Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

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"WE STILL LIVE!" ...John Carter
Copyright © 1982, 1996-2003 All Rights Reserved.



A Barsoom Glossary

While the major human (Black, Red, White, Yellow) and the near human Green are the most frequently described of the various races of Barsoom, Edgar Rice Burroughs also introduced readers to some very strange and alien cultures. A few of these races are right out of horror films, created long before films even got started! Some embrace super science or intellect, others appear to be evolutionary nightmares, and at least one appears to be a nothing more than cosmic comic relief.

There is an inherent world logic and sense of evolution distinctly Barsoomian in these "people" of the planet Mars. A few have sentiments similar to terrestrial humans, a sense of honor and emotion. Others are cold and distant, completely lacking in any form of human sensitivities. All are memorable, and one or two characters are actually endearing!


Of Barsoom's many wonderful races surely the Kaldane of Bantoom is the most unusual in both physical appearance and society. ERB outdid himself with the kaldane race; sentient creatures who are all head and very little body able to exist in a near vacuum at the planetary core. The aspiration of the kaldane race is to evolve into pure intellects, to be free of the constraints of flesh and blood exisitence. The Kaldanes have domesticated and bred the rykor, a one time burrowing animal, into a brainless body which has the physical characteristics and appearance of the Red Man as a method of transportation and vehicle for tending their fields and towers. This unusual symbiotic relationship is described by Burroughs:

"I will show you," he (Ghek) said, and lay down on the floor. Then he detached himself from the body, which lay as a thing dead. On his spider legs he walked toward the girl. "Now look," he admonished her (Tara). "Do you see this thing?" and he extended what appeared to be a bundle of tentacles from the posterior part of his head. "This is an aperture just back of the rykor's mouth and directly over the upper end of his spinal column. Into this aperture I insert my tentacles and seize the spinal cord. Immediately I control every muscle of the rykor's body--it becomes my own, just as you direct the movement of the muscles of your body. I feel what the rykor would feel if he had a head and brain. If he is hurt, I would suffer if I remained connected with him, but the instant one of them is injured or becomes sick we desert it for another.* As we could suffer the pains of their physical injuries, similarly do we enjoy the physical pleasures of the rykors.

... "Ninty per centum of our volume is brain. We have only the simplest of vital organs and they are very small for they do not have to assist in the support of a complicated system of nerves, muscles, flesh and bone. We have no lungs, for we do not require air. Far below ...(underground)... is a vast network of burrows where the real life of the kaldane is lived. There the air-breathing rykor would perish as you would perish. There we have stored vast quantities of food in hermetically sealed chambers. It will last forever. Far beneath the surface is water that will flow for countless ages after the surface water is exhausted. ... We are preparing for the time when the last vestige of atmosphere is spent -- when food and water are gone ... that there might not perish from the planet Nature's divinest creation -- the perfect brain."

* This is one of the few mentions of disease in the Barsoomian Saga. Note that rykors, an animal, may succumb to illness while the sentient races usually enjoy vigorous health (speculation, this is not mentioned in the texts).

Other functions of the Kaldane society, beside the controlled breeding of the rykor which had one time eons past had been naught but a burrowing animal which the kaldanes learned to ride, is the production of food to be placed beneath the planet's surface in the eventual hope the kaldanes would one day evolve into the pure brain requiring no body whatsoever. To ensure the plan kaldanes like Ghek were placed in charge of food production and the care the rykors. Kaldanes do not require much in the way of sustenance, but when they have a yen to munch out they have a particular liking for human flesh (if rykors could be called "human" in that respect).

As with all the races of Barsoom the Kaldanes duel constantly; however, since the rykor is expendable, most duels end with the death of the mount. On occasion, if the situation is such that complete termination of the kaldane is required, a death dealing blow is struck to the 'perfect brain' in which instance the victim is permanently removed from existence. An example of this horrible (to a kaldane, of course) termination is the threat voiced by kaldanes when they wish to make a dramatic point: "You'll get it, in the head!"

Interestingly, there are other points in the land of Bantoom, the kaldane's realm on Barsoom, which do not occur elsewhere in the Barsoomian Saga. In no other place on Mars are there stairwells to travel between levels of towers or pits--only in Bantoom does this architectural form exist. There are no jeds, jeddaks or jeddarras or even sexes in Bantoom. the closest translation of the ruling member is "king", though queen might be more appropriate.

Bantoom also exhibits marked differences from the general planetary environment by exhibiting open streams, cultivated fields, and a surrounding forest nestled within the confines of a valley. Tall towers (with basements descending into the planet's core) dot the landscape, each ruled by a "King;" recall the previous: there are no jeds or jeddaks, ERB was very specific in the use of the term "king" as regards the rulers of Bantoom.

In social structure the kaldane communities resemble hives of bees or anthills. For example there is the egg laying bisexual matriarch/patriarch that produces the necessary workers and drones. The "king" continues to lay "king" eggs that are carefully monitored and not allowed to develop unless there is a death of the royal member. The king kaldane is slightly larger in size to his fellows and exhibits an extremely high level of telepathic ability, a characteristic all kaldanes possess to some extent, though to a lesser degree.

The following passage introduces Luud, king of the Tower of Luud at the time of Tara's capture in Chessmen of Mars.

...and something appeared in the opening. It was a pair of large chelae and immediately thereafter there crawled forth a hideous kaldane of enormous proportions. He was half again as large as any that Tara of Helium had yet seen and his whole aspect infinitely more terrible. The skin of the others was a bluish-gray -- this one was of a little bluer tinge and the eyes were ringed with bands of white and scarlet as was its mouth. From each nostril a band of white and one of scarlet extended outward horizontally the width of the face.

Kaldanes have a nearly non-existent chin and sphincter like muscle for the mouth. They are completely hairless and transport themselves with six spider-like legs. Their grasping claws are similar to an earthly lobster, though both claws are of the same size. When mounted upon a rykor, the kaldane is as capable as any Red Man. When unmounted, the kaldane can travel in tight burrows at great speed and, when utilizing their telepathic skills, can confuse or misdirect other species.

The kaldane is certainly one of the more imaginative creations of ERB!


As the section heading indicates, the men of Gooli bear a remarkable resemblence to more or less intelligent kangaroos. They have large tails to balance themselves when leaping about on their large hindquarters. As a people, however, they make good dust mops. There are no redeeming qualities to the Kangaroo Men of Gooli. These inhabitants of the Martian swamps have no concept of honor in war — based as it is on a ten-to-one odds in their favor or they will not fight. The inhabitants of Gooli are devout cowards. Their main purpose in life, besides constant bickering and thievery amongst themselves, seems to be in protecting a worthless "treasure" of sea shells and pretty stones.

Litte more is known of the Kangaroo Men of Gooli as their encounter with humans is only a chapter or two in a much larger adventure.


Calling hormads, the artificial men created by master mind scientist Ras Thavas, another Martian Race might be stretching things a bit. These creatures lack most qualities found in the naturally occurring life forms, but Burroughs did use the creatures extensively in two of the Barsoomian books. Hormads first appeared in Synthetic Men of Mars and later in John Carter and the Giant of Mars.

To describe the hormad would be more than useless as the artifical creature manufactured by Ras Thavas came in an endless variety of shapes and sizes. Ras Thavas apparently had some difficulty in refining his chemical process, for the giant vats at his Toonolian Marsh laboratory continually produced a malformed hormad every hour on the hour. (Ed: ERB first wrote about creating artificial life in The Monster Men, 1913, a tale of the South Seas on Earth).

The creatures of Ras Thavas were destined to be workers and warriors, to replace disobedient slaves and so forth, but they had misshapen bodies, often having noses where ears should be, mouths at the tops of their heads, eyes in odd places. They were, however, basically formed in the shape of man. There is no indication that hormads could reproduce sexually, though it is mentioned that male and female bodies were formed. Intellectually the breed improved as Ras Thavas progressed with his experiments, but the hormad always remained inferior to the natural human.

When the process began to run amok, and threatened all Barsoom, John Carter and the Heliumetic Navy came and destroyed the vats (and the hormads). Later, in John Carter and the Giant of Mars (written by Burroughs son, John Coleman Burroughs), Joog, the giant, was a hormad grown to 130 foot in height.


Not truly men in the sense of refinement or intellectual ability, the plant men are the the Tree of Life's skeleton in the closet. The Tree of Life is covered in greater detail under Religion.

The plant men inhabit the Valley Dor exclusively. They are ten to twelve feet in height when standing erect, with short arms fashioned after the manner of an elephant's trunk, supple and sinuous. The body is hairless and a ghoulish blue except for a broad band of white which encircles the single, protruding eye, the pupil, iris, and ball of which are dead white. The nose is a ragged, inflamed circular hole in the center of the blank face, resembling an open wound. There is no mouth in the head. With the exception of the face the head is covered by a tangled mass of jet-black hair, some eight or ten inches in length. Each hair is the thickness of a large angle worm. The body, legs and feet are of human shape, but of monstrous proportions, the feet being fully three feet long and very flat and broad. The method of feeding consists of running their odd, dual purpose hands over the surface of the turf, cropping off the tender vegetation with razor-like talons and sucking it up through the two mouths, one in each palm. They are equipped with a massive tail about six feet long, quite round where it joins the body, but tapering to a flat, thin blade toward the end, which trails at right angles to the ground.

ERB saw fit to include every color of the rainbow and personal traits which are bewildering, to say the least. In this remarkable adventure series Burroughs managed to poke fun at every earthly convention or political extreme, something he continued in his other off-world adventure series on the Moon, Venus, and Beyond the Farthest Star. In most cases each setting was populated by a human race were the men were men and the women were gorgeous and high adventure abounded.