Friday, July 17, 2015

Forgotten Books: Tarzan the Terrible - Edgar Rice Burroughs


I read TARZAN THE UNTAMED when I was in the sixth grade, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and I soon followed it up with the sequel, TARZAN THE TERRIBLE, which I'd never reread until now. This one starts out with Tarzan continuing the search for Jane, who's been kidnapped by German soldiers during World War I. He soon discovers that she's escaped from her captors and set off on her own, and in trailing her Tarzan finds himself in another of Edgar Rice Burroughs' vividly created lost civilizations, this one the land of Pal-ul-don, enclosed by an almost impenetrable swamp. This isolation has allowed prehistoric species to survive, such as the triceratops, known to the inhabitants of Pal-ul-don as a gryf. Humanity has evolved differently in Pal-ul-don, too, and the people there have tails, among other oddities.


It's a great setting for a Tarzan adventure, and Burroughs has a lot of fun with it, plunging Tarzan and ultimately Jane as well into wars, political and religious intrigue (with some distinctly satirical overtones about our own world), and jungle derring-do. Tarzan learns how to tame the gryfs, sort of, and winds up riding around on one. If the mental image of Tarzan and Jane riding around on the back of a triceratops doesn't set your pulse to racing, well, then, you're not a twelve-year-old boy at heart like I am.



All the quibbles I had about TARZAN THE UNTAMED don't really apply to this novel. Yes, there's a lot of capture/escape/pursuit and cutting back and forth between the various storylines, but it's much more focused in TARZAN THE UNTAMED, which isn't nearly as episodic as the previous book. The land of Pal-ul-don is a well-developed setting, and it's not surprising that Will Murray made use of it in his new novel TARZAN: RETURN TO PAL-UL-DON (my review of which will be coming up soon). It bothered me a little that Tarzan gets captured as easily as he does a couple of times, but hey, not even an Ape Man is infallible. And the ending, honestly, is a bit of a deus ex machina. But all in all, this adventure roars right along quite nicely from start to finish and is well deserving of its place in the upper rank of Tarzan novels.

It's strange, looking back on that time more than fifty years ago, and remembering that when I first read them, TARZAN THE UNTAMED was my favorite of this linked pair, although I liked TARZAN THE TERRIBLE just fine. My opinion has turned around with this recent rereading. I think TARZAN THE TERRIBLE is a much better book. Still, I liked them both and am happy to have revisited them five decades later. (The scan at the top is from the Ballantine edition, with cover artwork by Richard Powers. That's the edition I read there at the Rock School when I probably should have been doing actual schoolwork. But hey, in reality I was studying for my career, I just didn't know it at the time.)
 

6 comments:

George Kelley said...

Like you and Evan, I need to reread TARZAN THE TERRIBLE before I tackle Will Murray's new Tarzan pastiche.

Charles Gramlich said...

Only read one Tarzan when I was little. Read a bunch more in my late teens, early twenties. By now I've read 'em all.

R.T. said...

Wow! It has been a long time since I considered reading a Tarzan book. Your persuasive review has me searching the online book vendors for a copy. Yes, consider me hooked! Well done!

Richard R. said...

The edition I have is the top of those you show. Two reviews of this today... I need to reread it.

Evan Lewis said...

I too read that Ballantine edition when it first came out, and still have it. These days, though, the type is a little squinty for my taste, so my most recent reading was on my iPad.

Michael Pacheco said...

I loved those two books as well but I always loved Tarzan the Terrible more. It was a rollicking good adventure in a strange land.