Copyright © 1998 by Christopher Carey
The Green Eyes Have It - Or Are They Blue?
Another Case of Identity Recased
By no means need one use the novel Escape from Loki as a starting point to decode the sometimes eerie subplot of the Farmerian Monomyth. But the novel is unique in that it ties together an unusually large number of wily tentacles which lead to the mysterious beast which lurks behind the scenes in much of Philip Josť Farmerís larger work. As Farmer himself has managed to uncover the truth behind the fiction of so many other authorsí work- such as that of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lester Dent, and Jules Verne- it is only natural that the time has come to decode the hidden messages in Farmerís novels. This article is just a beginning, and, of course, only a few of the pieces of the Farmerian puzzle are contained herein. However, a beginning framework is offered upon which a stronger foundation may one day be built- if one keeps on his or her toes. For you see, Farmerís puzzle is three-dimensional and exists on many levels, which, like his Lavalite World, is constantly shifting.
Charles Fort, the great archivist of the unexplained, once stated, "One measures a circle beginning anywhere." And so in order to begin exploration of Farmerís labyrinthine monomyth, we find ourselves taking a second look at Escape from Loki, in which a young Doc Savage- the living reality of whom Farmer has demonstrated in his biography Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life- gets his first taste of adventure and likes it. I have elsewhere examined the symbolic and often shocking levels of the book, and in the course of this research was startled to see how deep this book really goes. But I was little prepared to dive twenty-thousand leagues into the foreboding, murky waters of an ancient worldwide conspiracy.
To understand what forces are at work in Escape from Loki, the reader must understand the perceptions of an Ubermensch. Doc Savage, like Nietzscheís superman, does not see things as others do. He thinks (and acts) analogically. Thus, when he sees Baron von Hesselís cigar in Loki, he thinks, "If other cigars were small dirigibles, the one in his mouth was in the Zeppelin class." Or when he gazes at the Countess Idivzhopu, "He was reminded of the rotary engine of his Nieuport. This image was followed by that of a pendulum, succeeded by a vision of a two-stroke-cycle engine." Without understanding the creative workings of Doc Savageís mind, we find ourselves facing a far greater task in breaking the code of the novel, for all the codes are aimed at Doc.
The Slippery Baron
The Baron von Hessel is a mysterious character. Elsewhere I have attempted to demonstrate that the baron appears in Lester Dentís Doc Savage pulp Fortress of Solitude as the murderous Baron Karl. One thing is for certain, and that is that von Hessel presented himself to Doc in the role of the Norse All-father god Odin to Docís Siegfried. Odin is the cynical god who gave up his left eye for a look at the future. Similarly, von Hessel wears a monocle over his left eye which at first "had seemed foolish, an affectation" but which later "seemed to give him a superior air." He also knows the future, predicting the Second World War in which Germany would again rise to power, foreseeing the victories of the womenís rights movement, as well as the problems of overpopulation. At the crucial first banquet scene during which the baron is manipulating Doc, he plays Wagnerís Siegfriedís Funeral March, a very dramatic score which must have played on Docís creative mind. Further, when in his anger Doc topples the massive iron tub, a soldier remarks, "Er ist ein Siegfried." One canít but speculate that this entire scene, as well as several others, were prearranged by the baron in order to manipulate the emotions of the youthful Doc Savage. Though inexperienced, Doc wonders if this is indeed the case.
The playing of Wagnerís classic opera of Norse myth also echoes the actions of the enigmatic Baron von Hessel. In The Ring of the Nibelungen, the All-father god Wotan (a.k.a. Odin, Woden, etc.) appears disguised as an old man before the hero Siegfried. (Incidentally the Old Norse word for "old man" is "Karl," thus confirming my speculation that the Baron von Hessel is one and the same as Baron Karl from Fortress of Solitude; another Karl will be shown to play a crucial role in Doc Savageís life by the end of this article.) Wotan proceeds to taunt Siegfriedís youthful inexperience. Eventually, Siegfried penetrates Wotanís disguise and recognizes him as the murderer of his father. Wotan and Siegfried struggle, with the result that Siegfried breaks Wotanís greatest weapon, his spear Runestaff, in two. Wotan then disappears into the shadows. This is the perfect echoing of the events as they occur in Escape from Loki. Von Hessel repeatedly taunts Docís youthful inexperience. The baron drops countless clues (as we shall see) as to his own and Docís origins, which we can only assume Doc eventually decodes. I will make a bold statement here, for which I shall momentarily present the evidence, that von Hessel is responsible, at least by association, for the death of Clark Savage, Sr., Docís father. Doc then breaks von Hesselís greatest weapon, the Countess Idivzhopu, in two by causing the train wreck which breaks her back at the end of the novel. Finally, the slippery baron disappears into the shadows.
So the question remains: What is the baronís game? Here we need to perform some three-dimensional thinking. We see that the baron has been sending Doc a strange symbolic message by placing himself in the role of the god Wotan and Doc in the role of the hero Siegfried. Might there not be other clues, not so obvious, which the ingenious baron has managed to send to Doc without his knowing it?
Observe the name von Hessel. "Hessel" in Old Norse means "hazel." Besides being a type of shrub or tree, the word hazel is most often used to describe eye color, namely "a light brown to strong yellowish brown." "Strong yellowish brown" certainly calls forth a comparison to Docís eyes, which "tawny and gold-speckled in a bright light, looked dark." Farmer certainly makes a point of the gold-flecked and yellow eyes in the ancestors of Doc Savage in his Addendum 2 of Tarzan Alive. It is by tracing the genetic trait of eye color that Farmer pieces together many of the gaps in the Wold Newton genealogy. We can only surmise that, by assuming a pseudonym meaning "hazel," the Baron von Hessel was subtly indicating to the bronze man something about his ancestry.
A further mystery is presented in Escape from Loki regarding eye color, and this one is blatant. Doc, however, seems to miss the clue entirely. Later, I will explain why the usually ever-vigilant Doc is apparently so befuddled. What he misses is the dramatic change in the color of von Hesselís eyes. When Doc gets his first close-up look at the baron during the first banquet scene, he observes that his eyes are "large, green, and seemed to shine with an inner light" (the italics are mine). Later, in the second banquet scene, when Doc slips several pieces of chocolate into his pocket, he reflects, "Von Hessel had observed this- those blue eyes seemed to miss nothing- but he only smiled with one side of his mouth." Certainly Farmer, who pays such scrutinizing attention to eye color, would not make such an error. What , then, is the meaning of this drastic shift in eye color, from green to blue?
Again, the answer seems to be that von Hessel is indicating to Doc something about his ancestry. Von Hessel is smiling not at Docís theft of chocolate, but at the trick he is pulling on him. He must know that Doc, with his photographic memory, will someday realize the symbolic message that has been sent to him and that he will decode its true significance. Utilizing clues that are provided in Farmerís biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage, we may piece together the message that Doc probably decoded many years ago.
Only one of Doc Savageís ancestors is known to have the same color-shifting eyes as the baronís. This was Wolf Larsen, Docís maternal grandfather and the Nietzschean rouge captain who appears in Jack Londonís novel The Sea-Wolf. The narrator of this adventure, Van Weyden, describes Larsen as follows:
The eyes themselves were of that baffling protean gray which is never twice the same; which runs through many shades and colorings like inter-shot silk in twilight; which is gray, dark and light, and greenish-gray, and sometimes the clear azure of the deep sea.
If there is any doubt but that von Hessel is referring Doc to his tough, mysterious, philosophizing grandfather, reflect on this. Wolf Larsen is referred to by his crew as "Old Man," the pseudonym of Wotan when he confronts Siegfried. Further, when Van Weyden first boards the Sea Wolf, he is told, "The capín is Wolf Larsen, or so men call him. I never heard his other name" (again, the italics are mine). The name Wolf Larsen, like von Hessel, is most certainly a pseudonym. The true identity of the captain of the Sea Wolf may be traced by another clue dropped by the slippery Baron von Hessel.
In the final climactic scene in Escape from Loki, in which von Hessel tempts Doc with immortality, he tells Doc, "You were twenty thousand leagues off the mark when you surmised that I was trying to create a disease which would be even worse than the black death of the middle ages" (italics mine). While not the final clue given to Doc, this is perhaps the most important, for it indicates a connection between von Hessel and Jules Verneís classic tale Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Farmer, in his The Other Log of Phileas Fogg and Addendum I from Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, has recorded some of the missing details behind Verneís story, including his conclusion that Captain Nemo is really Professor Moriarty, the arch-enemy of Sherlock Holmes. Another look at Nemo provides some more surprising conclusions.
Captain Nemo, like von Hessel and Wolf Larsen, is a man of mystery. Even his name (also a pseudonym) literally means "Nothing." When Professor Aronnaxe and Ned Land are taken on board the Nautilus, Nemo tells them, "for you I shall merely be Captain Nemo," indicating that this is not his real name. And like von Hessel and Larsen, he lures in a young man of above-average intelligence, taunting and seducing him. While von Hessel toyed with Doc, Wolf Larsen did the same to Humphery Van Weyden, and so Nemo did to Professor Aronnaxe. Indeed, one cannot help but compare the banquet scene in Twenty Thousand Leagues, in which Nemo entices Professor Aronnaxe with an overabundance of exotic sea food, with the first banquet scene in Escape from Loki, in which von Hessel makes Doc quiver in anticipation of an unbeatable table spread (with Mozartís Jupiter Symphony sounding in the background, nonetheless!) Nemo is also a cynic like von Hessel and Larsen. He sees humankind "fighting, destroying one another and indulging in their other earthly horrors" while "they can still exercise their iniquitous rights." Nemo, Larsen, and von Hessel also all smoke large cigars. In fact, Nemo compares his submarine to a giant cigar.
Like Farmer and Professor H. W. Starr, I can hardly conclude that Nemo is really the Indian Prince Dakar, as Nemo claims in Verneís The Mysterious Island. In fact, the one shred of evidence put before Professor Aronnaxe while on board the Nautilus points to the probability that Nemo is German. Regarding a handwritten note from Nemo, Aronnaxe observes, "The handwriting was clear and neat, but somewhat ornate and Germanic in style."
Nemoís physical description is equally revealing. Aronnaxe writes:
One strange detail, his eyes, which were rather far apart, had an almost ninety-degree range of vision. This ability- I was later able to verify- was backed by eyesight even better than Ned Landís. When this man fixed his look upon some object, he would frown and squint in such a way as to limit his range of vision; and then he would look. And what a look! How he could magnify objects made smaller by distance! How he could penetrate to your very soul!
This is reminiscent of Baron von Hesselís monocle, which was like "a microscope through which von Hessel studied the smaller creatures of the world." The Other Log of Phileas Fogg reveals that Nemo, an agent of a secret extraterrestrial society, is utilizing a piece of alien technology to change his eye color. This is how Farmer explains how Nemo had black eyes while Moriarty had gray eyes, even though they were one and the same person. Von Hessel is apparently using a similar, perhaps perfected, means to change his eye color. That the baronís eyes "seemed to shine with an inner light" may be an indication of the artificial optical device that he uses.
Remember also that Van Weyden described Wolf Larsenís eyes as being "wide apart as the true artistís are wide," just as Nemoís are described as being "rather far apart." Those still in doubt about the similarities of Nemo and Wolf Larsen can recall that both men suffer from nervous disorders resulting in severe headaches. While Farmer in his Other Log attributes Nemoís fits to suppression of trauma via extraterrestrial mind control techniques, the true reason for the malady may lie in the unanticipated effects of the elixir.
With von Hesselís subtle and not so subtle references to Wolf Larsen and Nemo, the pieces of a bizarre puzzle begin to fall into place. We see a remarkable resemblance among all three men, von Hessel, Larsen, and Nemo, as well as Moriarty and Baron Karl. If we look at the charactersí lives chronologically, we see that they all neatly follow one another. First comes Nemo in the 1860s, then Moriarty in the early to mid-1890s, then Larsen in the late 1890s, followed by von Hessel in 1918 and Baron Karl in the 1930s. The inference, until now shrouded in utter obscurity, becomes obvious. We are dealing with one man, who, aided by an age-slowing elixir, is living down through the ages, repeatedly changing his identity, but not his character.
The Doubtful Heritage
Here we must follow another wily tentacle which leads from Escape from Loki to Farmerís pastiche of Tarzan and Doc Savage, A Feast Unknown. In this novel we discover that a secret society known as the Nine has been manipulating and molding human society since prehistoric times. The Nine possesses an age-slowing elixir, which is used as leverage to keep its members in check. One of the leading members of the Nine is XauXaz, who Lord Grandrith (Farmerís Tarzan character) and Doc Caliban (Farmerís Doc Savage character) discover is none other than the real life basis for Wotan, the Norse All-father god. XauXaz has secretly been planting his genes throughout Grandrithís and Calibanís lineage, and in fact was really their grandfather. Grandrith and Caliban also find out that they are really brothers. Their father, John Cloamby, was an agent of the Nine. Due to mysterious side effects of the elixir, Cloamby went on a violent rampage while in England and is the man history knows as Jack the Ripper. Cloamby raped Grandrithís mother, who later bore her child on the shores of Africa. Cloamby changed his name to Caliban and moved to America, where he raised his second son to be a bronze superhero devoted to righting wrong and punishing evildoers. In A Feast Unknown and its sequels, The Lord of the Trees and The Mad Goblin, Caliban and Grandrith learn that they were both created as an experiment by the Nine. The stranding of Grandrithís mother and uncle on the shores of equatorial Africa and his subsequent adoption by a species of semi-human anthropoids was prearranged by the Nine. Similarly, Doc Calibanís father was manipulated by the Nine into creating a scientific superman.
In The Mad Goblin, Doc Caliban believes that his father raised him to combat the Nine. However, before his father could reveal this to him, the Nine contacted Caliban and initiated him into the society without his fatherís knowledge. Then his father had been killed by the Nine because he was suspected of treason. Doc Caliban hunted down and killed his fatherís murderers without knowing that they were agents of the Nine.
This story would be consistent with what is told in Lester Dentís The Man of Bronze. Doc Savageís father, just before he is killed, sends a letter to his son which is only partially complete due to sabotage by Savage, Sr.ís killers. Docís father tells him in his letter that he is passing to his son a "doubtful heritage." "It may be a heritage of woe," he says. "It may also be a heritage of destruction if you attempt to capitalize on it. On the other hand it may enable you to do many things for those who are not so fortunate as yourself, and will, in a way, be a boon for you in carrying on your work of doing good for all." The reader is left thinking that this letter refers to a valley of gold which Doc Savage will inherit from his father.
This is not what Docís father is really referring to, however, and he states as much in his letter when he says, "You will find that I have nothing much to leave you in the way of tangible wealth." Certainly a valley of gold would be considered tangible wealth! Therefore, we must conclude that Docís father was leaving him something other than a source of wealth. We may assume that Savage, Sr. was going to finally inform Doc about the Nine (certainly a heritage of woe) and that he was going to tell his son about his own experiments with the age-slowing elixir. If Doc would decide to capitalize on the elixir, he would certainly be destroyed by the Nine (or whatever the secret society of immortals is really called), who wish to keep the elixir a secret. On the other hand, if Doc could live forever, or at least a long, long time, he could do much good for the world. Of course, the same could be said of an inheritance of gold, but does Doc Savage really need to worry about resources? A man of his genius could easily find a way to make millions, billions even. Certainly he is already well on his way to this before the events of The Man of Bronze. A man who can rent the top floor of the Empire State Building in the midst of the Great Depression is not doing too badly for himself.
With this information as a background, we wish to reconstruct the events leading up to Doc Savageís birth, and their connection with Nemo/Moriarty/Larsen/von Hessel/Karl. We know from Farmerís biography of Doc Savage that Savage, Sr., Hubert Robertson, and Ned Land were present at Docís birth on the schooner Orion off the coast of Andros Island. We also know that Docís mother is Aronnaxe Larsen, who is Ned Landís granddaughter and Wolf Larsenís daughter. [In his insightful article "The Good Ship Orion," John L. Vellutini dismisses Farmerís statement that Aronnaxe Land is Docís mother. He can see no reason to accept her as Docís mother other than Farmerís unsupported statement. I think, however, that the present article explains Farmerís reasoning. As for those, like Vellutini, who note that Wolf Larsen appears to die at the end of The Sea-Wolf, recall Maud Brewsterís words when his body is found: "But he still lives." Similarly, there is evidence that Professor Moriarty survived his terrible plunge from Reichenbach Falls when we remember Sherlock Holmesí contention that "I give you my word I seemed to hear Moriartyís voice screaming at me out of the abyss."]
In all probability, events occurred as follows: Docís father had long ago become involved with a secret society, which Farmer calls the Nine (I will use the phrase "the Nine" to refer to the secret society for lack of a better name, though it is undoubtedly a fictitious one), a society which controls human society and possesses an age-slowing elixir. He attempted to distill the elixir himself, but was unfruitful because of unanticipated side-effects which made him prone to violence. Having come at odds with the Nine, he raised his son to fight them, but never had the chance to inform Doc of his mission. Savage, Sr. enlisted the help of Ned Land in his designs against the Nine.
Ned Land was at odds with the Nine for several reasons. For one, Wolf Larsen, a.k.a. XauXaz, etc., had married his daughter and then left her destitute. Two, Ned Land also knew about the Nine from his experiences on board the Nautilus. He knew that Nemo was the same man as Wolf Larsen. That Nemo -whom he had grown to hate with a passion while on board the Nautilus- had married his daughter was the ultimate blow to Land. That his great-grandson would be raised to defeat Nemo must have given Land a great feeling of satisfaction. The three men had gathered on the Orion to discuss their plan of attack against the Nine. They were also treasure hunting in order to raise money to fight the Nine. Farmer states that they found their treasure, a Spanish galleon, in September 1901. Farmerís source for this information is unknown. It is more likely, until Farmer presents his source, to assume that they were seeking Sir Henry Morganís lost treasure, reputedly located in a cave on the northern coast of Andros Island. It cannot be a coincidence that the Orion was anchored on the north end of Andros when Doc was born.
Farmer states that Docís birth was not registered in the shipís log because he "had good reason to leave it unrecorded." We now know why: he wished to leave no clue that the Nine could trace. Doc was born on that stormy night off Andros Island on November 12, 1901. A few months later, however, something went wrong. The Orion was driven onto a reef. Farmer speculates that Docís mother was drowned. Though it is never directly stated by Farmer or Dent, Docís mother probably drowned off the coast of Andros Island, which is famous for enormous reefs, second only to Australiaís. Savage, Sr. must have worried that his well thought out plans were going to come to a quick end. But his son survived the mysterious demise of the Orion and would later take on his "doubtful heritage."
We know from Escape from Loki that Docís father did know about von Hessel. Doc once overheard his father speak of the baron "to some cronies." These cronies may have been Ned Land and Hubert Robertson. Savage, Sr. mentions that he had informants who were apparently keeping tabs on von Hessel.
But who, ultimately, is von Hessel? Having demonstrated that the baron is changing identities down through the ages, what did he mean when he told Doc that he was conceived in an illegitimate laison between a Danish lady and the Crown Prince Frederick and that he, von Hessel, was really half-brother to the Kaiser Wilhelm? If we compare von Hesselís supposed lineage with Doc Calibanís lineage in A Feast Unknown, we see remarkable similarities. The same genealogical relationships are presented in both cases, but with different names filled in the blanks. Again, von Hessel was sending a coded message to Doc. This time it was a blueprint for his own true lineage, which differs considerably from the lineage he had been told by his father. So while von Hessel states that he is half-brother to the Kaiser, he is sending a coded message that Doc Savage is really half-brother to Tarzan. Like von Hessel, Tarzanís father isnít who he thinks he is. Farmer, in Feast, goes into great detail to show that Grandrithís (read Tarzanís) father-in-name did not have intercourse with mother. We can guess that, like Grandrithís grandfather, his father-in-name was also sterile. This would match what von Hessel says about his own father-in-nameís sterility.
The code which von Hessel is using to convey his message to Doc may be expressed in classic Lťvi-Straussian terms by the ratio 1:2=3:4. In other words, the formula reads: "Doc Savage is to Tarzan what von Hessel is to the Kaiser Wilhelm." To put it simply, Doc Savage and Tarzan are half-brothers.
The God of a Thousand Names
A final note on von Hesselís name provides some more shocking conclusions. According to the New Dictionary of American Family Names, Hessel- in addition to meaning "hazel"- indicates "One who came from Hessle", villages in both the East and West Ridings of Yorkshire." A pivotal event in the Farmerian Monomyth occurs in this area of England. I am referring to the crash of the Wold Newton meteorite, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which irradiated and mutated the genes of Doc Savageís and Tarzanís ancestors. In connection with this Farmer, in Tarzan Alive, states that the Greystokes can trace their ancestry back to "the great god Woden in Denmark of the third century A.D." He also says, "The founders of the Greystoke line were secret worshippers of Woden long before their neighbors had converted to Christianity." Then Farmer curiously adds, "Perhaps the great god of the North is not dead but is in hiding. It pleased the Wild Huntsman to direct the falling star of Wold Newton near the two coaches. Thus, in a manner of speaking, he fathered the children of the occupants. The mutated and recessive genes would be reinforced. Kept from being lost, by frequent marriages among the descendents of the irradiated parents." This, he says, created at least fourteen near-superhumans.
So we find that von Hessel, by his name, is indicating to Doc that he is not like Wotan but that he is Wotan, and that he is responsible for the mutated genes in Docís lineage. Von Hessel caused the Wold Newton meteorite to fall where it did, thus irradiating Docís ancestors. Remember von Hessel, under the identity of Professor Moriarty, was the author of the acclaimed Dynamics of an Asteroid.
The Golden Elixir
In Escape from Loki, Doc recalls that von Hessel also once made quite a stir in scientific circles with "His monograph on the mutations of the bacteria Treponema pallidum after bombardment by Roentgen rays while suspended in diluted Cannabis sativa." Von Hessel, of course, must have been working on experiments involving the elixir. Translated into everyday language, what does von Hesselís monograph mean? Treponema pallidum is the bacteria which causes syphilis. Roentgen rays are X-rays. Cannabis sativa is marijuana. Therefore the subject of von Hesselís monograph, in laymanís terms, is about the bacteria which causes syphilis after bombardment by X-rays while suspended in diluted marijuana. This provides us with a clue as to what the elixir is and how it is administered.
Von Hessel is a man who loves cigars, and his cigars are "of the zeppelin class." It would only be fitting that he is literally displaying the elixir under his and everyone elseís nose. The reverse pun on Freud must have appealed to the baron as well. The chemical composition of the elixir must involve marijuana, as indicated by his early experiments. What better way to disguise the powerful aroma of Cannabis sativa than to hide it under the even more potent odor of cigar smoke? There are also indications in Feast that the elixir may be administered through smoke. When Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban are in the caves of the Nine, they are certain that they are being administered the elixir. However, they do not know how this is done or what form the elixir takes. Doc Caliban suspects that it is in the mead-tasting drink which all initiates are given, but Lord Grandrith is not so sure. Farmer mentions "nine giant torches of wood and pitch projecting from moveable stone pillars." It is possible that the elixir lies within smoke from these torches. Observe the Baron von Hesselís curious behavior in the first banquet scene. As he taunts Doc about the Countess and thought of escape, he laughs and throws "his half-smoked cigar into a corner." "An orderly hastened to pick it up," writes Farmer. "Instead of placing it in a waste container, he stubbed it out and placed it in his jacket pocket." The reader is left thinking that the orderly is just hoarding the leftovers of the wasteful baron. But might we not conclude that the orderly was acting under von Hesselís directions to retrieve and save any of his discarded precious elixir-bearing cigars?
In Feast, Caliban and Grandrith find out that exposure to the elixir is reacting to their genetic makeup with violent side-effects. This greatly effects their sex life, only allowing them pleasure when they erupt in violence. The elixir seems to be intimately connected with the sexual act. This makes sense historically, as traditions interested in developing an immortality elixir, such as Taoist alchemy, place a great emphasis on the transformation of generative or sexual energy into vital energy, or chi, in the distillation of the elixir. In fact, Taoist alchemists use the term "Golden Elixir" to describe their immortality potion. In this tradition, generative energy, which is produced in relation with the sexual center, is blended with other energies in the body to produce the elixir. This makes one wonder about the baronís designs to get Doc to sleep with his mistress, the Countess Idivzhopu. Doc has strong suspicions that the baron wanted him to have sex with the Countess, but he cannot fathom the reason. Perhaps von Hessel needed Doc and the Countess to have sex in order to distill the elixir. This would explain why, the day after Docís intimacy with Lili Bugov, the baron smiles widely at Doc as he strolls by with the Countess, even though the baron knows that Doc has slept with his mistress. Docís mutated genes may also be a factor in the re-creation of the age-slowing formula.
There are parallels between the baronís manipulation of Doc in other books by Farmer. Fire and the Night is seemingly a mainstream novel about the problems of black/white relations among even the well-educated and liberal. However, a strong case may be made that it is actually thinly cloaked science fiction, dealing with Farmerís recurrent themes of immortality and secret societies. A character in the story, Vashti Virgil, bears an identical resemblance to the Egyptian Queen Nefertete, wife of the pharaoh Ikhnaton. [Interestingly, the character Stonecraft from Farmerís The Dark Heart of Time bears a striking resemblance to the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II.] This in itself could be coincidence, but other strange events occur in the novel. Danny Alliger, the protagonist of the story, has visions of a "Lady in White." Later in the story Alliger encounters Mr. Virgil, Vashtiís husband, whose father had been involved in an interracial rape, referred to as "The Case of the Lady in White." This indicates that Alliger has had a genuine premonition. At the end of the novel, Alliger is lured to Vashtiís house, where the two have an intimate encounter. When they kiss, sparks fly between their lips. Eventually Alliger discovers that his encounter with Vashti has been prearranged, a set up to fulfill the psychological needs of Mr. Virgil, who desires Alligerís "whiteness" to rub off on his wife so that he can sleep with the "Lady in White." When Alliger leaves Vashtiís house, he runs into Mr. Virgil, who reaches out with a finger and shocks Alliger with a static charge. But the story may not be just a psychological study of interracial issues. There are references to initiation into a secret society in a boyhood story which Mr. Virgil relates to Alliger. We can speculate that the Virgils were members of a secret society which dates back to ancient Egyptian times. Alliger, in his strange intimate encounter with the Virgils, may have been undergoing some sort of ancient initiation ritual akin to that of which Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban partake in A Feast Unknown. Or Mr. Virgil may have been using Alliger to distill the elixir, just as von Hessel did to Doc. Certainly the novel ends with Alliger as baffled as Doc.
There are also a great many similarities between Farmerís elixir and Doyleís Holmes story "The Adventure of the Creeping Man." This story, in which a man injects himself with monkey hormones to increase his vitality and youthfulness, also bears a striking resemblance to the events of Robert Louis Stevensonís The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In both of these stories, as well as in Farmerís Grandrith/Caliban books, the elixir brings on violent reactions in its subjects. If the baron is exposing Doc to the elixir in Escape from Loki, we may better understand Docís recurrent emotional outbreaks in the novel. It is also relevant to note that both Wolf Larsen and Nemo are the victims of torturous headaches. Farmer speculates that Nemoís malady is due to repression of trauma, though based on the information presented in this article it is more likely that both men are experiencing the negative side effects of the elixir.
A Most Mysterious Game of Bridge
In Escape from Loki, Doc Savage is baffled by more than just the baron and his mistress. He also cannot fathom the details behind the events leading to the deaths of Duntreath, Cauchon, and Murdstone. The sequence of events is certainly somewhat confusing. Doc Savage assigns Johnny Littlejohn the task of keeping tabs on Murdstone, the entomologist, who Doc suspects is a German spy due to his slight accent. Just before the scene in which the three men die, Doc asks Johnny where Murdstone is. "In the colonelís room," replies Johnny, "playing bridge with him, Major Wells, and Deauville." However, when Renny Renwick, assigned to follow Cauchon, announces that Cauchon, Murdstone, and Duntreath are locked in Duntreathís burning office, Major Wells and Deauville seem to have vanished. They are never mentioned again. Doc rushes in and stabs the pain-blinded Murdstone, who then croaks out a number of fragmentary sentences. These few words leave Doc thinking that Duntreath was really a German agent and that he has mistakenly given Murdstone a fatal wound.
But some of Murdstoneís final utterances do not make sense. He seems to indicate that Cauchon had spied on Doc and his followers and reported their plans for escape from Camp Loki. But he also seems to indicate that Duntreath, the supposed traitor, had been fighting with Cauchon. Why would Cauchon and Duntreath, who are supposedly both German agents, be coming to blows with one another? Doc questions Murdstone if it is Cauchon or Duntreath who is the German agent. In fragments, Murstone replies, "The colonel... a plant. Cauchon" mustíve... colonel stabbed him... I... we struggled. Lamp fell, broke... fire... stabbed me... shot me... killed... colonel... couldnít see, thought he might still be alive... attacked... shot, stabbed, got me. Or somebody else?" We assume that Murdstone means to say that Colonel Duntreath was a plant, a German spy. But we still do not know who Cauchon was and what he was doing. He is definitely not innocent, as when Doc asks Murdstone about Cauchon, he replies, "Went to... reported... you... others." How can we come to terms with these facts in the light of Murdstoneís final testimony?
First of all, we must look at what these men had in common. All of them, Duntreath, Murdstone, and Cauchon, were in the habit of playing bridge together in Colonel Duntreathís office. Doc observes that Murdstone had been getting on an intimate footing with Duntreath by playing bridge with him and two other cronies. These latter must be Deauville, who is Duntreathís assistant, and Major Wells, about whom we know nothing. Doc also observes that Cauchon, who is a Belgian infantry captain, was in the habit of playing bridge with them when a regular was absent. Those who know anything about the history of card games might remember that bridge evolved out of the once popular game of whist. Here we must pause and consider where the game of whist appears in winding tunnels of the Farmerian Monomyth. In The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, whist plays a pivotal role among agents of an extraterrestrial secret society. Members of this society use the individual cards and their varying combinations to communicate esoteric information among one another. In this way, Fogg knows that he should proceed as ordered on his mad rush around the globe. Whist also appears in Doyleís "The Empty House" in a game involving the notorious Colonel Moran, Moriartyís cohort, who also appears in Other Log.
Now things begin to take shape. It is reasonably safe to assume that there was more than meets the eye in Duntreathís game of bridge. Unquestionably the men were using the game to send signals to one another. That Murdstone was involved probably means that Docís original suspicions that the entomologist was not innocent were correct. If there are two opposing secret societies involved, as in Other Log, we might guess that Murdstone belonged to one and Duntreath to the other. But we should not be so hasty. When Murdstone, in his final testimony, refers to the "colonel," he may be referring to von Hessel, who is the Baron Colonel von Hessel. If so, it may be the Baron Colonel who is a plant, not Colonel Duntreath. In fact, it is possible that the baron made a brief appearance at Duntreathís game of bridge. Recall that the train steams up and halts on Docís side of the enclosure right before Duntreathís office bursts into flames. Doc thinks, "The train was standing by. For whom? Why?" Maybe it was waiting for the baron, who had one last errand to perform before he left camp. That the baron was on the train we discover later. When he boarded it, we do not know.
Benedict Murdstone is still one big question mark. Farmer has connected Murdstone to the family of the same name who appear in Charles Dickensí David Copperfield. We may guess that he is the offspring of either sibling, Edward or Jane Murdstone. He does bear the family proboscis. He tells the suspicious Doc that he was never in Germany except on one summer holiday but later contradicts this by stating, as he is dying, that he was "born Bremen... ten years old... raised Berk..." These discrepancies are difficult to fathom.
A Worm Unknown to Science
Sherlockians must have been baffled and amused by a certain aspect of what is perhaps the most important scene in Escape from Loki. In this scene, Doc enters the abandoned chateau of Baron de Musard. He soon locates a secret chamber bearing all the gruesome accoutrements of a Satanic ritual. This scene is important for two reasons. One, it gives Doc a taste of true evil, which later inspires his journey to do good and punish evildoers. Secondly, what Doc encounters in this room of horrors is the biggest clue of all in unraveling the tangled skein that is his dubious legacy.
To explain this statement, I shall cite two passages. The first comes from this crucial scene in Escape from Loki:
Savage leaned over the stone basin to see better what was inside it. Old dried bloodstains spotched its cavity. The bones of an infant, perhaps six months old, lay in the center. Beside them was a large sharp knife.
The second passage, which must be read in conjunction with the above quotation, comes from one of Doyleís classic Sherlock Holmes stories, in which Dr. Watson recounts three cases left unsolved by the Great Detective. This is from "The Problem of Thor Bridge":
Savage was horrified.
What horrified him even more, while also mystifying him, was a long whitish worm moving slowly over the spine bones.
He thought that he had a thorough grounding in the invertebrate phyla. But he could not classify this creature. It was, as far as he was aware, a worm unknown to science.
A third case worthy of note is that of Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duellist, who was found stark staring mad with a match box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science.
It is too bad that the great Holmesian scholar William S. Barring-Gould did not live to read Doc Savageís first adventure. Imagine the look he would have had on his face had he compared the above two passages! In any event, Farmerian scholars must have been equally stunned, for there is a third story which not only mentions the "worm unknown to science" but which revolves entirely around it.
This third story is Farmerís "The Problem of the Sore Bridge- Among Others," a companion to Doyleís "Thor Bridge" in that it solves the three mysterious cases which so perplexed Holmes. This is Harry "Bunny" Mandersí account of how he and his fellow gentleman burglar, A. J. Raffles, race one step ahead of Holmes to solve the cases of the disappearance of James Phillimore, the disappearance of the cutter Alicia, and the strange, unknown worm.
In the story, placed in 1895, Manders and Raffles discover that James Phillimore is in reality a shape-shifting extraterrestrial who manages to disappear from his house by turning into a chair.
He has come to earth to lay his offspring, which begin their incubation in a crystalline state resembling star sapphires, later transforming into a hideous worm with a dozen needle-pointed tentacles and tiny pale-blue eyes. This is the worm which drives Isadora Persano "stark staring mad" and undoubtedly the same creature which Doc Savage encounters in de Musardís chateau. Doc does not mention the tentacles, but his descriptions are vague. Either Farmer just failed to mention the tentacles in Docís encounter or the worm was in a pre-tentacle transitory state between crystal and worm. Later Manders and Raffles come across the parent creature in its apparently true form, which looks like an enlarged version of Isadora Persanoís tentacled worm. It has the ability to split itself into smaller entities which still have the ability to shape-shift. Perhaps now we can understand the comment made by Farmer in Addendum 2 to Tazan Alive in regards to Professor H. W. Starrís article "A Case of Identity," which connected Doyleís Holmes canon with Burroughsí Tarzan series. Farmer states:
Starr has opened a door to a mansion of many more rooms than he thought. Or, perhaps, heís raised the lid of a very big can of very big worms. But I prefer the first metaphor, unless you use "worm" in its early meaning of "dragon."
The conjunction of these three stories, one edited by Doyle and two by Farmer, is quite shocking and absolutely beyond coincidence. But even more ominous comes the realization that the entities which Doc, Manders, and Raffles encountered appear in several more recorded accounts. We may recall from Mandersí account that the Phillimore creature arrived from the heavens in a ship which plunged into the English Channel off the Straits of Dover. The ship was most likely a submersible vessel not unlike Nemoís Nautilus, which Farmer, in Other Log, reveals was really built with extraterrestrial technology. With this in mind, recall one of the most memorable scenes in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, in which the Nautilus is attacked by a giant tentacled Kraken. Nemo himself takes axe in hand to battle this fearsome creature. Who can doubt that Nemoís giant squid is but a larger version of the shape-shifting entity witnessed by Manders?
What is more, there are two additional stories in which Doc Savage encounters the mysterious worm being. By this time, however, he has begun to understand the nature of the threat which challenges him. In John W. Campbellís classic 1938 story "Who Goes There?," which was the basis for the movie The Thing, Doc Savage makes a disguised appearance as the giant bronzed scientist McReady. Doc, as McReady, heads a team of scientists who discover a shape-shifting extraterrestrial which has been hibernating at the South Pole until it was disturbed. The creature appears at the end of the story in its original form: as a writhing, tentacled monster, identical with the one run across by Manders and Raffles. Doc must have been following some lead to the Antarctic continent which connected the monster he encounters there with the whitish worm he saw when he was sixteen. With just a little more digging we can trace what clue this probably was.
Farmer, in his biography of Doc Savage, mentions a curious item. He states that Johnny Littlejohn, Docís geologist aide, was the narrator of H. P. Lovecraftís tale of terror At the Mountains of Madness. The story, occurring in 1929, chronicles the ill-fated expedition sent by the Miskatonic University to conduct geological tests in Antarctica. The team accidentally awakens a group of "Old Ones" (note this is the same phrase used to describe the extraterrestrials in Farmerís Other Log), who are none other than tentacled extraterrestrial entities. Here we wonder if it was really the lost continent of Atlantis which Nemo shows Professor Aronnaxe or really "the frightful stone city of Rílyeh." Whatever the case, the Old Ones were also the creators of shape-shifting beings known as shoggoths, who sometime seem to appear as giant rubbery spheroids. There is also mention of "a land race of beings shaped like octopi and probably corresponding to the pre-human spawn of Cthulhu." [Though Mr. Vellutini was wrong in his dismissal of Aronnaxe Larsen as the mother of Doc Savage, he was dead-on in connecting Doc with the Cthulhu Mythos. Some more details of this are provided in the introduction to Farmerís fragmentary Doc Caliban novel The Monster on Hold.] This tale, recounted to Doc by Johnny, most certainly provided Doc with enough clues to connect his unknown whitish worm with the beings the Miskatonic expedition found in Antarctica. It is revealing that one member of the team was named Larsen. Could this have been a code left in Johnnyís manuscript by Lovecraft? If so, it probably indicates that our slippery baron was tagging along with the expedition. Or perhaps it was a code that Docís father, who had married a Larsen, accompanied Johnny in disguise. There is also a character named Lake in Johnnyís account. Other Log reveals that agents of the secret society of immortals bear names which have certain coded meanings, such as Fogg or Head. (We may wonder about the name "Farmer," if we dare...) Lake may have been an agent of the Nine, sent to Antarctica to awaken the Old Ones or perhaps Cthulhu himself. Farmerís fragmentary Doc Caliban novel The Monster on Hold indicates that the Nine awakened a Cthulhu-like entity, called Shraask, in order to destroy renegade agents. The clues, whatever they are, were there for Doc to see. Thus we find Doc investigating the entities at the South Pole in the 1938 story "Who Goes There?"
Doc, however, did not solve the riddle of his doubtful heritage on the Antarctic continent. Perhaps he never did. But he does come closer than before in his last recorded adventure, Up from Earthís Center. It is fitting that Docís first adventure, Escape from Loki, begins with the phrase "Spiders, men, and Mother Nature make trap doors," for his last adventure begins with a man making "a crude thatched trapdoor which he could close against the black things of the night." This is surely Farmerís indication that these two stories are intimately connected.
To illustrate how they are connected, we bring forth the last Karl of this article, Dr. Karl Linningen. Strangely, Dent quickly drops the name Linningen, referring to the man as simply "Dr. Karl." Karl, as has been shown, is another name for Wotan, the Norse All-father god. It literally means "Old Man," which was one of Wolf Larsenís names. [Interestingly, the Norse god Wotan was also known for his shape-shifting abilities.] Therefore, we may immediately suspect that there is something peculiar about Dr. Karl. Like H. W. Starrís contention that Nemo/Moriarty was really only an amateur sailor, so Dent portrays Dr. Karl. He constantly seems to be toying with Doc, prodding him on. When he meets Doc, he takes out a cigar, the tobacco wrapper of which he notices is broken, and remarks to Doc without looking up, "You seem to know me by sight." Doc counters by saying "Why shouldnít I know you?" Doc at this point probably realizes that the game is afoot, that he is dealing with the same forces that he encountered in 1918 when he was sixteen. But Doc is much more experienced now, much more adept at reading the signs. Thus he knows that the doctor has signaled him with the broken tobacco wrapper. The cigar has been tampered with. It is a sign that the elixir is at hand, and the elixir, working in conjunction with Docís mutated genes, often produces undesirable results. It is no wonder that the bronze manís usually impregnable calm poise is broken and that he screams aloud at the novelís end.
Dr. Karl dogs along with Doc on his most bizarre adventure, constantly asking his opinion of what is going on in the strange affair. It is almost as if he is mocking him, or testing Doc to see how much of the puzzle he has pieced together. The possible devil, Mr. Wail, apparently has the ability to appear and disappear at will. This very much resembles the shape-shifting Phillimoreís ability, and we can guess that Wail is also a shape-shifter. Wail even admits that he is only temporarily in human form. Doc becomes very alarmed at the strange developments in the case and gives an impassioned speech to his aides that this may be the real thing, their toughest case ever. He prods them with more force than he ever has to keep on the lookout for anything unusual. Right after this, Doc and his aides are drugged, although Doc cannot understand how- he was looking for it, but still missed it. Doc then proceeds to follow Wail into the New England caverns which Wail claims lead to Hell. Doc and Monk test for gas as they descend the caves, but neither of these two experts in chemistry finds anything unusual. Then all Hell does break loose. Doc is attacked by shapeless boulder creatures, like Lovecraftís rubbery spheroids. Doc and his crew are chased by these beings, whose "clicking and hissing, a sound that was rage and hunger and bestiality" must truly have been what Lovecraft and Poe attempted to depict by the utterance "Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!" Finally, Docís defenses break, and, as he is attacked by a tentacled being, he screams, "probably the first shriek of unadulterated terror that he had given in his lifetime."
Up from Earthís Center ends with no explanation except that provided by Dr. Karl that the caves had been filled with hallucinogenic gas. No mention is made of the fact that Doc and Monk, two of the worldís greatest chemists, had tested for gas and found none. Doc is in great doubt as his final adventure closes, and little wonder. As warm sunlight melts the snow on the roof of the lodge where the story ends, Doc stares into space and frowns as icicles form on the eaves. There is beyond contention something supernatural at work.
And so we finally see that the Farmerian Monomyth is a complex pattern of meaningful, though subtle, hints. While Farmer is Jungian and Campbellian in the use of his symbols, he is also Levi-Straussian in that many of his symbols make sense only when considered structurally within a larger framework of myths. Truly it is with a sense of eeriness that one reads a description of the city of the Old Ones as portrayed by H. P. Lovecraft in At the Mountains of Madness. It shows better than anything what is at play in the work of a certain Peorian:
Naturally, no one set of carvings which we encountered told more than a fraction of any connected story; nor did we even begin to come upon the various stages of that story in their proper order. Some of the vast rooms were independent units as far as their designs were concerned, whilst in other cases a continuous chronicle would be carried through a series of rooms and corridors. The best of the maps and diagrams were on the walls of a frightful abyss below even the ancient ground level- a cavern... which had almost undoubtedly been an educational centre of some sort. There were many provoking repetitions of the same material in different rooms and buildings; since certain chapters of experience, and certain summaries or phases of racial history, had evidently been favorites with different decorators or dwellers. Sometimes, though, variant versions of the same theme proved useful in settling debatable points and filling in gaps.
The Farmerian Monomyth certainly is a mono-myth: its intricate labyrinth tells many stories, but the maze as a whole- winding as it does through dark depths, occassionally opening upon awe-inspiring, glittering vistas- tells The Story, a single Grand Adventure. Anyone who doubts this should consider the fact that Kickaha, the protagonist of Farmerís World of Tiers series, has Phileas Fogg for a great-grandfather,* while remembering Red Orcís insistence that Kickaha was half-Lord. There is always more to The Story than meets the eye...
*There is an incongruity in Farmerís writings regarding Kickahaís relationship to Phileas Fogg. Chapter VIII in The Lavalite World reads: "Philea Janeís parents were of the English landed gentry, though his [Kickahaís] great-grandfather had married a Parsi woman." This is apparently a reference to Phileas Fogg, who married the Parsi Aouda Jejeebhoy in 1872. Thus, Farmer seems to be stating that Kickahaís great-grandfather is Phileas Fogg. However, according to the information in Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, Phileas Fogg is Kickahaís granduncle, not his great-grandfather.
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