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ERB Summary Project

Tarzan of the Apes

Summarized by
The Members of ERBlist

David Bruce Bozarth, Managing Editor
Illustration Copyright 1998 by Lou Malcangi.

Introduction: Tarzan Dreams

David A. Adams

I recently learned that the works of Twain have been summarized by chapters. What a wonderful research tool and memory helper! Via email I asked Bruce "Tangor" Bozarth why this has not been done for Edgar Rice Burroughs. Finding a receptive ear, plans were made to offer a summer project to the electronic on-line ERB community which comprises Tangor's ERBList and Jim Thompson's ERBCOF-L. This summary is the result.

At the end, the creation of this little artifact provided its own reward because it brought all of us back to the original texts. It is but a by-product of the renewed sense of wonder we get every time we wander into the world of this master of daydreams.


John Clayton, Lord Greystoke

Lady Alice Clayton (Rutherford)

Black Michael










Professor Archimedes Q. Porter

Jane Porter

Samuel T. Philander

William Cecil Clayton




Lieutenant Paul D’Arnot

Lieutenant Charpentier

Captian Dufranne

Robert Canler

Chapter 1: Out to Sea

David Bruce Bozarth

An extended introduction explains how the author obtained the tale. Inequities against natives in European-held African territories required authorities in England to dispatch a man identified as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke. Clayton and wife Alice depart Dover in May 1888, arriving at Freetown a month later. A small sailing vessel, the Fuwalda, is chartered to continue the journey. The author reveals that the wreckage of this ship is found three months later and it is assumed that Clayton, wife, and all hands are lost.

The tale continues with the events following the Fuwalda's departure at Freetown. Clayton is witness to brutality by the commanding officer and prevents the murder of a crewman. Days later a crewman reveals a planned mutiny to Clayton. The Englishman attempts to warn the captain but is rebuked. Clayton's revolvers are stolen. Together, John and Alice wait in their cabin.

Chapter 2: The Savage Home

David A. Adams

Black Michael leads a mutiny aboard the Fuwalda. The Claytons are put ashore with all of their possessions, a supply of food, and tools. John Clayton builds a sleeping-shelter in the trees. They see the silhouette of a man-like figure in the shadows of dusk.

Chapter 3: Life and Death

Thomas Stock

The marooned Claytons have a meager breakfast their first day ashore. Within a month Lord Greystoke builds a sturdy cabin. A second month passes; the cabin is furnished and the couple is "not uncomfortable or unhappy." They are content but for the wild beasts in the jungle, including "great man-like figures."

One day an ape attacks unarmed Clayton; Alice puts a bullet in the brute. The ape collapses onto the woman. The attack mentally unhinges Alice, who never recovers. She stays within the cabin -- even after a son is born. She finds great joy and happiness caring for the infant.

During the long year of his wife's illness, Clayton improves the cabin. He is attacked several times by great apes. On his son's first birthday Alice peacefully dies in her sleep. Clayton writes of his despair in a diary. His son is hungry. "O Alice, Alice, what shall I do?" The deathlike stillness is shattered by the man-child's piteous wailing.

Chapter 4: The Apes

Steve Wadding

Fleeing from a rampaging Kerchak, Kala leapt from one tree to another, and her baby fell to the ground and died. Kerchak's rage left him as Kala held the lifeless baby to her bosom.

Kerchak led the tribe to the Clayton's cabin. Kala carried the dead baby with her. The door to the cabin was open, and Kerchak went in. John Clayton turned as Kerchak charged. Kerchak quickly killed him and went to the cradle. Kala got there first, and grabbed the crying baby, dropping her own dead baby in its place.

Kerchak examined inside of the cabin. He found the thunder-stick and accidentally pulled the trigger. The apes fled from the roar of the rifle. As Kerchak fled, the rifle caught on the door, closing it tightly as he went out, so that they could no longer get inside.

Kala cared for her new baby and protected him from the other apes.

Chapter 5: The White Ape

Stan Galloway

Tarzan, whose name means "White-Skin," matures more slowly than the other balus, but by the time he was 10 he was an excellent climber and could do many things beyond the powers of "his little brothers and sisters."

While drinking from a "little lake" near a companion, he compares himself and discovers his own ugliness in comparison. Sabor attacks with a "wild scream" which freezes the companion ape but not Tarzan, who leaps into the water. There he teaches himself to swim out of necessity. From this experience he develops a love of swimming, which further separates him from his anthropoid tribe. As a torment to Tublat, he teaches himself to make ropes and tie knots, which experimented with often.

Chapter 6: Jungle Battles

Larry Rickert

Tarzan manages to open the door to the cabin. Inside he discovers a hunting knife and a first alphabet. Fascinated by the book and pictures, he doesn't notice the approach of dusk. When the failing light affects his vision, Tarzan replaces the book but takes te knife with him. At the jungle's edge a huge Bolgani (gorilla), rears from the brush. The Bolgani is too close for Tarzan to flee.

During the gorilla's initial charge Tarzan accidentally plunges the knife into its chest. When the gorilla howls in pain, young Tarzan realizes it is a weapon. After a ferocious struggle the forms of Tarzan and the Bolgani lie motionless on the jungle floor.

The ape tribe has heard the gorilla's cry. Kala goes in search of the missing Tarzan. She finds him, grievously wounded, and tends the boy as best she can.

Chapter 7: The Light of Knowledge

Dennis Wilcutt

Tarzan has recovered from his battle with the gorilla and returns to the cabin of his birth to investigate its wonderous contents. He is instantly drawn to his father's many books. Tarzan embarks on a multi-year effort to teach himself to read and write.

Tarzan has been accorded new respect among the members of the tribe for killing a Bolgani and is allowed to attend, for the first time, the ceremonial and savage rites of a Dum-Dum. Participating in the ceremonial flesh-eating of a dead enemy, Old Tublat, Tarzan's implacable enemy for years, becomes mad with greed for the meat Tarzan has secured and attacks Tarzan, who escapes, then anyone who stands in his path. When Tublat madly attacks Kala, Tarzan leaps from the trees and kills the raging Ape.

Chapter 8: The Tree-Top Hunter

Bob Zeuschner

Following Tarzan's victory over Tublat the apes wander away, foraging for food. At one time the tribe scatters, seeing Sabor the lioness in their path. Meanwhile, Tarzan ponders MEN and clothing. Sabor's pelt would be perfect, but why do MEN cover their nakedness? During a cold rainstorm the purpose of clothing becomes clear to Tarzan.

Tarzan practices with his rope, driven by a desire to hang Sabor to obtain her pelt. At last confident, Tarzan waits in ambush above a game trail. Sabor appears beneath Tarzan's tree. The youth carefully throws his strong rope about Sabor's neck and quickly ties the end to the bole so she cannot pull him into reach of her deadly claws.

The lioness braces and Tarzan fails to drag her into the tree. The cat sees Tarzan and suddenly leaps. The boy quickly climbs to safety. Unable to reach the nimble boy, Sabor drops to the ground and bites herself free. Disappointed, Tarzan throws fruit at the waiting lioness. After Sabor finally leaves, Tarzan returns to the ape tribe. Boasting of his brave encounter, he impresses everyone. Kala "fairly danced for joy and pride."

Chapter 9: Man and Man

Dale Monahan

Tarzan's wild, jungle existence has little change. He makes friends with the elephants, learns how to fish, and is kept alert by the big cats of the jungle. He also spends many days in his parents' house mastering reading. The security of his jungle is broken by a cavalcade of black warriors and their families who are fleeing white man's soldiers. They settle in Tarzan's jungle but it is sometime before any leave the security of their village.

Kulonga, son of the king, eventually enters the jungle and kills Kala, Tarzan's ape mother. Tarzan questions the witnessing apes and, grief stricken and vengeance bound, begins to track Kala's killer.

Finding Kulonga, Tarzan follows, wary over Kulonga's strange method of killing prey. When Kulonga is asleep one night, Tarzan takes the native's bow and arrows. Now panic-stricken, Kulonga continues his journey with Tarzan following closely. At the edge of the forest Tarzan knows that he must kill the black or lose the chance to do so. He drops a noose over Kulonga. It tightens around the native's neck. Securing the rope, Tarzan plunges his knife in the dangling native. Thus, Kala is avenged.

Chapter 10: The Fear-Phantom

Robert Woodley

Tarzan encounters his first "civilized" community. Mbonga the cannibal is the father of Kulonga, the first man Tarzan had met, and whom he had just killed to avenge Kala's death. Tarzan's contrasting, beast-like nature is highlighted and defined in this chapter. Tarzan's feral viewpoint is compared with the black tribesmen and with civilization. The ape-man is described as having innate, but not necessarily positive, human characteristics blended with those of a beast. A condemnation of mankind by comparison with the jungle animals. This chapter contains the only reference to Tarzan killing for pleasure simply because he is a man.

Tarzan steals poison arrows from the natives when the village discovers Kulonga's body. Before leaving, he arranges a humorous display of skull and headdress in a hut. Tarzan watches the villagers for awhile, but soon loses interest, turning away to have a meal of Horta (boar).

Chapter 11: "King of the Apes"

Peter Renfro

Tarzan returns to the tribe of Kerchak boasting of his adventures. The next day he practices with the bow and arrows he has filched and explores the cabin further. He is unable to read John Clayton's diary written in French. Tarzan keeps a gold locket bearing the picture of his father.

Tarzan returns to the black men's village to renew his supply of arrows. Tarzan watches as the natives taunt a captured black man prior to cooking him. He notes the similarities and differences between this ceremony and the ape Dum-Dum. Tarzan slips into a hut and secures his arrows. Before making good his escape, he pilfers a human skull which he later casts into the center of the village, filling the natives with superstitious dread.

Returning to his tribe, Tarzan encounters Sabor, the lioness. Eager to test his bow and arrow, Tarzan vanquishes the lioness and skins it. Tarzan triumphantly displays his trophy to the apes. Kerchak, sensing the challenge to his authority, attacks. After a ferocious battle, Tarzan gains victory through the use of the hunting knife. "And thus came the young Lord Greystoke into the kingship of the Apes."

Chapter 12: Ma's Reason

Terry Klasek

Tarzan continues to raid the village of M'bonga for weapons and extra food. His agility and intellect are the fodder for numerous practical jokes on his small ape playmates. Tarzan by accident learns the uses of the rope and lasso. All that Tarzan learns with his playmates aides him in defeating the mighty Terkoz. Once again the large hunting knife of Tarzan's long dead sire saves his life. In this grand fight Tarzan learns, again by accident, the superiority of wrestling holds. In this chapter Tarzan moves from a puny hairless ape to a mighty fighter!

Chapter 13: His Own Kind

Sue-On Hillman

Tarzan, recovering from his battle with Terkoz, takes as his own the clothing and ornaments of the black natives (the "badges of his higher origin"). As a result, young Lord Greystoke creates the fable of the "evil spirit of the jungle" in Mbonga's village.

Tarzan returns to his cabin and encounters a great ship. A murder among these white strangers indicates these people are no less cruel than the denizens of the jungle. Tarzan's cabin is ransacked. He reveals his presence by leaving a painstakingly written note of warning tacked to the door. Professor Archimedes Porter, his assistant Philander, William Cecil Clayton, Esmeralda the maid and... Jane Porter come ashore. They find Tarzan's note that warns them not to harm his possessions. The unfolding drama forces Tarzan to make his presence known. He saves Clayton by hurling a spear through the shoulder of a murderous rat-faced sailor.

Clayton enters the jungle to find Porter and Philander, who were searching for the elusive ape man. Jane Porter and Esmeralda seek refuge inside Tarzan's cabin. They discover the skeletons of two adults and a baby. The women huddle together and wonder what eventualities await.

Chapter 14: At The Mercy Of The Jungle

Bill Hillman

Tarzan is amazed at the strange doings of the white men: Clayton runs into the undergrowth, the mutinous sailors row out to the anchored Arrow, and the two women barricade themselves in the cabin. Clayton is stalked by two large jungle cats, Tarzan's savage scream scares off Sheeta the leopard. The ape man is forced to kill Numa the lion. Clayton believes his rescuer must be Tarzan of the Apes, the man who left a note, but he is surprised when his attempts at communication are met with only beast-like growls. Tarzan forces Clayton to follow him into the jungle. Soon after, they hear a shot in the distance.

Back at the cabin, Jane and Esmeralda face grave danger as Sabor the lioness tries to break through the barred door and heavily grated window. Jane fires her revolver into the face of lioness. Both women faint, but when Jane opens her eyes she sees that the enraged wounded animal has broken through the window grate and is about to leap upon them.

Chapter 15: The Forest God

Don Bearden

When Tarzan hears a shot he puts Clayton over his back and takes to the trees. Clayton thinks that the progress is dizzying, though Tarzan chaffs at the slowness. When they reach the cabin Sabor is forcing her way into the cabin. Tarzan rushes to the window and pulls Sabor from the window by the tail. Breaking the cat's neck, Tarzan gives the victory cry of the great Bull ape.

Tarzan disappears. Clayton explains to Jane what has happened. His admiration for Tarzan is quite high, but he does not realize that this man was Tarzan of the Apes. Esmeralda revives from her faint and the reaction and shock of the events sets in on Jane. She throws herself on a bench, sobbing with hysterical laughter.

Chapter 16: "Most Remarkable"

William Hedges

Mr Philander and Professor Porter are lost on a sandy beach, wholly engaged in discussion. A lion approaches to within a few yards. Philander leads Porter away from the animal but their hasty retreat prompts the lion to follow.

Tarzan is watching. He swings to an overhanging limb and pulls both to safety. The men soon realize that neither saved the other and are startled when Tarzan's warning challenge of the anthropoid scares Numa away. Porter and Philander fall out of the tree. Finding nothing broken, they notice Tarzan for the first time. Tarzan motions for them to follow, but the men argue about the direction to take. Tarzan ties a rope around their necks then leads them back to the camp. The camp discusses their adventures and speculates upon the identity of their strange guardian.

Chapter 17: Burials

James Michael Rogers

The Porters, Esmerelda, Philander and Clayton, marooned by the mutineers, make some discoveries regarding the identities of the corpses in the cabin. Porter establishes that, minus the treasure, he is stony broke. The mutineers bury the treasure but Tarzan, apparently for "kicks", playfully digs it back up and re-buries it elsewhere. A little consideration of the matters at the cabin lead him to the conclusion that the men of the Porter's party are schmucks and losers but this Jane business kinda appeals to him, so much, in fact, that he engages in a little Peeping Tom action and falls instantly in love. Being a guy, the ape man also steals Jane's correspondence.

This chapter is principally concerned with the mechanics of propelling the plot along. The portions dealing with the mutineers and the treasure are perfunctory. At this point in the story the reader can have no doubt that Tarzan can knock off a few criminals at a moments notice, so the sub-plot adds no suspense and actually slows things down. Archimedes Porter, Philander and Esmerelda are tiresome and flat. The cabin scenes continue to maintain an air of mystery and to appeal to the reader, however, and the scene involving Jane is well handled and persuasive.

Chapter 18: The Jungle Toll

Dale Barkman

The next morning Tarzan reads Jane's letter to Hazel. The letter reveals everything that has happened to her group. She writes of the "god-like" creature who rescued her from a lioness and of the other neighbor who left a letter warning them to destroy nothing in his cabin. Tarzan writes a note on the bottom of her letter to identify himself and returns it to the cabin.

For the next few weeks, Tarzan supplies the group with meat but is too timid to show himself. After a month of this he gets the courage to finally go to the camp in daylight. He picks a time to return when Jane has gone off in search of fruit. Tarzan waits. While he is waiting, he hears a scream right after noticing the passage of a great ape. He quickly leaves to go and help.

Esmeralda returns and tells the group that Jane has been taken by a hairy giant, "one of them gorilephants". They go in search of her until dark and determine to try again in the morning.

Chapter 19: The Call of the Primitive

Bruce Salen

After Tarzan left the tribe, Terkoz becomes king and proves to be a cruel chief. The apes remember Tarzan's admonition that they should band together to depose any chief who is cruel. Five apes attack Terkoz and force him from their midst. Terkoz makes two attempts to rejoin his tribe, but is driven off each time. Terkoz wanders through the jungle, and happens upon two human females -- Jane Porter and Esmeralda. The tribe kept his women, so he takes Jane to be the first of his new harem.

Esmeralda screams and faints. Terkoz tosses Jane over his shoulder and is off through the trees. Jane's screams are heard by Tarzan. The mighty flies in pursuit of Terkoz and Jane. Terkoz sees he cannot escape. He drops to the ground. Jane sees a god-like apparition who apparently had saved both her father and Clayton; she sees him as protector and friend.

Tarzan and Terkoz battle. Tarzan wins. Jane throws herself into the arms of the man who had just fought for her. Tarzan responds by smothering her panting lips with kisses. In this heat of passion she, at least, first knows the meaning of love. Overcome by sudden shame, Jane pushes Tarzan away. Puzzled, Tarzan carries her into the jungle.

Meanwhile the Arrow is found by a French warship. The horrible fate of the dregs on the Arrow are revealed. The French warship soon discovers Prof. Porter and his party. The story of the loss of Jane is told; the French commander then commissions Lieutenants D'Arnot and Charpentier to lead a small group of sailors to find and rescue Jane.

Chapter 20: Heredity


Jane is borne off into the jungle by Tarzan, "the strange forest creature." She notes his features and physique, "unmarred by dissipation, or brutal or degrading passions." Tarzan takes her to a clearing where he builds a place for her to sleep. He gathers fruit. While silently communicating with each other through look and gestures, Jane notices a locket hanging around Tarzan's neck. He is astonished when Jane opens it to display images of Lord and Lady Greystoke. Tarzan produces a picture of the same likeness from his quiver. Tarzan gives the locket to Jane.

Tarzan's gracious manner is attributed to heredity.

In the morning Tarzan returns Jane to the cabin. He does not stay, and the parting is ERB at his most memorable; "I love you--I love you," she murmured." Tarzan kisses her. "Come back to me," she whispered., "I shall wait for you--always." He leaves. Jane is reunited with Philander and Esmeralda.

Chapter 21: The Village of Torture

Jim Savage

D'Arnot's expedition searching for Jane Porter is attacked by Mbonga's warriors. D'Arnot is captured while the sailors battle the tribesmen hand to hand.

At the village the Frenchman is attacked by the women and children. They tear away his clothing. The cannibals tie him to a stake. D'Arnot is tortured, which he endures in silence.

Tarzan hears the battle between the sailors and Mbonga's warriors. Sensing the outcome, he speeds to the village through the top of the forest. He observes D'Arnot's torture and voices his challenge. The villagers are frozen by the ape-man's cry. Tarzan throws a noose around the neck of a warrior and drags him struggling and shrieking into his tree. The villagers, terrified, run screaming from the compound.

D'Arnot, dazed, is frightened by the scene as well. He sees the lifeless body fall from the tree. Tarzan drops from the trees and frees the Frenchman. D'Arnot faints as Tarzan carries him away.

Chapter 22: The Search Party

Deon Beswick

Charpentier is disheartened by their losses and returns to camp for reinforcements to effect D'Arnot's rescue. Porter and Cecil Clayton have an emotional reunion with Jane. Clayton muses on Jane's survival and their relationship. Jane thanks him for his loyalty and help, especially regarding her father. Inwardly she is divided between Clayton and her father's efforts and her memories of Tarzan. Clayton and Jane discuss the man who rescued her and who went to aid them. Clayton realizes that Jane feels something towards this forest man. He derides Tarzan as a savage and cannibal. Jane retreats to the cabin where she decides it matters not if Tarzan is man or beast, for she loves him.

Next morning Clayton joins Charpentier and two hundred armed men. Charpentier splits his force to attack Mbonga's village. The French easily crush the village and all its warriors. Questioning the surviving women and children reveals no trace of D'Arnot's fate. The rescue party concludes D'Arnot was eaten.

Returning the next day, Charpentier praises D'Arnot's friendship and bravery to Clayton. Clayton later relates the expedition's failure to Jane. He again accuses Tarzan of belonging to the native tribe. Jane goes to her room in anger. Clayton regrets his behaviour and apologizes in a note. Jane ponders Clayton's note and Tarzan's, unsure of what she sees as the motives of three different suitors.

Chapter 23: Brother Men

Louis Malcangi

D'Arnot regains consciousness in a bed of ferns, in great pain with memories of the strange white man who saved him. He sleeps again, and upon awakening sees Tarzan. He tries unsuccessfully to communicate until Tarzan writes a note in English on a piece of bark. Tarzan explains that he does not speak the language of men, but that of the apes.

D'Arnot learns from Tarzan the safe return of Jane to the people at the cabin. D'Arnot is struck with a terrible fever. Nursed to health by Tarzan, D'Arnot teaches him to speak French. Three days after D'Arnot recovers they return to Tarzan's cabin.

The cabin is empty. Tarzan feels betrayed by Jane. He disappears into the jungle oblivious to the two notes left for him. As he travels through the jungle he thinks of D'Arnot's peril. It brings up a dilemma: Is he ape or man? An ape would leave D'Arnot to die. A man would never run away.

Meanwhile, D'Arnot reads the notes to discover that the Clayton party has left Africa "never to return." The chapter ends with D'Arnot shooting blindly towards the door as an unknown intruder enters.

Chapter 24: Lost Treasure

David Bruce Bozarth

Jane implores Captain Dufranne to delay departure. Tarzan, she is certain, will return with D'Arnot. Clayton and Lieutenant Charpentier go to retrieve the treasure and report it has been stolen. Jane deals with personal doubts regarding her forest god. In the end she leaves a written message at the cabin when the company departs.

Chapter 25: The Outpost of the World

David Bruce Bozarth

D'Arnot shoots Tarzan entering the cabin. Fortunately the wound is not serious. Tarzan reads the notes left behind. Reading Jane's he erroneously believes she loves another. French lessons continue until Tarzan becomes fluent. Tarzan decides to go to America after a map lesson. The two men begin a month long trek out of the jungle. Tarzan expounds on the survival inadequacies of the human race. D'Arnot reads Lord Greystoke's diary. They arrive at the French Mission and meet Father Constantine.

Chapter 26: The Height of Civilization

David Bruce Bozarth

Two months pass. Tarzan, attired in white ducks, converses fluently as he and D'Arnot continue their journey. Tarzan's education continues. In one town he subdues a drunken black, in another he discusses wildlife. On a 10,000 franc wager Tarzan hunts Numa. As the weeks pass, a boat is chartered and the treasure recovered. Tarzan and D'Arnot take passage on a steamer and eventually arrive in Paris. Tarzan's fingerprints are taken to be compared with those of the infant's in the diary.

Chapter 27: The Giant Again

Steve Wadding

Canler arrives at the Porter residence in Baltimore. He wants to marry Jane. Though the Professor supports Canler, Jane puts him off. Jane says she will marry Canler to absolve her father's debt, then leaves for Wisconsin.

Canler arrives in Wisconsin and seeks a minister. Jane walks alone in the forest. A man arrives at the farm, enters the house, and wakes Clayton. A forest fire is approaching. Clayton does not recognize the man who made the occupants enter a car to drive to safety.

Jane is trapped by the fire. She is rescued by a man swinging through the trees. It is her forest man. Jane reveals her intent to marry Canler. Tarzan asks if she would marry him if she were free. She doesn't answer. He decides her silence means Jane would not be happy with an ape. They join the rest of the party.

Chapter 28: Conclusion

Robert Miller

Tarzan drives up with Jane. Clayton thanks Tarzan. When Tarzan states his name, they recognize him. Robert Canler, anxious to marry Jane, arrives with a cleric. Canler pushes her towards the minister but Tarzan intercedes. Professor Porter challenges Tarzan's right to interfere. Clayton enters and announces the fire is approaching.

Driving away in separate cars, Tarzan questions Mr. Philander about the skeletons found in the African cabin. In another car, Jane questions whom she really loves. Clayton proposes and she agrees to marry him. At the station, Tarzan confronts Jane and puts forth his case. Too late she realizes her mistake; her word has been given.

Tarzan receives a telegram from D'Arnot. Fingerprints prove he is Greystoke. A single word from Tarzan would take away all of Clayton's rank and privileges, but if Jane loves him...

Finally Clayton asks Tarzan how he wound up in Africa.

"I was born there," said Tarzan, quietly. "My mother was an Ape, and of course she couldn't tell me much about it. I never knew who my father was."