I wrote TARZAN OF
THE APES twenty-one years ago. It was my third novel and the first
to appear under my own name, which was unknown outside a radius of six
feet from my back porch.
Davis of the Munsey Company liked the story and it appeared in the October,
1912 issue of ALL-STORY MAGAZINE, whereupon I commenced to have
visions of earning three thousand dollars a year and affluence in the writing
Sharing a common weakness with one hundred and twenty million other
Americans, I got a great kick out of seeing my name in print, and as an
all fiction magazine is anything but an enduring monument I commenced to
look up addresses of book publishers.
During the next couple of years, every reputable publisher in the United
States had an opportunity to turn down TARZAN
OF THE APES, and did. I was not surprised; in fact, the only thing
about the marketing of my stories that ever surprises me is when they sell.
I have never written a story yet but that deep down in my heart I was positive
that it would be refused.
It was the newspapers that created the demand for Tarzan. Unless I am
mistaken, the New York Evening World started it; and then it was syndicated
in cities of all sizes all over the United States and finally in boiler
plate form in several thousand small town newspapers.
The result was that A. C. McClurg & Company had so many inquiries
from their retail customers for TARZAN OF THE APES that, after having
refused the story a year before, they now wrote me asking for the book
The book had about the same experience in England, some thirteen publishers
turning it down before Sir Arthur Methuen undertook its publication there;
but it achieved possibly a greater success in England than in the United
States until the death of Sir Arthur.
Contracts have been entered into during the past twelve or fifteen years
for the translation of TARZAN OF THE APES into Arabic, Czecho-Slovakian,
Danish, Dutch (Holland), Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic,
Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Roumanian, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese and
Urdu; and it has been printed in Braille for the blind.
TARZAN OF THE APES has had many adventures that are between the
covers of no book. Having been pirated in Soviet Russia, he gained such
popularity among the proletariat that the Soviet government was forced
to take official cognizance of him. Whether they murdered him in a cellar
or knouted him to Siberia, I do not know; but they got all het up because
groups of illiterate peasants gathered in the streets while a more educated
fellow, oftentimes a soldier, read Tarzan out loud to them instead of Soviet
propaganda or the intriguing dream books of Mr. Marx.
In Germany he aroused the jealousy of a publisher because of his popularity,
and this good sportsman dug up a story that I had written during the heat
of anti-German propaganda in this country following the sinking of the
Lusitania. He had a book written and published, telling all about the two
horrible creatures, TARZAN OF THE APES and Edgar Rice Burroughs;
and he distributed it so effectively that the German press made Tarzan
an issue, lambasting him editorially and advising all good Germans to throw
their Tarzan books into the garbage cans . . . which they did.
A Bulgarian or Roumanian discovered that I had stolen Tarzan word for
word from a poor French author, who was slowly starving go death in a garret,
while a neighbor woman here in the San Fernando Valley revealed the secret
that I never wrote any of my books, all of them having been written by
my father, an old gentleman with a long, white beard.
Little boys have broken into newspapers all over the world by falling
out of trees and breaking something while emulating Tarzan and one little
boy, Jackie Strong of Gresham, Oregon, who was lost three days and nights
on the wooded slopes of Mount Hood, attributed his ability to take care
of himself and come through alive and well to the fact that he had been
a student of TARZAN OF THE APES.
TARZAN OF THE APES was not written primarily for children and
my files contain letters of appreciation from men and women of all ages
and from al walks of life . . . school teachers, librarians, college professors,
priests, doctors, lawyers, soldiers, sailors and business men, among which
are names internationally famous; but possibly the greatest pleasure that
I have derived from the publication of my stories has come through the
knowledge that they have appealed also to children and that I have given
them a character, however improbable he may seem, that will set for them
a higher standard of manliness, integrity and sportsmanship.
Since TARZAN OF THE APES first appeared in the newspapers years
ago a new generation of readers has grown up, and Tarzan is as popular
today as he was then.
have written a total of eighteen Tarzan stories, sixteen of which are in
book form the latest being TARZAN
AND THE CITY OF GOLD, a second printing of which was necessitated
before publication date.
Within the last two years there has been a marked interest in the Tarzan
stories. A new Tarzan picture was made last year and another one has just
been completed. The United Features Syndicate, Inc., is offering TARZAN
OF THE APES in a series of splendid, illustrated strips to the newspapers
of the country and it is meeting with a success far beyond anything that
I had anticipated.
In addition to the Tarzan stories, I have written forty-eight other
stories, thirty-one of which are in book form, and for some years it has
been my policy to write one Tarzan and one other type of story, which I
call a non-Tarzan.
What seems to me one of the remarkable things about the Tarzan books,
and for that matter of all my other novels, is that they have never been
out of print and that there is a constant demand for them, requiring reprinting
every year since the first one was published nearly twenty years ago.
All in all, Tarzan has done far better than I possibly could have dreamed
at the time that I created him.
~ Edgar Rice Burroughs
Mr. Burroughs holds a copy of the first German edition
of TARZAN OF THE APES
(TARZAN BEI DEN AFFEN), published by Dieck
& Company of Stuttgart in 1924.
After the publisher's death, Burroughs sent Dieck's
enough money to keep her out of the poor house. .
since the Tarzan books had been banned in Germany
and she had fallen on hard times.
ERB in a gorilla suit sipping a cocktail at a 1936