Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 15,000 Webpages in Archive
Volume 7001

Summary and Comments by John Martin: Pt. I
Chapter 1-7

The first Tarzan novel, "Tarzan of the Apes," was published in its entirety in The All Story dated October 1912. According to "Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Bibliography," by Robert B. Zeuschner, the magazine was actually on the newsstands by Sept. 10 of that year, according to research by Jerry Schneider. Magazines tend to show up an issue or two before the actual date on the cover.
A copy of the first edition hardbound book of "Tarzan of the Apes," published by A.C. McClurg & Co., officially, on June 17, 1914. However, Robert B. Zeuschner writes in "Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Bibliography," that the book was actually "out" in a few places earlier than that, as ERB had one in his hands on June 3, the date he autographed a copy for his wife, Emma.


A man who was a bit too much in his cups was led to talk too much as well, and the person to whom he was speaking was Edgar Rice Burroughs. ERB, as he has come to be known, was so skeptical of the drunk's wild story that the inebriated one followed up his initial blabbery by producing written records to back up his claim.

Those records included a "musty manuscript" which likely is another way of referring to "the diary of a man long dead." The diary is described as having yellow, mildewed pages. The events described in the diary dovetailed with dry official records of the British Colonial Office.

The diary is no doubt that which was kept by John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, and the question that comes to mind is—how did the diary end up in a place where ERB's drinking companion could get hold of it? One would think Greystoke's son, Tarzan, the protagonist of this volume, would have preserved the old document and kept it in the family. Or, maybe ERB's drinking companion actually was a Greystoke family member.

The opening chapter of this 28-chapter saga tells of Clayton and his wife, the former Alice Rutherford, who sailed to Africa in 1888, he on a government mission in the service of the Queen of England, who at that time was Victoria, pronouncer of the royal "we" from 1837 to 1901.

On the last leg of the journey aboard the 100-ton barkentine, the Fuwalda, they learned of an impending mutiny. Their concern became accentuated when they discovered their cabin ransacked and two revolvers missing.

They had tried to warn the Captain, a man named Billings, but he scoffed, so they were left to wait for Chapter II to see what happened next.
- - - - -
OF NOTE: Although ERB has occasionally come in for criticism that his Tarzan books are sometimes perceived to belittle the black natives of Africa, it was the protection of the rights of the blacks that was the very reason for the actions that brought this account to the attention of the public in the first place.

Chapter I reveals that Clayton's mission in Africa was to investigate an oppressive regime, under whose control "...these poor blacks where held in virtual slavery...." ERB states further that Clayton's "...instructions centered on a thorough investigation of the unfair treatment of black British subjects...."


Edgar Rice Burroughs begins with the start of the mutiny on the Fuwalda and ends with the first, restless night of John and Alice Clayton in the treehouse John built after they were marooned by the mutineers.

In this chapter, we see the transformation of Lady Alice. In Chapter I, "Out to Sea," she was the stalwart wife who reminded her husband of his duty to do what was right, as far as reporting the rumors of impending mutiny to the unfriendly Captain Billings. In this chapter, we see the start of her unfortunate breakdown as the mutineers abandoned them on a wilderness shore and sailed out of sight: "Bravely had she faced the dangers of the mutiny; with heroic fortitude she had looked into the terrible future; but now that the horror of absolute solitude was upon them, her overwrought nerves gave way, and the reaction came."

The fear of the rebellious sailors in Chapter I is replaced by the fear of the unknown in the jungle surrounding them. The reader sees more than they do: The reader is told that, "...behind them...other eyes watched—close set, wicked eyes, gleaming beneath shaggy brows." Then, a few pages later, John and Alice begin to sense the hidden dangers, seeing monkeys "...casting affrighted glances back over their shoulders...fleeing some terrible thing which lay concealed there."

Then, as night fell, they caught the momentary silhouette of a "... huge and grotesque mockery of man...."

Finally, they had to endure the sniffing and clawing of the panther below their roost and, through the night, other noises, piercing screams, and stealthy movement of great bodies beneath them.

It's no wonder Lady Alice said, at one point, "Oh, I am afraid too." The reader is also afraid...afraid for them, and also, perhaps, for him or herself. And, if the reader lives in a wooded area and the book is read at night, perhaps a bit afraid to open the back door and step out.... Such is the imagery Mr. Burroughs creates.
- - - - -
SHOT AND BARKS: ERB writes in the first paragraph of this chapter that "a shot rang out," one of the most overused sayings in the English language. Shots, it appears, never blast out, boom out, or sound out. They only ring out. And ERB and untold myriads of other writers adhere religiously to the use of that clause. However, ERB did vary it a bit later in the chapter with the notation that another thing which sometimes "rang out" was "the vicious bark of firearms." Very appropriate that firearms should bark on a barkentine.
- - - - -
HOPE BASED ON HISTORY: John Clayton had a heroic, can-do attitude, one that he was to pass on to his son. To encourage his wife that their abandonment in a "savage home" was not without hope, he reminded her that "...our ancestors of the dim and distant past faced the same problems which we must face, possibly in these same primeval forests. That we are here to-day evidences their victory.

"What they did may we not do? And even better, for are we not armed with ages of superior knowledge, and have we not the means of protection, defense, and sustenance which science has given us, but of which they were totally ignorant? What they accomplished, Alice, with instruments and weapons of stone and bone, surely that may we accomplish also."

1. The A.C. McClurg & Co. first edition dust jacket for "Tarzan of the Apes," with art by Fred Arting.
2. "Apes" begins in February 1913 edition "The Post" believed to be Kentucky newspaper:
The earliest known serialization of "Apes" in a newspaper, a few months after it was published in The All-Story magazine,
was in the New York evening World in 46 installments from Jan. 6 to Feb. 27 in 1913,
according to Robert B. Zeushner in "Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Bibliography."
Zeuschner reports that there were many other newspaper serializations of "Apes"
and many have been catalogued and the illustrations published by Jerry Schneider in
"Tarzan of the Apes and The Return of Tarzan, The Illustrated Edgar Rice Burroughs 1,
From the Newspapers," ERBville Press
Another newspaper presentation of "Apes" is here:


More than a year passes in Chapter III, beginning with the morning after the Claytons' first horrifying and restless night in the jungle, and ending with the "...piteous wailing of the tiny man-child," he who would grow up as Tarzan of the apes.

In between, we have life in their savage home. Clayton builds a cabin and adds many improvements. Although he built it log cabin-style, it would not have appeared as such, as he caked it outside with clay, to the thickness of four inches.

They start to become comfortable and accustomed to their home in the wilderness and that eventually leads to mistakes, as when Clayton is too far from his rifle when attacked by an ape. When Lady Alice grabs the gun and fires her first round ever to save her husband, she succeeds, but at a huge price. The attacking ape turns and falls across her body as he dies and her mind is affected. She believes she is back in London, safe from the perils of the wilderness. In a way, this is a blessing. So, while Clayton "suffered terribly" to see her in that state, "...there were times when he was almost glad, for her sake, that she could not understand."

Their son was born the same night she shot the ape, and she was able to nurse the wee one for a year before passing away quietly in the night.

Edgar Rice Burroughs sets the stage for Tarzan's future education, by mentioning the numerous books in the cabin (among their possessions the mutineers had left them), including the beginning reading books which the maturing Tarzan would eventually find so profitable.

A unique door lock is also put in place, giving the explanation in advance for the way the cabin was protected for so many years until the youthful Tarzan discovered it.
It is of note that, while we know the little son was named John, he is not so named in this chapter.

John Clayton had told his wife in Chapter II that their ancestors had been able to carve out existences in primitive times and they could do it as well, especially with the advanced knowledge they possessed. And Clayton indeed was able to use his knowledge, not only in making their rude house a home, but also in figuring out how to build a secure cabin with a door fixed with wood-carved hinges and the complex lock.
In addition, he proved to be an expert with his rifle and a worthy forbear to his son, who developed great hunting.
We read of his efforts:

"Skins of lion and panther covered the floor. Cupboards and bookcases lined the walls. Odd vases made by his own hand from the clay of the region held beautiful tropical flowers. Curtains of grass and bamboo covered the windows and, most arduous task of all, with his meager assortment of tools he had fashioned lumber to neatly seal the walls and ceilings and lay a smooth floor within the cabin."

1. The first reprints of "Tarzan of the Apes" were done by the A.L. Burt Company, which used a similar jacket design
but printed the book cover itself in a seemingly endless number of shades of green instead of the maroon color of the McClurg editions.
2. The design of the first page of the story itself in The All Story 1912 magazine edition of "Tarzan of Apes."


The chapter is ushered in by the rage and rampage of Kerchak...and ends with Kala taking to the trees, cradling the young Greystoke child.

This is a chapter of utter, senseless violence, contrasted with deep sorrow and the instinct of a mother's love.

There is the violence wrought by Kerchak upon members of his own ape tribe, and the violent death of the "white ape," Lord Greystoke.

There is the continuing sorrow of Lord Greystoke which consumes him so much that he is not aware of the approach of the apes, and the sorrow of Kala, who loses her little one as a result of Kerchak's temper tantrum.

There is the instinctive mother love which reaches out to a child in a crib, a living, breathing, wailing man-thing, not exactly in appearance as her own, but close enough to arouse a mother's instinct to protect, preserve and nurture.

Edgar Rice Burroughs reveals a lot about the tribe of Kerchak, and Chapter 4 answers these questions:
--When, in this chapter, is Kerchak first referred to as a "king" in apeland?
--Which is the only jungle animal that Kerchak fears?
--Approximately how many family groups made up the tribe?
--What was the approximate population of Kerchak's tribe? (has to be approximate, as it changes every time Kerchak goes on a rampage!!)?
--Approximately how old was Kerchak at this time?
--Approximately how old was Kala when she became Tarzan's foster mother?
- - - - -
"As she took up the little live baby of Alice Clayton she dropped the dead body of her own into the empty cradle; for the wail of the living had answered the call of universal motherhood within her wild breast which the dead could not still....Then hunger closed the gap between them, and the son of an English lord and an English lady nursed at the breast of Kala, the great ape."

1. Three years after "Tarzan of the Apes" had first appeared between hard covers in the U.S.,
the first British edition was published by Methuen. The year was 1917 and the art was by Champneys.
2. After the early editions of "Tarzan of the Apes" appeared in Great Britain with art by Champneys of the youthful Tarzan,
editions started to appear with new art by G.W. Goss, showing the grown Tarzan battling Terkoz for possession of Jane.

ERBzine Editor's Note: Other than the G&D and Whitman editions, ERB books were hard to find in the '50s.
I had been collecting Burroughs books since 1954 -- mostly from Canadian and UK booksellers --
but Tarzan of the Apes remained elusive.
Finally, in 1959, my dad brought in some UK editions for his hardware store in Strathclair
-- and this Methuen edition with Goss cover art was my first edition of TA. . . at last :)


For the first time in this book, we know the adopted baby will have the name of Tarzan, for he is so called -- the ape word "tar" meaning white and "zan" meaning skin.

The chapter begins with the apes reacting sadly to the slow development of Kala's little waif but quickly switches gears to show the fruits of the rapid development of his homosapien brain. By the end of the chapter, he is giving some thought to the idea of dropping a noose over the head of Sabor the lioness.

This chapter records the invention of Tarzan's grass rope—his first tool and one he was able to have readily at hand throughout his career if, for no other reason, he could always weave a new one!
Tarzan becomes adept at swinging through the trees, discovers the differences in appearance between him and his furry friends and, at the roar of an attacking lioness, learns to swim after jumping into the water to escape her. The rivalry between Tarzan and Kala's mate, Tublat, gets into full gear in this chapter, with Tarzan starting to harass "Broken Nose" unmercifully, especially with his rope noose.

Tarzan is two years old at the start of this chapter and within a few pages has advanced to 10. His little ape friends grow bigger faster, but Tarzan grows brainier faster, and uses his wits to his advantage.
In one interesting section, Tarzan, after jumping in the water to escape the attacking Sabor, calls out to the ape tribe with two different calls: first, the call of distress, and second, a message of warning. The tribe responds, swinging through the trees, and Sabor is so intimidated she makes a retreat. This scene indicates a high degree of intelligence on the part of the apes, who come to the rescue of Tarzan in response to his cry.

If prey animals would only get organized and gang up, they could probably send the lions scurrying. From time to time, you do see an instance of that type on true-life wildlife documentaries, where gangs of animals such as elephants, water buffalo or zebra manage to discourage predators through sheer force of numbers and determination.

A question answered in this chapter:
--What are the boundaries, in miles, of the territory regularly traversed by Kerchak's band of great apes?
- - - - -
--"As Tarzan grew he made more rapid strides, so that by the time he was ten years old he was an excellent climber, and on the ground could do many wonderful things which were beyond the powers of his little brothers and sisters."
--"That the huge, fierce brute loved this child of another race is beyond question, and he, too, gave to the great, hairy beast all the affection that would have belonged to his fair young mother had she lived."

1. German edition ~ 2. French edition 3. Italian edition


This chapter (which begins with the tribe wandering near the cabin where Tarzan was born, and ends with Kala recovering from her ordeal of nursing Tarzan back to health) might be misnamed. There is only one battle: The life and death struggle between young Tarzan and Bolgani the gorilla.

It is possible that Burroughs named it Battles plural because of Tarzan's battle for life, following his encounter with Bolgani. But it would seem that both are really part of one great battle.

It is a chapter in which Tarzan, still 10 years of age, not only discovers how to get inside the locked cabin, but also finds, and learns the use of, the hunting knife of his father.

That knife stands Tarzan in good stead just a few moments after leaving the cabin, and was to serve him in hundreds of ways throughout the years of adventure to come. This was the second weapon, or tool, that Tarzan added to his arsenal, along with the grass rope. And, indeed, these two weapons were to serve him more frequently in coming times then did his later additions.

Back in the day when Burroughs was writing this, most people probably assumed all gorillas roamed the jungle attacking and killing whatever they came across. Of course, now we know that such a beast might be more apt to avoid a confrontation with another creature, rather than to deliberately seek one out and lie in ambush! However, if properly antagonized, even a mild-mannered gorilla would be an insurmountable foe in a battle with a knifeless 10-year-old boy!

Burroughs says Tarzan rolled to the ground "lifeless" at the end of the battle with Bolgani. The term is used figuratively and startles the reader, who is relieved to learn that life does, indeed, still reside within the hero.

While Tarzan is in the cabin, looking at a picture book, Burroughs notes that Tarzan sees pictures of little monkeys but " all the book was none that resembled Kerchak, or Tublat, or Kala." Fans often note that the type of ape ERB describes don't seem to actually exist! Did ERB know that, even back then, and chuckle inwardly as he mentioned that the local tribe of great apes was nowhere to be found in that book? (or any other book, for that matter!).
- - - - -
"In fact he met the brute midway in its charge, striking its huge body with his closed fists and as futilely as he had been a fly attacking an elephant. But in one hand he still clutched the knife he had found in the cabin of his father, and as the brute, striking and biting, closed upon him the boy accidentally turned the point toward the hairy breast. As it sank deep into the body of him the gorilla shrieked in pain and rage."

1. "In 1929, British publisher George Newnes, Limited, of London, pioneered the packaging of Burroughs' novels into paperback form, with artist Wooley providing covers for 'Tarzan of the Apes' and The Son of Tarzan, and A. Gelli the Return of Tarzan." These paper bound books were closer to the pulpsthan paperbacks of today, oversized and with two columns of tiny type per page. Printed by Morrison & Gibb Ltd of London and Edinburgh, they are scarce in England and rare in the U.S.

2. In the very early Thirties, publisher C.A. Ransom & Co. of London, released "Apes," "Return" and "Son" with new covers done by Wooley. Like the first set of three published in 1929, printing was by Morrison & Gibb in pulp format with double columns of text. In fact, they are the exact same blocks of text. This was the age of letterpress printing (stamping a sheet of paper against a reversed image) and lead type, where each page had to be set one lead letter at a time, then blocked with wood, hence the phrase: a block of text. -- from the "Tarzan's British Heritage" page of The Wild Stars website of Michael Tierney, author of "Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology" and writer and colorist for the upcoming ERB Inc. comic strip, "Beyond the Farthest Star."


This chapter starts with a whimper and ends with a roar. Ten-year-old Tarzan, still recovering from his battle with Bolgani, is called "the little sufferer" at the start of the chapter, but by the end he is giving out the jungle cry of victory after his conquest over Tublat.

Tarzan, though described as that little sufferer in the first few words of Chapter VII, has made a full recovery by the end of the sentence and is off on a quest to retrieve his new-found weapon, which he lost after he discovered its power in killing Bolgani. Tarzan finds the knife, rusty after a month in the jungle, but soon learns the secret of sharpening and shining it, and makes a sheath for the weapon.

Tarzan returns to his parents' cabin, learns the secret of the lock, and begins the long, methodical process of learning that the "little bugs" on the pages can be used to represent various objects and thoughts.
We read "...his attention was soon riveted by the books which seemed to exert a strange and powerful influence over him, so that he could scarce attend to aught else for the lure of the wondrous puzzle which their purpose presented to him." As I read these words, it occurred to me that not only was ERB describing Tarzan's fascination with books, but he was also summing up, without knowing it, the influence his own books would have over many of the fans to follow -- those who collect, read, discuss, preserve, promote and love his writings.

For the first time, the title character is referred to as "Tarzan of the apes," and by the end of the chapter, apes has earned a capital "A" and "Tarzan of the Apes" has become the name of our hero, to match the title of the book. Heretofore, he was mostly called just Tarzan, but in Chapter V he was given the title of "Tarzan the man-child" and in Chapter VI "Tarzan, the young Lord Greystoke."

Tarzan spends two years learning to read and then, at the age of 12, discovers pencils in the cabin and learns their purpose. Finally, at age 13, the chapter climaxes with the first presentation of the Dum-Dum.
Here is a great fictional invention of ERB: The Dum-Dum, also known as the Dance of Death. Here we have organized apes, building earthen drums and picking out clubs with which to beat on them, carrying a slain foe to the center of the arena, engaging in the ritualistic, yet wild, dancing, all the while attentive to the leadership of Kerchak. Burroughs fans love the Dum-Dum descriptions; however, some occasionally wish ERB had called it something else. How many hotel reservation clerks have had to stifle chuckles when people call up to book rooms for a "Dum-Dum"?

The battle with Tublat comes at the climax of the Dum-Dum, when Tarzan's foster father goes mad over Tarzan's refusal to give up a tasty chunk of a vanquished foe's forearm. When Tarzan wins, we see, for the first time, him place his foot upon his dead enemy and give out the victory cry of the bull ape—although here it is not called that, but is referred to as "...the wild and terrible cry of his people."
- - - - -
QUESTION: If Tublat means "broken nose" (Chapter V), what was he called before he broke his nose? (No, the answer is not in the book. But one has to wonder.)
- - - - -
KEY PASSAGE: "Squatting upon his haunches on the table top in the cabin his father had built—his smooth, brown, naked little body bent over the book which rested in his strong slender hands, and his great shock of long, black hair falling about his well-shaped head and bright, intelligent eyes—Tarzan of the apes, little primitive man, presented a picture filled, at once, with pathos and with promise—an allegorical figure of the primordial groping through the black night of ignorance toward the light of learning."

1. The first G&D edition came out in 1927, featuring a wraparound dust jacket
with a fleshed-out Tarzan and bright jungle colors instead of the silhouette and green and yellow tones
that characterized the jacket image used on both the McClurg first edition and the A.L. Burt reprints.
2. Perhaps one of the most easily found Edgar Rice Burroughs volumes
in a used book store is a red Grosset & Dunlap reprint of "Tarzan of the Apes."

Click for full-size promo splash bar
Edgar Rice Burroughs' TARZAN OF THE APES
Summary and Comments by John Martin
ERBzine 7001
Chapters 1-7
ERBzine 7002
Chapters 8-14
ERBzine 7003
Chapters 15-21
ERBzine 7004
Chapters 22-28

Tarzan of the Apes: C.H.A.S.E.R. Biblio Entry

Tarzan of the Apes: Read the e-Text Edition (28 Chapters)


Visit our thousands of other sites at:
All ERB Images© and Tarzan® are Copyright ERB, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work © 1996-2019 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.