Review: Tarzan and the Castaways

Tarzan and the Castaways

Based on other reviews I’ve read of this book, part of it may have been dropped from the Kindle version I own. I will review what I read and check the print copy later to see if I did, indeed, miss something. I can’t miss any Tarzan, that’s not happening.

I went back to the print copy and found the two missing stories. Their reviews have been added at the end of this one.

Tarzan and the Castaways

I have already established in other reviews that Tarzan has suffered too many blows to the head for anyone’s mental health. This kind of injury takes its toll as many boxers and football players can tell you. It isn’t clear what happened this time, but Tarzan hasn’t lost his memories for a change. This time around he has aphasia and has lost the ability to produce or understand language. An evil Arab convinces Krause, a German, to buy him and take him to America where he can exhibit him as a wild man. Just as we know that a blow to the head will induce temporary amnesia (or aphasia) or that half the men in Europe look exactly like Tarzan, we know that a ship traveling to or from Africa will eventually be taken over by pirates or mutineers. In this case it’s both as mutineers take over the ship and then turn pirate.

This was written around the beginning of World War II so the Germans are firmly in place as the villains once more and they capture a English pleasure yacht. This introduces one of the worst and funniest characters of all Edgar Rice Burroughs books, Aunt Penelope. She is a snobbish American who takes umbrage at Tarzan’s nudity and takes every opportunity to denigrate him. It’s partially his fault because he and another captive, a young girl who has been thrust into his cage hoping he would ravish and/or eat her, convince her that he’s eating human remains. Still, the woman is over-the-top and ridiculous and deliciously stupid and I loved it. I spent half the book waiting for her to find out that Tarzan is also John Clayton, Lord Greystoke. I should mention that Tarzan spontaneously regains his use of language without the need for another blow to the head so he could have defended himself, but he can’t be bothered and that just makes it all that much more fun.

The entire crew – good, bad, and Tarzan – all end up castaway on an uncharted island. The previous occupants, a lost Mayan civilization, take exception to this intrusion and Tarzan gets involved with a woman who was meant to be sacrificed. Some of the Mayans think he is Che, the forest god, and others think he has profaned against Che and needs to be killed – not the best start for new neighbors. Mutineers, Mayans, and a bunch of captive carnivores that Tarzan insisted on letting loose on the island make for a lot of conflict and adventure.

As I mentioned in the review of Tarzan and the Forbidden City, Tarzan keeps running into women who fall for him and he doesn’t do nearly enough to discourage him. I find myself indignant on Jane’s behalf and wonder what was happening in ERB’s life while he was writing these later books. I know he got divorced in 1935 and married his best friend and business partner’s wife and then divorced her 9 years later, so I can’t imagine his relationship with women was very healthy. Maybe that’s why we keep seeing this kind of not-so-honorable behavior in Tarzan. I don’t remember noticing this when I was a young teen, but as an adult I just want him to wear a wedding ring or something.

Three stars – one extra for the harpy, she really did make me laugh.

​Tarzan and the Champion

In this short story, found in the book, Tarzan and The Castaways, Tarzan encounters a Sylvester-Stallone-style boxer who is arrogant, mouthy, and ridiculous. The champion decides to head to Africa and kill a bunch of animals with a machine gun. Naturally enough, Tarzan objects and tells him to get out of his country. Before he can enforce his dictum, the champion and he are both captured by cannibals and Tarzan has to rise to the occasion and rescue the champion and his manager. It’s a very short story but it’s also quite funny and I enjoyed it. Maybe ERB should have written more short stories because this forced him to focus on small moments and not have long drawn-out rescues, recaptures, and more rescues. It made for a nice, tight plot.

Four stars – I thought moments of this were laugh-aloud funny and the story was tight and never lagged.

Tarzan and the Jungle Murders

The third of three stories in Tarzan and the Castaways, this one is more of a mystery than an adventure. Tarzan stumbles across a couple of downed airplanes and we are shown in flashback the events leading up to the crashes. I was shocked by one of the deaths in the story – it was very much out of character for ERB to kill this person off. It served to focus the story on mystery rather than adventure, so it probably worked as intended, but it still felt wrong. It should come as no surprise that Tarzan is an excellent detective, he’s good at everything, but the story is not one of my favorites. There are too many flashbacks and not enough focus on the present. I think it’s a good thing that ERB stuck to adventure instead of mystery, this is not his forte.

Three stars – Tarzan should stick to jungle swinging and leave detective work to Sherlock Holmes.

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