Tarzan the Terrible - TARZAN THE TERRIBLE is one of the very best of the entire series, filled with imaginative details, strong characterization and tighter plotting that`s unified by the Apeman`s search for his missing wife. It showcases one of Burroughs` most intriguing and believable Lost Worlds.
Seperated from discovery by a huge nearly impassable morass, Pal-Ul-Don features a few prehistoric beasts still surviving, notably the sabretooth and the triceratops- like `gryf` (I`m sure the triceratops is the favorite dinosaur of many of us, and if one could be still extant and lumbering around, I`d prefer it to a T. Rex, that`s for sure).
Pa-Ul-Don is inhabited by two species of pithecanthropoi...essentially modern humans except for their opposable big toes and odd thumbs. Oh, and there is the fact that they have long, prehensible tails. The black skinned denizens are the Waz-Don, and except for the fact that they have a beautiful glossy pelt, they`re mirror images of the white skinned Ho-Don. The Ho-Don live in settlements, while the Waz-Don build elaborate caves which honeycomb cliff walls. (I love the images of these guys scurrying up and down sheer cliffs with their system of removable pegs set in holes in the walls...if the people I know who pay to practice indoor rock climbing could spend a weekend in Paul-Ul-Don, they`d be delirious.)
What`s most appealing about this story is how open-minded Burroughs was. The Ho-Don and the Waz-Don are essentially equals in intelligence and morals; and characters from both species are likeable. Tarzan himself is more complex and subtle than the simplistic one-dimensional portrayal he was later shown as. For one thing, he enjoys primitive art for its own sake. In an interesting moment, he appreciates gazing at scenery ("that spiritual enjoyment of beauty that only the man-mind may attain..."). Later, we`re told that he had differed from the apes in many characteristics "not the least of these were in a measure spiritual, and one that had doubtless been as strong as another in influencing Tarzan`s love of the jungle had been his appreciaton of the beauties of nature."
This dual nature is one of the things I love best about the character. Tarzan is not a mere animal in a human form, he is a unique symbiosis of the human and the animal natures. In the later books, this was forgotten in favor of increasingly mean spirited attacks on human nature, but the balance between Lord Greystoke strolling through Hyde Park with Jane on a Sunday and Tarzan ripping raw meat from a freshly killed gazelle* is an essential part of the appeal. Tarzan is yin and yang in a single body.
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