Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Tarzan #02 - Return of Tarzan

I really enjoyed the Tarzan debut, Tarzan of the Apes, authored by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was first published in 1912 in The All-Story and then later published as a novel in 1914. The book ended in what I would consider a cliff-hanger with a lot of loose ends requiring a resolution. The series second installment, The Return of Tarzan, does just that. It was first published in New Story Magazine from June through December of 1913. Later, it was published as a hardcover in 1915.

In this installment, Tarzan has an impromptu meeting with a French leader named Count Raoul. This leader assigns Tarzan the role of secret agent, working in Algeria to out two Russian criminals. This portion of the novel really surprised me, as the narrative explodes into a Nick Carter-esque adventure as Tarzan tangles with the criminals. After the skirmish, and the assignment, Tarzan joins a ship headed to Cape Town and creates a friendship with Hazel Strong, a friend of Tarzan's love interest, Jane Porter. Unfortunately, the two Russians joined the ship's passage and throw Tarzan overboard. He washes up on the same coastline he called home in the series debut. Through a wild sequence of events, Tarzan becomes the new chief of the Waziri, a fictional African tribe.

Coincidentally, Jane and her fiance, William Clayton (Tarzan's cousin) are also in route to the west coast of Africa. Ironically, their ship sinks and Clayton and Jane join a lifeboat with one of the Russian criminals. It's this part of Burrough's story that is absolute agony to behold. These characters are left to die without food and water. The extreme circumstances lead to a coin toss to determine which living person will be eaten by the others to survive. This is written with an emotional touch and also places William Clayton into a respectable light as protector and caregiver for Jane (albeit short lived).

Eventually, Jane and William wash up on the coastline shared by Tarzan, and the loose ends are all neatly tied up. William and Jane's proposed marriage ends (no spoilers on how) and Tarzan and Jane are reunited. More importantly, Jane also learns that Tarzan is a Greystoke and the sacrifice he made to keep that fact a secret from her.

The Return of Tarzan also introduces a mainstay of the series, the Lost City of Opar. Tarzan is taken prisoner there and first meets the villain La. It is here that Tarzan discovers a wealth of gold, fortunes that he will eventually return to again and again. There is a brief backstory on Opar's history, but Philip Jose Farmer fleshes this out in his own Tarzan stories and two non-Tarzan novels, Hadon of Ancient Opar (1974) and Flight to Opar (1976).

As an adventure novel, ERB offers so much for the reader in this one book. Shipwrecks, castaways, espionage, desert chases, seemingly endless fights, treasure hunts, survival horror, jungle adventure, and heaps of action. This is really a perfect novel by a fantastic author. As good as Tarzan of the Apes was, this sequel might be just as good. A must-read vintage novel! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.


  1. ERBs Tarzan stories still pack a punch. (They way I like my pulp adventures written in the early 20th Century.) When I was a lad I was lasered in to those great covers from those great artists hanging in the paperback rack. My favorite is TARZAN AND THE LEOPARD MEN when our hero has amnesia. Good Stuff...

  2. Interesting review. (I had read the original, and been surprised by the loose ends you pointed out, but never got to the sequel. But that just might be on the to-do list now . . .)

  3. Great post! The Return of Tarzan is, as you point out, the resolution of the questions left unanswered at the end of Tarzan of the Apes. To me, these books are two halves of the same story; you shouldn't read one without the other even if it wasn't packed with action from cover to cover. As you mentioned, it also introduces La of Opar, arguably the first great femme fatale of the Pulp Era. Thanks for putting a spotlight on a great book.