Tackling Tarzan

Posted by Toni V.S. | 12:31 PM | 4 comments »

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Tarzan of the Apes…the English Lord raised by great apes in Darkest Africa...the best 
myth of the "Noble Savage." One of the 
best-known literary characters created, but
do we know the REAL Story? As told by
Edgar Rice Burroughs? (Who was an
American, by the way, and not British
as many people suppose.)

Read on...and perhaps discover a few
things you DIDN'T know about the
"King of the Apes."

The original story was published in 1912
in ALL STORY magazine; the first novel 
was published two years later. There are 26 Tarzan stories including two YA and an anthology of short stories. Edgar Rice Burroughs himself states the only reason he became a writer was “I needed the money. When I started I was 35 and had failed in every enterprise I had ever attempted…I had a wife and two babies, a combination which does not work well without money.” The first story he sold wasn’t a Tarzan story, however, but one of his Martian stories. Burroughs got a job as a department manager for a business magazine whle he worked at his real job…writing. He was writing Tarzan of the Apes.  “I wrote…evenings and holidays. I wrote it in longhand on the backs of old letterheads and odd pieces of paper. I did not think it was a very good story and I doubted if it would sell.” It did. He got $700 for the magazine rights. 


Now with three children to provide for, Burroughs became a writer in earnest.  He attempted to get Tarzan published in book form. “Every well-known publisher in the United States turned down Tarzan of the Apes,” (and didn’t they kick themselves later?) Finally, the New York Evening World ran it as a newspaper serial. It was picked up by other papers and reader demand was so great the original publisher he’d submitted it to got in touch with him and asked to be allowed to publish it. Burroughs wrote 60 novels in all, the Tarzan series, the Pellucidar series, the John Carter series, and others.

Now, the story…

Two old cronies are sitting in their club drinking. One has a little too much and begins to tale a fantastic tale. He even produces documents to support his story. The narrator leaves it up to the reader to believe…

The time is 1888. Young John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, is sent by the Colonial Office to British West Africa to investigate rumors of a “another European power” forcing natives into its army. (Guess which?) Clayton hesitates. He’s a newly-wed of three months and he doesn’t want to take his wife Lady Alice (already pregnant, Lord John works fast) into such danger. Alice convinces him he should go and she will, also. Two months later, the crew of their ship, Fuwalda, mutinies. The leader of the mutiny has taken a liken to John and sets the young couple ashore on the African coast. They face this with fear, resolution, and optimism:

"Hundreds of thousands of years ago our ancestors of the dim and distant past faced the same problems which we must face, possibly in these same primeval forests…What they accomplished, Alice, with instruments and weapons of stone and bone, surely that may we accomplish also."

Alice’s reply?

"I only hope you are right, John. I will do my best to be a brave primeval woman, a fit mate for the
primeval man."

John build a treehouse. He fashions furniture. He keeps a diary of what occurs.  They are safe until a giant ape attacks the tree house. John kills it with an ax but Alice is knocked unconscious. That night, her premature son is born and Alice is never the same…The day their son is a year old, Alice dies in her sleep, and John is in despair. He’d always nourished the hope they’ll somehow return to England, but now...

My little son is crying for nourishment—O Alice, Alice, what shall I do?” And as John Clayton wrote the last words his hand was destined ever to pen, he dropped his head wearily upon his outstretched arms where they rested upon the table he had built for her who lay still and cold in the bed beside him.
For a long time no sound broke the deathlike stillness of the jungle midday save the piteous wailing of the tiny man-child.”

That night, while John is overcome by grief, Kerchak, leader of the great apes, breaks in and kills him.  He’s followed by Kala, a young she-ape whose baby had been accidentally killed when Kerchak went on one of his rampages. Kala hears the Clayton baby crying.

As she took up the little live baby of Alice Clayton she dropped the dead body of her own into the empty
cradle…Then hunger closed the gap between them, and the son of an English lord and an English lady nursed at the breast of Kala, the great ape.”  


The baby is raised by Kala. “That the huge, fierce brute loved this child of another race is beyond question, and he, too, gave to the great, hairy beast all the affection that would have belonged to his fair young mother had she lived.” She calls him “Tarzan” meaning “white skin.” Tarzan is 10 before he realizes he’s different. He learns to rely on brains instead of brawn though he has plenty of that, too. He discovers his real parents’ tree house and their bones, and their books, and teaches himself how to read and to print. “…an English lordling, who could speak no English, and yet who could read and write his native language. Never had he seen a human being other than himself.”

When Tarzan is 18, a tribe of warrior fleeing from soldiers attack the apes. Kala is killed and Tarzan learns first-hand about grief.  “He beat upon his great chest with his clenched fists, and then he fell upon the body of Kala and sobbed out the pitiful sorrowing of his lonely heart.”

Tarzan gets his revenge upon the tribe and they in turn, fear him as an evil spirit. He also gains leadership of the great apes. Tarzan however, now has yearnings to find others of his own kind.  "Tarzan…is not an ape. He is not like his people. His ways are not their ways, and so Tarzan is going back to the lair of his own kind by the waters of the great lake which has no farther shore. You must choose another to rule you, for Tarzan will not return." And thus young Lord Greystoke took the first step toward the goal which he had set—the finding of other white men like himself.”

Here is the description of our hero: 

 “… mass of black hair falling to his shoulders and cut with his hunting knife to a rude bang upon his forehead…His straight and perfect figure, muscled as the best of the ancient Roman gladiators…yet with the soft and sinuous curves of a Greek god... About his neck hung the golden chain from which depended the … locket of his mother…At his back was a quiver of arrows… About his waist was a belt of.. rawhide fashioned…as a support for his father's hunting knife.”

It is to be noted Tarzan doesn't even wear a loin cloth until he begins associated with "civilized" people.

Now 21, Tarzan lives in his parents’ tree-house, and that’s where he is when two boats come ashore. In them are Archimedes Q. Porter, from Baltimore, his 19-year-old daughter Jane, her fiancé, William, who is also Tarzan’s cousin and the current Lord Greystoke. (Talk about coincidences!)They find Tarzan’s home with an appropriately adolescent warning sign:THIS IS THE HOUSE OF TARZAN, THE KILLER OF BEASTS… DO NOT HARM THE THINGS WHICH ARE TARZAN'S…” (Much better than Keep out, this means you.) Tarzan see the girl. He falls in love. He leaves her oddly-worded notes. He saves her from a lion and from the great ape leader. No “Me Tarzan, you Jane” here. 



Reiunited with Clayton, Jane realizes Tarzan won’t fit into civilization though she’s come to love him. (After all, he eats raw meat and wipes his bloody fingers on his naked thighs.) She and the others return to Baltimore. Tarzan in the meantime meets and saves Paul D’Arnot a French officer. He tells D’Arnot he’s going to Baltimore to find Jane. ("Just point me in the right directions," is the way he puts it. "Where is Baltimore?") D’Arnot teaches him French and manners and make him into the gentleman he should be. He also takes his father’s diary and Tarzan’s fingerprints and sends them to the local police for verification.

Tarzan travels by ship to Baltimore where he finds Jane being pursued by two suitors, one who is trying to force her into marriage to pay off a debt owed by the professor. The other is William Clayton to whom she’s engaged.

"My forest man!" she murmured. "No, I must be delirious!"
"Yes, your man, Jane Porter. Your savage, primeval man come out of the jungle to claim his mate—the woman who ran away from him," he added almost fiercely.”

Though Tarzan gets rid of one suitor, Clayton isn’t so easy to subdue. There’s a matter of honor involved. He leaves the choice to Jane: "What can we do?" he asked. "You have admitted that you love me. You know that I love you; but I do not know the ethics of society by which you are governed. I shall leave the decision to you, for you know best what will be for your eventual welfare."

In the end, it’s Tarzan who makes the decision. A telegram arrives, confirming that he is Lord Greystoke. If he tells Jane this, he can win her, but he considers it an underhanded way. She must love him for himself.  He can't provide for her and his cousin can. William Clayton confronts Tarzan, not knowing he is looking at his own cousin.

The story ends:

“Here was the man who had Tarzan's title, and Tarzan's estates, and was going to marry the woman whom Tarzan loved—the woman who loved Tarzan. A single word from Tarzan would make a great difference in this man's life. It would take away his title and his lands and his castles, and—it would take them away from Jane Porter also.
"I say, old man," cried Clayton…"how the devil did you ever get into that bally jungle?"
"I was born there," said Tarzan, quietly. "My mother was an Ape, and of course she couldn't tell me much
about it. I never knew who my father was."

Very abrupt…that’s all, The End.


Of course, it picks up with The Return of Tarzan in which our hero travels to London to win and wed Jane. Along the way, he learned to drink and gamble and also falls prey to temptation in the form of an illicit affair with a German countess.  (You won’t see that in any Tarzan movie!) Tarzan sees nothing wrong. She has a mate who can’t satisfy her. A younger more virile male can. He does, and ends up in a duel with the Count and again lets the Law of the Jungle prevail. He trespassed on another male’s property and got caught.  He allows the Count to shoot him, though his coolness so unnerves his challenger that he isn’t killed. (He's also smoking a cigarette as the bullet strikes him and doesn't even drop it. Talk about cool.) Amid other adventures, Tarzan and Jane return to Africa, happily married by Jane's father. (Guess Dad waned to make certain their association was legal.)

Later stories tell of their adventures there with dinosaurs, men descended from felines, 18-inch tall people, and even knights lost from the Crusades who form a little Camelot in the jungle. Tarzan fights the Germans in North Africa. He and Jane have a ranch in the veldt. They have a son Jack who becomes known as Korak the Killer and later marries a French princess, making Tarzan a grandfather with the birth of son Jackie. (Grandpa Tarz?)There’s a Tarzan lookalike, a Spaniard named Esteban Miranda who for a short time even fools Jane with his resemblance.  Tarzan flies a plane. According to the timeline, when the books end, our hero is in his fifties but in Tarzan’s Quest, he’s given a drug which makes him immortal, so…our boy can go on forever… 

Tarzan in ligterature is definitely nothinglike Tarzan in the movies, where he's  
been more or less a children's story.


In Jungle Tales of Tarzan, the stories range from the time  Tarzan is adopted by Kala to the arrival of the party in which Jane Porter is a member.  In them, a witch doctor who is Tarzan’s enemy is introduced, as well as Tarzan’s first love, an adolescent great ape...naturally. (Can you say bestiality, Edgar?) Since this was writtenin the early 1900s, their "courtship" lacks detail. Instead of Cheeta, the comedic chimpanzee from the movies, Tarzan has N’Kima, a little monkey. There’s also Jadbalja, the lion and Tantor the elephant. There’s  a vocabulary appended to one volume (Tarmangani – white apes Tar (white) mangani (apes), meaning white people; Jadbalja - the golden lion Jad (golden) bal (lion) ja (the), etc.)

There have many pastiches, and a series updating by Faber and Faber beginning in 2011.

Tarzan’s story easily lent itself to film adaptation in both cinema, as movies, some serials, and later television series, as well as a Broadway musical.  Tarzan has been portrayed by Olympic champions, the author’s son-in-law and Calvin Klein models. The entire list includes:


Elmo Lincoln
James Pierce
Gene Pollar (Joseph C. Pohler)
Frank Merrill
Johnny Weismuller
Buster Crabbe
Glenn Morris
Bruce Bennett (Herman Brix)
Lex Barker
Gordon Scott
Ron Ely
Mike Henry
Myles O’Keefe
Denny Miller
Jock Mahoney
Chrisopher Lambert
Joe Lara
Wolf Larson
Casper Van Dien
Travis Fimmel

The first film in the Weismuller series was a bit of a scandal because it contained a nude swimming scene between Tarzan and Jane. Very racy for the 1930’s. In the later films, Tarzan is very articulate and more like his literary counterpart who was very well-learned for being "home schooled." The couple’s life together was extremely chaste for a “savage” and a “civilized” woman. They never had children, the child being introduced in “Tarzan Finds a Son” as being an orphan they adopt. (That old movie sensor steppingin again, arguing that it was never proven Tarz and the Missus actually married.) Tarzan, in his simplicity calls him “Boy” quite a switch from being named “Korak the Killer.” Johnny Sheffield who portrayed Boy later went on to become “Bomba the Jungle Boy,” the YA version of Tarzan.

There have been several comic book series (I owned almost a complete set of one until I got conned into giving it away), as well as graphic novels.



Films (Only American versions, here are plenty of European ones, also):

     TARZAN OF THE APES, 1917, starring Elmo Lincoln (His costume and hair are patterned after the cover of the original book)
     THE ROMANCE OF TARZAN, 1918
     THE REVENGE OF TARZAN, 1920, starring Gene Pollar
     THE SON OF TARZAN, 1920, starring P. Dempsey Tabler
     THE ADVENTURES OF TARZAN, 1921
     TARZAN AND THE GOLDEN LION, 1927
     TARZAN THE MIGHTY, 1928, starring Frank Merrill
     TARZAN THE TIGER, 1929
     TARZAN THE APE MAN, 1932, starring Johnny Weissmuller(first to wear the "dark" loincloth and I've always wondered what skin it's supposed to be.)
     TARZAN THE FEARLESS, 1933, starring Buster Crabble
     TARZAN AND HIS MATE, 1934
     THE NEW ADVENTURES OF TARZAN, 1935
     TARZAN ESCAPES, 1936
     TARZAN'S REVENGE, 1937, starring Glenn Morris
     TARZAN AND THE GREEN GODDESS, 1938, starring Herman Brix, later called Bruce Gordon. (The Green Goddess salad was inspired for this movie.)
     TARZAN FINDS A SON, 1939

     TARZAN'S SECRET TREASURE, 1941
     TARZAN'S NEW YORK ADVENTURE, 1942
     TARZAN TRIUMPHS, 1943
     TARZAN'S DESERT MYSTERY, 1943
     TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS, 1945
     TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD WOMAN, 1946
     TARZAN AND THE HUNTERS, 1947
     TARZAN AND THE MERMAID, 1948
     TARZAN'S MAGIC FOUNTAIN, 1949, starring Lex Barker
     TARZAN AND THE SLAVE GIRL
, 1950
     TARZAN'S PERIL, 1951
     TARZAN'S SAVAGE FURY, 1952
     TARZAN AND SHE-DEVIL, 1953
     TARZAN'S HIDDEN JUNGLE, 1955, starring Gordon Scott
     TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI, 1957
     TARZAN'S FIGHT FOR LIFE, 1958
     TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS, 1958
     TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE, 1959
     TARZAN THE APE MAN, starring Dennis Miller
     TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT, 1960
     TARZAN GOES INDIA, 1962, starring Jock Mahoney
     TARZAN'S THREE CHALLENGES, 1963
     TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD, 1966, starring Mike Henry
     TARZAN'S DEADLY SILENCE, 1966, starring Ron Ely
     TARZAN AND THE GREAT RIVER, 1967, starring Mike Henry
     TARZAN'S JUNGLE REBELLION, 1967
     TARZAN AND THE JUNGLE BOY, starring Mike Henry
     THE KING OF THE JUNGLE, 1969
     TARZAN AND THE BROWN PRINCE, 1970
     TARZAN'S DEADLY SILENCE, 1970
     TARZAN - MASTER OF THE JUNGLE, starring Johnny Weissmuller, Jr.
     TARZAN, THE APE MAN, 1981, starring Miles O'Keefe
     TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES, 1984, starring Christopher Lambert
     TARZAN IN MANHATTAN, starring Joe Lara

Tarzan novels:

TARZAN OF THE APES, 1912
THE RETURN OF TARZAN, 1913
THE BEAST OF TARZAN, 1914
THE SON OF TARZAN, 1915
TARZAN AND THE JEWELS OF OPAR, 1916
JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN, 1919
TARZAN THE UNTAMED, 1920
TARZAN THE TERRIBLE, 1921
TARZAN AND THE GOLDEN LION, 1923
TARZAN AND THE ANT MEN, 1924
THE TARZAN TWINS, 1927
TARZAN, THE LORD OF THE JUNGLE,
1928
TARZAN AND THE LOST EMPIRE, 1929
TARZAN AT THE EARTH'S CORE, 1930
TARZAN THE INVINCIBLE, 1931
TARZAN TRIUMPHANT, 1932
TARZAN AND THE CITY OF GOLD, 1933
TARZAN AND THE LION MAN, 1034
TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD MEN, 1935
TARZAN'S QUEST, 1936
TARZAN AND THE TARZAN TWINS WITH JAD-BAL-JA, THE GOLDEN LION, 1936
TARZAN AND THE FORBIDDEN CITY, 1938
TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT, 1939
TARZAN THE LOST ADVENTURE, 1946
TARZAN AND THE FOREIGN LEGION, 1947
TARZAN AND THE TARZAN TWINS, 1963
TARZAN AND THE MADMAN, 1964
TARZAN AND THE CASTAWAYS, 1965
 


One can only hope that with the plethora of remakes currenlt being made in Hollywood, someone, some day will make a version of Tarzan close to the original story. (A remake was announced by Warners with Alexander Skarsgaard as Tarzan. A Scandinavian Tarzan? No,no! But then shut down due to budgets problems. Perhaps Disney’s failure with the John Carter and Lone Ranger film sinfluenced that. A CGI film voiced by Kellan Lutz is also announced.) It’d defintely be much more entertaining than merely a scantily-clad man swinging through the trees yelling at the top of his lungs…though that isn’t be such a bad scene, either…and it’s in the book, too.



Sources:


4 comments

  1. Mary Ricksen // September 19, 2013 at 6:08 PM  

    Incredible! I love this information. I read every one of Edgar Rice Burroughs books and the Mars series will always be my favorite.
    Great post Toni!!

  2. Barbara Monajem // September 19, 2013 at 8:30 PM  

    I had no idea there were so many Tarzan books. Wow.

  3. Mary Marvella // September 20, 2013 at 3:03 AM  

    Amazing article and, NO, I didn't know 1/10 of the information.

  4. Anonymous // September 21, 2013 at 5:59 PM  

    Toni, this is amazing. I will now have to go to amazon and download some of the older stories! I love Tarzan!

    Scarlet