Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Edgar Rice Burroughs
James K Powell
air plant keeper
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS'
A Princess of Mars
Summarized by ERBList
Copyright 1998 by David Bruce Bozarth, Editor. Illustration Copyright 1998 by Tangor. Individual author contributions Copyright 1998. All Rights Reserved.
This was the first novel penned by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was written when he was 36 years old after he had failed at nearly everything he had done in life. It tells the story of an Earth man's adventures among strange races on Mars. The Earth man's name is John Carter, and Mars is called Barsoom. The first title of this novel was, "Under the Moons of Mars."
There are two main groups of beings in this novel. The green Martians are the bad guys, odd beings with four arms and tusks growing out of their faces. The red Martians are the good guys, human-like, and John Carter falls in love with one of them, Dejah Thoris, his Princess of Mars. Everyone fights and loves in a strange environment. The most amazing thing about the novel is the fact that it is quite a good one even after most of a whole century has gone by.
This is an early science fiction novel published in 1912 in a pulp magazine called "The All-Story Magazine" before science fiction was called by that name. Burroughs is one of the grandfathers of the genre. Outer space novels like this one were published by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, but most writers at the time kept their characters firmly planted on terra firma.
A Princess of Mars is a cliffhanger, so you have to read the next two novels of a trilogy to find out what happens in the end. These novels are called, "The Gods of Mars" and the "Warlord of Mars." Incredible as it may sound, these two novels are as good as the first one. The Mars Trilogy of Edgar Rice Burroughs may not be one of the treasures of Western Civilization, but it can make time pass pleasantly on this planet. Most writers should be so lucky.
September 6, 1998
A PRINCESS OF MARS, SUMMARIZED
J. G. Huckenpohler
"Edgar Rice Burroughs" describes first meeting his uncle, Captain John Carter, at the family's Virginia plantation prior to the Civil War. With the outbreak of war, Carter joined his regiment and was not seen again for 15 or 16 years. He returned unexpectedly, unchanged except for an expression of misery when he thought he was alone. Carter stated he had prospected for gold in Arizona, apparently successfully. He moved to New York (1877), where he built a cottage. The author visited Carter once a year during business trips to the North, and noted he often stand on a bluff overlooking the Hudson staring at the sky.
On March 4, 1886, in response to a telegram, the author visited him for the last time, and was told on his arrival that the captain had been found dead that morning. Reaching the cottage, Burroughs opened his uncle's safe and found in it his uncle's will, a manuscript, and instructions concerning the burial. In accordance with these, he removed the body to the tomb his uncle had built. The tomb was well ventilated and fitted with a lock that could be opened only from the inside.
Chapter 1 - On The Arizona Hills
J. G. Huckenpohler
Captain Carter introduces himself. He does not know how old he is, but has always appeared to be about thirty. After the end of the War, he and Capt. James K. Powell of Richmond, set out for the Southwest to prospect for gold. Late in the winter of 1865, they discover a rich vein of gold in the White Mountains of Arizona. Powell sets out to purchase mining equipment and hire miners to work the claim while Carter remained behind.
Shortly after his departure on March 4, 1866, Powell was attacked and killed by a band of Apaches. Carter singlehandedly attacked the Indians' encampment, rescued his friend's body, and was pursued to a cave where he was trapped. Despite his efforts to remain on guard against the approaching war party, he was overcome by lethargy and fell unconscious to the floor.
Chapter 2 - The Escape of the Dead
J. G. Huckenpohler
Carter, aroused from his fainting spell by the sound of approaching hoof beats, found that he was paralyzed. He noticed a pungent odor of some vapor. The Apaches halted at the entrance to the cave and, on hearing a low moan from the depths of the interior, fled in panic, leaving Powell's body on the ledge just outside the cave mouth.
Paralyzed for several hours, Carter heard soft movement behind him. A strange moan was repeated some time after midnight, along with a rustling like dead leaves. In his struggle to break the paralysis, Carter felt a sharp snap and suddenly he found himself standing over his body, naked as the day he was born. He emerged onto the ledge to look out onto the moonlit scene before him. His gaze is drawn to the red orb of Mars. Stretching his arms toward it, he feels an instant of extreme cold and utter darkness.
Chapter 3 - My Advent on Mars
Carter awakes on a moss-like sward and knows beyond a doubt he must be on Mars. Rising, he bounces 10 feet into the air due to the lower gravity. A nearby low-walled enclosure with glass roof contains several hundred eggs almost 3 feet in diameter; hatching scrawny olive green creatures with two arms, two legs, and an intermediary set of limbs that function as either. The creatures have slits for nostrils, protruding eyes, and snow-white tusks.
Twenty adults of the same species arrive. They are 15 feet tall and armed with swords, spears and strange rifles; each rides a monstrous eight-legged mount. Threatened by a spear, Carter energetically jumps backwards, clearing 100 feet! Astonished, the green Martians capture Carter instead of killing him.
Chapter 4 - A Prisoner
Carter is carried across a dry sea bed to the plaza of an ancient, crumbling city where 800 or 900 green children and adults are found. The Tharks, his captors, live 1,000 years but the majority die young in battle. Those reaching incipient old-age take a pilgrimage down the river Iss and never return. That Martians live so long has caused fierce competition for the planet's diminishing resources.
Inside a white marble building inlaid with gold and gemstones John Carter notes the furnishings are appropriate for beings his height. Tars Tarkas, the Thark second-in-command, introduces Carter to the chieftain, who demands Carter demonstrate his jumping skills. Heading for the door, Carter slips and falls repeatedly. A warrior insults Carter and the earthling punches the creature. Waiting for retaliation, Carter is startled when the Tharks laugh and applaud.
In the plaza Carter amazes himself and his captors by leaping 150 feet and returning. Hungry and thirsty, he refuses to perform until they feed him. A female, Sola, takes him to sleeping quarters. She summons a Shetland pony-sized ceature with frog-like head and jaws equipped with three rows of long, sharp tusks.
Chapter 5 - I Elude My Watchdog
After Sola leaves him alone in the chamber, John Carter ponders the strange anomalies so far encountered: his guardian Sola, a Martian watchdog, the large plant that provided both food and drink, and the sudden onset of nightfall on Mars. Innately curious and prone to seek adventure, Carter tests the role of his watchdog by leaving the building. The animal stays with him to the edge of the city. Carter realizes that the only means to escaping his loyal, ferocious protector is his unique ability as a jumper. Landing on a sill 30 feet above the ground, Carter's exultation is short-lived when he falls into the grasp of a colossal ape-like creature.
Chapter 6 - A Fight That Won Friends
The white ape-like creature and its mate are physically similar to the six-limbed green Martians. Carter is saved from the female beast's stone cudgel when his myriad-legged Martian protector arrives to hurl itself upon the ape. Sensing that his watchdog is losing ground in the ensuing ferocious battle, John uses the fallen cudgel to smash the head of the ape. He could easily elude the attack by the bull creature, but Carter's sense of duty will not allow him to desert his loyal watchdog. Carter employs earthly fighting tactics with the cudgel to finish off the second ape-creature. The Earthman's victory is witnessed by the green Martians, winning their grudging applause. He also wins the devotion of Sola and his badly wounded Martian watchdog by saving the animal from destruction by Tars Tarkas' gun.
Chapter 7 - Child-Raising on Mars
After breakfast in the dead city, John Carter, Sola and Woola the watchdog, accompany a huge caravan of chariots and armed mounted warriors to the hatching ceremony at the isolated tribal incubator. Every five years, the best 500 eggs presented by the females are selected for a five-year incubation process in the solar heated, sealed incubators. The Earthman watches as the green Martians claim their fully-formed, four-feet-tall offspring. Sola claimed a young male to whom she would teach the barbaric skills necessary to survive the cruel existence of dying Mars. Under Sola's tutelage, both Carter and the child soon learned the spoken language and developed the mental powers needed for the universal Martian language of telepathy.
Chapter 8 - A Fair Captive From the Sky
The green Martians are interrupted in their departure from the dead city by the arrival of a fleet of airships. The warriors' deadly gunfire cripples the surprised fleet, sendingt them into disastrous retreat, leaving one unmanned foundering craft. The Tharks board and plunder the craft of its cargo of arms, valuables, supplies and a lone prisoner: a small two-legged creature. The looted airship is torched and set adrift. Carter, feeling a kinship for the defeated enemy, obtains a closer look at the prisoner. He is startled to find a naked, black-haired, copper-skinned girl of exquisite beauty. Her eyes filled with hope when she sees him. Making a hand signal he does not understand, the dejected captive gives Carter a look of contempt as her captors drag her away.
Chapter 9 - I Learn the Language
Carter is awarded the rank of chieftain and is tutored by Sola on life and customs of the green Martians. He learns the language and discovers that Sola is of kinder disposition than other green Martians because of her sympathies for the red captive.
Chapter 10 - Champion and Chief
Carter learns that he has freedom to all but leaving the city; Woola would prevent him. His friendship with the beast overrides Woola's training, making him devoted follower rather than guard.
Carter attends a hearing of the red captive conducted by Lorquas Ptomal and learns that she is Dejah Thoris, a princess of Helium. She claims she was captured while on a scientific mission regarding the planet's air supply. When a young warrior knocks her to the ground for her speech, Carter kills him. He is awarded the dead warrior's possessions but warned that he is still a prisoner. He claims Dejah Thoris as his own charge and brazenly exits the hearing with her.
Chapter 11 - With Dejah Thoris
Carter informs the Tharks that Dejah Thoris will be cared for by Sola. He warns Sarkoja to keep her distance. The threat caused more harm than good, Martian males never kill women. Carter is ranked 11th among chieftains. Sola explains the customs and traditions of the Tharks. She suggests how Carter might best Lorquas Ptomel and become chief among chiefs.
New quarters are arranged for Dejah Thoris. The princess of Helium inquires into Carter's origin, afraid that he might be from Valley Dor. Although she did not understand Carter's explanation that he was from earth, she trusted and believed him. Surprisingly, she was familiar with the earth. There are instruments on Mars that transmit images from far away planets. She had seen many earthly images during her life. They examined the chamber decorations during which Dejah Thoris explained the 3 great races of Mars and how they were forced to mix producing the present red race.
A messenger summons Carter to the presence of Lorquas Ptomel.
Chapter 12 - A Prisoner With Power
Lorquas Ptomel believed Carter had returned from Valley Dor and intended to see him dead, but would not do so without a trial, unless Carter were to attack him or try to escape. He spoke with pride of having captured the granddaughter of the jeddak of Helium. Later, Carter deduces that only Sarkoja could be responsible for passing information to Lorquas Ptomel, and bends his efforts to the thought of escape. He intended to save Dejah Thoris from the horrible fate that awaited her.
Carter takes quarters with Tars Tarkus, a building next door to Deja Thoris. Several young Tharks enter bearing loads of weapons, silks, and utensils. They had been the retinue and possessions of 2 chieftains slain by Carter (Dotar and Sojat) and were now his to command. They were not a family unit as the Tharks have no wives and mating is coordinated by community chieftains, resulting in a people without love, though virtue and honor are known. Carter sends them to quarters above and pays little attention to them thereafter.
Chapter 13 - Love-Making On Mars
John Carter spends several days learning the ways of a Thark warrior and training his savage Martian mounts. He mixes kindness with discipline, which results in his thoats being more manageable than any other in the Thark herd. Tars Tarkas has Carter explain his training methods to the other warriors. Lorquas Ptomel gives John Carter an anklet of gold in appreciation.
John Carter finally has a chance to speak with Dejah Thoris again. During the conversation she calls him "my chieftain." Not realizing the significance of those words he innocently replies "my princess." Dejah Thoris appears startled; however, she laughs it off calling him a child. When asked to explain she refuses, except to say when he learns to remember she smiled. As they walk in the moonlight, John Carter touches Dejah Thoris and realizes he loves her and has since the first moment he saw her.
Chapter 14 - A Duel To The Death
During their continued conversation John Carter sticks his foot in his mouth. Dejah Thoris becomes angry and refuses to speak to him. Afterwards he berates himself for being a fool in love.
On the encampment's journey to Thark, John Carter is outraged because Sarkoja has chained Dejah Thoris. He complains to Tar Tarkas, who eventually removes the chains. Later, Carter sees Sarkoja plotting with a warrior named Zad.
The next day Zad challenges John Carter. During the sword duel a flash of light momentarily blinds Carter. He sees Dejah Thoris knock a shiny object from Sarkoja's hand then sees Sarkoja try to stab Dejah Thoris. Sore pressed by Zad, he feels the Martian's sword at his breast. Thinking he is about to die, Carter lunges at Zad, determined to kill him. As Zad's sword enters his chest, John Carter loses consciousness.
Chapter 15 - Sola Tells Me Her Story
John Carter recovers from unconsciousness and retrieves his sword from the body of Zad. Applauded by the watching green martians, John Carter returns to his chariots and retinue who treat him with healing salves miraculously returning him to full health. Checking on Dejah Thoris's chariot he encounters Sola, who has a flesh wound from Sarkoja's dagger. Dejah is grieving for the apparent death of John Carter. Sola promises to reassure Dejah Thoris and to later tell the story of how she knew her own parents.
John Carter rides on thoat at Tars Tarkas' side as whole cavalcade moves off. The vast horde makes it way across the dead sea bottoms of Barsoom, splendidly and stealthily. At the night camp John Carter visits Sola and the sleeping Dejah Thoris. Sola tells her parent's story, an intricate and moving tale, and at last reveals that Tars Tarkas is her father.
Chapter 16 - We Plan Escape
The journey to Thark is uneventful, taking around 20 days. Dejah Thoris continues to ignore John Carter. They arrive at Thark where 30,000 green martians are ruled by Tal Hajus, their Jeddak. Carter gains new quarters. He spies Woola and joyously they are reunited. He meets with Dejah Thoris to discuss escape and a truce. Sola interrupts with news that Sarkoja has convinced Tal Hajus to sentence them to the calots! Carter and Dejah Thoris suggest to Sola she escape with them to Helium and a happier life. Sola fears they cannot escape the Tharks. Dejah Thoris draws a map and Carter suggests a roundabout route to Helium. They agree to leave Thark that night by thoat. Splitting up, the women head for the city gates while John Carter sneaks through the city and obtains two thoats. Arriving at the rendezvous, John Carter waits. He realizes something has happened. Carter backtracks to Dejah Thoris's quarters through abandoned courtyards. He overhears warriors planning to disarm, capture and deliver him to Tal Hajus. Dejah Thoris is already his prisoner.
Chapter 17 - A Costly Recapture
John Carter seeks the whereabouts of Dejah Thoris and Sola under cover of darkness when they fail to rendevous according to plan. He finds them in an immense hall in the clutches of Tal Hajus and a roomful of warriors. After Tal Hajus orders the room cleared of warriors, he speaks to Dejah Thoris of her torture to come. John Carter immediately knocks the Jeddak unconscious and together the three make good their escape from the city of Thark.
Ill-prepared without food or water, they flee toward the hills on weakened thoats. Eluding parties of Thark warriors sent to recapture them, a lone warrior spots them in a valley. Carter sends Dejah and Sola on their way and leads their party of pursuers astray to prevent his beloved's recapture. Carter is eventually caught and knocked unconscious after a struggle.
Chapter 18 - Chained In Warhoon
John Carter regains consciousness and learns he was saved for the great games. Securely bound, he is taken before Bar Comas, Jeddak of Warhoon. He witnesses a fight to the death after an argument over his future between the Jeddak and a subordinate, Dak Kova.
Dak Kova kills Bar Comas. Carter is taken to the city of Warhoon where he is thrown into a dungeon, chained to a wall in utter darkness. Lanquishing for days or weeks----he does not know how long----amid the terrors of slithering and crawling things, John Carter eventually overpowers and kills the jailer and loosens his chains. Backing into a corner of the dungeon, he watches six pairs of gleaming eyes slowly approaching him.
Chapter 19 - Battling in the Arena
David Bruce Bozarth
The jailer's carcass, and keys, are dragged way. Days later Kantos Kan is imprisoned with Carter. The red man reveals 700 Helium warships with 2,000 lesser vessels are searching for Dejah Thoris. The martian, on one man flier, was captured exploring Warhoon. Dak Kova, green jed, orders the start of 10 days of games, wherein captives were pitted against fearsome beasts and each other until only one survives each day, the survivor being granted freedom. At day's end Carter and Kantos Kan, the survivors, fight until dark, then fake Carter's death. That night Carter sneaks out of the amphitheater into the hills beyond.
Chapter 20 - In the Atmosphere Factory
David Bruce Bozarth
Carter waits two days in the hills east of Warhoon, but Kantos Kan does not arrive. He treks northeasterly for two weeks, surviving on plant milk. His telepathic sense warns him when vicious predators are about, but he is eventually attacked and losing a battle with a hairy, multi-legged large animal when Woola saves him. Starving, a day later Carter arrives at the 4 square mile, 200 foot high atmosphere plant. Carter and Woola are let into the building, fed, and the American speaks with the keeper for some hours. Carter does not reveal he can read the old man's mind, or that he has learned the mental combination of the great doors to the building. Reading the old man's mind, Carter learns he is to be killed, thus he and Woola steal away during the night. The following day Carter approaches a farm and is accepted by the three brothers who own it. He is given a red dye for disguise, some Zodangan currency, and a domesticated thoat.
Chapter 21 - An Air Scout for Zodanga
As John Carter travels toward Zodanga he hears that Dejah Thoris is dead, but isn't convinced. He arrives at Zodanga, and has to part with Woola so as not to draw attention to himself. Upon entering Zodanga he meets Kantos Kan. He tells Carter that Dejah Thoris is the prisoner of Sab Than, prince of Zodanga, who is in love with her. His father, Than Kosis wants her to marry his son as the price of peace, but Tardos Mors rejects it. Kantos Kan and John Carter join the Zodangan navy as air scouts in hopes of infiltrating into the confidence of Sab Than and thus finding Dejah Thoris. Kantos Kan teaches Carter to fly and learn the intricacies of the 8th Barsoomian ray, or ray of propulsion. Shortly after winning promotion within the ranks, Carter saves the life of a cousin of Than Kosis, and is appointed a padwar of The Guards with quarters in the palace.
Chapter 22 - I Find Dejah
John Carter is assigned to guard Than Kosis, and is present (although hidden) in his apartment when Dejah Thoris is brought in. He hears her confess her love for Sab Than. She leaves, after asking that Than Kosis stop the war, and Carter deserts his post to follow. Upon finding her apartment, he is denied entry by four guards, whom he slays after a fierce battle. He asks Dejah Thoris if she still loves him, and although she does, she cannot say it because she has given herself to Sab Than in order to stop the war. On Barsoom, a promise is final. He withdraws, dejected, but not defeated. He needs to escape since the four slain guards will soon be found. The royal psychologist, who has read the dead minds of the slain guards, says that the slayer was "a man ... never seen before in this or any other country upon Barsoom." Carter is immediately the chief suspect. Hiding from his pursuers, he is able to escape from the palace grounds.
Chapter 23 - Lost in the Sky
John Carter reveals his love for Dejah Thoris to his friend, Kantos Kan. Together they formulate a plan, whereby Kantos Kan will kill the Zodangan, which John Carter may not do under Barsoomian custom and still wed Dejah. John Carter scales a 1000 foot building to steal his and Kantos Kan's fliers. A patrol notices them and Carter leads them on a chase while Kantos Kan escapes discovery in the dark sky. Although he escapes, a stray shot smashes his compass and Carter has only the stars to guide him. Helium is five hours by swift flier; but after six hours of flight, in the morning, he discovers a different city.
Chapter 24 - Tars Tarkas Finds a Friend
At noon Carter encounters a savage battle between Tharks and Warhoons. Rifle fire wrecks his flier. Descending, he meets Tars Tarkas, who now acknowledges there is such a thing as friendship. After the battle, John Carter is reunited with the loyal Woola, who has been waiting and watching for his master's return.
Tars Tarkas offers to aid John Carter's escape. Carter relates Sola's story to Tars Tarkas, which has a profound effect upon the green martian. Tars Tarkas confronts Sarkoja with his knowledge regarding her role in the death of Gozava, implying if she does not take the pilgrimage down the River Iss, her days are numbered. Sarkoja is gone the next morning and never seen again.
Following accusations by Carter, Tal Hajus' right to rule is challenged by Tars Tarkas. Tal Hajus fights and dies. Tars Tarkas becomes the new Jeddak of the Tharks. Tars Tarkas suggests that Thark forms an alliance with Helium to attack and loot Zodanga. For three days 100,000 Tharks and 50,000 green warriors from other hordes march to Zodanga. Arriving, Carter goes over the city wall. Dispatching the sentries, he opens the gates of the doomed city to the waiting hordes.
Chapter 25 - The Looting of Zodanga
John Carter and his 50 Tharks arrive at the gate of Zodanga. As they approach the palace, John Carter looks in a window and sees a ceremony taking place. It is the wedding of Sab Than, the Prince of Zodanga, and Dejah Thoris! Carter bursts through the window and kills Than Kosis, the father of Sab Than. As Carter is surrounded, he pulls Dejah to him to protect her. He then begins to defend himself and her against the Zodangans. He is hard pressed in battle and realizes he needs a miracle in order to succeed. Tars Tarkas surges through the crowd. With the aid of his friend, the enemies are defeated and Sab Than is killed. Carter goes in search of Kantos Kan and finds him in the prison area. After releasing him, they return to the throne room. Carter declares his love to Dejah Thoris and asks her to be his. Dejah Thoris promises herself to him in marriage.
Chapter 26 - Through Carnage to Joy
As the group sails off to return to Helium, they are engaged in battle by the Zodangan navy. The cause seems lost but the ships of Helium finally gain the advantage and win the fight. Still to be faced is the cavalry of Zodanga. Thoats are unloaded from the transports for Carter and his men. They approach the camp of the Zodangans and find themselves facing nearly a million fighting men. Carter hopes that his forces can hold out until their reinforcements from Helium arrive. The reinforcements do arrive in time and the forces of Helium are triumphant. John Carter is presented to Mors Kajak, the father of Dejah Thoris. Kajak is so choked with emotion by the rescue of his daughter that he cannot speak.
Chapter 27 - From Joy To Death
After ten days of feasting, the Tharks return to their own lands. Tars Tarkas attends the "wedding" of John Carter and Dejah Thoris. For 9 years Carter serves and fights for Helium, while his future offspring incubates in an egg chamber. Word is brought that the keeper of the atmosphere plant has been incommunicado for two days and the assistant keeper was assassinated. The impregnable walls cannot be breached, the people of Barsoom accept their doom with courage and dignity. With the end near, Carter holds his beloved Dejah. Suddenly he recollects the nine tone key that unlocks the doors of the atmosphere plant. Speeding to the plant in a flier, Carter finds most trying to break through have succumbed to the thinning air, but he finds one awake and capable of starting the air pumps. His strength ebbing, Carter hurls the nine thought waves at the doors and watches the Martian crawl through as he sinks to the ground, unconscious.
Chapter 28 - At The Arizona Cave
Carter opens his eyes. He is clothed in strange and unaccustomed garments, which crumple away as he sits up. His sight is greeted with a small patch of moonlight framed in a ragged aperture. He feels around his body and discovers a pocket containing matches. He strikes one and in the dim light sees the walls of a cave, the mummified remains of an old woman, and a row of human skeletons suspended from the rock ceiling by a rope; a cord stretches from the rope to the mummified hand of the woman. He exits the cave and is confronted with a rocky ledge and a forgotten sky and landscape. He has returned to Arizona where his adventure began ten years prior.
Another ten years pass. His Arizona mine has given him great wealth, but as he sits and gazes at Mars through his window which overlooks the Hudson, all he can do is wonder: Did the Martian reach the pump room? Did the air reach the rest of Barsoom in time? Were Dejah Thoris and his friends alive? In his mind's eye he could see her with a little boy at her side, and the faithful Woola at their feet. He believes they are awaiting him, and that soon he will learn of their fates.
Produced as an on-going summary project by the members of Edgar Rice Burroughs Listserver, an Internet subscription E-Mail discussion group, September, 1998.