Born to English aristocrats marooned in the dense West African wilderness, John Clayton, only heir to the Greystoke estate, is orphaned soon after his first birthday. Adopted by the she-ape Kala, he is given the name Tarzan, or White-Skin, and grows up among the apes, swinging from tree to tree and fighting the great beasts of the jungle. He has no memory of civilization, but discovers, in the books his parents left behind, the key to his strange appearance, and to his past.
When a party of white explorers arrives, Tarzan finds himself drawn to them—in particular, to the American Jane Porter. For years he has been torn between two identities, human and ape, and after saving Jane’s life he follows her to Paris and then to America, experiencing the unfamiliar world of his birthright before the call of the jungle brings them both back to Africa.
Originally published in 1912 in the pulp magazine All-Story, Tarzan of the Apes introduced to the world one of literature’s most iconic characters. The star of twenty-four books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, as well as countless film, television, and comic book adaptations, Tarzan forever remains the Lord of the Jungle.
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Out to Sea
I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other. I may credit the seductive influence of an old vintage upon the narrator for the beginning of it, and my own skeptical incredulity during the days that followed for the balance of the strange tale.
When my convivial host discovered that he had told me so much, and that I was prone to doubtfulness, his foolish pride assumed the task the old vintage had commenced, and so he unearthed written evidence in the form of musty manuscript, and dry official records of the British Colonial Office to support many of the salient features of his remarkable narrative.
I do not say the story is true, for I did not witness the happenings which it portrays, but the fact that in the telling of it to you I have taken fictitious names for the principal characters quite sufficiently evidences the sincerity of my own belief that it may be true.
The yellow, mildewed pages of the diary of a man long dead, and the records of the Colonial Office dovetail perfectly with the narrative of my convivial host, and so I give you the story as I painstakingly pieced it out from these several various agencies.
If you do not find it credible you will at least be as one with me in acknowledging that it is unique, remarkable, and interesting.
From the records of the Colonial Office and from the dead man’s diary we learn that a certain young English nobleman, whom we shall call John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, was commissioned to make a peculiarly delicate investigation of conditions in a British West Coast African Colony from whose simple native inhabitants another Europeanpower was known to be recruiting soldiers for its native army, which it used solely for the forcible collection of rubber and ivory from the savage tribes along the Congo and the Aruwimi.
The natives of the British Colony complained that many of their young men were enticed away through the medium of fair and glowing promises, but that few if any ever returned to their families.
The Englishmen in Africa went even further, saying that these poor blacks were held in virtual slavery, since after their terms of enlistment expired their ignorance was imposed upon by their white officers, and they were told that they had yet several years to serve.
And so the Colonial Office appointed John Clayton to a new post in British West Africa, but his confidential instructions centered on a thorough investigation of the unfair treatment of black British subjects by the officers of a friendly European power. Why he was sent, is, however, of little moment to this story, for he never made an investigation, nor, in fact, did he ever reach his destination.
Clayton was the type of Englishman that one likes best to associate with the noblest monuments of historic achievement upon a thousand victorious battlefields—a strong, virile man—mentally, morally, and physically.
In stature he was above the average height; his eyes were gray, his features regular and strong; his carriage that of perfect, robust health influenced by his years of army training.
Political ambition had caused him to seek transference from the army to the Colonial Office and so we find him, still young, entrusted with a delicate and important commission in the service of the Queen.
When he received this appointment he was both elated and appalled. The preferment seemed to him in the nature of a well-merited reward for painstaking and intelligent service, and as a stepping stone to posts of greater importance and responsibility; but, on the other hand, he had been married to the Hon. Alice Rutherford for scarce a three months, and it was the thought of taking this fair young girl into the dangers and isolation of tropical Africa that appalled him.
For her sake he would have refused the appointment, but she would not have it so. Instead she insisted that he accept, and, indeed, take her with him.
There were mothers and brothers and sisters, and aunts and cousins to express various opinions on the subject, but as to what they severally advised history is silent.
We know only that on a bright May morning in 1888, John, Lord Greystoke, and Lady Alice sailed from Dover on their way to Africa.
A month later they arrived at Freetown where they chartered a small sailing vessel, the Fuwalda, which was to bear them to their final destination.
And here John, Lord Greystoke, and Lady Alice, his wife, vanished from the eyes and from the knowledge of men.
Two months after they weighed anchor and cleared from the port of Freetown a half dozen British war vessels were scouring the south Atlantic for trace of them or their little vessel, and it was almost immediately that the wreckage was found upon the shores of St. Helena which convinced the world that the Fuwalda had gone down with all on board, and hence the search was stopped ere it had scarce begun; though hope lingered in longing hearts for many years.
The Fuwalda, a barkentine of about one hundred tons, was a vessel of the type often seen in coastwise trade in the far southern Atlantic, their crews composed of the offscourings of the sea—unhanged murderers and cutthroats of every race and every nation.
The Fuwalda was no exception to the rule. Her officers were swarthy bullies, hating and hated by their crew. The captain, while a competent seaman, was a brute in his treatment of his men. He knew, or at least he used, but two arguments in his dealings with them— a belaying pin and a revolver—nor is it likely that the motley aggregation he signed would have understood aught else.
So it was that from the second day out from Freetown John Clayton and his young wife witnessed scenes upon the deck of the Fuwalda such as they had believed were never enacted outside the covers of printed stories of the sea.
It was on the morning of the second day that the first link was forged in what was destined to form a chain of circumstances ending in a life for one then unborn such as has never been paralleled in the history of man.
Two sailors were washing down the decks of the Fuwalda, the first mate was on duty, and the captain had stopped to speak with John Clayton and Lady Alice.
The men were working backwards toward the little party who were facing away from the sailors. Closer and closer they came, until one of them was directly behind the captain. In another moment he would have passed by and this strange narrative would never have been recorded.
But just that instant the officer turned to leave Lord and Lady Greystoke, and, as he did so, tripped against the sailor and sprawled headlong upon the deck, overturning the water-pail so that he was drenched in its dirty contents.
For an instant the scene was ludicrous; but only for an instant. With a volley of awful oaths, his face suffused with the scarlet of mortification and rage, the captain regained his feet, and with a terrific blow felled the sailor to the deck.
The man was small and rather old, so that the brutality of the act was thus accentuated. The other seaman, however, was neither old nor small—a huge bear of a man, with fierce black mustachios, and a great bull neck set between massive shoulders.
As he saw his mate go down he crouched, and, with a low snarl, sprang upon the captain crushing him to his knees with a single mighty blow.
From scarlet the officer’s face went white, for this was mutiny; and mutiny he had met and subdued before in his brutal career. Without waiting to rise he whipped a revolver from his pocket, firing point blank at the great mountain of muscle towering before him; but, quick as he was, John Clayton was almost as quick, so that the bullet which was intended for the sailor’s heart lodged in the sailor’s leg instead, for Lord Greystoke had struck down the captain’s arm as he had seen the weapon flash in the sun.
Words passed between Clayton and the captain, the former making it plain that he was disgusted with the brutality displayed toward the crew, nor would he countenance anything further of the kind while he and Lady Greystoke remained passengers.
The captain was on the point of making an angry reply, but, thinking better of it, turned on his heel and black and scowling, strode aft.
He did not care to antagonize an English official, for the Queen’s mighty arm wielded a punitive instrument which he could appreciate, and which he feared—England’s far-reaching navy.
The two sailors picked themselves up, the older man assisting his wounded comrade to rise. The big fellow, who was known among his mates as Black Michael, tried his leg gingerly, and, finding that it bore his weight, turned to Clayton with a word of gruff thanks.
Though the fellow’s tone was surly, his words were evidently well meant. Ere he had scarce finished his little speech he had turned and was limping off toward the forecastle with the very apparent intention of forestalling any further conversation.
They did not see him again for several days, nor did the captain accord them more than the surliest of grunts when he was forced to speak to them.
They took their meals in his cabin, as they had before the unfortunate occurrence; but the captain was careful to see that his duties never permitted him to eat at the same time.
The other officers were coarse, illiterate fellows, but little above the villainous crew they bullied, and were only too glad to avoid social intercourse with the polished English noble and his lady, so that the Claytons were left very much to themselves.
This in itself accorded perfectly with their desires, but it also rather isolated them from the life of the little ship so that they were unable to keep in touch with the daily happenings which were to culminate so soon in bloody tragedy.
There was in the whole atmosphere of the craft that undefinable something which presages disaster. Outwardly, to the knowledge of the Claytons, all went on as before upon the little vessel; but that there was an undertow leading them toward some unknown danger both felt, though they did not speak of it to each other.
On the second day after the wounding of Black Michael, Clayton came on deck just in time to see the limp body of one of the crew being carried below by four of his fellows while the first mate, a heavy belaying pin in his hand, stood glowering at the little party of sullen sailors.
Clayton asked no questions—he did not need to—and the following day, as the great lines of a British battleship grew out of the distant horizon, he half determined to demand that he and Lady Alice be put aboard her, for his fears were steadily increasing that nothing but harm could result from remaining on the lowering, sullen Fuwalda.
Toward noon they were within speaking distance of the British vessel, but when Clayton had nearly decided to ask the captain to put them aboard her, the obvious ridiculousness of such a request became suddenly apparent. What reason could he give the officer commanding her majesty’s ship for desiring to go back in the direction from which he had just come!
What if he told them that two insubordinate seamen had been roughly handled by their officers? They would but laugh in their sleeves and attribute his reason for wishing to leave the ship to but one thing—cowardice.
John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, did not ask to be transferred to the British man-of-war. Late in the afternoon he saw her upper works fade below the far horizon, but not before he learned that which confirmed his greatest fears, and caused him to curse the false pride which had restrained him from seeking safety for his young wife a few short hours before, when safety was within reach—a safety which was now gone forever.
It was mid-afternoon that brought the little old sailor, who had been felled by the captain a few days before, to where Clayton and his wife stood by the ship’s side watching the ever diminishing outlines of the great battleship. The old fellow was polishing brasses, and as he came edging along until close to Clayton he said, in an undertone:
“ ’Ell’s to pay, sir, on this ’ere craft, an’ mark my word for it, sir. ’Ell’s to pay.”
“What do you mean, my good fellow?” asked Clayton.
“Wy, hasn’t ye seen wats goin’ on? Hasn’t ye ’eard that devil’s spawn of a capting an’ ’is mates knockin’ the bloomin’ lights outen ’arf the crew?
“Two busted ’eads yeste’day, an’ three to-day. Black Michael’s as good as new agin an’ ’e’s not the bully to stand fer it, not ’e; an’ mark my word for it, sir.”
“You mean, my man, that the crew contemplates mutiny?” asked Clayton.
“Mutiny!” exclaimed the old fellow. “Mutiny! They means murder, sir, an mark my word for it, sir.”
“Hit’s comin’, sir; hit’s comin’ but I’m not a-sayin’ wen, an’ I’ve said too damned much now, but ye was a good sort t’other day an’ I thought it no more’n right to warn ye. But keep a still tongue in yer ’ead an’ when ye ’ear shootin’ git below an’ stay there.
“That’s all, only keep a still tongue in yer ’ead, or they’ll put a pill between yer ribs, an’ mark my word for it, sir,” and the old fellow went on with his polishing, which carried him away from where the Claytons were standing.
“Deuced cheerful outlook, Alice,” said Clayton.
“You should warn the captain at once, John. Possibly the trouble may yet be averted,” she said.
“I suppose I should, but yet from purely selfish motives I am almost prompted to ‘keep a still tongue in my ’ead.’ Whatever they do now they will spare us in recognition of my stand for this fellow Black Michael, but should they find that I had betrayed them there would be no mercy shown us, Alice.”
“You have but one duty, John, and that lies in the interest of vested authority. If you do not warn the captain you are as much a party to whatever follows as though you had helped to plot and carry it out with your own head and hands.”
“You do not understand, dear,” replied Clayton. “It is of you I am thinking—there lies my first duty. The captain has brought this condition upon himself, so why then should I risk subjecting my wife to unthinkable horrors in a probably futile attempt to save him from his own brutal folly? You have no conception, dear, of what would follow were this pack of cutthroats to gain control of the Fuwalda.”
“Duty is duty, John, and no amount of sophistries may change it. I would be a poor wife for an English lord were I to be responsible for his shirking a plain duty. I realize the danger which must follow, but I can face it with you.”
“Have it as you will then, Alice,” he answered, smiling. “Maybe we are borrowing trouble. While I do not like the looks of things on board this ship, they may not be so bad after all, for it is possible that the ‘Ancient Mariner’ was but voicing the desires of his wicked old heart rather than speaking of real facts.
“Mutiny on the high sea may have been common a hundred years ago, but in this good year 1888 it is the least likely of happenings.
“But there goes the captain to his cabin now. If I am going to warn him I might as well get the beastly job over for I have little stomach to talk with the brute at all.”
So saying he strolled carelessly in the direction of the companionway through which the captain had passed, and a moment later was knocking at his door.
“Come in,” growled the deep tones of that surly officer.
And when Clayton had entered, and closed the door behind him:
“I have come to report the gist of a conversation I heard to-day, because I feel that, while there may be nothing to it, it is as well that you be forearmed. In short, the men contemplate mutiny and murder.”
“It’s a lie!” roared the captain. “And if you have been interfering again with the discipline of this ship, or meddling in affairs that don’t concern you you can take the consequences, and be damned. I don’t care whether you are an English lord or not. I’m captain of this here ship, and from now on you keep your meddling nose out of my business.”
The captain had worked himself up to such a frenzy of rage that he was fairly purple of face, and he shrieked the last words at the top of his voice, emphasizing his remarks by a loud thumping of the table with one huge fist, and shaking the other in Clayton’s face.
Greystoke never turned a hair, but stood eying the excited man with level gaze.
“Captain Billings,” he drawled finally, “if you will pardon my candor, I might remark that you are something of an ass.”
Whereupon he turned and left the captain with the same indifferent ease that was habitual with him, and which was more surely calculated to raise the ire of a man of Billings’ class than a torrent of invective.
So, whereas the captain might easily have been brought to regret his hasty speech had Clayton attempted to conciliate him, his temper was now irrevocably set in the mold in which Clayton had left it, and the last chance of their working together for their common good was gone.
“Well, Alice,” said Clayton, as he rejoined his wife, “I might have saved my breath. The fellow proved most ungrateful. Fairly jumped at me like a mad dog.
“He and his blasted old ship may hang, for aught I care; and until we are safely off the thing I shall spend my energies in looking after our own welfare. And I rather fancy the first step to that end should be to go to our cabin and look over my revolvers. I am sorry now that we packed the larger guns and the ammunition with the stuff below.”
They found their quarters in a bad state of disorder. Clothing from their open boxes and bags strewed the little apartment, and even their beds had been torn to pieces.
“Evidently someone was more anxious about our belongings than we,” said Clayton. “Let’s have a look around, Alice, and see what’s missing.”
A thorough search revealed the fact that nothing had been taken but Clayton’s two revolvers and the small supply of ammunition he had saved out for them.
“Those are the very things I most wish they had left us,” said Clayton, “and the fact that they wished for them and them alone is most sinister.”
“What are we to do, John?” asked his wife. “Perhaps you were right in that our best chance lies in maintaining a neutral position.
“If the officers are able to prevent a mutiny, we have nothing to fear, while if the mutineers are victorious our one slim hope lies in not having attempted to thwart or antagonize them.”
“Right you are, Alice. We’ll keep in the middle of the road.”
As they started to straighten up their cabin, Clayton and his wife simultaneously noticed the corner of a piece of paper protruding from beneath the door of their quarters. As Clayton stooped to reach for it he was amazed to see it move further into the room, and then he realized that it was being pushed inward by someone from without.
Quickly and silently he stepped toward the door, but, as he reached for the knob to throw it open, his wife’s hand fell upon his wrist.
“No, John,” she whispered. “They do not wish to be seen, and so we cannot afford to see them. Do not forget that we are keeping to the middle of the road.”
Clayton smiled and dropped his hand to his side. Thus they stood watching the little bit of white paper until it finally remained at rest upon the floor just inside the door.
Then Clayton stooped and picked it up. It was a bit of grimy, white paper roughly folded into a ragged square. Opening it they found a crude message printed almost illegibly, and with many evidences of an unaccustomed task.
Translated, it was a warning to the Claytons to refrain from reporting the loss of the revolvers, or from repeating what the old sailor had told them—to refrain on pain of death.
“I rather imagine we’ll be good,” said Clayton with a rueful smile. “About all we can do is to sit tight and wait for whatever may come.”
Table of Contents
CHAPTER I - Out to Sea,
CHAPTER II - The Savage Home,
CHAPTER III - Life and Death,
CHAPTER IV - The Apes,
CHAPTER V - The White Ape,
CHAPTER VI - Jungle Battles,
CHAPTER VII - The Light of Knowledge,
CHAPTER VIII - The Tree-top Hunter,
CHAPTER IX - Man and Man,
CHAPTER X - The Fear-Phantom,
CHAPTER XI - "King of the Apes",
CHAPTER XII - Man's Reason,
CHAPTER XIII - His Own Kind,
CHAPTER XIV - At the Mercy of the Jungle,
CHAPTER XV - The Forest God,
CHAPTER XVI - "Most Remarkable",
CHAPTER XVII - Burials,
CHAPTER XVIII - The Jungle Toll,
CHAPTER XIX - The Call of the Primitive,
CHAPTER XX - Heredity,
CHAPTER XXI - The Village of Torture,
CHAPTER XXII - The Search Party,
CHAPTER XXIII - Brother Men,
CHAPTER XXIV - Lost Treasure,
CHAPTER XXV - The Outpost of the World,
CHAPTER XXVI - The Height of Civilization,
CHAPTER XXVII - The Giant Again,
CHAPTER XXVIII - Conclusion,
What People are Saying About This
"Frasier captures Tarzan's tribal experiences with appropriate sound effects and seamless narration." -AudioFile
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had seen some Tarzan films before I read this book. I wanted to read it to see how Burrough's vision differed from the diffrent films that chronicled Tarzan's origin. And, I must say that I was amazed at how rich and entertaining THIS FANTASTIC BOOK was. I so enjoyed it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to see this legendary character in his true splendor, or to anyone looking for a good read.
I think most people have at least a vague concept of the Tarzan story and its characters. There have been many official Tarzan movies over the years and many stories and other movies that refer to or borrow from the Tarzan mythos. To a large extent, I went into this first Tarzan book (there were over 20 books written) with a pretty good feel for what to expect from the storyline. Despite that, I found some unique elements that I didn't expect. The adventure story within the book is pretty much what I had expected from the movies and TV shows I'd seen. There were a few elements where movie-makers had taken some liberties (possibly with concepts from other books and sometimes to make things more "screen worthy" - such as "me tarzan, you jane" which never happens in the book). I actually found that the adventures of the book were pretty fun to read and kept the pace of the book moving rather well. The book dealt a lot with exploring the character of the characters and the concept of what makes a man. At some times, these sections of narrative were interesting and insightful. At other times, these segments felt poorly informed, assumptive and racist/misogynistic . Generally speaking, the negative aspects of character development distracted me from the positive workmanship to the point that I had a hard time placing any validity on any of the characters. Scientifically speaking, Tarzan's development in the wild is completely unbelievable and his later development of "human" traits is likewise unbelievable. Setting those concepts under the "suspension of disbelief" clause used in fiction, I then got hung up on the behavior of the animals and especially of the other humans. The Women are as helpless lumps of life with their main purpose in life being to provide something that man can provide for and save from hardship and peril. The Men are inconsistent and can either be heartless self-centered ingrates willing to hurt (or kill) anyone for their own advancement, well-intentioned heroes who are physically incompetent and unable to follow through, or complete idiots unfit to do anything productive at all. Tarzan is the only "true man" and as such he finds himself ostracized and unable to find a happy existence either in civilization or the jungle (though he definitely prefers the jungle). Despite not being a fan of the way the characters were portrayed or the way everyone interacted with each other, I still enjoyed the story and there's a part of me that wants to read some of the other books simply for the fun, fluffy enjoyment of wild adventures. Burroughs writing style was fluid and rich and provided for a quick and enjoyable read. This is a book worth reading for the fun of it and to look at its influence on the media and culture of the 100 years since it was written. 3 Stars
I thoroughly enjoyed Tarzan of the Apes when I was a kid, I read it several times, and reading it again many decades later has been a delight. It's been a great escape. I appreciate B&N Classics Series, the great prices encourage me to revisit many classics I grew up with, and also read some great classics for the first time.
I very much believe this belong in every reader's library.
I read this book not long after the Disnesy movie Tarzan of the Apes came out and I must say that this book is one of the BEST I've ever read!!! I would definately recommend it to anyone who loves adventureous or romantic stories! Those are my favorite types of books. Tarzan of the Apes kept me always looking forward to reading the next page, always wondering what would happen to the characters next. There are so many twists and unexpected turns in the story that it always kept me interested. IT'S THE MOST AMAZING BOOK EVER!!
Everyone knows the Tarzan story, right? Well, I thought I did but I didn't. This story was thoroughly engrossing and moves very, very fast. There are some uncomfortable themes (Burroughs' ethnocentric view towards other races, etc.), but I think it comes with the times in which it was written. The storylines are fantastic and leave you wanting to read the next chapter. Some parts are unbelievable (a man killing apes, lion, etc. or a man swinging through the trees carrying another person), but the escapism and adventure are thrilling. It was a fun read that I would definitley recommend.
I love Tarzan. I’m fascinated by the way that some characters can exist beyond their original forms—Tarzan is right up there with Dracula, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland. To say that I’m excited about the coming movie would be a gross understatement. I joke with my friends that going back to work after having the baby is going to be devastating, but I already have the babysitter lined up for when I can leave the kid and go watch this new movie. I grew up on the Disney version of Tarzan, which in and of itself is pretty great. When I first read the actual book by Edgar Rice Burroughs, though, I realized there was so much more there. There are some minor differences, like Jane actually being American instead of English. Tarzan’s parents built a cabin on the beach instead of an elaborate (and pretty darn cool—way to go, Disney concept artists) treehouse. There’s no close friendship with any of the apes, though in the books Tarzan is said to be friends with Tantor the elephant (though we don’t get to see it in action, at least in the first book). All these minor differences are great for someone who already loves Tarzan as much as I do. But what about the first-timers, or the people more interested in the style of the writing? Here’s what you get from reading the original Tarzan of the Apes by Burroughs. The books are classic pulp fiction adventure romances. The narration style is formal, sometimes waxing philosophical, but never straying too far from suspenseful action that keeps you turning the pages. You understand Tarzan on a very basic, primal level, and you admire him, as you would have to admire anyone who can teach themselves to read when they can’t even speak the language they’re reading! The characters and situations are compelling, with enough human error folded in to have you shaking your head at them while still hoping that everything turns out all right. My first time through, the ending really surprised me. It gave me so much more respect for Tarzan, though. Here is a character who bridges the gap between the most primal instincts and the most proper etiquette and gentlemanly manner. Tarzan is a good person because he hasn’t been corrupted by society, by other men. He operates on his own moral grounds, and is more or less above reproach when we understand why he does what he does. I’ve talked to my husband about why I like Tarzan so much, and I still can’t fully understand or communicate what it is about him that is so appealing. I’ve always been drawn to more traditional masculine men, just as a matter of personal taste, and Tarzan is pretty much the epitome of that. Temper it with the manners of an English lord, and you’ve got an extremely attractive juxtaposition that I don’t think exists much in reality. I suppose my attraction to the Tarzan character is rather a moot point, though. For anyone out there who has enjoyed this character on any level, it’s well worth it to read the book. You might be opening a can of worms to some extent, because the following novels are just as good and work to continue the story chronologically, tying up loose ends and offering more elaborate adventures—but they’re quick reads, and essential for the lover of adventure science fiction stories.
After all the movies and TV series based on Tarzan, it was great to finally meet the original. First, there are some truly retrograde views of blacks (all are portrayed as either ignorant servants or superstitious cannibals) that detract from the story often. What I found quite appealing was the story's interest in modern civilization and the primitive natural world. Burroughs succeeds in creating a hero who stands astride both worlds while showing the appeal of each. For a pulp novel, I enjoyed it's examination of both worlds. Still, the most exciting part of the book is Tarzan in the jungle as he learns how to survive in (and later lead) the animals. Since it ends on a cliffhanger I want to read more of the Tarzan novels.
Never in my life have I ever been more pissed off then right now. Just....End? Blasphemy!
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classic" books, then write essays on whether or not they still deserve the labelBook #25: Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914)The story in a nutshell:Set in the last great days of the British Empire (i.e. the first decades of the 20th Century), Tarzan of the Apes is the story of one John Clayton, Viscount of Greystoke, actually born in the jungle on the western coast of Africa after his parents were marooned there by a mutinous ship crew, while they were passengers and bystanders on a long sea voyage. Ah, but it turns out that his parents both die while he's still a newborn, prompting a hasty "adoption" by a local ape named Kala and a childhood raised not as a human, but rather as the palest, weakest, least hairy ape of the entire region. The first half of this book, then, is an examination of tribal life itself, as "Tarzan" (his ape name) navigates the tricky politics and graphic violence of the animal society he finds himself in, even while slowly coming to realize during his puberty just how different he actually is. (See, he ends up stumbling across his parents' old jungle homestead while a teen, a surprisingly domestic setup because of the mutineers letting the Claytons unload all their worldly possessions before being abandoned; and thus does Tarzan end up just naturally learning how to read and write on his own, how to use a weapon and more, eventually using these things to bloodily conquer all his foes and become the famed "King of the Apes" we know today.)The plot's pace picks up again in the second half, though, after yet another wreck by a ship full of lily-white Europeans; and who should this party include but none other than the evil William Clayton, Tarzan's cousin, who's been using the usurped Greystoke fortune to bully into marriage our adventurous heroine Jane Porter, a Victorian with a wild streak who ends up enjoying their impromptu African adventure much more than the nerdy French scientists also along for the ride. Needless to say, Tarzan ends up saving their lives numerous times; has a chick-lit-esque wordless romantic night of vine-swinging with the clearly "Jungle Fever" infected Jane; and of course somehow manages to be the catalyst behind not only William's fall from grace but a surprise financial windfall for the Porter family, thus erasing the debt that was forcing Jane into a marriage of convenience with William to begin with. And thus does our "origin tale" end in the rural farmlands of Wisconsin (the rural farmlands of Wisconsin?), with the baddies punished and the goodies rewarded and with a now-civilized Tarzan ready for the two dozen official sequels that would soon follow.The argument for it being a classic:Even this book's fans admit that it's not the quality of the prose itself that makes this a classic, but rather its place in artistic history; for as most people know by now, Tarzan turned out to be an insanely loved character by the public at large, prompting one of the first-ever "character franchises" in the history of the entertainment industry. (In fact, Burroughs himself started one of the first artist-owned production companies in history as well, the still-existing "Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.," which has overseen each and every one of the thousands of Tarzan books, movies, TV episodes, comics and more that has ever been made.) And besides, its fans say, even the writing itself isn't as bad as some make it out to be; sure, some of the later sequels get awfully cheesy and formulaic, but this first novel is surprisingly sophisticated for its time, deliberately avoiding many of the lazy racial stereotypes that defined this age and even offering up a refreshingly indep
Given all the tarzan films that span out of the books - it makes sense to read the original. Very entertaining
This is a great story, but everyone knows how it goes. There are a few details not portrayed in the movies, more info on Tarzan's parents and how he came to be adopted by the apes, and his early life among the apes.
Definitely a dated classic, but wonderful for all that. I re-read it for The Pulp magazine group I'm in & am glad I did. You really want to read the next book, "The Return of Tarzan" immediately after since we're left with a cliff hanger.Burroughs hasn't aged as well as some authors, mostly because of his handling of PC subjects such as racism & sexism. It is too easy to see the outward signs of both in his books, but careful reading shows that while he may have catered to the views of the day, he didn't seem to really believe in the racism, in this book.For instance, the majority of blacks in this book are degenerate brutes. They're a tribe of barbaric cannibals who killed the 'mother' of our hero, though. They have the misfortune to have a society that Burroughs denigrates at every opportunity. Esmeralda, Jane's servant/confidant/nanny, is also an object of humor, but then so is her father & his secretary/companion. All are caricatures, as is Tarzan himself. When it comes right down to it, Burroughs makes a point that fingerprints from an ape might be simpler, but there was no difference between those of a black & a white. This admission of equality of physical evolution wasn't common in his day. He treats the white pirates the same way as the black tribesman - they're bad guys & so contemptible. The story hinges on coincidence & stupid, heroic restraint consistently & that doesn't do it any favors nor did the cliff hanger ending. Still, it was a fun read & I'd highly recommend it to anyone. Tarzan has been so warped by movies, TV & add-ons that it's nice to see the original.
So wonderful to finally read the book which spawned all of the cartoons and children's versions of the story. This version is much more mature in wording and in subject matter and the story is one which well deserves it's classification of a literary classic.The story begins with the tale of Tarzan's parents, who board a ship but never arrive at their intended destination. After their demise, only Tarzan lives and he is taken in by a female ape who has just suffered through the death of her own baby. Tarzan's story is a remarkable one, as he not only adapts to the life of the apes but also manages to find his own ties back to humanity, all on his own.I was thrilled that the "Me Tarzan, You Jane" bit was not a part of this, the real story.The ending, though, was sad. I wish that it had ended in a happier way....I won't give it away though.....Yet....in the final paragraphs of the book, Tarzan shows that he is more of a civilized, mature man than any other person in the entire tale.
Who hasn't heard of Tarzan of the Apes? Ah, but who has actually read the book? At last, as I rapidly approach the half-century mark, I can say that I have. And let me tell you, the book is much better, and much more interesting, than any of the Tarzan films I've seen.For one thing, Burroughs' prose is like entering a time-warp. Though modern sensibilities might be offended at Burroughs' openly expressed belief that the white man was the pinnacle of human evolution, and the darker races still had a way to go on the climb upwards to civilization; his words take us back to a world where life was a clear-cut struggle between good and evil, with few shades of gray to blur the distinction between right and wrong. Yet, oddly enough, his treatment of women is not equally stereotyped -- for although Jane is a true flower of late Victorian femininity, frail and weak, her feelings for Tarzan are not weak at all.In fact, Jane experiences a vivid sexual awakening when she is clasped in Tarzan's muscular arms -- and Burroughs makes it quite clear just exactly what Jane is feeling when she gazes upon the half naked body of her ape-man. From the period reading I've done, I can't help but feel that this was a revolutionary departure from the norm. Women in those days may have aroused passionate feeling in the breasts of their men, but they didn't admit to having those feelings themselves. Particularly not when they are "nice" women -- refined, elegant, and well-bred.Burrough's racial attitudes are not the only dated element of his book. His scientific theories verge on the ludicrous, to 21st century readers. The white men who encounter Tarzan, and Tarzan himself, believe that the ape-man is just that -- a cross between a human and a gorilla, or a mutated ape. And Tarzan's remarkable skill in teaching himself to read and write, from a few primers he found amongst his dead parents' belongings, stretches the bounds of credulity.But to fully enjoy the book, which I did, one has to put aside the 21st century mind-set for a little while, and plunge delightedly into as exciting an adventure as Indiana Jones ever experienced. That's the fun of romps like these -- the real world recedes for a bit, while the reader plays in the jungle.Definitely worth reading -- if only for the fascinating glimpse into the social attitudes of the early 20th century.
People always laugh when I tell them that Tarzan is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. Unless you have actually read Burrough\'s book, you really have not experienced anything even close to what the Tarzan story is about. This has always been a favorite from the day I first read it as a child.
The "true" story of the Lord of the Jungle--Tarzan. Read the story of a young boy, orphaned, then adopted and raised by the apes. Read of his struggles and how he finds his heritage and the woman who changed his life--Jane. The story of Tarzan has been told over and over; read the book for yourself
Always loved these books since it was the first book I rember reading as a child of 5 or 6
Tarzan of the Apes is a wonderful read. For someone like me who had never read Edgar Rice Borroughs’ work before it was a nice change from the other science fiction/fantasy novel I was used to reading. Before reading this book my only perspective of Tarzan was from the Disney adaptation from my childhood and the 2016 movie adaptation of the story. Since the book was written in 1912 it is written in a bit older English than many other novels, but it is still a pretty easy read. I loved the humor that Borroughs put into his character Tarzan and how you get to see Tarzan’s journey from just an outsider in his clan of apes to an educated English gentleman. It is an exciting read as well because it has many fights, escapes, love, and of course lots of flying through the trees swinging on vines. Since it was written so long ago there are some parts that are somewhat sexist, but these are far and in between. If you want to broaden your vocabulary, then this is an excellent book to use. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading or is just interested in finding out the original story of Tarzan as I was.
This is the classic adventure that birthed a legend. The author was pedestrian as a stylist, but had a vivid imagination for someone who never even visited Africa. Today it would likely be denounced as racist. Read it even if you think you know Tarzan.
She puts food in her pu.ssy going up to the gorrilla