|Philip Jose Farmer had a lifelong love affair with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ characters, particularly Tarzan. He was to write several books either directly referring to Tarzan or to a character that bore a striking resemblance to Tarzan.
The title character is Ras Tyger, a young man living in a remote valley in
. He was raised by apes, had a lion for a friend, and harassed and tormented a small village of black natives. Sound familiar? It should. But as this young man grows older, he starts to question the things he’s always taken for granted. For example: he knows perfectly well that his parents, although very small and dark-skinned, are not apes. He wonders why they lie about so many things. He wonders why every time he loses his knife, his father mysteriously produces another. He wonders from where come all the things they have that are made of metal. But he doesn’t question the power of the all-knowing, all-seeing Bird of God, or of God himself, Igziyabher. At least, not until a strange metal bird crashes in his valley and leaves alive a young blonde woman. And then all hell breaks loose.
This story is just so much fun. Farmer took the idea of a Burroughs/Tarzan fan who is so rabid about his obsession that he uses his millions to create his own Tarzan. He kidnaps babies, engineers the valley, provides necessary opportunities to guide the growing boy, and kills to protect him. All with the goal of creating a superman, just like Tarzan. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts and all the money he can throw into the endeavor, the boy just insists on doing things his own way.
There is no higher moral end to the story, no great revelation. Much like Burroughs himself, Farmer is interested in just telling a story. Of course, with Farmer, it also means you get a big dollop of irony and satire. Bon appetit! ~~ Catherine Book
And now: test your knowledge of Farmer’s Tarzan stories in our new Trivia Contest. Click here.