Monday, December 19, 2016

Cavemen and Jungle Women on the Cover of Weird Tales

Cavemen and jungle women or jungle girls are and were everywhere in popular culture. That popularity isn't really reflected in the illustrations that appeared on the cover of Weird Tales, for only two showed characters of that type. It strikes me now (the way a stone axe strikes a caveman's skull) how old-fashioned--and static--was the artwork on the cover of Weird Tales. Even J. Allen St. John, who created some very dynamic compositions, was an artist from another time. Despite the innovation of being the first fantasy magazine in America, Weird Tales seems to have been stuck in the nineteenth century, at least by its covers.

Weird Tales, March 1925. Cover story: "The Last of the Teeheemen" by Arthur Thatcher. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. I showed this cover the other day. I still don't know anything about the story. That could be a cavewoman on the right, but I'll call her a jungle woman instead, one of the earliest of a type that became very popular in the 1930s through the 1950s.

Weird Tales, April 1932. Cover story: "The Red Witch" by Nictzin Dyalhis. Cover art by C.C. Senf. 

Weird Tales, August 1938. Cover story: "The Wolf-Girl of Josselin" by Arlton Eadie. Cover art by Margaret Brundage. Mike Tuz pointed out that this cover from 1938 shows what is essentially a jungle girl. (See his comment below.) Thanks for the addition, Mike. I should point out that a jungle guy, Tam, Son of Tiger, appeared on the cover of four issues of Weird Tales. I'll cover Tam in a later entry on series characters on the cover of the magazine.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. When I think of jungle girls, I tend to think of the female Tarzan rip-offs such as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle and Nyoka the Jungle Girl who became quite popular in the forties. Though there were certainly weird elements in their adventures, these tales were more in the vein of superheroes or costumed crime fighters, and thus not the type of stuff you would find in Weird Tales. Of course Rima the Jungle Girl predates them all -- and Tarzan as well -- appearing in Green Mansions in 1904, a story that is more of a fantasy romance.
    The cover of the August 1938 issue of Weird Tales comes very close to fitting into the jungle girl category, too; offering a tantalizing glimpse of how Margaret Brundage would have handled the subject.

    I love the "cave girl" with the flapper's hairdo and Roman sandals on the March '25 cover! Who says that contemporary tastes don't influence our perspective?

    1. Mike,

      I have added the cover for August 1938. Thanks for pointing it out.

      The title character of The Cave Girl by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1913, 1925) can also be considered a forerunner of the jungle girl type. Gardner Fox and Bob Powell turned her into a comic book character in 1952. Otherwise, it seems to me that the jungle girl type came from Burroughs' tales of Tarzan, but Tarzan may have had an antecedent in Mowgli and even older tales of children raised by wild animals. Now I find this example from Wikipedia:

      In 1879 Albert Robida created Saturnin Farandoul, a child raised by orang-utans who becomes king of the apes.

      Wow. Could Burroughs have been influenced by Robida?

      One characteristic of jungle girls and cave girls is that they're always clean, well-groomed, and appealing. How else would a modern-day white European find them attractive?

      Anyway, thanks for writing.


    2. I'm not familiar at all with the Robida story that you cited. It certainly does seem like a possible inspiration for Tarzan, though. I've long thought that the case of Dina Sanichar, the true story of a boy who was raised by wolves in India and discovered in 1867, gave rise to the Tarzan-type stories.