Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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PHILIP JOSE FARMER
THE DARK HEART OF TIME
David A. Adams
Copyright © 2006
Philip Jose Farmer is widely recognized as an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. He has, over a long writing career, published a number of popular pastiches such as Lord of the Trees and a fictional biography of the ape-man entitled Tarzan Alive!. In his first ever authorized Tarzan story, Mr. Farmer attempts to fill in the gaps between Tarzan the Untamed and Tarzan the Terrible. The Dark Heart of Time was first published in paperback by Del Rey, June 1999 in 35 chapters, 278 numbered pages.
Natives of the Ndesi tribe, trackers
Jelke Helmson - leader of the bad guy safari- 1st white man
Tambi - leader of the bearers, a Serba tribesman
Tenga - askari kidnaped by Tarzan
Holmeshon - Helmson's employer
Mitchell - a white hunter in the bad guy safari- 2nd white man
Robert Pindell - American white hunter- 3rd white man
Ben-go-utor - bear-man creature, aka Rahb
James D. Stonecraft - richest man in the world - wants Tarzan captured
Bevan - Stonecraft's business manager
Rodrigo Esteban Martillo - writer of the Spanish parchment
Rakali - Helmson's gun-bearer
Fitzpagel - Irishman in charge of Helmson's base camp
Umbrank and Silts - two English askari leaders sent to help Helmson
Magonda - Helmson's tracker
Swifi - Fitzpagel's head askari
Banki and Dweena - two of Fitzpagel's askaris
Rahb - Ben-go-utor's real name
Shong - the bear-man's people
Hbarki - Rahb's mate
Waganero - a kagafona, a bard, of the Deenga people
Rafmana, - The Toucher of Time, the guardian and holy priestess of The Dark Heart of Time
The Ghost Frog -
Lutsu - Waganero's girl-friend
Shelaba - pygmies painted green with white stripes and spots
Kurigi - interpreter of the Shelaba tribe
Suwakidi - chief of the Shelaba
Krangee - natives who live near The Ghost Frog
Saweetoo - black natives who live in The City Made by God
Dr. Springer - Stonecraft's doctor
Hitcham - Bevan's stockbroker
Oyabatu, chief of the Ataka tribe
Eshawi, the chief of the Seewatoo
Penago, the four-armed god of Time
Lieutenant Erich Obergatz - German who holds Jane captive
Jane - Tarzan's mate
The Twins: Arinu and Watanu, brother and sister from the sky
Swika, human-snake god of The Twins
The Good Twins: Tsapa and Ekweni - second pair of star-children
Tarzan is hunted by two members of the Ndesi tribe. They throw spears at him, but he escapes up a tree. Tarzan surmises that they might be in the employ of the Germans. The time is half-way through October 1918. (This story takes place in the canon between TARZAN THE UNTAMED and TARZAN THE TERRIBLE.) He is on the cold trail of his mate, Jane, who has been abducted by the Germans. The Ndesi (once part of the Masai nation) were expert spearmen. Tarzan knows they were aiming for his legs and considers they were trying to capture him alive. Why? Suddenly, amid thunder and lightning, there is an earth tremor. It is the third day such quakes have occurred. Tarzan kills one of the Ndesi warriors with an arrow shot down his throat from above. The other runs away and shortly returns -- with four blacks and four whites. A giant storm breaks, and the men leave.
Tarzan follows the men and comes to their camp of four large tents. He tries to eavesdrop on the white men's tent, but can only pick up snatches of conversation in the tempest. He hears Lord Greystoke mentioned, so he knows they are seeking him. Tarzan goes back to the dead tracker he has killed and brings him to the camp. He drops the man onto the white men's tent from 150 feet above, collapsing it. Helmson, the leader soon restores order in the camp. Tarzan kidnaps one of the Serba askaris -- Tenga. He questions him and learns they are there to capture him alive, then releases the man unharmed. (Information provided on ape language and thought along with a brief telling of Tarzan's childhood, concluding with the statement that "He was a species by himself.")
Tarzan knows that Jane is with Lieutenant Obergatz in or near the Ituri forest. He follows Tenga back to camp with the intention of capturing one of the white men to find out how they are able to track him so well. The next morning he finds an opportunity and Mitchell is carried up a tree. Tarzan learns that Mitchell, an English white hunter, was recruited by an American white hunter by the name of Robert Pindell. They both work for another American hunter by the name of Jelke Helmson, who was hired by another American who wants to capture Tarzan of the Apes. Mitchell suspects that Helmson has some secret way of tracking Tarzan but does not know what it is. Suddenly there is a powerful stench and Mitchell screams, runs across the tree branch in terror, then falls to his death 40 feet below.
Tarzan sees nothing, but the stench reminds him of a grizzly bear. Hearing the scream, men from the safari come and carry Mitchell away and bury him. Tarzan travels ahead of the safari. He eats a rat after biting its head off, then dines on the day-old corpse of a pygmy elephant. He decides to call the invisible creature with the bear stench Ben-go-utor. After a short nap, Tarzan sees the creature below him being hunted by a leopard. It looks like a shaggy man with a bear's head. The creature easily throws the leopard 30 feet into the forest, and it turns tail and runs for its life. Tarzan shoots an arrow at the creature, but it senses movement and avoids the shot. It takes to the trees, and Tarzan follows by judging the silence it causes in the forest with its passing. Now Tarzan has two things distracting him from his hunt for Jane -- the safari and the bear-man. He will try to rid himself of both for another day, then turn to the Ituri forest and Jane. He suddenly wonders if the white men are after the metal cylinder at the bottom of his quiver.
The man who is trying to capture Tarzan is James D. Stonecraft, a New York oil magnate and philanthropist, the richest man in the world. Stonecraft's able business manager is Bevan.
In a flashback, we learn that Helmson was hired by a man who called himself John Smith to capture Tarzan alive.
Two tracker and Helmson see the footprints of the bear-man while Tarzan watches from the trees above. Helmson says some angry words, and the safari goes on, but the bearers are nervous about the strange beast. Tarzan follows them, kills the hindmost askari and drops his corpse on a bearer, killing him as well. The tribesmen bury their mate, but Tarzan digs him up again and drops the corpse on a white man carrying an Italian machine carbine (a Villar Perona), breaking his shoulder. The bearers have to carry him in a litter. Tarzan continues terrorizing the safari. He finds a cobra and drops it on Helmson, but it manages to bite a porter. Another bearer is shot through the thigh by an arrow. Both men quickly die. The safari is in an uproar. The bearers run off while Tarzan climbs high and takes a nap. He is thrown from his perch by a freak accident involving an eagle hunting a monkey and lies unconscious on a lower branch.
Tarzan awakens bound naked to a cot. Helmson stands over him. He tells Tarzan that he has read the parchment map and manuscript found in the metal cylinder found in his quiver. It mentions a City Made by God, The Voice of the Ghost Frog, The Toucher of Time, The Uncaused Causer, The Eyes of the Glittering Tree, and The Dark Heart of time. Also mentioned are The More than Dead, and a volcanic mountain called The Mother of Snakes. It was written in Spanish by one, Rodrigo Esteban Martillo 300 years ago. Tarzan had found the cylinder while crossing a desert in TARZAN THE UNTAMED. Helmson tells Tarzan that escape is impossible. Tarzan replies, "I still live."
Stonecraft (who looks like Ramses II) get a message that Tarzan has been captured. He can hardly wait until he is delivered to him as "he carries the most precious thing in the world." Tarzan has a 25-pound iron ball in a leather bag manacled to his ankle. They travel back over the trail with Tarzan guarded front and rear and with a man with a net standing by. Tarzan mentions the terrible bear-man that is following them to set the natives on edge. Helmson wears Tarzan's knife to demoralize him, but it rather makes him look forward to the day that he will kill him with that very knife. At night Tarzan is strapped to his cot, the iron ball still attached, while his other leg is tied to a rope connected to an iron stake driven into the ground. Two guards circle the tent while two more watch inside. Tarzan sleeps, then wakes, speaking to the nervous guards. He says he smells the beast-ghost monster in camp. He is not lying.
Tarzan quickly frees himself from the straps and kills the two guards inside the tent. He shoots the two outside guards with the rifle he has gained from the dead guards. Next, Tarzan shoots some of the guards around the fire, puts a knife between his teeth, slings the iron ball over his shoulder. With these burdens (and a rifle) he escapes up a 50 foot tree. Tarzan shoots at Helmson but kills the white man with a broken shoulder. When the rifle is emptied on the natives, he throws it down into the fire. (He catches a glimpse of the Ben-go-utor.) Tarzan picks the lock on the ball and chain with the knife. He drops to the ground and rubs healing soil into his wounds. While escaping, he finds a frightened porter and cuts off his head to throw into camp for further demoralization. He decides not to kill Helmson because he has to get back on the trail of finding Jane. The terrified natives leave Helmson except his head askari and his gun-bearer, Rakali. However, they are reinforced by another safari of 100 askari led by an Irishman named Fitzpagel and two other whites, Umbrank and Silts, both Englishmen. Suddenly there are tremors in the earth.
The naked Tarzan hunts and forages through the Ituri forest in search of the bear-man. He is angry that Helmson has his hunting knife but values Jane more, so keeps searching for signs of her passing. He comes upon a Bantu village where the people think he is a ghost. He gets no information but takes a pot of food. At night Tarzan is attacked by the Ben-go-utor, and it speaks to him. Helmson tells Fitzpagel they want to capture Tarzan, whom the Irishman thought was only a legend. He says he has a way to track the ape-man. Stonecraft in America finds out that Helmson and Fitzpagel are united in the search, but Greystoke has escaped. He thinks he should send another safari to capture Jane to get Tarzan to come in and give him "The Secret."
Tarzan, being held down by his throat by the Ben-go-utor, hears his own name "TARZAN" come from the lips of the beast. Tarzan tries a number of languages on the creature, but he only shakes his head "no" quite human-like. Tarzan struggles and fights free, and they both go tumbling to a lower branch. Tarzan wakes lying on top of the bear-man. He decides not to kill him so leaves him up in the tree and walks away, only to fall immediately into a pit -- an elephant trap. Helmson is wondering why Stonecraft wants to capture Tarzan so badly.
A leopard attacks Tarzan in the pit, and he kills it with the single, sharp stake fastened at the bottom. He gives the victory cry. Through some amazing acrobatics using the 10 foot long stake, Tarzan escapes from the pit. Suddenly there is a tremendous earthquake, and Tarzan and what seems like the entire jungle is swept away down a river in a flood. He rides a tree trunk down stream for a long time, away from Jane. Finally he manages to get ashore and finds a village. From his tree vantage he sees natives and directly across, the Ben-go-utor in another tree.
Helmson is lost now that the entire jungle is torn up by the earthquake. He goes with Mgonda and Rakali to figure out their location. Fitzpagel sends his head askari, Swifi along with 2 men, Banki and Dweena, to shadow Helmson. He tells Swifi that if they kill Tarzan, he will kill them and their families and burn their entire village. Swifi muses that if they have to kill Tarzan they will have to kill Fitzpagel as well.
Tarzan and Ben-go-utor meet in the jungle, and have a one-word conversation: "Helmson." Tarzan surmises that this is how Helmson has been able to track him, but how did he control the bear-man? Tarzan begins to learn the language of the beast and finds that his name is Rahb, and that his people are called Shong. Together, they steal food and weapons from the native village and take a canoe north, back up the river. They meet Helmson party on the river with seven boats and head for shore as fast as they can. Tarzan and Rahb easily escape into the trees. Looking south, Tarzan sees a volcano. which he recognized from Martillo's manuscript. Helmson of course has the map, but Tarzan has a photographic memory. The volcano was The Great Mother of Snakes - the lava pouring in curves down its sides. Rahb tells Tarzan that Helmson has captured his pregnant mate, Hbarki, and that they are the last of their kind. Natives find them and began shooting into the trees.
Chapter Sixteen - (A pivotal chapter of explanations)
Tarzan sees that they are shooting at a black man hiding in the next tree -- the same one Rahb is hiding in. When some of the native begin climbing to get the man, Tarzan drops them with arrows, and the Helmson party arrives to finish off the rest. Tarzan grabs the hunted native and takes him to a safe place in the high terraces. The man is Waganero of the Half Weasel clan of the tribe of Deenga. He tells Tarzan that he lives south of the land of The More than Dead, where lives Rafmana, The Toucher of Time, the guardian and holy priestess of The Dark Heart of Time, which lives within The Glittering Tree. North of Rafmana is the vast swamp where dwells The Ghost Frog. Waganero tries to explain a very confusing tale to Tarzan, telling him he is a kagafona, a bard, who sings a long story accompanied by a musical instrument called the tawango, which he is carrying in a case. Tarzan tells him to give him the short version of the story. Waganero explains that his girl-friend, Lutsu, was captured by men from the land of Rafmana. She was to be sacrificed to The Ghost Frog. (When swallowed by the Frog, people do not die but live in its belly in the land of The More than Dead). All this occurred years ago. Waganero was sent to rescue Lutsu but he never even tried but wandered in despair. Gun shots come closer and Tarzan decides to leave with Rahb, thinking Waganero is nothing but trouble.
Tarzan, Rahb, and Waganero are approached by a hundred tiny, naked men. They are painted green with white stripes and spots to help them blend into the foliage. These Shelaba cannibals are smaller than the Ituri pygmies by a foot or so. They kill some of Helmson's men with poison darts. The Shelaba take the three to their "village," which consists of "nests" high in the trees connected by a network of bridges. There they are bound and lowered onto a large platform swung from band at each of the four corners. An interpreter named Kurigi explains that the chief, Suwakidi, will have the skull of Rahb, then eat the black man (the Big Very Brown Lump) after he sings to them. (Tarzan is called a Big Part-Pink Lump.) They plan to display Tarzan in a cage, then eat him when people are tired of looking at him. They are instructed not to chew through their leather bonds because they are deadly poison. That night the Shelaba get drunk on native beer.
Tarzan escapes from the platform by climbing up one of the support ropes using only his toes and teeth! He cuts his bonds with a native flint knife, then frees his two companions with a long, leather rope. They leave the sleeping village armed with bows and arrows and blowguns. Waganero takes his harp from one of the nests, and suddenly someone notices that the platform is empty.
Fitzpagel thinks that Tarzan has been lost for good in the flood and plans to take his men back to Nairobi unless Helmson explains how he is able to track the ape-man so easily. Instead, Helmson confides in him about the Spanish map and the treasure of gold it mentions. Fitzpagel agrees to hunt for the lost city with Helmson . (Flashback) On the day of their capture by the Shelaba, Tarzan, Rahb, and a black man Helmson did not know were spotted on the river in a canoe. The were followed, and their capture was witnessed. Helmson insists that they go to recapture Tarzan no matter how dangerous the Shelaba pygmies may be. Back in America, Stonecraft talks to Bevan about the need to find Tarzan. It has something to do with Stonecraft's mortality, and a secret Tarzan knows.
Tarzan, Rahb, and Waganero escape from the Shelaba in a canoe. Two canoes with 8 warriors follow, but Tarzan dispatches them in a solo fight on the river, his friends helping with the mopping up. Suddenly, they hear gunfire, and Tarzan swears, "Mon Dieu!" He thinks it might be Helmson, but he will help by slowing down the pygmies. Suddenly, 10 Krangee warriors begin chasing them as well. They are the tribe who live near The Voice of the Ghost Frog. They are being forced southward away from Jane and into the land of the strange mysteries written in the Spanish manuscript.
The three adventurers are swept through a narrow channel to a lake, which Waganero says lies near the swamp of The Ghost Frog. He warns them that if they are eaten, their bodies will be burned away, and only the soul bone will remain. Then, a new body will grow around this soul. Yet, his harp music can possibly bring one of these More Than Dead back to the world - - his lover. Tarzan thinks the legend is nonsense, but certain that it warns of a danger they may have to face. Heading south, they stop at a native village, send their canoes afloat, and steal food, which they eat while drifting onward on the strangely dark blue river. The pursuing Krangee stop as the heroes drift into the deadly swamp. This is as far as Martillo had gotten 300 years ago.
James D. Stonecraft is so sick that he has to go into one of his three private hospitals. He tells, Bevan, his Secretary that Project Soma is going too slow for him.
The three head deeper into swamp. Tarzan puts his head underwater and notices that the fish, crustaceans, and crocs are leaving the area in great agitation. They hear the croaking of a giant frog accompanied by human voices wailing as from a deep well. Waves rock the canoe, and suddenly the bear-man yells.
The canoe upends, and they are dumped into the water. When nothing else happens, they all get back into the boat. Rahb explains his yell: a gigantic crocodile grabbed the end of the canoe, but it was taken away and eaten by something else. They paddle far from the spot for the rest of the night, and in the morning Tarzan catches a fish with his bare hands. He divides it with his flint knife for breakfast. All of their other weapons have been lost in the capsizing. They come to the end of the swamp but are caught in another narrow channel and go over a waterfall. Tarzan is knocked unconscious. All three are captured by the black Saweetoo people -- those who live in the City Made by God. They are taken past walled villages and fortresses deeper into the jungle. In one village Tarzan talks to a captured elephant. He tells her if he can ever help her escape he will do so. Finally, they come to the City where a white, domed building stands in the middle of a lake on a pillar supported by 12 arches. Men, women, children and beasts are nailed to crosses on either side of the paved road through the city.
The captives are taken to a stone building, bathed, and made presentable. Then they are marched under guard up stone steps to the very top of the dome when they see an altar stained with blood. Music sounds, and the fat king arrives, but as the priest is going through the preliminary ceremonies of sacrifice, Tarzan tells his friends he will jump to the lake 100 feet below and that they should follow. Tarzan does a perfect dive headfirst, and the others follow. Tarzan and Rahb capture a canoe, pick up Waganero, and are actively pursued until a large war canoe enters the lake from up river. These new warriors blow horns, and the Saweetoo freeze. The canoe and natives within are decorated like snakes. Their leader tells Tarzan they have come for them but were almost too late.
Stonecraft goes into a final coma, and Bevan tells Dr. Springer to tell no one. Bevan calls Hitcham, his stockbroker and tells him to sell. When he gets back, Stonecraft has recovered and tells Bevan he had better buy back his stock. / The river's level is falling, and Helmson and Fitzpagel are nearly at each other's throats when they come upon a large statue made of gold.
The snake-warriors bind them, Tarzan and Waganero in one canoe, Rahb in another. The men go to the dome and get Waganero's harp and order the execution of the king. They are taken south into the hills past the mountain called The Great Mother of Snakes. Rahb thinks that his wife has given birth by now but is sad that they are the last of their kind.
Tarzan and his friends are being held by Oyabatu, chief of the Ataka tribe. They learn that Eshawi, the chief of the Seewatoo, had been executed became he tried to hide his prisoners from Rafmana, The Toucher of Time. He tells them that his city is The City Beneath the Waters and it was built (as was the Seewatoo city) by people who came from the sky. Rafmana is descended from human and sky-people stock. They pass a tree on which 30 men, women, and children are hanging dead. They have willingly given themselves to The Masked One. (This is not Rafmana. Rafmana is The Other Masked One.) They also learn of a legend that a strange creature will someday come from the north and destroy them. Rafmana can tell if any of them are the predicted ones when they touch a special tree together. They come upon statues of Penago, the four-armed god of Time. They were made of pure gold. They come to a cone-shaped island with a 300-foot black stone tower. They paddle through an opening into the extinct volcano, then climb to the top of the tower. There they see a tree carved from a single crystal. Large, thin, light-green objects float around the tree. They are brought to Rafmana's throne room. She is a black women wearing a snake-skinned kilt and has a python draped around her shoulders. She wears a split, triangular mask, half malignant, half smiling. She knows them and claims she can see the past, present, and future through The Dark Heart of Time. She says that the two white men following Tarzan will soon be captives as well. Their bonds are severed by sickles held by three women -- old, middle-aged, and young. Rafmana invites them to a feast, to ask questions, and in the morning she will consult The Tree.
The Dark Heart of Time beats at the center of The Tree. Tarzan is told to touch The Tree and it forms a link with his body and mind. Rafmana tells him to think of a face he would most like to see, so he sees Jane (through her own eyes) held captive by Lieutenant Erich Obergatz. Rafmana allows him to see one other person, and he chooses to see Kala, his ape mother, and he sobs.
Helmson and Fitzpagel's safari is half gone by desertion. Firzpagel is revealed as a German spy when he stubs his toe and says, "Aowa!" instead of "Ouch!" Helmson holds him under cover with his pistol. Rahb is allowed to see through The Tree, and he sees his mate through the eyes of his new child. Tarzan asks to see what Rahb saw and finds out that Rahb's mate is held near Mount Kilimanjaro. (Farmer mentions The Adventure of the Very Sick Circus Horse, as a possible pastiche story in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle's naming cases he has not written.) (He also links this apocryphal story with Hemingway's story of the leopard found frozen near the top of Kilimanjaro.) When Waganero's turn comes, he sees his lover, Lutsu, in the belly of The Ghost Frog. Rafmana tells Tarzan that must look through The Tree again.
Tarzan and his friends are made to exercise by running around the tower. The, Rafmana takes them inside and tells her story. When she was about 50-years old, she came to this land and met The Twins: the divine pair from the sky, Arinu and Watanu, brother and sister. They instructed the building of the cities and place The Tree at the top of the tower. Their god was Swika, human on top, snake on bottom. They gave Rafmana the power of eternal youth, then left in their boat to the star, saying they would return. Later, two different Twins arrived, Tsapa and Ekweni, saying they were the Good Twins, while the others ha been evil. There was dissension, war, and the "Good Twins" were killed. When the first twins come back, no one knows what will happen. The Tree is both a universal communication device and a teleport from star to star. Rafmana tells Tarzan that The Tree has told her that he is the one who is prophesied to destroy them. Tarzan is The Uncaused Causer.
Firzpagel confesses to Helmson that he is really a colonel in the Imperial German Intelligence. He is really Colonel Sigurd Schneider, brother to the other Schneider's Tarzan killed in Tarzan the Untamed. His real motive in following Tarzan is revenge. The evil plotters cross the river and start climbing the cliffs. Suddenly, there is an earthquake and a flood that threatens to sweep them all away.
The earthquake gives Tarzan the chance to tear off Rafmana's mask. She is neither ugly nor beautiful, but her eyes look old and alien. The natives are too afraid, having seen the forbidden face that they do not spear them. Rahb hits Rafmana on the jaw with his fist, and they take her with them as a hostage. They run down the steps of the tower only to be caught in the flood. Tarzan rides a crocodile to keep from drowning, but it is finally killed by being dashing against the side of a cliff. However, he manages to grap a branch and pull himself onto a shelf. He climbs the cliff and is free to search for Jane. He eats several dead monkeys. The entire tower and The Tree are underwater. There is no sign of his companions, nor of Helmson's party. He comes to The City Made by God, and it too is underwater. He traveled using what the North American Indians called the wolf's walk -- 50 paces running, 50 paces walking. Ahead he hears the trumpeting of Tantor alone with croaking.
From the vantage of the cliff, Tarzan sees the captured elephant, still dragging its chains, fighting the Ghost Frog. He also sees Helmson below holding Tarzan's hunting knife, and he growls. The Ghost Frog kills and starts eating Tantor. Next, it captures Helmson with its snaky tongue. Tarzan jumps into the Ghost Frog's mouth to save his knife! He gets the knife from Helmson as they are going down the tight throat and slashes until they are both thrown-up. Fitpagel comes at Tarzan with a club, screaming in German. He tells Tarzan he is Sigurd Schneider and gets Tarzan's promise not to kill him if he tells him why they are trying to capture him. He reveals Stonecraft's plan -- he thinks that Tarzan has the secret for immortality. He lets Fitzpagel go. The Ghost Frog is dead. Tarzan plans to look for Jane, then free Rahb's mate and child.
It took a year to find and rescue Jane, and Rahb's mate and child had already escaped by the time he looked for her. In New York, Tarzan calls Stonecraft on the telephone and tells him that "No one lives forever." He tells him that he is Tarzan of the Apes, and Stonecraft dies of a heart attack.
There many unanswered questions. What happened to Rahb and Waganero? Did Helmson die? What happened to Fitzpagel when he left Tarzan? Where did the Ghost Frog come from and what were the human voices inside? Did Waganero live to finally solve the mystery of his missing mate? Who was Rafmana? Did Tarzan have something in his blood that would make him immortal?
Farmer has written a pretty good pastiche, and I'm glad he finally took the time to do it. If there are a lot of loose ends, I guess you can say that this was typical of ERB himself.
January 27, 2006