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Novels

  • When Tarzan was old enough to explore the jungle on his own, he found his parents' house and discovered books there, including some reading primers. Through long hours of study, he was able to decipher the words, teaching himself the English language. When he later encountered white folks, he was able to communicate with them. Except… he spoke with them verbally, something he would NOT have been able to teach himself from books. Sure, maybe it's possible for him to teach himself to read and write English words that way, but having never heard the words he'd have no idea how to pronounce them, or understand someone else saying them! Pronunciation cannot be conveyed through the written word if you haven't already heard those sounds and associated them with the letters that represent them!
    • In the book, he cannot speak English when he first meets white men; he is taught to speak by a Frenchman during his first sea voyage. The Frenchman's English is poor, and so he uses Tarzan's written English as a basis for instruction, but teaches him French vocabulary. Thus, he learns that ape is pronounced "singe," man is pronounced "homme" and water is pronounced "eau".
    • In fact, the problem with Tarzan's early communication with the Porter party goes precisely the opposite direction: it's clearly established that he can't speak English, having no idea of the connection between the written words and the sounds, so he has to communicate through notes -- which he signs with his name, despite that if he has no idea of the connection between the written words and the sounds he should have no idea how to spell it.
  • This troper remembers readin' a Tarzan book where he encounters two tribes headed by ugly-looking brothers, both of whom have strange star charts in their rooms. Tarzan postulates that they may be aliens. Then this is forgotten and never brought up again. You'd think the discovery of alien life would be a pretty significant thing.
    • Maybe not so for gorillas.
      • If Tarzan can recognize star charts and speculate on the possibility of alien life, then he surely knows the value of such information. Despite his origins, he is fairly well-educated.

Disney version

  • Also from the Disney version, just before the death of Kerchak, the dying character says Tarzan was right about the other humans, and that Tarzan should protect the family of gorillas. But, Tarzan ended up leading the humans right to the gorillas, which is what Kerchak was so worried about. Tarzan didn't mean to, of course, but he indirectly put his gorilla family in danger. How is that being "right?"
    • Kerchak doesn't tell Tarzan that he was right, he only requests forgiveness for not accepting him as his son and as a member of the family.
  • In the Disney version, how can Tarzan be clean shaven? They never show him cutting his hair or anything. This is especially questionable since nearly every other human male in the movie has facial hair.
    • Nubile Savage
    • It's not just the facial hair, either. Except for his head (and presumably in one other place we can't see), he doesn't have hair anywhere.
    • Well, in the books, it's mentioned he shaves his facial hair with a knife to distinguish himself from the Mangani, after having discovered his human origins. Yeah, I know they are different universes, but perhaps he shaves the same way…
    • He found the cabin. Did his father have a beard?[1]
      • His father had a pretty bitchin' mustache, but his chin was clean-shaven.
    • Chalk it up to Lazy Artist. Animating Tarzan's movements with body hair would likely add a lot of work (and thus, cost) considering his very involved movements. This could also be why he has no facial hair, though that could be chalked up to The Coconut Effect (as Tarzan is almost always seen clean shaven).
    • Even if his father had facial hair, there's no guarantee that Tarzan would be able to grow it too. As for body hair, well, anatomical accuracy has never been very high on Disney's list. Very few of their character who should have body hair do (Gaston only has if for a short gag during his song and then it's never seen again).
  • What I never understood is Tarzan's loincloth. Theoretically, a boy raised by apes would see no need for modesty. Unless he was made fun of because humans are roughly four times as "big" as gorillas.
      • Because no one wants to see a nude cartoon boy running around? That's why Disney's The Jungle Book had Mowgli run around in what amounts to red underwear.
    • Not sure if this makes any sense, but creatures tend to grow when aroused, so I can see that being an issue.
    • In a fight, apes go for the groin and his should be an easier target than that of any ape.
    • In the novel, Tarzan learns from the books in his parents' cabin that he is not an ape, but a man. As far as he can tell, the main distinctions between an ape and a man are that men wear clothes, and they also shave. So he takes some clothes off a native hunter, then discards most of them.
      • Except that it's implied that his interaction with Jane was his first encounter with anyone of his species.
      • He has examples from the picture books in his father's cabin.
    • I wonder where exactly he GOT the loincloth in the first place.
      • At least in the Disney movie, when Kala first found him, he has a diaper on. Maybe they thought he had to have a piece of cloth around him for some reason based on that? Don't ask where they got the loincloth, though.
      • The shipwreck washed up on the beach right? Maybe there was some cloth on the vessel- or that's just a really, REALLY dirty piece of a sail.
    • Wearing clothes is not just about modesty, or about heat. It's also practical protection for a male's exposed genitals. He's more intelligent than apes--he makes himself a spear, after all. It's possible he fashioned a loincloth.
  • Terk is Tarzan's best friend, and it no doubt shows, but she certainly doesn't have much of a spine whenever they get in trouble and Kerchak appears.
    • That's her personality. Nothin' outta place there.
      • What's strange about that? Kerchak is huge and intimidating and he's also the leader of the group; everyone respects and fears him. No one would have "much of a spine" when Kerchak appears...
      • Wait, Terk is a girl?! I don't have a problem with Terk being a female gorilla, but still…What's wrong, Disney? Can't bear to have a female not be the Damsel in Distress?
        • Wait, what? How does being afraid of Kerchak make Terk a Damsel in Distress? (Mulan, Tiana, and numerous other Disney girls would beg to differ with the whole "Disney females are all damsels in distress, by the way.) Kerchak can be pretty scary when he gets angry, so it's understandable.
  • Dear God, did Disney want us not to know what Terk's gender was?!?! Seriously?!
    • I came on the page and the first thing I saw was 'female ape Terk', and you should have seen the epic Double Take.
  • How did Tarzan know how to say "Tarzan" in English, when introducing himself to Jane? Unless gorillas can say "Tarzan" in English, too, his real name wouldn't have sounded like that.
    • Perhaps "Tarzan" is the closest thing to a word his name is.
      • In the book I'm pretty sure it says the apes (which are more of a mishmash of gorillas, chimps, and extinct hominids) can speak, and "Tarzan" is his name in their language.
    • Tarzan is taught to learn English by Jane and her father yet speaks with an American accent. Having been taught by two British people, shouldn't he pronounce words the same way as them?
      • Maybe an American accent is closest to the accent an ape speaking English as a foreign language would have…
      • Except that if you speak Spanish, Japanese, or any other language, when they teach you English you would try to imitate the accent of the person teaching you. You could have your own accent thrown in, but British English and American English right out say words differently since vowel are not pronounce the same, he would had said the word coffee as "coh-feh" instead of "co-fy" in American English.
      • Which would be believable if it wasn't for the fact that Tarzan said his name in English BEFORE Jane and her father taught him how to speak.
      • He didn't say his name "in English". He just said his name—the noises that conveyed his identity. Would've been a different story if he'd said "Tarzan", and followed it up with "which means 'White Skin' in the language of the apes", like some bar-hopping popped-collar douchebag pompously telling you that "Keith means 'forest' in Gaelic."
      • But the gorillas don't make sounds that resemble English, or any other language, in any other way. How would he pronounce "Tarzan" if all the others only hoot and grunt when outside the Translation Convention?
  • OK, there are no piranhas in Africa. Then how comes elephants know about piranhas (or South America)?
    • They're elephants, they remember it from a past life :D
    • Rule of Funny, I guess... It also explains why they think Tarzan is a piranah.
  • I read somewhere that gorillas have offspring every few years or so. Why doesn't Tarzan have any "brothers" by the time he's an adult? Or was that just not in the book, so they ignored it?
    • Maybe he did - those small gorillas he plays with? Or maybe he did but they were too eaten by Sabor?
      • Remember that human children grow at a much slower rate and need more care than baby apes. As long as Tarzan was small and helpless, Kala wouldn´t want to have another baby... as for why she doesn´t have any babies after Tarzan reaches adulthood... maybe she and Kerchak don´t get along so well after she adopted Tarzan? Either way, the young gorillas in the group would be children of Kerchak as silverbacks usually are the only males to mate in a gorilla group...
  • I'm pretty confused about this key instance of Poor Communication Kills: If Tarzan learned to speak English, and could convey thoughts accurately, why did he only say "Kerchak" when they asked why he couldn't take them to the gorillas? And more importantly, why didn't they ask who Kerchak was, or what it meant? Seriously, couldn't most of the issues after that have been avoided, if he'd just added "doesn't trust you" to his statement?

Notes

  1. No, seriously, I can't remember.
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