Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American author of popular fiction, mainly in the adventure, sci-fi and fantasy genres. Arguably his most well-known character is Tarzan, who is one of the greatest fictional characters ever created, and helped solidify Burroughs’ reputation in the literary world. We’ve put together a list of free Tarzan audiobooks for you to discover!
Many of the Tarzan stories were first published in “the pulps”, which were fiction magazines printed on low-quality paper. Due to the soaring popularity of the heroic Tarzan character and his adventures, it wasn’t long before the first book hit the shelves followed by a further 23 books in the series.
These early 20th century novels provide the perfect escapism, set in wild unchartered territories that take you on a journey of discovery. Some of the writing can seem outdated and highlights the attitudes of people at the time, which were clearly racist. However, Burroughs’ formulaic writing and use of themes such as civilization, race, and gender, does lead to an accumulation of action-packed creative storylines.
In this list, we give you the first 9 books published in the series, all of which are free in the public domain in ebook and audiobook format and available at digitalbook.io.
The first book in the series starts with Tarzan being raised by apes in the African jungle, growing to become a ferocious hunter. Tarzan consolidates his status after winning a fight with the great ape Kerchak, which propels him to King of the apes, a title formerly held by his aggressor. Then at 20 years old, he comes in contact with Western society for the first time in his adult life. He protects a group of treasure hunters and saves an American woman called Jane, who he falls in love with. Tarzan eventually leaves the wild land and heads to the US to be with his love.
The story continues in the second novel, where we see Tarzan leaving the US after becoming disillusioned with his life and his love for Jane, who is set to marry another. He makes it to France, where he becomes involved in some unexpected affairs, leading him to work for the French government. After a host of events that take him all over the world, he ends up back in his childhood land and the place he feels at home. However, once again Tarzan is taken over by love as he is reunited with Jane. This relatively short read is packed with so much action, it’s hard to believe it’s only 273 pages!
The third book in the series, Beasts of Tarzan, picks up the story a year later. Tarzan and Jane have a son called Jack and have been building their home in the African jungle. They head back to London during the wet season, where things begin to take a turn for the worst. Two of Tarzan’s enemies are released from prison and hatch a plan to kidnap our fierce warrior and his adventurous wife. Tarzan ends up stuck on an island from which he eventually escapes. However, this is only the first step in his pursuit to find his wife and rescue his son from savages.
In the fourth instalment, Tarzan’s son Jack takes center stage. Ten years have passed since the conclusion of the Beasts of Tarzan and Tarzan’s enemy, Alexis Paulvitch, is out for revenge. He lures Jack away from London and his parents into the hands of the enemy. Fortunately, the young boy manages to escape and his life continues among the apes in the jungle. He eventually becomes known as Korak, which means ‘The Killer, and like his father in the first book, we see him grow into an adult and become King of the jungle. Love enters his life in the form of the young beautiful Meriem, who he eventually goes on to marry. Meanwhile, his parents assume that their son has gone forever after being missing for so many years.
The next book in the series sees the return of Tarzan as the main character in the Jewels of Opar. Tarzan faces financial difficulty so decides to return to Opar, the source of gold from the lost city of Atlantis, to which he knows the secret location. Unfortunately, Tarzan is hit on the head during an earthquake and loses his memory, becoming more beast than gentleman. Back at home, Jane is kidnapped and awaits rescue by her heroic husband. She begins to suspect something is wrong after there is no sign of him. Tarzan has further problems when the alluring La, the high priestess for the flaming god, makes advances towards him.
In Jungle tales of Tarzan we go back to his teenage years with twelve loosely connected stories. Even though this is the sixth book in the series, these short stories fit into chapter 11 of Tarzan of the Apes. Like in many of the other books in the series, there are numerous themes running throughout, making it an interesting read. We see how Tarzan feels being different from the others, and how the others see him as being different. By today’s standards, some of these stories contain some unacceptable elements with the use of racial stereotypes.
The seventh book, Tarzan the Untamed, brings us back up to date and follows on from the Jewels of Opar, taking place during World War I. While Tarzan is away from his African home, German troops enter and destroy the whole area. Rushing back, Tarzan arrives too late and discovers the charred remains of what look like his wife Jane. Revenge is the only thing on the grieving man’s mind as he heads to the battle front in East Africa in search of the perpetrators. As the title suggests, we see an untamed Tarzan who is more violent than ever before. This novel is very brutal considering it’s a YA read! Controversy also surrounds this book with Burroughs’ seemingly unfair portrayal of Germany and the German people after the war had ended.
Following on from the shocking events in Tarzan the Untamed, the news that Jane is alive and her death was a ruse sets Tarzan on a mission to track her down. It brings him to a lost valley where he encounters dinosaur-like creatures and men with tails. As we’ve become accustomed to in Burroughs’ previous novels, Tarzan must battle to escape various situations along the way to reach Jane, who is in the hands of German kidnappers, and by now probably the most kidnapped woman on the planet! However, when he finally does reach her, it seems unlikely that they’re both going to escape this time. But will the young Korak return to save the day?
The ninth story continues as the trio, Tarzan, Jane and Korack, return from their most recent adventure. They come across an orphaned lion cub, which they take back home and Tarzan sets about training him. Having a lion at his side is very useful, as once again he heads to the lost city of Opar in search of riches. By now you won’t be surprised to hear that there are escapes, rescues and fights along the way, as well as the kidnapping of Jane, but we won’t dwell on that. We also see the return of La, the smitten priestess, who fights to save the man she just can’t help but love.