Tarzan first appeared in novel “Tarzan of the Apes” (1912) and after that appeared in twenty-three sequels. Tarzan, a fictional character, is the creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan is raised by apes after he is marooned on the coast of Africa by mutineers. His parents died when he was an infant. Tarzan is the ape name given to him which literally means White-Skin; his real name is John Clayton.
Tarzan has been hailed as one of the best known characters in the world. Along with having more than twenty books by Burroughs and some more by other authors he has also appeared in a number of films, television programs, comic strips and comic books. Burroughs wrote the first novel with a fountain pen in longhand. The only purpose he had in mind was thrilling the “All-Story” readers for which the story was written. Burroughs had thought of “Zantar” and “Tublat-Zan” before deciding on the name “Tarzan”.
Tarzan was created by Burroughs as a hero with no flaws. Tarzan is Caucasian, tall, athletic and tanned with grey eyes. He is fearless and loyal. He does not have much problem in learning new languages when he steps out of jungle. Tarzan is shown as a family man loving his wife and caring for her. On a number of occasions when he is as shown as center of attraction of other women but he is always loyal to his wife. Tarzan is reserved with his friends but goes out of his way to help them. He is gifted with leadership skills. Many of the traits of loyalty, courage, family values stem from the fact that he spent his life in jungle where these are necessary to survive.
Although Tarzan can pass off easily as a “gentleman” in a civilized society, he is at home in the jungles sitting in the lap of nature. He wears a loin cloth made out of animal hide. He uses a knife for hunting. His staple diet is raw meat hunted with his own knife. He buries his food for some days so that it becomes tender. After living with apes he is comfortable with the idea of sleeping in tree branches.
Readers were anxious to know more about Tarzan after “Tarzan of the Apes”. Burroughs began working on a sequel “The Return of Tarzan”. He mailed it to Metcalf, editor of the “All-Story” magazine in January, 1913. To Burroughs’s utter surprise Metcalf rejected it. Burroughs was disappointed but nevertheless he went ahead to sell “The Return of Tarzan” to a rival magazine. To make Tarzan more popular and to earn more revenue Burroughs decided to publish Tarzan stories as books. When he approached publishers with his idea every publisher rubbished his idea and rejected the proposal. Albert Payson Terhune editor of Evening World, a New York newspaper, showed interest in serializing “Tarzan of the Apes”. Other newspapers also followed suit and it led to a tremendous increase in the readership of Tarzan. On seeing such a positive response even the book publishers started showing interest in Tarzan.
Burroughs chose A.C. McClurg & Co to publish Tarzan. In June 1914, “Tarzan of the Apes” appeared as a book. The book got good response although critics were not pleased. Immediately after the success of the book movie producers started showing interest in making a movie based on Tarzan. “Tarzan of the Apes” movie debuted on 27th Jan, 1918 and was a hit. Tarzan entered the world of comics in 1927 when Joe Neebe approached Burroughs with his idea of coming out with Tarzan newspaper comics. The Tarzan strip debuted on 7th January, 1929. The first Tarzan novel was published in sixty daily strips which were later published in book form. In 1931, Irving Thalberg, who owned MGM, approached Burroughs with a proposal to make a series of Tarzan movies. Johnny Weissmuller was cast as Tarzan. He was an Olympic swimming champion and had a body just perfect for the role. The movie “Tarzan the Ape Man” debuted in 1932 with astounding success. The movies made the already famous character more popular. In 1999, Disney released animated form of Tarzan proving that Tarzan is still as popular as ever.