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Tarzan and the Ant Men

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Wikipedia article

'Tarzan and the Ant Men' is the tenth book in Edgar Rice Burroughs' series of novels about the jungle hero Tarzan. It was first published as a seven-part serial in the magazine 'Argosy All-Story Weekly' for February 2, 9, 16, and 23 and March 1, 8, and 15, 1924. It was first published in book form in hardcover by A. C. McClurg in September, 1924. The story was also adapted for Gold Key Comics in 'Tarzan' #174-175 (1968).

In the book 'Master of Adventure: The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs', Richard A. Lupoff places 'Tarzan and the Ant Men' in his list of essential Burroughs novels and states that it represents Burroughs at the peak of his creative powers.

Plot summary

Tarzan, the king of the jungle, enters an isolated country called Minuni, inhabited by a people four times smaller than himself, the Minunians, who live in magnificent city-states which frequently wage war against each other.

Tarzan befriends the king, Adendrohahkis, and the prince, Komodoflorensal, of one such city-state, called Trohanadalmakus, and joins them in war against the onslaught of the army of Veltopismakus, their warlike neighbours.

He is captured on the battle-ground and taken prisoner by the Veltopismakusians, whose scientist Zoanthrohago conducts an experiment reducing him to the size of a Minunian, and the ape-man is imprisoned and enslaved among other Trohanadalmakusian prisoners of war. He meets, though, Komodoflorensal in the dungeons of Veltopismakus, and together they are able to make a daring escape.

Spanish actor/Tarzan lookalike Esteban Miranda, who had been imprisoned in the village of Obebe, the cannibal, at the end of the previous novel, 'Tarzan and the Golden Lion', also appears in this adventure.

Major themes

Burrough's view on what is a natural relationship between the sexes is neatly illustrated by a secondary narrative thread in the novel, that one about the Alali or Zertalacolols, an ape-like matriarchal people living in the thorny forests which isolate Minuni from the rest of the worlds. When the enslaved and persecuted Alali males see that Tarzan is a male too and yet stronger and more formidable than any Alali female, they go to war against the females, and by killing or maiming several of them, subjugate them. When Tarzan, towards the end of the novel, meets the Alali again, the females are submissive and obedient to their mates and actually prefer it that way.

The Minunian city states and their politics are strongly reminiscent of those of Barsoom. They also share the Barsoomian philosophy of perpetual war as a good and commendable state, as illustrated by the words of Gefasto, the Commander in Chief of the Veltopismakusian armed forces:

'We must have war. As we have found that there is no enduring happiness in peace or virtue, let us have a little war and a little sin. A pudding that is all of one ingredient is nauseatingit must be seasoned, it must be spiced, and before we can enjoy the eating of it to the fullest we must be forced to strive for it. War and work, the two most distasteful things in the world, are, nevertheless, the most essential to the happiness and the existence of a people. Peace reduces the necessity for labor, and induces slothfulness. War compels labor, that her ravages may be effaced. Peace turns us into fat worms. War makes men of us.''Tarzan and the Ant-men', chapter ten.


'Tarzan and the Ant Men' marks the end of a sequence that began with 'Tarzan the Untamed' and continued through 'Tarzan the Terrible' and 'Tarzan and the Golden Lion' in which Burroughs' vivid imagination and storytelling abilities hit their peak, and which is generally considered a highlight of the series.

The novel is also the last in the series to focus primarily on Tarzan's own affairs and to routinely feature the customary locales and supporting cast of the early novels. In later novels Burroughs largely dropped the use of such important characters as Jane and Korak, as well as the familiar base of Tarzan's African estate. Formerly pivotal characters would return only occasionally; Jane, La of Opar and Paul d'Arnot would each reappear once, while the Waziri or Jad-bal-ja the golden lion would only be brought in as needed to get Tarzan out of a tight spot. The Ape Man would become a seemingly rootless adventurer intervening in the affairs of an endlessly changing gallery of secondary characters whose goals and entanglements were henceforth to form the basis of the novels' plots. This shift in plot-type had first been presaged by the introduction of strong secondary characters as early as 'Tarzan the Untamed'; after 'Tarzan and the Ant Men' it would become dominant.

Minunian Glossary

The Minunians are supposed to speak a language of their own, which Tarzan soon masters after spending some time with his friends the Trohanadalmakusians. The language has longer words than other languages rudimentarily constructed by Burroughs, and it has a somewhat Greek or Latin look and feel. The length of the personal names of a people of short stature and of the words of their language is supposed to have been a deliberate allusion to Gulliver's Travels.

The reader learns little of the language, but it is obvious that titles both noble and military follow the given name of a person in the language: Zoanthrohago is addressed as 'Zoanthrohago zertal', for instance, and Komodoflorensal would be called 'Komodoflorensal zertolosto'.

* 'Aoponato' Komodoflorensal's registration number as a slave of Veltopismakus, meaning eight hundred cubed plus nineteen.

* 'Aopontando' Tarzan's alias as a slave of Veltopismakus. It is simply his registration number, eight hundred cubed plus twenty-one.

* 'Caraftap' a dungeon-slave and a bully, Kalfastoban's favourite.

* 'Elkomoelhago' is the king or 'thagosto' of Veltopismakus, when Tarzan and Komodoflorensal are captured by his armed forces. A vain and impopular monarch, he has staffed most of his cabinet with men who are not equal to their tasks, and who would be happier doing something else.

* 'Gefasto' is the commander in chief of the armies of Veltopismakus. As most other cabinet ministers, he had no schooling for his office, but unexpectedly turned out to be quite a good general. 'In Gefasto behold his' (Elkomoelhago's) 'greatest blunder! He elevated a gay young pleasure-seeker to the command of the army of Veltopismakus and discovered in his new Chief of Warriors as great a military genius as Veltopismakus has ever produced.'

* 'Gofoloso' is the Chief of Chiefs (which probably means something like the Prime Minister) in Elkomoelhago's government. As most other cabinet ministers, he is not very apt at his work: 'I, a breeder of diadets, master of ten thousand slaves who till the soil and raise a half of all the food that the city consumes, am chosen Chief of Chiefs, filling an office for which I have no liking and no training.'

* 'Hamadalban' a warrior of Veltopismakus, Kalfastoban's next-door neighbour.

* 'Janzara' the Princess of Veltopismakus, Elkomoelhago's daughter.

* 'Kalfastoban' a warrior of Veltopismakus, who sees Talaskar in the slave quarters and purchases her from Zoanthrohago.

* 'Makahago' is the Chief of Buildings in Elkomoelhago's cabinet. As most other cabinet ministers, he is not particularly suited for his office. 'Makahago worked the quarry slaves for a hundred moons and is made Chief of Buildings.'

* 'Mandalamakus' a Minunian city-state, the original home of Talaskar.

* 'Talaskar' a slave-girl in the dungeons of Veltopismakus, befriended by Tarzan and Komodoflorensal

* 'thagosto' king, "chief-royal"

* 'Throwaldo' is the Chief of Agriculture in Elkomoelhago's cabinet, 'who scarce knows the top of a vegetable from its roots'.

* 'Torndali' is the Chief of Quarries in Elkomoelhago's cabinet.

* 'tuano!' good night!

* 'Veltopishago' seems to be the name of some ancient and revered warrior-king of Veltopismakus. Elkomoelhago, being an impopular ruler, is by some of his councillors deemed unfit for the "throne of Veltopishago".

* 'Vestako' is "the Chief of the Royal Dome", i.e. the chief of the security police, in Elkomoelhago's cabinet.

* 'zertal' prince, in the sense of the scion of a noble family. The king's heir is called 'zertolosto'.

* 'zertalacolol' one of the primitive, ape-like people guarding the borders of Minuni, also called 'alali' by Burroughs. The zertalacolols are a matriarchal people, until their oppressed males revolt, inspired by the example of Tarzan.

* 'zertolosto' prince, in the sense of the future inheritor of the throne. Komodoflorensal is the zertolosto of Trohanadalmakus.

* 'Zoanthrohago' the scientist and noble to whom Tarzan belongs as chattel. His noble title in the Minunian language is 'zertal'. Burroughs scholars have seen him as the prototype of the Barsoomian scientist Ras Thavas.

* 'Zuanthrol' is the Minunian word for "giant" and the name given to Tarzan by his Veltopismakusian captors

References in other literature

'Tarzan and the Ant Men' is referred in Harper Lee's novel 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1960) as a book read by the young protagonist, Jean Louise ("Scout") Finch.

Comic adaptations

The book has been adapted into comic form by Gold Key Comics in 'Tarzan' nos. 174-175, dated June-July 1969, with a script by Gaylord DuBois and art by Russ Manning.


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.


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