9. John Clayton, Earl Greystoke (Tarzan of the Apes)
decided to conduct a little experiment about my choice for number 9 on
this list. I talked with some people I know about how Tarzan was going
to be one of my favorite characters and everybody scoffed at the idea. I
even received a few “Me Tarzan, you Jane” references from the old
serials. My hypothesis was confirmed that the old serials from the
1930-1950s have done quite a bit to damage the public’s perception of
the character of Tarzan.
Likewise, you are probably thinking to yourself, “What is Tarzan
doing on a list of favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy characters?”
Well, I think he is a character that belongs on any list of greatest
characters, Sci-Fi or otherwise. During the late 19th century through the early 20th
century, the golden age of science fiction literature began. Authors
like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells should ring a bell to anyone who has
read a book. While, I give credit to both Verne and Wells in developing
grand concepts and predictions never before imagined, the characters in
their stories often took a back seat to the concept. Not many people can
name the main character of The Time Machine (trick question, he’s the Time Traveler) or tell you who else was in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea beside Captain Nemo.
Where time travel and nuclear submarines have been the most memorable
parts of the aforementioned works, Edgar Rice Burroughs focused on his
characters. Who could forget John Carter, sadly the victim of an
unsuccessful but enjoyable movie, and Tarzan of the Apes? Tarzan, as
Burroughs writes him, is somewhat of a superhero both extremely strong
and extremely intelligent. He actually taught himself to read from
abandoned books in his dead father’s tree house. Obviously, the Tarzan
of the books is a far cry from the Tarzan of the serials and movies.
Burroughs noticed this very fact and in his book, Tarzan and the Lion Man, Tarzan is rejected by Hollywood to play himself in a movie.
Okay, so why does Tarzan belong on a list of Sci-Fi and Fantasy
characters? Tarzan has been on many adventures into lost cities, has
jousted with Crusader knights, finds a Roman legion, travels to places
in Africa with dinosaurs still roaming, has visited the Earth’s core,
and fought mad scientists. In addition, Burroughs even developed an
entire Ape language for use in his books similar to a certain fantasy
trilogy and its Elvish language.
Best portrayal: Tarzan the Untamed
Greatest moment(s): As a young boy, Tarzan, armed
with only his father’s old knife takes down a full sized Gorilla showing
why he is destined to become King of the Jungle.