EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS'
BEYOND THE FARTHEST STAR
David A. Adams
Copyright © 2000
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Harkas Yen (psychiatrist in Orvis)
Janhai (council of seven)
Korvan Don (aka Tangor)
Gurral (Chief of the Zabo)
Pom Da, the Great I
Kapar (see Kapara)
Mountains of Loras
Auris (Kapar continent)
lion (zebra striped)
Zabo (NKVD or Gestapo)
solar power amplifier
Eljanhai (high commissioner)
Includes Summaries of Beyond the Farthest Star & Tangor Returns as well as an extensive Afterword in which Mr. Adams explores the social and political analogies between Edgar Rice Burroughs' world at war 450,000 light years from Earth and Josef Stalin's 1930s Russia.
Managing Editor's Foreword:
Netizens know me as Tangor--the ghostly fingers--which describes quite accurately the appearance of email and commentary on the Net; but few know the my other reason for taking that ERB Persona: Near the end of his writing career ERB's literary endeavors delved into the real world, real issues, and real life. Beyond the Farthest Star is one of those few gritty tales Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote that displays a pragmatic view of human societies that is difficult to deny. David Adams has more than adequately performed the specifics of the ERBList Summaries Project in his latest offering by detailing the plot and characters of these two slim tales of Burroughsian literature in the Summary Project parameters. However, he has taken it a step further by presenting an in-depth Afterword that reminds us of the era in which these stories were created. David's exploration focuses heavily upon the events of 1930s Russia under the helm of Josef Stalin and reminds us that ERB was a man of his time, and obviously a man of personal conviction as well. Perhaps one day I will present the other side of the coin of evil that drove ERB's personal politics in the late 1930s and early 1940s, that of Hitler's Nazi Socialism and Mussolini's Facisim as also embodied in Beyond the Farthest Star as well as his more famous Nazi and Facisim parody Carson of Venus. ERB's commentary on these horrific regimes are prominently found in the tales of Poloda.
David Bruce "Tangor" Bozarth
Beyond the Farthest Star was first published in The Blue Book Magazine, January 1942. It was written in 12 days a week after he completed “Men of the Bronze Age” in October of 1940. Tangor Returns was written in only 5 days -- December 17-21, 1940. It’s first publication was 24 years later in Tales of Three Planets, a hardback edition by Canaveral Press, April 27, 1964. It was published with Beyond the Farthest Star, "The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw", and The Wizard of Venus.
A Brief Summary adapted from Clark A. Brady’s The Burroughs Cyclopaedia
Beyond the Farthest Star is a two part novel, actually two novellas put together: “Adventure on Poloda” and “Tangor Returns.” Burroughs probably intended the series to be a multi-part saga, but his death in 1950 stopped the mysterious typewriter messages from Tangor, so that no one has ever found out how the American airman managed to activate it all the way from Poloda in the first place. John Carter-like, Tangor was a warrior who was mysteriously transported to another world after his apparent death, this time in World War II. He never found out how he got there, but he found on Poloda another world at war, a world which he adopted and went to war for. The events of the first story took place from September 1939 to January 1940, and those of the second from January to autumn of 1940.
Porges & Lupoff
Irwin Porges devotes a considerable amount of of room to the Tangor stories in his “ERB: The Man Who Created Tarzan” from page 669 to 674. He provides rather complete summaries of both stories, and there are Appendix notes on the 11 pages of worksheets for “Beyond the Farthest Star” on page 766.
Richard A. Lupoff also discusses “The Last Hero” in detail in his “ERB: Master of Adventure” in chapter 11, pages 168-174, and he writes about his Canaveral edition publication of the stories on page 292. [The page numbers refer to the Ace paperback edition of this work.]
ERB claims that this story was mysteriously typed on his own typewriter in Hawaii; Burroughs did not press the keys, but he watched as the story wrote itself. Burroughs used this device for his “Ghostly Script”: invisible hands, presumably from a spirit transcending the barrier of death, depresses the typewriter keys with “bewildering rapidity.” Porges, 671.
Part 1: Adventure on Poloda
A man is shot down behind German lines in 1939. (We presume he is the writer of this tale since it begins, “I was shot down . . .) His family thinks he is dead, and he imagines that the Germans must have buried him. He finds himself in an endless garden. He is quite naked. A girl sees him, screams, and runs away. She is dressed in gold sequins and red boots. She has very white skin and copper colored hair. The garden is covered with six-foot high mounds of earth upon which shrubbery grows. Suddenly five men come out of one of the mounds. They are dressed in red sequins and black boots. They are wearing helmets and carry swords and enormous pistols. The man is captured. He does not understand their language. Suddenly, streamlined building rise out of the garden. They clothe him in a robe and put him in a cage chained to one of the bars.
The man is studied for six weeks by a psychiatrist, Harkas Yen. He learns the language quickly. He is on Poloda. After a few weeks, the man is transferred to the house of Harkas Yen. The houses go underground during bombing raids by the Kapars. The man is named Tangor, “from nothing” to describe his origin. He is in the country of Unis in the city of Orvis. Poloda is 450,000 light years from Earth. Tangor is given a trial. The girl who saw him naked is Balzo Maro. She says he did her no harm. If Tangor is convicted of being a spy he will be destroyed or imprisoned. Tangor volunteers to serve Unis against their enemies.
Tangor’s case is sent to the Janhai, the rulers of Unis, which is a commission of seven men. (Details of the ruling bodies and the courts are presented in detail.) The war on Poloda has been going on for 101 years. The war was started by the Kapars. They too live underground, but in fixed bomb shelters.
There is also a permanent growing underground city at Unis. all productivity goes into building this place. Everything else is unified -- clothing, compact cars (which are “radio” controlled and driven by solar energy from their sun,“Omos.”) [The eleven planets of Omos are Poloda, Antos, Rovos, Vanada, Sanada, Uvala, Zandar, Wunos, Banos, Yonda, and Tonos.] Harkas Yen’s children are Don and Yamoda, a boy and a girl. His wife is a sad-faced 60 year old woman. War as a way of life is described. Unis loses a million men each year. No one weeps over this anymore. Tangor gets into the Labor Corps. They replace all the trees and shrubs above ground after each bombing raid. They work a 10-day week -- 9 days of work, 1 day off. There are no class distinctions. On a day of rest Tangor goes with a group of people on the underground railway to the mountains. They go swimming nude. The party is ambushed by soldiers from Kapar, and Tangor helps to kill them all.
Due to Tangor’s valor he is trained as a pilot. Their planes are made of a light, nearly indestructible plastic with hollow wings. They make a 100,000 planes a month. When Tangor becomes a pilot he is dressed in blue. He gets to know Balzo Maro better. She is one of the war-dedicated women of Poloda. (ERB surmises that American women would do as well if the Nazis succeed in bringing total war to Earth.) Tangor leaves on his first mission in his pursuit plane.
There are 10,000 planes in the first wave of attack on Unis. Tangor wonders if he can die a second time. He downs 3 planes, but his own is crippled, so he is forced to land with his 3rd gunner, Bantor Han. They enter the Mountains of Loras. Tangor shoots an antelope, an addaz, for food. (Many Polodian animals are described.) A lion stripped like a zebra is killed with explosive bullets. They come upon a Kapar plane on the ground and kill two men (“no chivalry in complete war.”) to get it. They also capture secret plans about an incendiary plot at Unis, so they risk taking the plane back home.
Tangor flies into Unis very low, only 20 feet from the ground. They make it back and are recommended for decorations. The Harkases are surprised and happy he has returned alive. Even though he is given the day off, the following day he is so dedicated that decides to go on a dangerous mission.
(Description of Omos and its planets.) Tangor leaves at dawn for a bombing raid on Ergos, capital of Kapara across the Karagan Ocean. Thousands of planes drop bombs and they head for home. Tangor is shot down over Punos, a country subjected by Kapara. He is met by warriors carrying spears and bows and arrows; they are dressed in loincloths.
The men of Punos talks with Tangor. They are friends of Unis because the men from Kapara tried to exterminate them. Tangor goes to their village. They are a starving people that live on grass, twigs, and leaves. They have been known to eat soldiers from Kapara, but they do not eat him. He gives his portion of a poor soup to the children and weeps at their suffering.
In the morning when Tangor goes to repair his ship, he finds a man there. He is Balzo Jan, another Unisan who was shot down in the battle. They leave together. On the way home, they meet Kaparan ships but shoot one down and out run the others.
The war has lasted so long on Poloda that they find it difficult to imagine any other way of life. Tangor muses that perhaps he is in an after life and Poloda is just one of a billion places humans go after death. Balzo Jan notes that Tangor’s death on earth made it possible to save him on Poloda. On the way home they see a woman lying on the ground. Investigation finds it is Harkas Yamoda. They rush her to a hospital in Unis. She had been captured by Kapars and escaped by leaping from a plane. (Planes are the curse of Poloda.) Yamoda will be O.K. but the men vow revenge, including Tangor. The general alarm sounds again.
Part II: Tangor Returns
ERB recaps Part I. He waits many nights for Tangor to write more. Finally, one midnight he is awakened by a hand on his shoulder, and Tangor urgently types this Part II.
The general alarm is to a great battle in which 30,000 planes take part. Unis is saved from another bombing. Tangor loses his three gunners, but he is not scratched. Tangor has a lady acquaintance, Morga Sagra. She is a traitor who favors Kapar. She wants Tangor to go there with her and give them military secrets. Tangor turns her in to the Commissioner of War who decides to plant Tangor as a double agent to get Kapar’s plans for a power amplifier, which permits them to fly great distances -- possibly to other planets. Tangor readily agrees. He is also sent to discover the whereabouts of another Unisan secret agent, Handon Gar, who has been lost for two years. Tangor tells Yamoda he is going on a secret mission.
The Commissioner of War paves the way for Tangor and Morga Sagra’s secret departure for Kapar. They have to fly to Gorvas first to get a Kapar plane. Tangor’s Kapar name is Korvan Don. They go to the home of Gompth who reads Morga Sagra’s credentials, which are written in invisible ink. Tangor and Morga fly to the city of Pud on the continent of Auris in Kapar and report to a man called Frink. He provides them with another Kapar plane, and they fly to Ergos, just briefly chased by Unison planes over the Mandan Ocean. They are escorted by the secret police, the Zabo (NKVD or Gestapo) to Gurral, Chief of the Zabo, the most feared man in all Kapar.
They are questioned by Gurral then locked in a cell, an iron cage. Many prisoners are there screaming until they are hosed by the guards. Morga Sagra is released, but Tangor is moved in a crowded green van (a black maria) to a prison camp (gulag). He is forced to work 16 hours a day at hard labor. They are beaten and fed in a trough like hogs. Tangor meets Tunzo Bor and asks him about Handon Gar. He says he does not know the man. Tangor gets an easier job in the garden of the officer in charge of the camp. This was ordered by Gurral himself.
Handon Gar comes to Tangor. He is planning an escape with Tunzo Bor and others. Morga Sagra comes to the camp and tells Tangor she is working for his release, which occurs the next day. They go by underground railway to Ergos and meet Gurral at Zabo headquarters. Tangor gives him some ‘secrets,” and he is put up in new quarters with Lotar Canl as a servant. Everyone is suspicious of everyone else. The head of the nation is Pom Da, the Great I, who is a Stalin-like figure, a cruel monster. (Koestler calls him No. 1 in his “Darkness at Noon”). Tangor is summoned to the Pom Da. “The paths of glory sometimes lead but to the grave.”
Tangor tells this “Highest Most High” Pom Da that he had been working on an interplanetary ship on earth. Tangor gets his gold and jewels back, which were confiscated in chapter 3, and is now addressed as “Most High” since he is favored by the Pom Da. Higher in society now, Tangor meets Gimmel Gora and her man, Grunge, nasty people all. Tangor is brought before Gurral when Handon Gar and Tunzo Bor escape with two other prisoners. Tangor is able to convince him he did not know about their plans. Grunge introduces Tangor to Horthal Wend, a friendly man. He tries to get Tangor to drink wine and loosen his tongue, but he refuses. (ERB foreshadows Horthal Wend’s death. “Little did I dream that what the death of this kindly man would mean to me.”).
Grunge invites Tangor and Sagra to a dinner party and tries to get him to speak badly of Kapar and Gurrul. While he is away, his apartment is “burglarized” by the secret police looking for evidence of any possible disloyalty. Grunge likes Morga Sagra and would like to get rid of Tangor. Tangor and Sagra visit Horthal Wend and his wife, Haka Gera. They have a snotty 14-year-old son, Horthal Gyl (who is a kind of Hitler-youth).
Tangor is arrested after midnight and brought to Gurrul. He is shown a forged diary and accused of planning treason with a mysterious “J”. He is then tortured for a hour -- almost to death. Lotar Canl comes in a clears Tangor. The diary had been planted in his desk, He is taken to a hospital and treated for his “automobile accident.” Grunge is still after Sagra, and she is regretting coming to Kapar. Tangor pretends he is totally loyal to Kapar now, even in front of Sagra.
After two weeks, Tangor gets out of the hospital, however, he is still bed-ridden. His new servant is called Danul. Horthal Wend and his woman and son come over, and the boy, Gyl, tells him he wants to become a Zabo agent. A few days later Gyl turns in his own father for speaking in a disloyal manner which is considered treason. The poor soul was never heard of again. Tangor is still being suspected and searched. He has learned to suspect everyone and trust no one.
Morga Sagra wants to go back to Unis, but Tangor says he enjoys it in Kapar. Tangor (Korvan Don) is taken to Pom Da. He is finally told about the almost perfected power amplifier and ordered to finish the work. The secret laboratory is behind the home of Horthal Wend since he was the man who had invented it! The power amplifier works from a method of solar diffusion. Tangor, with his knowledge of planes finishes the job. Horthal Gyl spies on Tangor at his work. Tangor gets a fast scout plane to test the power amplifier. It works, but he is trying to figure out how to escape with the completed plans. Suddenly, Morga Sagra is arrested. She is tortured and tells about “Tangor.”
Lotar Canl comes to Tangor to let him know that he is really a Unisan spy. Tangor burns the notes and model of the power amplifier. Tangor and Lotar Canl escape together and return to the Eljanhai with the power amp. Yamoda runs away when he returns to the Harkases. He asks no questions, but leaves . . . not really knowing what is wrong. Tangor flies missions again, then finally gets the chance to test the p.a. by flying to Tonos. Handon Gar had made it back to Unis. He told the Harkases that Tangor was a traitor. Knowing the cause of the rift, Tangor goes to them and is reconciled to Yamoda and Don. He tells them of his solo mission to Tonos and Yamoda gets him to agree to take Handon Gar along. When Tangor leaves he kisses Yamoda goodbye.
Editor’s Note: I wonder if Tangor ever reached that little planet 450,000 light years away. I wonder if I shall ever know.
Commentary on the Tangor Stories
By David A. Adams