Tarzan Celebrates 100 Year Anniversary


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Tarzan is celebrating a 100 year anniversary in 2012.

Authored by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), Tarzan first appeared in the novel Tarzan of the Apes (magazine publication was in New-Story, pictured at left) 1912,  first book publication was in 1914, and then in twenty-five sequels, three authorized books by other authors, and innumerable works in other media, authorized and not. There have also been dozens of movie versions featuring Tarzan as well as radio shows, TV series, and comic books.

The University of Louisville holds the largest institutional collection of Tarzan materials, The Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection.

The Burroughs Memorial Collection was a gift from curator George T. McWhorter to honor his late mother who taught him how to read with the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The collection contains over 100,000 items in all categories of the author's life and works. That includes 63 full-length novels, 21 short stories, and 26 literary sketches, collected and published in 75 first editions. During his lifetime, 100 versions of his stories were published in pulp magazines, many under different titles from the hardback editions.

The newspaper serials began in 1913, the Tarzan movies in 1918, the daily newspaper strips in 1928, the Sunday Tarzan pages in 1931, the radio shows in 1932, the comic books in 1936, the fan club publications in 1947, and the TV shows in 1966. During that time, Tarzan collectibles such as knives, bows & arrows, belt buckles, watches, glue, figurines, candy, bread, pop-ups, Big-Little-Books, coloring books, costumes, and many other categories of merchandising have appeared on the market in the U.S. and abroad.

The Burroughs Memorial Collection contains all first editions in dust jackets, as well as reprints in 35 languages,  comics, newspapers and extensive periodical files, clippings and scrapbooks, toys and games, biography and bibliography, including the working papers of Irwin Porges and Erling B. Holtsmark, and a reference collection of films, film stills and scripts, original art and sculpture, posters, correspondence and memorabilia.

The Tarzan character, created by Burroughs, was the son of a British lord and lady who were marooned on the Atlantic coast of Africa by mutineers. When Tarzan was an infant, his mother died of natural causes and his father was killed by a  leader of the ape tribe by whom Tarzan was adopted. Tarzan is his ape name; his real English name is John Clayton, Earl Greystoke.

Tarzan censored?

In 1929 the Los Angeles Public Library removed Tarzan from distribution because Tarzan was allegedly living in sin with Jane.  

Source: Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read by Robert P. Doyle.

As a young adult, Tarzan meets a young American woman, Jane Porter. She, her father and others of their party are marooned at exactly the same spot where Tarzan's biological parents were twenty years earlier. When Jane returns to America, Tarzan leaves the jungle in search of her, his one true love. In The Return of Tarzan, Tarzan and Jane marry. In later books he lives with her for a time in England. They have one son, Jack, who takes the ape name Korak ("the Killer"). Tarzan is contemptuous of the hypocrisy of civilization, and he and Jane return to Africa, making their home on an extensive estate that becomes a base for Tarzan's later adventures.

Tarzan's jungle upbringing gives him abilities far beyond those of ordinary humans. These include climbing, clinging, and leaping as well as any great ape, or better. He uses branches and hanging vines to swing at great speed, a skill acquired among the anthropoid apes.

Although he is able to pass within society as a civilized individual, he prefers to "strip off the thin veneer of civilization," as Burroughs often puts it. His preferred dress is a knife and a loincloth of animal hide; his preferred abode is any convenient tree branch when he desires to sleep, and his favored food is raw meat, killed by himself; even better if he is able to bury it a week so that putrefaction has had a chance to tenderize it a bit.

Tarzan's primitivist philosophy was absorbed by countless fans, including  environmentalist Jane Goodall, who describes the Tarzan series as having a major influence on her childhood. She states that she felt she would be a much better spouse for Tarzan than his fictional wife, Jane, and that when she first began to live among and study the chimpanzees she was fulfilling her childhood dream of living among the great apes, just as Tarzan did.

Even though the copyright on Tarzan of the Apes has expired in the United States  and other countries, the name Tarzan is claimed as a trademark of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

Movie pster: Tarzan the FearlessThe Internet Movie Database lists 89 movies with Tarzan in the title between 1918 and 2008. The first Tarzan movies were silent pictures adapted from the original Tarzan novels, which appeared within a few years of the character's creation. The first actor to portray the adult Tarzan was Elmo Lincoln in 1918's Tarzan Of The Apes. With the advent of talking pictures, a popular Tarzan movie franchise was developed, which lasted from the 1930s through the 1960s. Starting with Tarzan the Ape Man in 1932 through twelve films until 1948, the franchise starred by best known and most popular Tarzan,  former Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller.

There were also several serials and features that competed with the main franchise.

Tarzan films from the 1930s on often featured Tarzan's chimpanzee companion Cheeta, his friend Jane (not usually given a last name), and an adopted son, usually known only as "Boy." Films from 1959 on dropped the character of Jane and portrayed Tarzan as a lone adventurer.

A TV Tarzan series starring Ron Ely ran on NBC from 1966 to 1968. An animated series, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, aired from 1976 to 1977, followed by many other such  series.Tarzan of the Apes was adapted in newspaper strip form, in early 1929.

Visit your local library for resources about Tarzan.

Books of Edgar Rice Burroughs on Worldcat.

Tarzan (the character) books on Worldcat.

Tarzan (the character) movies on Worldcat (DVDs)

Tarzan books on Project Gutenberg.

Tarzan Forever: The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan
John Taliaferro, (1999).
A late-blooming Burroughs in 1912 threw a science-fiction story over the transom of a pulp fiction magazine. The editor bought it and asked him for a second story: it was Tarzan of the Apes Taliaferro’s lively biography explores how initially Burroughs’ latent imagination found outlets other than literary. War grabbed him, and he tried to join the colors three times.The fallow years, in Taliaferro’s judgment, were not blank failures, as Burroughs’ jobs of railroad guard, salesman, and advice columnist for a business magazine would indicate.  Excerpt of review by Gilbert Taylor first published March 1, 1999 (Booklist).



1. Article illustration: First appearance of Tarzan in The All-Story, October, 1912. Right, first Canadian edition by McClelland, Goodchild, and Stewart, Toronto, 1914.
Date: October 1912
Source:Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by User:Hyju.
Clinton Pettee and Fred J Arting

2. Movie poster: Tarzan the Fearless, as depicted by Buster Crabbe.


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