Waziri (fictional tribe)

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The Waziri are a fictional African tribe created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his Tarzan books. Burroughs characterizes the Waziri as the greatest warriors in Africa, though small in numbers. They are feared by Arabic ivory and slave traders as well as cannibal tribes, and known from western to eastern Africa.

The Waziri in West Africa[edit]

In The Return of Tarzan Tarzan returns from civilization to his beloved jungle. But he has changed. Previously his relationship with natives was violent and antagonistic, colored by the death of his ape foster mother Kala at the hands of a native hunter, but he has experienced humanity in all its varieties since then. So now, when he meets a black warrior, instead of killing him he saves him from Numa, the lion.[1] The warrior, Busuli, is a member of the Waziri tribe. Tarzan discovers they are cultured and despise cannibals like the tribe he had intermittently warred against in his youth. Tarzan is accepted as a member of tribe after teaching them a new practical way of hunting elephants. These two hunts are the only recorded instances of his killing "Tantor", the elephant.[2]

When Arabic ivory traders and their cannibal slaves attack the Waziri village, causing the death of the old chief (also named Waziri) and many others, Tarzan takes the lead, preventing the burning of the village and defeating the Arabs with effective guerrilla-tactics by killing them one at the time. Tarzan then becomes the new chief of the tribe and from then on these noble black warriors share his fate. The Waziri take him to their secret treasure-trove, the lost city of Opar, which they first discovered in the days of the deceased former chief Chowambi, Waziri's father.

Tarzan leaves Africa and the Waziri for England at the end of The Return of Tarzan, seemingly forever. But by the time of the next book in which he appears, the non-Tarzan novel The Eternal Lover, he has established a plantation in Uziri, the land of the Waziri, on which he and his wife Jane reside part-time, and where they entertain guests. According to the map that shows Africa as Burroughs imagined it, the Waziri village was somewhere in Angola.

The Waziri are mentioned but do not appear in the next Tarzan book, The Beasts of Tarzan. However, during the adventure Tarzan meets a native warrior, Mugambi, chief of the Wagambi of Ugambi, whom he invites to join the Waziri at the conclusion. He is subsequently shown to have done so. In The Son of Tarzan the Waziri appear as mostly anonymous native followers of Tarzan, and are not named as a tribe. One of their number, Muviri, is presumably the same character as the Muviro of later books.

By the time of Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, Basuli (presumably the Busuli of Return) is chieftain of the tribe under Tarzan, with Mugambi from Beasts shown as a prominent warrior. The organization of the Waziri has changed from tribal to a more feudal system. They live with Tarzan and Jane in their plantation, with members taking care of cooking and cleaning, and even Jane's rose garden.[3] They no longer call Tarzan "King of Waziri," but rather "Big Bwana," while he calls them his "children": "...and were the heart of the Big Bwana not filled with love for his black children".[4]

The Waziri in East Africa[edit]

While Burroughs does not recount the event, it is evident that at some point between The Beasts of Tarzan (in which the Waziri country of Uziri is last mentioned), and Tarzan the Untamed the tribe moves with Tarzan to a new plantation located east of Lake Victoria in British East Africa (now known as Kenya). The plantation shown in The Son of Tarzan is likely the original one, as the African setting of that book is near the west coast, "a little below the equator," but it is not clear if the estate in Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar is in the original or the later location.

In Tarzan the Untamed many of the Waziri are killed during World War I while unsuccessfully defending Tarzan's plantation from German-led raiders. The deceased include the warrior Wasimbu, son of Muviro, who is crucified, and likely also Basuli and Mugambi, as they are absent from this or later novels. By the time of Tarzan and the Golden Lion the survivors of the Waziri under "Old Muviro" have reconstructed the main bungalow and other buildings destroyed in the war. It is revealed that another of the Waziri warriors, Usula, was a servant to Tarzan in London as a boy, and as a result speaks English. Usula reappears in the following novel, Tarzan and the Ant Men.

In later novels, beginning with Tarzan and the Lost Empire, Muviro is portrayed as sub-chief of the Waziri under Tarzan.[5] He and his warriors appear sporadically in subsequent books. They accompany Tarzan to the subterranean realm of Pellucidar in Tarzan at the Earth's Core and its non-Tarzan sequel, Back to the Stone Age. They also appear in Tarzan the Invincible, Tarzan Triumphant, and Tarzan's Quest, in which Muviro's search for his lost daughter Buira forms an important sub-plot to the main action, as well as Tarzan the Magnificent and the short story "Tarzan and the Champion," which forms part of the collection Tarzan and the Castaways.

Origin of the name[edit]

According to David Arthur Adams, Burroughs may have coined the name "Waziri" on the basis of two historical African groups: "The infamous slaver, Tippu-Tib, who accompanied Henry Morton Stanley upon part of his journey, employed the Wangwana (the name of the inhabitants of Uganda) and Wanyamwizi (from Tanzania) to help round up slaves. The name Waziri could very likely be one of ERB's name juxtapositions, and, again, the reversal of alliances would be a normal practice in his writing."[6] Burroughs was frequently using Stanley's writings as a source for his early Tarzan novels.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Return of Tarzan chapter 14.
  2. ^ Tarzan Alive page 89.
  3. ^ Gone primitive page 57.
  4. ^ Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan and the Golden Lion, chapter 5
  5. ^ Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan and the Lost Empire, chapter 1: "'Something is coming, Bwana,' said Muviro, sub-chief of the Waziri."
  6. ^ Adams, David Arthur. "Some Thoughts About The Return of Tarzan" in ERBzine Magazine #0666

See also[edit]