The Mission

I guess as a boy I read Tarzan Of The Apes two or three times before I had started subscribing to the various ERB fanzines.  It had always been an adventure story to me, full of action, and told in such a fashion as to make the reader want to believe it as the gospel.  The fanzines, however, opened a new door in my awareness.

Suddenly, I was introduced to a bunch of Edgar Rice Burroughs experts who were pointing out inconsistencies in the Tarzan series, as well as others, and asking never thought of questions about the master's works.  Their numerous superb articles entertained me for hours on end and got me to ask questions also.

One of the questions, which is still being debated on to this day, was exactly where was the Greystoke's cabin located?  This question in turn led to,  where was the French mission located that Tarzan and D'Arnot came upon while exiting the jungle for France?  Sounds simple enough.  All we have to do is look at what Burroughs says, right?

When we look at the information provided in Tarzan Of The Apes it is quite clear Edgar Rice Burroughs is implying the Greystoke's cabin is located in Portuguese Angola.    I presented my findings in Tarzine #55 in an article titled 'The Greystoke Destination'.  Well, if Burroughs implies the Greystoke cabin is in Portugese Angola, what is the big question?

  1. If the Greystoke's cabin is in Portuguese Angola, what is a French warship doing there?
  2. In real life Portuguese Angola has no jungles coming down to the sea, nor does it have a gorilla population.
  3. If the Greystoke's cabin is located at ten degrees south latitude, as Burroughs reports, could Tarzan and D'Arnot travel far enough in one month to get to French territory to find a French mission without discovering a town before then?
Let's examine these questions one at a time.  If the Greystoke's cabin is located in Portuguese Angola, what is a  French warship doing there?  The closest French territory south of the equator, in those days, were then called the French Congo, or French Equatorial Africa.  The French territory a strides the equator and extends below it only to five degrees south latitude at the most.  This means the French warship was more then five hundred miles south of its territory.

Burroughs does not say what the French warship was doing, but it did patrol the Portuguese coast for several weeks.  Perhaps they were monitoring the slave trade, which was a world issue at this time.  In chapter 19 it is revealed, "they had sighted the Arrow bearing southwest under considerable canvas, and that when they had signaled her to come about she had but crowded on more sail."  ERB- Tarzan Of The Apes.  When the Arrow took flight the French warship took stronger measures.  "The small French steam cruiser fired several shots at the Arrow but she managed to escape."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

Nowhere in this supplied description does it imply the French were actually in Portuguese claimed waters, or that they had any intentions of putting shore.  Most probably they were traveling normal shipping lanes in international waters just outside of Portugal's claim.  When the French warship happened upon the Arrow it was  traveling at unusual hast.  Probably thinking the ship was in some sort of distress the French signaled her.  Instead of signaling back, the Arrow took flight.  Instantly the French sense foul play, probably slave running.  They took stronger measures and fired warning shots.  Still the Arrow fled, so now the French were positive something was amiss.  After an evening chase the Arrow managed to elude the French warship in darkness, and by heading out to open sea.

For whatever reasons, the French warship was so  convinced it had stumbled upon something of such major proportions that it was willing to stick around the area for several weeks.  "They had then continued to cruise up and down the coast for several weeks, and about forgotten the incident of the recent chase, when early one morning a few days before, the lookout had described a vessel laboring in through of a heavy sea and evidently entirely out of control."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

When I read Burroughs' above description I don't necessarily picture the French warship as actually cruising Portuguese Angola's beaches.  One can still imagine the French warship as patrolling the main shipping lanes up the Angolan coast, which is just outside of claimed boundaries, and still be true with Burroughs'  use of coast.  After several weeks the Arrow managed to retrace its retreat, but the French were still there patrolling.

When the French captured the Arrow  they discovered mutiny instead of slave running.  After forcing the mutineers to talk, it was discovered that a British nobleman and four American citizens were put ashore in the jungle.  Keep in mind, at this point several weeks have already passed since the Porter parties abandonment.  The French did not want to wait any longer.  Instead of taking the time to report the incident to the proper Portuguese authorities and for them to get a rescue team to the area, which would take who knows how long, Captain Dufranne gave the order to rescue the stranded survivors on Portuguese soil.

Question number two.  In real life Portuguese Angola has no jungles coming down to the sea, nor do they have a gorilla population.  This may be true facts, but is it available to the average researcher?  I know I try to base all my ERB articles as close to actual fact as possible.  Still, I have major problems researching certain things.  For instance, try to find out if there were gorilla's, or jungles running to the shoreline in Portuguese Angola, in 1872 or 1888.  I have tried researching this but I couldn't find anything.  Eventually I had to depend upon someone else's previous research.  Burroughs probably had the same problems back in 1911 that I had in 1975 about researching certain things.  Naturally, Burroughs would have inserted known facts and made up anything unknown.  You know the old saying,  "the show must go on."

Question number three.  If the Greystoke's cabin is located at ten degrees south latitude could Tarzan and D'Arnot travel far enough in one month to get to French territory to find a French mission without discovering a town before then?  While looking at a map in his father's cabin, Tarzan asked D'Arnot where the nearest white men lived.  The Frenchmen "pointed out a spot on the shore just north of them."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  When the two left the Greystoke's cabin it is revealed, "For a month they traveled north."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

On a map dated 1902 little towns are shown at frequent intervals along the coast of Portuguese Angola.  Therefore, we know for a fact there is no way Tarzan and D'Arnot could have walked over five hundred miles of beach witout running into a town in Portuguese, Angola.  Also by looking at a map, one can easily see Tarzan and D'Arnot had to cross a number of rivers and streams upon their northern march.  Burroughs says nothing about them in his story, but during these occurrences the author is doing a lot of time skipping.

When Tarzan and D'Arnot happened upon the mission they were greeted with a, "I am Father Constantine of the French mission here."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  If the mission was actually located in the French Congo, and staffed by a French priest, then it would be merely an extension of the home church and there would be no reason to refer to it as the "French mission."  When in an area under any other flag, however, it would not only be natural, but necessary, for Father Constantine to identify himself as head of "the French mission here."  Using this deduction the implications tend to agree that the mission was still in the boundaries of Portuguese Angola.

After resting at the mission for a week Tarzan and D'Arnot set out upon the trail once more.  "Another month brought them to a little group of buildings at the mouth of a wide river."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  As stated earlier, by looking at a map Tarzan and D'Arnot would have had to of crossed many rivers.  Keep in mind that this chore is very time consuming.  Also remember the two are now looking for a port that offers overseas travel, and not just a town occupied by men as they were before.  All evidence point to the described town Tarzan and D'Arnot happened upon was Santo Antonio.  This sea port town offers ocean voyages, and is located at the mouth of the Congo River in the extreme northern edge of Portuguese Angola.  Across the Congo River, beyond lay Belgian territory, and beyond it French.

  • Date dusk March 17, 1893
  • Event:  D'Arnot accidently shoots Tarzan.
  • Source:  "Dusk was falling, and the interior of the cabin was very dark, but the ape man could see the latch moving from its place."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • Date March 24, 1893
  • Event:  Tarzan and D'Arnot spend a week at the cabin.
  • Source:  "For a week they did little but rest, D'Arnot coaching Tarzan in French."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • DateMarch 25, 1893
  • Event:  Tarzan and D'Arnot leave the Greystoke's cabin in search of whites.
  • Source:  "So on the following day they started north along the shore."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • Date April 8, 1893
  • Event:  Tarzan tells D'Arnot about finding and moving the Porter treasure chest, and about his father's diary. 
  • Source:  "Go back?" exclaimed D'Arnot.  "But my dear fellow, we have now been three weeks upon the march."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  It is also important to note the age of the diary itself.  "Then he proceeded to read the diary that had been written over twenty years before,"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • Date April 15, 1893
  • Event:  Tarzan and D'Arnot walk the coastline in search of whites.  Eventually they happened upon a French mission.
  • Source:  "For a month they traveled north,"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  "A week later the two men came suddenly upon a clearing in the forest."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • Date April 22, 1893
  • Event:  Tarzan and D'Arnot spend a week resting at the mission. 
  • Source:  "For a week they remained there,"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • DateMay 22, 1893
  • Event:  Tarzan and D'Arnot reach a small river town.
  • Source:  "Another month brought them to a little group of  buildings at the mouth of a wide river,"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.  "Gradually he became accustomed to the strange noises and the odd ways of civilization, so that none might know that two short months before, this handsome Frenchman in immaculate white ducks, who laughed and chatted with the gayest of them, had been swinging naked through primeval forests to pounce upon some unwary victim, which, raw was to fill his savage belley."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • DateJune 22, 1893
  • Event:  Tarzan and D'Arnot spend a month at the river town waiting for funds.
  • Source:  "He had also cabled his bankers for funds, and the enforced wait of a month, under which both chafed, was due to their inability to charter a vessel for the return to Tarzan's jungle after the treasure."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • Datemorning June 23, 1893
  • Event:  Tarzan and D'Arnot rent an ancient tub and return for the Porter treasure.
  • Source:  "Shortly after the episode of the lion hunt, D'Arnot succeeded in chartering an ancient tub for the coastwise trip to Tarzan's land-locked harbor.  It was a happy morning for them both when the little vessel weighed anchor and made for the open sea."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • Datemorning June 24, 1893
  • Event:  The rented tub dropped anchor at the Greystoke cabin's harbor.
  • Source:  "The trip to the beach was uneventful, and the morning after they dropped anchor before the cabin,"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • Date late in the evening June 25, 1893
  • Event:  Tarzan returns with the treasure.
  • Source:  "Late the next day he returned, bearing the great chest upon his shoulder,"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • Date sunrise June 26, 1893
  • Event:  The rented tub returns to the river town.
  • Source:  "and at sunrise the little vessel worked through the harbor's mouth and took up her northward journey."  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

  • DateJune 26 through July 17, 1893
  • Event:  D'Arnot and Tarzan remain in the river town.
  • Source:  "Three weeks later Tarzan and D'Arnot were passengers on board a French steamer bound for Lyons,"  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes.

James Michael Moody