Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar

by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series: Tarzan 5
Reviewed date: 2018 Apr 2
Rating: 3
158 pages
cover art
cover art

Now that Rokoff and Paulvitch are dead, the stage is clear to introduce new villains to test Tarzan's mettle. The action is kicked off when Albert Werper, a disgraced Belgian officer on the run, finds employment with the ruthless Arab raider Achmet Zek. With the Belgian's help, Achmet Zek figures he can kidnap Jane Clayton from her African estate and secure a large ransom for her safe return.

Meanwhile, the Greystokes suffer financial ruin (they should fire their investment managers) so Tarzan gathers his trusty band of Waziri warriors and heads to Opar to steal some more gold.

In Opar, Tarzan gets hit on the head and loses his memory. Now the stage is set for the classic Burroughs story of kidnappings, rescues, re-kidnappings, and so forth. There are so many bands of warriors traversing the African jungle that it's hard to keep track of them.

The Good Guys
On the side of justice and righteousness we have Tarzan (who has lost his memory). Jane displays her prowess by escaping from her captors at least once. Mugambi survives being shot, and tracks Jane's kidnappers through the forest with skill second only to Tarzan. Busuli leads the Waziri tribe, whose warriors make a good showing.

The Bad
Jane has been kidnapped by Achmet Zek and his criminal crew of Arab raiders. The Arabs are later pursued by Adbul Mourak and his Abyssinian army, who figure that emperor Menelek of Abyssinia will be pleased if they capture the famous raider--and if they can bring him Jane as a gift, so much the better. Tarzan, meanwhile, has stolen the jewels of Opar and is being chased by La of Opar and her army of degenerate Oparian priests. And just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, a detachment of soldiers from the Congo Free State arrives in pursuit of Werper--but they'll settle for Tarzan.

The Beasts
Tarzan needs some help, so he recruits a tribe of apes to help him fight the Arabs. A couple of relatively smart apes, Chulk and Taglat, agree to help Tarzan rescue Jane. But Taglat double-crosses Tarzan and kidnaps Jane for himself. Chulk steals the jewels from Mugambi (who stole them from Werper who stole them from Tarzan) but later loses them to Werper again. Months later, Tarzan discovers the jewels among Werper's bones.

The Problem of Lord Greystoke's Estate
In the previous books, I got the distinct impression that Tarzan's African estate is on the west coast. Now it's clearly in eastern Africa, probably British East Africa.

More troubling than the wanderings of the Greystoke estate is the nature of the estate itself. Tarzan is a plantation slave lord in all but name. His estate is run by the Waziri tribe (and Mugambi) who revere Tarzan and Jane. The story perpetuates the myth of the happy-go-lucky slave: dozens of their family and friends may be dead from a confrontation that is due to the Greystokes, but as soon as Tarzan and Jane are safe, the Waziri are laughing and smiling and rebuilding the estate. No mourning, no grief, no post-traumatic stress, no funeral or memorial or acknowledgement of the dead. Only Tarzan and Jane matter.

One positive note is that Mugambi is becoming more of character in his own right. It's still problematic that Mugambi views Tarzan and Jane as masters more than as friends, but at least Mugambi gets his own chapters and his own bits of the adventure.

Overall I enjoyed the book probably a little less than The Son of Tarzan, but it's a strong and enjoyable story.

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