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Tarzan, a character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, first appeared in the 1914 novel Tarzan of the Apes, and then in twenty-three sequels.


The Tarzan story

Tarzan is the orphaned son of aristocratic English parents marooned in Africa in the late 19th century. Upon their deaths, he is adopted and raised by a band of apes which Burroughs calls "mangani," a species not otherwise known to science, but with characteristics of gorillas, chimpanzees, and early hominids, including a primitive form of speech. "Tarzan" is "White Skin" in the mangani language. His "real" English name is John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke .

Tarzan's upbringing gives him physical skills considerably superior to those of the finest "civilized" athletes, but he also inherits a high level of mental prowess. He teaches himself to read by examining basic English primers left by his parents, and unlike the inarticulate barbarian version of him later popularized in films, eventually learns to speak several languages fluently.

Tarzan only makes contact with humans again when fully grown. At this stage, he learns to speak French and English and visits the civilised world, but then rejects this and returns to the jungle.

Later stories recount many further adventures, often featuring the discovery of lost civilizations.

Tarzan is a modern incarnation of the ancient literary tradition of "the hero raised by animals" (Feral children). Other examples are Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, and the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus (raised by wolves).

The Tarzan story is informed by non-scientific ideas about evolution and "social darwinism" explored in much popular literature of this period, such as that of Jack London and Robert E. Howard. How much of our success or failure in life is due to our inheritance and how much to our own efforts? Are the conquests of some individuals and groups over others the result of a "natural" superiority, training, or sheer luck?

Tarzan as literary character

Tarzan has been called one of the best-known literary characters in the world. He has appeared in films, comic books, and television programs. The Internet Movie Database lists 88 movies with Tarzan in the title between 1918 and 1999. Many of the Hollywood Tarzan films from the 1930s on featured Tarzan's chimpanzee companion Cheeta.

Science fiction author Philip José Farmer wrote Tarzan Alive!, a biography of Tarzan utilizing the frame device that he was a real person. See also Wold Newton family.

Tarzan appears briefly as a character in the book Lust, by Geoff Ryman.

Even though the copyright on Tarzan of the Apes has expired in the United States of America, all of Burroughs's works will remain under copyright in the European Union until 2021, and the name TARZAN is a trademark.

Tarzana, California, where Burroughs made his home, was renamed in honor of Tarzan in 1927.


by Edgar Rice Burroughs

  1. Tarzan of the Apes (1912)
  2. The Return of Tarzan (1913)
  3. The Beasts of Tarzan (1914)
  4. The Son of Tarzan (1915)
  5. Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1916)
  6. Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1916,1917)
  7. Tarzan the Untamed (1919,1921)
  8. Tarzan the Terrible (1921)
  9. Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1922,1923)
  10. Tarzan and the Ant Men (1924)
  11. Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (1927,1928)
  12. Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1929)
  13. Tarzan at the Earth's Core (1930)
  14. Tarzan the Invincible (1930,1931)
  15. Tarzan Triumphant (1932)
  16. Tarzan and the City of Gold (1932)
  17. Tarzan and the Lion Man (1933,1934)
  18. Tarzan and the Leopard Men (1935)
  19. Tarzan's Quest (1935,1936)
  20. Tarzan and the Forbidden City (1938)
  21. Tarzan the Magnificent (1936,1937)
  22. Tarzan and the Foreign Legion (1947)
  23. Tarzan and the Madman (1964)
  24. Tarzan and the Castaways (1941,1940,1940)
  • for younger readers
    • Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins (1936,1963)

by other authors

  • Barton Werper
    1. Tarzan and the Silver Globe (1964)
    2. Tarzan and the Cave City (1964)
    3. Tarzan and the Snake People (1964)
    4. Tarzan and the Abominable Snowmen (1965)
    5. Tarzan and the Winged Invaders (1965)
    • note: the Werper novels were never authorized by ERB, Inc.; they were taken off the market and remaining copies destroyed.
  • Fritz Leiber
    • Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966)
  • Philip José Farmer
    • Tarzan Alive (1972)
    • The Dark Heart of Time: a Tarzan Novel (1999)
  • ERB and Joe R. Lansdale
    • Tarzan: the Lost Adventure (1995)
  • R. A. Salvatore
    • Tarzan: the Epic Adventures (1996)

Actors portraying Tarzan

A number of actors have played Tarzan over the years, with the most famous and longest-lasting being Johnny Weissmuller. Due to complex licensing issues relating to Tarzan, several Tarzan movie series actually overlapped. For example, Buster Crabbe, Herman Brix and Glen Morris all made Tarzan films concurrently with the 1932-1948 Weismuller series. Mike Henry, meanwhile, played Tarzan in several theatrical releases that came out concurrently with Ron Ely's TV series.


  • Gordon Griffith 1918 (young Tarzan)
  • Elmo Lincoln 1918, 1918, 1921 (called the "first" Tarzan, but Gordon Griffith appears first in the film as his younger self)
  • Gene Pollar 1920
  • P. Dempsey Tabler 1920
  • James Pierce 1927
  • Frank Merrill 1928, 1929
  • Johnny Weissmuller 1932, 1934, 1936, 1939, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1943, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948
  • Buster Crabbe 1933
  • Herman Brix later billed as Bruce Bennett 1935, 1938
  • Glen Morris 1938
  • Lex Barker 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953
  • Clint Walker 1954 (uncredited, in "Jungle Gents," a Bowery Boys movie)
  • Gordon Scott 1955, 1957, 1958, 1958, 1959, 1960
  • Denny Miller 1959
  • Jock Mahoney 1962, 1963
  • Ron Ely 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970
  • Mike Henry 1966, 1967, 1968
  • Miles O'Keeffe 1981
  • Christophe Lambert 1984
  • Casper Van Dien 1998
  • Tony Goldwyn 1999 (voice of animated Tarzan )
  • Alex D. Linz 1999 (voice of young animated Tarzan )


See also

External links

  • Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Tarzan comic strip

Tarzan is also the name of a Russian 4-wheel drive vehicle manufactured by AutoVAZ.

Last updated: 02-10-2005 18:46:47
Last updated: 02-27-2005 12:07:34