East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle


Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle

I was talking with my friend Claire, last night, and the discussion shifted – as it is only natural, between a man and a woman during a stormy summer night – to the Tarzan animated series from Filmation.
Called Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, and it was originally released in 1976.

According to my friend Claire, the series was horrible.
I beg to differ.

OK, granted – Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle had all the drawbacks of Saturday-morning cartoons.
Technically speaking, it suffered from a certain jerkiness of the animation due to the low frame-rate, and it featured a lot of recycled footage – the scene in which Tarzan vaults through the trees, the one in which he’s running, the croc sliding into water… we see them again and again.


But, again on the technical side, the look of the series is pretty good. The rotoscoped animation is always a pleasure, and the referencing of Burne Hogarth for the look of the characters and for the colors and intricacy of the jungle is a pleasant surprise.

One of the funny bits is, any viewer familiar with the Tarzan character from the movies will be somewhat baffled by the stories featured in the series.
Lost cities?
Prehistoric animals?
Vikings? Amazons? Conquistadores?

And yet, this is Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan – and the jungle crowded with lost civilizations, ancient relics and people that time forgot is pretty much the standard fare ERB served in his Tarzan novels.

Tarzan speaks Mangani when interacting with animals1, and is in general a character straddling the line between civilization and savagery – which is exactly what Tarzan should be.


So, all in all, it is not really ghastly2.
Sure, the stories are somewhat formulaic – but so was Burroughs’ original narrative.
If possible, here the formula is let down by the brevity of the episodes, and by the obvious oversimplifications that were necessary to bring the story to the screen.
But all in all, it’s still a nice way to waste half an hour once in a while.
And a thousand times better – for my money – than the animated Disney version.

  1. and incidentally, I downloaded the Mangani vocabulary you can find here, and I’m trying to learn the lingo – it will look great on my CV together with English, Spanish, French and Japanese, and it is much weirder, nowadays, than Klingon or High Elvish. 
  2. and yes, young, Medieval-History-loving Claire, surrounded by Tarzan fanatics, was somewhat justified in her lack of enthusiasm. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

9 thoughts on “Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle

  1. Did I really say “horrible”?
    Well, I dare say my five-year old self thought it – and I can’t say I ever went back to make sure…
    But, as I said, you must imagine two or three miserably rainy weeks at the seaside, and a steady diet of Tarzan (animated or not) on the telly, and (mostly male) playmates who wouldn’t make-believe anything but darn Tarzan…
    So yes – I pretty much hated it back then.
    But even later, I never managed to like Tarzan in any form – written, animated or otherwise, so it’s perfectly possible I’m just not a Tarzanish kind of girl…
    And now I’m curious: are other creatures – such as, say, elephants – supposed to speak/understand Mangani too? Don’t elephants have a language of their own? If not, why would they understand the one of the apes? Or does Tarzan only speak with apes? Isn’t he on speaking terms with elephants?


  2. Oh, ye woman of little faith and no Burroughsian knowledge! 🙂
    Here… be filled yourself with still greater wonder:

    “Tarzan’s reply filled D’Arnot with still greater wonder: I speak only the language of my tribe—the great apes who were Kerchak’s; and a little of the languages of Tantor, the elephant, and Numa, the lion, and of the other folks of the jungle I understand. ” (Tarzan of the Apes, chapter 23)

    (and yes, you did say horrible)


  3. Good – but what does he speak when he wants to be understood by Tantor, Numa and their folks?


    • Their own language – that has not a specific name (or if it has, Burroughs never told us what it is).


      • But no – he says he only speaks the language of his tribe, and understands the other languages “a little”…

        But perhaps the elephants have some Mangani for when the troublesome white ape arrives with his high-flown notions? Elephants are smart creatures.

        And suddenly… Oh, forgive me – but I can’t keep myself: suddenly I can see The Adventures of Tantor, the Elephant Lord, minding his elephant business, with the Troublesome White Ape appearing now and then, trying to explain things in Jungle Pidgin. And then all sorts of language misunderstandings ensue, because the Mangani for “O huge brethren of the long trunk, let us flatten those evil invading tribesmen” sounds uncomfortably like Elephant “The pen is on the table”…

        *Ducks for cover – really quick…*


        • Read the books, my dear…

          “Much there was which Tarzan could make Tantor understand, and though the small talk of the wild was beyond the great, gray dreadnaught of the jungle, he stood with blinking eyes and gently swaying trunk as though drinking in every word of it with keenest appreciation. As a matter of fact it was the pleasant, friendly voice and caressing hands behind his ears which he enjoyed, and the close proximity of him whom he had often borne upon his back since Tarzan, as a little child, had once fearlessly approached the great bull, assuming upon the part of the pachyderm the same friendliness which filled his own heart.

          In the years of their association Tarzan had discovered that he possessed an inexplicable power to govern and direct his mighty friend. At his bidding, Tantor would come from a great distance—as far as his keen ears could detect the shrill and piercing summons of the ape-man—and when Tarzan was squatted upon his head, Tantor would lumber through the jungle in any direction which his rider bade him go. It was the power of the man-mind over that of the brute and it was just as effective as though both fully understood its origin, though neither did. “


          • Oh dear… I’m afraid this – the tone, the attitude, the countless perfections and accomplishments of Tarzan himself – is what put me off when I did try one of the books.

            Needless to say, I didn’t go far.

            But then, I don’t have to: I have someone knowledgeable I can pester with silly questions whenever I feel curious… 🙂


  4. I daresay you do… 😉


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