I wrote a poem on the first two Tarzan books, searching for the Oedipal themes that might be found therein. I believe that this is the gentlest Freudian analysis ever written on Tarzan.
I was inspired to write this poem after reading Jerry Griswold’s chapter on Tarzan in his “Audacious Kids: Coming of Age in America’s Classic Children’s Books” -- Zeuschner number 1056. I did not belabor the points of interest with analysis but let the facts stand as they were written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, often using his own words in my text.
June 26, 2000
I killed my father with a knife to the heart.
I never felt sorry for the fact,
for he was a bully who deserved to die.
You can only take so much abuse
even when your are only thirteen years old.
One night my father went after my mother
in one of his mad carnivals of rage,
so I stabbed him in the chest
a dozen times, I guess.
He didn’t really fight me all that much;
I think he was surprised.
I held him by the hairy throat
and stabbed until he went limp
and crumpled like an empty sack of bloody fur.
I even put my foot upon his neck
and screamed out my final defiance there.
I was glad that he was dead.
I left him curled on the ground,
and no one even went over
to see if he was dead.
It was pretty obvious.
We left him where he fell for the ants
or any thing else that wanted him.
No one touched my dead father,
and he never touched anyone again.
I yelled at the people standing around
to leave me and my mother alone,
and they did at least for awhile.
* * *
My mother and I got along fine
until I was eighteen. I loved her,
and she loved me -- her only son,
the one who had delivered her
from the madness of her mate.
We could have lived forever in our happiness
had not a murderer come into our lives --
a man-beast who robbed me of the only love
I had ever known.
The poison of a wicked arrow
split my mother’s heart and infected my own.
I fell upon her body and sobbed
like a baby -- the most beautiful thing
in my life was gone forever.
It was at dawn that my mother died.
I followed the tracks of the man
and found an archer killing a pig.
When he had finished his breakfast,
I ate the scraps and followed him
into the forest. He was the first
human I had ever seen.
I followed him all day long,
watching as he killed more things
-- a hyena and a monkey.
All it took was one scratch
from a sliver of wood.
At night the man slept,
and I took the little sticks
and the thing that made them fly with death.
I captured the poison that had killed my mother.
In the morning, the man began to run,
but I stayed close above him
in the trees until we came to a clearing
with many strange lairs --
and I dropped my rope around his neck.
The man screamed as I drew him up
by the neck, but I soon put an end
to the noise, stabbing him through the heart
with my knife.
Thus my mother was avenged.
I took the murderer’s knife
and a few other things he wore.
He was lucky I didn’t feel like
eating his flesh.
I just left his naked body upon the ground.
* * *
I fell in love with the first woman I ever saw.
She had white skin like my own,
and I looked at her from a distance
I did not want to frighten her away.
Her golden hair shimmered like a waterfall,
falling about her oval face
in waving lines, falling, falling
in waves below her waist it tumbled down.
I killed for this woman.
I killed an ape who wanted her for his own.
I kissed her lips, and in that moment
she loved me too. It was a burning brand
that seared my soul.
She tried to push me away,
but I carried her into the jungle.
She only struggled a little while.
When she relaxed in my arms, I relaxed too.
We passed through the forest
as if by magic to the place I had killed my father.
There I fed her and stroked her hair
as my mother had once my own to comfort me.
I touched my lips upon her forehead,
and she sighed.
That night I made a bed of ferns
and grasses upon the ground.
I gave her my locket, and we kissed
it one after the other.
It contained the ivory miniatures
of a man and a woman who were my real parents,
yet I did not know.
We did not sleep together.
I gave her my knife,
and she entered the bower alone,
while I slept across the entrance in peace.
We spent the next day together,
but I returned her to her own people.
We kissed at parting, and she murmured,
“I love you -- I love you,” and
“I shall wait for you -- always.”
I did not understand her language.
I did not see her again
until I came to the New World.
* * *
I crossed continents and oceans for my love.
I saved her from a raging fire
and the blazing lust of another man.
Yet in the end, I left her to another.
I never knew my father,
and my mother was an ape.
The End of Book One
Then, I was lost in a lost city
where was spread a movable feast
until at last I was cast into the sea.
I came up from this baptism upon my childhood shore,
born again into my apehood where birds soared
with brilliant plumage in a tropic garden
of blooming flowers, festooned creepers
falling in great loops from the giant trees.
In the cauldron of a black village
I rose from ape to savage,
wearing virgin gold about my arms and feet.
We harvested the ivory from many elephants together,
and I saved them from the wicked Arabs
until I became their chosen king.
We went to the treasure city
in the bowels of the jungle fastness,
and there men shuffled lower
than I had ever been -- half-man, half-ape
-- yet without beauty -- form corrupted -- diabolical.
Only the women were beautiful --
symmetrical and well-proportioned --
they had soft black eyes and soft black hair.
I could not help but notice
in those caverns and dark chambers.
A single slit of sun poured down
through a vertical shaft, looking down
upon me naked upon an altar of stone.
There a jeweled woman hovered over me
and sang her song of the jeweled knife.
She was the bride of the darkest caverns,
condemned to mate with bestiality.
I could not love her even though
I was the man of her daydreams
ever since she was a little girl.
I could not love her,
yet she saved me,
and I walked away with her virgin gold.
Then I saw my one true vision --
she of the golden hair --
with a man dressed in rat skin,
and I saw red through a bloody mist of murder.
Yet I saved them from a lion,
bowed my head and turned away in sadness.
I suffered sorrow of a freshly opened heart wound --
like a beast I suffered in silence and alone.
I returned to my own people,
completing the cycle of evolution,
returned to be once again a brute
among brutes. An ape at the beginning,
an ape I would die.
Yet, when my love fell into the dark caverns
with the beast-like men,
when she lay upon the bloody altar
beneath the knife of the dark beauty,
I returned and took her away.
I said three words, “She is mine,”
and bounded through the pits into the sunshine,
carrying my unconscious love.
When she awoke, I thanked God and called her “dear”
and “dear” again. We had passed through death
together, and she thought I was a spirit
rising in another dream.
She said, “kiss me, dear,
just once before I lose my dream forever,”
and I did a hundred times.
I had dropped like a plummet,
from civilization, to savage, to brute --
yet I had returned for her.
We walked hand in hand
beneath the arching boughs of the mighty forest,
as might in a far-gone past
have walked our primeval forbears.
I was in the garden with her,
then we married. We married
in the place of my birth
beside the graves of my mother and father,
surrounded by the savage jungle
that always has been my home.
We left this place forever,
yet I still hoped I might someday return.
The End of Book Two