Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

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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

White Martian, Tangor

The white race of Barsoom, the Orovars, are nearly extinct. The original human stock of Mars, this white race built the mighty cities of Korad, Aaanothor and Horz. Horz is the last remaining outpost of this race; only a few thousand live in that dead city, which for centuries was thought to be deserted. In "The City of Mummies" (also published as "The Ancient Dead") John Carter described the Orovarian thusly:

His skin was bronzed by exposure to the sun ... but now I saw nothing red Martian about him. His harness, his weapons, everything ... differed ... (he) wore a headdress which is quite unusual upon Barsoom. It consisted of a leather band that ran about the head from right to left, and a second from front to rear. These bands were highly ornamented with carving and set with jewels and precious metals. ... Confined by this headdress was a shock of blond hair ... my companion was strangely handsome.

Ho Ran Kim, Jeddak of Horz, later explained the Orovarian history to John Carter:

"The inhabitants of Horz are, as far as we know, the sole remaining remnant of the once dominate race of Barsoom ... A million years ago our ships ranged the five great oceans, which we ruled ... Horz was not only the capital of a great empire, it was the seat of learning and culture ... Our empire spread from pole to pole. There were other races ... few in numbers and negligible in importance. The Orovars owned Barsoom ... (and) ... Horz enjoyed a thousand years of peace.

Ho Ran Kim continued on with the down fall of the race.

"...the seas began to recede, the atmosphere to grow more tenuous. What science had predicted was coming to pass — a world was dying.

"For ages our cities followed the receding waters ... prosperous sea ports became deserted inland cities. Famine came. Hungry hordes made war upon the more fortunate ... green men overran what had once been fertile farmland, preying upon all.

"The atmosphere became so tenuous that it was difficult to breath. (Our) Scientists were working on an atmosphere plant, but before it was ... in successful operation all but a few of the inhabitants of Barsoom had died. ...then life became merely a battle for the survival of the fittest."

There is another group of white martians known as the Holy Therns of Barsoom, a bald/hairless race that wears great wigs of yellow hair. It is likely these people are related to the ancient Orovars. The Holy Therns are missionaries of the living deity Issus and live in the Valley Dor near the Lost Sea of Korus. A vigorous race, the Therns played upon the superstitions of the Barsoomian cultures until their power was broken by John Carter. These ex-priests have since taken up other forms of livelihood, usually as panthans, the Barsoomian word for mercenaries. They handle weapons well and in later books of the Barsoomian saga are mentioned as fighting men and living among the peoples of the red race.

Ancient superstition among all the races of Barsoom suggest that should any Holy Thern fail to reach their allotted 1,000 years of life, their spirit, may on occasion, pass into the bodies of the great white apes.

When John Carter first encounters the Holy Therns, it is at the height of their powers as the leaders of the religion of Issus. See Religion for more detail.

Another small community of white men is located in a single city in the southern hemisphere near the Gulf of Torquas (a dead sea bottom). This curious population is roughly 1,000 in strength and there are no women in that number. The Lotharians have the ability to command powerful hypnotic suggestions and are able to populate their city with realistic human projections directly from their imaginations. Tario, Jeddak of Lothar, was so successful with his visualizations that one of his most frequent simulations, Kar Komak, changed from insubstantial imagining to physical reality. In all other descriptions of the white races of Mars the people were either blond or wore blond wigs. Kar Komak has auburn hair, a term once archaically used to describe a whitish or flaxen color, but now (and at the time Burroughs wrote the Martian books) refers to reddish-brown. These white-skinned Lotharians are a beardless race.

Escape!, Tangor

Kar Komak, ranked an odwar, is worthy of further mention in this particular: he is supposed to be the previous existence of a million year dead commander of the fleets of Lothar — from the time before the oceans of Barsoom vanished. How is it that Tario, Jeddak of Lothar and a contemporary of John Carter's Barsoom, was able to produce the spirit, essence, and physical characteristics of this long deceased Lotharian? Is Tario a million years old? While this is unlikely, it is certain we may never find the answer. We do have, however, the recitation of Jav, Tario's second in Lothar, regarding the history of the Lotharians:

"Women!" exclaimed Jav. "There are no women in Lothar. The last of the Lotharian females perished ages since, upon that cruel and terrible journey across the muddy plains that fringed the half-dried seas, when the green hordes scourged us across the world to this our last hiding-place — our impregnable fortress of Lothar.

"Scarce twenty thousand men of all the countless millions of our race lived to reach Lothar. Among us were no women and no children. All these had perished by the way.

"As time went on, we, too, were dying and the race fast approaching extinction, when the Great Truth was revealed to us, that mind is all. Many more died before we perfected our powers, but at last we were able to defy death when we fully understood that death was merely a state of mind.

"Then came the creation of mind-people, or rather the materialization of imaginings. We first put these to practical use when the Torquasians discovered our retreat, and fortunate for us it was that it required ages of search upon their part before they found the single tiny entrance to the valley of Lothar. ..."

Jav, in a latter passage, reveals the downfall of the sea-going white race (of which he was apparently there at the time 500,000 years earlier!):

"Poor Lothar," he said. "It is indeed a city of ghosts. There are scarce a thousand of us left, who once were numbered in the millions. Our great city is peopled by the creatures of our own imaginings. For our own needs we do not take the trouble to materialize these peoples of our brain, yet they are apparent to us.

"Even now I see great throngs lining the avenue, hastening to and fro in the round of their duties. I see women and children laughing on the balconies — these we are forbidden to materialize; but yet I see them — they are here. ... But why not?" he mused. "No longer need I fear Tario — he has done his worst, and failed. Why not indeed? ..."

The sight that met them was awe-inspiring. Where before there had been naught but deserted pavements and scarlet swards, yawning windows and tenantless doors, now swarmed a countless multitude of happy, laughing people.

"It is the past," said Jav in a low voice. "They do not see us — they but live the old dead past of ancient Lothar — the dead and crumbled Lothar of antiquity, which stood upon the shore of Throxus, mightiest of the five oceans.

"See those fine, upstanding men swinging along the broad avenue? See the young girls and the women smile upon them? See the men greet them with love and respect? Those be seafarers coming up from their ships which lie at the quays at the city's edge.

"Brave men, they — ah, but the glory of Lothar has faded! See their weapons. They alone bore arms, for they crossed the five seas to strange places where dangers were. With their passing passed the martial spirit of the Lotharians, leaving, as the ages rolled by, a race of spineless cowards.

"We hated war, and so we trained not our youth in warlike ways. Thus followed our undoing, for when the seas dried and the green hordes encroached upon us we could do naught but flee. But we remembered the seafaring bowmen of the days of our glory — it is the memory of these which we hurl upon our enemies."

In most respects the hand weapons of the Orovars are the same as the other Barsoomian races, with the single exception of Kar Komak and the dream legions of the present day Lotharians. Tario and his powerful hypnotist peers conjure full armies armed with bows and arrow and short-handled war axes. In only one city of Barsoom (Manator; see Cities and Nations) is the bow and arrow again mentioned.

In Lothar the deathless inhabitants, growing more mentally unbalanced with each passing eon, worship the god Komal. Komal proves to be nothing more than a rather large banth caged beneath the city. A banth is the ten-legged Martian lion. Komal is kept fat and sassy with the very reluctant cooperation of unfortunate victims, human and otherwise, offered in sacrifice.