Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan Triumphant

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

Edgar Rice Burroughs was experimenting in hyperlink stories long before movies like Pulp Fiction, Magnolia, and Love Actually made them popular. In Tarzan the Triumphant (originally titled Tarzan and the Raiders and then The Triumph of Tarzan; no relation to the Weissmuller film Tarzan Triumphs), Burroughs follows several different characters who start out on separate adventures, but ultimately converge in the jungles of Africa. There's an Amelia Earhart-like aviatrix, a young gangster on the run from the Chicago mob, a Soviet assassin seeking revenge on Tarzan for his actions in Tarzan the Invincible, a hapless geologist, a deserter from the Italian army, and a big game hunter from England. All of these stories intersect with a lost tribe descended from a deranged disciple of the apostle Paul.

It's a lot going on, with barely enough room for Tarzan who flits from story to story rescuing the good characters when needed and interfering with the bad ones.

Griffin's supplemental chapter for this story is about tales of lost races, starting with H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and talking about why the genre became so popular as Western cultures began filling in the blank spots on their maps. Burroughs was obviously in love with the idea and included lost civilizations in all but five of the Tarzan novels. The trend continued into the Tarzan films and even exists in more recent work like Michael Crichton's Congo and the Dinotopia series.

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