Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Summarizing ERB's works one chapter at a time
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Articles, Contributors: Tangor Responds, Edgardemain, ERB: In Focus, Nkima Speaks, Beyond 30W, Tantor Trumpets, Dime Lectures, Korak in Pal-ul-don, Public Domain novels of ERB
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

Throne Room, Tangor

The Red Martian, like all the dominate human and humanoid races of Mars, is oviparous; that is to say they reproduce by eggs. For a description of this fascinating sex life, see the Green Martian section. The only difference between the Green and Red Martian cultures is the parental care given to new born. The Red Martian is fully aware of his and her offspring's identity, nor do they secret their egg in distant incubators; instead caring for it until hatched then raising the infant with love and affection, as remarked by Vor Daj (Synthetic):

The normal life expectancy of a Martian is a thousand years from the time that he breaks the shell of the egg in which has incubated for five years and from which he emerges just short of physical maturity, a wild creature that must be tamed and trained as are the young of the lower orders which have been domesticated by man. And so much of that training is martial that it sometimes seems to me that I must have stepped from the egg fully equipped with the harness and weapons of a warrior.

Much later Carter makes this remark regarding the longevity of Martians and how it affects the relationship between men and women (Llana):

It may seem strange to you denizens of earth that Rojas could have become infatuated with a grandfather, but you must remember that Mars is not Earth and that I am unlike all other Earth-men. I do not know how old I am. I recall no childhood. It seems to me that have just always been, and I have always been the same. I look now as I did when I fought with the Confederate army during the Civil War--a man of about thirty. And here on Barsoom, where the natural span of life is around a thousand years and people do not commence to show the ravages of old age until just shortly before dissolution, differences in age do not count. You might fall in love with a beautiful girl on Barsoom; and, as far as appearances were concerned, she might be seventeen or she might be seven hundred.

As revealed by Dejah Thoris
to John Carter

Dejah Thoris and I (examined) the ...beautiful chambers of the building... (built by) people (who) had presumably flourished over a hundred thousand years before. They were the early progenitors of her race, but had mixed with the other great race of early Martians, ... almost black, and also with the reddish yellow race which had flourished at the same time. ... These three great divisions of the higher Martians (were) forced into a mighty alliance as the drying up of the Martian seas ... compelled them to seek the ... few and always diminishing fertile areas, and to defend themselves, under new conditions of life, against the wild hordes of green men. ... Ages of close relationship and intermarrying had resulted in the race of red men,... During the ages of hardships and incessant warring between their own various races, as well as with the green men, ... much of the high civilization and many of the arts of the fair-haired Martians (were) lost; ... These ancient Martians had been a highly cultivated and literary race, but during the vicissitudes of those trying centuries of readjustment to new conditions, not only did their advancement and production cease entirely, but practically all their archives, records, and literature were lost. ...

— Condensed from "A Princess of Mars"

In physical respects the Red man is like any human of Earth. At birth they are taught the use of weapons, becoming so used to them in fact that in later life they feel naked without them. Quick to temper, and quick to kill, the red race holds down runaway population almost solely through murder and casual violence.

This is not to imply that the finer emotional qualities are missing. Red Martian males revere their women. Not one of them can stand idly by and see a woman humiliated, injured, or abducted without speeding to their rescue. Sometimes, though not always, the rescued and rescuer find each other attractive and form a marriage alliance. This is accomplished by the simple expedience of the woman saying "my chieftain" to which the man replies "my princess". There is ceremony for marriage, though the officials and details involved were not specifically clarified in the Barsoom books, and seems to consist of a beautiful setting and the clamping of golden collars about the throats of the interested parties, or the use of handcuffs in ancient Manator.

The Red Man holds his honor above all else. He does not lightly offer his loyalty, as shown in the following passage narrated by John Carter.

...the noble fellow...flung his sword at my feet.

Could you know the customs and the character of red Martians you would appreciate the depth of meaning that that simple act conveyed ... equivalent to saying, "My sword, my body, my life, my soul are yours to do with as you wish. Until death and after death I look to you alone for authority for my every act. Be you right or wrong, your word shall be my only truth. Whoso raises his hand against you must answer to my sword."

It is the oath of fealty that men occasionally pass to a Jeddak whose high character...inspired the enthusiastic love of his followers.

If the recipient chooses to accept the oath, he will take the sword, press his lips to the hilt and personally buckle it on the giver's harness. Or it can be returned hilt first. If, on the other hand, the sword is handed back point first, or ignored, the oath is refused, the latter being a great insult which usually results in a duel. The oath is seldom offered unless acceptance is assured and the giver truly respects the recipient.

The red man does not shake hands in greeting. He clasps the shoulder of the person he is meeting. The depth of his happiness is expressed by using two hands instead of one. The formal salute is accomplished by raising both hands to the shoulders, palms facing forward.

For uncounted centuries the red man has maintained the vast atmospheric plant which is continually replenishing the thin air of Mars. This "Atmosphere Factory" is a building about four miles square with walls two hundred feet high, with walls one fifty feet thick and is impervious to assault. Even the roof is covered with five feet of glass to prevent airborn attack. John Carter, starving and near death from his long imprisonment by the green martian Warhoon horde, entered into the manufacturing plant and learned something about its operation:

The building in which I found myself contained the machinery which produces that artifical atmosphere which sustains life on Mars. The secret of the entire process hinges on the use of the ninth ray...

This ray is separated from the other rays of the sun by means of finely adujusted instruments placed upon the roof of the huge building, three-quarters of which is used for reservoirs in which the ninth ray is stored. This product is then treated electrically, or rather certain proportions of refined electric vibrations are incorporated with it, and the result is then pumped to the five principal air centers of the planet where, as it is released, contact with the ether of space transforms it into atmosphere.

There is always sufficient reserve of the ninth ray stored in the great building to maintain the present Martian atmosphere for a thousand years, and the only fear, as my new friend told me, was that some accident might befall the pumping apparatus.

The Red Man keeps the atmosphere plant operating smoothly and do this without exacting any tribute from any of the other sentient races of Mars, in fact keeping the plant a secret, possibly to prevent hostile aggressors from using it to gain control over the planet. John Carter, much later in the Barsoomian Saga, near the end of Burroughs' own life, discovered the construction of the vast atmosphere factory was conceived and nearly completed by the ancient Orovar race, the dominate white race during the time the five Martian Oceans were receding and civilization was tottering at the edge. Ho Ran Kim, Jeddak of Horz, a city thought long deserted but in fact still inhabited by a small group of Orovars, told this story to Carter in the "City of Mummies", one of four short novels in Llana of Gathol.

The red man, most notably the Zodangans, also constructed the great network of canals across the arrid face of Barsoom, providing desperately needed moisture for agricultural and other purposes. These ingenious irrigation ducts are largely buried beneath the surface of the planet. Immense pumping stations along each canal transport the water collected from the polar regions across the desert areas. In farming districts a series of smaller pipes branch off at the root level, thus assuring proper moisture at all times.

The technological aspects of the red martian culture include the flier, navigational devices, the ground flier, pneumatic tube transportation, magnetic lifts, and space ships capable of flying to the nearer moon. While the present day architecture cannot rival the ancient dead cities, the modern urban areas are well designed and maintained.

The Red Martian scientists make use of the Eight and Ninth Rays--a form of solar energy which provides the motive force for engines and the energy by which atmosphere is synthesized. While the Red Man has minds of great intellect and insight into the mysteries of science, much of the technology which maintains the planet in a balance between life and death came from the ancient Ovovars. This prior technology has been largely forgotten or lost and as a result the Red Race relies on rather primitive weapons to conduct its wars. There are cannons, rifles, disintegrator rays and explosive devices of incredible force, but these are rarely used due to limitations, scarcity, or, as in most cases, why use an elephant gun to swat flies?

Slavery is common on Barsoom, but is most prevalent in the Red Martian culture. The majority of slaves are captured in the many wars which are a way of life for the Red Race. Some slaves are bought and sold, some born in slavery, but there is some generosity in the Martian breast, it is possible for a slave to win their freedom by combat in the arenas.

The average red martian believes in ancestor worship, though other religions abound. For a race that lives as long as a thousand years, the exploits of their ancestors takes on new meaning. Most revere their ancestors and attempt to live their lives by adhering to lofty ideals, but few are so devout that they cannot makes changes in their own lives.

The religions of Barsoom are many, the majority of them being in the red culture. With the exception of Issus, described more fully under the Black Martian Culture and in Religion, only the Phandahlian god Tur, with a bible called a Turgan, seems to widely proliferate the red culture.

A deeply superstitious race steeped in hoary traditions, the red martian reveres family, the sancity of womanhood, and their ancestors. The depth of this love of family is shown when a loved one dies. The Red Man reserves twenty-seven days for mourning.

The governmental structures of the red races is similar to that of the green martians. A Jeddak rules over Jeds, Jeds rule over cities, lesser chieftains are below jeds. As in the case of the Green Martian all one needs to rise in power is support and a capable sword arm. Most offices are won by combat and, once seated in power, the winner appoints his own people to their posts.

Each city, sometimes whole districts, have a unique written language which is not duplicated elsewhere. This marvelous contradiction of written communication and history is off-set by Burroughs' ingenious premise of a single oral tongue for the entire planet. ERB thus made it possible for his adventuresome and wide-traveling characters to roam the Barsoomian metropolitan and backwoods areas and ask directions without confusion.

Vad Varo reveals that written histories of Barsoom are continuous for the last 100,000 years. Assuming the natural lifespan of the red martian, there are at least 10,000 generations for the most recent recorded histories. However, if one includes the comment John Carter made that few Martians ever attain old age, most dying by their 300th year due to war and harsh environment, the number of generations might be triple that suggested above.

Warrior, Tangor

Martian officers go into battle with their men. The Red Man, while not endowed with the great physical strength of the Green Man, is equally ferocious in battle. Where the warriors of Helium, Gathol, Zodanga and other great Martian cities lack for individual strengths, their organization, numbers, and determination often turn the tide of battle to their favor, thus balancing the savage hordes of green men with whom they war most frequently and for long centuries. As revealed in Thuvia, some conflicts between red nations have lasted five and six hundred years.

The Red Man is not without a sense of the finer aspects of human existence. As John Carter notes several times in his explorations of the planet Martian painters have perfected the mural to a state of realism and beauty that captures the eye and touches the heart. Marble statues grace the homes of the wealthy. Intricate gardens are found at estates or in the cities. The Dance of Barsoom is a complex yet balanced dance form which is appreciated by devotees and observers alike. Each red martian child must learn the Dance of Barsoom, their national dance and their city dance before they are allowed to attend important social functions. Music and singing is done in soft and subdued tones, but ERB neglected to describe musical instruments in any great detail other than the unique single string instrument strapped to the forearms of dancers participating in the Dance of Barsoom. Each instrument is made of wood and is marked with the instrument's note and length of duration. Vor Daj (Synthetic) however, may give us some insight of Martian instruments by saying what they are not. Vad Varo (Master Mind) remarks upon the bugles used in Phundahlian ceremonies.

Mars is a world of vast silences where even voiced creatures are muted as though by the consciousness of impending death, for Mars is a dying world. We abhor noise; and so our voices, like our music, are soft and low; and we are a people of few worlds. John Carter has told me of the din of Earthly cities and of the brasses and the drums and cymbals of Earthly music, of the constant, senseless chatter of millions of voices saying nothing. I believe that such as these would drive Martians insane.

Yet, we cannot go by the above quote alone. Later, in the same novel, Edgar Rice Burroughs reports the use of drums, "blaring" trumpets, and wind instruments as well as aborigines engaged in song. Deciding what kind of music is favored by Barsoomians--style or type--is left to the reader's imagination. That Burroughs' Martians are intended to have cultures which embrace musical expression of some kind is obvious; however, we are given no clear consistency that allows us to precisely determine those musicial expressions.

The musical expression, as well as a glimpse into the residential life of the Red Man is revealed in a passage from Thuvia:

...Houses, raised high upon their slender metal columns for the night were dropping gently toward the ground. Among the flowers upon the scarlet sward which lies about the buildings children were already playing, and comely women laughing and chatting with their neighbours as they culled gorgeous blossoms for the vases within doors.

The pleasant "kaor" of the Barsoomian greeting fell continually upon the ears of the stranger as friends and neighbours took up the duties of a new day.

The district in which he had landed was residential--a district of merchants of the more prosperous sort. Everywhere were evidences of luxury and wealth. Slaves appeared upon every housetop with gorgeous silks and costly furs, laying them in the sun for airing. Jewel-encrusted women lolled even thus early upon the carven balconies before their sleeping apartments. Later in the day they would repair to the roofs when the slaves had arranged couches and pitched silken canopies to shade them from the sun.

Strains of inspiring music broke pleasantly from open windows, for the Martians have solved the problem of attuning the nerves pleasantly to the sudden transition from sleep to waking that proves so difficult a thing for most Earth folk.

An industrious race, the Red Man farms and ranches, some stockmen operating at such levels they are able to export their products world-wide. Vor Daj remarks that Martian cities embrace markets and commerce. In Thuvia we learn of the great international passenger liners, freighters, and military vessels (all airships). The Gatholians are noted for their thoat herds and their incredible mines, which produce diamonds and platium primarily. So efficient are the methods of the red man at food production that the Green Tharks, after Tars Tarkas became Jeddak of the hordes of Thark, stuck a bargain with Mors Kajak, with John Carter's assistance, for these agricultural and ranch products; life on the dead sea bottoms is a difficult and perilous thing at best.

With all the detail ERB provided for the Red Man of Mars, one may wonder if he was, in fact, offering a tribute to the Apache Indians he faced while a member of the Seventh Cavalry. The many similarities between the Red Barsoomian (which also extend into the more nomadic life styles of the Green Martian) and the American Indian cannot help but be noticed. In later years he penned two fine western books, The War Chief and Apache Devil, which showed the respect and admiration he felt for those one time advesaries. That the spirit of the American Indian is felt throughout the Barsoomian Saga is a fitting memorial to those ancestors who fought so long and hoplessly against the white man's invasion of their homeland. The Indian won--On Mars.