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First appearance Tarzan of the Apes
Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Portrayed by Lance Henriksen (voice)
Species Great Ape, (Gorilla)
Gender Male
Spouse(s) Kala

Kerchak is a fictional ape character in Edgar Rice Burroughs's original Tarzan novel, Tarzan of the Apes, and in the Walt Disney-produced animated movie Tarzan based on it.


In the novel Tarzan of the Apes Kerchak is the "king" of a tribal band of Mangani, a fictional species of Great Ape intermediate between real life chimpanzees and gorillas. Kerchak reigns by violence and fear heightened by his unpredictable mood swings and bouts of madness. In the beginning of the original novel, Kerchak leads his band against Tarzan's marooned father and kills him; the infant Tarzan is saved by a female Mangani named Kala, who rears the baby and protects him against Kerchak. Tarzan fights and kills Kerchak after reaching adulthood, succeeding him as king of the apes.[1]

Burroughs's later Tarzan book Jungle Tales of Tarzan, which relates additional details of Tarzan's youth among the apes, is also set during the period of Kerchak's rule of the ape band. However, while the ape band is continually referenced as "the tribe of Kerchak," Kerchak himself does not appear in the book.[2]

Disney's version[edit]

Kerchak's character in the Disney adaptation (1999) was changed substantially from his original role in the series. The film made the Mangani tribe a family group of gorillas, with Kerchak a silverback (mature male), head of the family, and mate to Tarzan's adoptive mother, Kala. He is essentially a combination of two of the novel's ape characters, Kerchak and Tublat, Kala's mate in Burroughs's original story. The film's Kerchak is closer in personality to Tublat, a fairly passive figure resentful of Tarzan, than to the original Kerchak. (Tublat does however appear as a separate character in the spin-off television series The Legend of Tarzan, as a former rival to Kerchak cast out of the gorilla family many years before. He is characterized much like the novel's Kerchak, being vengeful and violent.)

The film's Kerchak is originally warm and loving, playing with his original ape son. But after the leopard Sabor kills his child, he becomes cold. While he has no role in the slaying of Tarzan's father, he does not accept Tarzan as his new son when Kala adopts him, only allowing him to stay with the gorillas because Kala refuses to abandon him. Kerchak disdains and shuns Tarzan during his childhood, but begins to accept him in adulthood after Tarzan kills Sabor (responsible in the film for killing both Tarzan's parents and Kerchak and Kala's son) and saves the group from the hunter Clayton. At the climax, when Kerchak sees Tarzan shot on the arm by Clayton, he attacks the hunter, only to be fatally shot on the chest. Once Clayton is dealt with, Kerchak passes his leadership of the gorilla family to Tarzan before succumbing to his injury, signifying his ultimate acceptance of him as both adopted son and a worthy successor.

Disney's Kerchak also appears briefly in the video game Kingdom Hearts, first when Tarzan pleads with him and Kala to help him aid Sora, Donald and Goofy. Kerchak initially distrusts the trio, but later comes to accept then after they defeat Clayton and his Heartless companion, the Stealth Sneak. He then allows them access to the world's Keyhole, which Sora seals, protecting the world from the Heartless permanently. In Kingdom Hearts, unlike the film, Kerchak survives the fight with Clayton.


  1. ^ Tarzan of the Apes (1912 novel)
  2. ^ Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1919 novel)