Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Report: TARZAN OF THE APES by Edgar Rice Borroughs

TARZAN OF THE APES by Edgar Rice Borroughs; first published in ALL-STORY Magazine in 1912 and first published in book form in 1914.   It proved to be popular reading, and the first book was the first of a series.

click to enlarge, Tarzan in the comics by Hal Foster

As pointed out above, the story concept first appeared about 102 years ago.  I remember looking at the TARZAN comic panels in funny papers many years ago and also the Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissumiller, back when movies were black and white.  Nobody has a Tarzan yell of trump as Johnny Weisumiller.  To me, Johnny was Tarzan, just as Sean Connery was James Bond.  But since Sean said it was OK to beat your wife, I am not sure he was good James Bond material after all, but that is another topic.

Johnny Weissumuller as TARZAN

The book did not have anything nice to say about people in the maritime trade.  Sailors, ship laborers, and the whole bunch of them are greedy, murders, dishonest, cruel, and all that according to Edgar Rice Borroughs.   Ship people come into the book twice, and each time they were up to no good.  If I was born a hundred years earlier, an run into Edgar Rice Borroughs as we were shaking hands and I tell him I was in the Navy I think he might quickly withdraw his hand.

Before Tarzan was born  his parents were stranded on the coast of Africa.  his father was Lord Graystoke, aka John Clayton.  Lord Graystoke built a cabin near the beach.  There his wife died by natural causes and he was killed in the hands of an ape, the leader of an ape tribe.

Lady Graystoke died earlier, but not before giving birth to little Lord Graystoke, who changed his name to Tarzan.

As an orphan baby lying in a crib while and band of wild apes rambled all over his parents' hut, a female ape or maybe a gorilla who just lost her child by accidentally dropping it high out a tree, adopted the little Caucasian human.

Tarzan was raised by apes and thought he was an ape too.  He saw nothing wrong with after you kill your enemy to eat him raw.

Finally wondering around he found the cabin his father had built and looked at the children books with pictures and taught himself how to read and  he used his human gift of reasoning to reason he was human, not an ape.  He could read and write but no one taught him how to speak words, so after he met other humans he preferred to pass a pen and pad back and forth. 

He also realized he was smarter than his so-so peers and could out smart them in battles.

The story unfolds and Jane comes into the book.... just like in the movies.

I thought it was very good and exciting, but I think it did have some racism in it.

It was very interesting to see things through Tarzan mind and how learned things and how on some things he was misguided; like when he was first in civilization he thought anytime he saw a black person he should kill that person.  The local black tribe in the wilderness was his enemy.   That is where the misguided racism came in.

I may read the next Tarzan book in the series, or maybe look at a Hal Foster TARZAN comic book.

MAD Comicbook had two stories poking fun at TARZAN, both illustrated by John Severin and written by editor Harvey Kurtzman.  MAD believed if TARZAN was raised my apes, then he would have more animistic traits, as they illustrated (below):  

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