Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs
Terrific book of short Tarzan stories. The stories are not necessarily related, though they are chronological in order. They mostly deal with a very young Tarzan, still more ape than man, and his learning about the world. I love that sort of thing. (As a child I regularly read a French comic book series about a prehistoric man who traveled the world, meeting various peoples, having adventures, and always learning new things, such as swimming, fire, blowguns, glass, etc. I still have a couple of those books and they’re awesome.)
Anyway, in this book there’s lots of humor, action, and Burroughs does an incredible job of making us understand the savage mind and point of view. There is even some profundity: for instance, the story where Tarzan searches for God. God is a foreign concept to him, but he reads about it in the books left by his parents, and so searches for God, inquiring the wise old apes, the witch-doctor of the native village, and even asks the moon. Burroughs’ revelation of how Tarzan discovers God is clever: Tarzan discovers mercy and refrains from killing a helpless man. He cannot figure out what stayed his hand, but finally figures it must be God, because only God could be stronger than Tarzan. Neatly done (and probably a healthier concept of God than most people’s).
A central theme in all of Burroughs’ Tarzan stories is the conflict/differences between savagery and civilization, and he deftly brings that out in these stories, including one where he switches between the lives of two Lord Greystokes: the imposture in England and the savage in the African jungles, showing how each hunts, dines, and sleeps. The humor and irony is terrific: the “civilized” man shoots hundreds of harmless birds with a rifle as beaters drive the birds into the air, while the “savage” hunts with his bare hands and wits, and kills only what he needs to eat. In the end, it is the savage who sleeps peacefully, while the civilized man is up with pains from eating too much lobster and drinking too much wine. Hilarious!