ERB Book Reviews
Edgar Rice Burroughs book reviews from fans like you.
Tarzan and the Foreign Legion
Reviewed by: Bruce Bozarth 1998-01-23
Just finished rereading Tarzan and the Foreign Legion. Haven't cracked that one in close to 37 years.
Always remembered it as being a favorite of the series--and that probably hasn't changed with this reading, yet I do note that the Tarzan of the "last" book is quite a different fellow than the character described in the first 6.
Clayton's casual attitude toward death and murder has not changed. He continues to hunt red meat, but on more than one occasion chose to hunt with firearms rather than knife or rope (which was not part of his arsenal in this outing). He prefers slitting throats with a knife, though bow and arrow, rifles and pistols are also used.
Clayton (this name was used far more frequently than Tarzan) also proved to be quite omnivorous in this book. Significant fruit consumption as well as rice.
But, after this read, I find that Tarzan was not the star of the novel at all--it was the American way, the doughboy banter, and war sentiment which stole the show.
There are many instances of wording which appears in this novel that do not sound or feel like ERB's previous works "day was breaking so dawn kicked the covers off and got out of bed" (close recall of working...not verifying from the text as I compose this). Other instances regard the conversations between Bum Bumnovich and Shrimp Rosetti. These two archetype GIs of WWII have such varied and amusing conversations that I imagine that ERB, who traveled extensively as a war correspondent early in the war, probably overheard similar banter between soldiers and sailors and either transcribed or recalled the commentaries for inclusion in this work. We do know that he kept extensive diaries of his travels, though I do not know if these diaries have ever been made available to test this supposition.
The version I have is a Ballantine PB 1964. I have not read the book version from 1947 so I do not have a point of comparison to make much of the following thought: Though the war time propoganda exists (kill Japs. kill enemy. vicious inhuman enemy) there is only one racially derogatory description of the foe--and it is the same description that nearly all war movies made during the conflict used: bandy legged, short, buck-toothed and wearing horn-rimmed glasses and always ready to lop off a head with a sword and a few phrases regarding monkey-men early in the manuscript. Whether this edition has been bowlderized or not, it is not a racist piece on any level.
As regards Tarzan's duality there's little evidence of it. The character becomes a beast only in personal battle with a lion, an orangutan and two pythons. It is indicated he prefers jungle solitude over civilization, but when he is alone in the jungle he thinks and acts as a man, not a beast. What is interesting to note is the normally taciturn Tarzan of over-blown legend is a veritable chatterbox in this outing. His rank as RAF colonel makes him the superior officer and his jungle training makes him the superior warrior and he's not bashful about taking charge, giving commands, or even having pleasant conversation with the members of his group.
There is one conflict regarding Tarzan's personality as presented to the reader. Clayton early professes to have no hate toward anyone, not even the Japanese which are simply "the enemy," yet when Lucas is thought dead Tarzan deliberately follows a beaten and fleeing Japanese patrol to exact revenge and is not satisfied until 10 men have been ambushed and slaughtered by rifle fire and bow and arrow. Later, when he learns Lucas will live, he says "Whatever happens from this point on, you have already been avenged." This is in contradiction to Clayton's statement that he only killed for revenge once, to avenge Kala, whereas readers of all the Tarzan stories know that the ape man has embarked on several vendettas of long term and high body count (Tarzan 1-6 and the WWI era stories most prominently).
For all the minor inconsistencies which make it difficult to pinpoint who Tarzan the character is instead of Tarzan the way the author wants to present him, this is still one of my favorites of the Tarzan tales.