The Jungle Tales of Tarzan is the sixth book in the Tarzan series but chronologically it actually takes place during the first Tarzan novel, Tarzan of the Apes. This book consists of twelve short stories that deal with Tarzan's days prior to meeting Jane but after the death of his foster mother Kala. These twelve short stories ran monthly in Blue Book magazine before eventually be published in book form in 1919, and though each chapter can be considered as individual stories they as a collection are connected with one major theme, Tarzan realizing that though he is surrounded by numerous jungle residents he is in fact quite alone.
It’s in the opening story "Tarzan’s First Love"
that sticky topic of bestiality is danced around. Tarzan has been
raised by apes since he was but an infant and so his views on beauty are
a tad different than what most English Lords would have had. The young
female ape Teeka catches Tarzan’s eye for she is quite beautiful, by ape
standards, and Tarzan does his best to win her love. Clearly love is in
the eye of the beholder and to Tarzan this she-ape is everything one
could want in a mate, but unfortunately the feeling isn’t actually
mutual. Tarzan may have grown-up thinking the Great Apes of the Tribe of
Kerchak bestial appearances are normal but that also means Tarzan’s
appearance are not the norm. Tarzan is a hairless ape, and without even a
decent set of fighting fangs. That Teeka would prefer fellow ape Taug
over Tarzan is no surprise, but then when Tarzan saves Teeka, from the
savage claws of Numa the lion, Teeka chooses Tarzan. Sadly fickel is
the heart of a she-ape for when Tarzan roams off into the jungle to hunt
he later returns to find Teeka grooming Taug. You can practically hear
Tarzan’s heart breaking.
When Tarzan finds Taug trapped by the
local natives he at first thinks finally Teeka will be his, but when he
breaks the news of Taug’s capture he notices Teeka’s wistful expression
of sorrow, and when the sad Teeka snuggles up to Tarzan he puts his arm
around her he finally notices, “The strange incongruity of that smooth, brown arm against the black and hairy coat of his lady-love.”
This causes an epiphany within Tarzan as he realizes that all the other
species of the jungle have matching mates but him, that even though, “The males and the females differed it was true; but not with such differences as existed between Tarzan and Teeka.” Tarzan screams at the heavens, beating his fists against his breast, railing against the unfairness of his life.
eventually rescues Taug from the natives, and later he becomes
godfather to Teeka and Taug’s child, but still Tarzan is alone. It’s
seeing the bond between Teeka and her baby that leads Tarzan to one of
his more questionable decisions, the kidnapping of a ten year old native
boy. He quickly realizes that taking care of a child that is constantly
terrified of the creatures in the jungle may have been a mistake as
even Tarzan’s ape companions want this kid dead. In the end Tarzan comes
to grips with the fact that Kala loved him, Teeka loves her baby, and
that the mother of this poor snatched kid is now living in grief because
of his actions. So Tarzan returns the child.
there is Teek’s balu,” he soliloquized; “for Sabor there are balus, and
for the she-Gomangani, and for Bara, and for Manu, and even Pamba, the
rat; but for Tarzan there can be none – neither a she nor a balu. Tarzan
of the Apes is a man, and it must be that man walks alone.”
central theme of these stories focus on how even though Tarzan may be
“Lord of the Jungle” he is still a lonely figure, aching for someone to
share his life with, but that’s not all on offer here; Tarzan is no
tragic figure moping around the jungle like a half-naked Hamlet, we
still get plenty of jungle fun. Tarzan hangs with his pal Tantor, the
elephant, murders the shit out of anyone or anything that stands in his
way, hunts for god, plays practical jokes, and even rescues the moon.
The Jungle Tales of Tarzan
give us a great glimpse into the youthful days of Tarzan and really
shows us that this creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs was a lot more deep
and complicated than many people thought. A man raised by apes would
certainly have different set of morals, and his personal code was
something he developed overtime. Tarzan is one cruel bastard, many of
his practical jokes involve killing some hapless sap, but you can see in
these stories the seed of the man that Jane will eventually meet and
fall in love with.