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Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Land of Hidden Men: Edgar Rice Burroughs – Book Review

Land of Hidden MenThe Land of Hidden Men (also known as The Jungle Girl) is a classic Burroughs “lost world” story where the protagonist will stumble upon a lost civilization and the dangers within and eventually find true love. This is of course is all done in the way only Edgar Rice Burroughs can do it.

Gordon King, a young American doctor, visits Cambodia to study exotic diseases, and while there decides to take some time off to explore the Khmer ruins of Angkor. His local guide only takes him to the edge of the jungle and will go no further as he fears “the ghosts of my ancestors” and that anyone who has entered this jungle has never returned. Gordon King, being an enlightened man of the Twentieth Century, has no use for silly superstitions and decides to on alone. Shortly after, he is completely and utterly lost.

What makes Gordon King standout from other Burroughs heroes is that even though he is naïve outsider, who doubts his own senses when confronted with the impossible, he remains likable and not like a boorish American tourist as at first one suspects him to be. When lost, starving and suffering from fever, he encounters a procession of warriors and elephants that look to have stepped out of the history books. He immediately chocks them up to fever dreams. He later saves a strange yellow bearded man holding a red parasol in the jungle from a tiger which he assumes to be part of his delusion, but in fact he just so happened to have rescued Vay Thon, high priest of the temple of Siva in the city of Lodidhapura.

Rescuing important personages is nothing new to Burroughs as that is probably his most used trope, but Gordon King isn’t your standard Burroughs hero, with only his college athleticism keeping him alive, that and his ability with the spear due to his process from his javelin throwing days. It’s his strong right arm throw that saves the life of the lovely slave girl Fou-tan when he sends a spear deep into the heart of an attacking tiger just as it is about to make a meal of her.

the princess

The relationship between Gordon and the beautiful Fou-tan is also unique for a Burroughs’ story, as they quickly fall in love with each other without the standard cultural misunderstandings that plague many of his other characters. There is never a “will they won’t they” aspect of their relationship, their happy ever after is only delayed when her true position in a neighbouring kingdom is revealed and her duties will not allow her to marry for love.

The Land of the Hidden Men also contains one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s most despicable villains in the form of Lodivarman, The Leper King, a repulsive and vile individual who blames his leprosy on a woman, so he has been trying his best to infect beautiful slave-girls with his condition. The reason he fails at this despicable act leads to our hero turning the tables on his situation when captured.

The Jungle Girl

This is one of my favorite Burroughs book, and sadly not very well known. It has fantastic villains as well as nail biting action, not to mention an intelligent, cool headed hero. The love story between Gordon and Fou-tan is easily one of the best written by Burroughs, as you truly feel for each of these characters as they are torn apart by circumstances beyond their control. I can’t recommend this book enough.

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