Tarzan of the Apes: book review, summary…spoilers!


Tarzan of the Apes was written in 1912 by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and to truly enjoy the book you have to remember the time period it was written in. I recently read a review where the reader was appalled by the sexism, violence against animals and racist tones. They even went so far to say that they preferred the Disney adaptation. Now, I’m a fa of Disney’s Tarzan, but if you prefer that over the book you really shouldn’t have read the book.

Typically my choice of books is romance, and although Tarzan and Jane have a famous romance I feel like this book COMPLETELY was a step outside of my literary comfort zone. And I was pleasantly surprised and how much I LOVED it!

John and Alice Clayton II, Lord and Lady Greystoke of England, are marooned in the African coastal jungle and left with little supplies and even less hope for rescue. They created a life on the beach of the jungle, immediately setting out to create a secure shelter not only for themselves but for their son who would soon be born. After their son turned one Lady Alice died immediately followed by his father who was killed by the savage ape Kerchak (different than the Disney movie!). The baby John Clayton III is then adopted by the she-ape Kala and renamed “Tarzan” which translated to “white skin” in the ape lingo.

Tarzan grew up loved dearly by Kala but basically alienated by the rest of their tribe. Eventually he stumbled upon the small cabin that was unbeknownst to him built by his own father. Over the years he taught himself to read and write in English from the multitude of books found in the cabin.

When Tarzan was about 20 years old, the party of Jane Porter was marooned on the island by mutineers. William Cecil Clayton,  is also among the party (the bad guy in the Disney movie) but was actually Tarzans COUSIN and was 100% a gentleman and loved Jane. Way to change it DISNEY. Tarzan spies on them from the jungle, bringing them food and protecting them from the dangers of the jungle.

Of course Tarzan saves Jane when she is abducted by a rival ape (he took her to be his mate…which is terrible.) and she immediately falls madly in love with this wild jungle man who they describe as “the handsomest man they had ever seen” and “god-like” (I mean with descriptions like that who could blame her??)

So while Jane is swinging through the trees with the Jungle God, everyone else begins a search and rescue mission. French Naval Officer Paul D’Arnot lands upon the island with his company after coming across the ship that had marooned Jane’s company and having them lead his crew to the island. D’Arnot decides to head the search of Jane, but while doing so is ambushed by a savage tribe of cannibals (oh ya, Tarzan harassed them over the years and learned how to hunt with primitive tools by watching them) Tarzan leaves Jane safe on he beach with her people and whisks off to save D’Arnot. While nursing the tourchered captain back to health, Jane is taken from the island against her will assuming that Tarzan had returned to the jungle (in her defense she waiting like a week for him).

D’Arnot and Tarzan set off to reach civilization and on their journey, D’Arnot teaches him how to behave like a civilized man and teaches him French. Eventually learns to speak English as well.

Tarzan travels to eventually find Jane in Wisconsin. Tarzan learns that she has become engaged to William Clayton (his own cousin, the DRAMA!). Meanwhile, D’Arnot has a journal written by Tarzans father analyzed in an effort to solve the mystery of Tarzan’s parentage. In the Journal there were little finger prints where Tarzan had as a baby grabbed the journal as his father wrote. After comparing the finger prints to Tarzan’s now, Tarzan’s true identity as John Clayton III is confirmed. Instead of reclaiming his inheritance from his cousin, Tarzan chooses to keep is a secret for the sake of Jane’s happiness.

And that’s how it ends!!! So of course I need to return my book asap and get the next one!!!

It was a fun book to read. I enjoyed comparing it to the Disney movie I grew up watching, and it was an easy read!

I read this book almost entirely on breastfeeding breaks:



And I give it four stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I see why it’s a classic! I recommend everyone looking to expand into different genres and read something totally out of character to give this one a try!

I finished reading it on my camping trip we just got back from. Have to say, reading it while sitting in a lawn chair firmly wedged between rocks in a creek is the way to go 👌🏻


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