Revisiting the Literary Classics: LORD TYGER
Philip Jose Farmer isn’t as well known today as he was several decades ago, and that’s unfortunate. But he, like Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury, two other of the most prominent names in Science Fiction in the 20th Century, possessed a gift of vision and expression that will keep him relevant as we press onward into this new millennium. Farmer is most famous for the RIVERWORLD series of novels, wherein an alien race at some point in the far future resurrects all the people on Earth who have ever died–and the most colorful of the resurrected, people like Mark Twain and Sir Richard Francis Burton, end up joined together in various adventures. Farmer also created the “Wold Newton” Family, named after the Wold Newton Triangle in England, site of a real world meteor crash and a hotbed of paranormal activity. (The Wold Newton triangle is the stomping of grounds of the werewolf Ol’ Stinker.)
Farmer loved Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Tarzan in particular. In LORD TYGER, a rich madman decides to recreate Tarzan by kidnapping the infant child of British aristocrats, marooning the child in the jungles of Africa, and manufacturing circumstances that mirror the life of Tarzan as chronicled in the books of Burroughs. The experiment fails, and the protagonist, Lord Tyger, let’s just say he ain’t no Tarzan. For example, in Burrough’s original Tarzan novel, the latter is a perfect gentleman when he finds himself alone in the wild with Jane, his future wife. Lord Tyger, when placed in similar circumstances, rapes the woman in his charge. Burroughs never instilled his hero with any base urges, whereas Tyger has sex with chimpanzees. Tarzan was a complete innocent when he left the jungle for civilization; Tyger is a selfish, self-centered bastard.
The book manages to be both a scathing deconstruction of the Tarzan novels–pointing out, as it does, just how unrealistic those stories are in certain respects–and a testament of love to them, a tribute, an homage. It is both things at the same time, and that’s its unique narrative power. Tarzan is a carryover of the mythological heroes of the ancients, larger than life, more than merely human. Lord Tyger is earthy. He isn’t the superman that Tarzan is. All the ways in which he falls short make him such a fascinating character.
I love this book. You should do yourself a favor and check it out. Acculturate yourselves!