Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Worlds of: Barsoom, Pellucidar, Moon, Amtor, Caspak, Pal-u-don

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



A Barsoom Glossary

No world is complete without flora and fauna. In this section we examine the many varieties of plant and animal life created by ERB for his Barsoomian Saga. Where a prior, more detailed description has already been made a footnote will direct you to that passage.

In most regards the plants and animals have terrestrial corollaries. Burroughs, in fact, often called Martian creatures by earthly names such as lion, wasp, lizard, though that might be simply because the principal narrator of these tales, John Carter, is from planet Earth and thus more comfortable with those terms. Another possibility is that Burroughs simply did not want to confuse the readers.

There is at least one mystery creature, the only mammal, which is never described.

Detail from Frazetta painting, white ape
The white apes of Barsoom are very much similar in appearance and build as the green martians, having six limbs and of tremendous size. The head of the savage creature is like that of the African gorilla and a shock of thick, stiff-bristled hair runs from the back of the skull and neck to the upper shoulders. The white apes are found everywhere on Barsoom, but frequent the dead cities which provide them with shelter and hunting. Image is a detail from a Frazetta image.
A huge white furred creature with six limbs, four of which are short and heavy to carry it through snow and ice; a denizen of the Barsoomian north pole. The remaining two limbs grow forward from the shoulder on either side of the powerful long neck and terminate in white, hairless hands which it uses to capture and hold its prey. Its head and mouth are like that of the hippopotamus with two large, down-curving horns extending forward from the bottom jaw. Two huge eyes, each composed of hundreds of ocelli, are oval patches running downward from the center of the cranium to below the horns on either side of the head. Each ocelli is equipped with its own lid and the apt can, at will, close as many of the facets as desired. Curiously the creature goes without sleep for periods of up to a month, then sleeps for a whole day before beginning anew the hunt for food in the harsh north. The animal is domesticated by the Yellow men. Apt fur is generally worn by northern warriors. (See Orluk below)
tree reptile, vicious creature of some size, undescribed in Giant of Mars with exception of clawed, fanged, heavy and large with horny skin.
Detail from Whelan painting, banth
this ten-legged beast is the most ferocious carnivore which roams the low hills surrounding the dead seas of Mars. (Ec: In Giant of Mars the banth is described as having eight legs in an editor's note.) It is almost hairless, having only a great, bristly mane about its thick neck. It's long lithe body is powerfully muscled, its enormous jaws are equipped with several rows of long needle-like fangs, and its mouth reaches to a point far back of its tiny ears. It has enormous protruding eyes of green. Image at right a detail from an illustration by Michael Whelan.
undescribed in Giant, it is obviously meant to be similar to the bats of earth.
indicated as a food source (Synthetic)
gay plumed and voiceless; mentioned as a food source (Synthetic); Malagors are giant birds (see malagor); feathers are used as adornment by males of red and green races of Barsoom.
the Barsoomian dog. About the size of a Shetland pony, omnivorous, the calot has ten short legs. The head bears a slight resemblance to a frog, except that the jaws are equipped with three rows of long, sharp tusks. Described as "pop-eyed" meaning protruding eyes. The calot is endowed with extraordinary strength and stamina. only the thoat can cover more territory in a single day. Image at right by Tangor.
calot tree
Carnivorous plant.
The repulsive calot tree was, too, much in evidence. It is a carnivorous plant of about the bigness of a large sage-brush such as dots our western plains. Each branch ends in a set of strong jaws, which have been known to drag down and devour large and formidable beasts of prey. (Warlord)
Darseen, Tangor
chameleon-like reptile based on the following:
"... By the mother of the further moon, John Carter, how came you here, and have you become a Darseen that you can change your color at will?"
And later, in the series:
On Barsoom there is a little reptile called a darseen which changes its colors to harmonize with its background, just as do our earthly chameleons...
There are no precise descriptions regarding this creature. Image by Tangor.
a kind of stone; prized for coloration and beauty, used in the construction of buildings and outdoor furniture.
mention of fish in the underground river of Tjanath. Eaten by Nur An and Tan Hadron of Hastor
Neither one of us had ever caught a fish or eaten one, but we knew from history that they could be caught and that they were edible. (Fighting).
Fish are mentioned as a food source (Synthetic and Llana). No descriptions are given.
the lightest and strongest metal known. Sometimes used in architecture.
a flowering plant
described as flowering and sometimes as scarlet in appearance.
undescribed beautiful and silent flying insects hover over pimalia and gloresta blooms; some insects of the waste areas of the Toonolian Marsh have a wingspread of 30 feet and are equipped with powerful jaws and rapier-like stingers and prey upon the lesser reptiles, always victoriously (Synthetic).
Detail from Whelan painting
giant martian bird. Flying creature thought extinct by the general population of Barsoom, the malagor is domesticated as transportation in areas surrounding the Tonoolian Marshes, specifically there are 500 domesticated malagors in Morbus; Able to fly great distances at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, though prefers to fly by day because the creature does not see well at night. Detail at right shows Michael Whelan's conceptualization of the Barsoomian creature.
Carnivorous plant. ...and among them were several varieties of the Martian "man-flower," whose blooms have eyes and hands with which to see and seize the insects which form their diet. (Warlord)
Carnivorous plant of Sasoom (Jupiter).
But this was by far its least uncanny aspect: the limbs of the trees moved like living things. They writhed and twined—myriad, snakelike things. I had scarcely noticed them until we halted. Suddenly one dropped down and wrapped itself about me. Smiling, I sought to disentwine it. I stopped smiling: I was as helpless as a babe encircled by the trunk of an elephant. The thing started to lift me from the ground, and just then Han Du saw and leaped forward with drawn sword. He grasped one of my legs, and at the same time sprang upward and struck with the keen edge of his blade, severing the limb that had seized me. We dropped to the ground together.
Han Du pointed up. I looked. Above me, at the end of a strong stem, was a huge blossom—a horrible thing! In its center was a large mouth armed with many teeth, and above the mouth were two staring, lidless eyes.
"You must always be on your guard when in one of our forests," he warned me. "These trees are living, carnivorous animals. They have a nervous system and a brain, and it is generally believed that they have a language and talk with one another." (Skeleton)
milk plant of Barsoom. pg 49 Fighting, 8 to 12 sofads in height; described as a thick-foliaged tree found in groves on the dead sea bottoms. A food source.
probably similar to terrestrial molds; slimy, found in wet underground areas (Toonolian Marshes) (Synthetic)
indicated as a food source (Synthetic)
an elephantine beast of prey with black and yellow striped fur, common to the northern pole region of Barsoom, fur is exported to all parts of Barsoom. Orluk fur is gnerally worn by northern officers. (See Apt above.)
a blood red stone with white tracings; rare and beautiful, can be worked and highly polilshed. (Master Mind 128)
included in the Tree of Life, sixteen-legged and apparently the progenitor of most animal life forms on Barsoom.
a gorgeous flowering plant
plant men
see Races for Plant Men of Valley Dor
(venomous snakes) Found in the Chamber of Reptiles, Valley Dor, Thern territory.
These were the only reptiles I had ever seen upon Barsoom, but I knew from their similarity to the fossilized remains of supposedly extinct species I had seen in the museums of Helium that they comprised many of the known prehistoric reptilian genera, as well as others undiscovered.
     A more hideous aggregation of monsters had never before assailed my vision. It would be futile to attempt to describe them to Earth men, since substance is the only thing which they possess in common with any creature of the past or present with which you are familiar--even their venom is of an unearthly virulence that, by comparison, would make the cobra de capello seem quite as harmless as an angleworm.
Reptiles were instrumental in Ras Thavas' research that resulted in the creation of hormads...
He experimented with various reptiles which reproduce certain parts of their bodies, such as toes, tails and limbs...(Synthetic)
mentioned as a food source, specifically the Great Toonolian Marsh (Synthetic)
for all practical purposes this animal is a headless, brainless red martian, both male and female. The rykor was breed by and is used exclusively by Kaldanes for transportation and other tasks.
slimy reptiles known to inhabit the Sea of Korus; perhaps are found in other water areas of Barsoom since a reference to the silian in statuary is found in Phundahl, on the western shore of the Toonolian Marsh.
Sith, Tangor
hornet like monster of the forests of Kobal, bald faced and about the size of a hereford bull. Has frightful jaws in front and a poison stinger behind. The eyes, of myriad facts, cover three-fourths of the head, permitting the creature to see in all directions at the same time. Image by Tangor.
a martian hardwood that has a large delicious nut. Used in housing and furniture construction as well as a component part of larger airships.
a tree; see next.
the fruit of a sompus tree;
The pulp of this fruit, called somp, is not unlike grapefruit, though much sweeter. It is considered a great delicacy among Barsoomians, and is cultivated along many of the canals.
a little pet animal about the size of a cat, a favorite of red martian women. Also found in the Valley of First Born. Has six limbs. (Synthetic)
a martian hardwood that has a large delicious nut; also bears gorgeous blooms.
Spiders of Hohr, Tangor
Giant spiders inhabit the Valley of Hohr near Ghasta and Tjanath; an insect which hangs from a network of threads suspended over the valley; the creatures are venonmous and predatory; the legs protrude from the upper body before turning downward to the ground.
the martian horse, which comes in two sizes. The Green Martian Thoat is about ten feet high at the shoulder with four legs to either side; a broad flat tail, larger at the tip than the root which is held straight out behind while running; a mouth splitting the head from snout to long massive neck. It is entirely devoid of hair and is of a dark slate colour and exceedingly smooth and glossy. It has a white belly and the legs are shaded from slate at the shoulders and hips to a vivid yellow at the feet. The feet are heavily padded and nailless. The Red Martian rides a similar beast, though smaller. The animal is a food source as well.
large vegetation.
The trees of the forest attracted my deep admiration as I proceeded toward the sea. Their great stems, some of them fully a hundred feet in diameter, attested their prodigious height, which I could only guess at, since at no point could I penetrate their dense foliage above me to more than sixty or eighty feet.
    As far aloft as I could see the stems and branches and twigs were as smooth and as highly polished as the newest of American-made pianos. The wood of some of the trees was as black as ebony, while their nearest neighbours might perhaps gleam in the subdued light of the forest as clear and white as the finest china, or, again, they were azure, scarlet, yellow, or deepest purple.
    And in the same way was the foliage as gay and variegated as the stems, while the blooms that clustered thick upon them may not be described in any earthly tongue, and indeed might challenge the language of the gods. (Valley Dor, GODS)
Jovian flowering plant, one to two feet tall, leafless, with single bloom at top; marks invisible Savator houses.
a fruit tree; fruit is tasteless, but ranks high in food value. Common and plentiful, usa is used by all the navies and military of Barsoom as rations. The name, if liberally translated, would mean "The Fighting Potato"Chessmen
the Martian Rat. About the size of an airedale terrier. Many legged; smooth and hairless, the skin resembles that of a new born mouse. The upper and lower jaws are equipped with five spade like teeth each, with the skin not covering the bony structure, there are no lips to the mouth. Eyes are small and deep set in fleshy mounds.
mastodonian draught animals. The leather hides are used to make sandals. A food source.