One of the most memorable lines in any motion picture occurs at the end of King Kong. "'Twas Beauty killed the Beast, you know!"
The contrast of an alluring woman and a savage beast has sparked fiction writers and poets, as well as screenwriters. It is the stuff of fable, and the stuff of fable is the stuff of human nature. Locked in the symbolism of Beauty and the Beast is a wealth of knowledge about ourselves.
"King Kong" is not the only film based on that great fairy tale. There's Jean Cocteau's achingly beautiful allegory of 1947. There's the much more recent Disney musical cartoon. A few years ago television gave us a romantic (and possibly misguided) series based on it. And those versions, as diverse as they are, barely scratch the surface of such a rich mother lode.
This PulpRack is something of an experiment. We started out with the phrase "Beauty and the Beast" and not much concern for what it might mean. We felt confident we'd find something, of course. The pulps seldom missed a bet for good story material. So the idea here is not to find anything specific but to find anything at all. To see just what lies out there.
To surprise and delight ourselves.
:: Jerry Burge and Jerry Page
There is some controversy over who created the comic book character "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle;" some say Will Eisner and some say Jerry Iger. In 1939 they were running an art studio together, producing comic books for various publishers. Sheena appeared in the first issue of Jumbo Comics for Fiction House (we understand she had previously appeared overseas). She was pretty much the company's first comic book star and even today she remains the best-known character from their stable.
The only genuine long-lasting character pulp Fiction House owned was Jungle Stories, each issue of which led off with a novelet about a jungle lord named "Ki-Gor" who, with his red-headed wife Helene, and his friends Tembu George and the pygmy N'geeso, ousted any evil doers who happened to stray into his part of Africa. He did pretty well; in fact, there was almost a movie about him though for some reason it was never made. Ki-Gor is perhaps why Sheena didn't venture out of the comics and into the pulps until 1951 when Fiction House tried a magazine called Stories of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. It never saw a second issue because the pulps, and Fiction House as well, were floundering. 1954 would see the death of two of the greatest pure pulp magazines of all time: Planet Stories and Jungle, and with them the whole Fiction House empire. In what appears to be an effort to save the magazine, Fiction House added a Sheena novelette to the mix of the last issue of Jungle, Spring 1954. By then it was too late.
"Sword of Gimshai" was written by Joseph W. Musgrave. It ignores the three novelettes in the single issue of Stories of Sheena and sets out to retell the story of how Sheena came to be living in the jungle and of her first meeting with the white hunter Bob Reilly. Sheena, the daughter of missionaries who died while she was an infant has been raised by an Abama witch-woman so convinced of Sheena's special destiny that she has taken her into the forest to live apart from other humans. Now the witch-woman is dead and Sheena is alone except for her animal friends, Chim the small ape, Tamba the elephant, and Sabor the lion. The story opens with Sheena experiencing feelings of loneliness which she can't quite understand. Then the peace and quiet of the jungle morning is broken by the arrival--at top speed--of Bob Reilly, desperately running from pursuing Bambala warriors. The Bambala have recently invaded this part of the jungle and tried to drive Sheena out. They failed, of course, and now they view her with superstitious dread, excepting perhaps their witch doctor, who would dearly love to prove she is not the supernatural creature the tribesmen take her for.
She helps Bob escape the warriors and takes him to her tree house where he meets her pets and learns a bit about her; he speaks Abama, so they're able to converse. Bob is 23 years old, the son of a wealthy American. He's come to Africa to show his father he can make it on his own and, of course, has gotten himself into trouble. Sheena has never seen a white man before; he's never encountered a woman quite like her, either. They fall in love. Bob informs her that he has to go to the Bambala village to rescue of his bearers, now prisoners of the savages, and recover important scientific records. Sheena has no intention of letting him face that kind of danger.
The scenes of the two of them getting to know one another are fabulous. Musgrave enjoys himself immensely here, and so does the reader, as the story seems to verge into romantic comedy, or at least character study.
The plot is sort of referred to in stray paragraphs while we get to know and like these two remarkable young people. It's a risky way to write because when plot is ignored in favor of characters in an action yarn there's the risk that the ending will become so stuffed with incident that it just won't work. The risk is balanced by the fact that if this works, a slight story will seem all the more memorable because we'll care more about the people. Musgrave wisely keeps the plot slight: the problem is to get into the village, rescue the bearers, and get out alive. Even more wisely, rather than depend on action alone, he has Sheena devise a clever scheme to fool the natives into thinking they are being attacked by something supernatural. Suddenly the ending depends as much on the characters as any other part of the story.
Sheena tells her plan to Bob, leaving out only one important detail. The plan is to paint Tamba with a phosphorescent liquid then to ride him into the village convincing the villagers they are being attacked by a demon sent by the god Gimshai. Oh, yes. The detail Sheena forgot to tell Bob: she has no intention of letting him run such a risk when she's obviously so much smarter and warlike than he is. She ties him up and leaves him in her camp then rides the elephant into the village. Her plan goes well until she suddenly finds herself confronted by the chief of the Bambala and that pesky witch doctor who, being a professional, sees through her stunt.
The story is a lot of fun. Bob might be a little more stupid than he needs to be (why is it that those of us who read about the jungle know so much more about it than some of the people--at least in the pulps--who are supposed to be there?), but Sheena is just right. Beautiful, strong, quick witted and clever, with a delightfully savage outlook about some things. There are moments in this story when Musgrave's descriptions of her or her actions, bring to mind Irish McCalla, the great beauty who portrayed Sheena in the first short-lived TV series. (And if you remember the motion picture of a few years back or the more recent TV series, relax. Nothing in this story brings to mind the performances of Tanya Roberts or Gena Lee Nolan as Sheena.)
As said, there were no more pulp stories of Sheena because this was the last issue of Jungle Stories. Fiction House died in 1954. But at least they went down slugging.
Beauty and the Beast. The beasts, of course, are Chim, Tamba and Sabor. They do Beauty's bidding but they're still formidable creatures, especially Sabor. And as Beauty, Sheena's a tough act to follow, right?
But if anyone can follow Sheena, it's Dian the Beautiful. Of course you recall that she is David Innes's Pellucidarian cave girl wife. "Pellucidar" was Edgar Rice Burroughs' prehistoric land inside the hollow Earth. We catch up with her in the novelette "Tiger Girl" in the April '42 issue of Amazing Stories.
This is the third novelette in a series that would become the book Savage Pellucidar. Describing the plot won't be easy: this is Burroughs, after all.
It starts out with Dian the Beautiful and Gamba, the deposed king of Lolo-lolo fleeing Lolo-lolo by boat across a very dangerous sea filled with prehistoric monsters. Landing on an island they are captured by tribesmen of Tandar, cliff dwellers who take them to their city. The tribesmen are dressed in the skins of taregs, which are saber tooth tigers. In the city, Dian and Gamba see several taregs wandering about.
Hamlar the chief gives Dian as a slave to Manai, his wife. The deposed king Gamba is given to a demanding woman who forces him to work all the time. When Hamlar's son Bovar notices Dian's bronze knife, he covets it. He tries to take it from her but Hamlar orders him to return it because the Tandar are not thieves.
Bovar, however, is willing to become a kidnaper. He plots to secretly take Dian to a hidden cave so he can have her and the knife.
Pellucidar being warmed by a central sun which forever remains in one place in the sky, there is no way to tell how much time passes. But Gamba really becomes tired of being a slave, and Dian befriends the taregs. She feeds them, she pets them, and they respond as pussycats usually do.
Dian decides to escape. As tired as he is of being a slave, Gamba is afraid to go with her. So she takes a couple of taregs with her. Bovar follows but stumbles over a sleeping tiger. He gets away with his life for now--but the tiger is following him as he follows Dian.
There's certainly a lot more to this story than that. For one thing, Gamba murders his mistress and flees into the jungle after Dian. For another, there's the Manats, the tribe Tandar is at war with. You can be sure Dian and the tigers run right into them.
For a story of just over 30 pages length, there's a lot going on here. It's a lot of fun. This was one of the last stories ERB wrote, but he was still improving as a writer. His writing is smoother and he packs a lot of detail into a few words. You could tell that he was having a lot of fun, which was usually the case with the Pellucidar stories, even more than his others.
Dian the Beautiful is probably one of the strongest women characters in the history of the pulps. She definitely had a mind of her own, and she always took charge, no matter what the situation. Even as a slave she always seems to be in control.
The contents page blurb reads "Dian the Beautiful fought her way across a savage world -- her only aid a ferocious saber tooth tiger!" Pretty good aid, if you ask me.
:: Jerry Burge
It might seem strange searching for a story for this column in a magazine like Ranch Romances, which is either a love pulp or a cowboy book, depending on how you take it. Still, love and romance imply the presence of beauty, and what's a ranch without horses?
And sure enough, in the second April number for 1948, there's a story with a very promising title, "Love, Honor and a Bay," by that distinguished master of the short western story, S. Omar Barker. Barker was also a composer of western poetry, most of it light, some of it sentimental. His short stories and poems showed up in many of the western and western love books of the 1940s and 1950s, as well as the general fiction magazines like Short Stories and Adventure where they might let a western writer or two into an issue, but only the best western writers.
Tibb Hart rides into San Hilario, hoping to get work with an outfit that's shipping cattle back east, in return for a train ride. After several years he's decided to return to his home in Missouri, and maybe settle down. Riding into town he's impressed with a pretty girl he sees chasing a calf out of her garden. But he hunts up the foreman of an outfit that's getting ready to ship out on the next train, and works up a deal to accompany them.
His plans for a train ride that day are abandoned when he notices a ruckus at the local stable. Seems there's a cowboy trying to break a horse, a small bay pony. He's being pretty brutal about it.
It's pretty much an unwritten law that a man doesn't interfere with another man and his horse, but Tibb can only put up with watching a man heap so much abuse on a defenseless animal. So he yanks the man -- Bronc Atlee -- away from the horse, throws him across the corral, and tells him he's not man enough to own a horse, and from here on that Bay belongs to Tibb, not Bronc. He promises Bronc forty dollars, but he needs to cash a check first, so he tells the man to meet him at the stable at two o'clock. Bronc doesn't have the nerve to argue with him, even though Tibb isn't armed. Tibb takes the horse, cashes the check, and is waiting at the stable to pay the man when up walks the girl he'd noticed before -- her name's Linda -- and she's with the town sheriff.
It seems Bronc has accused him of stealing the horse and is looking all over town to shoot it out with him. Tibb points out that Bronc isn't doing a very good job of hunting since he told him he'd be at the stable at two. But he does wonder why the girl's involved, thought he has a suspicion. Sure enough, it turns out she's Bronc Atlee's girlfriend.
And as for which one of them ends up with both the beauty and the beast, you'll just have to read the story.
"Love, Honor and a Bay" is pretty much western love formula, written so it can be enjoyed by fans of either love stories or westerns, and very well written at that. Barker has one of those colloquial styles so favored by western writers, but he writes so well and concisely that every word he puts to paper seems absolutely natural. He tells his stories pleasantly and you can always count on him doing a good job whether you see him in Zane Grey's Western Magazine or Short Stories or Ranch Romances.
"The White Gorilla" appeared in one of the Munsey magazines in 1915 -- I don't have the information about which one it was. It was written by Elmer Brown Mason, a writer not widely remembered these days, at least not by me. I encountered the story in the November 1949 issue of Fantastic Novels where it was, to be honest, overshadowed by Charles Stilson's "Minos of Sardanes," Tod Robbins' "The Living Portrait," and Francis Stevens' "The Elf-Trap." Most stories, of course, would be overshadowed by that trio; Mason's effort remains both readable and entertaining.
Van Dam, an explorer, fascinated by albinism, travels to a cannibal-infested region of Africa to search out rumors of our beast, in this case a white gorilla. He befriends the local sorcer or priest, and the son of the local chief. He learns that the sorcer is hypnotizing his own daughter (beauty in this yarn) through the medium of a crystal sphere and sending her out to take care of the gorilla. Once the fetish of the village, the gorilla was blinded in a battle with a neighboring tribe and now lives in the jungle, being lured out of his den the influence of hypnotic drugs and the sorcer's alluring daughter.
Also under the influence of the girl is the chief's son. The sorcer does not approve of this, however; presumably their union would rob him of his means of controlling the white gorilla. He attempts forcing the girl to kill the chief's son while under hypnotic influence. But Van Dam is rather more inclined to assist the lovers than the sorcerer--though what he really wants is the gorilla.
This is a short story (part of a series about Van Dam), but Mason implies enough incident for any full-length novel of jungle exploration. He tells it with a crisp, vigorous, style that on occasion has an all-but-subversive tongue in cheek edge. His prose is not dated at all, though the narrative within narrative form in which he tells "The White Gorilla" is definitely the convention of an older day.
FN and Famous Fantastic Mysteries reprinted four or five of Elmer Brown Mason's short stories, the best known of which was probably "Lost--One Mylodon" (Fantastic Novels, July 50), which does not feature Van Dam. However, you can find our intrepid explorer in "The Albino Otter" which they reprinted in the July 1949 Fantastic Novels.
:: M.J. Capps
In "The Mauds of Mulesfoot," by Wolcott LeClear Beard (Argosy, March 6, 1920), Beauty is Maud Allison, lovely daughter of the eccentric but brilliant Professor Allison. The Beast is also named Maud--an ugly, broken-down, cantankerous and opinionated mule.
Professor Allison was forced to resign his university position because his attempts to convert faculty and students to a kind of Edward Bellamy populist-socialism didn't sit well with the powers-that-be. Being nonetheless a brilliant chemist, he has invented a method of leeching gold from played-out gold workings. Hoping to raise money for a community of followers, he takes over the abandoned mine at Mulesfoot to try his process, which in fact succeeds spectacularly but not before the professor has gone deeply into debt.
One of his former students, Carl Schmidt ("Smith"), has followed, seeking the hand of the lovely Maud. This "Smith" has carried the professor's idealism to its logical conclusion and has become an anarchist-communist. Frustrated in his attempt to woo the young lady, Smith gathers a motley mob of would-be Bolsheviks, and launches a campaign of terror.
Bob Hilton, another former student of the professor and Maud reject (in his case because he wouldn't buy into the professor's politics), arrives just as things are coming to a head. Hilton's father is heavily invested in the professor's scheme and Hilton has come to check on progress. He is on hand, though hidden, when Smith confronts the girl, blocking her path and haranguing her. Gabby Hayes--pardon, Bally Weems, a veteran range-rider--restrains Hilton from interfering and together they watch while Maud (the mule) takes matters into her own, er, teeth. Smith is unhurt, unfortunately, but humiliated and enraged. When Hilton and Weems show themselves, he leaves, sputtering imprecations.
Maud (the girl) is lukewarm to Hilton's appearance only because he has walked into a dangerous situation. She tells him his father's money is waiting for him in a safe in the professor's cabin. The two of them, Bally Weems and Maud the mule repair to the cabin where they prepare for a siege.
Sure enough, Smith and his gang soon appear, armed and ready to take the cabin by force. They've even brought along a gallon can of nitroglycerine to make a certainty of the job. Things get pretty tense and the outlook is grim for our friends until--
I won't tell you how it all ends. But I don't think it'll spoil the story for you if I just mention that the denouement is a pas de trois involving Smith, Maud (the mule), and that can of nitro.
The late Don Wollheim, editor of paperbacks at Ace and DAW Books, and pulps at Albing and Avon, once remarked to me that he thought someone on the editorial staff at Fiction House, probably Malcolm Reiss, made up many of their characteristic titles. "They're just too consistent," he said.
And evocative, too: "Thralls of the Endless Night" and "Evil Out of Onzar" from Planet Stories; "Brand of the Gallows-Ghost" and "Lash of the Six-Gun Queen" in Action. Baseball Stories offered us "Busher in the Gravy Leagues" and Wings had "The Devil's Rocketeers." Some of the best were from Jungle Stories: "The Fangs of Umkulu," "The Silver Kraal" and "Five Suns to Angola!" Not to mention the lead novels in every issue of Jungle, about the jungle man, "Ki-Gor."
They had titles like "Zomba Has a Thousand Spears," "Slave Brides for the Dawn-Men" and "The Golden Claws of Raa."
It's "Golden Claws of Raa" that prompts all this talk about titles. It has the look and feel and spoor of a title that was made up before the story it belongs to was even written. The George Gross cover shows Ki-Gor defending his wife Helene from an attacking lion. Ki-Gor is blonde and muscular, Helene red-haired, slender and dressed in scant leopard skins, and the lion golden and threatening. Surely, if anything ever suggested jungle adventure in the pulps, it is this George Gross cover.
Ki-Gor and Helene are away from their own territory, helping to arbitrate an argument between two tribes when the discovery of a woman's body alerts them to the arrival of slave traders. To their surprise, it turns out the leader of the slavers is an old enemy of Ki-Gor's, a white man named Sam Slaker. But the big surprise is that in addition to the pygmies and other natives the slavers have captured, there is a beautiful, blonde white woman, dressed in primitive animal skins. She doesn't respond to any of the several languages known to Ki-Gor and Helene, so they have no idea where she came from and she can't tell them.
Earlier Ki-Gor had noticed a band of gorillas wandering in the jungle, led by a giant male with a distinctively scarred face. That night, after they have captured the slavers and freed the slaves, Ki-Gor and his friends are astonished when the camp is attacked by the gorillas that carry off the girl, Raa, as well as Slaker and some of his Bantu warriors. They disappear into the jungle and, later, Ki-Gor and his friends can find no traces of the bodies of those carried off.
Soon after, Helene wanders away from camp and is sunning herself in a tree when she hears a gorilla nearby. Looking down she sees the scar-faced ape that led the herd. She tries to slip away among the trees but the other apes appear, trapping her. She is too far from camp to depend on rescue from Ki-Gor. But to her surprise Raa and Slaker appear and talk to her. Raa, it turns out, was raised by the gorillas; and while Slaker is a prisoner--in revenge for his kidnapping Raa--he has talked Raa into helping him with his plan of revenge against Ki-Gor.
Raa goes back to Ki-Gor's camp, telling him she has escaped and knows where the gorillas are keeping Helene prisoner. Thus Ki-Gor is lured into a trap and taken prisoner. Slaker intends to hold Ki-Gor as a hostage to force the pygmy tribe of Ki-Gor's friend N'geeso into capturing other natives to be sold by the slavers. To show Ki-Gor he means business, he has Helene and a British soldier buried up to their necks. Raa, riding on a zebra, like a polo player hitting a ball, will club the buried prisoners, smashing their skulls. Ki-Gor's only hope of saving them is to kill the scar-faced gorilla leader with his bare hands. Ki-Gor's pretty good but he's not Tarzan. He's nowhere near strong enough to kill a gorilla without weapons.
As was the usual case, the story is by-lined "John Peter Drummond" and there's no clue as to who he is this time, at least that I can find. In the early 40s, the stories, or so I've heard, were written by Robert Turner and Wilbur S. Peacock, but I don't know if either of them wrote this one -- though it's certainly possible. "The Golden Claws of Raa" appears in Jungle's Fall 1948 issue.
It's a well-written story with lots of action and some strong suspense. Ki-Gor seems a little slow to figure out the girl was raised by the apes but probably it's easier to figure these things out when you're reading a story than it would be in real life. My major quibble is that when the girl shows up to rescue Helene, she can suddenly speak English. The excuse is that she has remembered it from when she was a child, prompted by conversations with Slaker. But it just seems too nice and convenient, that's all. But it's pretty minor for a major quibble.
Ki-Gor may strike you as bearing similarities to Tarzan, and you'd be correct. But I think he's more inspired by the MGM movies with Johnny Weissmuller than by the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. He's got a distinctively different personality than Burroughs' immortal ape man, for one thing. But I still wonder how the editors reacted to this story when it came in and they realized that whoever wrote it had made the villainess a savage, raised in the jungle by a tribe of apes.
Incidentally, in addition to the illustration by Herman Vestal that covers almost two pages at the front of the story, there are 25 smaller illustrations to this story. They don't seem to be the work of Herman Vestal. While it's difficult to identify artwork this small, my first reaction was that this might be the work of either one of two artists, John Cellardo or Rubimor both of whom worked for Fiction House. Fiction House not only published pulps, but comic books, often comics that were similar to their pulps, such as Planet Comics, Wings Comics -- and Jungle Comics. The lead feature in Jungle Comics dealt with the adventures of a jungle man named Kaanga and his mate Anne, and the main difference between Ki-Gor and Kaanga was that Helene, Ki-Gor's mate was red-haired, and Anne was a brunette. Of course in black and white drawings, redheads and brunettes can look a lot alike. I recalled that both Celardo and Rubimor had drawn the Kaanga strip at various times, and I went to confirm this in Henry Steele's "Fiction House -- A Golden Age Index" published by Al Dellinges in 1978. It lists the major Fiction House comics and identifies, where possible, the artists who worked on them and their features. And I confirmed that both Celardo and Rubimor worked on Kaanga in Jungle Comics. Celardo's run on the strip ended with issue 113, published in May of 1949.
In addition to the indexes, there are reproductions of covers and splash pages from Planet Comics, Jungle Comics, Wings Comics and other Fiction House titles in Dellinges' publication. Nine of those pages are devoted to Jungle Comics and the very last one from Jungle Comics is the first page of a Kaanga story called "Vendetta of the Tree Tribes." It shows Anne buried up to her neck, with a blonde jungle woman on a Zebra riding toward her, a war club raised so she can smash Anne's skull -- assuming Kaanga doesn't get there in time. It's certainly the same woman in several of the small illustrations with the pulp story.
Unfortunately, there's no date or other identification on the page, so I can't tell you when the story appeared. Or which came first, the pulp or comic. Or if they appeared simultaneously, which may be the more likely. (Will Murray informs me that Fiction House often based stories in their comics on stories from their pulps.)
Not having that issue available, I can't tell you how close the stories are to one another, either. But I can tell you that Jungle Comics was published monthly, and Jungle Stories quarterly at this time, so the comic version probably came first.
The last published Kaanga story drawn by Celardo was in Jungle Stories # 113, May 1949, as is mentioned above. And I'm pretty certain now where those little drawings came from, even if I can't pinpoint the actual issue date.
Incidentally, I asked Will Murray what his thoughts were about the identity of Joseph Musgrave, and he said, "I've always suspected that Musgrave was behind the Sheena stories--or some of them--and that stray story straggled out his real name. Just a theory."