Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lost Cities of Tarzan's Africa


By far the most famous lost city in Tarzan’s Africa the City of Opar. Tarzan first discovered Opar in the second Tarzan novel, and returned in no less than three more times. Opar is an Atlantean colony located deep within what is now Zaire (the former Belgian Congo), nestled within the mountains that are the source of the Zambezi river. Unlike other cities in Tarzan’s Africa, Opar is not thriving. It is still inahbitated, but only by a small number of degenerates, and the city has fallen into ruin. Thousands of years ago, Opar was a bustling center of commerce. But after the continent of Atlantis sank, the colonists were cut off from the rest of the empire. This occurred durnng the rainy season, when tourists and tradesmen were away, and few besides politians and the priesthood remained. The Oparian religion has persisted throughout the ages, albeit in a degenerate form that demands blood-sacrifice. Over the thousands of years that Opar existed in isolation, the populace underwent a dramatic sexual dimpophism. Perhaps to avoid the hazards of inbreeding, the Oparians frequently mated with the Great Apes of the regions, and even aquired some of their culture and tongue. What remains of their original Atlantean dialect is confined to terms relating to their religion. The male Oparians are a devolved race of beast-men, very hairy, and stoop shouldered, and pornathus browed. The Oparian females however, remain very human, and are stunningly attractive. This may be because, it was the Oparian females who chose (or were chosen by ) the Great Apes, and the Apes perhaps chose the most attractive Oparian tarmanganis to mate with. La, the high priestess is the most beautiful of the Oparians, with the lustrous black hair, beautifully chiseled features, and queenly baring. Opar is also a very rich city, and contains a vast wealth in gold and diamonds, which is left over form its colonial days when the city was a center of trade, and the diamonds and ore were mined from the mountains. This makes Opar much sought after by treasure seekers. Opar has been featured many times in the comics. There was, surprisingly, only one episode of the Filmation TV series to feature Opar (Tarzan the Hated), and even more surprisingly, Opar was depicted as merely a ruined city, and there was no evidence of La or the Beast men. The only time that Opar ever appeared in a Tarzan motion was in the 1998 movie Tarzan and the Lost City, starring Casper Van Dein. While a bit better than some other motion picture adaptation, the inclusion of Opar did not make for a better film. The movie’s version of the lost city consisted of only a single pyramid, and was inhabited by a race of black sorcerers, even though Burroughs never including sorcery or mysticism in his novels at all. And, of course, there’s no sign of either La or the beast-people. One of the mysteries surrounding Opar is that Burroguhs did not delve deeper into the city’s Atlantean origins. Phillip Hose farmer wrote two Opar pastiches, Hadon of Ancient Opar, and Flight to Opar, which are set during this ancient period in Tarzan’s Africa. The Atlantern empire is at its height, and a great inland sea exists where the Congo basin does now. It is a very well-conceived depiction of Burroughsian Africa in its prime, complete with a now-vanished race of beast-men, though I did not find the story itself terribly readable. There is also a mysterious reference in these novels of a god-like personage who rides an elephant and travels with a monkey on his shoulder. This seems to be a reference to Tarzan himself, though this is impossible, unless Tarzan somehow got transported backwards in time.


Xuja is a lost city in Africa that lies in an elevated desert in the remote mountains of Tanganyika. Unlike the surrounding wasteland, Xuja existed in fertile valley fed by mountain streams. Richly cultivated fields surround the city. The Xujans themselves have stiff, course, black hair, and yellowish skin, and prominent canine teeth. Their cast of features is somewhat oriental. They worship parrots as sacred animals, and one old parrot is venerated as a god Parrots feature prominently in their religious art, and to a lesser extent, lions. Lions are kept and bred by the Xujans as both guard animals, and for food. They have developed a very dark leonine strain that is nearly black in coloration. These “black lions” are used to guard the city against intruders. It is not known what civilization or race from which the Xujans are descended, though their dialect is somewhat Greek.

City of the Bolgoni

This is the civilization of the Bolgoni, the dominant race of the Valley of the Place of Diamonds. This valley lies adjacent to Opar lie in the mountains of Zaire. Two races inhabit this valley, a race of devolved gomangani humans, which are (unlike the beastmen of Opar) are meek, and used by their Blogani as slaves, and Bolgoni themselves, a race of sentient gorillas. Though they refer to themselves as “Bolgoni” the same great ape term for nrola gorillas, the Bolgoni of the Valley of the Place of Diamonds walk upright, and have human intelligence. They are able to built cities, weave cloth, and (especially) make jewelry, which they wear in abundance. The Bolgoni keep a lion in their palace who is their “king.” This strange race came about probably in much the manner of the Oparians, of mixing of Oparian blood with both Burroguhs’ fictional Great Apes, and gorillas. But instead of producing a race of degenerate humans, this mixing resulted in gorillas who have evolved sentience. They still retain the language of the Great Apes. They are enemies of the Oparians.

Nimmr and the City of the Sepulcher

Two rival cites that exist within the Valley of the Sepulcher hidden in the mountains of southern Abbysinnia. The inhabitants of both cities are the descendents of English crusaders. A fifty-foot limestone cross marks the passage to the valley. Nimmr is also called the “Leopard City” as they use leopards are hunters and guard animals. Jousting in the medieval knightly tradition is a common form of entertainment for both cities.

The Valley of the Ant Men

Another lost realm within Tarzan’s Africa is the valley of the Ant men. This strange hidden land is veiled in mist, and girded by a massive thorn barrio. The land is inhabited by two weird races: a strange, white-skinned race, the females of which are dominant, and muscular warriors, and whose males are physically weak and subordinate (called Alu); and the Minuni, also called “Ant Men”, who are normal humans of “shrunken” miniature proportions. At least some of the Alu have reverted to the more normal relation between the sexes by the end of the novel, thanks to Tarzan’s influence. The Minunians are a fierce, belligerent race, and use the diminutive Royal antelope as war-mounts. This small African species is little larger than a hare, but to the Minuinians is the size of an eland. They are technologically advanced beyond that of the outside world, in at least some aspects. Minunian scientists have discovered a way to shrink “normal” sized men and animals down to their size by applying magnetic waves to the nervous system. The ant-men inhabit, vast hive-like cities that have the appearance of termite mounds. This is not a “lost city” proper, but it nonetheless one of Burroughs most interesting hidden realms. The origins and evolution of these strange peoples are a complete mystery. Joiper, a warrior of the Ant Men, is a friend and often a companion of Tarzan’s in the Manning strips.

Castrum Mare & Castrum Saguinarius

These are ancient outposts of the Roman empire, founded in a remote valley deep within the Wriramwazi mountains of Africa. Though the cities are rivals they trade for fish, snails and paper, for gold and slaves. The inhabitants of the valley trade once a year with local tribes outside the valley, who river them as spirit-beings. The ancient Roman sport of gladiatorial common is still common in these twin cities, both against men and captured beasts, such as lions and elephants.

Cathne and Athne

Cathne and Athne are twin rival cities in the lost valleys of Thenar and Onthar in the Ethiopian highlands. The two cities are eternally at war with one another, but once a year the Cathneans trade hay, fruits, and vegetables with the Athneans for steel and cloth. Lions are sacred to the Cathneans, as elephants are to the nobles Athne, and roam the city’s streets as freely as house pets. There are about 500 adult male lions in Cathne, a city built almost entirely of gold, 300 of which belong to Queen Nemone. Nemone’s personal pet and guard lion, at the time of tarzan’s arrival, was named Belthar. The Cathneans also drive lion-driven chariots, and use the beasts as war animals. The ruling class of nobility are called “Lion Men”. A particular lion is even worshiped as a god in Cathne, but though he once may have been a regal beast, at the time of Tarzan’s arrival, he was old and toothless. The Catheans also use their lions to hunt elephants, and to run down escaped slaves. They are rather cruel people, relish blood sports, and taking the heads of their enemies, the Atheneans in battle. Tarzan visited only cathnean in the novel Tarzan and the City of Gold , though he encountered both cities in Tarzan the Magnificent. It is unknown from what race these peoples are descended, though their ancestors were possibly Greek. In this last novel, outsider Stanley Wood, opins that they may by a remnant of lost Atlantis, similar to the Oparians. The city of Cathne features greatly in the Filamtion tarzan TV series (though it is wrongly called “Zandor” , perhaps to avoid confusion with the name it its rival), and three episodes are set there. The City of Athne, though mentioned repeatly on these episodes, is never shown.

Kaji and Zuli

Another pair of rival cities of a white race of Amazon women. Once they had been balck, but selective breeding with white male captives over centuries had changed them. They are ruled by two wizards who wield the powers of two giant hypnotic crystals, a diamond for Kaji, and an emerald . for Zuli. These cities are in the Ethiopian highlands not fat from the twin valleys of Onthar and Thenar


A hidden valley secluded by mountains, and inhabited by two sects of a degenerate fanatical religion, descended from an early form of Christianity. The South Midians are corrupted by centuries of inbreeding, and demented fanaticism. They are uniformily dark-haired and epileptic. They believe that St. paul (the prophet) was a god, and practice human sacrifice of sinners. The North Midians, are blond, less inbred, of cleaner appearance, though no less fanatical. Neither of these people are not truely “civilized” though they do represent a “lost race”, as do the Kavuru, described below.


The Kavuru are a legendary tribe of mysterious white men within the depths of the Congo. They are a race of immortal celibit priests, consisting entirely of young men. Sometime in the past, the Kavuru invented a potion wich gave whoever consumed it immortality. There are many ingredients in this potions, chief amonst them being the glands of young girls. Kavura are feared by the local tribes because of their habit of luring yoiung women awy from the villages by blowing hypnotic whistles. Their village was guarded by trained leopards, who also served as source of leopard spinal fluid, another ingrediant. The Kavuru are not civilized, and dress in the savage manner of the native black tribes. Their origin is unknown.

Ashair and Thobos

These are yet two more rival cities, this time hidden deep within the mountains of Rhodesia. They are located at opposite ends of Lake Horus, named for the Egyptian Hawk-God. The inhabitants are descendants of the ancient Egyptians, making these cities the only ones in Tarzan’s Africa that are native (though non-negroid) in origin. The “Forbidden City”, of the novel of that title is Ashair. Intruders who see it, are taken captive for life. The Ashiarians worship a legendary stone, and man they rever as a god, both of whom are called “the Father of Diamonds”. The stone sank to the bottom of Lake Horus during the war between the cities. Both peoples have tried to recover it. However, two caskets were discovered in Tarzan and the Forbidden City ,one of which was revealed to contain nothing more than a lump of coal. Certain prehistoric creatures seem to have survived in this isolated mountain valley, including a dwarf species of T-rex, about the size of a Cape buffalo. The lake itself is inhabited by an array gargantuan sea life, including giant seahorses, and a monstrous eel, which Tarzan battles to the death. It is not known of these creatures are prehistoric in origin, or if some property of the lake (or perhaps breeding by the Asharians) has increased their size.


A lost Portuguese colony located high in the Abyssinian highlands, butyl tat the top of a plateau in the early 1500s by Cristoforo Da Gama, who named the city for his homeland. By the twentieth century the Alemtjans were a mixed race of white Portuguese and Bantu blood. They retained icons of both their native relions, including many Christian symbols, as well as tribal gods and blood sacrifice. The city was girded by a deep gorge, inhabited by man-eating lions to guard against intruders.

Chichen Itza

A lost Maya colony somewhere in the south Pacific. It is located on the island of Uxmal (not the original Uxmal), and named after an original Mayan city. This lost city is not located in Africa, but Tarzan was taken to the island after being captured by enemies and their ship crashed. There, he rescued the Mayan girl Itzal Cha from human sacrifice, which is still part of this people’s culture.


Ur was the last city invented by Burroughs himself, for a novel he never completed. Besides the name, which was penned by ERB, nothing else of this mysterious lost city is known. This novel was finally completed in the 1990s by Joe R, Landsdale, an author better known for his Western/Horror novels, under the title Tarzan: the Lost Adventure, and published by Dark Horse comics. It was given the pulpish treatment it deserved, published in serial format in four separate parts, with noted illustrators like Tom Yeates, and Micheal Kaluta. Landsdale’s version of Ur is a most interesting one that Burroguhs himself strangely never got around to writing; a civilization of highly cultured Black Africans, perhaps similar to ancient Kush. According to Landsdale, all of Africa had once been under domination by the Urites, but gradually their empire collapsed, its inhabitants became isolated, and though their culture is still advanced, it has also degenerated, and its inhabitants relish human sacrifice to a god-being called Ebopa, who originally came up from “the world below”. In reality, Ebopa is a giant species of Pellucidaran mantis, which somehow made it up from the Earth’s Core. The details of Urite culture are very Burroguhs-like, to the extent of other of Burroguhs’ lost cities. These civilized Blacks ride in zebra –driven chariots. Their city is girded by a moat infested with “sacred” albino crocodiles. The throne room of the royal palace of Ur is guarded by a pair of black lions (jet-black, unlike the nearly black lions of Xuja). The question, however, is that is this city-and the rest of the novel-the way Burroguhs would have envisioned it? The answer is probably not. First, Burroughs’ own lost cities, were, with the exception of Ashair and Thebos, whose inhabitants descend from colonies of ancient Egypt, non-African in origin. While it is hardly certain, it is likely this trend would continue had Burroughs continued to write. Second, the name “Ur” does not sound native in origin, and certainly not Negroid. The civilization would almost certainly have been near-eastern origin, had ERB lived to complete it. The ancient Babylonian colony, simply called “New Babylon” featured in the Russ Manning-illustrated story “Tarzan and the Glorious”, first published in issue #26 of Comics Feature, gives a better example of what Burroughs own version of this lost city might have been like (the story, by the way, features an ancient prophecy written over 3,000 years ago, of a woman of legendary beauty who will someday rule all of Africa. Warriors from all over Tarzan’s Africa make a pilgrimage to New Babylon, not only of the Arabs and numerous Black tribes, but of the various Lost Cities as well. Even a warrior of lost Pal-ul-don, and Joiper of the Ant-Men are there. They compete for this prize by crossing wood beams set over a pit of ravenous lions. The first warrior to reach the girl wins). There are other aspects of Lansdale’s story that don’t seem like the way ERB would have done it, even though the story is very much in Burroguhsian vein. It is a bit bloodier, for one thing (remember, Landsdale is better known as a horror writer). For another, the present inhabitants of Ur seem to be entirely evil, at least the ones the main characters encounter; Burroughs would have at least some I habitants of any lost city turn out be good. For another, he includes a clichĂ© that is common among “lost race” stories, particularly in film versions, and has Ur destroyed in the end. Burroughs kept his lost cities around, and even had Tarzan return to some of them for further adventures. Finally, though Lansdale steers away form Political Correctness (which, unfortunately, has become the bane of many recent Tarzan comics stories), the conclusion of the novel seems oddly downbeat, and modern, uncharacteristic of Burroughs, with Tarzan reflecting that his Africa is slowly being destroyed by modern civilization, and hoping to find refuge by following Ebopa’s tunnel to Pellucidar. As the Tarzan pastiche, Landsdale’s novel is a good one; the only trouble was that it was advertised as being authentic Burroughs, which in fact it is not.


Many other lost civilizations have been discovered by Tarzan in the numerous pastiches and comics over the years. Burne took the Ape-man to a lost colony of Vikings, and later to two rival colonies of ancient Hindu or near eastern origin, one of whom had learned to train mastodons (who roamed their remote island) as war-mounts. The Hal Foster comics strips took the Ape-Man to a lost colony of ancient Egypt, still ruled by a Pharoe, and to another “City of Gold”, which was built by a descendents of a civilization of ancient minor who were unrelated to the inhabitants of Opar or Cathne. Burne Hogarth took Tarzan to other numerous lost realms, including a colony of ancient Vikings, a forgotten Tartar civilization, who had learned to train the wild mastodons still found on their native isle as war-mounts, and lost Chinese colony, guarded by a ravine filled with voracious lions. Lost remnants of ancient Egypt featured again in the DC comics series drawn by Joe Kubert, the Filmation TV series of the seventies, and the Russ Manning strips., in his story “The Stone Pharoah”. It was Manning, incidentally, who established that the numerous “lost valleys” found throughout Tarzan’s Africa (at least some of them) actually resided within “pocket dimensions”, which explained how they could remain undiscovered into the modern era. This was most emphasized in the case of lost Pal-ul-don, perhaps because a hidden land filled with prehistoric men and animals surviving into the modern era seemed even more farcical. Phillip Jose Farmer, in his recent Tarzan pastiche, The Dark Heart of Time, takes the Ape-Man on a “missing adventure,” that is believed to have occurred sometime after Tarzan the Untamed, and before Tarzan the Terrible, and actually ties up a notorious “loose end” of the former novel. This loose end involves a an ancient skeleton bearing conquistador-like armor which Tarzan finds in the Xujan dessert, along with a curious metal cylinder containing an enigmatic parchment. What follows is an adventure much in the Burroughs tradition, filled with the usual perils and escapes, and encounters with lost races, such as bizarre race of “tree pygmies”, and a lost city, called the ”City Built by God”. Unlike Farmer’s Opar books, I found this novel to be very readable, much like Burroughs originals, although certain aspects such as the alien “Ghost Frog” worshipped by the city’s inhabitants seemed more science fictional, than one would expect in a Tarzan book.


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