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The 2016 Warner Brothers film, "The Legend of Tarzan," wasn't directly based on any of the first three Tarzan books -- "Apes," "Return," or "Beasts." But it certainly drew some significant plot elements from all three.
I was most reminded, though, of "The Beasts of Tarzan," the book in which the ape-man and his wife, both living happily in London, are lured back to Africa through a villain's subterfuge, are separated, and encounter perils individually along an African river until they win through, find each other again, and the villain is delivered to an appropriate end.
It would not be legitimate to label "The Legend of Tarzan" as a novelization of "Beasts," but it is fun to point out some of the parallels and see how the movie script is in line with many things Burroughs himself wrote about his famous creation:
Beasts: In civilized Paris, DíArnot tells Tarzan that his enemy, Rokoff, has escaped. Tarzan gazes meditatively at the toe of his immaculate boot.
Legend: In civilized London, British officials tell Tarzan that King Leopold of Belgium has invited him to be a guest. Tarzan gingerly sips his tea.
Beasts: Tarzan is trapped on a ship by the closing of a heavy hatch.
Legend: Tarzan is captured in Africa by a bunch of men who pile on and snare him in a rope net.
Beasts: Jane is captured aboard the same ship when she follows Tarzan.
Legend: Jane is captured in the same African village as Tarzan.
Beasts: Rokoff did not intend to capture Jane but was happy to have her walk into his clutches.
Legend: Romís plan was to capture Tarzan, not Jane, but even though Tarzan escapes, heís pleased, because he figures that Jane is his key to capturing Tarzan.
Beasts: Tarzan initially seeks his kidnapped baby while fully clothed, but after his capture his clothes are taken and he is left naked on a deserted island.
Legend: Tarzan arrives in Africa fully clothed, but little by little throughout the movie he divests himself of unnecessary apparel as he pursues Rom.
Beasts: Tarzan's been out of his jungle two years. "The two years that had elapsed since Tarzan had come out of the savage forest with his rescued mate had witnessed slight diminution of the mighty powers that had made him the invincible lord of the jungle. His great estates in Uziri had claimed much of his time and attention, and there he had found ample field for the practical use and retention of his almost superhuman powers; but naked and unarmed to do battle with the shaggy, bull-necked beast that now confronted him was a test that the ape-man would scarce have welcomed at any period of his wild existence."
Legend: Tarzan had been out of the jungle several years, but seems to have retained most of his powers although he comes off second best in a battle with a big bull ape.
Beasts: The ape, named Akut, becomes an ally of Tarzan.
Legend: The ape, named Akut, becomes an ally of Tarzan, helping to intimidate the men of Opar.
Beasts: Tarzan makes a hand-crafted knife on the African island from an outcropping of igneous brittle rock.
Legend: Tarzan gets a hand-crafted knife by ripping a horn off a dead animal's skull.
Beasts: On the island on which Tarzan is temporarily stranded, he builds a rough, roofed tree house.
Legend: A flashback shows how Tarzan was born in a tree house, built by his parents.
Beasts: "Through the upper terraces of the tree-tops he swung with the grace and ease of a monkey."
Legend: Fans will always debate whether Tarzan swung on vines or not. He does so in almost every movie, including this one. ERB does say he "swung," but doesn't mention vines per se. So, did he swing on vines, or on branches? I believe it's open to interpretation.
Beasts: Tarzan eats bugs "...gathering an occasional fruit or turning over a fallen log in search of the larger bugs, which he still found as palatable as of old..."
Legend: Tarzan eats some of the bugs that George Washington Williams is using to suture his wounds. "Tastes like bacon," says the ape-man.
Beasts: Tarzan chases leopard away.
Legend: Tarzan scares off leopard.
Beasts: Tarzan mimics wild animal sounds: "On his lips was the soothing, purring sound that the great cats themselves made when contented and happy. It was the nearest approach to a friendly advance that Tarzan could make in the language of Sheeta."
Legend: Tarzan makes bird sounds to amuse children Jane is teaching. If Tarzan can imitate a leopard, he can no doubt imitate a bird as well.
Beasts: Tarzan befriends and is able to order around a panther. "Tarzan put a broad shoulder beneath the bole of the tree, and as he did so his bare leg pressed against the cat's silken side, so close was the man to the great beast." And later, "The great beast, with arched back and purring like a contented tabby, rubbed his sides against the ape-man, and then at a word from the latter sprang lightly to his former place in the bow of the dugout."
Legend: Tarzan nuzzles lions he had made friends with when they were cubs. Later, at the call of Tarzan, lions and other animals do his bidding and charge the town where Jane's captors have taken her.
Beasts: Tarzan was protected by apes when natives were circling him with spears.
Legend: Apes showed up to help protect Tarzan when natives were circling him with spears.
Beasts: Mugambi was every inch a Tarzan: "The fellow was a magnificent specimen of manhood -- a black counterpart in physique of the splendid white man whom he faced," wrote ERB.
Legend: George Washington Williams is no Mugambi but does a fairly decent job of keeping up with the
ape-man and even comes to his rescue on a couple of occasions. Other natives swing on vines with the same skill evidenced by Tarzan.
Those examples are just from the first few chapters. But it's clear there are plenty of parallels, if not to the exact plot then at least to plot "elements" and to ways in which both Tarzan of the book and Tarzan of the film operated.
A couple of things suprised me as I re-read "Beasts." On the island, when Tarzan made his first weapons, one of them was a cudgel. I didnít recall Tarzan normally carrying around a cudgel as part of his weaponry, but ERB himself says he did indeed make one. We never see him using it, at least in the early chapters I read. In "The Legend of Tarzan," the ape-man uses a makeshift cudgel (a handy stick that happened to by lying around) to whack Akut on the back of his head.
The second thing that surprised me in "Beasts" was the reference to Tarzan building a tree house of sorts. We fans tend to be scornful of tree houses in Tarzan movies, but ERB actually has Tarzan making one. Iím more accustomed to reading about him curling up in the forked branches of a tree in later books!
So would I be talking about the book -- or the movie -- if I said:
"This story tells how Tarzan and Jane, content to live in civilized Europe, were kidnapped by a man whose name begins with the letters "Ro." Tarzan became free and pursued Jane and her captors along a river that wound through the jungle, with dangers such as a cannibal tribe along the way.
"Tarzan was assisted in his mission primarily by one black man and numerous beasts.
"In the end, Tarzan was successful and his hated enemy was killed by a wild jungle animal aboard a ship."
I enjoyed seeing this very ERBesque movie, "The Legend of Tarzan."~ John Martin
EDGARDEMAIN: Celebrating the literary legerdemain of Edgar Rice Burroughs
John Martin's Epic Poem
THE LEGENDARY TARZAN
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