Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tarzan 101 | The Return of Tarzan

Celebrating Tarzan's 101st anniversary by walking through Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration.

Griffin's summary of the plot of The Return of Tarzan isn't as detailed or spoiler-filled as the one for Tarzan of the Apes, which is a good thing. As we get deeper into the series, I'm going to know less and less about these stories, so I'm glad to have brief teasers instead of complete summaries.

Besides, what I most appreciate about Griffin's book is the history and commentary and there's plenty of that for Return. For instance, I never would have guessed that Burroughs didn't end Tarzan of the Apes with a sequel already in mind. It ends on a what I've always thought of as a severe cliffhanger, but Burroughs was actually skeptical about doing a sequel and had to be talked into it by his editor at All-Story.

Thinking about that ending again though, I realize that it's only a cliffhanger if you're familiar with Tarzan's story. Tarzan of the Apes ends without a major element of the Tarzan story in place, but if you didn't know to expect that element, that wouldn't bother you. In fact, from that perspective Tarzan of the Apes ends beautifully and perfectly. I can see why Burroughs was reluctant to mess with it.

I'm glad he did though, because Return of Tarzan is a great book, from its opening chapters with Tarzan in Paris (Burroughs' original title for the story was Monsieur Tarzan) to his spy adventures in the mysterious deserts of northern Africa, to the introduction of the lost jungle city of Opar and its priestess, La. Return also debuts Tarzan's arch-nemesis, the villainous Nicholas Rokoff.

After the section on Return, Griffin has a brief chapter about Tarzan's cameo appearance in Burroughs' novel, The Eternal Lover (sometimes re-printed as The Eternal Savage), which was a sequel to his earlier The Mad King. I didn't even know this existed, but I'm going to track it down now as it's the first appearance of Tarzan's jungle estate and his infant son, Jack, who plays such a major role in the next Tarzan novel.

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