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Volume 7184

by Alan Hanson

by Alan Hanson
As they were waiting to die in the arena of Athne, the City of Ivory, Stanley Wood came to say his farewell to Tarzan. “I do not like to say good-bye, my friend,” returned the ape-man. In Tarzan the Magnificent, Edgar Rice Burroughs followed Tarzan’s words with an observation. “If Wood had known how rare was the use by Tarzan of that term ‘my friend’ he would have been honored.” Indeed, Tarzan did not often address other humans with that term (only eight, in fact, through the course of 28 published Tarzan stories). It is understandable that Tarzan was reluctant to use the label friend, since it was not easy for him to make one. Valuing solitude and quietness, distrusting men in general, and possessing some of the timidity of the wild beast, Tarzan naturally shied away from close relationships outside of his own family. Yet, in the far recesses of the ape-man’s heart dwelt a need for human companionship, and when it surfaced and a person measured up to Tarzan’s standards, the ape-man became the loyalist of friends.

Animals Friends

Tarzan’s first and most steadfast friends were animals. In Tarzan the Magnificent, Burroughs explained, “Almost as old as Tarzan was the friendship of Tarzan and Tantor. Perhaps he had never seen this elephant before; but still, to Tarzan, he would be Tantor — the name and the friendship belonged to all elephants.” Then there was Manu, with whom Tarzan developed a relationship as early in life as he had with Tantor. In Jungle Tales of Tarzan, “He and Manu were fairly good friends, their friendship operating upon a reciprocal basis.” Of course, throughout Tarzan’s adult life, little Nkima would be a trusted, if not a dependable, companion. The ape-man’s closest single animal friend, however, was Jad-bal-ja, the Golden Lion. In the second Tarzan Twins story, Tarzan remarked, “To me Jad-bal-ja is friend and companion, so much so that sometimes I forget that he is not a man, or that I am not a lion.”

Tarzan enjoyed the companionship of his animal friends over humans because of two character traits the beasts exhibited that men lacked. The first behavior Tarzan valued among his animal friends was reticence. In Tarzan and the City of Gold, Tarzan thought of Jad-bal-ja. “The Golden Lion was sometimes an embarrassing companion when one was in contact with human beings; but he was a loyal friend and good company, for only occasionally did he break the silence.” In Pellucidar, Tarzan’s relationship with the beast-man Tar-gash was partly based on this shared value. “The friendship that had developed between Tarzan and the Sagoth,” Burroughs explained, “increased as each seemed to realize other admirable, personal qualities and characteristics in his companion, not the least of which being a common taciturnity.”

The second admirable trait that Tarzan could find only among his animal friends was simple and completely genuine behavior. Tarzan distrusted all men until they proved worthy of his confidence, but among the beasts, whether friend or enemy, he knew he would never find deception. At one point in Tarzan and “The Foreign Legion”, “He had come into the forest to be alone and get away from men. He was not antisocial; but occasionally he longed for solitude, or the restful companionship of beasts. Even the jabbering, scolding monkeys were often a welcome relief, for they were amusing. Few men were.”

Human Friendship

However, while Tarzan often needed to return to the jungle for the kind of companionship that only the beasts could offer, it was also true that from time to time he needed the company of men, for in a couple of ways they filled a need in him that animals could not. It was recognizing his need for human companionship that caused Tarzan originally to give up his kingship among the apes of Kerchak with a resolve to find other men like himself. “A little child may find companionship in many strange and simple creatures,” Burroughs noted in Tarzan of the Apes, “but to a grown man there must be some semblance of equality in intellect as the basis for agreeable consociation.” A need, then, to share his thoughts drew Tarzan toward his fellow men and helped form the groundwork for his human friendships.

Intelligence, however, was not enough to earn Tarzan’s friendship. There was one character trait that drew Tarzan quickly into friendships with those men who possessed it. In Tarzan and the Leopard Men, when Tarzan found himself helplessly bound in the forest, he knew his great ape friends, despite all their virtues, did not possess the uniquely human trait needed to save him. “Soon they would move on to some other part of the forest, as was their way, nor would any considerations of sympathy or friendship hold them. Of the former they knew little or nothing, and of the latter not sufficient to make them self-sacrificing.” Burroughs elaborated in Tarzan and the Champion. “Self-sacrificing heroism is not a common characteristic of wild beasts. It belongs almost exclusively to man, marking the more courageous among them.” Intelligence and self-sacrificing heroism — it was a combination Tarzan did not often find in humans, but when he did, the bond of friendship formed quickly.

Just a Few Friends

One of the factors that limited Tarzan’s human friends was his upbringing away from them, for it gave him an outlook on life that discouraged close relationships. “The ape-man, reared as he had been by savage beasts amid savage beasts, was slow to make friends,” Burroughs noted in Tarzan the Untamed. “Acquaintances he numbered in the hundreds; but of friends he had few.” In counting Tarzan’s friends, then, that distinction must be kept in mind. The use of the word friend in reference to another person, whether in narration by Burroughs or by Tarzan himself, in itself did not elevate that person above the level of an acquaintance. Actions, particularly deeds of self-sacrificing heroism, were required to raise a person to a higher level of esteem before the title of Tarzan’s friend truly was earned.

First impressions can be misleading, but it was seldom so with Tarzan. The initial contact between him and another person was crucial in determining their future relationship. In Tarzan’s Quest, Burroughs observed, “Seemingly imbued with many of the psychic characteristics of the wild beasts among which he had been reared, Tarzan often developed instinctive likes or dislikes for individuals on first contact; and seldom did he find it necessary to alter his decisions.” In Cathne, the City of Gold, Tarzan sized up the noble Tomos instantly. “Tarzan did not like him. His was the instinctive appraisal of the wild beasts.” That initial judgment could be positive as well, such as when Tarzan first met Stanley Wood in Tarzan the Magnificent.

[Tarzan] “was favorably impressed by the man’s personality, and he had something of the wild beast’s instinctive knowledge of basic character — if it may be called that. Perhaps it is more an intuitive feeling of trust for some and distrust of others. That is not infallible, Tarzan well knew; so he was cautious always. And in that again the beast showed in him.”

Before Tarzan would enter into a friendship, then, the man must confirm the ape-man’s initial judgment through noble actions. Only then could the bond of friendship be solidified.

Female Friends

It’s time, then, to call the roll of those Tarzan of the Apes considered his friends. In separating them from acquaintances, a close look must be taken at Tarzan’s initial judgment of them, as well as their capacity for self-sacrificing heroism.

Basically, Tarzan’s human friends can be divided into two groups — his civilized friends and those made during his travels through the lost lands of Africa. He found friends easier to make in the latter areas because, while the men of the lost cities were not quite as honorable as the beasts, most did not posses the inherent deceitfulness that Tarzan found in many civilized people. Before moving on to Tarzan’s civilized friends, then, let’s survey the friends he made among the lost societies of his native Africa.

While not exactly a lost people, the Bedouins of the Sahara desert were certainly not civilized when the ape-man was among them in The Return of Tarzan. It was there he made a friend of the rarest type — a girl. In December 1912, while mulling over possibilities for his sequel to Tarzan of the Apes, Burroughs explained in a letter to All-Story editor Thomas Metcalf, “I have a bully little Arab girl, daughter of a sheik, who is the only logical mate for a savage like Tarzan.” When The Return of Tarzan was finished, however, the Arab girl surfaced as the ape-man’s friend, not his lover. Their relationship was based on a mutual admiration for the other’s bravery and a willingness to risk one’s life for the other. First, this girl, whom Burroughs referred to as an Ouled-Nail or the dancing girl of Sidi Aissa, risked her life to warn Tarzan and then helped him escape from a café full of pursuing Arabs. Considering the girl a “faithful friend,” Tarzan returned her to her father, Sheik Kadour ben Saden, from whom she had been abducted two years earlier. Later, after evil Arabs captured Tarzan, the girl came alone at night to rescue him.

As they walked through the silent mountains under the desert moon, Tarzan marveled at the courage of the dancing girl of Sidi Aissa. “He wished that he had a sister, and that she had been like this girl. What a bully chum she would have been!” Later that night Tarzan killed el adrea, Numa, the black lion, to protect the girl, fulfilling his obligation as her friend. Tarzan later considered her father’s offer to become a member of the tribe and remain forever with them. His friendship for the girl almost caused him to do so, but Tarzan reasoned that someday she would marry one of the tribe’s warriors and their friendship would end. As he prepared to ride away, the Arab girl’s final words to him were, “I shall pray that you will return.” He never did, and this friendship, like so many others the ape-man formed, passed into memory.

Of course, Tarzan’s closest female friend was La of Opar. That their first meeting would lead to friendship seemed most unlikely. One moment La was at the point of ending Tarzan’s life with her sacrificial knife, and the next Tarzan was killing a crazed priest who was about to strangle La. The high priestess reacted to Tarzan’s act of self-sacrificing heroism with the words, “You risked your life to save mine. I may do no less for you.” Knowing the priests would tear her to pieces if they knew, La risked hiding Tarzan in the Chamber of the Dead, which allowed him later to escape Opar.

Throughout their relationship, La struggled with her passionate love for the ape-man, a love that Tarzan could not return. In Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, despite Tarzan saving her life by killing a lion in the sacrificial court, a jealous La twice more was at the point of offering him up to the Flaming God. Unable to do so, however, she cut his bonds and he saved her once more by carrying her into the jungle, away from a maddened elephant.

By the time Tarzan next saw La in Tarzan and the Golden Lion, her love for him had changed from a jealous one to a self-sacrificing one. With Tarzan again in her power, and knowing her people would not again forgive her an unwillingness to do her duty, La was forced to make a choice. “La, the woman, had realized that never again could she place in jeopardy the life of the man she loved, however hopeless she knew that love to be.” After she led Tarzan out of Opar, the ape-man understood what she had given up to protect him. “La had saved him from the fanaticism and intrigue of her people,” he realized. “She had saved him at a cost of all that was most dear to her, power and position, peace and safety. She had jeopardized her life for him, and became an exile from her own country.” This deed of great self-sacrifice forever joined together Tarzan and La in friendship.

In their last adventure together in Tarzan the Invincible, they were using the word friend in reference to each other. “I am Tarzan’s friend,” La told Wayne Colt, and the ape-man told Muviro, “It is La who concerns me most, for she is a friend.” The final recorded words Tarzan spoke to her were, “La, immutable,” and indeed she was unchangeable, particularly in the depth of her love and friendship for the ape-man. Tarzan then turned to his Waziri with the words, “Come, the queen is returning to her throne.” He restored her position in Opar and left her there, but it is difficult to accept that he never saw her again, for the bond of friendship between two people could be no stronger than that between the Lord of the Jungle and the High Priestess of Opar.

“Lost” Friends

In the wilds of Kaffa, north of his own country, Tarzan was to find another friend, a warrior from the lost city of Athne. In Tarzan and the City of Gold, the ape-man rescued a captive from a band of shiftas, and soon a friendship sprang up between Valthor, the captive, and Tarzan.

“During the brief encounter in the camp, Tarzan had noted with admiration the strength, agility, and courage of the stranger, who had aroused both his interest and his curiosity. Here, seemingly, was a man molded to the dimensions of Tarzan’s own standards, a quiet, resourceful, courageous fighting man. Radiating that intangible aura called personality, even in his silences he impressed the ape-man with a conviction that loyalty and dependability were innate characteristic of the man; so Tarzan, who ordinarily preferred to be alone, was not displeased to have the companionship of the stranger.”

For weeks the two traveled through the mountains, Valthor quietly earning the ape-man’s respect for his courage by following Tarzan’s lead across dangerous paths and up rock walls. Crossing the valley of Onthar, they were separated when floodwaters washed Tarzan downriver to captivity in the city of Cathne. Later they reunited when Valthor, then also a captive in the City of Gold, was sent unarmed into Queen Nemone’s arena to face a lion. After leaping with a knife to the arena floor and killing the lion, Tarzan turned to Valthor and said, “We meet again, my friend.” After using his influence with Nemone to get Valthor his freedom, Tarzan said farewell to his friend, who made his way homeward to Athne.

They met a third time in Tarzan the Magnificent. Sentenced to die together in the arena at Athne, they said their good-byes once again. “I wish,” said Valthor, “that you might have known my people and they you. That you should have come here to die is tragic, but the fates were against you.” Tarzan responded, “Well, my friend, at least we have seen one another again; and — we are not dead yet.” Of course, in the arena Tarzan saved his friend’s life yet again. The ape-man was obviously fond of Valthor, saving his life no less than five times. It is interesting to note that Valthor never had a chance to return the favor. Burroughs usually offered Tarzan’s companions at least one opportunity to save Tarzan’s life as a way of solidifying their friendship.

In his travels through the lost lands of Africa, Tarzan met other men and man-like creatures with whom he formed friendships of varying degrees. Among them were Ta-den and Om-at in Pal-ul-don, Komodoflorensal among the ant men, Cassius Hasta of Castrum Mare, and Gemnon and Phobeg in Cathne.

Civilized Friends

While Tarzan found it comparatively easy to make friends with men he found hidden in the dark recesses of Africa, it was not so with civilized white men, a race he considered fatally flawed by the perversity of its society. Burroughs repeated Tarzan’s general distrust of white men throughout the Tarzan stories. In Tarzan the Invincible, the author noted, “Deeply ingrained in the fiber of the ape-man was the wild beast’s suspicion of all strangers and especially of all white strangers.” He elaborated in Tarzan the Untamed. “Always was he comparing their weaknesses, their vices, their hypocrisies, and their little vanities with the open, primitive ways of his ferocious jungle mates.” Again in Tarzan the Magnificent, Tarzan is said to have “learned to suspect that every civilized man was a liar and a cheat until he had proved himself otherwise.” Still, Burroughs made it clear that in the big heart of Tarzan there was room for a mighty force — love and loyalty for his friends of the civilized world.

To be sure, Tarzan had but a few civilized friends, for there were few with whom he had much in common. In The Return of Tarzan, Burroughs explained that Tarzan “had learned to crave companionship, but it was his misfortune that most of the men he knew preferred immaculate linen and their clubs to nakedness and the jungle.”

Still, Tarzan was able to make friends of certain civilized men, but to count them as his friends he required the same characteristic of them that he required of his non-civilized friends — a capacity for self-sacrificing heroism. Some whom Tarzan called friends were Count de Coude in The Return of Tarzan, Lt. Percy Smith-Oldwick in Tarzan the Untamed, James Blake in Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, Dr. von Harben and his son Erich in Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Jason Gridley in Tarzan’s at the Earth’s Core, Wayne Colt in Tarzan the Invincible, Danny “Gunner” Patrick in Tarzan Triumphant, and Stanley Wood in Tarzan the Magnificent.

His Best Friend

Tarzan seemed particularly drawn to the rugged qualities of adventurous Americans, like Blake, Colt, Patrick, and Wood, but it is nevertheless certain that by far his best friend among civilized men was a Frenchman — Paul D’Arnot. They first met when Tarzan rescued D’Arnot from the stake in the village of Mbonga and carried the Frenchman, weak from loss of blood, into the jungle. Alone in the forest Tarzan nursed D’Arnot through a fever and back to life. In return, D’Arnot gave Tarzan what he wanted most — the means to find Jane Porter. He taught Tarzan the language and manners of civilization. He introduced him gently and slowly into the society of men, and offered the ape-man all of his resources.

“Have I not told you a dozen times that I have enough for twenty men, and that half of what I have is yours?” he asked Tarzan. “And if I gave it all to you, would it represent even the tenth part of the value I place upon your friendship, my Tarzan? Would it repay the services you did me in Africa? I do not forget, my friend, that but for you and your wondrous bravery I had died at the stake in the village of Mbonga’s cannibals.”

Amidst the great ambiguity that civilization seemed to Tarzan of the Apes, there was only one constant, and that was the friendship of Paul D’Arnot. The Frenchman ironed out Tarzan’s problem with the French police after the ape-man manhandled some of their officers in the Rue Maule incident. After a naïve Tarzan allowed himself to be caught in a compromising situation with the wife of Count de Coude, D’Arnot handled Tarzan’s interest in the ensuing duel with the count. Not the least of D’Arnot’s services to his friend was determining that Tarzan was in reality Lord Greystoke, and so Tarzan owed much of his prosperity and position in the civilized world to the French lieutenant.

In Tarzan and “The Foreign Legion”, Tarzan made the remark, “One misses the old friends, but one constantly makes new ones.” So it was with all of Tarzan’s other civilized friends. Paths crossed and friendships were made, but then Tarzan returned to his jungle and the friends returned to their cities, never to meet again. But it was not so with Paul D’Arnot, who remained Tarzan’s one life-long friend among civilized men.

At the beginning of The Beasts of Tarzan, the ape-man was in Paris, having “run across the Channel for a brief visit with his old friend.” Over 16 years later, at the end of The Son of Tarzan, while living at his townhouse in England, Tarzan “received a message from his friend of many years, D’Arnot,” then an admiral. That message led to the reunion of Meriem with her father. Even years after that, the two friends met again and shared the adventures recounted in Tarzan and the Forbidden City. In that story, Tarzan referred to D’Arnot as “my best friend,” it being the only time he ever applied that term to a human being. The ape-man had the opportunity to save D’Arnot’s life once again, this time using bow and arrow to bring down an Ashairian warrior who was about to drive his spear into D’Arnot’s back.

In The Return of Tarzan, Burroughs discussed the foundation upon which this friendship was based. “The great friendship which had sprung up between these two men whose lives and training had been so widely different had but been strengthened by association, for they were both men to whom the same high ideals of manhood, of personal courage, and of honor appealed with equal force. They could understand one another, and each could be proud of the friendship of the other.”

A Band of Brothers

Throughout most of his life, Tarzan rarely made friends, only occasionally finding an individual worthy of that title. However, in his final adventure, Tarzan and “The Foreign Legion”, the ape-man found three men, who, as individuals and as a group, measured up to his standards of friendship. “They are my friends — American aviators,” said Tarzan, referring to S/Sgt. Joe “Dat Bum” Bubonovitch, S/Sgt. Tony “Shrimp” Rosetti, and Capt. Jerry Lucas. The four men survived together when they parachuted from an American reconnaissance plane shot down over Sumatra. In the ensuing weeks of trekking across the Sumatran mountains and down to the coast, each of the Americans, by his actions, earned Tarzan’s friendship.

The ape-man respected Lucas’ leadership, especially his willingness to engage the Japanese when possible. When Lucas was shot during one of those encounters, Tarzan, thinking the American dead, pursued the fleeing Japanese soldiers. After depleting his arrows, “Tarzan unslung the rifle from across his back and emptied a clip into the broken ranks of the fleeing enemy; then he turned and swung back in the direction of the village. His American friend had been avenged.”

The other Americans also displayed the trait of self-sacrificing heroism that was so dear to Tarzan. When the ape-man was battling with a tiger on a jungle trail, the three Americans came down from their safe perches in the trees to help him. When Bubonovitch admitted later that he was scared, Tarzan responded, “But you came down just the same to help me, all of you. If you thought you might be killed doing it, that was true bravery.” Later, when Rosetti ran diagonally across the path of a charging rhino to draw it away from the others, Tarzan remarked, “That was one of the bravest things I ever saw done, sergeant.”

In Tarzan and “The Foreign Legion”, Burroughs portrayed Tarzan as more of a social creature than ever before in his Tarzan stories. The ape-man seemed finally to be at home in the company of men, even participating in long social conversation, most untypical for the laconic ape-man. Perhaps the obligation he felt then as a military officer bound him more than usual to these American flyers, with whom he shared a common enemy. However, even in this story, when Tarzan was his most sociable, Edgar Rice Burroughs reminded us that the making and keeping of friends was not basic to the fulfillment of Tarzan of the Apes. “He liked the companions whom he had left behind,” the author noted, “but notwithstanding all his contacts with men, he had never become wholly gregarious. His people were the wild things of the forest and jungle and plain.” The true friends of Tarzan surely understood this, and when he left them to return to his solitude, there was no need for regret on either side.

— the end —

From Our ERB Online Bibliography
A Collector's Hypertexted and Annotated Storehouse of Encyclopedic Resources
Tarzan the Magnificent
Jungle Tales of Tarzan
Tarzan and the City of Gold
Tarzan and “The Foreign Legion”
Tarzan of the Apes
Tarzan and the Leopard Men
Tarzan and the Champion
Tarzan the Untamed
Tarzan’s Quest
The Return of Tarzan
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar
Tarzan and the Golden Lion
Tarzan the Invincible
Tarzan and the City of Gold
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
Tarzan and the Lost Empire
Tarzan’s at the Earth’s Core
Tarzan Triumphant
The Beasts of Tarzan
The Son of Tarzan
Tarzan and the Forbidden City

Guide to the Alan Hanson Appearances in ERBzine

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