Tarzan of the Apes

This article is about the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. For the films, see Tarzan of the Apes (1918 film) and Tarzan of the Apes (1999 film). For the Disney film, see Tarzan (1999 film). For other uses, see Tarzan (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Planet of the Apes.
Tarzan of the Apes

Dust-jacket illustration of Tarzan of the Apes
Author Edgar Rice Burroughs
Illustrator Fred J Arting
Cover artist Fred J Arting
Country United States
Language English
Series Tarzan series
Genre Adventure novel
Publisher A. C. McClurg
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 400 pp
OCLC 1224185
Followed by The Return of Tarzan

Tarzan of the Apes is a novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first in a series of books about the title character Tarzan. It was first published in the pulp magazine All-Story Magazine in October 1912. So popular was the character that Burroughs continued the series into the 1940s with two dozen sequels. For the novel's centennial anniversary, Library of America published a hardcover edition based on the original book in April 2012 with an introduction by Thomas Mallon (ISBN 978-1-59853-164-0).

Plot summary

The novel tells the story of John Clayton III. John and Alice (Rutherford) Clayton II, Lord and Lady Greystoke of England, are marooned in the western coastal jungles of equatorial Africa in 1888. In September 1889 their son John Clayton III is born. At one year old his mother dies, and soon thereafter his father is killed by the savage king ape Kerchak. The infant is then adopted by the she-ape Kala.

Clayton is named "Tarzan" ("White Skin" in the ape language) and raised in ignorance of his human heritage.

As a boy, feeling alienated from his peers due to their physical differences, he discovers his true parents' cabin, where he first learns of others like himself in their books. Using basic primers with pictures, over many years he teaches himself to read English, but having never heard it, cannot speak it.

Upon his return from one visit to the cabin, he is attacked by a huge gorilla which he manages to kill with his father's knife, although he is terribly wounded in the struggle. As he grows up, Tarzan becomes a skilled hunter.

Later, a tribe of black Africans settle in the area, and Tarzan's adopted mother, Kala, is killed by one of its hunters. Avenging himself on the killer, Tarzan begins an antagonistic relationship with the tribe, raiding its village for weapons and practicing cruel pranks on them. They, in turn, regard him as an evil spirit and attempt to placate him. Some time after, Tarzan finds he has excited the jealousy of Kerchak, the ape leader, who finally attacks him. Tarzan kills Kerchak and takes his place as "king" of the apes.

At about the age of 20 a new party is marooned on the coast, including Jane Porter, the daughter of English professor Archimedes Q Porter and the first white woman Tarzan has ever seen. Tarzan's cousin, William Cecil Clayton, unwitting usurper of the ape man's ancestral English estate, is also among the party. Tarzan spies on the newcomers, aids them in secret, and saves Jane from the perils of the jungle.

Among the party was French Naval Officer Paul D'Arnot. While rescuing D'Arnot from the natives, a rescue ship recovers the castaways. D'Arnot teaches Tarzan to speak French and offers to take Tarzan to the land of white men where he might connect with Jane again. On their journey, D'Arnot teaches him how to behave among white men. In the ensuing months, Tarzan eventually learns to speak English as well.

Ultimately, Tarzan travels to find Jane in Wisconsin, USA. Tarzan learns the bitter news that she has become engaged to William Clayton. Meanwhile, clues from his parents' cabin have enabled D'Arnot to prove Tarzan's true identity as John Clayton the Earl of Greystoke. Instead of reclaiming his inheritance from William, Tarzan chooses rather to conceal and renounce his heritage for the sake of Jane's happiness.[1]

Characters in order of appearance

  • John Clayton, Lord Greystoke
  • Lady Alice Clayton (Rutherford)
  • Black Michael
  • Kerchak
  • Kala
  • Tarzan
  • Tublat
  • Sabor
  • Bolgani
  • Tantor
  • Kulonga
  • Mbonga
  • Terkoz
  • Professor Archimedes Q. Porter
  • Jane Porter
  • Samuel T. Philander
  • William Cecil Clayton
  • Esmeralda
  • Numa
  • Sheeta
  • Lieutenant Paul D’Arnot
  • Lieutenant Charpentier
  • Captain Dufranne
  • Father Constantine
  • Robert Canler

African animals

Film adaptations

Burroughs' novel has been the basis of several movies. The first two were the silent films Tarzan of the Apes (1918) and The Romance of Tarzan (1918), both starring Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan, based on the first and second parts of the novel, respectively. The next and most famous adaptation was Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), starring Johnny Weissmuller, who went on to star in eleven other Tarzan films. Lincoln was replaced by Weissmuller in real life as Clayton by Harry Holt in the films. It was remade twice, as Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959), featuring Denny Miller, and Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), with Miles O'Keeffe as Tarzan and Bo Derek as Jane.

Four more movie adaptations have been made to date: Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984), a film starring Christopher Lambert that is more faithful to the book; Tarzan of the Apes (1999), a direct to video animated film; Tarzan (1999), a Disney animated film with Tony Goldwyn as the voice of Tarzan; and The Legend of Tarzan (2016), a more historically contextualized update starring Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie, as well as Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, portraying actual figures in the Congo at that time, the brutal Belgian Captain Léon Rom and American Civil War soldier George Washington Williams, respectively.

A number of Burroughs' other Tarzan novels have also been adapted for the screen. Numerous Tarzan films have been made with no connection to his writings other than the character.

Comic adaptations

The book has been adapted into comic form on a number of occasions, both in the original Tarzan comic strip and comic books. The strip itself began with Hal Foster's adaptation of the story. Notable adaptations into comic book form include those of Gold Key Comics in Tarzan no. 155 (script by Gaylord DuBois, art by Russ Manning), dated September 1966 (reprinted in no. 178, dated October 1969), DC Comics in Tarzan nos. 207-210, dated April–July 1972, and Marvel in Tarzan Super Special no. 1 (reprinted in Tarzan of the Apes nos. 1-2, dated July–August 1984). Probably the most prestigious comic version, however, was illustrator and former Tarzan comic strip artist Burne Hogarth's 1972 adaptation of the first half of the book into his showcase graphic novel Tarzan of the Apes. (Hogarth subsequently followed up with another graphic novel Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1976), which adapted four stories from Burroughs' identically titled collection of Tarzan stories). Dynamite Entertainment adapted the story for the first 6 issues of Lord of the Jungle, albeit loosely; for example, the cannibal tribe was replaced by a village of literal apemen.

Radio adaptations

See main article, Tarzan (radio program).

Three old-time radio series were based on the Tarzan character. Burroughs himself revised each script in the 1932-1934 series as needed for accuracy.[2] That series had Burroughs' daughter, Joan, in the role of Jane.[3]


  1. https://books.google.com/books?id=rUczCgAAQBAJ&pg=PT95
  2. Stebbins, Barton A. (January 15, 1933). ""Tarzan": A Modern Radio Success Story" (PDF). Broadcasting. p. 7. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  3. ""Tarzan" Series Tests Produce 93,000 Letters In First Eight Weeks" (PDF). Broadcasting. December 15, 1932. p. 13. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Preceded by
Tarzan series
Tarzan of the Apes
Succeeded by
The Return of Tarzan
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