ERBmania! Logo
Nkima Speaks

May 13, 2002

Dear Tangor:

An amusing new project: "Out of the Mouth Of ERBís Characters" -- salient quotations defining the personality of his wonderful creations. Iím just having fun--not really expecting to do every ERB novel in this way--but who knows?

Others have gathered ERB quotes in the past but my project differs in collecting the words placed into the mouths of Burroughs' characters. Compiling the direct utterances might be a revelation.

Excerpts from Nkima's cover letter for the article.

Definitive Quotations
Spoken by the Characters
of Edgar Rice Burroughs

Selected by David Adams

"Tarzan of the Apes"


ERB had a knack of putting memorable words into the mouths of his characters. Each of his novels are filled with these bon mots, and many of them serve to define the personalities of the speakers. This list of quotations is my attempt to collect the most memorable quotations and defining moments from Tarzan of the Apes. The limiting factor of this project is to use only words directly spoken by one of the characters. ERBís descriptions, however, telling of character are not allowed. It must be the words out of the mouths of these wonderful creations that must give them a brief moment of defining life.

I believe that it would be an interesting project to study each of ERBís novels and create a similar list of quotations. Sometimes a character must be allowed to speak more than once because his or her personality changes during the course of the novel. Such is certainly the case of Tarzan in this first novel about the ape-man.

One more limiting factor must be in place to keep these lists to a desirable brevity. Every effort should be made to summarize the personality and role of the character to one spoken line whenever possible.

After doing this list for Tarzan of the Apes, I was surprised to see how much of the novel is brought to mind by a simple reading of these selected quotations.

I am reminded of the power of words by the gospel writer:

"O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement. For by thy words thou shat be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Matt 12: 34-37


I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other.

Little Old Sailor:

"'Ell's to pay, sir, on this 'ere craft, an' mark my word for it, sir. 'Ell's to pay."

Captain Billings:

"I'm captain of this here ship, and from now on you keep your meddling nose out of my business."

Black Michael:

"You'll be all right there for a few months..."

Lady Greystoke:

"O, John, it is so good to be really home!"

Lord Greystoke:

"My little son is crying for nourishment--O Alice, Alice, what shall I do?"


"He will never be a great ape ..."


"If I must carry him forever, so be it."


I am Tarzan. I am a great killer. Let all respect Tarzan of the Apes and Kala, his mother.


"Come down, Tarzan, great killer. Come down and feel the fangs of a greater!



Old Males of the Ape Tribe:

"HUH," they replied with one voice, "Tarzan is great."


"Tarzan is not an ape. He is not like his people. His ways are not their ways ..."

Sailor from the Arrow:

"Ho, mates! What's here? This sign was not posted an hour ago or I'll eat the cook."

Professor Archimedes Q. Porter:

"Most remarkable, most remarkable!"

"Tut, tut. I shall continue in the proper direction, if I have to circumambulate the continent of Africa to reach my destination."

Snipes, the rat-faced sailor:

"You didn't think your Cap'n was a-goin' to dig with a shovel, did you?"

Samuel T. Philander:

"Bless me!

"The time has arrived when patience becomes a crime and mayhem appears garbed in the mantle of virtue . . . . . Goaded by long-suffering patience the worm will turn."

Esmeralda, the Negress:

"Oh, Gaberelle!"

"I thought it was the devil; but I guess it must have been one of them gorilephants."


"Come back to me," she whispered. "I shall wait for you--always."

Captain Dufranne:

"He has certainly won a loyal champion, Miss Porter."

Lieutenant Charpentier:

"MON DIEU! I shall see them in the dark forever--the eyes that you see, and those that you don't see, but feel--ah, they are the worst."

Lieutenant Paul DíArnot:

"God made you a gentleman at heart, my friend, but we want His works to show upon the exterior also."

Robert Canler:

"... have it your own way, dear girl, I am going to have you, and that is all that interests me."


"I am still a wild beast at heart."

"You are free now, Jane, and I have come across the ages out of the dim and distant past from the lair of the primeval man to claim you--for your sake I have become a civilized man--for your sake I have crossed oceans and continents--for your sake I will be whatever you will me to be."

William Cecil Clayton:

"If it's any of my business, how the devil did you ever get into that bally jungle?"


"I was born there," said Tarzan, quietly. "My mother was an Ape, and of course she couldn't tell me much about it. I never knew who my father was."

"A Princess of Mars"


POM is filled with ERBís heroic, exalted style of writing. Yet, at times the speeches are of the greatest simplicity and tenderness.

While at labor on this project, I am aware that other quotations may serve equally as well as the ones I have chosen to represent these characters. That others may be led back into the stories to find these hidden gems is one of my intentions.

John Carter:

"I am a very old man; how old I do not know." "I closed my eyes, stretched out my arms toward the god of my vocation and felt myself drawn with the suddenness of thought through the trackless immensity of space."

"Do you not recognize, even through paint and strange metal, the heart of your chieftain?"

"I ask you to be my wife, and by all the Virginian fighting blood that flows in my veins you shall be."

"I have done many strange things in my life, many things that wiser men would not have dared, but never in my wildest fancies have I dreamed of winning a Dejah Thoris for myself."

"A flier, Jeddak! Quick! Order your swiftest flier to the palace top. I can save Barsoom yet."

" I think I can see, across that awful abyss of space, a beautiful black-haired woman standing in the garden of a palace, and at her side is a little boy who puts his arm around her as she points into the sky toward the planet Earth, while at their feet is a huge and hideous creature with a heart of gold."

Tars Tarkas:


"I think I have learned that there is such a thing as friendship, my friend."


Oh, it is one continual, awful period of bloodshed from the time we break the shell until we gladly embrace the bosom of the river of mystery . . ."

"My father's name is Tars Tarkas."

Tal Hajus:

"The terrors of your death shall haunt the slumbers of the red men through all the ages to come; they will shudder in the shadows of the night as their fathers tell them of the awful vengeance of the green men ..."

Dak Kova:

O, would that Warhoon were ruled by a real jeddak rather than by a water-hearted weakling from whom even old Dak Kova could tear the metal with his bare hands!"

Old Man at the Atmosphere Plant:

"I am sorry, but it is for the best good of Barsoom."

Kantos Kan:

"... there is but one man upon all Barsoom who can bounce about like a rubber ball."

Dejah Thoris:

"It is too late, John Carter, my promise is given, and on Barsoom that is final." "It is cruel that we must be torn apart who were just starting upon a life of love and happiness."

Than Kosis:

"John Carter, who ever heard of such a name upon Barsoom!"

Tardos Mors:

"that you are granted, gladly, and without one word of opposition, the most precious jewel in all Helium, yes, on all Barsoom, is sufficient earnest of my esteem."

"My gentlemen, we have at best three days to live."

"The days of the greatness of Barsoom are over. Tomorrow's sun will look down upon a dead world which through all eternity must go swinging through the heavens peopled not even by memories."

A Young Noble of Helium:

"Let us go about our duties as though a thousand useful years still lay before us."