Burroughs may or may not have intended Tarzan of the Apes to have a sequel, but once the story appeared and reader reaction was heard there was no question but that there would be another Tarzan story. Burroughs had returned to his Barsoomian setting for The Gods of Mars, the second book of the trilogy, after writing Tarzan of the Apes. Once the second Martian book was out of the way he set to work on a new Tarzan story in December, 1912.
The story was completed the following month, and in view of the success of its predecessor the rejection of the sequel by All-Story is all the more startling. (In 1939 Alva Johnston reported that it was rejected by an anonymous subeditor at Munsey without ever being seen by Metcalf or Davis. Much more about Alva Johnston in a later chapter.)
At any rate the sequel (its working titles had been The Ape-Man and Monsieur Tarzan) ran serially in Street & Smith's New Story Magazine from June through December, 1913. Its title, as published, had evolved into the prosaic The Return of Tarzan.
While certainly not as significant as the first Tarzan novel—what sequel ever is?—The Return of Tarzan is of considerable interest. Tarzan of the Apes, for all its action, is essentially a novel of character, developing character of the boy Tarzan, human by heredity, and animal by companionship and surroundings. The heart of the book is Tarzan's development, first in his jungle foster-home among beasts and in periods of solitude, then in the companionship of his human discoveries, initially in Africa, then in France and finally in the United States.
Burroughs' belief was that heredity would overcome environment, that the generation of culture bred into young John Clayton would not yield to the accident of orphanhood. Modern anthropology and educational beliefs