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Volume 1184
John Coleman Burroughs at work in his studio
From Tarzana, California
A Danton Burroughs
John Coleman Burroughs
Family Archive Feature
Danton Burroughs

Edgar Rice Burroughs,
Creator of Tarzan
By Margaret Romer
Overland Monthly and Outwest Magazine
March 1934

"Tarazana" (sic) is the home of Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan of the Apes.  This estate lies some twenty-five miles northwest of Los Angeles on the Coast Highway to San Francisco. It extends from the road far back into the hills of the Coast Range where wild cats and mountain lions still stalk their prey.

The master of "Tarazana" allows no hunting on his estate. Furthermore, he secured an appointment as a deputy game warden in order that he might better protect the wild creatures that live on his land.

Two pools in the garden near the house supply clear fresh drinking water for the wild things. As a result of this care and protection, the grounds are alive with small animals, quail and other birds. But the mountain lions and wild cats cannot be tempted to venture so near to civilization.

Mr. Burroughs neither hunts nor fishes. His keen sense of justice prevents his finding any fun in killing. He would kill for food or in self-defense, but not for sport. But he gets a keen joy out of hunting with a camera.

Mr. Burroughs is a dreamer to the extent that he dreams his stories through, but there his dreams end and he puts them down on paper so they may profit him and others as well. Though congenial and charming in manner. Mr. Burroughs is a decidedly practical man. Writing is his profession and he goes about his work in a systematic, businesslike manner. He aims to work about four hours a day, usually in the forenoon. He is entirely free of oddities of any kind. Neither is there a grain of conceit in his make-up. He refuses to admit any claim to greatness. His books are intended only to furnish clean entertainment to the reading public. If they stimulate boys to further reading, they have fulfilled their purpose to the satisfaction of their author. That they have accomplished their mission is proved by the fact that the Tarzan books have been translated into seventeen foreign languages.

"Tarzan of the Apes" was at first refused by thirteen book publishers and was finally purchased by a newspaper syndicate and ran serially in more than 6,000 small-town newspapers throughout the country. Through these, it won instant popular favor and the public then demanded the story in book form.

Mr. Burroughs has never been in Africa, yet his jungle lore is true to life. It is based on his careful study of many accounts of explorers and hunters in the African wilds. The habits of the animals are accurately portrayed, as are also the descriptions of the jungle and its ways. The tribe of great apes that Mr. Burroughs makes so real to his readers, does not actually exist. It is an imaginary combination of the cleverness of the chimpanzee and the strength and physique of the gorilla.

The language of the apes and monkeys was made up by the author. Mr. Burroughs gave his nomenclature careful study, making each name fit the creature for which it is the symbol. Thus, Goro, the moon, Bara, the deer, Manu, the monkey, and all the other terms, soon sound entirely natural.

His famous city of Opar actually exists. It is one of many such ruins and is rich in legendry. Its inhabitants, the Oparians, however, are entirely imaginary.

In his earlier years, Mr. Burroughs was an instructor in the Michigan Military Academy. Here, among other subjects, he taught Geology. This knowledge he turned to profit later in his re-creation of some of the prehistoric races of men. For instance, in his "Taraza the Terrible," the author reconstructed a tribe of the pre-historic Pithecanthropus Erectus, or ape-men with tails, who walked erect. Also, his knowledge of Geology enabled him to reconstruct and make live again, many pre-historic beasts such as the Gryf and others.

The Marian stories are much more highly imaginative than is the Tarzan set. And who can read of the adventures of John Carver (sic) among the six-limbed green men of Mars, and not thrill and chill to his very marrow!

California's mild winters attracted Mr. Burroughs and his family for several consecutive years beginning with 1913. Then in 1919, after one of Chicago's unusually severe winters, the family journeyed to California with the intention of making it their permanent home.

In the early spring of that year, Mr. Burroughs purchased the estate which later became known as "Tarzana." This estate was the home of General Otis, a hero of the War in the Philippines and founder and manager of the Los Angeles Times until his death. The palatial white stucco residence crowning one of the hills, was the General's home. It was occupied by the Burroughs family for several years after their purchase of the land, but now it has been converted into a country club and is a playground of the well-to-do.  The author's family now occupies a modest bungalow at the foot of the hill near the highway.

Of all animals, Mr. Burroughs loves horses best. He keeps several mounts and finds keenest joy in the saddle. Riding is another of the subjects in which Mr. Burroughs instructed the students at the Michigan Military Academy, and he was in the cavalry division of the United States Army for several years thereafter.

But Mr. Burroughs' chief pride is his family. Two sons and a daughter have just blossomed into maturity.

None are more delighted readers of their father's books than are the children of the author. When their father first began reading the Tarzan books aloud to them, the younger son, Jack, fairly live the part of Tarzan. It was with difficulty that his father and mother could persuade him to eat cooked meat. He wanted to eat it raw, for did not Tarzan prefer it so? One day the astonished father saw his son following him across the yard on all fours with his nose to the ground.  "What in the world are you doing, Jack?" Mr. Burroughs questioned.  "Why father," replied the boy, I M following your scent spoor."

From his childhood, Mr. Burroughs had always dreamed thrilling adventure stories  but it was not until he was thirty-five that he began to write them down. This was about 1911, and a year later, his stories began finding their way into print. In 1913 he gave up his position and began giving his entire time to the profession of writing.

So this kind, congenial, practical man is contributing his bit to the happiness of the world.



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