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ERB Summary Project

EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS'
The Cave Girl

SUMMARIZED

David Bruce Bozarth

The Cave Girl, Duane Adams, 1998

CHARACTERS

Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones

Nadara

Flatfoot

Korth

Thandar (Waldo)

Sag the Killer

Nagoola (panther)

Cecil Burlingham - Captain

Thurg

King Big Fist

William Stark - First Mate

Mr. & Mrs. Smith-Jones

Roof

Tsao Ming

Boloon

Eugenie Marie Celeste de la Valois, Countess of Crecy

Introduction

Edgar Rice Burroughs' seventh novel The Cave Girl was begun the second month of 1913. The All-Story magazine published in three parts (July, August and September) of that year. The following year Burroughs wrote the second part The Cave Man which All-Story Weekly published in four parts starting March 31, 1917. The first edition by A. C. McClurg was released in March of 1925 and Gosset & Dunlap issued the initial reprint edition the following year.

PART ONE: THE CAVE GIRL

I. Flotsam

A great wave washes Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones from the deck of a steamer. Fate deposits him on the beach of a jungle-edged shore. A Boston intellectual, Waldo, who is emaciated and in poor health, is terrified of the shadows, especially at night. Subsisting on fruits by day, he is convinced some creature stalks him each evening. His mind cannot take the strain and, in a fit of madness, Waldo runs screaming toward the shadow and chases it into the interior. The shadow vanishes near a cliff. Overcome, both physically and mentally, Waldo collapses. Awakening next day, the madness has subsided. Waldo uses a club to knock fruits from a tree. Later he comes face to face with a savage.

II. The Wild People

Waldo runs toward a cliff with a dozen savages pursuing. Clawing his way aloft, Waldo inadvertently sends one of the cave men tumbling down, then moments later clubs one with his heavy stick. During the lull Waldo meets a half-naked girl. At her mimed suggestion he bombards the attackers with stones, eventually ending hostilities by dropping a 50 pound mortar upon a man.

III. The Little Eden

The cavemen wait below. Waldo begins communication with the girl, who by sign and gesture, says they will descend for food and drink at nightfall. Near midnight, as the couple creeps through the forest, a caveman awakes. Though Waldo wishes to flee, at the girl's cry he turns and breaks the caveman's arm. The couple then elude pursuit. Reaching a secluded valley, Waldo learns swimming, woodcraft, tolerance for nudity, and language over a ten day period. He learns of the girl's trouble with undesired suitors at home and of Nagoola, the black panther. She intends to return with Waldo as her protector. Nagoola visits them, but departs without attacking.

IV. Death's Doorway

Embarrassed, yet thrilled by the girl's confidence in his prowess, Waldo is not happy at the thought of facing Flatfoot or Korth. These brutes bully the tribe and they take what they want, food, wives killing any who oppose them. Leaving the valley at night, they encounter Nagoola some time later. Waldo shrieks in terror, raising his club, and rushes the panther. The cat fades, but Waldo runs blindly on. He trips and lays exhausted until the girl finds him hours later. She believes Nagoola has escaped Waldo; he does not dissuade her error. Waldo's jungle education continues as they travel northwest for several days. Nadara continually expresses confidence Waldo will vanquish Flatfoot and Korth, though each mention only terrorizes Milquetoast Waldo. They near the cave village.

V. Awakening

Nadara has named Waldo "Thandar," Brave One, but he is far from brave or honest. Instead of accompanying her to the village, Waldo says he will come later. Once Nadara has gone, the cowardly Waldo runs away. Days later he has taken up solitary residence in a cave. He ultimately regrets his deception and vows to make amends. Waldo transforms himself over a six month period, strengthening his body and practical skills. During one of his weekly trips to the coast Waldo meets Sag the Killer and kills the caveman. Moments later 20 cavemen chase Thandar. He kills two more then races for the beach. He sees a ship.

VI. A Choice

Seamen filling water casks fire upon the savages. Waldo refuses rescue, sending only a letter to his parents. The ship departs. Waldo busies himself making a wooden sword and shield, then heads for his cave. In the dark, at a disadvantage of position, he encounters a hungry Nagoola.

VII. Thandar, The Seeker

Having slain the panther, Waldo cures the hide while his wounds mend. Now attired in the black pelt and again healthy, Thandar travels three days to Nadara's village. The caves are abandoned. Thandar scouts and, four days later, meets a hairy savage. Avoiding a battle, Waldo gets directions and the men part company.

VIII. Nadara Again

A half mile to the west Waldo finds signs of humans. Following the trail for several hours, he hears a woman's scram. Nadara, dragged by the hair by the savage Thandar had just met, sends Waldo into a rage. During the battle Nadara throws a stone intended for her attacker, but it hits Waldo's forehead instead.

IX. The Seeker

Believing she has killed Thandar, Nadara leaves with her father. Thandar, meanwhile, regains consciousness and slaves the reviving savage. Waldo, certain the girl hates him, staggers away. He sleeps, unaware Nadara has reconsidered and returned to find him gone. She sets out upon his old trail. Nadara's father faces Flatfoot at the village. When told Korth is dead and Nadara gone, the caveman (Flatfoot) follows her. The next day Waldo enters the village to learn Nadara is gone with Flatfoot in pursuit. Before following the old man gives Waldo a small bag to give to Nadara, containing things from her dead mother.

X. The Trail's End

Thandar locates Nadara at the same time as Flatfoot. The savage reaches Nadara first and carries her toward some caves.

XI. Capture

Seeing Waldo, Nadara frees herself. Flatfoot intends to kill the girl rather than lose her to a rival. Waldo casts his spear, preventing Nadara's murder, then closes and kills Flatfoot, though is nearly vanquished himself. Nadara's aid is necessary to revive him. For days they head for Nadara's village, both confused by their emotions. Nadara sees a yacht, which thrills Waldo but rends the girl's heart. Fleeing her heartache, Waldo pursues the girl. When he catches her Thandar the caveman takes his mate in time-honored fashion. Loving Nadara more than the life he leaves behind, the two vanish into the hills before the searchers arrive. Captain Cecil Burlingham, commanding the Smith-Jones rescue expedition, finds the bag forgotten by the young lovers. Inside the pouch he finds a locket belong to a long missing countess. Burlingham exclaims: "What tragedy, what mystery, what romance might not these sparkling gems disclose had they but tongues!"

PART TWO: THE CAVE MAN

I. King Big Fist

Turning on a cliff summit, Waldo recognizes the ship as the Priscilla, his family's yacht. After a year on the primitive island he realizes he must return, and Nadara with him. The couple descend toward harbor, encountering red-haired Thurg. Thandar had broken the savage's arm in an earlier battle. The return engagement is brief, Thandar winning, but they are sufficiently delayed that the ship has sailed. Disappointed but not despondent, the lovers trek three days to Nadara's village. Challenged by King Big Fist, Thandar quietly recounts his recent kills. Big Fist is not inclined to pursue the challenge.

II. King Thandar

Thandar seeks out Nadara's father, asking her hand in marriage. His Boston sensibilities will not allow Waldo to take a mate in cave man fashion. Nadara is confused, but patient. Nadara's father tells how he and his mate had found a woman and dead man washed to shore in a lifeboat. Nadara was born, the woman died, the two strangers were set adrift in the boat. The primitive couple then claimed the child as theirs. The old man dies. The funeral wailing unnerves Big Fist, who threatens Nadara with violence. Thandar leaps to her aid, Big Fist dies. Thandar is made king of the tribe.

III. The Great Nagoola

Thandar soon discovers ruling is thankless. His knowledge of civilization, gained from books, not practical experience, hampers his desired goals. He does make improvements, strengthening his position in the tribe. Nadara remains confused regarding marriage among Thandar's people. Waldo intends to relocate the tribe to begin a permanent settlement. Delegating division of labor between sexes further improves the tribe's economy. A minor earthquake evokes Nadara's tale of the Great Nagoola, a gigantic panther buried beneath the mountains.

IV. The Battle

The cave dwellers successfully rout an attack by Thurg's "bad men." The tribe celebrates that evening. Thandar teaches the men to dance. Nadara dances. Thurg watches the festivities from the jungle shadows. Later, retired to his cave, Thandar dreams.

V. The Abduction of Nadara

Thurg stealthily enters Nadara's cave and abducts her. The girl swoons. Thurg carries her far from the caves. Awakening from her faint, Thurg sets Nadara down. She attempts an escape, is immediately recaptured, and the "Great Nagoola" shakes the earth. Thurg flees. Nadara runs home to discover the cliff face has collapsed. Mangled bodies litter the debris. She searches for Thandar. For a weeks she wanders, then takes residence in a lonely high cave. Thurg finds the girl, who is prepared to defend herself.

VI. The Search

At the Boston residence of the Smith-Jones, it is learned Waldo is alive. An expedition under Burlingham's command is mounted. Waldo's parents accompany the rescue party. William Stark is First Mate. Weeks later the ship arrives at the island. Several excursions have found nothing. A sailor sees a girl being chased by a hairy savage. Burlingham and Stark watch the distant drama. When physical danger threatens Nadara the two men shoot their rifles.

VII. First Mate Stark

Nadara kept Thurg at bay for weeks, by well-thrown rocks from her cave vantage. At night she chanced the forest for food and water. One afternoon Thurg came upon Nadara. She raced for the cliff. Thurg, close behind, almost has the girl when he is shot dead. She descends to the stranger, who are obviously from Thandar's land. She tells Waldo's father his son is dead. On board the Priscilla Mrs. Smith-Jones is aghast by the association of Waldo with savages and treats Nadara with contempt. Stark desires Nadara, who will have nothing to do with him. One evening during the voyage away from the island, Stark forces himself upon the girl, striking her unconscious when she protests. Fearful of the consequences, Stark lowers himself and the girl over the side and makes for a nearby shore.

VIII. The Wild Men

Nadara regains consciousness and escapes when Stark is not looking. The next morning Stark stumbles upon the girl, who flees into the jungle. Moments later Stark is pursued by a score of painted savages. Stark is captured. Nadara eludes the pirates for the better part of the day, but is eventually captured. The entire party then trek, Nadara fairing better than Stark, who is prodded with spear and knife whenever he fell. Stark later falls and does not rise. He is beheaded before the party travels further into the interior.

IX. Building the Boat

Thandar awakes two days after the earthquake, buried inside his cave. Upon exiting, he fears Nadara is dead. Finding her cave empty, he looks upon the scavenger mangled bodies. Believing her dead, he embarks upon a death-wish life, engaging every panther and boar he can find, sleeping in the open. He encounters Roof, a savage, and learns Nadara has departed the island. Enlisting the caveman's aid, Thandar builds a boat. Roof backs out when Thandar sets sail.

X. The Head-Hunters

Days later, food and water exhausted, a night storm wrecks Waldo's frail canoe upon a savage shore. Next morning he saves a man from murder by a head-hunter and is befriended by the Chinese pirate leader. For three days he works with the pirates, an odd mixture of races, who are building a large boat. A missing crewman returns with a tale of a white goddess in a panther pelt and wearing a large diamond ring worshiped by head-hunters. Waldo asks that Tsao Ming, the pirate leader, to wait three days while he investigates, and to repair his little boat. Waldo enters the forest.

XI. The Rescue

Following Boloon's instructions, Waldo arrives at the head-hunter village at dusk of the second day. Locating the temple, he waits until dark, enters through the roof, battles two guards, and is reunited with Nadara. They escape through the floor, racing to the coast. At noon they arrive, but the pirates have departed. The canoe is repaired and, by the slimmest of margins, they set sail with frustrated head-hunters on the beach.

XII. Pirates

The wind rises to gale force. Soon another island is visible ahead. Waldo makes for the island. The canoe capsizes, they swim the rest of the way. A ship puts out toward them. Believing it belongs to Tsao Ming, Waldo is surprised when they are taken prisoner by a pirate band lead by a negro. The ship is turned and, entering the harbor, the Priscilla is seen, but no response comes to Waldo's hail. Nadara and Waldo are confined in huts. That night Waldo hears someone entering Nadara's hut. He saves her from the negro, killing him. The couple flee in the confusion, making for the anchored Priscilla only to be taken prisoner by the pirates manning the vessel. The next day they are taken ashore and put with the confined crew of the Priscilla. Waldo is reunited with his disbelieving family, who do not immediately recognize their transformed son. Mrs. Smith-Jones makes her apologies to Nadara. A short time later the group is taken into the jungle where the the pirates plan to kill the captives. As Thandar is about to be decapitated, Tsao Ming arrives. The pirate captain frees the captives and restores the Priscilla. The ship sails with the small pirate fleet as escort.

XIII. Homeward Bound

At Honolulu Waldo and Nadara wed. Their joy is further increased as they learn the cave girl is the daughter of Eugenie Marie Celeste de la Valois, Countess of Crecy.