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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Edward Cullen is Tarzan

I'm spending my Christmas break reading some classics. I plundered the classics shelf in the

Cover of Cover of Tarzan of the Apes

library and my loot included Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I never expected the thrilling read Burroughs delivered. However, halfway through the book, I wondered if I was reading Twilight or not. Stephenie Meyer, may write stories affected by her Mormonism (see my previous posts one, two, three, four), but she also must have read and been affected by Burrough's Tarzan. I will interleave Burrough's passage, from chapter 20, Heredity. with a couple from Meyer's Twilight, from the end of ch. 12, Balancing, through ch. 13, Confessions, where Edward brings Bella to a clearing. I will keep Burrough's passage in order. I will put Meyer's writing in italics.

When Jane realized that she was being borne away a captive by the strange forest creature who had rescued her from the clutches of the ape she struggled desperately to escape, but the strong arms that held her as easily as though she had been but a day-old babe only pressed a little more tightly.
So presently she gave up the futile effort and lay quietly, looking through half-closed lids at the faces of the man who strode easily through the tangled undergrowth with her.
The face above her was one of extraordinary beauty.
A perfect type of the strongly masculine, unmarred by dissipation, or brutal or degrading passions. For, though Tarzan of the Apes was a killer of men and of beasts, he killed as the hunter kills, dispassionately, except on those rare occasions when he had killed for hate--though not the brooding, malevolent hate which marks the features of its own with hideous lines.
When Tarzan killed he more often smiled than scowled, and smiles are the foundation of beauty.
One thing the girl had noticed particularly when she had seen Tarzan rushing upon Terkoz--the vivid scarlet band upon his forehead, from above the left eye to the scalp; but now as she scanned his features she noticed that it was gone, and only a thin white line marked the spot where it had been.

Edward in the sunlight was shocking. I couldn't get used to it, though I'd been staring at him all afternoon. His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday's hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface... A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal. p.260

I lightly trailed my hand over the perfect muscles of his arm, followed the faint pattern of bluish veins inside the crease at his elbow. p.261

As she lay more quietly in his arms Tarzan slightly relaxed his grip upon her.
Once he looked down into her eyes and smiled, and the girl had to close her own to shut out the vision of that handsome, winning face...

On and on they went through what seemed to Jane a solid mass of verdure, yet ever there appeared to open before this forest god a passage, as by magic, which closed behind them as they passed.
Scarce a branch scraped against her, yet above and below, before and behind, the view presented naught but a solid mass of inextricably interwoven branches and creepers...

"I'll show you how I travel in the forest."...I waited to see if he was kidding, but apparently he meant it...He then proceeded to sling me onto his back, with very little effort on my part, besides, when in place, slamping my legs and arms so tightly around him that it would chake a normal person...And then he was running. p. 279

He streaked through the dark, thick underbrush of the forest like a bullet, like a ghost. There was no sound, no evidence that his feet touched the earth. His breathing never changed, never indicated any effort. But the trees flew by at deadly speeds, always missing us by inches... Then it was over. We;d hiked hours this morning to reach Edward's meadow, and now, in a matter of minutes, we were back to the truck. p.280

Though they had come many miles, it was still but midafternoon, and the amphitheater was bathed in the half light which filtered through the maze of encircling foliage.
The green turf looked soft and cool and inviting. The myriad noises of the jungle seemed far distant and hushed to a mere echo of blurred sounds, rising and falling like the surf upon a remote shore.
A feeling of dreamy peacefulness stole over Jane as she sank down upon the grass where Tarzan had placed her, and as she looked up at his great figure towering above her, there was added a strange sense of perfect security.
As she watched him from beneath half-closed lids, Tarzan crossed the little circular clearing toward the trees upon the further side. She noted the graceful majesty of his carriage, the perfect symmetry of his magnificent figure and the poise of his well-shaped head upon his broad shoulders.
What a perfect creature! There could be naught of cruelty or baseness beneath that godlike exterior. Never, she thought had such a man strode the earth since God created the first in his own image...

I reached the edge of the pool of light and stepped through the last fringe of ferns into the loveliest place I had ever seen. the meadow was small, perfectly round, and filled with wildflowers - violet, yellow, and soft white... I spun around, searching for him with sudden alarm. Finally I spotted him, still under the dense shade of the canopy at the edge o the hollow, watching me with cautious eyes...

Edward seemed to take a deep breath, and then he stepped out into the bright glow of the midday sun. p. 259

There stood Tarzan, his arms filled with ripe and luscious fruit.
Jane reeled and would have fallen, had not Tarzan, dropping his burden, caught her in his arms. She did not lose consciousness, but she clung tightly to him, shuddering and trembling like a frightened deer.

I reached the edge of the pool of light and stepped through the last fringe of ferns into the loveliest place I had ever seen. the meadow was small, perfectly round, and filled with wildflowers - violet, yellow, and soft white... I spun around, searching for him with sudden alarm. Finally I spotted him, still under the dense shade of the canopy at the edge o the hollow, watching me with cautious eyes...

Edward seemed to take a deep breath, and then he stepped out into the bright glow of the midday sun. p. 259

Tarzan of the Apes stroked her soft hair and tried to comfort and quiet her as Kala had him, when, as a little ape, he had been frightened by Sabor, the lioness, or Histah, the snake.
Once he pressed his lips lightly upon her forehead, and she did not move, but closed her eyes and sighed.


So I rest my case. I only wish Meyer had imitated more of Burrough's craft and noted how much quicker a story could flow with fewer adjectives and more plot and character complexity.

I didn't read New Moon, but I know the story of competing lovers. Like Bella, Jane also has several suitors who compete with Tarzan for her affections, Robert Canler and John Clayton, not unlike Jacob Black.

One important difference in the stories is that Tarzan leaves his wildness to pursue his love, Jane Porter. He departs from the jungle and learns to speak French and eat with proper table manners (cooked food, utensils, and napkins). He leaves his environment to pursue her across three continents. But Bella has to join Edward's vampire world to be united to him. I have to admit, as a father of daughters, I prefer the romantic vision of a young man pursuing them and leaving their wildness behind to court them with their maturity, rather than them losing their souls to be with some perfect guy. There's no perfection without a soul. There's no one good enough who won't lay down their lives for her, in my humble daddy opinion. Hence, here is another classic required for my daughter's before they read more of the Cullen saga.

Although, I didn't find any literary criticism comparing Twilight and Tarzan, I did find this video, saying the same thing with clips from the movie. Enjoy. If you don't see video, go here.


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