The SECOND most-adapted piece of literature is Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. First published in 1912, this... respected work of fiction... is about a feral child raised in the African jungle by apes.
I've gotta be honest: I've read the original Tarzan, and I'm not a fan. The book is meandering, hugely racist, and poorly researched: even in the early 1900s, PEOPLE KNEW that LIONS DO NOT LIVE IN THE JUNGLE. It's also a comedy of idiocy - Jane Porter leaves Tarzan in the jungle to make him happy and marries this William dude that she doesn't really like, then Tarzan follows her to America, and to make Jane happy he renounces his inheritance so that William (his cousin) gets to keep it. YAY NOBODY GETS WHAT THEY WANT except possibly William. Though William probably isn't too thrilled to have a wife that prefers a loincloth.
Tarzan is your prototypical noble savage, except with the added advantage of being white. He scorned the "hypocrisy of civilization" and embraced an extreme return to nature, tree-surfing optional.
|It's all so noble I could hurl.|
Nowadays, I don't really see the appeal. I mean, I get the appeal of leaving civilization, but not with Tarzan. He's too one-dimensional, too bland, too... racist.
Disney tried to update Tarzan in 1999 with their animated film. In doing so, they found it necessary to change... uh... yeah, pretty much everything. In the Disney version Tarzan is adopted by gorillas, the leader of the pack doesn't kill his parents, Terk is a girl and instead of being Tarzan's arch-nemesis she's his BFF, Tantor the elephant is his friend instead of universally loathed, and the lion is instead a leopard. Oh yeah and William Clayton is evil and dies by hanging.
|That's... oddly grim.|
I don't know why I take such umbrage with Tarzan when I can enjoy equally dated things like Wade Everett westerns. I guess it comes down to intent. Edgar Rice Burroughs just seems like such a shallow, condescending, firmly of-his-time guy. Instead of taking stereotypes for granted, he wallows in them. Also given that he did not actually move to the jungle and live off hemp, I'm going to assume he was a big ol' hypocrite.
I love genre fiction, but I think this is one we can leave safely in the past and lose nothing. What old genre fiction do you hate?