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Tarzan of the Apes is one of those classic books by Edgar Rice Burroughs that stands the test of time. The movies never truly do this book justice to get the full visceral feeling that you do reading or hearing the book as the author wrote it in the original form. With these works all in the public domain, I hope that the company that put this version out continues with this narrator and does not change anything. The story of Tarzan is well known. The production quality on this version is excellent! I highly recommend getting this version of Tarzan of the Apes.
David Stifel provides the narration on this epic story. Mr. Stifel does a simply amazing job. This is the first performance I have heard from him but I was blown away. He was Tarzan. He did an amazing job with the cast of characters throughout the story. I look forward to hearing more of his performances in the future.
This review copy audiobook was provided by the author/narrator/publisher free of charge via Audiobook Boom for an unbiased review.
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It is difficult to say anything new about this early 20th Century classic. You know the story; it is ingrained in our modern psyche: parents die, their baby is raised by apes, becomes king of the apes, meets white men, fights an inner struggle of wild man versus civilized man. But there is so much more that makes the original story told in its entirety worth the listen. It is a story about values, societal convention, rules, racism, cruelty and above all, man’s true nature.
One has to withhold 21st Century norms to appreciate the novel. We know so much more about the nature of animals and the great apes in particular. Burroughs anthropomorphizes the “beasts” in such a way as to make them sound ridiculous to the modern ear. Lions who take revenge and kill for pleasure, apes who plot to be the leader of their group, and gather to tell stories of conquest. We have to remember the time in which it was written, where the jungle was perhaps the most frightening place imaginable, ferocious animals who they imagined would kill an unarmed man instantly and efficiently.
There are many nods to the cruel subjugation of the “blacks” brutalized by the whites, including the barbarity of King Leopold of Belgium. But there is blatant, and to our ears, unforgivable descriptions of the superiority and nobility of the white gentleman. His breeding, manners, strength, masculinity, mental acuity, and handsome features were considered to be the pinnacle of human evolution. Tarzan, even though he was raised by the brutish apes, reaches into his inner whiteness and raises himself to superhuman abilities. He teaches himself to read and write from leftover books even though he has never heard a word of English, to use a bow and arrow from watching natives, and to speak French in a few days from the soldier he saves. It is pretty hard to believe but is definitely fun. Tarzan is the first Superman.
Let’s not forget the horrible sexism, the women who faint dead away when in danger, or their inability to protect themselves, or a ridiculous promise of marriage to protect the honor of a foolish father. The story is so full of stereotypes that it sounds silly at times. The absentminded professor who is so distracted that he wanders off into the jungle, then when confronted by a lion, chides his associate as to the incompetence of the zookeepers. Clearly, it is an attempt at humor but sinks so deeply into the absurd that even a 19th Century reader would cringe.
For all its flaws, Tarzan of the Apes is absolutely worth listening to. It is a piece of our heritage, our shared genetic memory at this point. Many of us have watched the sterilized interpretations of the many movies. But one has to go back to the original to understand Tarzan as the allegory he truly is. That man can rise up to be more than his environment, can set aside his beast-like nature to be noble in the midst of cruelty and unfairness. Tarzan is that spark in each of us.
The novel is performed by David Stifel. He has a pleasant voice and is completely appropriate for the story. His accents are generally good and the characters are easily discerned. He does an admirable job with the many mutineers. There is some hesitation with the female characters and he seems to stumble over one, in particular, Jane’s illiterate black nanny. It would be unfair to blame the narrator, however, as the woman’s dialogue is written in a horrible and cruelly racist manner. He outshines himself with the ludicrous Professor Porter and his hapless associate. What fun those two are. Overall it is a very fine performance of a very challenging novel.
Tarzan of the Apes is a 100-year-old classic and must be listened to in that way. We must suspend our modern knowledge and experiences to be entertained by its varied characters, some noble, and so many base. It is important to listen to the original to appreciate the many modern interpretations of this important novel. Put it into the context of its time and you will thoroughly enjoy the ride.
Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.
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