Archive for the ‘Africa’ Tag

Cool Old Maps from Ancient Tomes   1 comment

Well, if you agree that anything published before the year 2000 is old, and anything from before 1950 is ancient, then I have something for you.

I love maps–especially drawn maps of fantastic places that never really existed.  I’m not so keen on aerial surveys. I’m currently reading an old book that I rescued from an antique shop several years ago.  It is called Trader Horn: Harold the Webbed.  The title page is the kind of thing that isn’t done in publishing anymore.  It says:

Harold the Webb or The Young Vykings:  being volume two of the life and works of Trader Horn

. . . the works written by Alfred Aloysius Horn at the age of seventy-three, & the life with such of his philosophy as is the gift of age and experience, taken down and here edited by Ethelreda Lewis; with a foreword by William McFee. New York, The Literary Guild of America, Inc., MCMXXVIII.

Wikipedia has this to say about Mr. Horn:

Alfred Aloysius “Trader” Horn (born Alfred Aloysius Smith; 1861–1931) was an ivory trader in central Africa. He wrote a book, Trader Horn: A Young Man’s Astounding Adventures in 19th-Century Equatorial Africa (ISBN 1-885211-81-3), detailing his journeys into jungles teeming with buffalo, gorillas, man-eating leopards, serpents and “savages”. The book also documents his efforts to free slaves, meet the founder of Rhodesia, Cecil Rhodes, and liberate a princess from captivity.

I’ve read that book. I may have it around the apartment somewhere. It’s rather a fantastic tale of 19th century Africa, something straight out of H. Rider Haggard, and it became a sensation is the 1920s when it was made into a film using a lot of actual footage of wild animals shot in Africa. Some of that footage was recycled into the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies. What people don’t know is that after the success of his first book, Horn thought he could do it again by creating a medieval romance about the days of Viking England. He chose as his hero a 16 year old boy with webs between his fingers and toes, which made him a very good swimmer. The tale is the most ridiculous claptrap anyone has ever read. Horn called upon his family traditions from Lancashire, and thought he would make up a tale of derring-do that would catch the fancy of the romance-reading public the way his first story about rescuing a white woman from a native tribe did. Although the book was handsomely produced, I’m sure it sank like a stone when it came out. The tale involves a crew of teenage pirates sailing in British waters at the time when Julius Caesar was invading England. They spend some time with the legendary Irish chieftain Fingal and rob a Phoenician trader.  Horn calls his characters Saxons and Vikings although both of those races lived hundreds of years after the Romans invaded Britain.  The story is just plain silly. I, who am a lover of medieval romances, sagas, and heroic literature, am having a hard time reading this.

But the book came with this map.  Isn’t it a beauty?

British_Isles_Map

The map not only shows the travels of the hero, but also shows a portrait of the author at 73, placed in his native Lancashire, and shows a Norman castle as the stronghold of an Irish chieftain. Surely this map of the British Isles is as much a creation of fantasy as any map of Atlantis would be.  In the tradition of ancient maps, it even has a sea serpent drawn into it, though if there is a sea serpent in the book, I haven’t found it yet. 🙂

The publisher did a nice job with this book back in 1928 when it came out.  It is bound in green buckram, has gold stamping of a Viking ship on the front cover, `and the title stamped in gold on the spine.  It’s only 275 pages, and most of the book is full of the ignorant and racist musings of old Albert Horn, but it’s printed on good quality paper, and a book like this might easily survive for a century or two if someone would just take care of it.

I have a fairly large collection of old books.  I’m thinking I might share a few more of their beauties with anyone willing to read these blogs.  If I can just rescue the maps and some of the ancient illustrations from oblivion, it will be worth the effort.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Trader Horn, or read anything by this old geezer, why not leave a comment? I’m fairly certain that Edgar Rice Burroughs would have been aware of Horn’s African tale at the very least.  And I wonder how much more “White Hunter” literature survives from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Don’t mention Haggard to me. I’ve read most of his stuff. But is there anyone else worth reading?

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Jane, the Woman Who Loved Tarzan   8 comments

The dust jacket for Jane shows her as quite the feral jungle woman herself. Failure of imagination--they could have done better.

The dust jacket for Jane shows her as quite the feral jungle woman herself. Failure of imagination–they could have done better.

Amazingly enough, in this internet age of ebooks, audiobooks, netflix, youtube, facebook, and a  million other distractions, I still find time to read old-fashioned paper books.  I don’t get as many out of the library as I used to–there are perhaps a thousand books just waiting for me to pick them up and really read them in my own home, but when I heard about this book, I did use my Phoenix Public Library to track it down, and I’m glad I did.

I discovered Tarzan when I was a boy–millions of us did.  He was everything I wasn’t and what I wanted to be.  I still idolize him, and if something that is new and tarzannish comes out, I get it.  Up to a point.  I will never go quite as ape as Bill Hillman and the Erbzine crowd.  So, I tracked down this book, read it, enjoyed it, and am about to do a brief book review as I would have done if I were reviewing it for Library Journal.  (Back when I was a librarian, I did at least one book review a month for years, and some of those reviews covered truly famous authors.  I quit reviewing in 2010.  All good things come to an end.)

Jane, the Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell. New York, Tor, c2012.  illus. 320 p.  Where did Edgar Rice Burroughs get the story of Tarzan? He claimed that he got it from an unknown man whose name he could not reveal.  Robin Maxwell offers us a much more likely source.  Burroughs got his story from Jane, and things didn’t happen exactly the way he said they did.  There was an expedition to West Central Africa led by Professor Archimedes Porter and his daughter Jane.  They did encounter the ape-man and he did abduct Jane and they eventually mated.  Tarzan’s father and mother, heirs to the Greystoke title in England were marooned, did build a cabin, and were eventually killed by the great apes.  There are other similarities, but things just didn’t happen the way Burroughs told them in TARZAN OF THE APES.  First of all, Jane was not a pampered society lady from Baltimore.  Instead she was an early feminist–a scientist with training in human and primate anatomy, who thoroughly enjoyed cutting up cadavers to see how they worked.  She was smart, fit, and capable.  Early in the book she shoots down a charging bull elephant–a gun heavy enough to do that would probably break my shoulder from the recoil, but she did it–oh well. Adrenaline, I guess.  After an African expedition led by an unscrupulous villain of a guide, the Porter expedition reached the Ubuntu escarpment (that’s probably a nod to the Weismuller Tarzan movies) and found the Waziri and gold and traces of a lost civilization.  Jane got mauled by a leopard and left for dead.  Tarzan killed the leopard and nursed her back to health.  He taught her how to survive in the jungle.  She taught him how to speak English and to read.  A healthy young man and a healthy young woman eventually did what healthy young people do when they spend a lot of time together.  Tarzan killed Kerchak and was chosen as leader of the Mangani people (posited by Maxwell as a missing link between apes and Neanderthal man–an intelligent species with language and primitive culture not yet in the Stone Age).  So, there you have it, Tarzan, King of the Apes.  If you ever loved the Tarzan stories, you should read this one.  Maxwell handled her topic with finesse, respect, and intelligence.  Her focus is on Jane, and Jane really is the protagonist of the book.  Highly recommended for all fiction collections in public libraries.

Heh!  I have about 3 times too many words in that review.  I’m out of practice.

As a Tarzan fan I’m used to people taking liberties with the Tarzan legend.  The movie Tarzan is quite a different creature from Burroughs’ book version.  The Disney cartoon Tarzan is different still.  The comic book versions are also different, and there are far more than one comic book version of Tarzan.  Then there are all the Tarzan imitations–some of them quite good.  I’ll talk about one, Thun’da, in a future blog.  So, I knew I wasn’t going to get the story as Burroughs told it when I picked up the book.  And it really isn’t the same story.  Maxwell is a modern writer.  She didn’t just wander off into her daydreams the way Burroughs did.  She has done a ton of research.  As a result, although her tale is still fantastic, it seems much more plausible than Burroughs version.  (Not truly plausible, mind you, but more plausible).  Maxwell’s Tarzan is different from all of them–a bit less superhuman, but still way larger than life.  One thing that bothered me a little is that Maxwell crowded things from later in the Tarzan series into the first book, notably the Waziri and a reference to Opar.

I don’t want to give away too much about the book.  As an adventure novel, it is superb.  As a romance novel, and I’ve read quite a few romances just to see what the genre is like, and because some of my author friends write them, it is fair to good.  Although the romance is the heart of the story, Maxwell writes more like a biographer than a romance writer.  There are the requisite two passion scenes hidden in the last third of the book (as per many romances), but they are tastefully done, and not nearly juicy enough to make this a hot book. Overall, Jane is a fun book, and she’s a fine heroine, and a great role-model for young women.

There are a lot of loose ends and a cliffhanger ending, leaving room for sequels.  I wonder if Robin Maxwell plans to write one. According to her Author’s Note, it took about 2 years for her to write Jane.  At that rate it will be 2015 before we see THE RETURN OF JANE. (Somehow, that title doesn’t work quite as well as THE RETURN OF TARZAN does.)

As I get ready to return the book to the library, I’m willing to think of it as the best Tarzan novel of the 21st century.  In some ways it is a better novel than TARZAN OF THE APES.  In others, it falls short.  Burroughs has more action, and his apes are better.  Burroughs’ Tarzan is more savage than Maxwell’s.  The writing styles are different.  But, I really enjoyed reading Jane, and if I weren’t highly impressed by it, I wouldn’t have written this review.  If you ever liked Tarzan or Jane, you owe it to yourself to seek out JANE THE WOMAN WHO LOVED TARZAN and read it.

Living the fantasy.  Robin poses with her own Tarzan.

Living the fantasy. Robin poses with her own Tarzan.

If you’ve read this book, or if you’re a member of the Burroughs Bibliophiles, or if you’ve ever visited the offices of ERB Inc. in Tarzana, California, why not leave a comment?

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