Back to the Stone Age
is a novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....
written by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American author, best known for his creation of the jungle hero Tarzan and the heroic Mars adventurer John Carter, although he produced works in many genres.-Biography:...
, the fifth in his series set in the interior world of Pellucidar
Pellucidar is a fictional Hollow Earth milieu invented by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs for a series of action adventure stories. In a notable crossover event between Burroughs' series, there is a Tarzan story in which the Ape Man travels into Pellucidar.The stories initially involve the...
. It first appeared as a six-part serial in Argosy Weekly
from January 9 to February 13, 1937 under the title "Seven Worlds to Conquer." It was first published in book form in hardcover
A hardcover, hardback or hardbound is a book bound with rigid protective covers...
by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. is an American company founded in 1923 by author Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is based in Tarzana, California. The company holds the rights to the literary works of Burroughs that are still protected by copyright .Burroughs was one of the first artists to...
in September, 1937 under the present title, and has been reissued a number of times since by various publishers.
The story reveals the fate of Wilhelm von Horst
, the lost member of the previous book’s outer world expedition to Pellucidar, which had been led by Jason Gridley
Tarzan is a fictional character, an archetypal feral child raised in the African jungles by the Mangani "great apes"; he later experiences civilization only to largely reject it and return to the wild as a heroic adventurer...
to rescue Pellucidarian emperor David Innes
David Innes is a fictional character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs as the main protagonist of his Pellucidar novels.-The early novels:David Innes is introduced in the first Pellucidar novel, At the Earth's Core, as a mining heir who finances the experimental "iron mole," an excavating vehicle...
from the Korsars
. The action begins by recapping the incident in which Gridley, von Horst, and Tarzan’s Waziri
Waziri is the name of a fictional African tribe created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his Tarzan books.In The Return of Tarzan Tarzan returns from civilization to his beloved jungle. But he has changed: when he meets a black warrior, instead of killing him he saves him from Numa, the lion. The warrior...
warriors, led by Muviro
Muviro, chief of the Waziri, is a character in the Tarzan saga created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.-Character:Muviro is depicted as a somewhat elderly warrior of the Wazari, wise, brave and respected, and a good friend of Tarzan. He serves as the sub-chief of the tribe under Tarzan...
, are caught up in and separated by a horde of saber-toothed tigers’ cooperative hunt. Now on his own, von Horst quickly becomes lost, links up again with the Waziri by accident, and gets lost again when he foolishly goes out hunting on his own.
In the most powerful sequence in the book, von Horst becomes prey himself when a Trodon
, or pterodactyl, carries him off to its nest in the crater of a dead volcano. The explorer is left poisoned and paralyzed together with other victims, all of them intended as a living larder to feed the creature’s young as its eggs hatch. Von Horst passes the time by getting to know a fellow paralytic, the native warrior Dangar
, a member-tribe of Innes' empire. From him, the outer worlder gradually learns the Pellucidarian language. Fortunately for von Horst his clothing prevented him from receiving a full dose of venom, and he recovers from his paralysis in time to save Dangar from the next hatchling. Shooting the immature trodon, he makes a long strap from its hide, lasoos the parent on its next return, and after allowing it to fly off just past the lip of the crater, shoots it in turn. After securing the free end of the strap to the still paralyzed Dangar, he uses it to climb out of the trap, pulling his companion up after him. In the forest at the foot of the mountain he constructs a treehouse to serve them as a secure base while Dangar recovers.
Subsequently von Horst rescues another native, Skruf
, from a hyaenodon
Hyaenodon is an extinct genus of Hyaenodonts, a group of carnivorous creodonts of the family Hyaenodontidae endemic to all continents except South America, Australia and Antarctica, living from 42—15.9 mya, existing for approximately .-Morphology:Some species of this genus were amongst the largest...
; Skruf is on a quest to kill a tarag (saber-toothed tiger
Smilodon , often called a saber-toothed cat or saber-toothed tiger, is an extinct genus of machairodonts. This saber-toothed cat was endemic to North America and South America, living from near the beginning through the very end of the Pleistocene epoch .-Etymology:The nickname "saber-tooth" refers...
), the head of which he needs as bride-price to secure a mate. As he knows the country, von Horst and Dangar accompany him once the latter has recovered. In due course they encounter the desired beast, from which Skruf hides in fear while his companions make the kill. Despite his cowardice Skruf takes the trophy, and the three continue on to the cliff-village of Basti. But once there he turns traitor, not only claiming the deed as his own but betraying his companions into slavery.
Von Horst and Dangar are put to work with other slaves of Basti digging new caves into the cliff. Von Horst becomes enamored of La-ja
, a fellow captive, and in defending her touches off a general slave revolt. He leads all the slaves to freedom, whereupon they separate to return to their native tribes. Von Horst elects to accompany La-ja to Lo-har rather than continue to Sari with Dangar. The plot of the novel continues to unfold in its pattern of liberty, capture and escape, with the protagonist’s goal imperceptibly altering from rejoining his outer world comrades to romance with La-ja. The feelings of the principals, while plain to the reader, are masked from their objects of affection by culturally-based misunderstanding, as is typical of Burroughs’ novels, postponing the ultimate resolution nearly to the end of the story.
The initial path of von Horst and La-ja takes them through the ill-reputed Forest of Death
. Within the forest are the labyrinthine caves of the Gorbuses
, cannibalistic albinos who, in an eerie touch, are intimated to be murderers from the outer world, reincarnated in Pellucidar and consigned to this place as punishment. This is Burroughs’ sole nod toward the notion that his interior world might relate in any way to the concept of a subterranean hell. Falling prey to the Gorbuses, von Horst and La-ja are soon joined as captives by the Bastians Skruf and Frug
, who have been trailing them. The four set aside their differences to effect their escape, but afterwards the Bastians betray the others’ trust, kidnapping La-ja.
Von Horst pursues the kidnappers, incidentally coming to the aid of a tandor (mammoth
A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus. These proboscideans are members of Elephantidae, the family of elephants and mammoths, and close relatives of modern elephants. They were often equipped with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair...
) wounded by sharp stakes of bamboo, which, Androcles-like, he removes. He overtakes his quarry, but before matters can be settled, he and Frug are taken by the Mammoth Men
, a native tribe utilizing mammoths as mounts; Skruf and La-ja elude the interlopers. Boarded on the family of a tribal warrior, von Horst once again commences plotting to escape, aided by dissatisfied locals, whose support he enlists, and the friendship of Thorek
, a member of the tribe who had shared his earlier captivity in Basti. His opportunity comes when he and other prisoners are pitted against each other, sabertooths, and mammoths in a gladiatorial-like contest. One of the mammoths proves to be Old White
, the beast he had aided previously; joining forces, they survive the melee and make a successful break for freedom.
Once again von Horst happens on Skruf and La-ja, intervening as they are attacked by the Ganaks
, or bison-men. While able to kill a few of these he ultimately falls captive to them, this time in the company of La-ja. Their escape is aided by Old White, after which they are separated again, but von Horst falls in with another from La-ja’s country, Gaj
, a fellow former-prisoner of the Mammoth Men. Gaj’s guidance enables him to follow La-ja to Lo-har. There he saves her from Gaz
, an unwanted suitor, and he and La-ja finally acknowledge their love for each other. Their union results in him becoming chief of Lo-har, his new bride being the daughter of the Lo-harians’ former ruler Brun
, who is absent searching for her.
The remaining plot threads are tied up by the arrival of a party from Sari led by David Innes, accompanied by Brun. Innes, it turns out, has taken up the pledge of Jason Gridley at the end of the previous book to rescue the missing von Horst—Gridley himself, anti-climatically, is revealed to have let himself be persuaded by other members of the expedition from the outer world to leave Pellucidar with them instead. Von Horst declines Innes’ offer take him back to Sari and what passes for civilization in the inner world, electing to remain in Lo-har with La-ja.
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...
for this story has expired in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...
, and thus now resides in the public domain
Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired, if the intellectual property rights are forfeited, or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all...
there. The text is available via Project Gutenberg Australia
Project Gutenberg Australia, abbreviated as PGA, is an Internet site which was founded in 2001 by Colin Choat. The site hosts free ebooks or e-texts which are in the public domain in Australia. The ebooks have been prepared and submitted by volunteers...