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First created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, Tarzan has since swung through dozens of books, films and TV series, both straight and parodied. Tarzan is the quintessential jungle hero; white but at home in Darkest Africa. Often seen in a leopard Loin Cloth.
In the original books, Tarzan was the son of Lord Greystoke, raised by apes after being orphaned in Africa as a baby. After meeting Jane and learning the basics of human interaction, he left the jungle in search of his true love. They married and settled in England, where they had a son, but eventually grew tired of civilization and returned to the jungle. These books include:
Novels and collections by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- Tarzan of the Apes (1912)
- The Return Of Tarzan (1913)
- The Beasts of Tarzan (1914)
- Son of Tarzan (1914)
- Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1916)
- Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1919)
- Tarzan the Untamed (1920)
- Tarzan the Terrible (1921)
- Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1923)
- Tarzan and the Ant Men (1924)
- Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (1928)
- Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1929)
- Tarzan at the Earth's Core (1930). Tarzan visits Pellucidar.
- Tarzan the Invincible (1931).
- Tarzan Triumphant (1932).
- Tarzan and the City of Gold (1933).
- Tarzan and the Lion Man (1934).
- Tarzan and the Leopard Men (1935).
- Tarzan's Quest (1936). Tarzan and Jane quest for the secret of immortality.
- Tarzan and the Forbidden City (1938).
- Tarzan the Magnificent (1939).
- Tarzan and the Foreign Legion (1947). The novel covers Tarzan's adventures while serving in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II.
- Tarzan and the Madman (1964). Written in 1940, but not published before.
- Tarzan and the Castaways (1965). Collects three short stories, originally published in magazines in 1940 and 1941.
Most of the films omit Tarzan's English sojourn and his status as Lord Greystoke. Instead, he has often been provided with a pet chimpanzee and an adopted son -- the latter because the film Tarzan never formally married Jane, and thus was not allowed by the Hays office to actually have gotten her pregnant.
Tarzan's further adventures, whether by Burroughs or those who came after him, have one of two plots: either Tarzan discovers a Lost World (even visiting Burroughs' own hollow-earth Pellucidar in one novel), or he defends his African friends against European villains. Along the way, Tarzan and his family became immortal, if only in the literary sense.
The quote at the top of the page is a Beam Me Up, Scotty, as Tarzan did not say it in any of the books, or even, exactly, in any movie - he just slapped his chest and said "Tarzan", then poked Jane and said "Jane". (In the books, Tarzan was very intelligent, and by the end of the series, spoke something like thirty languages.)
The earlier Tarzan novels are out of copyright in the US, but not in Europe, and The Other Wiki suggests he's also trademarked by the author's company. Altogether, that explains why The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen only refers to him as "Lord Greystoke".
Tarzan books with their own trope pages include:
The remaining books, and the series as a whole, provide examples of:
- Always Save the Girl: Tarzan is constitutionally incapable of ignoring a woman in distress, and he always succeeds in his rescue.
- The Archer: Tarzan's ability with the bow rivals Robin Hood; in "Tarzan and the City of Gold," he is shown to be like Odysseus as well, in that his bow is so strong that even toughened warriors can't bend it.
- Blue Blood: Lord Greystoke.
- Cannot Spit It Out: More than once.
- Canon Welding: The thirteenth book, Tarzan at the Earth's Core, quite clearly defines the Tarzan and Pellucidar novels as part of the same continuity, with Tarzan and his allies heading underground for a Crossover.
- Changeling Fantasy: Meriem in Son of Tarzan is the kidnapped daughter of a French general, and is reunited with her parents in the end after being raised by an Arab who kidnapped her out of revenge.
- Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Entirely averted. The French--particularly the military officers--are depicted as uniformly chivalrous and brave. D'Arnot, Tarzan's best friend, is the best example.
- Contrived Coincidence: More than once. The one that brings all the key players together at the end of The Return of Tarzan, at a significant location none of them had particularly been aiming for, is especially Egregious.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Good lord! In just the first two books, Tarzan saves every single one of Jane's party at least twice; Jane herself three times before the exchange a word. He then rescues the French officer who left to rescue Jane. Then he rescues Jane both from a wildfire and an Abhorrent Admirer. It's so bad that after he makes an enemy of some Russian spies (because he rescued a woman from them) they lure him to an ambush using the cries of a distressed woman.
- Damsel in Distress: There is at least one per book.
- Tarzan: Jane, more than once.
- Return of Tarzan: The Countess Olga de Coude, Kadour ben Saden's daughter.
- Son of Tarzan: Meriem.
- Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar: Jane, La
- Tarzan the Untamed: Fraulein Bertha Kircher
- Death of the Hypotenuse: William Clayton, at the end of The Return of Tarzan, leaving the way clear for Jane to marry Tarzan.
- Direct Line to the Author: The first Tarzan novel begins with an explicit statement that Burroughs was told the story by one who was there, and that the names have been changed to protect the etc. When the Tarzan series took off, this aspect of the story proved impossible to keep up, and was quietly dropped; however, fans still make use of it when discussing what Tarzan's life was "really" like.
- Doomed Hometown: Tarzan's homestead in Africa gets pillaged and burned multiple times throughout the series.
- Fair for Its Day: The books are rife with Burroughs' well-meant ethnocentricity and sexism. Burroughs repeatedly mentions the vicious and exploitative treatment the African natives received at the hands of white men, and attributes at least part of their bloodthirst to a desire for revenge. He usually finds something to praise about his various ethnic characters, even if it might be in a way that would be extremely offensive today. Jane may not be an Action Girl (let's not be ridiculous!), but she's intelligent and remains level-headed no matter how dire the emergency.
- Frazetta Man: The mangani who raised Tarzan are a missing-link "anthropoid ape" species (not, as many adaptations make them, common mountain gorillas).
- Genius Bruiser: Tarzan is very intelligent, and contrary to his usual depiction in adaptations can speak fluent English by the end of the first book (as well as French, and later several other languages).
- Great White Hunter: (Return of Tarzan) Tarzan goes undercover as an American big-game hunter.
- Honorable Elephant: Tantor.
- Hungry Jungle: Where he lives.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Tarzan, at the end of Tarzan of the Apes and the beginning of The Return of Tarzan, keeps away from Jane because he doesn't want her to be unhappy with her decision to marry William Clayton.
- Identical Stranger: In Tarzan and the Lion Man, a film crew enters Africa, bringing along an actor who is an exact double for the ape man, with predictable results.
- Jungle Princess: Meriem, the wife of Korak the Killer in The Son of Tarzan and later books.
- Knife Nut: In the very first book, the boy Tarzan discovers under extreme Killer Gorilla pressure how to use his father's hunting knife. This is his first weapon, and it remains his favorite throughout the Burroughs stories.
- Lost World: Tarzan stumbles across a number of Lost Worlds in Africa. These include:
- Opar, first introduced in The Return of Tarzan (1913). This lost city is the last remnant of the world-spanning empire of Atlantis.
- Athne & Cathne, the Cities of Ivory and Gold, respectively, in "Tarzan and the City of Gold" (1932) and "Tarzan the Magnificent" (1939). The mutually-dependent-hereditary-enmity society of these semi-Greco-Roman cities is one of the few "lost worlds" that Tarzan visits twice, and it is the home of the evil Queen Nemone.
- The Valley of the Holy Sepulcher, in Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (1928). This valley was settled by two quarreling groups of Crusaders in the twelfth century, one of which claimed to have achieved the Holy Grail and thus the Crusade, while the other denied it. The latter group founded the city of Nimmr at one end of the valley, blocking the path of retreat to England, while the former group founded the City of the Sepulcher at the other end, blocking the route to the Middle East. The two groups have long since ceased any serious efforts to leave the valley, and have come to various accommodations with one another for their own survival.
- Mighty Whitey: Tarzan was shown to be far better suited to life in the African wilds than any of the black natives. The books explicitly said that his European noble ancestry is what allowed him to shine.
- More accurately, the first novel points out that his ancestry is where he inherited his physique (the potential of which was developed by his jungle upbringing) and his extraordinary intelligence. His European heritage was not presented as making him somehow "better" suited to the wild than the indigenous tribes.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Tarzan fought a tiger in the original magazine serialization of Tarzan of the Apes; following reader feedback, it was corrected for the book. Also lions, which do live in Africa but on the savanna, not in the jungle.
- Nature Hero: Tarzan.
- Noble Savage: The apes are actually depicted this way: violent, brutal and simple, but honorable in their own way.
- Panthera Awesome: Lions and other big cats feature prominently in the stories, as scenery, adversaries, sidekicks and even Big Damn Heroes.
- Papa Wolf: Tarzan.
- Raised by Wolves: Apes, actually.
- Romantic False Lead: William Clayton in the first two books.
- Took a Level In Badass: Jane the chronically Distressed Damsel turns out to be a proto-Action Girl! In the first two books she mostly faints in the face of danger. By the third she's still getting kidnapped all the time, but now she's bashing men's heads in, bullying sailors at gunpoint, shooting villains, hijacking ships and running her own rescue.
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: Almost every one of the Tarzan books features several of these.
- Wild Child: Tarzan, duh.
- Wild Hair: Tarzan.
- Woman Scorned: La of Opar, over Tarzan. Also probably every other woman who ever tried to get under the ape man's Loin Cloth only to discover that he's totally loyal to Jane.
- World War I: Tarzan the Untamed is set during it. Tarzan wages guerrilla warfare against the Germans using apes and lions.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Tarzan cannot bring himself to kill Bertha, nor even let harm befall her, despite the fact that he hates all Germans and considers himself on a lifelong mission to exterminate them all.
- Film: Johnny Weissmuller starred in the best known film series.
- The 1984 film Greystoke was an attempt at both a more naturalistic and slightly more faithful adaptation of Burroughs' work, including a depiction of Tarzan's returning to England.
- The Disney feature-length Tarzan cartoon was relatively free of gross instances of the studio's usual Disneyfication, although it did turn Jane from an American to a Brit among other things. It also had a villain named Clayton (note that Tarzan's real name in the book was John Clayton, not to be confused with this character who was Jane's fiancé, William Clayton, as well as Tarzan's cousin). But then, villain Clayton is voiced by BRIAN BLESSED!!
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- Several TV series. The best known in the United States is the 1966 series, starring Ron Ely, which lasted for two seasons on NBC.
- Parodied in George of the Jungle.
- Appeared as the hero of at least one Tijuana Bible (porno-comic) in which he was described as having "The biggest joy-prong in Africa" and he's a white guy!
- On many episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, the hostesss was often requested by the audience to give her trademark version of the 'Tarzan yell'.
Various adaptations provide examples of:
- Hulk Speak: In the various movies, the ape man talks like this.