Why would I want a hero like Tarzan?


Why would I want a hero like Tarzan?

Every author, at some point, is asked why they wrote that particular story. Why that hero? Why that main character? Why that setting?

I know it seems cliché but The Zanzibar Moon was the story I had to write. It’s not like I haven’t written plenty of stories; five book-length manuscripts and numerous short stories. The first manuscripts never saw the light of the publishing day (they may even have mushrooms breeding on them by now). I enjoyed all the stories, but some should never be published (well at least not without about ten rewrites, plot changes and some awesome editing).

There’s a difference with The Zanzibar Moon, perhaps it’s because I’ve matured as a writer. I believe it’s due to my story-telling needs balancing with my writing craft and experience. I’m also more in sync because I’m passionate about this story. Other stories I tried to write to markets, word counts and other expectations. This time I threw romance convention out the window, but still adhered to good writing, flow and grammar. I think it works and I hope you do too.

Back to the whys.

Why create the character Kendwa as the hero?

My dad and I had a wonderful close relationship. When I was perhaps six years old I was allowed to skip Sunday School with Dad. For some reason my brother and sister had to go with Mum (they probably liked Sunday School). Dad and I would watch either Tarzan or Elvis movies and I cherished those moments. What could be better than being introduced to a fictional character (Tarzan not Elvis) by my very first hero, Dad?

It wasn’t just Tarzan I fell in love with, it was Africa and the wildlife too. Though Dad wasn’t much of a reader he encouraged me and my brother to read Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan books (what a legendary author). I’ve always loved reading. Fantasies with exotic places (like Aladdin) were my favourites (until I was older and it became ponies, dogs and girl-themed books). It was the early days of black and white television, but Dad and I watched every episode of the series Tarzan starring Ron Ely. It must have been repeats because the series ran between 1966 and 1968. Dad preferred the Johnny Weissmuller played Tarzan but I loved them all.

Above is a later television series of Tarzan starring Travis Fimmel (yes of Vikings fame) – and you’re welcome.

I didn’t know it when I was young, but as a grown woman I realised heroes need more than bravery. Tarzan’s qualities; handsome, strong, resourceful, kind, charming and full of integrity (sexy goes without saying). Kendwa is a blend of Tarzan, Aladdin, Sinbad, George of the Jungle, Elvis (in Harum Scarum) and Daktari (the African wildlife vet – remember Clarence the cross-eyed lion?). And a funny thing happened – Kendwa became just Kendwa.

A note on Aladdin

While researching these books and movies I found this blog post Surprising Facts About Aladdin and The Arabian Nights. Is it a coincidence or not, that there is a reference to the moon?  In the original Aladdin story his girlfriend’s name was Badroulbadour (it means ‘full moon of full moons’ in Arabic) not Jasmine. Perhaps another little happenstance as to me choosing the title The Zanzibar Moon.

Sadly, Dad passed away in 1988 but my voraciousness for shirtless jungle heroes and Africa didn’t diminish. Brendan Fraser’s George of the Jungle (like wow) had the raw hero but with humour. I loved that and every Tarzan-type movie and book since, like Wilburn Smith books. Before Dad died we must have watched The Gods Must Be Crazy (see trailer below) at least ten times, laughing ourselves sick each time. Okay, there was no macho hero but little Xi, the Kalahari Bushman was endearing and the landscape breathtaking.

I cannot continue without mention some wonderful women writers; Joy Adams Born Free (I have a limited print of a hand-drawing she did of Elsa the lion), Karen Blixen Out of Africa, Beverley Harper (an Australian author who wrote wonderful books about Africa, she died of breast cancer in 2002) Echo of an Angry God, and more recently Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (a sad but true story about the Biafran war). Half of a Yellow Sun didn’t play any party in my writing of The Zanzibar Moon. I had to mention it because it’s an insightful award-winning book written by a Nigerian woman. One I am yet to read, and just purchased, is by Dame Daphne Sheldrick An African Love Story an autobiography on love, life and elephants. Buy the book directly from the link and money goes to protecting wildlife in Kenya, particularly orphaned elephants.

I haven’t answered, why the story is set in Zanzibar, or why Ali is the main character.

You’ll have to come back to find that out.

Enjoy the trailer from The Gods Must be Crazy, below. I know it’s old but it’s just so funny.

Feel free to comment, thank you.

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