Friday, March 30, 2012

Tarzan And The City Of Gold

TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD was one of the original Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which was subsequently adapted to different media. It has been suggested by one of Burroughs' biographers that Thelma Todd may have been a souce of inspiration for the character of "Queen Nemone", who appears in this story. Burroughs lived in the Los Angeles area and was involved in the production Tarzan movies. He was acquainted with Thelma Todd around the time he wrote this book.

Edgar Rice Burroughs and Maureen O'Sullivan at a book signing at the May company in 1932.

From wikkipedia:

Tarzan and the City of Gold is a novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the sixteenth in his series of books about the title character Tarzan. The novel was originally serialized in the magazine Argosy from March through April 1932


Plot summary

After encountering and befriending Valthor, a warrior of the lost city of Athne (whom he rescues from a group of bandits known as shiftas), the City of Ivory and capital of the land of Thenar, Tarzan is captured by the insane yet beautiful queen Nemone of its hereditary enemy, Cathne, the City of Gold, capital of the land of Onthar. This novel is perhaps best known for two scenes; in the first, Tarzan is forced to fight Cathne's strongest man Phobeg in its arena. While an ordinary man might have been in trouble, Tarzan easily overpowers Phobeg. The second scene, in which Tarzan is forced to fight a lion, starts with the ape man being forced to run away from a hunting lion, Belthar, which will hunt him down and kill him. Tarzan at first believes he can outrun the beast (lions tire after the first 100 yards at top speed). This lion, however, is of a breed specifically selected for endurance, and ultimately Tarzan must turn to face him, though aware that without a knife he can do little but delay the inevitable. Fortunately his own lion ally, Jad-bal-ja, whom he had raised from a cub, arrives and intervenes, killing Belthar and saving Tarzan. Nemone, who believes her life is linked to that of her pet, kills herself when it dies.
Unusually for lost cities in the Tarzan series, which are typically visited but once, Cathne and Athne reappear in a later Tarzan adventure, Tarzan the Magnificent (The only other lost city Tarzan visits more than once is Opar).

Comic adaptations

The book has been adapted into comic form by Gold Key Comics in Tarzan nos. 186-187, dated June–July 1970, with a script by Gaylord DuBois and art by Doug Wildey.


The copyright for this story has expired in Australia, and thus now resides in the public domain there. The text is available via Project Gutenberg Australia

Popular Culture

  • In the cartoon series Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, elements from this story was used in "Tarzan and the City of Gold," "Tarzan's Return to the City of Gold," and "Tarzan and the Soul Stealer." A big difference is that the City of Gold was renamed Zandor and had been at war with Athne. In all three episodes, Tarzan had to deal with Queen Nemone (voiced by Joan Gerber in the first two appearances, Hettie Lynn Hurtes in the third appearance) and Tomos (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer). Another difference is that Phobeg (voiced by Ted Cassidy in the first two appearances, Alan Oppenheimer in the third appearance) becomes Tarzan's ally in those episodes.


  • Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. pp. 67.
  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd.. pp. 133.

External links

Preceded by
Tarzan Triumphant
Tarzan series
Tarzan and the City of Gold
Succeeded by
Tarzan and the Lion Man

Book cover

Original art by J. Allen St. John

Ad for the Tarzan radio show

Ad in BLUEBOOK announcing the publication of the book.

The story was adapted into the Tarzan comic strip in 1934. The comic strip version had art by Rex Mason, his Queen Nemone was very similar to J. Allan St. John's version.

The Queen Nemone depicted by J. Allan St. John and Rex Mason resembles Thelma Todd somewhat, but it could be a sort of period look. J. Allan St. John was a classical artist and worked from live models. It is likely that his Nemone resembled the model he was using.

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THE BIG SWINGERS by Robert W. Fenton

This was one of the older biographies of Edgar Rice Burroughs. In writing about the book TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD, Fenton pointed out that this book differed from the past several Tarzan tales in that Tarzan was depicted as being attracted to a woman other than Jane, who was missing from this as well as several other adventures in this period. Burroughs himself had separated from his first wife and so it looked as if art might be imitating life.

Fenton felt that the "City Of Gold" might symbolize Hollywood, and that the queen of the city might represent a "movie queen". He felt that the name "Nemone" was derived from "Nemesis", who represented retribution in Greek mythology. And he suggested that Thelma Todd might have been one of the sources of inspiration for this character.

But the death of Thelma Todd could not be related to the end of the fictional Nemone, as Fenton might have thought. Thelma Todd was still alive when Burroughs' book was published. My brother Dale has remarked that this story has much the same plot as H. Rider Haggard's SHE, and that queen also meets her end in the final part of that story.  

The character of Nemonde could be seen as a classical temptress, or a silent movie vamp, which would be much the same thing. Thelma Todd had been a silent movie vamp and in the thirties was still termed a vamp, even though that term was no longer considered fashionable. So the character could be said to resemble one that Thelma Todd might have played.

Burroughs frequently displayed disappointment or even disgust with his fellow man in the Tarzan stories. Tarzan was supposed to think that his animal friends were better in some ways than people, because they would never do some of the things that people do. So one more story where people - perhaps even Thelma Todd - might be viewed with a critical eye would not really be too surprising.

In 1932, the long-running Tarzan series with Johnny Weissmuller began with MGM's TARZAN THE APEMAN. Here we see Burroughs with Maureen O'Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller.

Johnny Weissmuller, Thelma Todd, and Santa Monica life guard, 1935. Johnny Weissmuller was an Olympic swimmer prior to playing Tarzan in the movies. Thelma Todd lived near the Pacific ocean and we see pictures like this that associate her with swimming.

Lupe Velez was Johnny Weissmuller's second wife. Lupe Velez began her career at the Roach studio and worked with Laurel and Hardy. She was also in the movie PALOOKA with Thelma Todd.

Watch the cartoon version at the Big Cartoon Database:

Read the comic strip version at the official site:


Read about Johnny Weissmuller at Brian's Drive-In Theater:

Read about Lupe Velez at Brian's Drive-in Theater:

Tarzan-Jungle Jim- Bomba Club:

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