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Synopsis

Edgar Rice Burroughs was less than impressed with Jane as the mate for Tarzan thinking that La, the High Priestess of Opar was a better match. With the Germans making themselves international bad guys by starting the First World War, ERB took advantage of their moving against British possessions in Africa to kill off Jane in this seventh novel in the Tarzan series. Tarzan the Untamed was first published as a six-part serial in The Red Book Magazine in 1919 with the story continued as Tarzan and the Valley of Luna in a five-part serial in All-Story Weekly in 1920. The result is one of the most atypical Burroughs pulp fiction yarns, in which the standard romantic adventure has the hero (whether he is Tarzan, Korak, John Carter, David Innes, etc.) pursuing his beloved (Jane, Miriam, Dejah Thoris, etc.) across a dangerous environment (darkest Africa, Barsoom, Pellucidar, etc.). But in Tarzan the Untamed, the hero is out for revenge. The result is arguably ERBs best Tarzan novel, past paced and with a prose style that rises above his average effort.

This is amply proven in the opening chapter. Hauptmann Fritz Schneider and his men stumble upon the estate of John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, in British East Africa in the fall of 1914. Tarzan and his son, Korak, are away, and Lady Jane does not know that war has broken out between German and the British Empire, so she welcomes them to her home. Meanwhile, Tarzan learns of the war in Nairobi and hurries home only to find the smoking ruins of his estate when he returns. Wasimbu, the son of Muviro, has been crucified on the wall, and the rest of the natives are all dead. Tarzan also finds the charred body of his wife, recognizable only the rings on her fingers. Cursing the Germans, Tarzan swears vengeance and leaves behind the trappings of civilization. During a tremendous thunderstorm, Tarzan kills a leopard, symbolizing the return of the Lord of the Jungle--and this is just the first chapter.

Tarzan heads south into German East Africa and almost immediately begins wrecking havoc on the Germans, displaying same sort of animal cunning and creative cruelty that he displayed as a youth in Tarzan of the Apes (and covered a bit as well in The Jungle Tales of Tarzan). Even encountering an entrenched German army does not stop Tarzan from getting his revenge on his enemy. Eventually he finds an English flier, Lieutenant Harold Percy Smith-Oldwick, who is captured by cannibals and in need of rescue, and who becomes the character who argues, rather unconvincingly I might add, for Tarzan to be civilized in his one-man war against the Germans. But nothing is going to stop Tarzan from hunting down every last one of the invaders who destroyed his home and killed his wife. Of course, the circumstances of Janes death lead us to suspect the surprise that awaits Tarzan at the end of this adventure and which sets up the next novel, Tarzan the Terrible.

The Tarzan series does become extremely formulaic by the time you get halfway through the twenty-four volumes, but it is worthwhile to at least make you way through the first eight volumes (maybe a bit further, especially if you like lions). Tarzan the Terrible is perhaps the quintessential Tarzan novel and the original Tarzan of the Apes is the one essential ERB novel to read, but I would agree that Tarzan the Untamed is the best yarn in the bunch. Final Note: Not surprisingly, this Tarzan novel was not well received in post-war Germany and effectively ended the publication of Burroughs work in that country.

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