Who wrote this book and when?
Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote this and over two dozen other Tarzan sequels. This particular one was published in a pulp magazine in 1912, and as a book in 1914.
Has there been a film version?
Yes, a great many. However – please don’t consider the Disney version a film telling of this story. It’s so different from the book it’s insulting.
Who are the important characters?
Tarzan/White Skin/John Clayton – yes, Tarzan IS Clayton, a boy who was raised by apes (NOT gorillas)
Kala – the ape who was Tarzan’s surrogate mother
Kerchak – the leader of the great apes
Sabor – the tiger
Jane Porter – an American young woman accompanying her father on a treasure hunt to equatorial Africa
William Cecil Clayton – Tarzan’s cousin, the current Lord Greystoke, he’s in love with Jane
Paul d’Arnot – a Frenchman who Tarzan saves from cannibals
What’s it about?
The story begins with Lord and Lady Greystoke being marooned on the coast of Africa by mutineering sailors. Lady Alice gives birth to her firstborn, whom they name John, and then both she and her husband die in different ways. The child is saved by the ape, Kala, who is mourning the loss of her infant and substitutes the human baby for her dead ape child. The human baby is named Tarzan by the tribe of great apes, which means “white skin.” Tarzan grows up among the great apes and must cope with his lacking physical strength and make up for it in cunning and human intellect. When first cannibals and then white men (and a woman) invade the ape tribe’s land, Tarzan must come to terms with his humanity and decide if he is an ape or a man.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It’s a great pulp story and a perfect example of the noble savage.
Do I recommend you read this book?
Yes – most highly.
How did this book make my list?
It’s a classic.
Has it won any awards?
No, it predates most modern awards.
“When the poor savages saw that the food disappeared overnight, they were filled with consternation and awe, for it was one thing to put food out to propitiate a god or devil, but quite another thing to have the spirit really come into the village and eat it.” – p 82
Despite what you may have heard, there is no sentence in Tarzan reading…”Me, Tarzan. You, Jane.” Sorry to disappoint.
I really enjoyed this pulp fiction. I was disappointed that the next story in the collection I got wasn’t the next one in the series, especially since there were some unresolved issues in the end of the book. But this has definitely made my ever-lengthening list of book series I need to continue reading when I actually get the time.
From a literary aspect, there is no greater example of the noble savage than Tarzan. Despite having no memory of his human parents, Tarzan manages to avoid many taboos in the realm of humanity. He stands for morality and gentlemanly aspects simply as part of his nature.
Also, it seems readers of pulp fiction in the early years of the 20th century had a much better vocabulary than many people today. There are a lot of big words in “Tarzan.”