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Volume 7443

Dogs in the Life and Fiction of 
Edgar Rice Burroughs 
Part 3: ERB's Canine Characters
by Alan Hanson 

Dogs in the Life and Fiction of ERB
Part 3: Canine Imagery
by Alan Hanson

The two kinds of animals that Edgar Rice Burroughs owned and loved best were horses and dogs. It’s not surprising, then, that he often used his knowledge of and affection for those two domestic species in his fiction. Leaving ERB’s horses for another time, let’s conclude our survey of domestic dog references in his fiction. Following are examples of the many non-specific dog images to be found in the author’s stories.

“You’ve-Seen-It” Images

As Burroughs often used his real life experience with dogs often to create images in his fiction, he at times asked his readers to do the same. Following are some examples of his inviting the reader to recall their experiences with their own dogs to help visualize images in his stories.

It is the running creature that attracts the beast of prey. You have seen that exemplified by your own dog, which is a descendant of beasts of prey. Whatever runs he must chase.” (Tarzan and the Lion Man)

The threatening bull (Akut) continued his stiff and jerky circling of the ape-man, much after the manner that you have noted among dogs when a strange canine comes among them.” (The Beasts of Tarzan)

You have seen it demonstrated a thousand times — a dog recognizes your voice and looks at you. He knows your face and figure. There can be no doubt in his mind that it is you; but is he satisfied? No, sir — he must come up and smell you. All his other senses may be fallible; but not his sense of smell, and so he makes assurance positive by the final test.” (Tarzan the Untamed)

The eyes of the princess seldom leave thee whilst thou art at practice upon the lists and they look in thine when they rest upon her — hast ever seen a hound adoring his master?” (Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle)

Then I sat stroking the savage head and talking to the beast in the man-dog talk with which you are familiar, if you ever owned and loved a dog.” (Pellucidar)

You have seen a dog, perhaps your own dog, half recognize you by sight; but was he ever entirely satisfied until the evidence of his eyes had been tested and approved by his sensitive nostrils? And so it was with Nkima.” (Tarzan the Invincible)

Jad-bal-ja, the golden lion, had conceived a strange affection for La of Opar … He seemed to find the same pleasure in her company that a faithful dog finds in the company of his master.” (Tarzan the Invincible)

[Janai] never touched me, if she could avoid it; nor did she often look directly at my face, nor could I blame her; yet I was sure that she was becoming fond of me as one becomes fond of an ugly but faithful dog.” (Synthetic Men of Mars)

Indirect Comparisons
Burroughs also often used indirect comparisons to create images in his fiction. Many times he used the actions of dogs to help the reader visualize the actions of his human characters. Some examples:

Ordinarily Tarzan of the Apes was asleep as quickly as a dog after it curls itself upon a hearth rug before a roaring blaze.” (Jungle Tales of Tarzan)

Lajo was standing erect in the bow apparently sniffing the air, as might a hunting dog searching out a scent spoor.” (Tarzan at the Earth’s Core)

It is said that a sleeping dog awakened by the touch of a cart wheel reacts so quickly that he can escape harm by leaping aside before the wheel crushes him. I do not believe this; but I am convinced that the so-called lower animals awaken in full and complete possession of all their faculties; not slowly, faculty by faculty, as in the case with man. Thus awoke Tarzan, master of all his powers.” (Tarzan and the City of Gold)

“‘Stick to your hunting, Thak Chan,’ warned Chal Yip Xiu, ‘or you will end upon the sacrificial block or in the waters of the sacred well. Get you gone.’ Thak Chan went; he sneaked out like a dog with its tail between its legs.” (The Quest of Tarzan)

Tarzan was murdering her husband — choking the life from him — shaking him as a terrier might shake a mouse.” (The Return of Tarzan)

Professor Porter rolled over upon his stomach; gingerly he bowed his back until he resembled a huge tom cat in proximity to a yelping dog.” (Tarzan of the Apes)

‘Wait,’ his companion cautioned him, and went and whispered in his ear, whereupon [the Zani Guards] both turned and left the lobby like a couple of whipped dogs.” (Carson of Venus)

“[Gunto] sidled off, quite stiff and haughty, after the manner of a dog which meets another and is too proud to fight and too fearful to turn his back and run.” (Jungle Tales of Tarzan)

The black servants and the Waziri warriors … presented to Nu’s nostrils an unfamiliar scent — one which made the black shock upon his head stiffen as you have seen the hair upon the neck of a white man’s hound stiffen when for the first time his nose detects the odor of an Indian.” (The Eternal Lover)

(When he served in the 7th Cavalry in Arizona, Burroughs may have seen a “white man’s hound” react as described to the “odor of an Indian.” Personally, I’ve known many Native Americans, but I’ve never noticed a distinctive “odor” in their presence.)

Dog Insults
It was time for William Clayton to pay up for losing a game of life and death. In a lifeboat adrift for days at sea, Clayton, Jane Porter, and Nicholas Rokoff were near death. His drawn the fatal coin meant that Clayton’s body was to provide the sustenance needed for the others to survive. The two men lay at opposite ends of the lifeboat, however, and Rokoff lacked the strength to collect his winnings. “I cannot crawl,” he wailed. “It is too late. You have tricked me, you dirty English dog.

Apparently, during the years of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ career, calling another person a “dog” was a commonly used smear. The author used that and other canine-based insults across the wide range of his fiction, even reaching as far out as Mars and Venus. In his early settings, the author was using “dog” insults even before he wrote The Return of Tarzan, in which the above scene appears.

In the opening pages of just his second novel, The Outlaw of Torn, set in the 13th century, English King Henry III called De Vac, his master of fence, “Dog!” as he struck him a blow across the face and spit on him. Knowing he would die if he struck back, De Vac endured the insult. A Frenchman by birth, he thought the English king was “a dog; and who would die for a dog?” Instead, he conspired to make the “Plantagenet dog taste the fruits of his own tyranny.” While De Vac quietly plotted revenge against Henry, the king raged over the crimes of the Outlaw of Torn. “Let your men take the dog,” he ordered, declaring, “hang the dog.

In contemporary times, the ERB characters who hurled the “dog” insult most often were Arabs. Some examples: In The Lad and the Lion, an Arab thought the “Lad” (Aziz) “was doubtless a Nasrâny — dog of an unbeliever.” And in Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, the Arab chief, Ibn Jad plotted to have the American Stimbol kill Tarzan. “Thus we shall be rid of two unbelieving dogs,” he hoped. Then, in Tarzan the Invincible, Sheikh Raghunath Jafar referred to Russian Peter Zveri as a “dog of a Nasrâny.” Finally, in The Quest of Tarzan, when the villainous Abdullah heard the caged Tarzan talk to a fellow captive, the surprised Arab declared, “The dog of an Engleys speaks!” There are many other examples to be found in Burroughs’ fiction of Arabs besmirching Christians with canine insults.

Though not as often in ERB’s fiction, Europeans at times returned the insult in kind to Arabs. In The Son of Tarzan, French Captain Armand Jacot faced off with Sheik Amor ben Khatour. “Take this black dog back to his people,” the Frenchman ordered. In Tarzan the Invincible, Peter Zveri returned Raghunath Jafar’s insult when he told one of his men, “Don’t mention that dog to me.” And in The Quest of Tarzan, the scoundrel Krause was referring to the Arab, Abdullah, when he said, “We sail in three days, whether that Arab dog is back or not.

Earlier, a reference was made to a Burroughs narrative statement in The Eternal Lover that the neck of a white man’s hound would “stiffen when for the first time his nose detects the odor of an Indian.” In Apache Devil, ERB showed an Indian could be equally disparaging of white men. “This firewater of the white-eyed men is poison,” declared Shoz-Dijiji. “To drink it is the madness of a fool, but even worse is the drinking of it in friendship with the white-eyed dogs.”

Tarzan was also labeled a “dog” at least a half dozen times. In The Return of Tarzan, an Arab trying to pick a fight with Tarzan, said, “Besides being a dog yourself, you are the son of one, and your grandmother is a hyena.” An Arab attack on the ape-man was then initiated by cries of “Kill the unbeliever!” and “Down with the dog of a Christian!” Later in the same story, the villain Nicholas Rokoff yelled, “Get up, you dog!” before kicking the bound Tarzan in the side. In The Quest of Tarzan, Abdullah Abu Néjm said of the caged Tarzan, “He is less than a dog,” and later adding, “The dog has not eaten for two days … In the jungle he eats raw meat from his kills, like a beast.” In Tarzan and the Lost Empire, the emperor Sublatus didn’t appreciate Tarzan’s attitude when the ape-man was brought before him. “Take the insolent dog away,” he ordered with a trembling voice. Once Tarzan even compared himself to a dog. Referring to Queen Nemone in Tarzan and the City of Gold, the ape-man asked his friend Gemnon, “What does she want of me? Am I to remain in this house, caged up like a pet dog, to run at the beck of a woman?

Moving off planet, dog insults were commonly flung by and at Burroughs’ Martian characters. Since the primary canine species on Barsoom was the “calot,” that term was used there as an insult in the same way “dog” was used on Earth. However, on a couple of occasions in The Gods of Mars, Barsoomians used the earthly term to insult John Carter. The first was a woman whose declaration of love was rejected by Carter. “Dog of a blasphemer! Think you that Phaidor, daughter of Matai Shang, supplicates? She commands.” The second was also a woman, one of the Black Pirate race, who was trying to start a fight. “Thurid is a noble Dator,” she said. “Let Thurid show the dog (Carter) what it means to face a real man.”

The dog insult was also used on Burroughs’ Venus world of Amtor. When Carson Napier tried to enlist in the Zani military without the proper paperwork, the recruiter responded, “What! No credentials, you mistal? You are probably a dog of a spy from Sanara.

For the sake of melodrama, Burroughs occasionally had his characters use other canine identifiers as insults. For instance, when the villainous Maenck voiced his intention to “examine the king’s mistress” in The Mad King, Barney Custer responded, “You cur! You’re going to eat that, word for word.” When Orthis led his Lunar army in an invasion of Earth, he faced off with Julian 5th. “You damned cur,” the invader cried. “All my life you have stolen everything from me.” And in The Efficiency Expert, Elizabeth Compton called Jimmy Torrance a “despicable cur” when he threatened to expose her indiscreet social activity to her father.

Burroughs used one other related dog insult. Barney Custer addressed one to King Leopold when the monarch called him an “ingrate.” Barney replied, “You have the effrontery to call me an ingrate? You miserable puppy.” In The Man-eater, Judge Sperry used the same insult when announcing his personal punishment for the fraudster Scott Taylor. “I intend to kick this miserable little puppy into the road,” he declared. Then, in Tarzan’s Quest, the snobbish Alexis Sborov called his hired servant an “impertinent puppy.”

Dog Owners
Among the most prominent dog owners in Burroughs’ fiction were John Carter (Woola), David Innes (Raja and Ranee), Bowen Tyler (Nobs), and O-aa (Rahna). ERB’s paramount dog owner, however, was Tarzan. He not only owned two of the nine dogs named by the author — Terkoz and Za — but his African estate was also home to at least a dozen other dogs. In The Son of Tarzan, the author mentions “gaunt wolf hounds, a huge great Dane, a nimble-footed collie and a number of yapping, quarrelsome fox terriers” gathered around the Greystoke bungalow. Years later, Tarzan’s dogs made a cameo appearance in Tarzan and the Ant Men. When everyone at Tarzan’s African home thought the badly injured Esteban Miranda was Tarzan, only the ape-man’s dogs knew he was an imposter. “The dogs that had once loved Lord Greystoke slunk from this brainless creature.

Although Tarzan obviously loved his dogs, he did not hesitate to kill someone else’s dog when necessary. One ill-fated canine crossed the ape-man’s path in Tarzan the Untamed. Unfortunately for that dog, he interfered with Tarzan’s search for the German soldiers whom he believed had killed his wife.

[Tarzan] moved stealthily from building to building until at last he was discovered by a large dog in the rear of one of the bungalows. The brute came slowly toward him, growling Tarzan stood motionless beside a tree. He could see a light in the bungalow and uniformed men moving about and he hoped that the dog would not bark. He did not; but he growled more savagely and, just at the moment that the rear door of the bungalow opened and a man stepped out, the animal charged.

He was a large dog, as large as Dango, the hyena, and he charged with all the vicious impetuosity of Numa, the lion. As he came Tarzan knelt and the dog shot through the air for his throat; but he was dealing with no man now and he found his quickness more than matched by the quickness of the Tarmangani. His teeth never reached the soft flesh — strong fingers, fingers of steel, seized his neck. He voiced a single startled yelp and clawed at the naked breast before him with his talons; but he was powerless. The mighty fingers closed upon his throat; the man rose, snapped the clawing body once, and cast it aside. At the same time a voice from the open bungalow door called: ‘Simba!’

Another owner of multiple dogs appeared in Burroughs’ Western novel, The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County. Early in the story, a group of dude ranch guests saddled up for a backcountry adventure.

For three days the party rode deeper into a wilderness of mountains and meadows until they reached their destination, a tiny shack beside a leaping trout stream in a valley hemmed by lofty mountains, where lived Hi Bryam, the owner of four good lion dogs that the party was to use in the forthcoming hunt.

Later, Bryam conspired with the scoundrel Corey Blaine and others to kidnap the story’s lovely heroine, Kay White. The damsel was first held at Bryam’s shack, with the gang later deciding to move her to a more remote hideout. “What are you goin’ to do with the pooches, Hi?” asked one of his fellow abductors. “Leave ’em here,” Bryan responded. “They can rustle plenty grub in the hills,” he explained. “Won’t they follow us?” asked another gang member. “Not if I tell ’em to stay here,” Bryam replied. 

Arizona Deputy Sheriff Buck Mason (aka Bruce Marvel) later tracked the kidnappers to Bryam’s shack. 

As Marvel drew up before the shack he called aloud to attract attention. The dogs had already come to meet him, but outside of this there were no signs of life about the place … He dismounted; and as the dogs came to nose him, he petted the nearer of them, but all the while his eyes were on the ground; and from the trees on the hillside Bryam watched him.

Bryam fired first, but he was the one left soaking up the dirt on the ground near his shack. When a lawman arrived later, the first thing he saw was Bryam’s four dogs bristling and growling in defense of their master as his life ebbed away. When the deputy dismounted, “the hounds withdrew a short distance watching him suspiciously.” The deputy moved on, following Marvel’s trail. Bryam finally died where he had fallen, but his dogs remained loyal to him still. “Above, on ragged wings, great black birds swung in easy, majestic circles. Occasionally one of them would swoop lower; but four bristling, growling hounds kept them at bay.”

In the Tarzan stories, African native villages were home to large numbers of dogs. Burroughs’ descriptions of native villages almost always contain references to dogs. Below are just a few of those depictions.

A single stroke of Doc’s knife severed the rope and the chain clattered to the ground — an occurrence that almost proved their undoing for the noise startled a nearby cur into a frenzy of barking that was quickly taken up by every other dog in the village, until it seemed that a thousand dogs were yapping at the top of their lungs.” (The Tarzan Twins)

A score of native curs attracted by the yelping of their mate and the yells and shouts of their masters had closed in upon the fleeing white man (Korak), snapping at his legs and at last succeeding in tripping him. As he went down the hyena-like brutes were upon him, and as he struggled to his feet the blacks closed in … Weighed down as he was by dogs and warriors he still managed to struggle to his feet.” (The Son of Tarzan)

“As they palavered the ape-man’s keen eyes took in every detail of the village and its people, and presently they alighted upon a large bitch among the numerous curs that overran the huts and the street.” (Tarzan and the Golden Lion)

Among the close massed fighters, excited curs ran yelping and barking … Slowly Tarzan was gaining ground toward one of the coveted walls of the village where, as he stepped quickly backward to avoid a blow, he stumbled over a yapping cur and went down beneath a dozen men.” (Tarzan Triumphant)

Breeds of Dogs
In his stories, Edgar Rice Burroughs included references to various breeds of dogs. In The Gods of Mars, he noted that the plant men in the Valley Dor “sprang with the agility of greyhounds,” and in Tarzan the Untamed, the ape-man so thoroughly tamed a lion, “that he was presently pacing along at the ape-man’s side like some huge St. Bernard.” In The Return of Tarzan, the ape-man’s fingers clung to the throat of an enemy “with the grim tenacity of a bulldog.” Burroughs described a Martian rat (an ulsio) in The Chessmen of Mars as being “in size and weight comparable to a large Airedale terrier.”

Canine History
In his fiction, Burroughs commented on the history of domestic dogs. In Pellucidar, the author had David Innes speculate on how dogs first were tamed. 

Perry argues that wild dogs were first domesticated for hunting purposes; but I do not agree with him. I believe that if their domestication were not purely the result of an accident, as, for example, my taming of the hyaenodon (Raja), it came about through the desire of tribes who had previously domesticated flocks and herds to have some strong, ferocious beast to guard their roaming property. However, I lean rather more strongly to the theory of accident.

Burroughs made the domestication of dogs a theme in his trilogy, The Moon Maid. In part two, The Moon Men, Burroughs created a new and terrible breed of dog as part of his gloomy vision of life in the environs of Chicago in the early twenty-second century. Julian 9th described this new, wild canine strain that the collapse of American society had allowed to arise through the uncontrolled cross-breeding of once domesticated dogs.

After supper father and I went out and milked the goats and saw that the sheds were secured for the night against the dogs. It seemed as though they became more numerous and more bold each year. They ran in packs where there were only individuals when I was a little boy and it was scarce safe for a grown man to travel an unfrequented locality at night. We were not permitted to have firearms in our possession, nor even bows and arrows, so we could not exterminate them and they seemed to realize our weakness, coming close in among the houses and pens at night.

They were large brutes — fearless and powerful. There was one pack more formidable than the others which father said appeared to carry a strong strain of collie and Airedale blood — the members of this pack were large, cunning and ferocious and were becoming a terror to the city — we called them Hellhounds.”

However, over 300 years later, in part three of the trilogy, the Americans had reestablished their society and culture in a pattern similar to that of the Plains Indians of centuries past and had driven the Kalkar invaders to the far western edge of the continent. They would not have been able to do so, though, without first re-domesticating some fierce breeds of dogs. Together, the 50 American clans had two thousand “shaggy hounds” trained to protect the Americans’ great herds from attack by coyotes, wolves, and hellhounds. “If the brutes knew their own strength, they could, I believe, exterminate us,” noted Julian 20th of the wild dogs, “for their numbers are appalling; but they hold us in great fear because we have waged relentless warfare against them for hundreds of years.” Working in groups of 50, their trained hounds guarded the herds that accompanied the clans when they were on the move. The Americans could never have pushed the Kalkars across the continent without the help of their dog packs.

In The Moon Maid, Burroughs showed how essential domesticated dogs are for the existence of society as a whole. However, the importance of one dog to one man was just as important. David Innes learned that lesson in Pellucidar after he tamed the wolf dog that he named Raja.

And so we walked on together toward Thuria — I talking to the beast at my side, and he seeming to enjoy my company no less than I enjoyed his. If you don’t think it’s lonesome wandering all by yourself through savage, unknown Pellucidar, why, just try it, and you will not wonder that I was glad of the company of this first dog — the living replica of the fierce and now extinct hyaenodon of the outer crust that hunted in savage packs the great elk across the snows of southern France, in the days when the mastodon roamed at will over the broad continent of which the British Isles were then a part, and perchance left his footprints and his bones in the sands of Atlantis as well.

—the end—

From Our ERBzine ARCHIVE
and Online Bibliography: C.H.A.S.E.R.
A Collector's Hypertexted and Annotated Storehouse of Encyclopedic Resources
A Princess of Mars
The Gods of Mars
The Warlord of Mars
The Son of Tarzan
The Eternal Lover
The Land That Time Forgot
Tarzan and the Golden Lion
The Moon Maid
Savage Pellucidar

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