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Tarzan's first appearance, in the October 1912 issue of The All-Story
First appearance Tarzan of the Apes
Last appearance Tarzan: The Lost Adventure
Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Portrayed by See film and other non-print media article section
Alias John Clayton II
Title Viscount Greystoke
The American Ashwin 
Earl of Greystoke
Chieftain of the Waziri
Spouse Jane Porter (wife)
Children Korak (son)
Relatives John Clayton † (father)
Alice Clayton † (mother)
William Cecil Clayton † (cousin)
Jackie Clayton (grandson)
Abilities Enhanced strength, speed, endurance, agility, durability, reflexes, and senses
Able to communicate with animals
Skilled hunter and fighter
Tarzan (John Clayton II, Viscount Greystoke) is a fictional character, an archetypal feral child raised in the African jungle by the Mangani great apes; he later experiences civilization only to reject it and return to the wild as a heroic adventurer. Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan first appeared in the novel Tarzan of the Apes (magazine publication 1912, book publication 1914), and subsequently in 25 sequels, several authorized books by other authors, and innumerable works in other media, both authorized and unauthorized.
The film version of Tarzan as the noble savage ("Me Tarzan, You Jane"), as acted by Johnny Weissmuller, does not reflect the original character in the novels, who is gracious and highly sophisticated.
Tarzan is the son of a British lord and lady who were marooned on the Atlantic coast of Africa by mutineers. When Tarzan was an infant, his mother died, and his father was killed by Kerchak, leader of the ape tribe by whom Tarzan was adopted.
Soon after his parents' death, Tarzan became a feral child, and his tribe of apes are known as the Mangani, Great Apes of a species unknown to science. Kala is his ape mother. Burroughs added stories occurring during Tarzan's adolescence in his sixth Tarzan book, Jungle Tales of Tarzan.
As an 18-year-old young adult, Tarzan meets a young American woman named Jane Porter. She, her father, and others of their party are marooned on the same coastal jungle area where Tarzan's human parents were 20 years earlier. When Jane returns to the United States, Tarzan leaves the jungle in search of her, his one true love. In The Return of Tarzan, Tarzan and Jane marry. In later books he lives with her for a time in England. They have one son, Jack, who takes the ape name Korak ('the Killer'). Tarzan is contemptuous of what he sees as the hypocrisy of civilization, so he and Jane return to Africa, making their home on an extensive estate that becomes a base for Tarzan's later adventures.
As revealed in Tarzan's Quest, Tarzan, Jane, Tarzan's monkey friend Nkima, and their allies gained some of the Kavuru's pills that grant immortality to their consumer.
Burroughs' use of dates and of time passing is constantly inconsistent in his novels; in fact, there are downright contradictions in the series. In the first book Tarzan Of The Apes it is implied that Tarzan was born early in 1888 and the arrival of Jane is said to have occurred in 1909, which would make him 20 years old. In chapter 9 of the book, two paragraphs prior to when Mbonga's warriors enter, Burroughs states:
Thus, at eighteen, we find him, an English lordling, who could speak no English, and yet who could read and write his native language. Never had he seen a human being other than himself, for the little area traversed by his tribe was watered by no great river to bring down the savage natives of the interior.
The Return Of Tarzan makes multiple references to the fact that Tarzan’s parents, John and Alice Clayton, were missing for only 20 years, which means that Tarzan would only be 18–19 years of age. Yet, in chapter 5, when the ape man has almost killed the Count de Coude, Tarzan states:
Until I was fifteen I had never seen a human being. I was twenty before I saw a white man.
Numerous authorised movies and novels have all agreed with the notion of Tarzan being 18 years old during the events of the first novel. A later novel, Tarzan the Untamed, faces a similar problem with the novel being set in the year 1914, despite the fact that Tarzan and Jane's son, Jack 'Korak' Clayton is supposed to be 18 years old. It is believed among fans that Burroughs did this deliberately to give an illusion that Tarzan had once been an actual person and that Burroughs was trying to conceal his real identity. In the first novel it is mentioned:
I had this story from one who had no business to tell it to me, or to any other. I may credit the seductive influence of an old vintage upon the narrator for the beginning of it, and my own skeptical incredulity during the days that followed for the balance of the strange tale. When my convivial host discovered that he had told me so much, and that I was prone to doubtfulness, his foolish pride assumed the task the old vintage had commenced, and so he unearthed written evidence in the form of musty manuscript, and dry official records of the British Colonial Office to support many of the salient features of his remarkable narrative. I do not say the story is true, for I did not witness the happenings which it portrays, but the fact that in the telling of it to you I have taken fictitious names for the principal characters quite sufficiently evidences the sincerity of my own belief that it MAY be true. The yellow, mildewed pages of the diary of a man long dead, and the records of the Colonial Office dovetail perfectly with the narrative of my convivial host, and so I give you the story as I painstakingly pieced it out from these several various agencies. If you do not find it credible you will at least be as one with me in acknowledging that it is unique, remarkable, and interesting.
Burroughs mentions immediately after this that 'John Clayton' is itself a fictitious name, invented by 'Tarzan' to mask his real identity.
Tarzan is the ape name of John Clayton, Viscount Greystoke according to Burroughs' Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (Earl of Greystoke in later, less canonical sources, notably the 1984 film Greystoke). In fact, Burroughs' narrator in Tarzan of the Apes describes both Clayton and Greystoke as fictitious names, implying that, within the fictional world that Tarzan inhabits, he may have a different real name.
Burroughs considered other names for the character, including "Zantar" and "Tublat Zan," before he settled on "Tarzan." Even though the copyright on Tarzan of the Apes has expired in the United States of America and other countries, the name Tarzan is claimed as a trademark of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
Edgar Rice Burroughs created an elegant version of the wild man figure largely unalloyed with character flaws or faults.
Tarzan is described as being tall, athletic, handsome, and tanned, with grey eyes and long black hair. He wears almost no clothes, except for a loincloth. Emotionally, he is courageous, intelligent, loyal, and steadfast.
He is presented as behaving ethically in most situations, except when seeking vengeance under the motivation of grief, as when his ape mother Kala is killed in Tarzan of the Apes; or when he believes Jane has been murdered in Tarzan the Untamed. He is deeply in love with his wife and totally devoted to her; in numerous situations where other women express their attraction to him, Tarzan politely but firmly declines their attentions.
When presented with a situation where a weaker individual or party is being preyed upon by a stronger foe, Tarzan invariably takes the side of the weaker party. In dealing with other men, Tarzan is firm and forceful. With male friends, he is reserved but deeply loyal and generous. As a host, he is, likewise, generous and gracious. As a leader, he commands devoted loyalty.
In keeping with these noble characteristics, Tarzan's philosophy embraces an extreme form of "return to nature." Although he is able to pass within society as a civilized individual, he prefers to "strip off the thin veneer of civilization," as Burroughs often puts it. His preferred dress is a knife and a loincloth of animal hide; his preferred abode is any convenient tree branch when he desires to sleep; and his favored food is raw meat, killed by himself; even better if he is able to bury it a week so that putrefaction has had a chance to tenderize it a bit.
Tarzan's jungle upbringing gives him abilities far beyond those of ordinary humans. These include climbing, clinging, and leaping as well as any great ape. He uses branches and swings from vines to travel at great speed, a skill acquired among the anthropoid apes.
His strength, speed, stamina, agility, reflexes, and swimming skills are extraordinary in comparison to normal men. He has wrestled full-grown bull apes and gorillas, lions, rhinos, crocodiles, pythons, sharks, tigers, giant seahorses, and even dinosaurs (when he visited Pellucidar). Tarzan is a skilled tracker and uses his exceptional hearing and keen sense of smell to follow prey or avoid predators.
Language and literacy
Tarzan/John Clayton is very articulate, reserved and does not speak in broken English as the classic movies of the 1930s depict him. He can communicate with many species of jungle animals, and has been shown to be a skilled impressionist, able to mimic the sound of a gunshot perfectly.
Extremely intelligent, Tarzan was literate in English before he first encountered other English-speaking people. His literacy is self-taught after several years in his early teens by visiting the log cabin of his infancy and looking at children's primer/picture books. He eventually reads every book in his father's portable book collection and is fully aware of geography, basic world history, and his family tree. He is "found" by traveling Frenchman Paul d'Arnot, who teaches him the basics of human speech and returns with him to civilization. When Tarzan first encounters d'Arnot, he tells him (in writing): "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."
Tarzan can learn a new language i
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