how the cinematic tarzans relate
to the Wold Newton universe
Dennis E. Power
Part 1; Intro
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While it would be the easiest, and probably the most rational course, to dismiss the cinematic Tarzans and state flatly that they have no relationship whatsoever to the Wold Newton Universe, I cannot in good conscience do so. I believe that the various films portrayed portions of the lives of three Tarzans, well actually four, as we will see. Because of the similarity of their location and of the course of their lives, there was a good deal of blending of the separate lives when it actually came to writing the films but I think four distinct persons can be plucked from the morass.
The four distinct Tarzans were John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, John Cloamby, Lord Grandrith and Richard Lansing.
I have provided a short time line of the cinematic Tarzans to be used in concert with this long document.
You will no doubt see that I have listed John Clayton twice. This was not a typo but rather due to the vagaries of time travel. John Clayton, Lord Greystoke also known as Tarzan lived his life as portrayed, in the generally faithful biographies of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His wife Jane was injured in such a manner that caused her to be cryogenically preserved around the 2020 a.d. While waiting for her, Tarzan seized upon the opportunity to become leader of the first full fledged time travel expedition. He traveled back to 12,000 B.C. and then lived his way back to the present.
His being alive in 12,000 b.c. and still alive in 2070 when the time vessel was launched caused a time paradox which resulted in the Time vessel and its contents being temporally twinned and pushed back another 12,000 years into the past creating a Tarzan-2 who lived from 24,000 into the present. This would be the second John Clayton. I frankly do not understand the temporal mechanics involved but believe that this was a flaw in the design of the H.G. Wells vessel rather than in actual temporal laws.
The third name is John Cloamby, Lord Grandrith. He is the main character of Philip Jose Farmer's A Feast Unknown and Lord of the Trees.
He was genetically, emotionally and environmentally designed by Stone Age Immortals to be Tarzan. The films that portray events of his life are Tarzan Goes to
, Tarzan's Three Challenges, Tarzan and the India , Tarzan and the Valleyof Gold and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy. Big River
The fourth name is Richard Lansing, great nephew of the Earl of Greystoke. We will examine his career in detail later.
All Tarzan films are in a sense based on the life of the original John Clayton. A few are closer to the truth than are most but none, in my opinion, have told the story as it should be told nor have they captured the essence of Burroughs' Tarzan. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan perhaps comes the closest to it but this film is also seriously flawed, unlike many others I was not too impressed with this film. Other films that came the closest to portraying Tarzan as written by Edgar Rice Burroughs were Tarzan the Ape Man with Elmo Lincoln and the serial New Adventures of Tarzan starring Herman Brix.
In this article I will be dealing primarily with the Tarzan films in which he was portrayed by Johnny Weissmuller, Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Jock Mahoney, Mike Henry and Ron Ely. This is not because the other films do not have merit or are not entertaining in their own way but rather because the films on which I am concentrating have their own internal mythology and continuity, albeit at times contradictory. Although the films are fictionalized portrayals of real events, sometimes nuggets of true information can be plucked from amidst the trailings of fiction.
"The fate of Tarzan-2 is not certain. He was either killed or he had changed sufficiently over 12,000 years that his temporal signature was significantly different from the Tarzan that landed in 12,000 BP. There is however some evidence to suggest that he may have survived into the 1930's-40's, his body---anyway. If the individual I am referring to is indeed Tarzan-2 then his mind and most of his intellect was gone due to some great brain injury so vast that it could not be fully regenerated, at least not by that time period.
There are legends of an Apeman, a White man who lived on an escarpment on top of a single mountain that thrusts up deep into clouds, rising from a plain in heart of
AfricaHe is called Tarzan and his history is obscure. MGM motion picture studio made a series of films based on accounts of this particular individual"
The above quote is an excerpt from an article describing how Tarzan had time traveled back into the distant future and was in effect temporally twinned. One Tarzan going back to 12,000 BP and the other traveling back to 24,000 BP. see the Triple Tarzan Tangle. article for more details.
It is my theory that Tarzan-2 suffered horrendous brain damage that left him bereft of most of his memories and damaged his cognitive and speech centers.
This brain damage most likely occurred in the late part of the eighteenth century or early part of the nineteenth century, most likely in the form of a gunshot wound. Under what circumstances this occurred we can only speculate, since this particular Tarzan's career for the past 24, 000 years is unknown and can only be guessed at. It is quite probable that this took place in
Africa, so Tarzan might have stumbled onto an early slave running operation. When he interceded he was shot almost directly in the skull and left for dead. That he did not die was a testament to his mutant genes and possibly to the Kavuru longevity serum. He however suffered horrendous brain damage, in a normal human being brain tissue does not regenerate but in immortals such Tarzan it apparently does regenerate but at an exceedingly slow rate.
Tarzan was reduced to the mental level of a child and had suffered serious damage to his cognitive and speech centers. Most of his memories were gone. All that remained were his earliest memories of life among the mangani before he had learned to read and fleeting partial memories of his other life. His ability to sense and travel to parallel worlds drew him to the Mutia escarpment. We can speculate that sometime in the around the turn of the eighteenth century he found his way to the Mutia escarpment. Finding traces of mangani activity, he climbed to the top of the escarpment and found two distinct species of mangani living there. One was a large species very close to those that he was raised among resembling gorillas. The other was a pygmy race resembling chimpanzees.
The large mangani were only depicted in two of the Weissmuller films, Tarzan the Apeman and Tarzan and his Mate, they resemble oddly manlike gorillas. The pygmy mangani were depicted in many of the Weissmuller films but as chimps lead by Cheta. Cheta was not a chimp. Oh, she might have resembled one in many ways but she was not a member of the Pan troglodytes species, rather she was a hominid, a branch of mangani, a pygmy mangani.
Evidence of this can be seen in her advanced cognitive and motor skills. While Chimpanzees in the wild have limited tool use and while those in captivity do can be trained to accomplish quite complex tasks, they do not as a rule apply these trained skills to solving problems or other tasks. During the course of the Tarzan films we see Cheta use bludgeons, knives, firearms, a fishing pole, dynamite, smoke cigars, pick cage locks, operate a camera, use a magnifying glass and sundry other tasks. Now usually these tasks were partially imitative behavior, she saw somebody do something that struck her fancy and tried to do it. Yet imitative behavior does not explain how she was able to figure out how to do some of the complex tasks necessary from just one viewing. Perhaps the most telling of Cheta's traits that most proves her hominid status is the fact that she often responds to verbal jokes with laughter. While Chimpanzees display humor it is primarily to visual cues.
Cheta was not her name but was her title as Matriarch of the Pygmy Mangani tribe. The dialect of the Mangani on the escarpment differs from those that raised Tarzan with sometimes marked differences but we can trace the origins of several of the the phrases that Tarzan-2 uses most often in the course of the films.
Cheta is derived from the Mangani words Zee-ta or Tall (High) Leg. A title for the person that stands above the rest. They do not use the term gund (chief) because it is evidently male specific and the pygmy mangani are matriarchal.
A few more examples of the escarpment mangani dialect are:
Ungawa> unk-gom-ara (go run lighting) Leave as fast as possible.
Timba>Ta-yo-ben (tall-friend-great) This refers to the elephants of the escarpment. Evidently the mangani here had a closer relationship with elephants than did those that raised Tarzan. They referred to elephants as tantor (tall beasts)
Gaboni> go-bundi (Black Killers) This was one of the ferocious tribes that lived in the forest surrounding the plain leading up to the escarpment.
Jaconi> Jar-Kor-gani (Strange Walking Apes) Another of the tribes around the escarpment, so called for their odd stalking gait.
Zambeni>Zan-b'yat-gani (White Head Apes) A tribe that lived on the escarpment which wore elephant tusk helmets.
As an aside: there may have been a few small offshoots of the mangani scattered through
Africa. Allan Quatermain encountered a tribe of them in the volume of his memoirs entitled Heu-Heu or the Monster. A small group of mangani that resembled gorillas were depicted in the serial King of the Jungle in which they had adopted a lost boy and named him Bara the deer because of his swift running speed. (The film wrongly depicts his name as Baru)
The Mutia escarpment is a towering singular mountain that juts up from a plain in the heart of
Africa. This plain was surrounded by desert and swamp. To get to the plateau where Tarzan dwelled you may either climb the treacherous rocky incline or find the numerous hidden caverns that wind through the mountain's heart. If you do chose this route make certain you use the correct set ot caverns for there are evidently several plateaus and valleys on the sides of the mountain, accessible only by hidden caverns and pathways. Upon these plateaus and in these hidden valleys exist lost cities. Among these are Palandria, Kor, and the Palmyra . Blue Valley
There are several ferocious tribes that live in the swamps and forests surrounding the plain leading up to the escarpment. The most notable are the Gaboni, Jaconi and the Masadi. These native tribes will ruthlessly pursue and kill anyone entering their lands but they will not go onto the mountain itself. It is in fact forbidden for them to touch the mountain. In Tarzan and his Mate one of the Gaboni, overcome with enthusiasm chases a safari onto the mountain. Upon realizing he had touched the mountain, he runs back to where his tribe is amassed on the plain surrounding the mountain. His chief promptly stabs him in the back for violating the sanctity of the mountain.
There several possible reasons why the natives consider the mountain "big juju" a place so sacred that it is their sworn and sacred duty to keep any and all persons from gaining access to it.
First of all until the late 1880s the mountain housed the immortal presence of Ayesha, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. The lost city of
was housed inside some of the caverns of the vast mountain. If you think that I am being fanciful, perhaps I am, but a careful reading of She demonstrates that Holly and Vincey travel along a river then through desert and swamps until they reach a plain upon which rises a vast mountain. Most of the early Weissmuller Tarzan films show this trek in various forms. It was probably She who charged the Gaboni and Jaconi with killing all who entered their lands. Holly and Vincey were allowed through unscathed because she had sensed their presence. Kor
Ayesha was apparently incinerated by the Living Flame, the volcanic vent which regenerated her body, in the late 1880s. Whatever actually happened she disappeared from Kor and the city was apparently abandoned. At least there are no further accounts of it being visited. The Amahagger were either absorbed or exterminated by the Jaconi and Gaboni.
The second reason for the the Jaconi and Gaboni to regard the Mutia escarpment with fear was because it housed another immortal presence.
Tarzan, who they viewed with fear and hatred yet regarded as sacred. He seemed ageless and invunerable and over time he came to be equated in some manner with She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. For all her mystic powers and intelligence, Ayesha demonstrated a narrow knowledge of events surrounding her. It is quite probably that she was not even aware of the other lost cities in and about the mountain, much less the presence of Tarzan.
The final reason for the natives to regard the Mutia escarpment with sacred awe was because once you were upon the plains around the mountain, you experienced a sudden but momentary feeling of dislocation and disorientation. This is because the Mutia escarpment does not exist in the
Africawe are familiar with nor does it exist Burroughs' Africaas chronicled in his Tarzan books. Rather the Mutia escarpment and indeed the entire mountain and its surrounding environs exists in a parallel dimension or possibly in a multitude of dimensions.
Africa, Asiaand South Americaare evidently just peppered with these extra-dimensional gateways or pockets.
The best evidence that we have that points to the Mutia escarpment being in another dimension is in the film "Tarzan Finds A Son" Circa 1932 a plane flying across
Africasuddenly finds itself over a mountain which is not on any of the maps. The compass goes wild, the radio goes dead and there is trouble with the plane's electrical system and so the plane crashes. A fluke you might say. Yet in 1928, another plane being flown by aviatrix Gloria James also crashed. In 1943, a plane flying a group of Nazi paratroopers also crashed after dropping the paratroopers off. Although the film had the Nazi's crashing because they flew into a flock of birds, I believe that the disturbances encountered by other planes was the actual cause.
In case someone will argue that in Tarzan's New York Adventure, a plane successfully lands on and takes off from Escarpment, let me state here that despite that film being among my personal favorites, I regard most of the story line as fictional as will be explained later.
The theme that the escarpment is not on any map and it fairly hard to find is a one which constantly shows up during the film series. The gateway to this parallel dimension is apparently a stable one, for if you follow a certain flight path or a certain trail you can travel back and forth between the dimensional rift.
Most of the lost cities that Tarzan encounters on the escarpment and Kor, to a lesser degree, are inhabited by people portrayed by Caucasian actors. Now this could be a demonstration of the utmost racism on
's part, believing that it was impossible for Blacks to have created such civilizations or it could very well be that the inhabitants were if not Caucasian, were not Negroid. Hollywood
They appear Meso-American or Polynesian. They also worship a sun god. It is possible that in the parallel world that is home to the Mutia escarpment that there is a land bridge between
South Americaand Africa, thus allowing for South American Indians to cross into the African continent and end up on the Mutia Escarpment. It is also possible that Kor and the other lost cities are the remnants of Atlantean or Oparian colonies. The leader of the city of tells Tarzan that ages ago his people traveled from the East so they could even be ancient Aryans. Palandria
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© 2000 Dennis Power