Is 'The Legend Of Tarzan' Based On A True Story? The Answer Might Surprise You

We've all heard the expression "raised by wolves," but is it possible that someone could have been raised by apes? To think that a person could actually have grown up in the jungle and thus, become almost super-human with skill and ability might sound crazy, but it turns out that the idea of someone able to swing from vine to vine in the jungle with the grace of a prima ballerina isn't an entire fantasy. Surprisingly, Tarzan is based on a true story, and the new movie, The Legend of Tarzan, has a larger basis in reality than you might initially think.

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That's not to say the new movie is entirely realistic, but it is a fact that Tarzan isn't a totally fictional character. There doesn't seem to be any indication that a professor and his daughter found a jungle man and the daughter and he fell in love during African colonialism, and the character of Jane and those story elements seem to be nothing more than writer Edgar Rice Burroughs' imagination. However, it does seem that there was, once, a jungle man whom Burroughs may have drawn inspiration from and used as fodder for the author's now-famous Tarzan stories. Now, there's not much information regarding the alleged jungle man, but it's possible that a man by the name of Lord William Charles Midlin, 14th Earl of Streatham is the inspiration for Tarzan.

According to a 1959 ERBzine magazine article, William Charles Midlin was shipwrecked on the coast of Africa and spent 15 years between 1868 and 1883 living in the jungle before returning to England to reclaim is title and livelihood. After the passing of the 15th Earl of Streatham, documents written by Lord William Charles Midlin were discovered and they recounted his time in the jungle.

It was on his very first foray into the jungle that William stumbled upon a colony of apes. Evidently the primates had never seen a white human before. Instead of running from him, they drew closer, chattering excitedly and with great interest.

"For some strange reason, I was not afraid of these strange creatures," [Midlin writes.] "They were hideous to look upon but nonetheless seemed gentle and harmless."

Their initial surprise subsiding, the apes offered the castaway nuts, grubs and roots to eat, thrusting the food at him with their long grotesque arms and hands. Starved, the youngster smiled gratefully, took the food and ate it.

"I was terribly ill afterwards and the apes appeared to understand this. Once ancient female hunched her way over to me and cradled me in her arms."

The manuscript goes on to describe Midlin's life with the apes and how he "joined" them as part of their group. He did not, however, speak to apes like Tarzan, but he did manage his own form of communication. It might seem outrageously imaginative, but it's been proven that it is possible to communicate with apes through sign language, so maybe Midlin's tale isn't so wild after all. And maybe, it's possible, that Burroughs used this information to create Tarzan and his story. After all, we know that Tarzan's true identity is that of John Clayton, Viscount Greystroke, so it might not be too far of a stretch to assume that Burroughs used some of Midlin's tale when writing his own.

While there's no confirmation that Tarzan is, in fact, based on Midlin, it could be possible. Burroughs was alive during the same time period as Midlin was, and it's possible that somehow he might have heard about Midlin's adventure and decided to create a character and story about it. Either way, the character of Tarzan and his jungle adventures remain beloved to this day and I don't see the love for the vine-swinging jungle man stopping anytime soon, especially now that The Legend of Tarzan is set to hit theaters.

Images: Warner Bros. Pictures