Tarzan of the Apes

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

The Work

The author of more than seventy novels, Burroughs is best known for his books about Tarzan, a white man who lives in the jungles of equatorial Africa. Tarzan of the Apes (1912), the first novel in the series, begins the tale of a white child reared by an imaginary species of “great apes” after his marooned parents die. He learns the law of the jungle from animals and has almost no contact with other human beings until a party of Europeans enters his domain. From them he learns the ways of humankind, and he marries the Englishwoman Jane Porter. Thereafter he has adventures among both animals and humans.

In 1920—by which time six Tarzan novels were in print—an outcry was rising in England over the books’ Darwinian themes. Several editors and printers expressed strong reservations regarding Tarzan as the evolution of Kayla the Ape. This led to a boycott of publication in England for several years.

The seventh novel in the series, Tarzan the Untamed, was published in English in 1921 and translated into German in late 1924. Its German title was equivalent to “Tarzan the German-Devourer.” Written by Burroughs in 1915, when Germany and Great Britain were fighting in World War I, the story contains several episodes in which lions eat German “Huns”—including one scene in which Tarzan himself orders a lion to eat a German officer. Although the story has Tarzan avenging the apparent murder of Jane, the German...

(The entire section is 610 words.)