An aristocratic English family is marooned off the coast of West Africa. They find their way into the interior of the dense jungle that lines the coast and here, Lord Greystoke is killed by a predatory ape. Lady Greystoke survives with her infant boy, but in a few months, she too succumbs to the perils of jungle life. The baby is adopted by a maternal she-ape who nurses him along with her own child. This marks the dawn of a legend – Tarzan of the Apes.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American novelist who turned to fiction writing after an unsuccessful stint as a pencil sharpener salesman. His shrewd business acumen and marketing blitzkrieg ensured that Tarzan burst upon the world in the form of novels, comic-strips, films and merchandise. The legend of Tarzan took on the proportions of an icon that has endured ever since it first appeared in 1912.
Since then, nearly 26 books and short stories featuring the Lord of the Jungle appeared in various magazines and in serial form. It seemed as if the world could not get enough of this rough hewn nobleman, clad in leopard skin and leaping through the magnificent forests of darkest Africa.
Tarzan of the Apes is the very first book in the series. The plot is fast paced and the style captures the reader's interest till the very last chapter. The young orphan grows up with a tribe of apes, but all the while knowing that he is different from them. He chances upon a small metal box which contains his father's diary, faded photographs and artifacts that once belonged to his dead parents and finally begins to understand his true heritage. His growth into manhood and his journey to England to trace his lost inheritance form the rest of this compelling story.
Generations of readers have enjoyed and loved memorable characters in the book like the maternal she-ape, Kala, the villainous males Kerchak and Tublat and of course, the gorgeous Jane who captures the jungle hero's heart. Tarzan is portrayed as the symbol of pure and untainted manhood, perfect both physically and mentally and this is probably the secret of his enduring appeal over so many decades.
Though modern-day readers may find parts of the novel dated and not politically correct, it remains a classical coming of age story that appeals to young and old alike. Adventure, thrills and romance interspersed with exciting episodes of combat and villainy make it an exciting read.