Becoming Human with Tarzan

There’s been an awakening in the jungle…can you feel it?

This weekend, a new movie called The Legend of Tarzan was released to theaters, bringing the vine swinging hero of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ imagination back into the public conscience. Before I was even aware of the movie, I bought a collection of Tarzan short stories called The Jungle Tales of Tarzan. The book was the 6th published by Burroughs in the character’s early days of publication, but it serves as a good introduction to the ape man and his jungle upbringing before diving into the first real story in Tarzan of the Apes.

What impressed me as I read this collection was how Tarzan slowly became human. If you’re not familiar with the story, Tarzan’s parents are marooned in the jungle and eventually die. Tarzan, however, is taken in by a she-ape, who nurtures him and grows him into thinking he is an ape himself. In The Jungle Tales, Tarzan is a young man coming into his own and realizing how different he is compared to the other apes of his tribe.

Tarzan wants to take a she-ape as his “wife” but realizes they’re not the same, they’re not alike, they’re not compatible. He stumbles upon the concept of God and seeks to discover who this God is. He learns compassion for other human beings and respecting the brave and noble among them and other creatures. As he grows, the distinction between him and the animals of the jungle becomes more apparent. He is a man, a human. He is not a beast.

Tarzan’s scenario mirrors the question: how would a person develop if he/she was born in the wild without any culture to shape him/her? Would the person realize his/her uniqueness and come to a slow understanding of humanity?

I think it goes without saying that they would eventually see they are different from other wildlife. Consider Adam in the Garden of Eden just before Eve’s creation. In Genesis 2, God brings all the animals before Adam to be named. At the end of this exercise, the man finds he is alone in his unique form and kind. Any human with a sound mind should come to that conclusion.

Why is this important for today? Evolutionists want to argue that we as humans are simply “higher on the evolutionary scale” than the other animals; in other words, we’re smarter beasts. But for all the similarities between us and our wild neighbors, we are set distinctly above the animal kingdom by God Himself.

I think Tarzan shows us this, whether Burroughs meant him to or not. Tarzan is the one who becomes the king of the jungle, not one of the other apes or even the great lions. Man can rise above brutish nature because he was meant to. God wants us to look at the stars, ponder our existence, and cultivate this wild earth. But more than all that, He wants us to recognize Who set them in that place and what He has done for our salvation and communion with Him.

4 thoughts on “Becoming Human with Tarzan

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