Franchise / Tarzan

First created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, Tarzan has since swung through dozens of books, films and TV series, both straight and parodied. Tarzan is the quintessential jungle hero; white but at home in Darkest Africa. Often seen in a leopard Loin Cloth.

In the original books, Tarzan was the son of Lord Greystoke, raised by apes after being orphaned in Africa as a baby. After meeting Jane and learning the basics of human interaction, he left the jungle in search of his true love. They married and settled in England, where they had a son, but eventually grew tired of civilization and returned to the jungle.

Most of the films omit Tarzan's English sojourn and his status as Lord Greystoke. Instead, he has often been provided with a pet chimpanzee and an adopted son — the latter because the film Tarzan never formally married Jane, and thus was not allowed by the Hays office to actually have gotten her pregnant.

Tarzan's further adventures generally have one of two plots: either Tarzan discovers a Lost World, or he defends his African friends against European villains. Along the way, Tarzan and his family became immortal, if only in the literary sense.

The quote at the top of the page was a Beam Me Up, Scotty!, as Tarzan did not say it in any of the books, or even, exactly, in any movie - he just slapped his chest and said "Tarzan," then poked Jane and said "Jane." (In the books, Tarzan was very intelligent, and by the end of the series, spoke something like thirty languages; from the late 1950s onwards, the films began to usually depict Tarzan/Greystoke as intelligent and perfectly literate.) However, in the 2013 animated movie the phrase finally does appear.

The earlier Tarzan novels are out of copyright in the US, but not in Europe, and The Other Wiki suggests he's also trademarked by the author's company. Altogether, that explains why The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen only refers to him as "Lord Greystoke".

The Jungle Princess is his Distaff Counterpart.
For details of the novels, see Literature.Tarzan.

Adaptations of the Tarzan books include:

Film - Live Action
  • Johnny Weissmuller starred in the best known film series, starting in 1932 with Tarzan the Ape Man, followed up by eleven sequels up to 1948.
  • Tarzan the Fearless (1933) was released as both a movie and a serial. It starred Buster Crabbe, making him the only actor to play Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers. Crabbe, like Weissmuller, was an Olympic gold medalist in swimming, and a rivalry between the two was publicized. (In truth they had been friends for years.)
  • Bo Derek and Richard Harris once starred in another film titled Tarzan, the Ape Man in 1981, which was a more adult look at the Tarzan mythos, focusing mostly on Jane and featuring a large supply of Fanservice. The film was a flop since children could not see it, male audience members hoping to see a naked Bo Derek were disappointed to see what was mostly a romance film with Tarzan playing a supporting role, and female audience members were turned off by the more blatant scenes of nudity (if they were interested in seeing a "Tarzan film" to begin with). Derek reportedly firing most of the cast and crew before filming ended did not help matters, either.

Film - Animated
  • The Disney feature-length Tarzan cartoon was relatively free of gross instances of the studio's usual Disneyfication, although it did turn Jane from an American to a Brit among other things. It also had a villain named Clayton (note that Tarzan's real name in the book was John Clayton, not to be confused with this character who was Jane's fiancé, William Clayton, as well as Tarzan's cousin). The Disney Tarzan franchise also spawned an animated Spin-Off TV series (The Legend of Tarzan) and a stage musical (Tarzan the Musical).
  • Tarzan: A 3D animated film released in 2013, featuring Tarzan defending an ancient meteor crash site from the Corrupt Corporate Executive who killed his parents.

Live-Action TV
  • Several TV series. The best known in the United States is the 1966 series Tarzan, starring Ron Ely, which lasted for two seasons on NBC.
  • Tarzán was a French-Canadian-Mexican series that ran from 1991 to 1994, set in the present day and turning Jane into a French ecologist. With 75 half-hour episodes, it's actually the longest-running Tarzan TV series to date.
  • Tarzan: The Epic Adventures ran in syndication from 1996 to 1997, and drew more from Burroughs' books than most adaptations.

Newspaper Comics
  • A daily newspaper strip from 1929 to 1972 and a Sunday paper strip from 1931 to 2000, both distributed by King Features Syndicate and featuring the work of a variety of writers and artists, the two best known probably being Hal Foster (before he went on to create Prince Valiant) and Burne Hogarth (best known for his popular books on anatomy and lighting for artists).


Western Animation

Various adaptations provide examples of:

  • Barbarian Longhair: Being raised by apes, Tarzan doesn't pay much attention to how his hair looks. Though in the book series, after learning about "civilized" humans through his father's old books, he cut his hair with a knife to set himself apart. Though most adaptations after the Disney film have him keep his long hair.
  • Darkest Africa: A romanticized version of the jungle.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Tarzan is raised by apes and lives among them. In most adaptations he has a monkey or ape as his Non-Human Sidekick.
  • Evil Poacher: A Great White Hunter may threaten Tarzan and his animal friends at one point.
  • Fur Bikini: Jane often wears a variety of this after settling down in the jungle with Tarzan.
  • Hollywood Natives: In the older movies, before it became a Discredited Trope.
  • Hulk Speak: In the various movies, the ape man talks like this. Adaptations that hew closer to the books depict him becoming fluent in English (and other languages) in the years after his contact with civilization. In addition, beginning with the 1959 film Tarzan's Greatest Adventure starring Gordon Scott, and continuing through the James Bond-influenced late-60s films starring Mike Henry and the 1960s TV series, Tarzan was depicted as literate and spoke normally, averting the trope completely.
  • Hungry Jungle: Tarzan's home is full of dangerous wildlife.
  • Jungle Princess: Jane, in most versions, becomes one after leaving her civilized life behind and marrying Tarzan.
  • Jungles Sound Like Kookaburras: The Trope Codifier, as this franchise, set in the African jungle, used the kookaburra sound effect first in the 1930s.
  • Killer Gorilla: A common adversary of Tarzan. In some versions Tarzan's own ape family has members who fit this trope, and sometimes they are outsiders and enemies of Tarzan's tribe. The original books have both: Kerchak and Terkoz are evil members of Tarzan's tribe, the Mangani (a fictional species of great ape), and the Bolgani (gorillas) are enemies of the tribe.
  • Loin Cloth: Tarzan wears one. In some versions, the loincloth also has a strap across his shoulder.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The black-and-white movies often placed weird animals in the African jungle. The elephants for instance were Indian, but the film makers just provided some fake ears to them to make them appear more African.
  • Noisy Nature: That infamous kookaburra sound that you hear in EVERY jungle environment nowadays? Introduced by the 1930s Tarzan films.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Usually a monkey or ape (Cheetah the chimpanzee from the Johnny Weissmuller films being the most famous one), sometimes also an elephant, big cat or bird.
  • Omniglot: In the original books he speaks at least a dozen languages.
  • Panthera Awesome: Big cats such as lions and leopards (and sometimes tigers) are among Tarzan's most common opponents. Lions live on the savannah, so are Misplaced Wildlife, but not as misplaced as tigers who are from a different continent.
  • Primal Chest-Pound: Tarzan, being a man raised by apes, sometimes performs one, usually combined with his Signature Roar.
  • Signature Roar: Tarzan's yell, described in the book as "the victory cry of the bull ape." Later Tarzan adaptations still use Johnny Weissmuller 's Tarzan yell.
  • Tribal Carry
  • Vapor Wear: Jane's jungle dress, especially the Bare Your Midriff version.
  • Vine Swing: Tarzan's preferred transportation method, so much that he's the Trope Codifier. Surprisingly Averted in the original books, but done in just about every single other appearance.
  • Wild Child: Tarzan as a child. His own adopted son, Boy, also counts.