Monday, July 23, 2012

The Daughter Of Tarzan!

I've been reading Ian Fleming's James Bond novels this summer. I'll have more to say on that when I wrap them up in a few weeks. But one novel which I read and enjoyed along the way was one I've read a few times before -- Dr.No. This one might not be the best, but it might be my favorite. If you only know the movie, then you don't really know No.

One character who gets famously realized on the big screen is Ursula Andress in the star-making role of "Honey Ryder". In the novel her full name is "Honeychild Ryder" and the young lady is rather younger than the statuesque and robustly adult Andress.

Honeychild is nearly a feral being, raised by a deceased native who took her on when her parents were killed. Honeychild is a creature of natural beauty who lives in nature, among animals in a den-like home. She is first seen by Bond from behind and is completely naked, and fully comfortable in that capacity. Fleming even refers to this ferocious young woman as a female Tarzan at one point. She even has a distinctive broken nose which reminded me of Tarzan's tell-tale scar, evidence of a deadly struggle in the character's past.

But what really convinces me that Fleming was doing a full-on version of the classic ERB hero is how Honeychild escapes the death-dealing clutches of Dr. No at the end of the novel. Spoilers for those who haven't read the book, since nothing like this happens in the movie.

Honeychild escapes her doom by simply knowing nature and trusting in the creatures who are part of it. She is strapped down by the insidious Dr.No so that crabs can lustily nibble at her helpless body, but Honeychild is more familiar with the crabs than No and so simply remains motionless as the crabs crawl over her and away. She is never really all that much in danger because of her special understanding of the world hidden from the overly civilized Dr.No. It's interesting to note that Bond himself survived an earlier threat by centipede, though for him it was a supreme test of will and not merely being one with nature.

It's easy enough to see Dr.No as a variation on Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu, that's obvious.

But Honeychild as a version of Tarzan is a slightly bit more obscured. Though clearly the designers of the cover to the first edition picked up on it rightly enough. (See top of this post and compare it to the first Tarzan hardback below.) So what you have in this wonderful little pulp feast is James Bond battling Fu Manchu alongside the progeny of Tarzan. It's a right good yarn that.

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