Let’s Not Forget the Centennial of Outlaw of Torn

Other Stuff, Tarzan, The Tarzan Files

While we’re celebrating the 100 year centennial of John Carter and Tarzan — let’s not forget good old “Norman of Torn”.  As hardcore Burroughs fans (but few others) know — after Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote “Under the Moons of Mars” and sold it to All-Story Magazine for publication as a serial in 1912, his editor at All-Story, Thomas Newell Metcalf, solicited Burroughs to write a historical adventure, and Burroughs responded with “Outlaw of Torn”.  Metcalf was harshly critical of the work and didn’t buy it — but Burroughs would believe for many years that it was one of his best works.  Meanwhile, by the time Metcalf had turned down “Outlaw”, Burroughs was on to writing Tarzan of the Apes.  First serial publication didn’t come until 1914, and first novel publication in 1928.  There is a good page on Outlaw of Torn at ERBzine.

Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is a plot summary:

The story is set in 13th century England and concerns the fictitious outlaw Norman of Torn, who purportedly harried the country during the power struggle between King Henry III and Simon de Montfort. Norman is the supposed son of the Frenchman de Vac, once the king’s fencing master, who has a grudge against his former employer and raises the boy to be a simple, brutal killing machine with a hatred of all things English. His intentions are partially subverted by a priest who befriends Norman and teaches him his letters and chivalry towards women.

Otherwise, all goes according to plan. By 17, Norman is the best swordsman in all of England; by the age of 18, he has a large bounty on his head, and by the age of 19, he leads the largest band of thieves in all of England. None can catch or best him. In his hatred for the king he even becomes involved in the civil war, which turns the tide in favor of de Montfort. In another guise, that of Roger de Conde, he becomes involved with de Montfort’s daughter Bertrade, defending her against her and her father’s enemies. She notes in him a curious resemblance to the king’s son and heir Prince Edward.

Finally brought to bay in a confrontation with both King Henry and de Montfort, Norman is brought down by the treachery of de Vac, who appears to kill him, though at the cost of his own life. As de Vac dies, he reveals that Norman is in fact Richard, long-lost son of King Henry and Queen Eleanor and brother to Prince Edward. The fencing master had kidnapped the prince as a child to serve as the vehicle of his vengeance against the king. Luckily, Norman/Richard turns out not to be truly dead, surviving to be reconciled to his true father and attain the hand of Bertrade.

Here is a thorough and interesting article by John Martin:

The Warlord of Torn

John Martin          An Erbmania! Contributor http://www.erblist.com

Although it was not published until a bit later, The Outlaw of Torn was actually the second novel penned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, after he had written Under the Moons of Mars. Thus, it is not surprising that the story of Norman of Torn is a kind of preview of the character traits and story lines that would characterize some of ERB’s subsequent works. The title character in the first such later work, Tarzan of the Apes, ERB’s most famous creation, can certainly be compared in several ways to Norman of Torn.

Like the ape man, Norman was separated from his true parents at a very young age and nurtured by a fos- ter mother, that “mother” being Sir Jules de Vac, master swordsman, who disguised himself as a woman during the first several years of Norman’s life. Tarzan was raised by Kala, the she-ape.

Tarzan had no memory of his parents or his early life. When he stumbled across the jungle cabin years later and saw the skeletons of his real parents, they meant nothing to him. Likewise, Norman remembered nothing of his days in the palace, and the only thing he could recall about his early life with De Vac was fencing lessons.

Read the entire article here.

And here is the cover of the ACE version that I have on my bookshelf.



  • Thank you for mentioning that this is the centennial of ERB writing “The Outlaw of Torn.” This was one of the first ERB novels I read.

  • Those interested in ERB’s second novel, THE OUTLAW OF TORN, may be interested in Rob Hughes’ graphic adaptation in Dark Horse, featuring the art of Thomas Yeates and Michael Kaluta. The many-page evolution of that project, which Rob has titled THE OUTLAW PRINCE is featured in ERBzine.com, starting at:
    THE OUTLAW OF TORN novel, including e-Text, is featured in the ERBzine.com C.H.A.S.E.R. Bibliography at:

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