Ki-Gor is one of many Tarzan-inspired lords of the jungle from the early and mid-20th century. His adventures were published in “Jungles Stories” between 1938 and 1954, authored under the house name of John Peter Drummond. The writing varied in quality.
According to the origin stories, his father, a missionary, was killed when he was an infant, and Ki-Gor grew up in the jungle learning to shift for himself. His beloved Helene is the survivor of a plane crash. He rescued her from several harrowing ordeals after the crash. She left her high society life behind for life with Ki-Gor. And there was never a dull moment.
This particular installment begins with the jungle lord lolling around enjoying some “plump, scarlet” berries. He’s expecting a visit from his good friend Tembu George, a Maasai warrior and leader. Helene wants fish for lunch, so Ki-Gor has to get up and go spear some fish for her.
Before he can get all she wants, a war canoe pulls up. Its prow is carved with a fanged serpent, an emblem Ki-Gor is not familiar with. The men in it act peaceably enough, at least until a couple of them club Ki-Gor over the head, throw him into the river and carry off Helene. They seem to prize her as a white woman.
The reader is taken to a decadent empire that exacts tribute in terms of human beings. The reader is further witness to a form of gladiatorial games that includes leopards and poisonous snakes, which would have had the Romans shaking their heads in disgust. With few exceptions, the women are pretty and pliable. The fashions run to breastplates, girdles and capes. There’s some nudity but no sex and the deaths take place mostly off stage.
Silly plot aside, the writing is often cumbersome and gets in the way of what enjoyment of the action there might be. When Ki-Gor sees a crocodile about to attack a Masai warrior he springs into action:
The Jungle Lord, reared to a perilous existence which depended on a split-second judgment, moved with flashing speed in this fateful interval. Ki-Gor sped toward the river, scooping up a Masai spear from the ground without breaking his stride. The crocodile was almost upon the native, its gaping jaws opened in anticipation of the kill, when the Jungle Lord leaped far out over the water directly at the reptile. As he descended, Ki-Gor bore his full weight on the haft of the spear and drove the broad, sharp point under the crocodile’s left fore legs.” (sic)
This is a silly story and the author imbued it with humor. The premise is silly, but could have been fun had the writing been better. It is a product of its time of course—1944—but is remarkably free of much of the racism of the time. Ki-Gor views his friend Tembu George as an equal, a brother. Yet, boy, what a stinker of a tale this one is.