When & Where Does Tarzan Take Place in History?

When & Where Does Tarzan Take Place in History

Tarzan was one of the most popular novels of its time which is why it amassed such a big number of fans. Taking that into consideration, Disney decided to adapt it into an animated movie for children. The story made it stand out from anything Disney produced up to that point which is how it rose to such popularity in such a short amount of time. One thing that was left unclear in both the original novel and the adaptation is when (and where) is the story taking place. So, when and where does Tarzan take place?

According to the clues from Disney, Tarzanakes place in West Arica, most likely during the 1900s or 1910s.

If you want to learn more about when and where Tarzan takes place make sure to read the article all the way through since it provides an in-depth analysis of clues scattered around the movie.

When does Tarzan take place in history?

There is no explicit explanation of when the story actually takes place. Luckily, there are quite a few hints in the general plot we can use to help us place the story of Tarzan on the world history timeline. 

The biggest hint which alludes to the time when the first Tarzan movie takes place is the fact that the British Empire is colonizing Africa.  

The colonization process started sometime around the 1870s and it would be safe to assume that Tarzan’s parents get shipwrecked sometime around that time period.

If we take into consideration that Tarzan we see in the main plot is obviously aged up and he is most likely around 20 years old the best guess would be that the main plot takes place sometime around the 1990s. 

Another thing we can take into consideration is the fact that the original novel, Tarzan of the Apes, was released in 1912. Since the plot is based on the time period it was released we could also assume that the story takes place in that exact year.

From that point on the events depicted in the Disney animated movie unfold. Tarzan meets Jane, the two fall in love and discover Tarzan’s true identity. After realizing, he is a British Lord the two return to England.


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When does Tarzan 2016 take place in history?

The plot of the 2016 movie, The Legend of Tarzan would have you believe it takes place right after the Disney movie. It would also make sense since Tarzan is shown living in England and there are a plethora of clues indicating he lived there for a while. 

According to this, the movie would take place sometime between 1916 and 1927. However, the movie was never officially declared as a sequel which is why we need to look a little bit closer. 

As it always is with these questions related to placing certain events on the timeline the biggest hint comes from the clothing. In the movie, Jane is wearing a long white dress which is synched in at her waist using a belt with a somewhat over-the-top belt buckle. This look also features a hat and a blazer over everything.

All of these elements are pretty consistent with women’s fashion in the 1890s. The fashion of the time was defined by simplicity in comparison to the trends that came before it. This is why it was popular among women to wear something simple and play it up by using different accessories like hats and belts. 

The way Tarzan was dressed at the beginning of the movie, while he is still in England also fits this time period. He is wearing a tee-piece suit which was popular among men at that time. His shirt also has a raised pressed collar which was another staple of men’s fashion of that time.


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Where does Tarzan take place?

While it is pretty simple to deduce that the story is taking place somewhere in Africa, that is a pretty broad term, and using some clues from the story we can actually narrow this answer considerably.

Although Burroughs never specified where Tarzan was set, the West African country’s sandy beaches, imposing jungle, and ape sanctuaries seem to be a good fit, so much so that Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes was filmed there in 1984. 

The lush green rainforests of Cameroon’s interior are home to some of the world’s largest colonies of silverback gorillas, chimps, and apes. This is classic Tarzan terrain, particularly in the Mt Cameroon foothills.

This location also features the Atlantic port city of Douala which is rich with a stretch of dark, sandy beaches which extend toward the Nigerian border, and it’s the kind of place where a stranded survivor like Tarzan’s co-star Jane may have washed up.

Ekom-Nkam Falls, a waterfall in the jungles surrounding Nkongsamba, was chosen by production scouts as the ideal location for Christopher Lambert’s loincloth-wearing Tarzan in the 1984 Greystoke film. The lush, green foothills are blanketed in beautiful mosses, lichens, creepers, vines, and mahogany trees, some of which grow to 60m tall, and are dotted with the occasional coffee plantation. 

The thundering twin waterfall, a dual cascade that cascades down from an 82m-high escarpment into a Utopian misted-ravine below, is smack dab in the middle of it all. This is the ultimate Tarzan hideaway.


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What is Tarzan based on?

The story we all know today is based on Tarzan of the Apes, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs and first published in 1912 in the pulp magazine All-Story. It was the first novel about a white boy raised by primates after his parents died. 

After learning their ways, he grew up to usurp the alpha male ape as king of the jungle. He swung from vines, had a distinctive wild call, and was eventually introduced to a group of despicable humans, as well as Jane, the love of his life, and learns that he is the heir to a title and a fortune. 

The series was a big success straight away, and Burroughs took advantage of it by writing two dozen sequels.

Burroughs often suggested that Tarzan was inspired by classic stories and myths, citing the story of Romulus and Remus as an example. They were the twin grandsons of King Numitor, who was deposed by his brother and fathered by the war god Mars.

They were sentenced to death by drowning as children so that no legitimate claimants to the throne would be left alive. They ended up surviving by being suckled and fed by a she-wolf and a woodpecker as they floated down the Tiber River to the place where they would later find Rome.


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Aside from this, there are also a few instances of real-life people whose stories resemble the story of Tarzan quite a bit.

There are records of two English noblemen who got lost at the sea and were declared dead, but years later it surfaced that both actually shipwrecked near Africa.

The better-recorded case is the one of a man named Earl, who spent a bit over 15 years shipwrecked in the wilds of Africa.

He said he survived by clinging to a piece of the ship after it sunk during a three-day storm. According to The Telegraph article which reported on the story, he washed up between Pointe Noire and Libreville in French Equatorial Africa. 

This story is backed up by official insurance papers that proved the Antilla, which he was on at the time, had been totaled in 1868, according to the original Man’s Adventure report.

The article also claims that the man avoided any encounter with the native people due to his belief that all of them were savages.

Instead, he felt more comfortable around wild animals in the woods where he was hiding, which is why he wasn’t afraid when a group of apes approached him. 

According to the man he was feed by the apes once they gave him some of the leftovers from their food and he, in turn, provided them with fire and stole weapons from the natives. As time went on he developed a sort of codependent relationship with the group.

This was a popular story once it was published and it would be reasonable to assume that the author took inspiration from it, however, one thing to keep in mind is the fact that despite all of the evidence the story was never confirmed as true.

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