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Akut — Tarzan’s Brother? Some Thoughts on the Akut of the Movie vs. the Akut of the Books

ERBDOM, Legend of Tarzan (Movie), Tarzan of the Apes

First, check out the video:

Now, let’s go back …. there were comments from a lot of folks about the baby on Kala’s back in the earlier trailers — the point being, in the book, her baby is dead, and that’s a big part of her motivation for rescuing baby Greystoke.

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So, it seems like the decision to have Kala have another baby ape besides Tarzan was part of something that at least — well, at least it has a payoff in the present day of the movie.

How do I feel about it?

Akut as Tarzan’s Brother?

Well . . .  without something like that, what sort of bond would Tarzan have with the apes when he comes back?  Kala is dead. Kerchak is dead.  And he killed ol’ Bolgani too.   I can definitely see how, in the development of the story,  there would have been a process — how do we make the audience feel his connection with the apes if there is no ape that he has a powerful bond with?

But it seems like a pretty good idea to me and doesn’t seem like it really runs counter to Burroughs’ themes and constructs.

In the scene Tarzan says: “He was my brother once . . . . now he looks at me as a deserter.”

Compare that to the following, from Tarzan of the Apes:

But Tarzan tired of it, as he found that kingship meant the curtailment of his liberty. He longed for the little cabin and the sun-kissed sea—for the cool interior of the well-built house, and for the never-ending wonders of the many books.

As he had grown older, he found that he had grown away from his people. Their interests and his were far removed. They had not kept pace with him, nor could they understand aught of the many strange and wonderful dreams that passed through the active brain of their human king. So limited was their vocabulary that Tarzan could not even talk with them of the many new truths, and the great fields of thought that his reading had opened up before his longing eyes, or make known ambitions which stirred his soul.

Among the tribe he no longer had friends as of old. A little child may find companionship in many strange and simple creatures, but to a grown man there must be some semblance of equality in intellect as the basis for agreeable association.

Had Kala lived, Tarzan would have sacrificed all else to remain near her, but now that she was dead, and the playful friends of his childhood grown into fierce and surly brutes he felt that he much preferred the peace and solitude of his cabin to the irksome duties of leadership amongst a horde of wild beasts.

Tarzan then faces a challenge from Terkoz, and the two have a good-ol’-fashioned Alpha showdown, Tarzan wins, but rather than kill Terkoz, he gets him to surrender, and lets him live.  Afterwards, he speaks to the tribe:

“Tarzan,” he continued, “is not an ape. He is not like his people. His ways are not their ways, and so Tarzan is going back to the lair of his own kind by the waters of the great lake which has no farther shore. You must choose another to rule you, for Tarzan will not return.”

And thus young Lord Greystoke took the first step toward the goal which he had set—the finding of other white men like himself.

So for Tarzan to say that Akut sees him as a deserter is interesting, isn’t it? It resonates, because that’s what he did, in the book — he deserted the tribe.

More thoughts about Akut . . . .

One other random thought.  “Akut”  — why that name?  I have a theory.  This “completely original” story starts with Tarzan and Jane having been in London for 8 years.  Surprise surprise — that’s about how long they’d been there at the beginning of Son of Tarzan.   And of course, at the beginning of Son of Tarzan, the main story point is tht there is an anthropoid ape being displayed in London, and young Jack goes to see him against Jane and Tarzan’s wishes. That ape is Akut. He’s not Tarzan’s brother, but Tarzan knows him.  Here’s the scene where Tarzan sees him for the first time:

“Akut!” he cried.

The boy looked, bewildered, from the ape to his father, and from his father to the ape. . . .

“Long have I looked for you, Tarzan,” said Akut. “Now that I have found you I shall come to your jungle and live there always.”

The man stroked the beast’s head. Through his mind there was running rapidly a train of recollection that carried him far into the depths of the primeval African forest where this huge, man-like beast had fought shoulder to shoulder with him years before. He saw the black Mugambi wielding his deadly knob-stick, and beside them, with bared fangs and bristling whiskers, Sheeta the terrible; and pressing close behind the savage and the savage panther, the hideous apes of Akut. The man sighed. Strong within him surged the jungle lust that he had thought dead. Ah! if he could go back even for a brief month of it, to feel again the brush of leafy branches against his naked hide; to smell the musty rot of dead vegetation—frankincense and myrrh to the jungle born; to sense the noiseless coming of the great carnivora upon his trail; to hunt and to be hunted; to kill! The picture was alluring. And then came another picture—a sweet-faced woman, still young and beautiful; friends; a home; a son. He shrugged his giant shoulders.

“It cannot be, Akut,” he said; “but if you would return, I shall see that it is done. You could not be happy here—I may not be happy there.”

The trainer stepped forward. The ape bared his fangs, growling.

“Go with him, Akut,” said Tarzan of the Apes. “I will come and see you tomorrow.”

The beast moved sullenly to the trainer’s side. The latter, at John Clayton’s request, told where they might be found. Tarzan turned toward his son.

“Come!” he said, and the two left the theater. Neither spoke for several minutes after they had entered the limousine. It was the boy who broke the silence.

“The ape knew you,” he said, “and you spoke together in the ape’s tongue. How did the ape know you, and how did you learn his language?”

And then, briefly and for the first time, Tarzan of the Apes told his son of his early life—of the birth in the jungle, of the death of his parents, and of how Kala, the great she ape had suckled and raised him from infancy almost to manhood. He told him, too, of the dangers and the horrors of the jungle; of the great beasts that stalked one by day and by night; of the periods of drought, and of the cataclysmic rains; of hunger; of cold; of intense heat; of nakedness and fear and suffering. He told him of all those things that seem most horrible to the creature of civilization in the hope that the knowledge of them might expunge from the lad’s mind any inherent desire for the jungle. Yet they were the very things that made the memory of the jungle what it was to Tarzan—that made up the composite jungle life he loved. And in the telling he forgot one thing—the principal thing—that the boy at his side, listening with eager ears, was the son of Tarzan of the Apes.


My point?  Well, my point is, this screenplay had been in progress so long by the time it got to David Yates that it may well be that no one realized where it connected with Burroughs’ stories — but here is one point of connection, not just a plot point, but a thematic point of connection, and not just about Akut.   The dichotomy of Tarzan’s spiritual existence — his approach/avoidance of Africa, yearning for it on the one hand, but wanting to be among his own kind on the other — this is all from Burroughs.



  • BTW, I just looked through the last batch of stills – one thing I haven’t noticed before. No knife. He looks kind of naked without the knife. As far as I remember he’d make pretty sure he always had one in the books, does not look right if he goes through most of the movie without getting one even if he lost his early on. Worse if he started his trip to Africa without one. Would not make much sense. I hope there is some reason given in the movie, even if it is just the lame lost his, could not find another.

  • In one quick clip it shows Tarzan slicing a natives guts with CGI blood flying, so he gets a sharp instrument somehow. Can’t tell if it’s a knife though.

  • If there was a way to interview the screenwriters, that would be simply amazing, since it’s apparently them (both?) that really knew the source material.

    • Well it’s a “chain of evidence” thing. The first screenwriter was John August. They paid him a million bucks. Then Stuart Beattie. Then Craig Brewer and Adam Cozad. I think the opportunity will come to figure out the DNA . . . .

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