Friday, December 06, 2013

Tarzan, Conan, and the Dragons


 I was rereading one of my favorite Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, Tarzan the Terrible, and I happened across a scene that I didn't remember but suddenly realized might have been an influence on Robert E. Howard when he was writing the classic Conan yarn, Red Nails.
   The scene occurs when Tarzan and a Waz-Don (one of the races of the lost land of Pal-Ul-Don) woman under his protection are attacked by a gryf, a carnivorous form of triceratops. Tarzan and the woman take refuge in  huge tree, where the dinosaur can't reach them. Tarzan says that they can wait until the gryf goes away or escape through the treetops, but the Waz-don woman tells him:

   "You do not know the gryf," replied Pan-at-lee, gloomily.
   "Wherever we go it will follow and always it will be ready at the foot of each tree when we would descend. It will never give us up."

   That reminded me of a scene in red Nails where Conan the Cimmerian and Valeria of the Red Brotherhood have been trapped on a rocky outcropping, and a dinosaur they refer to as a dragon waits below. Valeria says the thing has to leave sometime and Conan replies.

   "That thing must be a dragon, such as the black people speak of in their legends. If so, it won't leave here until we're both dead."

   And later Valeria says:

   "Can't we get into the trees and get away, traveling like apes through the branches?"

   Conan explains that the trees near the rock won't hold their weight, but I find it interesting that Valeria suggests the same escape plan Tarzan had thought of. Of course in Tarzan's case he probably could have escaped the way, but he had someone else with him and he wouldn't leave her.

   I knew Robert E. Howard read a lot of Burroughs but I wasn't sure about Tarzan the Terrible, so I checked the list in the back of the book The Dark Barbarian of books he owned, and sure enough, Tarzan the Terrible was listed.
   So anyway, no way of knowing if the scene in the Tarzan novel was the inspiration for the scene in Red Nails, but I think it likely. Of course Howard took it in his own direction as any good writer would.