Tarzan of the Apes tells the story of John Clayton, born in the coastal jungles of Africa to John and Alice Clayton, Lord and Lady Greystoke. Adopted as an infant by the she-ape Kala after his parents died, Clayton is named "Tarzan" and raised in ignorance of his human heritage.
Feeling alienated from his peers due to their physical differences, he discovers his true parents' cabin, where he first learns of others like himself in their books, with which he eventually teaches himself to read.
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On his return from one visit to the cabin, he is attacked by a huge gorilla, which he manages to kill with his father's knife, although he is terribly wounded in the struggle. As he grows up, Tarzan becomes a skilled hunter, exciting the jealousy of Kerchak, the ape leader, who finally attacks him. Tarzan kills Kerchak and takes his place as "king" of the apes.