The Beasts of Tarzan (Burroughs, E., R., 1914, 1916)

In many ways 3rd novel in the Tarzan series is the Tarzan I think of when there's talk about the mighty lord of the jungle; a savage, yet noble wild man, who can get the jungle beasts to his side only by calling them out. And better yet, he can make the beasts work together in order to do his bidding.

Rokoff, the evil Russian from the previous books, has set his revenge towards Tarzan in motion. He kidnaps him, his son and wife Jane. The villain intends to leave Tarzan to a deserted island, sell the kid to cannibals and have his way with Jane. All in all a dastardly plan, but Tarzan isn't so easily thwarted.

From the seemingly empty Jungle Island Tarzan finds  a tribe of apes lead by Akut, whom he manages to get to his side along with Sheeta, a panther. He also gets help of a black chief Mugambi, so all in all he has a good set of helpers with him during the game of cat and mouse with Rokoff.

 As you might imagine, in a solid pulp fiction fashion, Tarzan and Jane go through a load of hardships before all is said and done. Even Jane, unlike more typical heroines of the decade, gives some resistance to the foes. While Tarzan is tailing Rokoff, Jane herself is running from the Russ, aided by a Swedish chef of the villains vessel Kincaid. After a good chase Tarzan finally reaches Jane and Rokoff and while Tarzan himself doesn't give the final blow, the evil, cowardly villain meets his end in the fangs of Sheeta.

The end is terribly anticlimactic though, with an unnecessary set of secondary villains which just appear by a change. Rokoff is dead and his cohort Paulvitch sets a bomb to Tarzan's ship, which forces him and Jane to stay on a Jungle Island for a while. This leads a secondary villains to enter just to be killed off pretty soon. In all the final chapter is a fast forwarded tale that tells just the highlights, but forgets to be interesting at that. I'd even go as far as to claim that the finale drags otherwise good story down quite a bit and that's a shame, as clearly Burroughs just didn't know when to quit. Or then again, the story's origins as a serialized magazine story might have more to do with that.

The final chapters themselves could have worked as a basis for an another full length Tarzan story and in many ways that could have been more preferable. Paulovich himself could have been left in the jungle plotting his revenge while Tarzan and Jane return home. From this happy ending an another story could have easily been started, albeit in many ways it would have been just an another iteration of the same story.

All said, the Beasts of Tarzan is a fun read. Very much a products of its time, especially what comes to portrayal of native Africans, where cannibals are around every river bend.  Not to mention that the tribals are at best described as benign yet simple childlike creatures, not much above the apes of Tarzan. You could also fault the Beasts of being a tad xenophobic on what comes to non-English or French speaking Nations of the world, as very few of them are described as having any good in them starting from their appearance, despite the thug looking Swedish chef does end up being a man of honor.

Reading Tarzan makes the more unsavory elements of Burroughs's writing more apparent than they are in his Barsoom series for an example. In the Mars series the divide between primitive and civilized people of Mars is quite noticeable, but as they are aliens, the difference doesn't necessarily hit as close to home as it does with Tarzan stories when the subject matter comes from real Earth countries and locations, written by a man who hasn't necessarily done his due diligence about the places or people he's basing the story on.

You could, if you wanted to, over analyze everything in the writings of Burroughs. Hell, it's not even a difficult thing to do, especially with the overly sensitive, politically correct obsessed world we life in today. But then again you could just take the story as it is and try to enjoy it as a product of its time.

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