Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan and the Ant-Men

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

The idea for Tarzan and the Ant-Men came from Burroughs' editor at All-Story, who suggested Burroughs write a story about Tarzan among Lilliputians from Gulliver's Travels. Burroughs liked the idea, but wasn't sure he could make it work. After some negotiating and collaborating though, he wrote the novel about a race of 18"-tall humans who ride tiny antelope and live in domed, hive-like cities.

Tarzan discovers the Minunians after crashing a plane in the otherwise impenetrable Great Thorn Forest. He doesn't meet them right away though, but first encounters a civilization of ape-like Amazons who rule over their men. Escaping that group, Tarzan finds the Minunians and gets involved in the conflict between two of their cities, Trohanadalmakus and Veltopismakus (the long names being another homage to Gulliver's Travels). There's apparently even a scene in which Tarzan is tied down - Gulliver-like - by his diminutive captors.

I haven't read Ant-Men, but I understand that there's a troubling plot thread when Tarzan returns to the Amazon group and finds that - inspired by Tarzan's rebellion - the men have overthrown the women and properly subjugated them. Since this is How Things Should Be, the women are naturally happier in their new role serving the men. Again, I haven't read Ant-Men yet, and I don't know what biases may have affected this interpretation of it, but some of the other Tarzan novels have similarly dated viewpoints on issues of equality, so it's not hard to believe.

Esteban Miranda (the Tarzan lookalike from Tarzan and the Golden Lion) also has a subplot in Ant-Men as he escapes his fate from the end of Golden Lion and makes his way back to Tarzan's estate to cause more trouble. It's not terribly vital to the story (in fact, All-Story eliminated those sections when they serialized it), but helps build the tension as the reader wonders if Tarzan will return in time to set things straight.

Griffin's supplemental chapter for this novel is called "Tarzan the Polyglot." It lists all 29 languages Tarzan learned in his career (including Latin and Mayan!) and shows how that gift is foreshadowed all the way back to the first novel when Tarzan not only teaches himself to read English, but also tells D'Arnot that he understands "a little of the language of Tantor, the elephant, and Numa, the lion, and of the other folks of the jungle." Quite a huge difference from the monosyllabic guy made famous by Johnny Weismuller.

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