Mangani is the name of a fictional species of great apes in the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and of the invented language used by these apes. In the invented language, Mangani (meaning "great-ape") is the apes' word for their own kind, although the term is also applied (with modifications) to humans. The Mangani are represented as the apes who foster and raise Tarzan.

As a species of ape

The Mangani are described by Burroughs as approximately man-sized, and appear to be a species intermediate between chimpanzees and gorillas. He also described them as “man-like apes which the natives of the Gobi speak of in whispers; but which no white man ever had seen [before Tarzan]” (Jungle Tales of Tarzan: "The Battle for Teeka") implying a connection to the Almas or Yeti. There have been a number of attempts to identify the fictional Mangani with an actual primate species. Science fiction author Philip José Farmer speculated they might be a variety of australopithecines such as Australopithecus in his pseudo-biography of Tarzan, Tarzan Alive. Walt Disney Pictures' 1999 animated feature film Tarzan, its sequels Tarzan & Jane and Tarzan II, and the television series The Legend of Tarzan based on it, portray the apes who raised Tarzan as gorillas, though in the books gorillas, called Bolgani by the Mangani, are explicitly stated to be a separate species.

As described by Burroughs, Mangani are organized in tribal bands ruled by dominant males, or "kings", which subsist by foraging for fruit, grubs, insects, and sometimes meat, in localized territories. Tribes are generally identified by the names of their kings. Burroughs portrays the Mangani (and indeed most jungle animals) as susceptible to occasional bouts of madness in which they will lash out violently and unpredictably at other living creatures in their vicinity. Tarzan is raised in the tribe of Kerchak, based in the coastal jungle of equatorial Africa, as shown in Tarzan of the Apes and Jungle Tales of Tarzan. As an adult he comes to lead this tribe; later, he becomes accepted in other tribes of Mangani, such as the tribe of Molak in The Beasts of Tarzan. Tarzan continued to associate occasionally with his original tribe until cast out in Tarzan and the Golden Lion, as the result of a Tarzan impersonator having murdered one of its members.

Altogether, Mangani appear in 15 of the Tarzan books; the first through seventh (Tarzan of the Apes, The Return of Tarzan, The Beasts of Tarzan, The Son of Tarzan, Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, Jungle Tales of Tarzan, Tarzan the Untamed), the ninth (Tarzan and the Golden Lion), the 11th and 12th (Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan and the Lost Empire), the 14th (Tarzan the Invincible), the 18th (Tarzan and the Leopard Men), the 20th (Tarzan and the Forbidden City), the 23rd (Tarzan and the Madman), and the 26th (Tarzan: The Lost Adventure).

Known Mangani tribes

A list of tribal groups of Mangani and individual named Mangani associated with them as portrayed in the Tarzan novels follows, together with the titles of the books in which they appear or are referenced. Individuals associated with more than one tribe may be listed more than once.

Tribe of Go-lat

Tribe of Kerchak (later of Tarzan, Terkoz, Karnath, Pagth)

Tribe of Mal-gash (also called the tribe of Ho-den and the Servants of God)

Tribe of Molak

Tribe of Toyat

Tribe of Ungo (possibly the same as the later tribe of Zutho)

Tribe of Zutho (split from the earlier tribe of Toyat, possibly the same as the later tribe of Ungo)

Tribe of Zu-yad

Rogue (tribeless) Mangani

As a language

The Mangani language is depicted as a primal universal language shared by many primate species in addition to the Mangani themselves, including monkeys (Jungle Tales of Tarzan and others), Indonesian orangutans (Tarzan and the Foreign Legion), and the more man-like Sagoths of Pellucidar (Tarzan at the Earth's Core). In the later Tarzan novels, Tarzan is shown conversing in Mangani with his monkey companion Nkima more often than with the Mangani themselves. In the crossover novel King Kong vs. Tarzan, the giant, prehistoric ape King Kong possibly also understands the language; though it is left ambiguous whether he actually understood it or was copying what Tarzan said in Mangani.

Other jungle animals are depicted as having their own bestial languages, but also as being able to understand Mangani to varying degrees. Whether the Mangani in turn understand any other animal languages is uncertain; Tarzan, at least, comprehends to some extent at least a few. In Tarzan of the Apes, before learning any spoken human languages, he avers "I speak only the language of my tribe—the great apes who were Kerchak's; and a little of the languages of Tantor, the elephant, and Numa, the lion, and of the other folks of the jungle I understand."

The Mangani language as described by Burroughs is made up largely of grunts and growls representing nouns and various basic concepts. The bestial quality of the speech, however, does not come through in the rather large lexicon of Mangani words Burroughs actually provides. The depicted language can be thought of as bearing a relationship to the described language similar to that of the movies' euphonious "Tarzan yell" to the books' terrifying "victory cry of the bull ape" from which it supposedly derives; the example in each instance falls short of embodying the description.

The word "mangani" is a compound, with man meaning "great" or "large" and gani meaning "ape" (or perhaps "people"). With modifications, the term is also applied to humans, gomangani ("dark-great-ape") for black-skinned humans and tarmangani ("light-great-ape") for white-skinned humans, suggesting that the Mangani regard human beings as variations on their own type. Notably, gorillas do not seem to be regarded as "man" gani, but as a different type of "ape," bolgani ("flat" or "earth-bound ape").

Some examples (with translation) of Burroughs' Mangani words follow.

Mangani in other media

Attempts to portray the Mangani outside the medium of their origin have varied.

The Tarzan comic strip and comic books generally have no difficulty in visualizing them according to Burroughs' vision, though the Tarzan comic books published by Malibu Comics in the early 1990s suggested the Mangani were a variety of Bigfoot or Sasquatch.

In the live-action Tarzan films they have generally been represented by a token individual, Cheeta, a chimpanzee. The chief exception is the 1984 Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, which adheres closely to Burroughs' description; in this film, adult Mangani are portrayed by human actors in ape costumes, while the roles of immature Mangani are taken by chimpanzees. However, the Mangani language is not used in the film, with subtitles or otherwise, and as a result the name "Tarzan" is used nowhere in the film, except in the title.

Walt Disney Pictures' 1999 animated feature film Tarzan, its sequels Tarzan & Jane and Tarzan II, and the television series The Legend of Tarzan based on it, portray the apes who raised Tarzan as gorillas. The only use of the term Mangani in the television series is as the proper name of an individual ghostly white ape who possesses mystical powers.

The 2016 live-action film The Legend of Tarzan featured the Mangani as a distinct species of ape, describing them as being more aggressive and dangerous than gorillas.[2] The Mangani themselves were computer-generated images using motion capture technology.[3]

Poems in Mangani have been written by members of the Oulipo group, like Jacques Jouet, Jacques Roubaud, or Hervé Le Tellier.

Other uses


  1. ^ Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes #1, page 16
  2. ^ "Legend of Tarzan Dialogue Confirmed: "They Aren't Gorillas, They're Mangani"". The Tarzan Files and The John Carter Files. March 19, 2016. Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  3. ^ "Legend of Tarzan : Stills and behind-the-scenes photos of motion capture apes". The Tarzan Files and The John Carter Files. December 20, 2015. Retrieved 2016-07-10.