Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Movie & Book Series Review: Tarzan 1-3

Did you go see The Legend of Tarzan in the theaters? That was the one thing I was SO bummed I was missing out on when we went on vacation in July because it came out then. Well when we got back Zach, Mallory and I went and it was SO GOOD! I loved getting more of his story, and getting one that had historical value and depth to it. 
Great preview right!? 

So after loving that, having watched many of the past versions of his story (George of the Jungle, Disney's Tarzan, etc.), and knowing I had the first book in the original book series by Edgar Rice Burroughs at my middle school library I had to know how they compared to the book. I decided to grab it and give it a try! 
Tarzan of the Apes, Book 1 - 4 Stars
The Return of Tarzan, Book 2 - 4 Stars
Beasts of Tarzan, Book 3 - 3 Stars 
Series: Tarzan 
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs 
Original Release dates: 1912, 1913, 1914 

These books begin with the story of John Clayton II, Lord Greystoke, and his new, young wife Alice Clayton, Lady Greystoke, in 1888 on their way to a new land and a new position for the young Lord to take on in Africa. Unfortunately there is a vicious mutiny on the ship they are on. The young couple is saved from death by a crew member who Lord Greystoke defended, but only so far as having their entire collection of belongings and much of the food brought to a random shoreline and left behind. The young couple does a decent job of surviving for a while, but Lady Alice never recovers from having a son and some large shocks from the encroaching clan of gorillas. After she passes and before she can be buried, the king of the apes, Kerchak, savagely kills John and wrecks havoc on their cabin. Fortunately, a female ape, Kala, who has just lost her babe to a terrible tantrum from a male ape finds the baby John Clayton III and takes him on naming him Tarzan, "white skin." And so begins the adventures of Tarzan among the violent world of the apes of the jungle living in mostly solitude on the outside of the ape clan until he finds his family's cabin and figures out how to get into it. After discovering this he begins to teach himself how to read with the books his mother loving brought with her for just such a time. Of course eventually explorers arrive and it begins to get even more interesting then I thought it could. 

My thoughts on the books: These were FANTASTIC! After reading the first book I immediately went on Goodreads to see which book was next and exactly how many books were in the series. Boy was I surprised! There are 24 books in this series! I quick went to the public library and grabbed book 2 & 3 which they happened to have on the shelf and started reading. Again...FANTASTIC! These were full of action and adventure from beginning to end. They were filled with great detail, but not too much and seemed so knowledgeable for someone who was an American writer from Chicago! When I read about him it never said he even traveled abroad = wow!

I really liked how believable these were. I could really jump into them and be carried away into the jungle with the characters. The stories were full of such a wide adventure too which if I told one to you would seem bizarre because it's so vast but when you read it everything just fits and works. One of the things that makes everything so believable is that the life in the jungle is very brutal, and Burroughs never strays from how brutal it is for Tarzan and his "people". 

I did begin to notice that the books began to take on a template of far too much similarity in their plots. I decided to not continue with the series at this point, but may in the future. I will definitely be buying books 2 & 3 for the library as well as a newly updated one over the 70's version we currently have of book 1 hoping to get some kids into them now that I know how great they are.

My thoughts on the Movie v. Books: This most recent movie, The Legend of Tarzan, is the closest to the books stories then any other. The origin story isn't right but it's not entirely wrong either. The natives and Jane's back story are a bit closer, except that Jane's father is actually a bit like the one in the Disney film. The thing that really compares is the brutality of the jungle, its inhabitants and the people he interacts with. There are some very scary moments in this movie, as well as some terrible violence which is very hard to watch. I knew that much of it was CGI but it was so well done and incredibly beautiful making me just not care. Plus, Jane in the books may not be quite as kick ass as the one in the film, but she IS extremely resilient and quite incredible in a time when women were expected to look good, marry and have babies. Disney on the other hand, seems to have taken random people from Burroughs's books, and the very general story and then done whatever they wanted with it. Ridiculous as usual when compared to this classic, but on its own its still pretty adorable and fun. Plus, the music is fantastic. 

We will certainly be buying this recent movie for our collection and enjoying it over and over again. 

p.s. I was SO darn thrilled that there is a part of Book 1 that takes place in Wisconsin! Too fun! 
What did you think? 


  1. I haven't seen the movie yet but I want to. Nice to see reviews of the books. I read the first one I think years ago, but I don't remember much. And I've read a few of the others over the years, Jewels of Opar and Forgotten City come to mind. I know I read Forgotten City as a kid and loved it, so I re- read it recently and it held up pretty well. It is true they get formulaic after a while, but there a few gems in the rough.

    I'm especially interested in the movie as it does sound like it captures the spirit of the books perhaps more than other versions.

    1. Yes exactly. The spirit of the books is exactly it. More movies would be welcome and enjoyable if they are done in this way!