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Tarzan of the Apes (Penguin Classics)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2006
I was familiar with the name Tarzan from 1945 onwards. Regular visits to our local cinema to see Tarzan/Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the trees was a joy. Weissmuller, to me, was Tarzan. He was a handsome, perfectly built athlete and was perfect for the extremely physical part. None of the actors who subsequently endeavoured to "ape" (sorry) his prowess came anywhere near matching him.

It is now 60 years since my introduction to Tarzan and I have only now got around to reading Edgar Rice Burroughs'original story. My advice to anyone reading this wonderful tale for the

first time is to put aside all ideas of current political correctness, and the flippant images portrayed on cinema screens e.g Cheetah the chimpanzee's comic antics. 'Tarzan of the Apes' is an engrossing account of Tarzan's early life, from birth to manhood. His upbringing by a tribe of apes is described in detail and the relevant kindness and savagery displayed by them is expertly described by the author.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a trip into the past.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 16 December 2008
Most would claim to know the story of Tarzan, at least in outline. And many would quote the famous line `Me Tarzan, you Jane'. But don't be disappointed that the line does not appear in the original work for the book will not disappoint. It is one of the great stories of the early 20th Century and a novel of far more depth and excitement than one might expect.

It is the story of the young Lord Greystoke, named Tarzan when he is taken into the care of a pack of Apes after the death of both of his parents. The story follows Tarzan as he learns that he is different to the Apes and discovers his parents's possessions, still in their jungle cabin.. The connection is not made, however, and Tarzan wrestles throughout the novel with the internal conflict between the wild creature he has been raised to be and the human instincts which still run strong in him. Through an extraordinary sequence of coincidences Tarzan eventually comes into contact with other `white apes' like him and this is where his love affair with Miss Jane Porter begins.

Tarzan of the Apes is adventure at its best and its extraordinary popularity is testament to this. Everyone expects the story to include Tarzan swinging from vine to vine but how many would expect mutinies, eccentric professors, French detectives and buried treasure? Tarzan of the Apes will appeal to the wild spirit in everyone, whether it is the longing for the dangers of the jungle or the simplicity of his existence, his story is totally compelling. Burroughs ensures that each chapter continues with the pace and adventure of the previous and he tells the story with wit and style throughout.

The book is also an interesting study on racial attitudes of the time. Written in America less than 50 years after the Thirteenth Amendment of 1865 abolished slavery, the attitudes and beliefs of certain characters within the novel illustrate how long it took for racial attitudes to change. Tarzan's moral instinct is strong. Unschooled in ethics, his leadership and decision making are unfaultable and it is this that leads to the moving and quite humbling ending.

Tarzan of the Apes book is so enjoyable, I am jealous of those of you yet to read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A REVIEW OF `TARZAN OF THE APES' BY EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

If you are tempted to get your hands on a copy of `Tarzan Of The Apes', but are umm-ing and err-ing because of an underwhelming preconceived notion of the character and story, I can only recommend that you wipe the slate clean and grab it with both hands, for this is boys'-own adventure at its very best. Forget any lingering `versions' of Tarzan that you might have (Jonny Weismuller, the Disney cartoon...) and dismiss the ridiculous "Aargh-a-aargh-a-a-a-argh!" call that you might have heard, for this is a story of remarkable freshness and creativity, with Tarzan himself existing as a wholly compelling literary creation.

I suppose that we all know the story to some extent: Baby of noble birth grows up in the jungle, reared by apes, following the tragic death of his parents. Said ape-man grows up swinging from tree to tree, meets civilised, sexy babe, Jane Porter in various perilous jungle-set scrapes and wins her over with his primitive heroic antics. On one, superficial level, this is `Tarzan Of The Apes' in a nutshell. However, this is a far more eclectic and engaging novel that might be assumed.

For starters, the back-story of Tarzan becoming an orphan and his development within the ape tribe is told with remarkable pathos and energy. There is genuine emotional resonance to our hero's origins, especially his absolute ignorance of his human heredity. Burroughs also peppers the exciting narrative with flashes of ingenuity. Perhaps the most fascinating element of the back-story is Tarzan's learning to read and write whilst remaining unable to understand a word of spoken English. As noted here, it may sound ludicrous, but as part of the unfolding story, it is both touching and amazingly credible. There are also many seemingly-throwaway incidents which have a huge impact later on in the story, much like the best clues in detective novels.

Amidst the originality, Burroughs also delivers some action-adventure staples, drawing upon some familiar themes from accepted `classics'. `Tarzan Of The Apes' contains echoes of `Treasure Island', `Robinson Crusoe', and `The Lost World' to name but three. However, the basic premise is so unique and so exhilarating that at no time does the tale seem to be anything other than an adventure in its own right.

Perhaps the only failing of `Tarzan Of The Apes' (and the reason why I have shaved 0.5 from its 10/10 score) is the excessive scene-changing of its final few chapters. With most of the story having been set so successfully in Africa, we are transported to Paris and Baltimore to conclude matters. Given that within these few pages, Tarzan goes from being unable to utter a word of a Western language to a fluent French-speaking, knife-and-fork-using car-driver, it all seems a trifle forced. Nevertheless, thanks to the avoidance of the conventional finale, Burroughs wins a final cheer and sets up `The Return Of Tarzan' very cleverly indeed.

And so, where does this all leave us? Well, to conclude, `Tarzan Of The Apes' is one of the most compelling, original and intriguing adventure stories of its age. Both brutal and charming, it offers the reader something truly fascinating in both concept and delivery. If you are still dithering about giving it a go, dither no more. A swinging time is guaranteed.

Barty's Score: 9.5/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2012
"Tarzan of the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs is an undisputed classic. Until four years ago, I was only familiar with the Disney version. But something must have triggered in my eight-year old mind, something must have latched onto me, a tentative spark, because all those years later, when I first discovered the original novel, I knew I had to read it - to return to where it all began.

In the veil of Mark Twain and the (American) coming-of-age (or bildungsroman) adventure stories made famous in the period, "Tarzan of the Apes", published in 1914, is perhaps the most well-known; if not the novel itself, the legend of Tarzan - envisioned as the pinnacle of masculinity, a demigod; a gifted hunter and fighter, a gentleman and connoisseur. "Tarzan" was written in a period of Western literature that cannot be championed; saw the publication of the adventure stories of Anthony Hope, Rudyard Kipling, and H.G. Haggard, the science-fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells; and Conrad's "Heart of Darkness".

Like Dracula, or Frankenstein's Monster (though not to the same extent of cliché and pastiche), Tarzan has become derivative of his humble origins, but in a way that is awe-inspiring, and most importantly, human. These three central figures have become the stuff of myth and legend. They have become stereotypes; staples of their respective genres, both literary and cinematic. We associate them not with the critical insight or analysis of contemporary critics; or the background of their creators. But instead with the iconography of the characters through the aesthetics of film and theatrics - the pose, the stature of the actors against shades of black and white, and lashings of colour, that create a kind of chameleon effect, emphasising mood and the power of their persona.

"Tarzan" was at the apex of my formative years as an adolescent discovering "The Great Gatsby", "A Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man", and "A Clockwork Orange". He represented the Ideal Man - the traditional, classic ideal of an impressionable, gifted young man following in the legacy of his father, himself a perfect, equitable gentleman to his friends and enemies alike. He inherited the traits of his father's heritage, lived up to them, then became something grander. Tarzan can perhaps be seen to embody qualities of the `Manifest Destiny' of the New World, for the novel is nothing less, in one sense, than a reinterpretation and re-envisioning of human evolution - from the Dawn of Man, to the frontier communities of colonial civilisation, and the boundaries/conflict between the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and a return to origins. But this time, it is told through the eyes of the prodigious child, the Biblical Son (i.e. Adam), as he learns and grows from episodic experiences.

Burroughs' distinct writing style - where every sentence becomes a paragraph - creates a compelling and fluid narrative, full of pathos for the young Tarzan as he teaches himself to read and write, without any human contact at all, and his attempts to reach out to the first white people he meets. It is, of course, a tale of unrequited love, as Tarzan nobly sacrifices his inheritance so that the beautiful Jane Porter may have a lasting, happy marriage with the upper-class breeding-stock that is Tarzan's cousin Clayton.

Brilliantly written, with memorable quotes and archetypal characters, "Tarzan" will live on in the hearts of men as the Ideal.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2000
Ever since I was a child, I have watched films and series on the television of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. Some have been good and some not so good. Some, like those starring Johnny Weissmuller, were brilliant for their time; telling the story of the baby lost to the elements of the jungle and the mercy of the Apes.
Whatever film and TV programme makers have done in the past has been different in some way. The most memorable for me was the film version starring Christophe Lambert. Needless to say, I have been a fan of the story for the best part of my life. I have grown up with this as a pert of my existence.
However, I did not even know if what I was seeing on film, was in fact, close to the details in the book in any way, so when the chance came to buy the book, after watching the Disney version with my children, I jumped at the chance. Was I in for a shock when I read this one !!!
Sometimes, a film, like Lambert's film, shows graphic violence in order to get across a certain idea of the harshness of life in the jungle. The book though, is a different matter altogether. It is extremely descriptive of how the young Tarzan grows up, learning to hunt and kill for food. The description at times can change from beautiful [when describing the jungle] to brutal [when a killing takes place]. The idea is firmly planted in your mind of how man can change from kind and loving to merciless and murderous in a second, if provoked into survival.
At every turn, the book takes you through the joys and turmoil of his life. Most notable is the time he finds a book in the cabin built by his father and finds a lot of 'bugs', which the reader finds out are in fact, words on a page. He then teaches himself to read, but he cannot speak and language other than Ape. This sounds odd, but the plot twists and turns, and even changes continent at the end, concluding in America in a swathe of heroism and glory for Tarzan as he returns again to rescue Jane Porter.
This book will surprise you if you do not know the entire story of Lord Clayton and if you, like me, are the sort of person who has only seen the films and TV Tarzan, then I urge you to give it a read. It is a surprisingly good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I think that like most people I first read this as a schoolboy, and come back to it through the years as I have grown up. Lets be honest and admit that it isn't perfect and has a number of 'problems', but as a good old adventure yarn that is an ideal piece of escapism, then you can't but not like this.

I think that everyone must know the basics of the tale, who Tarzan's parents were and how he was brought up. Edgar Rice Burroughs struck gold with this piece of fiction, writing many more Tarzan stories and causing a whole host of imitators to spring up because of its popularity. The quality of the stories do differ immensely though. Apart from one group of short stories this particular book and Return of Tarzan are arguably the best.

If you have never read this before, then why not immerse yourself in a new world? Or if you have read it before, relax and take in the story again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 1999
I was given my copy of this book by my dear grandmother, who used to obtain books for me from jumble sales. Heaven only knows how long it was sat on my shelf, unread, but when I finally did read it, it rapidly became one of those rare delights - a book I simply could not put down. It really is a truly engrossing story. Exciting, unusual, magnificently written, and I always seem to discover something new each time I read it. And I've read it at least 10 times now.
I always find myself imagining the dense African jungle through which the "huge bull-apes" swing effortlessly, and the fights Tarzan has with other apes, and, of course with Sabor, the lioness, are worth reading just as they stand, without the rest of the book.
Ever since I first finished the story I've wanted to get hold of the subsequent books - some further adventures of Tarzan. I'm sure they can only be just as good as this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2011
A marvellous classic tale that is still thrilling and engaging when read today.

The thing that struck me after reading this novel the first time is just how much incident there is in it. There is enough happening in this one book to fill four movies. Excellent high adventure.

And so good to have the book in a nice hardback edition.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 4 March 2003
There are books that everyone 'knows' but hardly anybody reads any more. Reading these classics can be quite illuminating; they are not what you think. For example, do you really know how Dracula was killed? Or why The Virginian said "Smile when you call me that"? Read the originals; you'll be surprised.
"Tarzan of the Apes", the first of 23 Tarzan adventures by Edgar Rice Burroughs, is full of surprises. The Tarzan of this book is not the Johnny Weismuller or Ron Ely that you might know. He is not raised by gorillas (as I had thought) but by mythical 'anthropoids', a sort of missing link between man and gorilla, with rudimentary speech and a social structure that includes ritual and dance. This is a science fiction fantasy, a "Lost World" meets "Jungle Book". Tarzan befriends and converses with (and kills and eats) a variety of beasts.
There are aspects of the story that modern readers will find as hard to swallow as some of Tarzan's raw meat dinners. For example, this jungle is populated with lions, hyenas and elephants, creatures that in reality never go near rain forests. We are also asked to believe that Tarzan teaches himself to read and write English from books that he finds.
Many modern readers will also find the racialism difficult to take. He boasts of being "Tarzan, killer of beasts and many black men". Coming on a village deep in the Jungle, he immediately readies his bow and poisoned arrows. When his European companion admonishes him that it is wrong to kill humans, the hero protests, "But these are black men". (Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't believe that scene was included in the Disney version). This is a 1914 American novel, with all the prejudices intact.
It's quite well written; Burroughs is very readable. The plotting is a strange mixture of ingenuity and clumsiness. There is a very clever device that involves Jane thinking there are two ape-men, one an admirer, the other her rescuer. But the plot also requires three separate mutinies, two of which happen to involve cousins, off the same remote African beach. This is beyond coincidence.
So is this genre classic still worth reading? I think so, for the same reason "Dracula" and "The Virginian" are still worth reading; this is the book that started it all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 1997
Two weekends ago, AMC ran a number of the old Tarzen movies. So I pulled out my copy and read for the 20+ time of the adventures of one of the best known and well-loved characters in history. At one sitting I re-read and totally emersed myself in a place and person who are more real to me than any non-fiction account. This is the greatest story, adventure, action, love, etc. ever written and worth re-reading over and over and over again.
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