Thursday, May 28, 2015
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar starts off with a disgraced Belgian officer who kills his superior and flees into the jungle, only to fall into the hands of an Arab slave trader. Gaining his trust, the two of them plot to kidnap Jane and demand a ransom from Tarzan, or sell her into slavery if he doesn't pay. Werper goes to Tarzan's home pretending to be a Frenchman on safari, and overhears Tarzan tell Jane that his holdings are in trouble- some unspecified financial calamity. He plans to Opar, the ruined city that is the last remaining outpost of ancient Atlantis, and get more ingots, which he has used to supplement his incomes in the past. The treasure vault of Opar is filled with gold ingots, too many to count, and the bestial inhabitants of the city and their beautiful priestesses pay no heed to the vault.
Setting off, Tarzan soon arrives at Opar with his loyal tribesmen- but in typical Burroughs fashion, there is a sudden earthquake and a rock hits Tarzan, causing him to lose his memory. Ah yes, here we go. Werper, who followed Tarzan to the vault, is trapped within the city and is almost killed by the savage inhabitants, but an amnesiac Tarzan rescues him and they flee from Opar. Before their escape, however, Tarzan stumbles across the fabulous jewel vault of Opar, and takes several jewels with him- a small fortune. Werper, aware of this, then plots to somehow liberate the jewels from Tarzan- after Tarzan gets him to safety, of course!
He recalled the scene within the temple when he had lain stretched upon the sacrificial altar, while La, high- raised dagger, stood above him, and the rows of priests and priestesses awaited, in the ecstatic hysteria of fanaticism, the first gush of their victim's warm blood, that they might fill their golden goblets and drink to the glory of the Flaming God.
Achmet Zek, meanwhile, has taken advantage of Tarzan's absence to abduct Jane and burns their bungalow to the ground. The rest of the tale details Tarzan's adventures while amnesiac, including another run-in with La and the priests of Opar, as well as Werper's machinations. It all unfolds in typical Burroughs fashion, and Tarzan of course regains his memory (but not until almost the very end), and we get several character perspective come together at the end to wrap things up.
This was an okay read, I think if you've never read Burroughs or Tarzan it might be more interesting, or even eye opening as to how he was originally written. Like many heroes brought to the screen or popular culture, he was written perhaps more nuance, more angles, than a movie or TV can convey. At the same time, if you've read a lot of Burroughs then the plot and especially the twists and turns will feel very familiar. I generally liked the last one I read, Tarzan the Invincible, a lot more than this one- Opar featured in that story as well, and the last , ruined outpost of Atlantis is my favorite part of the Tarzan canon, so I gravitate to those that feature a visit there.
It's such an evocative place, with subhuman inhabitants and beautiful priestesses, unspeakable rites and strange cries in the humid air, an temples full of gold. The cover art by Neal Adams is a glimpse of the place- the quintessential lost city in Africa. And of course the question remains- who will wind up with the famed jewels of Opar?
For more on Opar and a more satisfying Tarzan tale (for me) see my reviews of Tarzan the Invincible.