Monday, July 14, 2008

Tarzan and The Leopard Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan and The Leopard Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Ballantine Edition 1975 Copyright 1935

"Let the white man be broken," growled the leopard man, "and on the third night let my children return that each may be made wise by eating the flesh of a white man. When you have eaten of it the white man's weapons can no longer harm you. Let the white man be broken!"

I started reading ERB in my early teens, and
I'm pretty sure I read all 24 Tarzan books. (I may have missed one or two, but I don't think so) But I am sure that I truly enjoyed reading them; and growing up I loved to escape behind the pages and become engulfed in the dark jungle, with it's mysterious adventures.

The majority of true ERB devotees believe that after the first 8 0r 10 Tarzan books, the stories became mediocre. And I am not one to doubt the judgment of people who know more about a subject than I, but my favorite always has been
"Tarzan and The Leopard Men" -number 18 in the book series.

The adventure starts with Tarzan caught in a violent storm and a large tree crashes down on him. Knocked unconscious and trapped, he awakes with his memory completely lost. He is freed by Orando, the son of a tribal chief, who believes the giant white man is his muzimo-his protective spirit. Villages are being ravish by a secret cult called the leopard men, who perform hideous things to the people, like maiming, killing and eating them. The Muzimo believes his call is to end the terror of the leopard men for the villagers, and along the way save a beautiful, young white woman and members of her safari.

I liked the idea of Tarzan having total amnesia, and using his physical powers in the mindset of some other being. ERB provides fine "dialog" between the Muzimo/Tarzan and Nkima, his simian companion in the story. This helps the reader understand our hero's state of mind while he is the Muzimo. The leopard men are
brutal and there are traitors within the safari group that bring more of the evil element into the story. Danger awaits around every jungle vine-with witch doctors, pygmies, and ferocious jungle beasts. Eventually the Muzimo receives another blow to the head and his memory returns-back to Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. Where he brings down the ritual leopard men cult and save the tormented white skinned maiden.

"She was thrown upon one of the filthy sleeping mats, an earthen jar was dragged to the side of the mat, and two young women proceeded to anoint her with the vile smelling oil. This was rubbed in by rough hands until her flesh was almost raw..."

What I liked best about this Tarzan story was there are no lost empires or ancient medieval cities that time forget, its just a jungle adventure. Even with the story's standard elements that are in every Tarzan book, it is the
amnesia bit (Tarzan being the Muzimo) that makes it special and sells it for me.

Back when these stories were first published, the general public knew very little about Africa. How wonderful it must of been to those readers decades ago, as the Tarzan stories first came out in print, and go on a jungle adventure to the mysterious unknown Dark Continent. They must of experienced ten times the awe and exhilaration that we in later generations felt. Like I said before, most ERB readers like the earlier number books, but for me I like "Tarzan and The Leopard Men."
And if I am the only one out there that calls this Tarzan adventure his favorite ... well it's nice to be standing alone once in awhile.

The white man turned to Orando. "I am not Muzimo," he said: "I am Tarzan of the Apes" He touched Nkima, "Now I remember everything."


Andrew Byers said...

Great review of a class ERB book. I agree with you, this is one of my favorite Tarzan books as well. I'd love to see you review one of the John Carter of Mars books as well.

August West said...

Thanks Andrew, I have to dig up any copies of the John Carter series and see what I got. Maybe even look for my John Norman GOR books at the same time....

Andrew Byers said...

Ah yes, the Gor series. I remember reading some of those in high school. I wonder how well they hold up? I seem to recall the first few being decent enough plametary romance novels, though the omnipresent subjugation of women got a little repetitive as the series went on. I don't think Norman is quite up to ERB's standards as a writer though. It's hard to beat the sheer fun of a Tarzan or John Carter book.

August West said...

Andrew: Yeah, John Norman (John Frederick Lange, Jr.)was a great fan of ERB, I guess you could say he spiced it up a bit on what John Carter laid down. I remember I thought "Outlaw of Gor" was fairly good and it had that great Boris Vallejo cover. John Norman is still with us and has a large following with the GOR series.

Andrew Byers said...

August: You're right about those phenomenal Boris Vallejo covers on the Gor books. In fact, the Vallejo cover on "Captive of Gor" was what first drew me to the series. I was fourteen years old and supremely embarrassed to buy it at the local mall's Waldenbooks, but I picked it up anyway. :)

Here's that cover (hopefully the link will work):

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

"Tarzan and the Leopard Men" is also my favorite- but what I remember most from it is the love story element. It reminded me a bit of Casablanca.