May 14, 2018

The Tarzan Twins

Edgar Rice Burroughs gave Tarzan a son, Korak, but he grew up in the fourth novel, The Son of Tarzan (1915).

To cater to the kid market, he came up with a new duo, The Tarzan Twins.

Dick and Doc were not twins at all, but they did look alike, except for their hair: "Dick had a shock of the blackest sort of black hair, while Doc's hair was the sunny hue of molasses candy."

They were cousins born at the same moment to twin mothers and raised together, half the time in England and half in America.  When they were 14 years old, they discovered that they were distantly related to Lord Greystoke, Tarzan of the Apes, so they set out to visit their famous uncle.

In The Tarzan Twins (1927), they get lost in the jungle and captured by cannibals.  Uncle Tarzan is not around, so they have to rescue themselves.

At the end of the story, they lose their civilian clothes and take to loincloths.  As Burroughs helpfully explains: "their life with the cannibals and their flight through the jungle had accustomed them to scant attire and had already somewhat hardened their youthful bodies."

A Big Little Book appeared in 1934, and the story was retold in Rex Maxon's Tarzan newspaper comic strip in 1935.

Burroughs was so busy with Tarzan, John Carter, and his other adult heroes that he didn't write a new story until Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad-bal-Ja the Golden Lion (1936).  It takes place immediately after the first: while exploring with the golden lion, Dick and Doc come across some evil sun-worshippers, outcasts from Opar, who plan to sacrifice Gretchen, a missionary's daughter.  They come up with a daring rescue plan; again, Uncle Tarzan is not around.    (not to worry, there's no romance.)

The books appeared together in 1963, and in reprints since.

The story was told in comic book form in Tarzan  #196 (October 1970)

A web comic strip was launched in 2016, written by Martin Powell and drawn by Carlos Arguela.

As far as I know, they have not appeared on film.


  1. It's nice to see Burroughs did the obvious "teen sidekick" trope when everyone who got their hands on the franchise did as well.

  2. They weren't actually teen sidekicks, since Tarzan appears only at the beginning and end of each story and does not participate in the adventure. He says "Go ahead and explore, but don't go too far." They go too far, are captured by cannibals or a sun-worshipping cult, and rescue themselves or the girl. On the way home, they run into Tarzan again, who says "I thought you might be in trouble, and was coming to rescue you." Too late.


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