What could be more terrifying than having your child snatched by your archenemy? Well in this third installment Edgar Rice Burroughs tackles that terrifying prospect. Originally appearing in the pages of All-Story Cavalier magazine in 1914 The Beasts of Tarzan continues the amazing adventures of John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, or as most know him, Tarzan of the Apes. In the previous installment, The Return of Tarzan, we saw our ape man finally tying the knot with Jane Porter, and in the intervening time the happy couple gave birth to a beautiful baby boy they name Jack.
Immediately we have trouble in paradise as Tarzan learns from his friend D’Arnot that the villainous Nicholas Rokoff has escaped prison, fearing for the safety of his wife and child Tarzan races home, but he is too late. The child has been kidnapped. Tarzan and Jane receive a phone telling the ape man to come to the Dover docks, no police, and his son will be returned to him. The caller claims to be an associate of Rokoff’s but who wants no part in a kidnapping. That this is clearly a trap does not occur to Tarzan, who races off into the night to make the rendezvous, but Jane, once given time think, realizes it is probably a trap and she races off into the night to help her husband. The end result is that they are both captured and taken aboard the Steamer Kincaid.
Tarzan is marooned on a small island off the coast of Africa with but a note detailing Rokoff’s dastardly plan. The note informs Tarzan that his infant son will be given to a group of cannibals to be raised as one of their own, and it is only Tarzan’s belief that Jane is safe in London that gives the ape man any solace. Meanwhile Jane, having been held captive in a different part of the ship, has gained the sympathy of the Kincaid’s Swedish chef (no relation to the one on the Muppet Show), and with his aid is able to escape the ship.
Back on the island Tarzan is forced to kill the leader of a group of apes, not wanting to be king of the apes of this group he tells the second in command, Akut, who he had also saved from a leopard, that he can remain king if he will stand by Tarzan’s side in any ensuing battles. Later Tarzan frees a leopard that was pinned by a fallen tree, the cat follows him around and eventually they share prey together. Thus Tarzan has gathered a menagerie of killer beasts for his eventually war against Rokoff.
The Beasts of Tarzan is loaded with thrilling action, brutal battle, and daring escapes as Tarzan and friends make their way to the coast, stealing a war canoe from some natives, even adding one of the locals to his crew, and then fighting their way through hostile jungles to find Jane and his son. The story jumps back and forth between Jane and Tarzan’s stories, a device used in many of the books, until the hero and heroine are finally reunited and the dastardly Rokoff finally meets his messy end at the jaws of Tarzan’s leopard friend. The last act of the book is really the only weak part, once Jane and company are together, having seized the Kincaid and its remaining crew, the ship is sunk by Rokoff’s compatriot Alexis Paulvitch, and they find themselves marooned once again on that small island. Then they encounter a group of mutineers that have anchored themselves off this selfsame island, and hijinks ensue. This last section seems really tacked on and completely unnecessary, and most likely added to make this book length.
But what of the poor baby, did they rescue little Jack? Well the Swede helped Jane and the baby off the boat but it turns out that the baby Rokoff brought aboard was not the child of Jane and Tarzan; someone had pulled a switch back in England and the baby Jane is lugging around is not her own. That she doesn’t take a minute to look into her child’s face until deep in the jungle is probably the most unbelievable part of this story. Needless to say there are happy endings all round, well except for Rokoff, and Tarzan is once again triumphant.
With The Beasts of Tarzan Edgar Rice Burroughs gives us another exciting chapter in the lives of everyone’s favorite lord of the jungle, filled with drama, action, and one of the most despicable villains in literature.