) For the first half hour in the castle room in which was "assigned," Emma read a magazine
2. (A) Peter of Blentz had promised Captain Maenck a baronetcy

1. The cover of a Kindle edition of "The Mad King" by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
2. Yellow Franz easily recognizes Barney Custer as King Leopold by looking at an image on a poster.
Art courtesy of Martin Gately.

More on The Mad King

On-going Mad King comic strip by Martin Gately, script; 
Enrique Alcatena, artist, and Josh Aitken, letters, 
is among several available by signing up for COMICS at ERB Inc.:

If you visit Lutha this summer, be sure to wear
your T-shirt promoting Edgar Rice Burroughs's "The Mad King." 
These shirts, and many others (three web pages full, in all) are available at:

ERBzine book publication information, e-text, other features and links:
Read the e-Text Edition: Books I and II

Off-Site References
ERBlist summary roject, Mad King
Edgardemain Mad King summary

By John Martin
ERBzine 6787: INTRO and CONTENTS
ERBzine 6788
ERBzine 6788a
ERBzine 6789
ERBzine 6789a

Visit our thousands of other sites at:
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2019 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.