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Defending the Ape-Man Part 3

It has been a while but I have not forgotten my personal quest to celebrate the real Tarzan of literature and to educate our readers about the wonders of this often overlooked aspect of the character. In fact I have been slowly getting back to all of my recurring articles. So without further ado it is time to do a bit of catching up on the incredible world of Tarzan of the Apes!

Before I get to the synopsis of the next four books in the series I would like to take a moment to share some thoughts on Edgar Rice Burroughs himself. He was a reluctant writer. He was far more interested in finding success as a businessman, a success that eluded him. The sale of his first work, the very first of the John Carter of Mars stories, would launch him into a career he never saw for himself. Yet what is remarkable about Burroughs is that he incorporated himself into his writing. He made himself a relative of his fictional character John Carter. He told the first Tarzan story as if it was a story imparted to him personally by another. And he would have a presence in a great many of his stories as a kind of background character. As a reluctant writer he was an active participant in much of what he wrote.

That said let us take a look at the focus of this series of articles. By now I have established that Tarzan is not the brutish, incoherrant savage that some depictions of him have led most to believe is the actual character himself. As I explore the next four books in the series (I have a little catching up to do) I hope to further illustrate just how sophisticated a character Burroughs created. And hopefully generate a desire in my readers to explore these fascinating books for themselves.

The Beasts of Tarzan - Wild island times!

First published in 1914 this is one of my all-time favorite Tarzan novels. It has a little bit of everything! In fact, a few months ago I had begun rereading my collection of Tarzan novels, in sequential order for the first time (I had read each one as I found it in the past, and that took years) and I discovered a remarkable continuity within the first several novels that I had missed reading them in pieces. The Beasts of Tarzan quite literally picks up where The Return of Tarzan left off...within a fairly short time period anyway.

Tarzan and Jane are married and have a son, Jack, who is stolen by Tarzan's old arch nemesis Rokoff and Paulvitch! Yes, those nasties are back and bent on striking at the ape-man in any way they can. In this case abducting the infant Jack from the Greystokes' home in London. In the process they manage to capture not only Tarzan but Jane as well! Tarzan they strand on an island off the coast of Africa while they make good their escape onto the continent with Jane and Jack as prisoners. Rokoff's intention is to have Tarzan live knowing that he is trapped on an island and that his son has been given over to a canibal tribe to be raised amoungst them.

On the island Tarzan befriends a tribe of apes and manages to subdue a panther as well. The great cat becomes his constant companion and with the tribe of apes, led by Akut their king, he manages to fend destroy all but one memeber of a band of natives who discover him on the island. The sole survivor of that party, Mugambi, becomes a staunch ally and provides the means for Tarzan to reach the mainland using one of the boats upon which he arrived. Once there the long ordeal that is the hunt for Jane, Jack, and their abductors begins. An ordeal not only for Tarzan and his human and animal companions (many of the apes and Sheeta the panther accompany him on the quest of rescue and revenge) but also for those that have incurred the jungle lord's wrath! It is in this book that we really see the lengths to which Tarzan can revert to his savage past when the lives of those he loves are threatened. So to encourage you to discover this book for yourself I will leave things there for now...

The Son of Tarzan - Like father, like son? Think about it won't you?

If you are left wondering what became of Jack then you will need to read this next novel in the series. Burroughs keeps up the deadly rivalry of the previous few books with the return of Paulvitch. Yes, somehow the villainous sidekick of Rokoff managed to survive the vengence meted out by the ape-man, though just barely. Ultimately finding himself on the very island upon which he and his former partner had stranded Tarzan he encounters Akut. The great ape is on a fruitless search to find Tarzan and as such befriends Paulvitch and is ultimately brought to London where he is trained and put on stage at a music hall.

Meanwhile in the Greystoke estate young Jack is a restless boy who savors much of his father's adventerous spirit despite having never been told of that savage past. But you can't keep a secret that big forever! Against his parents' wishes he sneaks out of the house one night to see the ape that is all the rage and finds himself the center of attention of Akut who recognizese the resemblence of the son to his Father. When Lord Greystoke arrives on the scene Akut is almost inseperable from the Jungle Lord, the sole focus of his long quest. Despite this Tarzan forbids Jack to return to see the ape but is none the less forced to reveal his upbringing and distant past to his son.

This revelation serves to fuel Jack's desire for adventure and through a series of misadventures he and Akut find themselves in Africa where the young Lord Greystoke begins to truly walk in his father's footsteps. It is during his jungle tutelage that he discovers a young girl named Miriam who was kidnaped by Arab raiders and has lived among them her entire life. Rescued from this life by Jack, now known as Korak (the Killer) the two take up a new life in the primeval forests of Africa and share in many incredible adventures I encouage you to discover for yourself.

Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar - Tarzan, who?

What do you do when your vastly fortunes are lost due to dubious investments? If you are John Clayton, Lord Greystoke (a.k.a. Tarzan) you mount an expedition with your faithful Waziri to the lost Atlantean city of Opar to raid the long forgotten treasure vaults. Against Jane's protests Tarzan sets off on what should be a simple journey to the now-familiar outskirts of Opar for a quick gold-run. Unfortunately nature steps in and when an earthquake rocks the mountainside Tarzan suffers a head injury and loses his memory. But not the instincts of his savage childhood! In the course of this mishap the dazed ape-man stumbles upon the lost jewel hoards of Opar, though he does not ascribe the baubles any more value than that of pretty curiosities, a sackful of which he keeps without realizing he holds in his posession a king's ransom.

Add to the mix an Arab raider and his band along with a Belgian military deserter who plan to kidnap Jane for ransom and you have all of the makings of a classic Tarzan tale. La, the High Priestess of Opar is still in power and still madly in love with Tarzan, taking full advantage of his amnesia. The Belgian had been captured in Opar and was to be sacrificed but is aided in escaping by Tarzan. The Arab hoard successfully kill or route the Waziri and take Jane prisoner at the Greystoke estate in Tarzan's African territory. And that is just for openers!

This particular book is so full of intrigue, double-cross, revenge, and mayhem that it really becomes a benchmark of the series. All with an ape-man who does not know his friends from his enemies and has become more animal than man. Jane really comes of her own in this particular book. More than just a damsel in distress she faces danger and hardship in repeatedly foiling the plans of her abductors and becomes a stronger character in the process. A worthy mate to the mighty Lord of the Jungle. While justice is ultimately served, in this particular book it is more fate and nature than acts of Tarzan that strike down the guilty party. Those the ape-man gets plenty of action none the less.

Jungle Tales of Tarzan - A look back on a misspent youth.

You know how in prequels and flashback stories there is a lot less tension for the reader in regards to the hero because you know they will have to survive anything that is thrown at them? It is an inevitable consequence of taking that step back approach. But done right you still have a compelling story. Or in this case, collection of stories.

Almost more of an anthologhy, albeit by a single author, than a novel, Jungle Tales of Tarzan offers a fun glimpse into Tarzan's youth with the tribe of Kerchak, long before he discovered Jane Porter and her family and companions. It is a refreshing glimpse into the jungle lord's early years that serves to add further depth to the character. Each chapter tells a different story from this period, though some refer back to those that preceeded them. It is one of the more fascinating books in the series as Burroughs has fun with the character while illustrating his development as essentally an ape, but with the mind of a man.

Some of the more memorable chapters include one in which Tarzan, jealous of the parenthood of some of his childhood playmates who have mated and had their first offspring kidnaps a boy canibal tribe to raise as his own balu (or baby) and one that describes a vivid nightmare that plagues the young ape-man after he eats rotten elephant meat he stole from tribesmen. In the course of this book Tarzan imparts human wisdom onto the tribe of apes, mercilessly plagues the village of Mbonga, and even rescues the moon! This is a great book in the series in that it can be read at almost any point after the first without breaking the continuity that ties many of the early books in the series to one another.

Again I hope that this series of articles has been entertaining and informative. And more importantly has inspired some of my readers to discover the Tarzan that exists only within the pages of these books. The original Tarzan as envisioned by Edgar Rice Burroughs. If you are only now discovering Defending the Ape Man, check out the previous installments here:


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