Survivor dude Bear Grylls nailed it with this quote. He was speaking about the movie GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES in particular, but he managed to succinctly state why it is that Edgar Rice Burroughs’s creation, Tarzan, is timeless. Yes, I said it: timeless. Yes, the setting of the stories is dated; all story settings are. It’s the *theme* of a story that can be timeless, or not. Shakespeare’s THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is for sure dated insofar as its setting. But its *theme*, that’s universal. The same is true for Tarzan. He may have been born out of the era of post-colonialism. Aspects of the story may not be acceptable by today’s zeitgeist. Those aspects need to be redrawn if Tarzan is going to be depicted in any current projects, the way they were with THE LEGEND OF TARZAN a few years back. But the theme must remain the same for it to work.
Here’s what Bear Grylls said about it: “‘Tarzan’ is brilliant—again, all about that wild one inside us all, and to keep letting it out. Don’t bottle it up. Nobody has done a ‘Tarzan’ since [GREYSTOKE] that has as good a story as that one. As soon as it becomes about [Tarzan’s] six-packs, you’ve lost me. It’s like, Come on! This is about the growl around the dinner table and the running over the rooftops, screaming. This is what we all want to do, isn’t it?”
Exactly, Mr. Grylls. The inner animal, the bestial nature beneath the veneer of civilization. That’s the mojo. And that’s why Tarzan is eternal.