Monday, August 25, 2008

Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes
Burroughs, Edgar Rice
Knitting Sticks: 5

Well, what can I say about Tarzan of the Apes. I never thought I would read this book let alone like it so much. Who knew!

It is the rare person who hasn't encountered Tarzan in some form whether it was Johnny Weissmuller in the original Tarzan movies or the Disney movie of a few years ago. We all know what happens or at least we think we do.

English Lord Greystoke and young wife sail for Africa-mutiny on the boat-marooned on island-baby on the way-eventual death of parents and adoption of Tarzan by a tribe of "Apes" (not gorillas who are not as smart as the apes)-eventual interaction between Tarzan and "civilized whites" brings him back to his own country and people. Sounds familiar right? Yes that is the way that the story goes but that is really just the bare outline.

First off, let me say that I can really understand why this book would appeal to every young boy in a less cynical time (pre 1960's I would think). It really is quite gripping and bloodthirsty. Tarzan, once he grows up a bit is no whimp let me tell you. He fights, he defends the weaker apes, he wins, he kills, he eats his prey without benefit of cooking the meat first. It is a story that reflects bygone ideas of what a man should be and how he should act if he is a "gentleman". It just drips with British upper crust ideology.

Now there are some things that were a tad hard to take seriously but this book was written in 1912 so you just have to cut it some slack. Tarzan teaches himself to "read" by studying the books that he finds in the abandoned cabin where his parents lived. This happens without ever having encountered any human being, only apes. A tad farfetched I know. He also figures out how to use a knife purely by accident. He learns to make rope through experimentation only. When he finally meets up with other humans he can communicate with them by writing them letters, and he even uses punctuation! After he rescues one of the men and as he nurses him back to health he is able to learn to speak...and READ French in a short period of time. AND by the end of the book he is speaking articulately and even driving a car. Like I said, farfetched.

However, even with the parts that made me shake my head (all the frail and fainting females were a tad annoying too) I really enjoyed this book and have the second in the series on request at the library. I know how the ultimate story ends but things are left up in the air at the end of the book. Will he ever take his rightful place as Lord Greystoke and in so doing kick out a rather nice fellow who is his cousin and who thinks he is the rightful Greystoke. Will he win the hand of Jane Porter (you already know the answer to that one) who is currently engaged to marry his cousin. Will he ever get back to the jungle. I HAVE TO KNOW.


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