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ERB Summary Project


Numa, the lion

Tarzan = the Big Bwana

Gromovitch, Igor - white villain

Blomberg - white villain

Jones, Woodrow Wilson - Negro villain

Eugene Hanson, Ph.D.. - a husky, American archaeologist

Jean Hanson - Eugene Hansonís daughter

Brown, Franklin D. Roosevelt - Negro villain

Jad-bal-ja - Tarzanís trained lion

Zu-yad - King of ape tribe

Go-lot - young bull ape in Zu-yadís tribe

Nkima - Tarzanís monkey friend

Hunt - big-game hunter - becomes Tarzan side-kick

Small, Hi - Huntís guide - joins the villains

Tommy - English-speaking native

Kovandi, chief of the Mburis - cannibals

Nyama - young girl who befriends Jean at Mburi village

Nagula - Kovandiís first wife

The Lost Adventure
(ERBís Manuscript Version)

Summarized by
David A. Adams


This synopsis of events is based upon the famous ERB manuscript found in his safe after his death. The novel was "completed" by Joe R. Lansdale for Dark Horse as Tarzan: The Lost Adventure in December 1995. This brief summary will be a welcome addition to the research libraries of ERB fans who do not have ready access to the original account. When one talks about Burroughsí last words about Tarzan of the Apes and his friends it is important to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

ERBís original, untitled manuscript consists of 83 numbered pages. It is type-written and double-spaced with 16 numbered chapters but no chapter titles. There are four main villains in the story and four safaris: Hanson, Gromovitch, Hunt, and lastly, Hansonís Friends, who are to meet him at Ur, but they never show up since the manuscript ends before they reach that goal.

Warning: this summary contains some of ERBís derogatory language when referring to black men. However, it should be noted that these remarks are made by the villains AND that these very black men are noble, decent characters IN CONTRAST to the racist whites.

— David A. Adams

Chapter One - pages 1-5

Tarzan kills an old, man-eating lion with his knife. "After five years in the RAF, Tarzan of the Apes had returned to his jungle." He catches the scent spoor of white men and comes upon a poor safari of 4 men: 2 whites and 2 Negroes with their few carriers and 2 askaris. Each of the 4 bwanas wears some item of military uniform, so Tarzan deduces they are deserters. They have no ivory, so he leaves without contact.

The evil 4 accost a smaller safari of Eugene Hanson, Ph.D., and his daughter Jean. The bad whites are Gromovitch, a Russian and Blomberg. The Negroes are Woodrow Wilson Jones and an unnamed man. Gromovitch makes a pass a Jean, and her dad drops him with a punch. They take the Hanson food, guns and bearers.

Chapter Two - pages 5-10

Two days later the weak, starving Hansons are found by Tarzan. He hunts for them, killing an antelope, then a leopard (hunting the same Wappi) with his bow and arrows. He prepares a meal for the Hansons, then goes to recover their safari. Father and daughter sleep on a platform up in a tree while hyenas eat the entrails of the antelope. A lion comes.

Chapter Three - pages 10-14

Tarzan meets Jad-bal-ja, his trained, golden lion, in the jungle. Gromovitch lashes the Hansonís porters with a whip. We learn the other Negro villain is named Franklin D. Roosevelt Brown. Tarzan and Jad arrive and demand the Hansonís safari back. Gromovitch threatens Tarzan with a pistol but is quickly disarmed while Jad attacks Blomberg. Jones and Brown run away. Tarzan returns with the Hansonís men, making Gromovitch and Blomberg march with them for three hours (to prevent a rear attack) before letting them go back to their camp.

* * *

Great apes of the tribe of Zu-yad, the King watch the Hansons. Tarzan has been gone for a week. Go-lot, a young bull looks "longingly" at Jean. The apes attack!

Chapter Four - pages 14-18

Go-lot kidnaps Jean: her dad follows them. Tarzan arrives with the Hansonís natives and reading the signs of the ape attack follows the spoor alone. he comes upon Hanson and orders him back to camp while he and Jad rescue Jean just as the apes are about to tear her apart (from rivalry over the prize). The apes scatter. Tarzan carries Jean through the trees back to her father and the rescued safari. He tells them about his life with animals.

Chapter Five - pages 18-24

The cowardly villain blacks want to leave for the coast, but Gromovitch wants to "get" Tarzan. Just then another safari led by 2 whites arrive: Hunt, a big-game hunter and Hi Small, his guide. They camp nearby. Small gets chummy with Gromovitch, who finds out that Small knows the way of Ur, a city rich with gold. Gromovitch persuades Small to talk Hunt into going there.

* * *

Nkima, Tarzanís monkey friend arrives at the Hanson camp. Hanson explains to Tarzan that he is an archaeologist in search of a ruined city to the North. He is to meet another safari of friends coming down from that direction. They want no treasure, just scientific knowledge. Tarzan decides to help them. Hanson shows him a map indicating a city in a clearing of the dense forest near an extinct volcano. Jad meanwhile has left the camp.

Chapter Six - pages 24-30

Gromovitch gives Hunt an ultimatum: go with the villains to find the gold city or lose his safari. Small tries to persuade Hunt to go along, and he reluctantly agrees when he sees that Small has already joined the evil four. They have plans to recapture the Hanson safari and get even with Tarzan. Blomberg explains the plan to Tommy, an English-speaking native from the Hunt safari. Tommy enlists Tarzanís help to save Bwana Hunt treed by a lion. Jean thinks something is fishy about Tommy finding Tarzan so easily, but he has already gone to help. "I work alone." (Nkima is with him.) Tarzan is ambushed by almost a dozen men, struck unconscious by Gromovitch. Small, recognizing Tarzan, is afraid. He says that if they kill him they will never get out of Africa alive. Gromovitch says he "ainít afraid of a bunch of niggers." Hunt and his natives did not take part in this villainy. When Tarzan is brought to camp and bound to a tree to be left for the wild beasts Hunt is appalled and wants to stay behind as they leave to attack the Hansons. He is forced at gun point to go with the villains as their prisoner. Nkima goes for help and finds Jad-bal-ja. He rides the lion to the rescue. (Meanwhile, Hunt escapes from the villains and starts away at a trot). Gorgo the buffalo charges the bound Tarzan just as Jad bursts from the jungle. He has come to rescue "the man Jad-bal-ja loved."

Chapter Seven - pages 30-36

Hanson and Jean take their safari to the North in search of Tarzan but take the wrong trail at a split. Jad-bal-ja easily kills the buffalo threatening Tarzan and proceeds to eat it. Hunt comes upon Tarzan and is treed by Jad. Tarzan accuses him of sending the native to lead him into a trap, and Hunt explains how his safari was taken over by the villains. Tarzan believes his story. Hunt is afraid of Jad, but comes down from the tree and cuts Tarzan free when he explains that the lion is his friend. *** Gromovitch wants to recapture the Hansons and kill them, but Small says they can be sold to cannibals with filed teeth in a ruined city to the north. They think they can get the Hansons when they meet them at the lost city since they are headed in the same direction, however, the Hansons are lost, heading northeast. Tarzan, Hunt, and Nkima are headed back to the Hanson camp while Jad remains behind, eating his kill. Tarzan senses a tornado coming and wants to get out of the forest where many trees will fall. In the terrible storm, they find a cave and Hunt wonders if it is full of lions.

Chapter Eight - pages 36-42

Looking at her compass, Jean discovers they are going in the wrong direction. They are caught in the tornado and have to lie in the mud of the trail all night. In the morning, they camp and dry off -- "All was well with the world." The Gromovitch safari too suffer in the storm, so Gromovitch takes it out on the natives with his whip. Small interferes but is knocked to the ground. Small goes for his gun but is disarmed by the others. "That was the end of that." *** Hunt wakes Tarzan when he sees a lion with a scraggly mane approaching. Tarzan sends Hunt to a tree down the kopje and Nkima scampers high as well. Tarzan meets the charge of the lion with a short spear and holds him back with it until he finds a change to leap on its back. He is holding his knife between his teeth. He finishes off the lion with his knife and gives the victory cry of the bull ape. Hunt is unnerved by Tarzanís savage cry but was standing by him during the battle, a brave man. Tarzan says he will not forget it. Nkima beats the dead lion with his little fists. Hunt strips down to his shorts, shoes & socks because his clothes are soaked from the rain. Tarzan warns him about sunburn. They find the Hanson camp deserted but follow north as that was their planned route.

Chapter Nine - pages 42-47

The Hansons rest all day, then take up the trail the next morning much refreshed and at great speed. They run right into the Gromovitch safari, and not wanting to be captured again, Hanson fires at Gromovitch but hits a native. Hanson is wounded by a .45 in the gun battle, and Jean gives up. Gromovitch is about to strike Jean but is prevented by Jones. Gromovitch calls him a nigger but gets a slap across the face for his effrontery. Jean is amazed that the Negroes defend her instead of the white men. And it is Brown who helps her fix up her fatherís wound - "only a flesh wound." Hanson thanks Jones for defending his daughter. Jones explains how they got Presidentís names by shaking dice for them. They took aliases to avoid detection after jumping ship in Tunis. They were stewards on a U.S. transport and just got tired of traveling around. (Their last names were changed as well.) They explain they are helping them because they are all Americans.

Chapter Ten - pages 48-54

Tarzan leaves Hunt behind to look for the Hansons on his own with Nkima. He tells him to be aware of trees to climb in case of lions. On the second day of slow travel following Tarzan, he does come upon a lion and prepares to fight it by putting his knife in his teeth as he observed Tarzan do in such a case. Tarzan arrives and kills the lion with his spear and arrows. Tarzan tells Hunt to take the knife out of his mouth before he hurts himself. He explains the difference in scent spoors of hungry and empty lions. He tells Hunt that the Hanson are 4 or 5 days ahead of them. Tarzan goes off to hunt for supper. *** Gromovitch is well-supplied with 3 safaris: his, Huntís and the Hansonsí. Even so, he realizes that things are not well with his men. He plans to murder Small, Jones, and Brown after they help him get the gold from the ruined city. Blomberg is also on his hit list once they get out of Africa. They are spotted unawares by a savage with filed teeth. Gromovitch declares that from now on he is the sole leader of the safari but the others disagree. Small is glad to note the squabbling. Blomberg suggests a vote among comrades, but Gromovitch, knowing he would lose, does not agree. He wants the fraternizing with the bourgeois Hansons stopped by liquidating them but loses by 4 votes to his 1. Meanwhile a long column of 100 painted savages more toward their camp. they are Mburis, a tribe of cannibals led by Kovandi, their chief.

Chapter Eleven - pages 55-62

Waiting for Tarzan to return with supper, Hunt decides to learn how to travel through the trees like the ape-man. He falls but his belt holds him upside down from a branch. Monkeys come and throw nuts & fruit at him. When Tarzan gets back, he helps him up by lowering his rope from above. Tarzan explains that his skill was learned over a lifetime and by being raised by apes. They eat the deer Tarzan has brought. Tomorrow they will start out after the Hansons.

* * *

The Gromovitch safari is surrounded by night by the cannibals. A raiding party captures Jean from her tent and six porters (for meat) and they fade into the jungle. During the confusion, Hanson discovers his daughter is missing and plans a rescue with Jones, Brown, and several of the better boys of his former safari. Small, who knows the area, says that the Mburisí village is to the East of them at a short distance. Gromovitch is angry that Hanson and his natives are armed but fears Jones. Small takes him aside and suggests that he will be rid of Hanson and the Ďtwo smokes" since they will be surely killed by the cannibals. Hanson realizes the futility of attacking a large group of cannibals and asks Small how to contact British authorities. Small lies that there is a resident commissioner and the Kingís African Rifles station due East. Hanson takes only his men and supplies for the journey, but even this angers Gromovitch. Yet, he fears Jones and Brown so much that he just turns away. As planned, Jones & Brown go to the edge of the camp and say goodbye to Hanson. Since he is only going for help and not to fight, the black men will stay in camp to get their share of the gold. Gromovitch is furious.

Chapter 12, pages 62- 66

Jean, along with the other captured natives, is taken to the cannibal village where they are mistreated until Kovandi, the chief, drives his bestial people away. Jean is put into a hut with a kinder, more comely young woman. (Here the phrase "had it not been for her filed teeth" is crossed out, making her even more comely.) Jean learns that the young girl is a prisoner too -- she was raised in a mission school and speaks English. Jean suggests that they escape together. Her name is Nyama. They watch as one of the captive carriers is "prepared" for supper by having his arms and legs broken with a heavy war club. Nyama thinks they are being kept alive to be wives of Kovandi, but he hesitates for fear of Nagula, his first wife. Nyama is a Christian but is still afraid of demons in the jungle, yet she agrees to try to escape with Jean.

Chapter 13, pages 66-71

Hanson travels south and east in search of Jean. Tarzan, Hunt, and Nkima move north alone Hansonís old trail. Gromovitch treks north in search of the golden hoard at Ur. * * * Jean and Nyama escape by night, knowing by dawn that Kavandi was on their trail. Hanson is only a quarter of a mile from Jean when Tarzan finds him. Tarzan informs him that there is not a British stations for a thousand miles. He introduces Hunt to Hanson as a friend. * * * Jean & Nyama hear voices, so they split up, hoping one of them may escape recapture by the cannibals. * * * Tarzan, Hanson & Hunt head for the Mburi village to rescue Jean. Hearing voices, Tarzan goes alone to accost the Mburis. They deny taking the white girl, and fearing that he might have the Waziri with him, go back to their village. Tarzan reports back to Hanson & Hunt, telling them he believes Jean has escaped since the Mburis were out searching for something. He plans to go to the village after dark and check for himself.

Chapter 14, pages 71-76

Jean is attacked by a lion, but it is killed by Jad-bal-ja. Jad falls asleep at her feet, and she decides to sleep beside him. In the afternoon, she wakes and scratches his ear. Ant night, Jad leaves to hung, and Jean climbs a tree. * * * Tarzan enters the cannibal village alone, looking for Jean, while the others talk outside the palisade so the Mburis will think they are a large party of Waziris. He rescues four abducted warriors and puts the two "prepared meat" victims out of their misery with "a merciful slash of his keen blade." Tarzan learns that Jean has escape with a slave named Nyama.

Chapter 15, pages 76-80

In the morning, Jean sets out north alone. Go-lot and his tribe accost Jean, but Jad-bal-ja returns and saves her from capture. Brown & Jones, out hunting, come upon Jean and Jad. She tells them not to shoot the lion, and he disappears into the jungle once again. The men think Jean might be a ghost, and she explains that Jad was Tarzanís lion. They tell her that her father has gone in search for her, but first to a British station, and she is relieved that he is safe with the soldiers. Jean decides to go with them back to the Gromovitch safari rather than depend on travel with Jad alone. Arriving, the white men seem actually happy to see her alive.

Chapter 16, pages 80-83

Tarzan, Hanson, and Hunt search for Jean for two days, then head north to overtake Gromovitchís safari, hoping she had managed to rejoin that party. Nyama is recaptured by two Mburi warriors, but Tarzan arrives to save her, killing one native and wounding another with his arrows. Nyama knows of Tarzan and explains that she and Jean separated. "I have not seen her since, and have no idea where she may be."

This is the end of the ERB manuscript.


What is there to admire about this fragment, which is rather more than an incomplete beginning of a novel?

As it stands, it might take on the appearance of one of Michelangeloís so-called "incomplete" statues made as the end of his life. People seem to be pushing their way out of the stone to become whole, well-defined entities, yet the very restraint of the naked stone that holds them fast gives these works their uncommon power. Who would ever think of finishing one of Michelangeloís statues by carving away the "useless" stone?

There is the quartet of villains: two white men, who are evil Russians, Gromovitch and Blomberg, and two black men, Brown and Jones, Americans who turn out to be decent men to the core. It is not that Burroughs had never placed these types in his stories before. Indeed these are familiar types. Yet, there is something new in the way the black men take control of the situation. They are poor, uneducated men from the American south, who speak a typical Negro slang, imagine Jean to be a ghost, etc. yet they are truly noble men who stand by Jean because she is a fellow American. It is clear that Burroughs is making a very positive statement about blacks in this story, one that seems stronger than any he had written before.

Tarzan moves with power and grace, and so does Jad-bal-ja, who acts almost like an alter-ego, his role is so prominent and profound. Jad moves in and out of the story -- going away at times presumably to hunt as a lion would do -- and yet his role is large in the "rescue at the last moment" area, so Tarzan can be off in another part of the jungle doing his own thing saving and guiding other characters. Jean develops a close relationship with Jad, even spending a night sleeping with him and scratching his ear, perhaps recalling Thuviaís control over Barsoomian lions or Dian and her friendly tigers in Savage Pellucidar. ERBís leading women, even the evil ones, were often in league with large cats. Yet, Jad-bal-ja seems almost ready to step out in a novel of his own in this story. He is more than Tarzanís animal side-kick.

I suppose the most appealing thing to me about this torso is the fact that it IS unfinished and thus rather modern in effect. The lost city of Ur remains a promised goal to the north which not reached within the written pages of the manuscript. While not as intentionally symbolic as for instance Kafkaís The Castle, the distant, unattained goal somehow seems a fitting end to ERBís Tarzan stories rather than a finished product in a glossy wrap.

Knowing what Burroughs wrote and did not write in the Lansdale pastiche is extremely important in considering late ERB, which is why I made this little summary. I always had my doubts about Ebopa, and now I know the truth -- Burroughs didnít end his last Tarzan story with a giant bug. And Pellucidar didnít swallow up the King of the Jungle. As every schoolboy knows, Tarzan is still out there in his Africa, and the age he lives in is the one you once shared so long, long ago.