Korak. Instead, Tarzan Finds a Son! (1939) envisions an airplane crash in the jungle with a sole survivor, a cooing infant whom Tarzan names Boy.
It is an odd name, and evidently a last-minute change – the trailers call him Tarzan Jr. One wonders why Jane did not insist on Tarzan Jr. or John Clayton Jr., particularly if she expected the child to one day survive hazing at Eton. But if Tarzan and Jane are the primal Man and Woman of a sexless heterosexual Eden, then their Boy must be the primal Boy, the archetype of all Boys everywhere.
The primal Boy was cast with seven year old Johnny Sheffield, hand-picked by Johnny Weissmuller from the hundreds of hopefuls. Perhaps Weissmuller was shopping for a surrogate son of his own: he taught Johnny to swim and wrestle, and often took him places off-camera. They were a common sight at premieres and Hollywood hotspots.
Although the teenage Boy is handsome enough to compel most of his classmates at Randini High School to write his name amid hearts in their notebooks or scramble to ask him to the Spring Fling, he has few opportunities for jitterbugging. The women he encounters are always older, and usually evil; indeed, a half-hour walk in any direction seems to lead to lost civilizations led by evil women.
Tarzan is equally passive-aggressive about denying Boy peer companions. In Tarzan and the Huntress, the Tarzan family visits the kingdom of Teronga, where Boy befriends the teenage Prince Suli (Maurice Tauzin). But when Boy asks to stay longer, Tarzan says no. Later they find Prince Suli in the jungle, left to die by his evil usurper-uncle. Surely the long and dangerous trek back to Teronga would provide many opportunities for buddy-bonding, but Tarzan has other ideas: “Boy, go home, tell Jane!” he barks. “We go to Teronga!” Boy protests, but Tarzan stubbornly leads the Prince away.
What is the significance of these denials? Of course the movies are about Tarzan, so he must wrestle all of the crocodiles, rescue all the princesses, and supervise all of the shifts from absolutism to democracy in lost-civilization governments, but surely allowing Boy some friends would not threaten his status as Busybody of the Jungle.
The three pre-Boy movies all end with Tarzan swooping down to rescue Jane. Afterwards, she is captured along with Boy twice, and in four movies, Boy is captured alone, tied to something, muscles straining, until Tarzan swoops down to the rescue. (And in one, Cheetah comes to the rescue.)
If the homoromantic Arcadia is a displaced fantasy of adulthood, then the viewer must desire the sight of the primal Man and Boy diving into the lagoon together as eternally as the primal Man and Woman. Tarzan must contain his Paradise against threats to Boy as well as to Jane, and he must guard as jealously against any other love.
Johnny Sheffield continued wearing a loincloth through the 1950s as Bomba the Jungle Boy, to the delight of gay kids everywhere. Johnny Weissmuller put a shirt and pants on to buddy-bond as Jungle Jim.
See also: Why is Bomba the Jungle Boy always tied up?