TARZAN OF ARABIA

The   TARZAN fan magazine THE Burroughs Bulletin had republished an article by me  which was  originally the introduction to the Hebrew book TARZAN IN THE HOLLY LAND.

A much longer and academic version of this article written with Alon Rabb will be published at 2012 the centennial Tarzan year at a academic collection of articles about Tarzan around the world.

And here is another article from that issue in which the editor Frank reviewing a very interesting article about Tarzan in the Arabic lands. To Franke article there add additional info about the subject by Eli Eshed.

A Review of James R. Nesteby’s “Tarzan of Arabia”

by

Henry G. Franke III

Published in the Burroughs Bulletin

No 84 fall 2010

In 1981, the Journal of Popular Culture published James R. Nesteby’s article, “Tarzan of Arabia: American Popular Culture Permeates Yemen.”1 Nesteby’s basic thesis was that “the importation of American popular culture into Yemen is superimposing an instant culture upon the traditional culture” (p 44), and he used Tarzan as an “important representative of this instant imported culture.” (p 39) Even though Nesteby presented Western pop culture and specifically Tarzan in a particularly negative light, he listed a variety of ways that products featuring the ape-man reached Yemenis, including pastiches created and published in Arab countries. He also suggested some reasons why Tarzan had a broad appeal in Arab nations, up to the time of the appearance of his article 30 years ago.

Nesteby reported the results of surveys and interviews at the time which gave specific examples of how Tarzan could be found in Yemen, from Korean chewing gum and newspaper comic strips to plastic figurines and Viewmaster film cards, but stated, “Perhaps the greatest impact Tarzan is having on Yemen is through Arabic-language series put out by three publishers in Damascus, Syria, and in Beirut, Lebanon.” One of the two Beirut series was in comic book format. The other Beirut series, which had sixteen issues at the time of Nesteby’s article, was in story form and included two Tarzan stories in each issue, with no illustrations. The Damascus series, which had twenty issues at the time, also consisted of print stories, along with occasional line drawings. Nesteby reported that some of the Arabic stories in the various series “follow Burroughs quite closely, but others are only derivatives of the original character.” All three series featured colorful covers. “Only in the illustrated Beirut series is Burroughs mentioned as the creator of Tarzan. For the Damascus series, numbers 12 and 14 are credited to Faris Dhaher, professor in the Academy of Sciences in Beirut.”2 In Yemen, the comics and booklets from these series were sold by sidewalk vendors and in kiosks, sidewalk bookshops, and newsstands. (p 42)

Tarzan Arabic Comics Book Beirut Lebanon Bissat Reh # 2

While Nesteby focused on the widespread infusion of Western popular culture in Yemen in the ;ate 1970s and into 1981, with Tarzan as a touchstone, he also reported that in the 1930s Tarzan stories (presumably translations of ERB’s original novels) which were published in Lebanon made their way to South Yemen. These were in small magazine-like format on poor-quality paper, pages alternating between printed text and drawings. They were published in weekly issues that serialized the stories chapter by chapter. (p 42)

The character retained a cultural awareness in Yemen ever since, certainly helped by the regular appearance of American and Indian Tarzan films through the years, so that the surge in interest in Tarzan in the 1970s (that infusion of “instant culture”) was really not all that new a phenomenon. Nesteby described the character of Tarzan as negative to Arabs and Arab culture, yet pointed out that many Arabs identified with Tarzan through the influence of the movies. Nesteby highlighted the idea of “cultured colorlisation” of Third World cinema-goers by Western films that espoused Western white middle-class values.3 Nesteby suggested that viewers would identify with the heroes of these motion pictures, even though they in no way resembled them: “[This could be] directed at blacks in America who identified with Tarzan instead of the blacks in Tarzan films; similarly, American Indians would often identify with cowboy heroes like John Wayne instead of with the villainous Indian renegades.” (p 43)

But Nesteby also suggested longstanding cultural values and traditions as major reasons why Arabic peoples had found Tarzan appealing since his appearance in Arabia in the 1930s. “Certainly the mythical aspects of Tarzan are as powerful in Arabia – strategically located between Tarzan’s jungle homes in Africa and India – as they are in the Midwest in the United States. For many Americans, Tarzan’s appeal comes from his being protector and disseminator of conservative American values. This appeal for Yemenis, however, is founded in Arabian traditions: feral human stories like Ibn-Sina’s Salaman and Absal, for example, and Tufail’s (or Thofail’s) twelfth-century tale, Hayy Ibn Yaqzan. Yaqzan was nursed by a doe just as Tarzan was nursed by an ape. Tarzan-like feats and prowess are also present in Arabian heroes like the superstitious Saif Ben zi Ya Jan and the real folk hero of both desert and mountain, Antar.” (pp 39-40) Nesteby also noted that there were many imitators of Tarzan seen in the Arab world, such as the foreign import Akim, “a Tarzan-like figure in French-language hardbound classics.” (p 44)

Nesteby made it clear that he saw the character and stories of Tarzan of the Apes “cast in the role of cultural imperialist. The major influence of the media projecting Tarzan’s image is on the children,” though adults were also indoctrinated. (p 43) He suggested that Tarzan’s influence, like other aspects of Western popular culture introduced during an “era of rapid cultural modernization in Yemen,” negatively refashioned minds and undermined Yemini traditional values. Ironically, Nesteby claimed that “Tarzan stands against progress and modernization” (p 39), even though Tarzan was presented throughout the article as a prime example of modern American culture invading Yemen.

But perhaps most interesting is Nesteby’s ambivalence toward Tarzan. He regularly derides the connotation of Tarzan not only from the perspective of modern times, but also from the view of Arab and black peoples, yet he also clearly knows Burroughs’ Tarzan well and displays some level of personal interest, seeming to decry how Tarzan tales were sometimes presented in less than high-quality venues. Tarzan, it seems, captures the imagination and stays in the memory of even those who intellectually object to the character.

Footnotes:

1. Published in the Summer 1981 issue (Vol XV, Issue 1), pp 39-45. Nesteby had also authored the article, “The Tenuous Vine of Tarzan of the Apes,” in the Spring 1980 issue of the Journal of Popular Culture (Vol XIII, Issue 3), pp 483-7, concerning the precedence for the idea of Tarzan of the Apes. At the time, Nesteby was Lecturer in British and American Literature at Sana’a University, founded in 1970 in what is now the capital of the Republic of Yemen; it remains the primary university in that country.

2. Eli Eshed, a researcher of Israeli popular culture who has written extensively on the popularity of Tarzan in Palestine and Israel, contradicts this entry on Dhaher. Eshed has reported that Dhaher actually wrote the Beirut, Lebanon prose series and not the Damascus, Syria stories. Instead, Eshed identified Rabki Camal as the author of the Damascus series. In the 1960s Camal was a Syrian announcer on the Voice of Damascus, broadcast in Hebrew, presenting “savage propaganda against Israel.” Camal learned Hebrew in Jerusalem in his youth during the pre-Israel period, and there met members of the Canaanite movement, including Yesayau Levit. Levit would later write Tarzan stories for the Israeli publisher Karnaf. So both Camal and Levit wrote Tarzan stories to supplement their incomes, though with decidedly different slants in the character. (http://www.erbzine.com/mag9/0991.com)

3. Nesteby refers (p 43) to a Reuters article, “Third World Looks for a New Screen Image,” which appeared on p 6 of the 30 November 1978 issue of the Saudi Gazette. This article mentions “colored colorlisation” as a term used by a Hamadi Essid of Tunisia, who claimed that, because of this phenomenon, “the bedouin or the black finds it easier to identify with John Wayne than an Arab or a black whom he resembles.”

This article was published in issue #84 (New Series) of “The Burroughs Bulletin” (Fall 2010).

© 2010 Henry G. Franke III

Tarzan Arabic Comics Book Beirut Lebanon Color # 64

TARZAN THE ARAB

by Eli Eshed

At the same time that stories appeared in which Tarzan was killing Egyptian agents and Saudi slavers and Arabs in general, at every possible place in Africa, there were , similar unauthorized series in Arabic lands Syria and Lebanon and in which Tarzan's foes were Jewish . In Arabic lands Tarzan was as popular as he was in Israel. The first original Tarzan stories appeared as illustrated serials in Lebanon back at the '30s, just at the same time when the Efroni stories appeared at Palestine. Similar stories later appeared in Beirut in at least 2 more Tarzan series, one of them of comics stories from which there appeared at least 13 issues, and at least 16 issues of a second of set of stories (two stories in each issue) written by Faris Daher a professor in the academy of sciences in Beirut . At Damascus there appeared another series with at least 20 issues. The writer is particularly interesting

. His name was Rabki Camal and he was know to Israeli radio listeners at the '60s as the Syrian announcer on the Voice of Damascus, which was in Hebrew. He was well known for his savage propaganda against Israel . In his youth Camal learned Hebrew in Jerusalem, and it was there he met (before the creation of Israel) the people of the Canaanite Movement in whose ideas he was interested for a time, attending some of their meetings. He had met several of the people who would later write Tarzan stories for Karnaf, such Yesayau Levit. By some strange coincidence, when Camal become the voice of Damascus expert for Israel affairs because of his knowledge of Hebrew, Levit served as as the Israeli army and radio expert for Arabic affairs because of his expertise in Arabic. And both of then wrote Tarzan stories to supplement their incomes . It is likely that Camal the expert for Israeli affairs knew very well the Israeli Tarzan and perhaps read some of them. It is possible that he wrote his Tarzan stories as a counter propaganda to the Israeli stories in which Tarzan helps Zionism . In those stories Tarzan was presented as fighting the evil Jews and their attempt to achieve world domination, and helps the Palestinians. Needless to say this is all without the knowledge of Burroughs estate as well . Those stories were very successful and were bought all over the Arab world from Egypt to Yemen, giving the Arab readers the good patriotic feeling that Tarzan is on their side against Israel . All That sucsess didn't helped Camal though, who was accused in one of the Syrian political upheavals as being "pro Israeli" and was put to death .

See more about Tarzan in the middle east

Tarzan in the holly land

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