Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I love the very early Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I’ve enjoyed them all, but the first six, including a collection of short stories detailing Lord Greystoke’s childhood, are key. After the initial ten (of well over 20), the books are largely formulaic and hit-and-miss.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Beasts of Tarzan, published in 1916, is the third in the series, wrapping up a story arc that really begins with the original Tarzan of the Apes. It’s one of my favorites, mainly because it so thoroughly shows both the “civilized” and savage sides of Tarzan. Project Gutenberg now offers Beasts as a free e-book download, joining the first two novels.

Beasts opens in London, where Greystoke and Jane live with their infant son, Jack (aka Korak the Killer, but that's another story). Then, after Jane and Jack are abducted by Tarzan’s two greatest enemies, Nikolas Rokoff and Alexis Paulvitch, the tale heads back into the jungles, where Greystoke strips off his urbane veneer to follow the kidnappers and wreak vengeance. Along the way, Tarzan meets and joins forces with Sheeta the panther, Akut the great ape, and Mugambi, chief of the Wagambi tribe. It’s all terrific. If you love old fashioned adventure stories and haven’t read The Beasts of Tarzan, do so. Better yet, start with Tarzan of the Apes, move into The Return of Tarzan (which closes with Tarzan’s marriage to Jane), then move on to Beasts. You can read the whole “trilogy” in a long weekend.


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