People are talking about Tarzan and its great. If only because right now I am reading the books for the first time.
Jeffro has a link and some comments up, which in turn links to Cirsova’s blog which links into a video of Liana Kerzner’s review of the new Tarzan Movie. Also there is the Blog post about Appendix N at Jeffro’s blog which got me to start reading the books in the first place.
Now for my discussion I am going to have to invent a straw-man. I am not a great writer so please forgive this. Let us call him Ed.
Now Ed says Jane is nothing but a damsel in distress who Tarzan has to save over and over again. Then he may or may not add a bunch of Anita Sarkeesian feminist critical theory into the mix claiming sexism. Or maybe just say it is convoluted simply to add suspense and drama.
Ed is right about Jane being a damsel in distress but anything further, at least in the one and half books I have read, would be cherry picking. Jane is often in distress and in need of rescuing from convoluted dangerous scenarios but Jane ain’t the only one.
Before continuing it must also be said that Tarzan is not just a rescuing hero. Jeffro in his comments touches on this.
“Tarzan was not a white Savior story. It was Jungle Book meets Treasure Island meets Pride & Prejudice.”
Which is absolutely correct. Tarzan grows from infant to man in the jungle. He talks to apes. He tames an elephant which he rides. He gives, or perhaps his ape tribe did, names to the beasts in the jungle. There is a literal buried treasure. There are seamen who are mutineers, two crews of them separated by 18 years, if not out right pirates. And yes even a Jane Austen-esque romance plot complete with Tarzan’s Jane frustrated by the choice of following her heart’s passion into Tarzan’s jungle or following her reason into the arms of a British Lord.
Not only that but about a half dozen other things as well not the least of which is Edgar Rice Burroughs exploration into the noble savage and the age old debate of nature vs nurture.
Jeffro also wrote “It really is something.” Not sure if he is right. Tarzan comes close to having everything, or at least so much packed into so few pages that that alone makes it a wonder.
Anyway Tarzan’s Jane is a damsel in distress but she ain’t the only one. From the top and from my imperfect memory.
- He saves an ape from being killed by the alpha ape of his ape tribe.
- Tarzan avenges the death of his ape mother. Not a rescue but similar in character and motivation.
- He saves a female ape of his ape tribe from an abusive mate.
- He saves Clayton (Tarzan’s cousin but no one knows that but the reader) from being shot in the back by a mutineer.
- He again saves Clayton from a lion attack.
- He saves Jane’s father and his assistant from a lion attack.
- He saves Jane and Esmeralda (Esmeralda is Jane’s and her father’s servant) from a lion.
- He saves Jane from a raping ape.
- He saves D’Arnot (a French Lieutenant and later friend) from cannibals.
- He leads D’Arnot to civilization (not a real rescue but D’Arnot never would have made back alone)
- He saves some people at a hunting camp from a mad man with a knife.
- He saves Jane from a forest fire in Wyoming (This one did bother me. Yeah it strains belief that many lions are man eaters but how hard is it to avoid a forest fire in friggin Wyoming in 1914?)
- He saves Jane’s father from crushing debt.
- He saves Jane from a bad marriage.
- He saves Jane’s and Clayton’s engagement and future happy life by withholding his status as Lord of Greystoke.
In the next book which I have not finished
- He saves a Count’s honor by exposing a card shark
- He saves the Count’s wife from being choked to death
- He tries to save a woman but it turns out she was a prostitute and her calls for help were a lure to trap him.
- He nearly sacrifices his life in a pistol duel with the Count above to protect the honor of the Count and his wife and their marriage.
- He saves an Arab slave belly dancer from slavery. In turn she saves him back later.
- He saves a black man, who he at first thought about killing but changed his mind, from a lion attack.
- He joins that man’s tribe and saves it first by rescuing all the women and children from Arab slave traders and cannibals and then by formulating guerrilla and executing war tactics to remove the Arab and cannibal host from their village.
Where I am in the second book right now Tarzan is about to save a high priestess, whom moments before was about to sacrifice him, from one of her acolytes who has gone mad.
Also Jane, her father, his assistant, Esmeralda, and Clayton are adrift off the African coast with Jane and Clayton specifically about to die of thirst and hunger. I get the funny feeling that Tarzan will end up saving them.
As anyone should be able to see from the list above Tarzan has a propensity for saving people, apes, and whatever that high priestess is. Not even sure she is human. Neanderthal?
To say specifically Jane is a damsel in distress and not take the whole story into account as a reflection of Tarzan’s character rather then a reflection of Jane’s can only be described as cherry picking.
Tarzan is a hero. Anyone in his orbit will invariably be at some point in distress and he will do what heroes do and save them.