June 2012 | Jeremy Howell

King of the Jungle Still Swinging at 100


At some point in childhood, who hasn't leapt onto a rope swing, real or imagined, beat their chest like a wild person, and hollered a blood curdling yell, before plunging into cool waters below?  Homage to this familiar scene will be paid this year with the centennial celebration of Edgar Rice Burroughs' creation of Tarzan.

     Burroughs' gentle jungle man first appeared in the pulp magazine All-Story in 1912. "Tarzan of the Apes" was an instant success. Seeing greater literary things for his character, Burroughs tried with little avail to get his story published by a "distinguished" publishing house. Finally in 1914, Tarzan of the Apes was published as a book by A.C. McClurg & Co. Since then, Tarzan has appeared in dozens of story lines, and in the process, shaped modern literary and pop culture.

     Bill Hillman, who curates the fan site, Edgar Rice Burroughs web museum, said Tarzan has had the ability to evolve with the times. "Tarzan is a multimedia hero: on film by 1918, as a comic by 1929, on radio by 1932, and a leader in the burgeoning multi-media boom as the century progressed: TV, gaming, merchandising, animation, Internet, etc. The character has the strange plasticity that allows him to be put into countless, even contradictory, kinds of stories."

     In the collecting world, the Tarzan books have grown to be quite desirable. Last year, a 1912 All-Story first edition sold at a Heritage Auction for well over $40,000. Hillman was not at all surprised to see the pulp magazine that was so "very disposable" in its day fetch such a price.

     Tarzan will enjoy quite the celebration this year. With a documentary about the early Tarzan films being released, as well as the centennial celebration with guest speaker Jane Goodall, Tarzan will certainly swing on into his next century as beloved as ever.

Photo Courtesy of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Web Museum