Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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PAUL BELLONI DU CHAILLU
Article Research by Ken Fuchs
Annotation by David Bruce Bozarth
Conclusion by Ken Fuchs
Text of the National Geographic Magazine, July 1903 issue, Volume 14, Number 7, pages 282-285, annotated by David Bruce Bozarth, © 2002. as regards Paul Belloni Du Chaillu being a possible inspiration for the popular Tarzan novels published between 1912 and 1944.
NOTE: The following article appeared in The National Geographic Magazine in the July 1903 issue: Volume 14, Number 7, pages 282-285. It was made available by the generosity of Dr. Lew M. Begley of Mesquite, TX, who has one of the largest collections of The National Geographic Magazine in the world. It was scanned from an original issue of the magazine. I tried to retain the original formatting and therefore have indicated in brackets the original page breaks - Kenneth W. Fuchs (Thandar), December 1999
Sarkis Atamian's book The Origin of Tarzan: The Mystery of Tarzan's Creation Solved Publication Consultants; ISBN: 1888125128; (December 1998) uggested Du Chaillu's African books might be the source for Edgar Rice Burroughs' famous ape-man: Tarzan of the Apes.
Burroughs set the location for Tarzan's Cabin at 10 degrees SOUTH of the Equator. Tarzan's cabin was also coastal. Where Du Chaillu as a young lad was conversant with the natives, Tarzan was raised among apes and did not have interaction with humans until his late teens. In later books Tarzan is the consummate linguist, but in Tarzan of the Apes he did not embrace the native "invaders" of "his territory."
Tarzan was reared in a limited territorial range, though large, but certainly not as extensive as that of Paul Du Chaillu. Tarzan killed many natives as a result of the murder of his ape mother Kala and because of other predations by the encroaching natives.
PAUL DU CHAILLU
PAUL BELLONI DU CHAILLU, who died at St Petersburg April 30, was born in New Orleans July 31, 1835. His birthplace was thus the same city to which Stanley nearly twenty years later drifted as a cabinboy, to be befriended and adopted by the merchant Stanley. Little is known of Du Chaillu's ancestors, except that they were of one of the old French Huguenot families that had settled in Louisiana. His father, a man of considerable means, was engaged in the West African trade and owned a "factory" or trading depot on the Gaboon coast, a few miles north of the Equator. Paul as a boy accompanied his father to Africa and lived for three or four years on the coast. He was a bright, enterprising youngster, who spent most of his time talking with the natives, hearing their stories and learning their dialects and ways of thinking and living. He liked better to listen to the stories of the native traders than to learn the business of his father. It was this personal knowledge of the native which enabled him afterward to travel for thousands of miles in the interior without being obliged to kill a single native.
Unless ERB discovered the early life of Paul Du Chaillu during his research for creating Tarzan, Burroughs could not know the details of Du Chaillu's youth. I have not read Du Chaillu's two African works but it would seem reasonable that some comment by that author would have indicated early experiences in Africa.
About 1853 his father took him back to the United States, but the wild tales the boy had heard had fascinated him and excited him to find out how much was true of what the seacoast natives said of the cannibals, pygmies, wildmen or gorillas, and other marvels of the Great Forest. No white man had previously penetrated more than a few miles into the interior along this part of the coast.
The sailing ship, origin reversed to England instead of America--ERB was fond of puns and reverses--a landing near the Equator, exploration through jungles and descriptions of animals, some never before known, would be a thrilling account. Du Chaillu's book title embraces every important animal in the Tarzan books. ERB developed mangani (ape language) names. Mangani=people, Tarmangani=white people, Gomangani=black people. Bolgani is the gorilla, Gimla=crocodile, Sheeta=leopard, Tantor=elephant.
Burroughs was fond of maps, producing many fantasy maps during his writing career.
In the fall of 1856 he sailed from New York in a three-masted schooner and was landed at Gaboon in December. The following three and one-half years he passed exploring a section of Africa stretching from Gaboon 320 miles inland and 250 miles north and south. On his return to New York in 1859 he wrote the story of his discoveries, which was published by Harper & Brothers in 1861 under the title of "Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa; with Accounts of the Manners and Cus- [p. 283] toms of the People, and of the Chase of the Gorilla, Crocodile, Leopard, Elephant, Hippopotamus, and other Animals. By Paul B. Du Chaillu, with Map and Illustrations. Harper & Bros., 1861." In his preface he states:
ERB might have read these comments thusly: A lone white man in the jungle, a mighty hunter/killer, familiar with all the creatures of the jungle. is imaginative brain might have produced the never-ill, always healthy, one with the environment character—the perfect primitive man. Tarzan was never plagued by ordinary jungle nuisances. He was part of the jungle, and often the most savage part!
"I traveled - always on foot, and unaccompanied by other white men - about 8,000 miles. I shot, stuffed, and brought home over 2,000 birds, of which more than 60 are new species, and I killed upwards of 1,000 quadrupeds, of which 200 were stuffed and brought home, with more than 60 hitherto unknown to science. I suffered fifty attacks of the African fever, taking, to cure myself, more than fourteen ounces of quinine. Of famine, long-continued exposures to the heavy tropical rains, and attacks of ferocious ants and venomous flies, it is not worth while to speak.
Tarzan travesed Africa with a speed that defies description, a near super-human ability. Tarzan, however, kept no journals, his life was the present—there was little past and no concern for the future.
"My two most severe and trying tasks were the transportation of my numerous specimens to the seashore and the keeping of a daily journal, both of which involved more painful care than I like even to think of."
This passage reveals many features of the Tarzan novels: Gorillas, cannibals, elephants, dangerous snakes. Though ants do not appear in Tarzan of the Apes ants and their social evolution eventually becomes a wonderful parody in Tarzan and the Antmen. The cannibals described are the villains in the first Tarzan book, the black tribe which killed Kala and threatened all of the mangani, and later threatened Tarzan's new human friends, Jane Porter, her father, fellows of that event, and most especially a Frenchman named Paul D'Arnot. Is the use of "Paul" as a character name a gentle nod and wink to Paul Du Chaillu?
In the book he told of gorilla, of which he had brought back the first specimens and which he had been the first white man to see and hunt; of the fierce cannibal tribes, the Fans, who filed their teeth to keep them sharp; of the ravages of the Baskouay ants, which marched in dense columns miles in length, and who were marshalled by officers and generals; of hunting elephants with pitfalls; of a new variety of snake, less than four feet long and six and eight inches thick, which lies in the open places in the woods and whose bite is instantaneous death, and of many other equally wonderful sights.
The Burroughs reverse and pun penchant surfaces yet again, though probably not by intention. Du Chaillu wrote to a scholarly audience. ERB wrote to a fantasy entertainment audience. ERB was known as a fanciful storyteller (Under the Moons of Mars 1911), therefore Tarzan was imaginative literature—though Burroughs was slammed unmercifully for using "tiger" as a big cat description in the All-Story printing of Tarzan of the Apes. That we now have definitive proof that "tiger" was actually used by some inhabitants of Africa has not erased the early critics derision.
The book was greeted with shouts of laughter and derision from one end of the American continent to the other. Mr and Mrs and Miss Gorilla was the common jest, and the name Du Chaillu became a byword for a fanciful storyteller. Du Chaillu was only 26 when his first book was published. He was unable to answer satisfactorily the storm [p. 284] of questions hurled at him; consequently nobody believed him, except Harper and Brothers in the United States and the Royal Geographical Society in England, both of whom valiantly and vigorously defended his truthfulness.
Tarzan also "returned" to Africa and discovered the remnants of a lost colony of Atlantis, more savages, more tribulations both natural and man-made. Du Chaillu's last expedition to Africa was ten years before ERB's birth.
In 1863-'65 Du Chaillu made a second journey of exploration to Africa, the narrative of which appeared in 1867 as "A Journey through Ashango Land." This time he discovered the pygmies of the Dark Forest, but his descriptions of the little people were likewise received with incredulity. With this journey his explorations in Africa ended.
ERB had the benefit of possibly reading publications of the later explorers before he wrote Tarzan of the Apes—and smiling when the sometimes fantastic words of Du Chaillu were proved fact. Decades later—when ERB might have read the book(s)—Du Chaillu's descriptions of African animals were thrilling and entertaining. Burroughs, already embarked upon pure invention of plot, characters, and environment as displayed in Under the Moons of Mars would not suffer disbelief the same as Du Chaillu.
Gradually each of Du Chaillu's discoveries was confirmed by later explorers - by Schweinfürth, Stanley, Sir Harry Johnston, and others. Many years ago they were all verified; but the name Du Chaillu none the less still remains to most Americans that of a romance. In a certain sense Du Chaillu is himself responsible for this feeling, for all his descriptions are so vivid and are so thrillingly told that the reader feels he is reading a work of pure invention, rather than a narrative of actual experience.
Now we get to the TARZAN jungle. Du Chaillu describes SOUNDS we might hear. Burroughs does the same in his Tarzan novels.
His famous description of the first gorilla shot by a white man is worth quoting:
"Suddenly, as we were yet creeping along, in a silence which made a heavy breath seem loud and distinct, the woods were at once filled with the tremendous barking roar of the gorilla.
ERB, if he actually read Du Chaillu, reversed things again. His mangani, those apes which raised Tarzan, were nearly uniformly greater than six-foot in height. The massive body and musculature was repeated in the Tarzan series, as well as the somewhat horrific conformation of the "great ape."
In later books ERB provides a little sleight-of-hand which suggests that Tarzan's "ape family" is actually an off-shoot of human evolution, something more than primate, but not quite man. This aspect came well into the writing of Tarzan and cannot be attributed to Du Chaillu.
"Then the underbrush swayed rapidly just ahead, and presently before us stood an immense male gorilla. He had gone through the jungle on his all-fours; but when lie saw our party he erected himself and looked us boldly in the face. He stood about a dozen yards from us, and was a sight I think I shall never forget. Nearly six feet high (he proved four inches shorter), with immense body, huge chest, and great muscular arms, with fiercely-glaring, large, deep gray eyes, and a hellish expression of face, which seemed to me like some nightmare vision: thus stood before us this king of the African forest.
Herein, succinct and with little room for argument, is the source for the Victory Cry of the Bull Ape. Yet, it must be stated that we do not yet have definitive proof that Edgar Rice Burroughs ever read Paul Du Chaillu's African publications.
"He was not afraid of us. He stood there, and beat his breast with his huge fists till it resounded like an immense bass-drum, which is their mode of offering defiance; meantime giving vent to roar after roar.
See above. The passage illustrate's Du Chaillu's descriptive (almost fantastic) writing style.
"The roar of the gorilla is the most singular and awful noise heard in these African woods. It begins with a sharp bark, like an angry dog; then glides into a deep bass roll, which literally and closely resembles the roll of distant thunder along the sky, for which I have sometimes been tempted to take it where I did not see the animal. So deep is it that it seems to proceed less from the mouth and throat than from the deep chest and vast paunch.
See above. The passage illustrate's Du Chaillu's descriptive (almost fantastic) writing style.
"His eyes began to flash fiercer fire as we stood motionless on the defensive, and the crest of short hair which stands on his forehead began to twitch rapidly up and down, while his powerful fangs were shown as he again sent forth a thunderous roar. And now truly he reminded me of nothing but some hellish dream creature - a being of that hideous order, half-man, half beast - which we find pictured by old artists in some representations of the infernal regions. He advanced a few steps, then stopped to utter that hideous roar again; advanced again, and finally stopped when at a distance of about six yards from us. And here, just as he began another of his roars, beating his breast in rage, we fired and killed him."
How many of Du Chaillu's books were available to the young Edgar Rice Burroughs, or the middle-aged Edgar Rice Burroughs, is not known.
The books were available. Perhaps ERB read them. Perhaps Du Chaillu's works inspired Burroughs. However, whether ERB was inspired or not does not diminish Du Chaillu's extensive exploration of Africa and writing about same; after all, ERB never went to Africa.
In later years Du Chaillu traveled extensively in Sweden, Norway, Lapland, Finland, and other countries. He was the originator of the phrases "Land of the Midnight Sun" and "Land of the Long Night." In 1889 he published "The Viking Age," his most ambitious work, the result of many years of special research. He published his first book for young people in 1868, called [p. 285] "Stories of the Gorilla Country." This was followed by many other similar books.
Young Burroughs (age 10 and up) read newspapers and listened to gossip the same as anybody. Du Chaillu ridiculed by the press and public might have intrigued his interest. He might have read the books. He might have later, consciously or unconsciously, been inspired to create Tarzan of the Apes. Or perhaps ERB admitted all when he said the legend of Romulus and Remus was his inspiration.
Mr Du Chaillu had many friends among the members, of the National Geographic Society. His last public address in the United States was before the National Geographic Society, April 12, 1901, on the occasion of a farewell reception tendered him by the Society on the eve of his departure for Russia. His first lecture on his return was to have been before the National Geographic Society.
From The Origin of Tarzan by Sarkis Atamian (1997)
[p. 87] This problem of where exactly in Africa was the site of the Greystoke cabin, has concerned scholars for many years.
The Reverend H.H. Heins is a scholar in the field of ERBology (I apologize if this is a newly-coined phrase, but I may have seen it somewhere before – at any rate we need a convenient label to identify the vast topic).
Heins has written the preface to Lupoff and he says:
Exactly where, dear reader, was Tarzan born? While never mentioned by name, the location of the little cabin on the shore of the landlocked harbor on the West coast of Africa is given in Jane Porter's letter in chapter xviii of Tarzan of the Apes as "About 10 Degree South Latitude." Now there is only one place in the Southern Hemisphere where the Tenth and adjacent parallels intersect the west coast of Africa. Tarzan was born in Portuguese Angola."
Farmer disagrees with this and rightly so – but for the [p. 88] wrong reasons. His estimates, though for fictional purposes, are nevertheless based on his obvious knowledge of some important facts, and are more realistic. But he is a long way off for reasons unknown, given the facts. He puts the Greystoke cabin site where the Fuwalda put the Claytons off on the beach which Farmer estimates to be halfway between Iguéla and Setté Camma, in the present Gaboon, then part of the French Congo, approximately two degrees South latitude. He does so because the 10 degree south which Jane Porter's letter (and Reverend Heins' calculations) indicates would place the site more than 300 miles south of the Congo River near the present site of Quicama National Park in Angola (Farmer). Such a site would place the cabin where there are no gorillas south of the Congo River, says Farmer, and concludes that, "Internal evidence from the Tarzan books indicates that the coast of Gabon was the correct location, even if we did not know that from other sources...."
The internal evidence may refer to, "...Burroughs' statement that the Porter party was fifteen hundred miles north of Capetown..." which would place the site in Portuguese Angola plus the absence of gorillas that far south. He gives us no other reference to internal evidence, and none about external evidence, although he undoubtedly has Du Chaillu in mind whom he has read. Of course, his handling of these facts give his fictional context a beautiful verisimilitude, and his statement that this "...was another example of Burroughs' efforts to mislead the reader about the true location... " may very well be true. But an unwary reading of the passage will not expose a contradiction or two in Farmer.
Since he has read Du Chaillu, he should have known Du Chaillu believes there are no gorillas south of Setté Camma – not south of the Congo River which is too far south by nearly 300 miles from Setté Camma, let alone 300 miles south of the farther Congo River!
I can find no Iguéla on Du Chaillu's map, (though Setté Camma is prominent) nor on Stanley's original [p. 89] map of the Congo and the Gaboon, nor in recent (1972) Rand-McNally maps. It may be that Farmer uses Iguéla as a fictional name, but I don't think so – there is probably such a place in the maps he has used. His general location as the Gaboon, instead of Angola, is correct, however. In the second sentence on the first page of Chapter One (right at the outset), Du Chaillu tells us that:
My purpose was to spend some years in the exploration of a region of territory lying between latitude one north and two south, and stretching back from the coast to the mountain range called the Sierra Crystal, and beyond as far as I should be able to penetrate.
According to his map, the farthest south he penetrated in gorilla country was below Cape St. Catherine, to the coast, at about one degree, seventy five minutes south below which there are no gorillas. From Setté Camma to Cape Lopez is approximately 150 statute miles, North West. Approximately half way between these two points the very large Fernand Vaz river and its Delta pour into the Atlantic. Du Chaillu has walked north from his southernmost point along the river (which parallels the coast for some distance) and the ocean. But he stops cold at Fernand Vaz because it is impassable beyond that point.
Cape St. Catherine along the way would be one of the ideal locations for the Greystoke cabin, but we shall see why it is too far south. From the Fernand Vaz to Cape Lopez, north, is the vast area of the Ogobai Delta where the large Ogobai River some 50 miles inland, branches into the Nazareth River which empties into the sea above Cape Lopez while the other branch (still the Ogobai) flows into the Fernand Vaz emptying into the sea below Cape Lopez. A third mighty river, the Mexias, fed by the Ogobai and Fernand Vaz empties into the sea at the southernmost tip of Cape Lopez. The delta area, therefore, is crisscrossed dozens of times by these rivers and their tributaries. It is an abysmal swampland, at least 2,500 square miles. It would be nearly impossible [p. 90] to walk from Fernand Vaz to Cape Nazareth (let alone from Cape St. Catherine) – which is why Du Chaillu stopped until a ship picked him up.
The problem is that if the Greystoke cabin stood anywhere along the coast between these two points of Fernand Vaz and Nazareth Bay, then how could Tarzan and Lt. Paul D'Arnot, 20 years after the Claytons are marooned, walk north to the unnamed settlement? If they go inland to avoid the impassable Ogobai Delta, and then head north, they would have to cross three major rivers and ERB makes no mention of them, or of any boats used in any crossings. When Tarzan and D'Arnot return from Mbonga's village (where Tarzan rescues D'Arnot from another cannibal episode) to the Greystoke cabin, the Clayton-Porter entourage has been rescued by D'Arnot's French cruiser and gone.
Tarzan and D'Arnot head north for three weeks when Tarzan, on learning of it, decides to go back to the cabin area to uncover the treasure chest buried by the ruffians of the Arrow. D'Arnot talks him out of this and they walk another week to reach an unnamed missionary settlement on the coast under the head of Father Constantine. They rest here for a week and then walk for another month until they reach the coastal settlement (unnamed), prior to their departure for France. The "settlement," however, is civilized enough to have the necessary equipment so that D'Arnot can send his cablegrams outside.
Now the only place north of Nazareth Bay where there could be a settlement advanced enough for D'Arnot to send his cablegrams, where Tarzan and D'Arnot saw a "little group of buildings," and "many boats," in a "little port," and "a coast town," and stay in a "hotel," and meet a "number of whites" (all ERB's words) who bet Tarzan 5,000 francs that he cannot kill a lion single-handedly and unarmed, can only be on the left bank of the French Gaboon River Delta at, or near, King William Point – after Count Bouet-Willaumetz had signed a treaty with [p. 91] King Denis of the Mpongwe. It is a straight shot from Nazareth Bay to the Point, along the coast through lovely territory. Du Chaillu himself walked it – all 150 statute miles of it. There are no large rivers or swamps to break up the route. There are occasional villages along the way, one of which Tarzan and D'Arnot could have visited with Father Constantine, as ERB says they did.
Secondly, it is D'Arnot's fellow officers and a French cruiser that rescue the group at the Greystoke cabin. When the crew of the cruiser attacks Mbonga's cannibal village, they are 200 men strong, led by 10 officers (under the tactical command of Lt. Charpentier) and two surgeons. It seems like a lot of fire power for a primitive cannibal village (ERB is taking no chances), but the cruiser which carried that kind of complement had to have enough logistics problems that could only be solved by a naval base or station adequate for the job, about which ERB says not a word. Such a vessel could not just drop in from thin air – even ERB would not go that far.
Vaucaire in his biography of Du Chaillu, drawing partly from Explorations, says that soon after the treaty in 1842, the "French had built enormous warehouses to serve as a base of supplies for the West African fleet " and that fleet contained at least 26 vessels to match roughly the same numbers that the British and Portuguese kept in the area, each cautiously keeping an eye on the other. Indeed, this was the fabulous Gold Coast of slave, ivory, gold, rubber, and mineral fame – formerly operated by the Portuguese. What is more logical than having a Frenchman, Lt. D'Arnot, appear on the scene? Who else but a Frenchman would be most likely to be found in the French Gaboon where the coin of the realm is the franc, and where the French flotilla lay?
It is now (in Du Chaillu's time) the French Gaboon on both sides of the Delta and the River, and important enough for the upper bank to become Libreville, and has had an important influence on that part of Africa ever [p. 92] since. ERB underplays all this, of course, just as he did the location of the Greystoke cabin. Obviously, he may not have had these Gaboon locations in mind, at all, when Tarzan and D'Arnot finish their two month trek. But something like this he would have to have in mind (and this is the likeliest place) in order to get his heroes to do what they do, and if Tarzan is to learn French in order to learn how to speak English, meet the civilizing tutelage of D'Arnot, and get to Paris. If ERB had not forgotten all these impressions when he first read Du Chaillu, he would refrain from advertising it, however, or revealing too many clues from this to Du Chaillu. The same is true for the Greystoke cabin site.
Well, one must bite the bullet at this point. Where was the likeliest site for the Greystoke cabin? At Nazareth Bay, which ERB disguises as a "...beautiful ... landlocked harbor." It is only one-half degree south of the Equator, it has all the sea coast and tropical jungle and distant mountains (the Sierra Crystal, if nothing else), and the great apes, gorillas, natives, the proximity to French civilization and sailors, soldiers and marines – English, French, and Portuguese.
We do not know if Paul du Chaillu is ERB's source for the creation of Tarzan of the Apes; yet, these works of an explorer of Africa are most intriguing!