Many people are more familiar with Disneys animated version of Tarzan, and the original tv series staring Johnny Weissmuller with his iconic jungle call. If they read the book they would be in for a surprise.
The two books follow the life of John Clayton, named Tarzan by the apes who adopt him as a baby, through his childhood in the jungle and his journey to becoming a ‘civilised’ man. Burroughs does a credible job in the first book ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ making a hostile jungle existence believable and explaining some of the nagging questions that have dogged me about Tarzan. The main one being why he has no beard. I enjoyed the descriptions of the African jungle, the beauty and the danger. It truly is a savage garden. Tarzans jungle existence is brutal and while Burroughs writing isn’t as graphic as some of todays authors, he portrays the darker sides of humanity effectively. Cannibalism, torture, murder, betrayal, and greed are ever present in both books but Burroughs balances out these vices with plenty of virtues, honour, self sacrifice, friendship and love which makes the whole a pleasent read and not depressing.
The second book ‘The Return of Tarzan’ is more like a series of short stories. If you read it like a periodical once a month then it’s probably very exciting. Read all at once and it gets repetative.
Lets remember these books are pulp fiction from the 1910s. Lock your political correctness in a cupboard, put your brain in neutral, and enjoy an adventure from a bygone era where men were either heroes or cowards and women spent their time fainting or falling into danger!
Burroughs novels are full of evocative descriptions of the African continent, fast paced action and adventure, and provide a fascinating insight into social attitudes during the beginning of the 20th century.