Review: Tarzan and the City of Gold

Tarzan and the City of Gold

This is one of the rarer later books where Tarzan has a more central role. It takes place in another lost civilization and starts when Tarzan rescues a strange white man and wanders in the jungle with him long enough to learn his language before returning him to his hidden valley. The valley is home to two cities, one centered on ivory and the other on gold. No mention is made of the fact that his new buddy’s home town trades in the tusks of Tantor, I guess Edgar Rice Burroughs didn’t want us to think about the source of ivory too much. Anyway, they get to the valley and get separated by a flooded river when Tarzan is swept away to the rival city of gold.

There he is taken prisoner and forced to fight in gladiatorial combat before he comes to the attention of the mad Queen Nemone who, of course, falls in love with the ape man. Hijinks ensue as Tarzan seems to fall a little in love with this crazy bitch who kills or maims any woman who dares be beautiful. I checked and this was written only a couple of years before ERB’s divorce and I have to wonder if the dying of his marriage played into the absence of Jane in any of the later Tarzan books. I read a theory that he meant to leave her dead when the Germans crucified her in one of the middle books, can’t remember which one it was off the top of my head. By the time the last part of that book came out (it was published in serial form as many of these were originally) he recanted and said that her maid had been burned and left to convince Tarzan that Jane was dead. I am not sure of ERB’s intentions or reasons, the same source that I referenced above said that he did it because he was so disgusted by the portrayal of her in the movies that he decided to bump her off in the books. I don’t quite get that, but ERB was a weird guy. Whatever the reason, there is very little of Jane in the later books and I think they suffer for it. Tarzan is at his best when he is torn between his role as an English Lord and his love of the jungle.

That being said, I hated seeing him being gooey eyed over this crazy bitch and thought it was the weakest part of the book. It’s never going to be one of my favorites anyway, especially with the deus ex machina ending. It has its ups – more Tarzan – and its downs, the completely unnecessary relationship between the Lord of the Jungle and the crazy queen.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I started a Tarzan fan fiction recently and part of my goal is to bring Jane more to the forefront and let her be as strong in her own way as her mate. Yes, I know that’s a cliche for modern writers to want to give classic heroines more scope and strength, but I would argue that Jane was already one of the stronger characters in the books. She came from a sheltered world and suffered huge traumas, not the least of which was losing her son once as an infant and then for years as Jack went away to become Korak the Killer. Then she also lived on her own in the jungle and had to learn to survive on her own. She went from being a delicate flower to a tough broad and I want to celebrate that in my version of the story. It’s about time she comes out of the background, or like in this story, out of obscurity, and take her place at her man’s side. I hope I can pull it off.

As for this book, I’d give it 3 1/2 stars, with a little padding for nostalgia – with all its faults it’s still Tarzan.

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