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Nkima Speaks

From the ERBmania! Editor:

While updating my ERBList web site I came across this Nkima article sadly lost in a somewhat hidden link. The link was originally intended to collect the "gems" of email messaging the members of ERBList and ERBCOF-L saw on occassion. Adams' article below was the only one posted to the "Best of..." page at ERBList because Tangor, Hillie, and other web jeds had undertaken bolder publishing venues (see ERBmania!'s recurring contributor columns). Rather than lose this heartfelt essay while pruning ERBList's home page, I have brought it here to Nkima Speaks where it belongs.

A Personal Tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs

David (Nkima) Adams

I still find it amazing that the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs influenced so many people during their childhoods. When I was a boy the only ones in our city who were dyed-in-the-fur Tarzan fans were my brother, Duane, and I. Sure, other kids swang on ropes down at the slough, but we were the only ones who ate, slept, and breathed the ape-man every day of our lives during those glorious years. We didn't even live (in) a house anymore or have parents like normal kids. We only existed for those long summer days spent climbing trees or walking in the African hills that surrounded our hidden river valley. The great river that flowed through the middle of the town like a twisting, brown snake was filled with crocodiles, and two boys on rafts threw spears into the terrible beasts that swam in those depths or slunk in the bulrushes along the shore.

I am still amazed that so many people in the world know about Tarzan. I am absolutely dumbfounded that they come from so many walks of life today. Where were all these boys when I was young? What an amazing crew we would have all made had we grown up in the same city together!

The kids who grew up in the 1950's did have a very hard time coming by the Burroughs books, but we sure learned a lot about sleuthing in our efforts to find more stories about our favorite characters. "Characters" is not the correct word here. Finding the Tarzan books was more of a quest to find out who we were. The stories became a part of our own autobiographies. When we read the books, we were finding a truth of life, our own life, and so Burroughs is a part of us in a deeper way than any other mere author can be.

I was so happy to be at the Dum-Dum this past summer, for I knew that everyone there had more than the love of an author in common. In a strange and wonderful way we had all shared a common childhood, and that's why Burroughs fans become such close friends in such a short time.

The ERB lists are different than the other ones I am on -- the Jack London list and the Mark Twain list. We are a motley crew of brothers and sisters who shared a vision in our youth unlike any other. We were fired on Mars and tempered in the steaming jungles. We are unearthly beings who know the blazing validity of dreams.

I have tried to write about this experience for about 40 years now. I write about it again and again, and I still can't seem to get to the essence of it all. The very first thing I wrote at the age of 16 or 17 was a story about becoming Tarzan. (Unfortunately, I burned this piece with all of my other youthful writings because it was just too personal for other eyes to read. But, I think it is significant that I burned it instead of just tearing it up. It became a funeral pyre of the ashes of my youth.)

I am still amazed that we Burroughsians have so many different careers today. I revel in the fact. We are not just a band of scholars and fanatics pouring over musty books of a minor American author. We are Jeddaks and Ulsios. We are the true mangani, the legitimate inheritors of the Lord of the Jungle. What an amazing collection of renegades and far-ranging travelers we are.

We all owe so much to a single man that we can barely believe that he wrote those extraordinary books. We know in our deepest hearts that we are the true authors of the soul-binding adventures because we lived them even as we first read the words.

There is truly no one else like this writer, Mr. Edgar Rice Burroughs, in all the many worlds we know, nor can there be for us another like him in all the worlds we have left to discover.