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Jungle Tales of Tarzan (Cosimo Classics) Paperback – November 16, 2005
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About the Author
American novelist EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS (1875-1950) wrote dozens of adventure, crime, and science fiction novels that are still beloved today, including Tarzan of the Apes (1912), At the Earth's Core (1914), A Princess of Mars (1917), The Land That Time Forgot (1924), and Pirates of Venus (1934). He is reputed to have been reading a comic book when he died.
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Unlike previous books `Jungle Tales of Tarzan' is a series of smaller stories that blend together. In one story Tarzan kidnaps a young African boy when he begins feeling that everyone has someone to care for except him. It's somewhat touching except that Burroughs can't help but push the idea that the boy is a genetic inferior. There is a LOT of interaction between Tarzan and the local tribe of Mbongo whom he holds a grudge against for causing the death of his adoptive mother, Kala. It generally involves Tarzan playing pranks that lead to the deaths of one or more black. It's understandable that Tarzan would feel anger towards the Mbongo tribe but the racism is often cringe worthy.
My favorite part of the book was when Tarzan attempts to pull a prank on his own ape tribe. Tarzan had been trying to teach the apes to post guards to watch out for jungle cats or other animals who might venture in to their territory and suspects that the apes have been lax (the apes are notoriously difficult to train in long term planning). In order to test their watchfulness he dresses in a tiger skin and tries to invade the ape camp before being knocked unconscious and nearly beaten to death. Even after they discover it's Tarzan some still desire to finish the job they started because... y'know... they're apes. This was the one time Tarzan appeared vulnerable and somewhat dimwitted and gave the character some rare depth. Through most of the book he's simply the infallible `white jungle God'.
The unfortunate racism is more a sign of the times than a damning of Burroughs. It was nice that in the final story Tarzan risks his life to save a black warrior out of respect for bravery he had shown. I've never felt that Burroughs had the skills of Rudyard Kipling who also wrote about a feral child in his Jungle Books but here Burroughs carves out his own nitch and proves he's at least capable of writing some very entertaining stories even if he often fails.