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Tarzan of the Apes is a novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs the first in a series of books about the title character Tarzan It was first published in the pulp magazine All Story Magazine in October 1912 The character was so popular that Burroughs continued the series into the 1940s with two dozen sequels


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    Viscount Greystoke will see you now One of the advantages of riding the subway to work is getting extra reading time Coming home though I often have to stand for a good while before I can get a seat As it is not comfortable wrangling the actual book I am reading at a given time while standing I lift my trusty iTouch and am able to read a bit until the crowd thins I save my hardcore reading for when I am sitting and can take notes iTouch reading is of a different sort at least it has been to date Nothing too challenging Tarzan of the Apes was a free download from somewhere I cannot recall I had first read this of course back in my wastrel youth in the early 60s most likely While I am a fan of ERB's Barsoom series I was never all that taken with jungle boy Maybe it was not sci fi enough for my pre adolescent self Tarzan is introduced to the world in October 1912 from erbzinecom In looking at it anew with a bit lifetime and some extra inches under my belt a few things stand out At first blush it appears incredibly dated awash in the racism of its era It was published in 1912 not all that long after the Bronx Zoo displayed a pygmy in the monkey house We have come a long way hopefully Not nearly far enough but some distance nonetheless Burroughs was a product of and reflects his time Black Africans were regarded by the ignorant as barely human cannibalistic and of inferior moral substance unlike King Leopold The stuff of cartoons hurtful cartoons ERB with Maureen O’Sullivan and Johnny Weismuller from classiccinemagoldcomThe Tarzan of the title is the son of privilege his English upper crust parents done in by dark forces while in Africa Coincident with the downfall of mom and dad Greystoke aka Alice and John Clayton a mother gorilla mourning the recent death of her baby hears the baby crying takes him in as a substitute and raises him as her own The boy's human ingenuity and mom's fierce protection gives him the equalizer he needs against the larger and much stronger apes in his tribe and he thrives As he grows Tarzan is intrigued by the unoccupied house in which he was orphaned He begins to explore and discovers books Of course being an Englishman of gentle birth he has the cranial capacity to figure out the alphabet language the whole megilla Who needs teachers when you have such high end genes? The 1st Edition cover from erbzinecom Tarzan of the Apes BTW Just so's ya know Tarzan was not the first name Burroughs had in mind for his hero That would be Zantar And Greystoke was also a revision of Bloomstoke was first published in All Story Magazine in October 1912 The text included errors such as the existence of tigers in Africa Those were removed for the book version Note the sub title A Romance of the Jungle Jane in the introductory episode serves as the damsel in distress with her black maid shrieking in eye roll worthy comedic panic At least some clueless white guys are served up for comic relief as well There are dastardly mutineers a bit of buried treasure and Tarzan the original swinger hoists not only Jane through the jungle with one arm but also a young man who would love to have Jane for his own Maybe he swings both ways? If it sounds to you like something Team Edward might have purloined for their guy I think so too But after the real Mister T has flexed his pecks hand killed a lion in front of his European visitors and slaughtered a few other menacing jungle residents really Jane is smitten Now if he could only learn to translate the English he has come to know so well in print into speech Not that it matters Jane is ready to rip bodice Film poster of the first Weismuller Tarzan from Daily motioncomStill a simple boy meets girl boy drags willing girl into the jungle for some monkey business would not do Gotta make it a challenge for the big guy so stars are crossed and the young thing is whisked across the ocean to darkest America pursued by a suitor no appealing than the ill tempered gorilla who had abducted Jane in Africa Can Tarzan find a way to his lady love he was of course smitten with her on first sight Can he learn to speak English? Why stop there? Peut être un peu le français? Vielleicht ein wenig Deutsch? I mean he already speaks elephant and a smattering of beastial languages so clearly has a head for it Christopher Lambert in Greystoke The Legend of Tarzan from The TelegraphDespite the veneer a very heavy very thick veneer of low entertainment racist humor and stereotyping and bodice ripping romance there is going on in this book First having humans raised by non humans is as old as Romulus and Remus and probably even older But ERB put the notion into the accessible present for his readers My mother was an ApeI never knew who my father was Maybe not up there with your mother was a hamster but not bad albeit a fantasized present Also while his racial portrayals are coarse he does not leave them there It is not merely the black natives and silly servants who merit disdain There are very dark hearted whites as well Skin of diverse color sheaths hearts both generous and unkind And such diversity is offered the animals of the jungle as well There is no kinder mother in literature than the bereft mother gorilla who takes in the infant Tarzan And no darker foes than the silverbacks of her pack whose hatred of her adopted son is palpable Beneath the surface of this pulpiest of pulp fiction there resides a theme about universality This is something that arises again in his Barsoom series Race plays a large role there as well And the theme of commonality under the skin of honor being something available to anyone is repeated There is also a nifty consideration of religion and superstition that enlivens the goings on In another vein Tarzan is a fine representative of the literary trope of the noble savage a notion that man is essentially good but that his better nature is corrupted by civilization Of course ERB was not so naive as to treat this idea with clear delineations People are complicated whatever their moral leaningsT and J in the 1999 Disney animated musical from fanpopcomThe first volume of the Tarzan series was clearly meant to be just that The story leaves off with much yet to be resolved much to be discovered And Burroughs milked that notion for twenty four Tarzan novels he wrote alone and a few that were co written There are characters from literature that seem to require a new introduction every generation or so Greek and Roman mythology and Shakespeare's works have been at this for centuries More recently our recurring characters seem to be of the pulp variety Batman Superman and Spider Man stand out as examples I am not sure if James Bond qualifies as the series has been or less continuous since Bond James Bond first found its way to the silver screen in the 1960s Tarzan first graced cinemas in silent films and serials from 1918 through 1929 including one silent film to which sound was added after filming was completed as talkies stormed the world For folks of my generation boomers our introduction to Tarzan in film was most likely Johnny Weismuller Olympic swimmer turned action movie star an earlier version maybe of Ah nold He appeared in twelve Tarzan films from 1932 to 1948 I expect that most of my crowd first saw these on TV instead of theaters Of course the bod on display way back then was a far cry from what Hollywood presents as the sculpted masculine ideal these days And of course Weismuller's Tarzan spoke with an American accent as did his lady friend 2016 saw yet another re introduction of Tarzan to a new generation Alexander Skarsgård in The Legend of Tarzan 2016There have been than a few comic books 450 and newspaper comic strips 250 featuring Tarzan Tarzan books have appeared in pulp hardcover and paperback illustrated and not selling 100 million copies globally There have been many adaptations of the source material 50 for the big screen 65 episodes for live action TV and 32 cartoons The story has been told in theaters and on the radio Disney's 1999 animation was the most recent feature length version and the company fed this musical interpretation into a long running stage production There is even a Vegas Tarzan themed slot machine Some of these various productions and products have attempted to hew closely to the original story My personal fave is Greystoke Most have taken liberties Sadly the presentation of a mono syllabic Tarzan mirrors the misfortune of presenting Frankenstein's monster as inarticulate Neither is true Both Frankie and the Ape Man were intelligent and after some learning time quite articulate But there is clearly something compelling in a story about a man raised by animals something that speaks to questions about human nature How much of how we behave what we value is inherent and how much is the result of nurture of the specific family upbringing we receive and of the cultures in which we are raised? Tarzan may have been written as popular pulp entertainment but the questions raised as he copes with the clash between civilization and the wild between doing what is right and doing what sates a need between honor and dishonor are eternal Also ERB showed a very early concern for the environment as the baddies in the series tend towards the environment killer sort You may or may not go ape for it but whichever way you swing it is definitely worth checking out the original source material for what has become a regular part of Western culture And it also goes to show that it is a useful thing to have some classics sitting around on one’s electronic devices You never know when one might transport you from the concrete jungle to one of a very different sort EXTRA STUFFThe home page for Edgar Rice Burroughs the corporation Home site for the latest July 2016 film The Legend of Tarzan42317 I finally got around to seeing this at home Beautiful to watch of course wonderful special effects and impressive bod on Mister T This one takes a shot at King Leopold's rape of Congo in the form of Christoph Waltz as his representative This is certainly a worthy object for our scorn even with leaving out some of Leopold's gruesome outrages I suppose it is meant to echo with latter day exploitation of indigenous peoples by first world exploiters but I thought it fell flat in that Too Dudley Do Right vs the equivalent of a moustache twirling Snidely Whiplash On the other hand this sort of evil doer material might have been right at home in ERB's pulp fest T's affection for his gorilla mom was nicely presented Still it felt like a miss to me Not close to Greystoke Ah well Maybe in a generation or so another film maker or who knows maybe a VR or holo maker? will have another go at this material There is certainly franchise potential there and plenty of serious material to lend substance in supporting an overlay of good guy vs bad guy conflict and wowzer visualsThere is a nice brief history of Tarzan the character and product at Wild Stars including images of what seems a gazillion Tarzan book coversA piece from Licensing Works about a centennial celebration of Tarzan in Tarzana CA It was the source for the numbers of sundry publications that have been made of T productThe entire text of Tarzan of the Apes is available on the Gutenberg ProjectThe song You'll Be In My Heart from Disney's animated Tarzan filmFor a real scientific look at commonalities between apes and people you should check out the 2019 book Mama's Last Hug by Frans de Waal