King Kong and Tarzan's apes appear to have an interesting connection

Gabriella Geisinger
·4-min read
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

We know what you're thinking: this theory is obviously not true. Tarzan was created in 1912 by (phenomenally racist) author Edgar Rice Burroughs. A family-friendly version was created by Disney in 1999 and later reimagined with Alexander Skarsgård in the lead by Warner Bros.

King Kong has an equally historical inception; he was created in 1933 by Merian Caldwell Cooper, an aviator and subsequent film producer and director at RKO, the studio that produced the first King Kong movie. While Tarzan predates King Kong by 20 years, Cooper always claimed his inspiration was a dream in which a giant gorilla terrorised New York City.

The two stories don't bear a tonne of similarities — barring the animal connection, of course. But the recent retellings of King Kong's story, via Legendary Pictures' Monsterverse movies, have hit more on the mythology of Burroughs' novels than ever before.

Photo credit: Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc - Disney
Photo credit: Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc - Disney

As pointed out by this Redditor, there are striking similarities between Kong himself and the species of ape featured in the original Tarzan novel, called Mangani. They are approximately man-sized and aren't exactly apes either, rather a species between chimpanzees and gorillas.

They are organised into tribes with a king to rule over them. They also have language, use tools, and walk upright. Sound familiar?

The most obvious hitch in the similarity between the Mangani and King Kong is his size. King Kong is huge, and as we've just stated, the Mangani are 'man-sized' so, at the very least, not 400 feet tall.

Photo credit: Warner Bros - YouTube
Photo credit: Warner Bros - YouTube

Kong's extraordinary growth, however, also further links the Tarzan story to our contemporary Monsterverse. Burroughs invented the Pellucidar — aka, The Hollow Earth, which overlapped with his Tarzan works in a crossover 'event' where Tarzan visits Pellucidar.

Our Redditor posits that Kong's growth is down to the unique energy present in Hollow Earth. There is, however, another explanation. In Burroughs' Pellucidar, there existed a species called Sagoths: brown-furred gorilla-like servants of the Pellucidar rulers, the Mahars.

They are lighter in build than a gorilla and speak a language similar to that of the Mangani. So, Kong's particular species could be an offshoot of Sagoths, too, similarly warped over time by the unique energy at the centre of the Hollow Earth.

Photo credit: Disney
Photo credit: Disney

Godzilla vs Kong: spoilers ahead!

In Godzilla vs Kong, Alexander Skarsgård's Dr Lind posits that Skull Island was an entrance to Hollow Earth. The other entrances are in the arctic, which lines up with Burroughs' Pellucidar.

Given that the end of Godzilla vs Kong shows us Kong at home, alone, in Hollow Earth, it's safe to say that plenty has changed since the time that other of his kind roamed happily. Who's to say what else transpired there?

Okay, spoilers over.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.


There's also the 2016 novel King Kong vs Tarzan, which saw the two meet. Of course, this didn't further substantiate any direct links between the two works, but it does go to show the thematic similarities between the two.

Now, we'll state the obvious 'duh' here. Yes, there are similarities between the two works because they both involve apes and humans communicating, and the tensions between the species. And in all likelihood, the reason for the abundance of similarities in the contemporary Monsterverse is that Legendary and its creatives are mining Burroughs' novels for inspiration, understandably.

So, while it's totally implausible that the two are in the same universe, or that Kong is related to Tarzan's Mangani, it's interesting to see how at the time there was a certain moment in the zeitgeist for exploring themes of evolution and humanity. That these works are continually revamped and reimagined proves that those themes are still in our collective consciousness today.

Godzilla vs Kong is available to rent at home in the UK from Prime Video, iTunes and other participating digital retailers, while it is available to watch now in US cinemas and on HBO Max in the US.

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