THE TARZAN STORY

This is an English language lesson about the jungle hero Tarzan.

The lesson is linked to other lessons about Tintin and the Congo, Belgium and the Congo, King of the Belgians, Henry Morton Stanley and Land of the Hippos.

The keywords of the lesson are, as usual, highlighted in bold.

Tarzan was a fictitious character created by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs who was born in 1875 and who died in 1950 at the Californian ranch, Tarzana, he named after his character creation.

But the Tarzan story perhaps begins with an English Lord named William Charles Midlin who was shipwrecked as a young child off the African coast in 1868 and spent fifteen years in the Congolese jungle before returning to England to claim his title as the fifteenth Earl of Streatham.

As the story goes, he was found in the jungle by an American botanic professor and his young daughter Jane, living a feral life among the animals and nature itself.

It was the local chieftains who christened him ‘Tarzan’ meaning ‘White Man’.

As time went by, Tarzan and Jane bonded and fell in love.

When the professor died of illness and disease in 1883, Tarzan, alias William Charles Midlin, came to England with Jane and married her.

in the latest film ‘Legend of Tarzan’, we see Tarzan (and Jane) return to the Congolese jungle heartland where they had become acquainted years earlier, not so much as a homecoming but to play a pivotal role to stop the diamond smuggling trade and slave labour trade driven by the greed and selfishness of Belgian King Leopold II.

Edgar Rice  Burroughs was barely twenty years old when Rudyard Kipling published Jungle Book and created the Mowgli boy character.

Indirectly perhaps, he would have heard of the story of the feral boy who lived in the African jungle, as indeed, he might have heard of Rudyard Kipling.

There is the remote possibility that Burroughs and Kipling could have met either in Britain or America.

There can, however, be no doubt that Burroughs knew of the Irishman John Dunlop at this time in the 1890s and of the importance of rubber harvested in the Congo as well as the speculation about Belgian barbarity in the region.

As an American, if not as a satirist or as a political activist, Edgar Rice Burroughs was aware of the American war being waged in the Phillipines in 1899 and it was certainly spelt out to him in poetic terms in 1899 by Kipling in referring to new imperialism and the ‘burden of the white man’.

The 1904 Extermination Order of Germany-Prussia to kill an estimated eighty per-cent of the Hereros tribe in what is modern day Namibia was a pointer to the holecaust which occurred in world war two and which formed one small part of the atrocities which happened in Africa in that time.

The Heart of Darkness had been written and published by Joseph Conrad about the Congo atrocities and the world, it seemed, was in need of a superhero to come and save itself from its imperialistic power-madness and apocolyptic driven genocide.

The pulp of serial publications, magazines and newspapers in the advent of radio, television and of course movies, nurtured a public hunger for adventure stories which motivated Burroughs to create Tarzan.

In 1912, the first Tarzan adventure was published.

In the throw of things, it is even more amazing to think that Burroughs may have even interviewed William Charles Midlin at some point to elaborate the finer points of his story for ‘pulp’ consumption.

Tarzan was very much the embroidery and not the cloth to the phenomena which has grown up around his characterisation since the day it was first published.

Unquestionably, Tarzan is Lord of the Jungle.

 

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