Tarzanism #1: “Curbing the anthropocentrism”

Some of my friends abroad have asked me to write my blog in English, so they could read it. I don’t think my English is good enough for writing properly about some (in many ways quite complicated) socio-political-issues which I have formerly dealt with in this blog, like animal rights-issues, racism etc., but I just decided to start a new category to my blog for my friend’s amusement, which I call “The Tarzanisms”.

I got the idea when reading some Tarzan-books again as an adult. Now all of them are found on the internet.
As everyone who has read the original Tarzan-books knows, Tarzan-novels are very violent and sometimes even openly racist. I realized that obviously Tarzan’s philosophy must have influenced me a lot throughout my life. For example I actually used to be quite racist and misogynist as a kid, but also very cynical about human’s superiority over other animals. I hated clothes and all kind of formality and civilization, and wanted to run around naked all the time, just like tarzan. I also enjoyed a lot fighting other kids. Then I found punk rock and hardcore and had other new interests and everything changed, but that’s another story.

All those qualities as a small child might have been a result of reading too much Tarzan and taking it too seriously and being a somewhat troubled child. I also was a quite violent kid and answered with my fists in many occasions. That must also have had something to do with me being so short and small compared to other kids of my age, but Tarzan books also taught me, that to attack is the best way to defend yourself. I felt like living amongst beasts and thought that I must act accordingly. Well. sometimes I still feel like living amongst savages, but I don’t believe in violence as a solution to almost anything anymore, even though I truly love and appreciate martial arts.

Fortunately I have also outgrown misogynism and racism. So if Tarzan has influenced me, I have only picked up some of the influence, not the whole package.

Tarzan-books by Edgar Rice Burroughs must have been the first novels I have ever read myself. I got first dozen of them (translated to finnish language) from my grandparents, when I had just learned how to read as a five year old kid. I still have them. They are very old and fragile and precious to me.

As a kid I just couldn’t bother to read every page of the books, but I searched all the episodes from the text, where Tarzan got in to a fight or did some other heroic, often violent stuff. I wasn’t that interested about the doings of supporting characters, which I also prefer to be pretty hollow in Tarzan-books, now that I look at them again as an adult. At some point I started to read the whole books, not only the action-parts. I read them again and again. And after I had read all the first twelve books (from Tarzan of the apes [1912] to Tarzan, Lord of the jungle [1927]) we went to the library with my mother and borrowed all Tarzan-books I didn’t have at home.

I also wrote a lot of my own (also very violent) Tarzan-stories. I did not know what for example an “adjutant” meant, but my stories were full of them because there was adjutants also in some Burroughs’s stories. I just copied some characters from the originals to my own stories, where Tarzan was mostly killing people by strangling or cutting their throats, or in some cases hanging people from the trees. Victims were mostly Russians and black Africans, sometimes Arabs and Japanese soldiers too, just like in the original stories by Burroughs.

I also remember my mother making me my own leopard-underwear and my father making me a bow and a wooden “hunting knife”. I used to run around the neighborhood with that underwear on. I stopped doing that, when some older boys laughed at me when they noticed my wiener hangin out all the time.

So, that’s enough (for now) about my relationship to Tarzan. The first quote from a Tarzan book is not the most hilarious, violent or even philosophical on our journey through the wonderful world of Tarzan, but it’s message is a recurrent theme in these stories. It’s from “Tarzan and the castaways” (chapter X:

“Tarzan swam back to the ship. The boatswain’s chair was still swinging close above the water. He seized it and climbed hand over hand to the deck. One by one, men were jumping or diving from the rail when he stopped them.

”I want ten or fifteen volunteers for some very dangerous work,” he said; ”they have got to have what the Americans call ’guts’.”

”What do you intend doing,” asked Bolton.

”Now that everybody else is safely on shore, I am going to set the animals free,” said the ape man, ”and make them take to the water.”

”But, man,” cried Colonel Leigh, ”many of them are dangerous beasts of prey.”

”Their lives are as important to them as ours are to us,” replied Tarzan, ”and I am not going to leave them here to die of starvation.”

”Quite right, quite right,” said the Colonel, ”but why not destroy them. That would be the humane way.”

”I did not suggest destroying your wife or your friends,” said Tarzan, ”and nobody is going to destroy my friends.”

”Your friends?” ejaculated the Colonel.

”Yes, my friends,” replied the Lord of the Jungle, ”or perhaps it would be better to say, my people. I was born and raised among them; I never saw a human being until I was almost grown, nor did I see a white man ’til I was fully twenty years old. Will anyone volunteer to help me save them?”

Yes I will dear Apeman, yes I most certainly will!!

Stay with me and during the next weeks I will guide you through the – sometimes controversial, sometimes even hilarious – philosophy in the world of the king of apes!

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