People break into two groups. When people in group one hear the name Tarzan they think of the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, that strapping lad Johnny Weissmuller who played Tarzan in the movies, and that strange yodel.
People in group number two think of Bo Derek‘s boobs. In fact, for group two even a minor element of the stories – cannibalism, how to build a treehouse, English nobility – can evoke images of Bo and her firm ta-tas writhing in mud, water, sand, or bed sheets, and who could forget the writhing in honey! She really is the seminal figure in writhe-acting.
Until a few weeks ago, I was most definitely in group two. But despite my fear of ruining these adolescent memories, I read Tarzan of the Apes at the insistence of some friends.
Although I wasn’t impressed, I must admit that parts of it were fascinating to me, much in the way I imagine a paleontologist would feel being the first to discover a fossilized tyrannosaur vagina – these parts gave a clue about what our ancestors were like way back when.
Early in the story, for example, when Tarzan’s parents are abandoned on a beach, Tarzan’s mother says to his father, “I am but a woman, seeing with my heart rather than my head [but] I will do my best to be a brave primeval woman, a fit mate for the primeval man.”
And later there is the issue of Tarzan’s killing of men and beasts. The narrator is understandably forgiving, adding that Tarzan really didn’t kill out of hate, or at least not that often, saying, “When Tarzan killed he more often smiled than scowled.” (Chapter 20) And then, as if to legitimize killing under any circumstance he says, “smiles are the foundation of beauty.” Maybe I would have seen this, too, as an artifact of a long gone culture that so blatantly de-valued life if I hadn’t seen it alive and well while at a Christmas party.
The hosts of this party had decorated to a maximum. There were three decorated trees but still many ornaments left over, so they were placed on side tables throughout the house. There was also a display of back-lit snow globes arranged like an altar of votive candles in a cathedral. Feeling like I was “in the presence,” I did what anyone would do. I gently laid my hand on a globe in which was trapped a drowning and weary Santa hefting his bag up over a chimney top, and I said a prayer. I need to address this to a saint, don’t I? Dear St. Lucy (I took a chance and hoped there was a St. Lucy somewhere), please bless this buffalo chicken dip and warm chardonnay to the nourishment of my body. Thank you. Later on I found out that there is, indeed, a St. Lucy. She’s the patron saint of bleeding from the eyes.
As I wandered back through the kitchen listening for a conversation I could join, I noticed a sign with colorful script lettering – “Rules for Our House” it read, or something like that. But soon I realized it was, more or less, the ten commandments, though not the way I remembered them. There was “Don’t put anything before God” and “Bad language will get you in trouble” and “Don’t obsess about all that cool stuff your neighbor has.” Those were all fine I suppose. But coming in at number six was “Don’t get your thrills from killing other people.” I didn’t think that was quite right, so I read it again, and then again, just to be sure that it said what I thought it said.
Don’t get your thrills. That’s a whopper of a loophole, I thought.
I don’t know. Maybe Tarzan had it right. If you’re going to kill someone just give ’em a smile, but only a little one – better not enjoy it too much. Then get on with your life.