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The Victory Cry of the Bull Ape

    One of the more endearing aspects of ERB-APA is the wide range of ERB-related topics that show up in these pages. Even the most minor and neglected aspects of the author and his work appear unexpectedly. An excellent example of this is “The Victory Cry of the Bull Ape” (“Edgardemain” #9, ERB-APA #33), in which John Martin offered an ambitious analysis of those occasions on which Tarzan did not give voice to his blood-curdling cry. Such articles are what makes ERB-APA truly amazing. Where else, I ask you, would you find such a topic discussed?
     Like Pete Ogden (“Kaor” #34), I’ve long been of the opinion that Burroughs intended to indicate that Tarzan voiced not one, but a number of different types of cries, according to circumstances. While it is the “victory cry” that we most often associate with the literary Tarzan, on other occasions he voices “calls” to summons apes, monkeys, and elephants, and “challenges” to various enemies. Such different cries were featured in the 1934 radio serial “Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher” (and presumably in the other 1930s radio serials), and the Asher victory cry was used in the 1935 Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises movie serial New Adventures of Tarzan.
     Pete’s observation that the Burroughs-Tarzan cry is actually not a shrill, drawn-out “tarmangani,” but something closer to “ah-mangani,” was also quite interesting and probably correct. In preparation for these remarks I listened to a couple of episodes of “Asher” and found to my surprise that the victory cry is rendered there just as Pete describes it, or possibly as “’armangani,” with the initial t unvoiced or clipped. Certainly it makes little sense for the victory cry of the bull ape to be the simian word for “white ape.” Or possibly the opening “ah” is undocumented Mangani, perhaps for “great,” “mighty,” or “victorious.” The full cry might mean “Mighty mangani!”
     Other cries used in the 1934 radio serial were “Tan-TOR Tan-TOR!” (“Tantor,” screamed twice), used to summon elephants, and “KREEEE-gah Kree-gahh!” (“Kreegah” twice) as a warning or challenge. I was interested to learn from Pete that the different challenge used in “New Adventures” was rendered by playing the more familiar “ah-mangani” cry backwards.
     Another interesting aspect of John Martin’s article was his reference to the “Is dat Johnny Weissmuller” incident in Tarzan and the ‘Foreign Legion. “Thus,” John observes, “ERB was saying, indirectly, that the cry of the real Tarzan sounded a lot like the cry of the screen Tarzan, at least in the mind of two members of the jungle party.”
     I have to disagree with John’s reading of that memorable passage. Here is the sequence, more in context, from pages 77-78 of the ERB, Inc., edition. Tarzan has just dropped from a tree onto the back of a tiger, armed only with a knife:
    But what seemed a long time to them was a matter of seconds only. The tiger’s great frame went limp and sank to the ground. And the man rose and put a foot upon it and, raising his face to the heavens, voiced a horrid cry—the victory cry of the bull ape. Corrie was suddenly terrified of this man who had always seemed so civilized and cultured. Even the men were shocked.
     Suddenly recognition lighted the eyes of Jerry Lucas. “John Clayton,” he said, “Lord Greystoke—Tarzan of the Apes!”
     Shrimp’s jaw dropped. “Is dat Johnny Weismuller [sic]?” he demanded.
    As I read the passage, Lucas is not responding to Tarzan’s cry, but to his name. He has suddenly realized that his companion, RAF Col. John Clayton, bears a name with other, previously overlooked associations. This realization is the cumulative effect of all the aspects of the incident: an almost naked white man dropping from the trees onto the back of a carnivore and proceeding to slay the beast with a knife, then rising and giving voice to a hideous cry. These things make Lucas remember another John Clayton, a “fictional character” also known as Lord Greystoke and still better known as Tarzan of the Apes. Shrimp’s remark is in response not to a Weissmuller-like cry (and isn’t it curious to see Weissmuller’s name misspelled here, the only place it appears in the series), but to the name Tarzan, which Lucas has just spoken.
     Since John Clayton is only a name chosen by Burroughs to protect the ape-man’s identity, the passage creates another of those slight contradictions we occasionally encounter in the Tarzan series. Of course, we could avoid that contradiction by assuming that Lucas had seen New Adventures and immediately recognized the ape-man’s “Ah-mangani!”
     (By the way, I particularly want to thank John Martin for his fine performance as OE. Each new editor has contributed to the evolution, improvement, and general well being of ERB-APA, but John certainly has given future OEs something to strive for.)

   J. Allen St. John: An Illustrated Bibliography exhibits an exuberance surpassed only by that of its author, the renowned writer, editor, collector, fantasy enthusiast, and raconteur, Darrell C. Richardson. By this time I suppose all members of ERB-APA have already acquired copies, and so I won’t attempt to review the book, other than to say that I am very pleased indeed to add it to my collection, and that Darrell deserves our lavish thanks for having given us a volume we’ve long wanted and needed.
     The legendary Dr. Richardson was in town some months ago, and I am please to report that all his recent notoriety has had no effect on his kind, generous, and above all modest personality. The rich praise that has been heaped upon him since the publication of this book has not inflated his ego one whit above its previous size, nor has the occasional criticism dimmed his expansive good fellowship. He regaled John Guidry and me with his stories for far too brief a time, then disappeared again into the night, leaving us longing for those future publications with which he tantalized us . . . and wondering if all we had seen and heard was not itself a sort of fantasy. Can there actually be a Darrell C. Richardson?

—August 26, 1992 
 
New Adventures of Tarzan (movie serial)
Other Tarzan videos
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Copyright © 1999 Patrick H. Adkins. All rights reserved.