In the first sound adaptation from the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs Jane meets Tarzan, who saves her safari from a tribe of dwarves.
James Parker (C. Aubrey Smith) and Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) are looking for the elephants' burial ground so they can get valuable ivory. Parker's daughter Jane (Maureen O'Sullivan) arrives with six trunks and says she wants to be a savage rather than civilized. Harry allows Jane to join their safari when she shows she can shoot. A native, so afraid that he died, points them to the Mutia Escarpment they are seeking. One bearer dies falling off the cliff; but Jane is saved by a rope. Scared bearers have to be whipped. Crossing a river, they shoot threatening hippopotamuses that caused two bearers to be killed by crocodiles. In the trees with the apes they see Tarzan (Johnny Weissmuller). A bearer is killed with an arrow by a tribe, and suddenly Jane is gone.
Tarzan protects Jane from the apes as she screams. Settling down, he and a chimpanzee pull loose scarves off her clothes. Tarzan kills a leopard with a knife and takes Jane into a lair, not letting her go. They learn each other's names by repeating Jane and Tarzan. Tarzan rides an elephant and helps free another elephant. He kills a wildebeest for meat and leaves the rest for a lion. The safari finds Jane and shoots an ape dead. Tarzan and the chimp mourn the loss of the ape, and Tarzan kills one of their men. Jane tries to stop the killing, arguing that killing the ape was murder; but Harry shoots and wounds Tarzan. A lion chases Tarzan, but he fights and kills it. He calls for help before killing another, and then the elephants save him from a third lion. The elephant calls the apes, who throw Jane around until she finds Tarzan so she can treat his wound. Tarzan takes Jane swimming, and she tries to talk to him. Meanwhile Harry is whipping the tired bearers. Jane sees the safari and wants to leave; Tarzan carries her to them and then goes away.
The safari group is captured by a tribe of dwarves. Jane tells the chimp to go to Tarzan. The chimp is chased by a leopard, a tiger, and a lion, but he gets the elephants running. Tarzan is chased by crocodiles. The Parker group is taken to a village, where they are thrown into a pit with a huge gorilla. Parker tries to save Jane, and she is rescued by Tarzan, who fights the gorilla and kills it with a knife. A horn causes the dwarves to run away from an elephant stampede, which destroys the village. An elephant rescues Tarzan and the others from the pit. Parker decides to stay on the wounded elephant so that it will lead them to the burial ground, which is behind a waterfall in a canyon. There the elephant and Parker die. Jane and Harry return with Tarzan. Then Jane says good-bye to Harry and stays with Tarzan.
Church groups complained that Jane was living in sin with Tarzan and insisted on more censorship in sequels. This story offers adventure with African animals cooperating with Tarzan, as a woman finds friendship with a "natural man."