I’m not sure, but I think my first exposure to Tarzan was TARZAN THE MAGNFICIENT, starring Gordon Scott as the Lord of The Jungle.
Being very young , I don’t recall being overly impressed by the film—maybe because as one of the later entries in the long-running series, the tone was dark and Tarzan presented as basically a policeman in a loin cloth.
Although I grew to appreciate this film much more in later years, it wasn’t until the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies were a staple of pre-cable TV that I became a fan of the character. I definitely preferred the “family unit” incarnation to all the others.
It took me awhile longer to become a fan of the character as written by his creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs.
In the early 60s, although Tarzan was enjoying a revival due to interminable TV airings of the old movies—and new theatrical films were also being released—the literary Tarzan was difficult to find.
Many local libraries had removed the novels from their shelves due to the idiotic misconception that Tarzan and his wife Jane made for poor role models. They lived without benefit of marriage in a tree-house with an illegitimate son and a chimp, see…
In the early 1960s, Ballantine Books, a small paperback publisher managed to secure the literary rights and began a very successful reprint program, repackaging the novels as a numbered series. I’m sure I was only one of many kids who were introduced to the original Burroughs Tarzan through those editions.
I don’t need to examine the vast divide separating the Burroughs Tarzan and the character as portrayed in the movies…suffice it to say, the original Tarzan became a pop culture icon for a reason.
However, unlike a lot of other pop culture icons, there have been only a handful of authorized Tarzan novels written by others…Fritz Leiber’s Tarzan And the Valley of Gold, Tarzan: The Lost Adventure by Joe Lansdale, Dark Heart of Time by Philip Jose Farmer and now, Will Murray’s Tarzan: Return To Pal-Ul-Don.
As much I enjoyed the outings by Leiber and Farmer, Will Murray’s epic novel feels much more like the real thing—completely authentic in all things Tarzanic and Burroughsian.
Readers familiar with the Tarzan canon know that Lord Greystoke, John Clayton AKA Tarzan of the Apes joined the RAF during WWII. What they don’t know—until they read this book—is that the Lord of the Jungle found himself trapped in the savage and bizarre land of Pal-Ul-Don for a second time.
In Tarzan The Terrible (considered by many to be the greatest of the original novels), Tarzan, searching for Jane, tracks her to Pal-Ul-don and encounters tailed humanoids and survivors from prehistoric epochs, such as smilodons and carnivorous triceratops…locally known as Gryfs.
Now, twenty years later, Tarzan is given the mission of finding a British intelligence officer and in the process of doing so, crashes his plane into a hitherto unexplored section of Pal-Ul-Don.
It doesn’t take long before Flying Officer Clayton reverts to type—stripping off his uniform and boots, sniffing the wind and making friends with another lost soul…an elephant who wandered into Pal-Ul-Don and is promptly attacked by a prehistoric crocodile. Tarzan saves his life and the two become companions throughout the rest of the adventure.
As any reader of Tarzan knows, he and elephants (Tantor in the language of the mangani) share a special affinity and rapport–a characteristic Will Murray depicts very believably.
Two parallel plot-lines run throughout the novel—the search for the missing officer and freeing this particular part of Pal-Ul-Don from the terror of the very creepy “spiderlings.”
These half-human/half-arachnid creatures are Will Murray’s invention, yet they definitely fall within the Burroughs tradition of freakish life-forms encountered in Pellucidar, Barsoom and even on Venus.
The struggle with the spiderlings—and the ultimate reveal of their origins—is both fascinating and repulsive.
Tarzan: Return to Pal-Ul-Don is the book hard-coreTarzan aficionados have been waiting for. Will Murray captures not only the voice of Edgar Rice Burroughs but also his pacing and overall structure.
It’s a colorful and action-packed novel which, despite its length, keeps moving forward. The rich detail and scattered references to earlier Tarzan books grounds the novel, making it feel like part of the original canon.
The only Burroughs element I missed was any of the mangani cavorting on stage, but Torn Ear the elephant more than makes up for the lack the usual cast of animal allies.
Tarzan: Return To Pal-Ul-Don is quite the achievement—which is really saying something when you consider Will Murray’s impressive body of work as a journalist, pulp scholar and prolific novelist.
The trade paperback edition can be ordered through Amazon and all other online booksellers or through Altus Press.
A hardcover edition with a wraparound cover may be ordered here: