Sunday, January 8, 2012

100 Books #2 - Edgar Rice Burroughs' RETURN OF TARZAN

Was there ever such a paragon of all manly virtue as Monsieur Jean Tarzan, aka John Clayton Lord Greystoke, aka John Caldwell of London, aka Tarzan Lord of the Apes? Well, perhaps Captain John Carter of Virginia, but that just begs the queztion, doesn't it!

A modern reader approaching this stuff has to suppress the eye-rolling instinct - from the open and enthusiastic hunting of elephants for their ivory to the the racism that isn't so much thinly veiled as simply as unashamedly naked as Tarzan himself to the continued helplessness of Miss Jane Porter, there are lots of triggers for it. But in the midst of these is glorious pulp adventure, whether its on board a classy steamship, in a Paris alley, or in the jungle to which a series of meticulously timed and located shipwrecks returns the action and the action hero.

Extra fun for me was realizing that something I'd snickered at in the Saturday morning cartoon of my childhood - that all the jungle beasts had names (Numa the Lion, Tantor the elephant) but there only ever seemed to be one of each, always the same one answering to the name - was not that at all. Rather, the names are personifications of a kind. All lions are Numa. All elephants are Tantor. All apes are Bogali. I can dig that.

But I can't help noting that these animals are far less helpful in the novels than in the cartoon. Not a single Team Tantor pulled down a single tree trunk at Tarzan's request in this story.

But then, Tarzan isn't about that, is it?

1 comment:

  1. In the old movies Jane is helpless and always getting in trouble and must be rescued. In the novels she is actually quite competent and brave, often out maneuvering male criminals. Burroughs was, of course, a product of his times, so his attitudes regarding race and national origin are dated, but his stories are well written and filled with excitement.


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