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Volume 7193

A Heroine’s Great Fear
Those Black Harems to the North
by Alan Hanson

A Heroine’s Great Fear
Those Black Harems to the North
by Alan Hanson
In Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, Jane Clayton found herself a captive of the Arab raider, Achmet Zek, who planned to exact a ransom from her husband, Lord Greystoke. Jane, however, was horrified by the possibility of another fate at the hands of the evil Arab.

“She had heard of many women, among whom were white women, who had been sold by outlaws such as Achmet Zek into the slavery of black harems.”

This shadowy and horrifying threat of a heroine being delivered into the clutches of a black sultan became a recurring image in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan stories. Actually, it was outside of the Tarzan series that Burroughs first raised this image of ultimate heroine doom. In The Lad and the Lion, written in 1914, the beautiful young Arab girl Nakhla was captured by the Arab marauder Sidi-El-Seghir, who, it was said, planned to sell her into “the harem of some brutal black sultan of the far south.”

Over the next 26 years, Burroughs continued to conjure up and play with this dreaded fate for white women in Central Africa. In 12 different Tarzan stories, a total of 15 white heroines found themselves captured and destined for the harems of Muslim potentates. All but one of them were saved before falling into the clutches of a brutish sultan. 

The Image

On the surface, the situation was always a simple one. A band of villains, usually Arabs, abducted a lovely young and virtuous white woman somewhere within the borders of Tarzan’s domain. A trek north began with the fair captive well aware of her captors’ intention to sell her into the harem of some cruel black sultan. Originally, the Arab leader might have considered ransom or satisfying his own dark lust, but eventually the fortune to be made by selling an especially beautiful white woman overcame other thoughts and the band headed north.

What made this particular fate considerably more dangerous than other troublesome situations that Burroughs used with his female characters was its feeling of finality. If the captive women were completely removed from Tarzan’s country, there would be no hope of rescue. A heroine abducted and stashed in some native village or carried off to some lost city was certainly in danger, but at least she was within Tarzan’s realm, and he could be counted on eventually to find and rescue her. Should, however, the fair captive be carried out of Tarzan’s country, the feeling was that she would disappear forever in that shadowy Muslim world where neither Tarzan nor any civilized force exercised influence. When Sheik Ibn Aswad was fleeing north with the captured Victoria Custer in The Eternal Lover, Burroughs wrote that they “disappeared from the sight of men at the border of the savage land of the Waziri nor was there any other than her captors to know the devious route that they followed to gain the country north of Uziri.” In such situations, therefore, it was crucial that the ape-man, or some other hero, act quickly to save the lady while she was still within the boundaries of Tarzan’s country.

The possibility of being sold into a harem in the north, then, was the worst fate a Burroughs heroine could face. If carried out, it was a fate that was final, devoid of hope for rescue. Ahead would be years of sexual degradation at the hands of a particularly repulsive man of the black race. The image is not particularly appealing now, but in the times Burroughs was writing, it truly must have been considered, by both the women and the men who loved them, a “fate worse than death.”

The Traders in Flesh

Certainly, the black sultans who were the destined owners of these white women were painted as disgusting figures, but they were not so evil in Burroughs’ eyes as the men who marketed in white women. These traders in human flesh were usually, but not always, Arabs. Certainly, Burroughs did not present a balanced view of Arabs. His stories created a decidedly negative image of these people and their Islamic beliefs. In fairness to Burroughs, he did make it clear that those desert dwellers who invaded Tarzan’s country and stole white women were not typical Arabs. In The Lad and the Lion, he described these raiders as, “the lawless, vicious marauders of the desert — outlawed murderers and criminals.”

These criminal invaders raided south of their own country to murder and take by force whatever treasure they could find. Then they fled back to the desert country to sell their plunder. If a white woman were among the take, so much the better, for in the slave trade of the time, a beautiful white woman, both rare and desirable, commanded a high price. Among these Arab marauders was Achmet Zek, a notorious cutthroat and hater of all Europeans. He burned Tarzan’s home and kidnapped his wife. There was Ibn Aswad, who sought to settle an old score with Tarzan by abducting his beautiful houseguest from Nebraska. Ibn Jad came south to find a fabled lost treasure city and wound up carrying away an even greater treasure, the city’s princess. A lust for gold and a hatred of all Christians motivated Abu Batn. He joined his band with a communist safari to get a share of Oparian gold and eventually plotted to capture and sell two white women in the north. Atewy, “a swarthy man with evil eyes,” engineered the abduction of two Hollywood actresses in Tarzan and the Lion Man. All were motivated by greed and recognized the exceptional value of a beautiful, fair-skinned woman in the Arab slave trade.

As mentioned, in the Tarzan stories, traders in white women were not always Arabs. Occasionally, natives abducted a woman with the intention of selling her into slavery. For instance, in Tarzan the Untamed, Usanga, a sergeant in a German native regiment, got his hands on Bertha Kircher and considered selling her to some black sultan. Also, Luvini, a native in Flora Hawkes’ safari in Tarzan and the Golden Lion, plotted to take Flora prisoner and sell her in the north. Presumably, when a villainous native had a white woman for sale, he would sell her to an Arab band, which would then carry the goods north to market.

The Goods

The Arab bands of marauders who invaded Tarzan’s country were not simply looking for beautiful white women to abduct. In fact, most of their profits came from abducting men, mostly natives, and selling them as slaves in the Arab territories. When Aziz, the protagonist of The Lad and the Lion, was captured by Arab outlaws, their leader had plans for him, according to Burroughs. “Sidi-El-Seghir preferred to spare the prisoner’s life for a while. Perchance he anticipated a price for so powerfully built a slave at the court of a lazy black sultan.”

Lovely white women, then, were not the backbone of the slave trade. In fact, it was not often that one fell into the clutches of Arab raiders. Because such goods were rare, however, they commanded the highest prices at the marketplace. And while Burroughs rarely threatened his heroes with being sold into slavery, he often placed his white heroines in such peril.

Jane Clayton was the first white woman in the Tarzan stories to be captured by Arab slavers. While her husband was away gathering gold in Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, Achmet Zek’s cutthroats swooped down upon the Greystoke bungalow, killed the Waziri guards, and carried Jane away. His original intention was to collect a ransom from Tarzan, but he had to give up that plan. “It is the only way, now,” he concluded. “She should bring a good price.

Jane was not the only American woman destined for slavery in the north. Rhonda Terry and Naomi Madison were two actresses who came to Central Africa with an American motion picture company in Tarzan and the Lion Man. One night the Arab band hired to accompany the safari abducted Rhonda and Naomi. Atewy, one of the Arab lieutenants, remarked, “These girls are not ill-favored. They will bring money at several places of which I know.” When Victoria Custer left Nebraska in The Eternal Lover to visit Lord Greystoke in Africa, she never could have imagined that she might be sold into slavery. But the devious Sheik Ibn Aswad captured her. The vengeful Arab recalled an incident in the past when the Englishman had dealt harshly with the ivory and slave caravan of a fellow Arab raider. He laughed when Victoria promised him a healthy ransom from her friends.

You will bring a good price at the court of the sultan of Fulad, north of Tagwara, and for the rest I shall have partly settled the score which I have against the Englishman.

Several European women also found themselves destined for the sex slave block. As mentioned earlier, Bertha Kircher (actually Patricia Canby, a British spy) was taken captive by the native Usanga in Tarzan the Untamed. Bertha later explained, “He and his men were all attached to a German native regiment. They brought me along with them when they deserted, either with the intention of holding me for ransom or selling me into the harem of one of the black sultans of the north.” Bertha’s fellow Englishwoman, Flora Hawkes, organized a safari to raid the treasure vaults of Opar in Tarzan and the Golden Lion. She would have been bound for a Muslim harem had not a native girl warned her of the headman’s plot.

Luvini, after the Arabs are killed, has given orders that the black boys kill all the white men and take you prisoner. He intends either to keep you for himself or to sell you in the north for a great sum of money.

Lady Barbara Collis was yet another Englishwoman who Arab marauders tried to abduct. Near the end of Tarzan Triumphant, a shifta band planned to raid Lord Passmore’s camp and carry away Lady Barbara. (That Lord Passmore was actually Tarzan explains why the plot failed.) Magra, the dark, exotic vamp in Tarzan and the Forbidden City, was only half English (her mother was the daughter of an Indian maharaja), but she, too, was the victim of a plot when the natives of her safari bound for the lost city of Ashair rebelled. In the same story, Helen Gregory was kidnapped by the evil Easterner, Atan Thome. He took her to barter with her father, but if that didn’t work, he was prepared to dispose of her for profit.

If he doesn’t bring the map, he’ll never see you again. I’m leaving for the interior immediately, and I shall take you with me. There are sultans there who will pay a good price for you.

One Russian girl nearly made the trip north to harem country. In Tarzan the Invincible, Zora Drinov was part of Peter Zveri’s safari to steal gold from Opar and incite a communist upheaval in Africa. Abu Batn, whose Arab band accompanied the safari, had an eye for Zora. “I have looked upon the woman, and I find her good. I know a city where she would bring many pieces of gold.”

After he abducted her, she asked him, “You mean that you are going to sell me to some black sultan?” He responded, “I would not put it that way. Rather let us say that I am making a present to a great and good friend and saving you from certain death in the jungle should we depart without you.”

It was not only American and European white women, however, who were in danger of being abducted and sold as slaves. As everyone knows, in Tarzan’s Africa there were a number of lost cities filled with people of distant European ancestry. Arab slave raiders also coveted the women of these indigenous white races. Foremost among them, of course, was La of Opar. In Tarzan the Invincible, the outlaw Abu Batn fairly trembled at the sight of La. “This new one will bring such as has never been paid before,” he predicted. “Her taming we may leave to him who will pay many pieces of gold for her.”

Other lost civilization women who fell into the hands of Arab raiders included Jezebel, a golden-haired beauty of the tribe of Abraham in Tarzan Triumphant. The same shifta band that was after Lady Barbara Collis planned to abduct Jezebel at the same time. Then there was Guinalda, the treasured princess of the treasure city of Nimmr in Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. Her beauty made the lust for gold well up in the evil heart of Ibn Jad.

Yes, a woman of such wondrous beauty that in the north she alone would bring a price that would make Ibn Jad rich beyond dreams. I shall hasten from the valley with this rich treasure that we now have, not the least of which is the woman. Billah! In the north she will fetch the ransom of a dozen sheykh.

And finally, there was Gonfala, queen of the diamond cult of Kaji. She was never actually abducted, but the thought of doing so did cross the mind of a native chief, whose village Gonfala and her companions passed through in Tarzan the Magnificent.

He had been thinking about her. He was also thinking of a black sultan to the east to whom she might be sold, but he put this thought from him. He did not wish any trouble with the white men.”

Here they are, then, the 15 white female characters that Burroughs put in varying degrees of peril of being abducted and sold into the harems of black sultans — Nakhla, Victoria Custer, Jane Clayton, Bertha Kircher, Flora Hawkes, Guinalda, Zora Drinov, La, Lady Barbara Collis, Jezebel, Rhonda Terry, Naomi Madison, Helen Gregory, Magra, and Gonfala. Oh yes, there was one more, the one who actually did experience life in the harem of a black sultan. More on her later.

The Black Sultans

Just who were these black sultans, these ominous creatures whose very name struck fear into the hearts of white women and the men who loved them? For starters, sultan is a title of honor given to Muslim rulers and princes. It was first used in the Islamic world around 900 A.D. Islam came to Africa following the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632 A.D., when Muslims began spreading their religion across the whole of northern Africa through a series of jihads, or holy wars. 

Originally, the title of sultan was given to men who were stern and mighty and ruled large areas. For instance, the ruler of old Turkey was the greatest sultan of all. In fact, if any of Burroughs’ white heroines had been sold in the slave markets of the north, there was a chance they would have wound up in Turkey. When Jane Clayton was contemplating her own fate as an Arab captive in Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, she remembered hearing not only that some white women were sold into African black harems, but also that a few others were “taken farther north into the almost equally hideous existence of some Turkish seraglio.”

The original Seraglio was the ancient home of the Turkish sultan in Constantinople. The palace, isolated by its location on a narrow strip of land sticking out into the sea, was surrounded by walls that enclosed public buildings, temples, and the quarters of the sultan’s harem. In the above passage, Burroughs used seraglio as a common noun, probably referring to the palaces of lesser sultans who maintained harems in early 20th century Turkey. No doubt, only an exceptionally beautiful white woman captured in Sub-Saharan Africa would have bypassed the harems of North Africa to be sold into a Turkish harem. Of all the Burroughs women who faced being sold into slavery, perhaps La would have been most worthy of such an “honor.

It was in Africa, though, where most all white women abducted in Tarzan’s country would have been placed in harems. In Burroughs’ stories, these black sultans were usually nebulous figures without names or substance, but in one instance Burroughs threatened to send Jane Clayton into the harem of a real world leader. In Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, Abdul Mourak commanded a detachment of Abyssinian soldiers sent south to punish Achmet Zek’s Arab raiders. When he failed in that mission, he sought some way to appease his master.

He looked for degradation and possible death in punishment for his failures and his misfortunes when he should have returned to his native land and made his report to Menelek; but an acceptable gift might temper the wrath of the emperor, and surely this fair flower of another race should be gratefully received by the black ruler.

Menelek, the father of modern Ethiopia, became the emperor of what Burroughs called Abyssinia in 1889. His army had earlier defeated the Italians at the battle of Aduwa. So, free of any European power to object, he clearly could have kept white women in his palace. If Menelek did maintain a collection of women, however, it could not properly have been called a harem, per se, since he was a Christian, not a Muslim. (Incidentally, Menelek died in 1913, two years before Burroughs wrote Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. Therefore, either Burroughs was not paying close enough attention to current events at the time or he intended that this story take place prior to Menelek’s death.)

However, when Burroughs was writing in the early part of the 20th century, there were many wealthy sultans who lacked the territorial power of a prince or ruler, such as Menelek. Thus, when Burroughs mentioned black sultans, he was probably referring to Muslims who had accumulated vast fortunes in some manner and whose wealth had allowed them to gain control over some small area of Northern Africa’s vast interior. Only once did Burroughs give a name to one of these minor sultans. In The Eternal Lover, Sheik Ibn Aswad told Victoria Custer, “You will bring a good price at the court of the sultan of Fulad, north of Tagwara.” Other than that, Burroughs left his black sultans nameless, ominous figures who lived only the fears of the white women bound for their harems. However, Burroughs did occasionally provide some clues about where they lived.

First, he made it clear many times that most of these sultans lived north of Tarzan’s country. Lord Greystoke’s East Africa estate was located in the area that is today western Kenya. From there, the country in which he exercised control stretched west into the interior and an uncertain distance both north and south. To the north, which is the main area of concern here, Tarzan’s hegemony could not have extended far, if at all, into present day Ethiopia. When Tarzan visited Abyssinia in Tarzan and the City of Gold, the author noted that the ape-man was “far from his own stamping grounds.” Therefore, the northern border of Tarzan’s country, and thus the southern border of the land of black sultans, probably ran along the southern border of present day Ethiopia and the northern borders of Kenya, Uganda, and The Central Africa Republic.

The eastern border of the land black sultans controlled was probably deep in the interior to the west of Abyssinia. It stands to reason that a sultan bold enough to keep white women in his harem probably lived beyond the reach of European control. In the early decades of the twentieth century, such a place would surely have been in the interior, far from the African coastline.

Burroughs’ first use of the black sultan image in The Lad and the Lion helps to establish the northern border of their country. Nakhla, as stated earlier, faced a “horrid fate that would end in the harem of some brutal black sultan of the far south.” Nakhla’s people ranged the vast Sahara Desert of northern Africa. It appears, then, that the black sultans in question could be found south of Arab country, on the southern fringe of the great Sahara. Supporting this conclusion is the obvious fact that Burroughs’ sultans were black, whereas the Arab tribes of the Sahara are generally Caucasian. The sultans, then, must have resided in that band running east and west through lower northern Africa where the Sahara Desert blends into tropical black Africa. In was in this area that the early Muslims sought to expand their religion with moderate success. It took hold among some black Africans, but could not shake the animistic beliefs of others. It is in this area, then, that Burroughs’ black sultans probably lived. On today’s map, it would include the southern parts of the countries of Sudan, Chad, Niger, and even as far west as Mali. In fact, Mali is the key to explain how those white women captured in Tarzan’s country would have been transported to market, and from there into harems.

It is known that some white women captured in the south were delivered directly into the harem of a particular black sultan to the north. As noted earlier, in Tarzan the Invincible, Abu Batn intended to present Zora Drinov to a “great and good friend,” and Victoria Custer was bound directly for the harem of the sultan of Fulad. However, most of the Arab marauders who abducted white women in Tarzan’s country desired the greatest return possible for their goods. That meant selling to the highest bidder among the agents of several sultans.

Of course, capturing the women and getting them to market were the most important steps in the Arab slave trade. Once they had abducted a white woman, the first order of business was to get her out of Tarzan’s country. Seldom did an Arab band dally before heading for the border once it had in hand so valuable a commodity. In The Son of Tarzan, Burroughs noted that once out of the land of the Uziri the Arab raiders moved “northward along the trail that connects with the great caravan routes entering the Sahara from the south.” After reaching the caravan routes, the Arabs had a choice of places to go to market their captive woman and other goods. When Atewy was plotting to abduct Naomi Madison and Rhonda Terry in Tarzan and the Lion Man, he told an accomplice, “They will bring money at several places of which I know.” In Tarzan the Invincible, Abu Batn, referring to Zora Drinov, said, “I know a city where she would bring many pieces of gold.” It was in certain cities on the fringe of the Sahara, then, that the Arab slave traders, like Abu Batn, usually took their white women to be sold discreetly to the highest bidder.

In The Son of Tarzan, Burroughs mentioned the greatest of these cities where Arab outlaws could sell their stolen goods. After trading and raiding in Tarzan’s country for a time, Arab marauders “collected their cargoes which their ships of the desert bore northward twice each year to the market at Timbuktu.”

Today Timbuktu is a small trading town in central Mali, but from the 13th to the 16th centuries it was one of the richest Muslim trading centers in Africa. Its location on the edge of the Sahara Desert made it the perfect place for exchanging goods from the desert north and those from the grasslands and forests to the south. Caravans from West and Central Africa brought gold, ivory, and slaves to Timbuktu, whose merchants traded them for the salt, cloth, copper, dates, and figs brought in by camel caravans from the Arab north. No doubt, many sultans, both black and white, came to Timbuktu to purchase male slaves and women for their harems.

Beginning in the 17th century, however, Timbuktu began to decline in population and importance as a trading center. The whole of Mali, including Timbuktu, came under the colonial control of the French beginning in 1893, and remained so during the entirety of Burroughs’ writing career. Burroughs wrote The Son of Tarzan in 1915, and his portrayal of Timbuktu even then as a key trading center for Arabs raiders perpetuated the romantic image of a city whose real importance had disappeared over a century earlier. Be that as it may, Burroughs’ mention of Timbuktu reinforces the idea that the white women stolen in Tarzan’s country were taken by their captors to various cities located across the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. There they were sold and disappeared forever behind the secluded harem walls of the highest bidders.

Life in a Harem

Each and every Burroughs heroine who faced the possibility of being sold in the north imagined a most horrid fate awaiting her there. Foremost in the lady’s imagination was the fear of sexual violation, although Burroughs seldom mentioned it openly. In Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, Mohammed Beyd sought to win Jane for himself by playing on her fears. “Do you know where this man would take you?” he asked her. “And you are willing to become the plaything of a black sultan?

This would be no simple rape. A woman actually sold into one of these harems would be subject to years of sexual abuse. But what made Jane, and the other white women who faced this fate, feel such terror was the element of race. These white women would be the sexual playthings of black sultans. Nearly every time Burroughs conjured up this image he made sure the reader knew his white heroine would be sold into the embraces of a black man. And if that weren’t enough, Burroughs painted these black sultans in particularly disgusting terms. He called them “brutal,” and in Tarzan and the Lion Man, when Rhonda Terry imagined her fate, she said, “I’m thinking of some fat, greasy, black sultan.”

How would the horrid imaginings of Rhonda Terry and the other captive white women compare to the reality of being trapped in the harem of a black sultan? For most of his writing career, Burroughs declined to answer that question. He portrayed this fate as being so horrible that he never allowed one of his heroines to actually fall into the clutches of a cruel sultan. They all were saved from that fate by either escaping on their own or being rescued by Tarzan. They all escaped — at least until Sandra Pickerall came along.

In Tarzan and the Madman, first published in 1964, Edgar Rice Burroughs for the first time allowed a white woman to enter the harem of a black sultan, and finally the reader was able to judge if the desperate fears of Burroughs’ heroines over the years were well founded. Sandra Pickerall was a Scottish girl who came to Africa on a safari with her father. She was abducted, and while being led northward deep into the mountains of Abyssinia, she imagined what awaited her.

She expected to be taken to some squalid, native village, ruled over probably by a black sultan, where she would be reviled and mistreated by perhaps a score of wives and concubines.”

Sure enough, her fears were realized. She was captured by a horde of black warriors wearing war paint and feathers and carrying spears. When Tarzan saw them, he classified them as Gallas, which they were, but living as far north as they did, in the foothills of an Abyssinian mountain range, they had been converted to Islam. Their leader, Ali, was a sultan, not a chief.

When Sandra was led into the Muslim village, it was obvious that the sultan had no palace to house his harem.

The village was a hodge-podge of grass huts, houses of sod or clay, and several constructed of native rocks. The largest of these stood in the center of the village at one side of a large plaza.”

This large house made of rock was the palace of the sultan, Ali. When Sandra was brought before him, Burroughs’ readers, at long last, got their first look at a black sultan in the flesh.

Presently a huge negro emerged from the interior with warriors marching on either side and before and behind him, a slave carrying an umbrella above his head, while another brushed flies from him with a bunch of feathers fastened to the end of a stick. The fat man was the sultan, Ali. He seated himself upon a stool, and his court gathered about and behind him.

After the sight of Ali heightened her fears of what was to come, a desperate Sandra sought some way of freeing herself from her captor. First, she promised her father would pay a ransom of gold. Ali laughed. “I have more gold than I know what to do with,” he said. Then Sandra threatened him with retribution if he harmed her. “My people are rich and powerful,” she warned. “There are many of them. Some day they will come and punish you, if you do not let us go.”

Ali’s response showed the attitude that must have been shared by most black sultans at that time. Because he lived in the remote interior, he felt he was beyond the reach of European military power. “We do not fear the white man,” he declared. “They fear us. When they come, we make slaves of them. Have they ever sent soldiers against us? No.”

Directing that she not be harmed, Ali then turned Sandra over to the women of his harem, who, according to Burroughs, “would have treated Sandra with every indignity and cruelty had they not feared Ali.” It wasn’t long before Sandra learned the official status she was to have in Ali’s harem.

An old hag entered the hut snarling through yellow fangs, cursing and raging as she spread what was now common gossip in the village. Ali had proclaimed the white prisoner his new wife and had set the day for the marriage rites. The marriage was to be celebrated with a feast and orgy of drinking the following day and consummated at night. In the village, preparations for the celebration were under way. Food and beer were being prepared; and the terrified bride was being instructed as to her part in the rites.

It was one thing for Burroughs to bring a heroine to the brink of such a union, but, of course, he could not allow the consummation of this marriage. Tarzan engineered an attack on the Muslim village that saved Sandra. Still, in throwing Sandra Pickerall, if only momentarily, into the clutches of a black sultan, Burroughs confirmed all the fears his other heroines had felt over the years. The Muslims had no fear of the white man’s power. The sultan himself was as physically disgusting as they all imagined. Forced marriage and years of sexual bondage lay ahead. It was truly a fate worse than death, and it was no wonder that while captives of Arab middlemen, these white women were desperate to avoid being sold into Muslim harems.


Now, Edgar Rice Burroughs obviously only intended to put his heroines under the threat of being sold into slavery, and surely would never had let them suffer the degradations of life in a black sultan’s harem. For a moment, however, let’s imagine that none of those 16 Burroughs heroines escaped or were rescued. Instead, let’s pretend their Arab captors successfully transported them all to those Muslim cities on the southern edge of the desert, where they were then all sold to black sultans. Now let’s take this fantasy one step further. Suppose one disgustingly rich black sultan with a fetish for white women succeeded in buying all of the aforementioned Burroughs heroines for his own. Imagine for a moment, then, just what that harem would look like.

For starters, our lucky sultan would possess a bevy of amazing beauties. Jane Clayton, who would no doubt have been the eldest of the group, nevertheless was always described in glowing terms by Burroughs with her “sweet face and graceful figure” and her “delicate snowy skin.” Bertha Kircher was “very young and very feminine,” and even Tarzan noticed the “rounded beauty of her girlish form.” When he saw Guinalda, the Arab Fahd thought, “Never in his life had he seen so beautiful a woman.” She had a “face of almost heavenly beauty.” Zora Drinov was described as being “young and lithe and strong” with “beautiful, inscrutable eyes.” When the sultan gazed upon the innocent Jezebel, he would have noticed the “graceful contours of the lithe young body, the wealth of golden hair, and the exquisite face.” Helen Gregory was described as “blonde, 19, vivacious, with a carriage and a charming figure” and as being “as cool and inviting as a frosted glass.” Stanley Wood thought Gonfala, “the most bautiful woman in the world … a girl, soft and sweet, appealing.” Tall, slender and beautiful was Magra, with very black hair and handsome eastern features. Anyone looking at Victoria Custer would be struck by her “large dreamy eyes” and the “graceful lines of her slender figure.” Of course, the cream of the crop would have been La. Burroughs described her as “physically a creature of perfection,” a “pulsing, throbbing volcano of desire,” and “at once a virgin and a wanton; but always — a woman.” Imagine, then, the fortunate black sultan who nightly would have his choice from such a harem!

When the mist of lust cleared, though, and reality set in, it is probable that any black sultan who collected all these Burroughs heroines might not have counted himself so fortunate after all. You see, the typical Burroughs heroine not only had great beauty, but also great spirit. Oh, there were a couple of spineless ones, like Naomi Madison, but most of them were like Rhonda Terry, who declared, “The black sultan that gets me is goin’ to be out of luck.”

Any sultan who bought this group of women would surely have found possessing them far more difficult than purchasing them. In fact, a forced romantic interlude with several of them could very well have proven fatal to the average sultan. Jane Clayton, for one, proved more than once that she would fight to defend her honor. In The Beasts of Tarzan, she used a gun to knock Nicholas Rokoff unconscious when he tried to assault her. Then, in Tarzan the Untamed, she stabbed the German officer Obergatz with a spear when he tried to force his way into her tree house. She also stabbed the native Luvini to death when he tried to rape her in Tarzan and the Golden Lion. Surely, any black sultan who sought to possess Jane would have faced the same kind of stalwart resistance.

Jane wasn’t the only Burroughs heroine with the courage to defend herself. When the Midian Jobab tried to capture Lady Barbara Collis in Tarzan Triumphant, she shot him to death. Zora Drinov also killed a man in Tarzan the Invincible. Bertha Kircher even had the nerve to knock Tarzan unconscious in Tarzan the Untamed. Of all the Burroughs heroines, though, La, the most beautiful of all, would surely have been the most difficult for a black sultan to possess. When a band of Arabs tried to abduct her in Tarzan the Invincible, she stabbed two to death before they subdued her. Later, when one of Arabs, Ibn Dammuk, entered her tent to attack her, she slipped her knife between his ribs as well. Surely no sultan, not even the great Turkish Sultan himself, could have tamed this passionate queen of a lost race.

In the final analysis, then, any black sultan who purchased a fair, white flower abducted in Tarzan’s country, would have been better off to have heeded the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for; you might get it.

— the end —


From Our ERB Online Bibliography
A Collector's Hypertexted and Annotated Storehouse of Encyclopedic Resources
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar
The Lad and the Lion
The Eternal Lover
Tarzan and the Lion Man
Tarzan the Untamed
Tarzan and the Golden Lion
Tarzan and the Forbidden City
Tarzan Triumphant
Tarzan the Invincible
Tarzan Lord of the Jungle
Tarzan the Magnificent
Tarzan and the City of Gold
The Son of Tarzan
Tarzan and the Madman
The Beasts of Tarzan

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