Tarzan and the Ant Men

by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series: Tarzan 10
Reviewed date: 2019 Jan 28
Rating: 4
188 pages
cover art

Tarzan joyrides far above the African jungle in his personal airplane. He crashes in a remote section of jungle surrounded by an impassable thorn barrier. In this isolated pocket of the world are two remarkable civilizations.

Tarzan falls in with a savage race of primitives. They have no speech but communicate through a crude sign language. They are called the Alali, although who calls them that given that they have no speech is a real question. The Alali are miserable due to a freak reversal of gender roles:

The hideous life of the Alalus was the natural result of the unnatural reversal of sex dominance. It is the province of the male to initiate love and by his masterfulness to inspire first respect, then admiration in the breast of the female he seeks to attract. Love itself developed after these other emotions. The gradually increasing ascendency of the female Alalus over the male eventually prevented the emotions of respect and admiration for the male from being aroused, with the result that love never followed.

Having no love for her mate and having become a more powerful brute, the savage Alalus woman soon came to treat the members of the opposite sex with contempt and brutality with the result that the power, or at least the desire, to initiate love ceased to exist in the heart of the male—he could not love a creature he feared and hated, he could not respect or admire the unsexed creatures that the Alali women had become, and so he fled into the forests and the jungles and there the dominant females hunted him lest their race perish from the earth.

Tarzan teaches a young Alalus man--called "the son of the First Woman"--how to make tools and hunt with a bow. That young man teaches others, and with this knowledge they turn the tables on their women. The men dominate. This, Burroughs explains, makes everyone much happier.

Very proud, the son of the First Woman explained to Tarzan as best he could the great change that had come upon the Alali since the ape-man had given the men weapons and the son of The First Woman had discovered what a proper use of them would mean to the males of his kind. Now each male had a woman cooking for him—at least one, and some of them—the stronger—had more than one.

To entertain Tarzan and to show him what great strides civilization had taken in the land of the Zertalacolols, the son of The First Woman seized a female by the hair and dragging her to him struck her heavily about the head and face with his clenched fist, and the woman fell upon her knees and fondled his legs, looking wistfully into his face, her own glowing with love and admiration.

So just to be clear: when women beat up men, it's a crime against nature that denies women the chance to love their men. When a man beats up a woman, it makes her love him. Right.

Ant Men
Next, Tarzan discovers an advanced race of preindustrial men, the tallest of whom is only eighteen inches high. The Minunian city-states are continually at war with each other, mostly in a quest to kidnap slaves to work in their mines. They need the mines to support their building projects: each Minunian city is comprised by gigantic domed buildings that each house approximately 50,000 individuals. The largest city, Trohanadalmakus, has ten such domes and an above-ground population of a half million. Another half million slaves live and work permanently underground in the mines. Veltopismakus boasts nine domes and 480,000 above-ground, with presumably an equal number in the mines. The total Minunian populations across all city-states must be tens of millions.

And to think, all these people live in Africa completely unbeknownst to the rest of the world. Amazing.

Tarzan aids the armies of Trohanadalmakus in a battle against the neighboring city-state of Veltopismakus, but he's taken prisoner. A scientist from Veltopismakus shrinks Tarzan down to their size. There are the usual sorts of adventures--Tarzan finds a steadfast ally in Komodoflorensal, a prince of Trohanadalmakus. Together they escape captivity and rescue the beautiful slave-girl Talaskar, with whom Komodoflorensal falls in love.

Safely back at Trohanadalmakus, poor besotten Komodoflorensal declares his love for Talaskar and renounces his claim to the throne in order that he may marry her. As a prince, he could only marry a princess from another city-state. His father King Adendrohahkis tells him not to be an idiot.

"You are bound by custom only, Komodoflorensal," he said, "to wed a princess, but custom is not law. A Trohanadalmakusian may wed whom he pleases."

And it turns out that Talaskas is a princess anyway!

"And even though he were bound by law," said Talaskar, "to wed a princess, still might he wed me, for I am the daughter of Talaskhago, king of Mandalamakus. My mother was captured by the Veltopismakusians but a few moons before my birth, which took place in the very chamber in which Komodoflorensal found me. She taught me to take my life before mating with anyone less than a prince; but I would have forgotten her teachings had Komodoflorensal been but the son of a slave. That he was the son of a king I did not dream until the night we left Veltopismakus, and I had already given him my heart long before, though he did not know it."

I'm surprised that once again, Burroughs pulls the old she-was-a-princess-after-all gag on me, and that I fell for it again.

Esteban Miranda
The weakest part of the book is the framing device, which revolves around Esteban Miranda, the Tarzan doppelganger. While Tarzan is gone on his adventure, Usula finds Miranda half-dead in the jungle and mistakes him for Tarzan. He nurses him back to health and brings him to the Clayton estate. Just when we think Jane might kiss the imposter, the real Tarzan shows up.

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