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
ERB Summary Project
J Allen St John, Interior


David Innes

Abner Perry

Dian the Beautiful

Hooja the Sly One

Jubal the Ugly One

Ghak the Hairy One (King of Sari)

Ja of the Mezops

Dacor (Dian's brother)


Sahara Desert












mechanical mole


wolf-like creatures


iron swords

bow and arrows

homing instinct

chemical reproduction






thipidars (pterodactyls)

sithic (giant amphibian)

surgical instruments

Mahar secret (book)


cave bear

lidi (diplodicus)


Summarized by
The Members of ERBList


Pellucidar, Edgar Rice Burroughs' inner world, evokes fantastic images of a world without time and a landscape like no other. He was not the first to utilize a hollow earth to tell a story, but his is the best and most completely realized of all the inner world tales. At the Earth's Core is the sixth novel to come from his imaginative pen.

Burroughs began At The Earth's Core in January 1913 and it was serially published in All-Story Weekly the following year. A. C. McClurg printed the first edition July, 1922 and the first Gossett & Dulap reprint appeared in 1923. Of interest is ERB's successful marketing of At The Earth's Core via second serial rights to Modern Mechanics and Invention beginning in February of 1929.

Within two years of beginning his writing career, Burroughs had created Barsoom, Tarzan's Jungle, and Pellucidar. His remaining created world series would take much longer — Moon (1920s), Venus (1930s), Poloda (1940s). Burroughs revisited Pellucidar many times over the course of his writing career, each subsequent outing more detailed and exciting than the first.

— David Bruce Bozarth

At the Earth's Core, Summarized
by The Members of ERBList, November 1998

PROLOGUE (Dale Monahan)

The narrator does not expect the reader to believe the story; however feels the reader would accept it if they heard it from the lips of the man who told it to him. There is the fire of truth in his gray eyes and the ring of sincerity in his quiet voice. The narrator also states the reader would not need the final ocular proof that he had--the weird rhamphorhynchus-like creature brought back from the inner world. He met the traveler from the inner world in the Sahara Desert. The traveler asked the date and the year. According to the startled traveler, 10 years had passed and he was compelled to grasp the narrator's stirrup leather for support. "That night he told me his story--the story that I give you here as nearly in his own words as I can recall them." Thus, begins the adventure of David Innes.


Thirty year old David Innes relates the tale in first person. He is from Connecticut, son of a wealthy father who died when he was nineteen. David successfly managed the family business. Abner Perry, inventor, displays a new mechanical mole claiming it would make them wealthy. Convinced, David advances needed funds. When completed, they test the strange craft. Descending to the earth, Perry notices the temperature has risen. Unable to alter their downward course, both agree they should continue the trip but are uncertain of their survival. Plunging at the rate of 7 miles an hour, the temperature rises to 153 degrees F. The temperature stablizes, they have hope; however the temperature begins to drop until it is 10 degrees below zero, sometime later it begins to rise. Their hopes dying, the men say their goodbyes. Perry passes out. The mole eventually comes to a stop, five hundred miles from the earth's surface. Fresh air pours in and David loses consciousness.

II - A STRANGE WORLD (Dale Monahan)

David revives Perry. They exit to observe a weird and beautiful landscape. Before them are tiny isles. Behind them is a primeval tropical forest. Perry says he is not so sure that they are on earth but in another world in the earth. The strangeness of the landscape haunts them: there is no horizon! The sun, three times normal size, is motionless in the center. Perry explains his theory, interrupted by an awe-inspiring roar. A colossal bear-like beast (dyrth) attacks. They climb the trees for safety but to his horror, David discovers that he must distract the animal for the old man to get to a larger tree. Abner safe, David must get away from the beast. He runs along the beach. A pack of some hundred wolf-like creatures surround the animal and Innes escapes. A company of man-like creatures with long slender tails urges on the dog pack. David races to the trees for refuge. One of the manlike creatures in the trees drag him to safety. Excited, they examined him. Then the agile creatures take David for a terrifying journey through the tree tops. He wonders about Perry and their intentions for him.


Once in their village, David discovers Perry is also a prisoner. Perry feels they have proved that the earth is hollow, which explains for the horizon. The sun is a luminous core in the exact center of a hollow globe. The creatures take them to a level plain and place them in the center. Thousands form a great ring around them. They bring on the wolf-dogs and turn them loose. As David throws a stone at the attacking animals, shrieks and howls rise from the circle of spectators. A party of gorilla-like creatures, armed with spears and hatchets and shields, have appeared upon the scene. The wolf-dogs and their captors flee leaving David and Abner to the gorilla-like creatures. The men are led into a great plain. Soon they are filled with hope and relief at the sight of a caravan of men and women. The people are half-naked and wild-looking but human. However, they soon see the humans are chained neck to neck in a long line with gorilla-men guards. Perry and David are added to the chain and the caravan marches across the sunbaked plain. If they fall, they are prodded with a sharp point. They note, however, that their companions do not stumble but are proudly erect. They are a noble looking race with well-proportioned features. Simply dressed, the women possess a single robe and the men, loin cloths. The gorilla-like men wear a tunic with artistic designs and have many ornaments of metal--silver predominating. They talk among themselves in a language that is different from that of their fellow captives. How far their monotonous march covers David has no conception. Their watches are gone and they live beneath a stationary sun with no way to compute time.


The captives, chained together, continued marching. David helps Abner. They begin to learn the languages of their captors, and of their fellow captives. Dian the Beautiful is chained in front of David. She teaches him about life in Pellucidar. Dian explains she had fled from Jubal the Ugly One, who wanted her as his mate. She had been captured by the Sagoths, minions of the Mahars, intelligent winged creatures who think they own Pellucidar. During the journey to the Mahar city of Phutra, many aquatic dinosaurs were seen. In front of Dian is Ghak the Hairy one, with Hooja the Sly One in front of him. Hooja makes obvious advances toward Dian, who ignores him. Hooja grabs her and David punches him in the jaw, knocking him over. Dian looks at David, and after a moment turned her back on him. David realized he had offended her, but did not know how. Pride kept him from asking. The group enters a dark tunnel to pass through mountains. When they pass again into sunlight, Dian, Hooja, and some other prisoners were missing. Ghak explains that when a man fights for a woman the woman belongs to the victor, who either claims her or releases her. By doing neither David made Dian his slave. Ghak, the king of Sari, reveals that Dian is his niece. The group arrives at the underground city of Phutra.

V - SLAVES (Steve Wadding)

The Mahars are great winged reptiles, 6 to 8 feet long. Abner identifies them as huge rhamphorhynchus. Mahars have no ears. The Sagoths communicate with them using sign language. David, Abner, and Ghak work in the archives, moving and arranging ancient texts. The three talk about escaping. David and Abner make iron swords and bows and arrows. Hooja is recaptured but Dian remains free. David realizes that he feels more than friendship for Dian. Abner suggests that Pellucidar has a greater land area than the surface world. David and Abner ask Ghak to escape with them and help search for Dian. Agreeable, Ghak explains the Pellucidarian homing instinct. David finds three sleeping Mahars and plans to kill them as part of their escape. Abner, who has learned to read the Mahar texts, relates that the Mahars are all female, fertilizing their eggs chemically. The secret of this chemical is hidden near where the three Mahars sleep. Abner wants to steal the secret to help the human race. Ghak agrees to the escape plan.


David, Abner, and Ghak were taken with many other humans into an arena to witness the punishment of two recaptured slaves, a man and a woman. The man and woman are placed in the center of the arena. A prehistoric bull-like creature and a prehistoric tiger introduced into the arena. The humans are given spears for defense. The bull and tiger fight each other. The bull is blinded. The man kills the tiger. The blind bull jumps into the crowded slaves and Sagoths. Everyone flees from the creature. David is separated from his friends.

VII: FREEDOM (Bob Zeuschner)

Fleeing the amphitheater of the Mahars, David Innes stumbles upon a low narrow opening into a dark corridor. Following it through the darkness for a long time, the unguarded passage leads up to the broad plain of Phutra, and freedom from the Mahar city. David crosses the broad plain to nearby foothills. After eating and sleeping, he climbs to a ridge overlooking an inland sea with green islands far off. Walking along the shore, he finds a dugout canoe. A moment later a tall copper-colored warrior comes running, waving his spear. Awkwardly launching the dugout, Innes slowly paddles out from the shore in an effort to elude the man. The powerful warrior hurls the spear, grazing David's shoulder, and the spear buries itself in the dugout. The warrior leaps into the water and swims swiftly closing the distance between himself and the boat. Just as the copper-skinned warrior is about to grab the canoe, a serpent arises and coils around the man. After a moment's hesitation, Innes pulls the spear out and kills the creature with a lucky throw.


The warrior climbs into the canoe and the two become friends. The canoe is piloted to a nearby island. The man is Ja of the Mezops, a tribe of fishermen and warriors inhabiting the islands. Ja, the tribal king, takes David to his village. Ja tells David the Mezops and the Mahars have a truce. The temple of the Mahars is nearby. Ja takes David to a secret entrance hidden in the hollow wall encircling the enormous Mahar temple. Climbing 40 feet up, they have a protected but unobstructed view of the interior. The circular structure is a large tank of water with numerous artificial granite islands in the center, upon which sat several men and women. The outer edge has large boulders the Mahars use for their perches. There are also several thipidars (pterodactyls) accompanying the Mahars. Innes, horrified, sees the Mahars hypnotize the women, leading them into the water. As the women walk under water the Mahars slowly chew off their arms and other body parts. When the women were all consumed, the Mahars allowed the thipidars to dispose of the males. Indiscreetly leaning too far from the opening in the rocky wall, Innes loses his balance and falls into the water. Terrified, he remains submerged as long as possible. When he finally comes up for air, the temple is empty and Ja gone. He finds a way out then locates a safe place to collapse into a deep sleep.

IX: THE FACE OF DEATH (Bob Zeuschner)

Awakening, David cannot find Ja's village. He searches for the island shore. After four sleeps, he finds a canoe and makes for the mainland. Luckily, he lands on the same shore where he first discovered Ja's canoe. He has decided to return to the Mahar city of Phutra to help Abner Perry and Ghak the Hairy One. However, he wanders for a long time and cannot find a path to Phutra. Stumbling again on a beach, he finds himself pursued by a two-ton toad-like amphibian with the jaws of an alligator. Death seems certain, until he hears Ja's voice from the nearby cliff. Ja climbs partially down and extends his 20 foot spear for Innes to grab. The amphibian bites the spear, and David falls on its snout, forcing the spear through the beast's lower jaw, allowing Innes to escape once again.

X: PHUTRA AGAIN (Dennis Wilcutt)

David Innes escapes the deadly clutches of the sithic with the timely assistance of Ja, a Mezop, Ruler of the Anoroc tribe. Conversing afterwards, David attempts to describe the outer world to his friend, but soon gives it up as hopeless. Ja attempts to convince David not to return to Phutra but David insists he must rescue Dian and Abner from the Mahar city. Ja guides David back to the city where they part company. David begins his plan of rescue by walking openly into the city where Sagoth guards quickly apprehend him. He is taken to a Mahar, who, after questioning him, decides the "learned ones" must interrogate his puzzling descriptions of an outside world. David is led away by a Sagoth guard; he is told he might earn his freedom if he survives the battles in the temple arena. David is reunited with Perry who has pored over ancient texts. Shortly thereafter, David is escorted away for questioning. He and Perry bid a tearful farewell to each other.

XI: FOUR DEAD MAHARS (Dennis Wilcutt)

David is taken before a tribunal of Mahars who question him closely about the outside world. Insulted by his unbelievable stories, David is sentenced to the experimental pits. Sagoth guards take David through a series of deep corridors to the experimental pits where he is chained to a wall. He watches in horror as a Mahar slices open another slave's chest without anaesthesia. Desperate to escape, David secretly uses a nearby fallen surgical instrument to pick the lock of his chains and flees into the darken corridors. Backtracking, he soon finds Perry and Ghak. David leaves his friends and proceeds alone into the lower chambers of the city. He eventually finds the book carrying the Mahars' greatest secrets. David kills two Mahars and the wounded David suddenly realizes he loves Dian the Beautiful.

XII: PURSUIT (Dennis Wilcutt)

Carrying the great book of the Mahars with him, a bloodied David rejoins his two friends, Perry and Ghak. David becomes upset when he discovers Hooja The Sly One is with his friends. David reluctantly allows Hooja to join their party. Using the peeled skins of four dead Mahars, David effects an escape from Phutra. But dripping blood from David's wounds alerts Sagoth guards to the ruse. David's party flees into the sweltering cover of the jungle with a party of Sagoth guards in hot pursuit. Ghak begins carrying an exhausted Perry in his arms as the Sagoths rapidly gain on them.

XIII: THE SLY ONE (Bill Hillman)

David, Perry and Ghak, while racing along a canyon to the cliffs near Sari, realize Hooja has betrayed them and that no help is coming from Sarian warriors. David then leads the pursuing Sagoths away from his two companions, stopping only to bring down the leaders with arrows. Climbing to a ledge he passes a cave from which a cave bear emerges to drive off the Sagoths. Innes soon becomes lost, however, as he proceeds into the labyrinth of canyons and cliffs.


David stumbles upon a beautiful game-filled valley. He shelters in a cave in which he hides the Great Secret. While exploring he rescues Dian from a pterodactyl-like thipdar. On the way back to the cave, Jubal the Ugly One, from whom Dian had fled, intercepts them. David defeats the brute through a combination of archery, sword thrusts, and pugilism. Despite these accomplishments and his avowed love for her, Dian treats the American with disdain. Totally frustrated, Innes takes her into his arms by force - which move she has been long waiting. Their return to Sari is delayed while David recovers from a viper sting, which gives him the idea of envenoming his arrows.

XV: BACK TO EARTH (Bill Hillman)

On the way to Sari, David and Dian met her brother Dacor and his Thorian mate. The couple rode huge lidis from her homeland near the Land of the Awful Shadow - a perpetual umbra caused by Pellucidar's moon. At Sari they are met by Ghak and Perry. David presents plans for a redesigned government and the defeat of the Mahars. Innes is declared Emperor of Pellucidar. Sari learns the manufacture of swords, bows, and poison arrows and begins recruiting neighbouring tribes. David and Dian volunteer to return to the surface world for supplies and reference materials. Launch preparations are interrupted by an unsuccessful Sagoth and Mahar attack. Hooja is among the rescued slaves. Despite suspicions Hooja guided the attackers, he is allowed to stay. Following a faulty launch, David discovers Hooja has substituted Dian with a Mahar. The off-course prospector surfaces in the Sahara Desert. Innes and the Mahar wait, stranded, until discovered by the narrator. The narrator abandons his hunting safari and travels to London on Innes' behalf. A caravan with the needed supplies is dispatched, including a reel of telegraph wire. When the narrator returns a year later, he is unable to find sign of Innes or the telegraph link to the inner world.