Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan of the Apes

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

If the entry for Tarzan of the Apes is typical, Griffin covers each novel in a way that's just about perfect. He starts with a synopsis of the plot, talks about the creation of the novel, and runs a checklist of adaptations (comics and movies, for example) of the work. Finally, he'll include a separate chapter or two about a topic suggested by the story.

The synopses are complete without spoiling the ends of the novels, but they do spoil some big events along the way. Something to be aware of if you haven't read them before. I won't talk about the plot of Tarzan of the Apes in this post simply because it's so familiar to me that I don't know what else to say about it, but I'll try to avoid any big revelations about plot as we continue on in this series. If I break that rule, I'll be sure to offer a spoiler warning.

In his notes on the creation of Tarzan of the Apes, Griffin offers some cool facts I'd never heard before, like how Burroughs considered Zantar and Tublat Zan as possible names for his main character. Or how Tarzan's English name was Bloomstoke for several pages before Burroughs decided to change it. There's also a bit about Sabor the lioness, who was a tiger in the original manuscript because Burroughs didn't realize that striped tigers don't live in Africa. (Griffin also explains how European explorers of Africa contributed to Burroughs misunderstanding and points out how Burroughs poked fun at himself for the error in later novels.)

There are of course lots of cover images, from various editions of the book to DC and Gold Key covers of adaptations.

Griffin includes two additional chapters related to Tarzan of the Apes: one on Burroughs' potential inspiration for the character and another on how to pronounce Tarzan's name. Burroughs was apparently very relaxed about how people said it, but would admit to how his family did it and - when pressed - finally settled on an official pronunciation: accent on the first syllable with the first a as in arm and the second a as in ask. He really, really didn't care how you did it though, especially if you were Maureen O'Sullivan and the studio's checks cleared.

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