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BURROUGHS, EDGAR RICE – TARZAN OF THE APES 1912 (first serialized episode) Ballantine Books.  

 

The first of 24 Tarzan novels by the legend’s creator, E A B. The story of the English aristocrat, John Clayton, Lord Of Greystoke, raised by apes in the African jungle, is well known from countless films, TV shows and other spin-offs. The first book tells of his origins. His parents, marooned in the jungle by mutinous pirates, try to raises their infant son and fend off attacks by various jungle beasts. When they are killed, the infant is taken by the apes and raised as one of their own. Tarzan, a name bestowed by the apes, finds a diary and other books left by his natural father. He learns to read English through his powers of reason, but he has no idea how to speak it. This is possibly the book’s most unlikely aspect. Tarzan figures things out by very peculiar leaps of logic.  As an ape, the hero develops superhuman strength, which he couples with human ability to use knives and ropes.  Tarzan is surprisingly viscous and ruthless in his killings. He enjoys the hunt, even when he is taking on Negro tribesmen. He kills with little regard for life.  This situation changes after some twenty years when he first encounters white people.  The Porters, an elderly half-senile professor, and his daughter, Jane, are part of an expedition to the area. Members of the Greystoke family support them. However, they have been. . Marooned by pirates much as Tarzan’s parents were so long before.  Tarzan is fascinated by the young attractive Jane Porter and rescues her father from the jungle beasts. This causes problems, as her traveling companions   set off on a rescue mission of their own, and Tarzan ends up going to rescue the rescue party. As he does so, Jane, left behind, gets into trouble again, and the cycle of Tarzan rescuing one group of friends as others get into danger repeats to carry the adventure for a while.  When Tarzan sets out o rescue a French sailor who has come to join the party, and ward off the pirates, the rest of the party leave for America, dismissing Tarzan and the Frenchman for dead.  Tarzan and the Frenchman, who teaches Tarzan how to speak French, set off in pursuit, in doing so, they find the treasure left by the pirates, and Tarzan finds out his true origin.  In America, after he drives (yes, drives) to save Jane from a forest fire, Tarzan talks her into marrying another member of the Greystoke family.  The book ends with the true Earl Of Greystoke contemplating a return to the jungle. He leaves Jane oblivious of his true identity. He has become civilised and noble, but tragically unable to take the hand of his truelove. The book is strong on character and plays well with its man V beast nature in its hero. From treating natives as despicable savage cannibals, it comes to show a respect for them as victims of the Belgian Congo atrocities too. Later Tarzan books will come to replace jungle animals with monsters. For now however, the story is thrilling and very human. Tarzan deserves his place in literature, as well as on film and on our TV screens. No one did Tarzan better than Burroughs. http://www.tarzan.org/

 

 

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