Tarzan 101 | The Beasts of Tarzan

Celebrating Tarzan’s 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin’s Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

The Beasts of Tarzan completes what I like to think of as Burroughs’ Tarzan Trilogy. Spoilers for the first two books in the rest of this paragraph, but Tarzan of the Apes details Tarzan’s meeting Jane and ends with their being separated. In The Return of Tarzan, he makes up his mind to fight for her and marries her by the end.

In The Beasts of Tarzan, the couple has a newborn son, Jack, who is kidnapped by Tarzan’s arch-enemy from Return of Tarzan, Nikolas Rokoff. Tarzan and Jane soon also fall into Rokoff’s hands and Tarzan is abandoned on an island, knowing that Rokoff plans to sell Jack to a tribe of cannibals to be raised by them.

Of course, Rokoff’s mistake is leaving Tarzan in the jungle, island or no island. The ape man puts together a super-team of apes, a panther, and an African warrior and escapes the island. The team’s hunt for Rokoff and Tarzan’s family is edge-of-your-seat exciting, made even cooler by Jane’s showing some badass tendencies herself.

The reason I think of the first three books as a trilogy is that after Beasts, it’s obvious that Burroughs is struggling for a way to continue the series. He eventually figures it out, but it takes him a few books to do that. More on that next week.

Thinking about The Beasts of Tarzan, I don’t remember Tarzan’s jungle estate appearing in the book. That made me wonder about its and Jack’s appearance in The Eternal Lover. In my post on The Return of Tarzan, I called Eternal Lover the first appearance of both the estate and Jack, but if the estate existed in Beasts, I’d expect at least a mention. Turns out, I (by which I mean, Griffin) was right about the first appearance, but I misunderstood what that meant.

Eternal Lover was published in the 7 March 1914 issue of All-Story; Beasts began in the May 16 issue that same year. So Lover was the first published appearance of Jack and the estate, but that doesn’t mean it’s the first appearance of Jack from the standpoint of story chronology. I haven’t read Lover, so I don’t know if it mentions Jack’s age, but it’s possible that Beasts takes place before Lover, even though Lover was published first.

In trying to figure all that out, I discovered that the relationship between Eternal Lover and Burroughs’ The Mad King is a little more complicated than Griffin makes it out to be. Griffin calls Eternal Lover “a sequel to Burroughs’ romance, The Mad King,” but according to Wikipedia, the two novels were published more or less simultaneously and Eternal Lover takes place chronologically between the first and second halves of Mad King. If I were reading them, I’d do Eternal Lover first.

As usual, Griffin includes a chapter after Beasts of Tarzan on a topic related to the novel. This time it’s on the mangani, the specific race of apes that Burroughs created to raise Tarzan. Despite how they’re usually portrayed in adaptations, Burroughs always acknowledged that his version of Africa was a fantasy version and that included Tarzan’s apes, who are sort of a cross between chimpanzees and gorillas, but more intelligent than either. Burroughs apparently based the mangani on actual legends of super-intelligent apes, and Griffin talks about how those tales may possibly be connected to a recently discovered group of chimpanzees in the northern Congo forest of Bili. The Bili apes are human-sized, share some behavior with gorillas (like tree-drumming and ground-nesting), and aren’t afraid of predators.

(Image via Ray Alex Web)

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