Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Tarzan 101 | Tarzan and the Madman

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

The last three novels in the Tarzan series get confusing because they were published all out of order from how Burroughs wrote them. They're not necessarily confusing to read, but they are to write about. Last week we talked about Tarzan and the Foreign Legion, which was the last Tarzan story Burroughs wrote, but not the last published. Before he wrote Foreign Legion, he wrote Tarzan and the Madman as well as a couple of short stories and a novella that would be combined in book form as tomorrow's entry. The order in which they were written goes:

  • "Tarzan and the Jungle Murders" (a short story we'll talk about tomorrow)
  • "Tarzan and the Champion" (the other short story we'll talk about tomorrow)
  • Tarzan and the Madman
  • "Tarzan and the Castaways" (the novella we'll talk about tomorrow)
  • Tarzan and the Foreign Legion

I incorrectly stated last week that Foreign Legion was the first and only Tarzan story to be published as a complete novel without first being serialized in a magazine. That's only half correct, because while Tarzan and the Madman was intended for magazine serialization, it was never published in that format. It was rejected by six magazines and remained sort of a lost tale until it first appeared in novel form in 1964, fourteen years after Burroughs' death.

The story is inspired by real-life "feral child" Lucas, who may have been raised by baboons or simply have been an unfortunate, mentally challenged young man who was exploited and coached to exhibit feral behavior. Either way, he was getting a lot of attention shortly before Burroughs wrote Madman. It's an interesting juxtaposition, putting the fantastical Tarzan character side by side with a more realistic depiction of what someone might be like who was raised by apes.

Naturally Burroughs includes other Tarzan tropes in the story, including yet another lost race and the idea that Tarzan and the madman are close enough in looks that people blame Tarzan for the madman's actions. It's Tarzan's quest to clear his name that drives the plot.

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