Tarzan of the Apes | Study Guide

Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Tarzan of the Apes | Chapter 8 : The Tree-Top Hunter | Summary



Kerchak's tribe is on the move the day after the Dum-Dum. They leave Tublat's body behind, because "the people of Kerchak do not eat their own dead." Sabor stalks the apes through the jungle, and Tarzan wonders if he could kill her. He killed Tublat, "so was he not therefore a mighty fighter?" He could use her pelt to make clothing like that worn by the humans in the alphabet primer. At first he thinks clothes must be a symbol of superiority, but then he figures out their real purpose—warmth—after a storm rips through the jungle that night. Now he wants to kill Sabor more than ever.

The apes reside near the Claytons' cabin for several months. Tarzan spends most of his free time studying in the little house or practicing his roping skills. After learning the limitations of his methods in a bout with a wild boar, Tarzan perches in a tree and waits for big game to cross his path. The first to come along is Sabor. He throws the noose around her neck and pulls it tight before tying his end to a tree trunk. He tries to pull her up the tree but she's too heavy. After several attempts to reach Tarzan in the tree, Sabor realizes she can bite through the rope. She does, and a very disappointed Tarzan screams at her. Sabor paces under the tree for hours until Tarzan swings away through the treetops back to his tribe. He brags about his adventure, and Kala is immensely proud.


Everything Tarzan knows about humans comes from the books in the Claytons' former cabin. He has never seen a human in real life, nor has he ever heard one speak. But unlike the other inhabitants of the jungle, Tarzan has the rational and critical thinking skills to connect what he sees on the page to real life. Humans in the alphabet primer wear clothes but the animals do not, which Tarzan interprets as meaning he should be wearing clothes. Kala and Kerchak would not be able to make that cognitive leap if they looked at the book, just as they never figured out Tarzan's lack of fur means he needs a second skin of sorts, like Sabor's pelt, to keep him warm. Even though Tarzan can't fully read the books in the cabin, they prompt him to start thinking like a human.

One of the reasons Tarzan wants to wear clothes is because he thinks they are "a badge of greatness" and "the insignia of the superiority of MAN over all other animals." Tarzan's greatest desire at this young age is to prove his worth to the rest of the apes. Their fear and respect would ensure he and Kala could safely coexist with the rest of the tribe, which is why he brags about killing Terkoz at the end of Chapter 8 and tells everyone about nearly killing Sabor in Chapter 9. Proving his membership in a higher-order species would really solidify his status among the apes. But Tarzan fails to remember that the apes don't know the things he knows. They have never seen humans, not even in pictures, and they wouldn't understand that humans are meant to be naturally superior to animals. Making a big deal out of his differences might make Tarzan a target for those in the tribe who barely tolerate him as it is.

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