A Tale Of Two Tales

If a Tarzan chronologist lets down his guard for one moment, he may loose the true trail of knowledge and find himself following a false trail of knowledge which has been craftily lain by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the trickster.  One example of this stray path can be found when Tarzan rescues D-Arnot from Mbonga's village.  Pay attention to the facts given in the following two accounts.

In chapter 20, Burroughs describes the events that occur just after Tarzan rescues Jane from his foster brother, Terkoz.  In short, the ape man carries Jane into the jungle where they spend from around twelve noon to nearly sunset the following day together.  "So it was nearly sunset when they came to the clearing, and Tarzan, dropping to the ground beside a great tree, parted the tall jungle grass and pointed out the little cabin to her."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

At this point Tarzan hears the distant clash between the French sailors and Mbonga's warriors.  Instantly the ape man's sharp brain puts two and two together and he rapidly sets out for Mbonga's village.  Once there the jungle lord single handedly rescues the Frenchman from the cannibals.  "He (D'Arnot) felt himself lifted from the ground.  There was a sensation of flying, and then he lost consciousness."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  With this chapter 21 ends.

Chapter 22, opens with the French sailors at dawn the morning after Mbonga's warrior's ambush.  Burroughs relates the sailors retreat back to the Greystoke's cabin where they arrived by late afternoon.  Early the following morning the French sailors, now enraged, set out for the hostile native village.  The Frenchman discovered the village by two o'clock that afternoon, and attacked at two thirty.  "They spared the children and those of the women whom they were not forced to kill in self-defense, but when at length they stopped, parting, blood covered and sweating, it was because there lived none to oppose them, no single warrior of all the savage village of Mbonga."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  One wonders if Tibo, and his mother, Momaya, survived the slaughter.  They are never mentioned in the series again.

The French sailors spent the night in the captured village and the next morning they set out upon the return march.  They reached the Clayton's cabin quite late.  "When the expedition returned, following their fruitless endeavor to succor, D'Arnot, Captain Durfranne was anxious to stream away as quickly as possible, and all save Jane had acquiesced."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  After a heavy debate, "it was arranged that on the next day Lieutenant Charpentier was to take a detail of ten men, and one of the mutineers of the Arrow as a guide, and unearth the treasure; and that the cruiser would remain for a full week in the little harbor.  At the end of that time it was to be assumed that D'Arnot was truly dead, and that the forest man would not return while they remained.  Then the two vessels were to leave with all the party."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

The following day Captain Dufranne sent a group of men, along with Clayton, to recover Professor Porter's treasure.  Toward noon the treasure-seekers returned empty handed.  "Six days later Captain Durfranne announced that they would sail early on the morrow."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes

To help get this mass of information sorted, lets put it into some sort of chart form for a clearer understanding.

Jane And French Sailor's Account
  • Day One:  After spending the night in the jungle with Tarzan, Jane is returned to the Greystoke's cabin near sunset.  The two heard the distant clash between the French sailors and Mbonga's warriors.  Tarzan dashes off to Mbonga's village and rescues D'Arnot.
  • Day Two:  At dawn the disarrayed French sailors made their way back to the Clayton's cabin were they arrived by late afternoon.
  • Day Three:  Early the following morning the enraged Frenchmen searched for Mbonga's village which they discovered at two P.M.  Their attack on the village began at two thirty P.M. The victorious French slept in the captured village that night.
  • Day Four:  The next morning the sailors returned to the cabin by the sea where they arrived quite late.  All were for setting sail at the moment, except Jane, and she talked Captain Dufranne into waiting one more week.
  • Day Five:  Clayton and some French sailors returned to get the Porter treasure.  Day Three:  They returned by noon empty handed.
  • Day Eleven:  Six days later Captain Dufranne announced they would set sail early the following morning.
  • Day Twelve:  The French warship, and the Arrow, set sail early in the morning.

Now we can clearly see that there is a passage of twelve days between Tarzan setting out to rescue D'Arnot and the sailing of the French party.  Let's now take a look at the information provided about Tarzan's rescue of D'Arnot.

"So it was nearly sunset when they came to the clearing, and Tarzan, dropping to the ground beside a great tree, parted the tall jungle grass and pointed out the little cabin to her."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  At this point Tarzan hears the distant clash between the French sailors and Mbonga's warriors.  Knowing the cause of the distant gun shots Tarzan rapidly set out for Mbonga's village.  He knew he would be late to help those at the battlefield, but if there were any captives they would end up at the cannibal village.

Sure enough, upon his arrival at dark the ape man discovered a white captive tied to the stake and being tortured.  Waiting for the right opportunity, the jungle lord swooped among the cannibals and stole their intended prey.  "He (D'Arnot) felt himself lifted from the ground.  There was a sensation of flying, and then he lost consciousness."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  When D'Arnot regained consciousness, he found himself lying upon a bed of soft ferns and grasses beneath a little "A" shaped shelter of boughs."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  Exactly when D'Arnot wakes Burroughs does not disclose, but by the following statement we know it has to be sometime during the afternoon.  "At length he fell into a quiet slumber, nor did he awake again until afternoon."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

"The second day a fever had come and D'Arnot thought that it meant infection and he knew he would die."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  "That night he lost consciousness,"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

"For three days he was in a delirium, and Tarzan set beside him and bathed his head and hands and washed his wounds."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

"On the fourth day the fever broke as suddenly as it had come, but it left D'Arnot a shadow of his former self, and very weak."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

"Two days after, D'Arnot was tottering about the amphitheater."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  D'Arnot begins to teach Tarzan French.

"He was a most eager student, and in two more days had mastered so much French that he could speak little sentences such as;"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

"On the third day after the fever broke Tarzan wrote a message asking D'Arnot if he felt strong enough to be carried back to the cabin."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  "Mid-afternoon brought them to the clearing, and as Tarzan dropped to the earth from the branches of the last tree his heart leaped and bounced against his ribs in anticipation of seeing Jane so soon again."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  Boy was he depressed when he found that Jane and all the others had already set sail.

Just like we did with the first mass of information, let's put the facts in chart form so we can more clearly see the passage of time.


Tarzan And D'Arnot's Account
  • Day One:  Tarzan returns Jane to the Greystoke's cabin.  The ape man hears the distant clash between the French sailors and Mbonga's warriors.  The jungle lord rapidly  makes his way to Mbonga's village.  Tarzan rescues D'Arnot and the Frenchman looses consciousness.
  • Day Two: D'Arnot regained consciousness.  After awhile the Frenchman fell into a quite slumber, and reawakened that afternoon.
  • Day Three:  The second day D'Arnot developed a fever and that night he lost consciousness
  • Day Five:  On the fourth day the fever broke.
  • Day Seven:  Two days after, D'Arnot weakly began walking.  He began teaching Tarzan French.
  • Day Eight:  On the third day after D'Arnot's fever broke  the two returned to the Greystoke's cabin.  They reached the cabin by mid-afternoon to find everyone gone..

Now, if a chronologist is paying any attention at all, he will note that the Jane/Frenchmen version of the tail covers  a time span of twelve days.  Yet the Tarzan/D'Arnot version of the same event covers a time span of eight days.  How could  this be?  Is it a mistake by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author?  Is it a purposeful planned act by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the trickster, to throw a Tarzan chronologist off the true trail?  Regardless of the cause, which version should we believe?

Over the years I have read many versions of the answers provided to the questions above in various ERB fanzines.  I was amazed at how far off some of those researchers had gotten.  At one time period, it was actually the belief of many, that the French sailors had set sail earlier than agreed.  Accepting this theory automatically puts you on the wrong side of Burroughs' recorded information, however.

The discussed events actually cover a period of twelve days, as presented in the Jane/Frenchmen version.  Burroughs is very clear in presenting each days events in their occurrence.  It is quite obvious the Tarzan/D'Arnot version is four days short.  We know this because there is a brake in the action in the second version.  If you will note at chapter 21's end the statement is made, "He (D'Arnot) felt himself lifted from the ground.  There was a sensation of flying, and then he lost consciousness,"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  "When D'Arnot regained consciousness, he found himself lying upon a bed of soft ferns and grasses beneath a little "A" shaped shelter of boughs."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  This is where the missing four days went.  D'Arnot lay unconscious for four days while Tarzan faithfully cared and watched over him.

At this point in the story, Burroughs was carrying on the flow of action of two different events.  Burroughs, as many times pointed out, is notorious for skipping dull events in his writings and sticking to the action.  This is one of those examples.  There wasn't much action in four days of the ape man playing nurse maid.  So, Burroughs chose to describe the much more exciting events of the Frenchmen's assault on Mbonga's village, and leave out the dull D'Arnot healing scene.



James Michael Moody

No comments:

Post a Comment