May 19, 2011

Atalanta the Mohawk superwoman

Badass Women of the Pulp Era

By Jess Nevins1904: The most popular pulp science fiction writer in Europe in the first decade of the 20th century was the German Robert Kraft (1869-1916). One of his popular characters was Atalanta, who appeared in the pulp Atalanta #1-60 (1904-1905, reprinted in France in 1912 and 1913) and the novel Atalanta: Die Geheimnisse Des Sklavensees (1911). Atalanta is the last member of a tribe of the Mohawk people who had flourished in America centuries before Asians crossed the Bering Strait land bridge and settled the American continent. However, Atalanta initially does not know this. As a baby she was found on the shores of a large "slave lake" in South America, and she grew up in an orphanage ignorant of her background.

As an adult she goes in search of her birthright, aided by Graf Felsmark, a German millionaire adventurer who Atalanta eventually marries. Atalanta returns to the slave lake and frees the slaves. She carries out a prolonged duel with her arch-enemy, the vicious South American Professor Dodd, a brilliant inventor who plans to use his advanced weaponry to hold the world hostage. She discovers a Lost City of Maya in the jungles of Mexico. She even visits Lemuria in her plane but ends up fighting against the rulers of Lemuria, a group of evil, albino, big-headed dwarf geniuses, and their ogrish servants. Atalanta is physically and mentally superior to ordinary humans and is capable of a number of incredible athletic feats.
Comment:  Let's see how stereotypical this character is:

  • Atalanta's name is Greek. She looks like Aphrodite or another goddess immortalized in ancient artwork.

  • She's the last of a vanishing breed. If we're to believe the writeup, her tribe existed before the Paleo-Indians arrived in North America. Which makes them some sort of lost race rather than Indians.

  • A Mohawk found on the shores of a South American lake is theoretically possible, but it's so unlikely it might as well be impossible.

  • She marries a white man to make her decent and "civilized." I wouldn't be surprised if she converts to Christianity too.

  • She discovers a lost city of Maya and the lost civilization of Lemuria, which puts her firmly in a fantasy land with pirates and fairies (Peter Pan) or dinosaurs and ape-men (The Lost World).

  • Not bad for a mere two-paragraph description. No doubt the Atalanta magazines and books have hundreds of mistakes and stereotypes.

    Pulp fiction and traveling shows are how people learned about Indians before the advent of movies. The entertainment media was misinforming people then and it's misinforming people now.

    For more on the subject, see Burroughs the Conservative Racist and Rima the "White Native Girl.

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    Early 20th century and European. Hilarious.