Edgar Rice Burroughs
Carson Napier (Sir Galahad)
Ero Shan (Sir Gawain)
Pandar (house of)
Tolan (house of)
Ladja (house of)
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS'
Wizard of Venus
The Members of ERBList
Fredrik Ekman, Editor
David Bruce Bozarth,
Copyright © 2001
by David Bruce Bozarth
One of the stories found in the company safe some fifteen years after Edgar Rice Burroughs' death, Wizard of Venus continues the longest romantic courtship between one of his more durable heroic couples. It took three novels before Carson and Duare became "an item" and even then they were separated for much of that book and the following "Escape on Venus." Carson's use of mystical (telepathic) training he received as a youth in India, largely ignored in the previous Venus novels other than an explanation how Napier's story was transmitted to Edgar Rice Burroughs, seems like a rabbit-out-of-the-hat plot gimmick this late in the series.
Wizard is complete as a short novel and appears intended as the opening segment of a set of interconnected novelettes to eventually be collected as a "novel." This type of story production format had worked well for Burroughs' late career books Escape on Venus, Llana of Gathol, and Savage Pellucidar. Alas, the time was late 1941 and by December the world was at war.
ERB became a war correspondent. Over the next four years he dealt with ever more serious health issues as well as a troubled life after divorcing his second wife. The only serious work that emerged from ERB's war years was Tarzan and the Foreign Legion (1944), and by war's end Burroughs was weary. Ill and emerging from long-term financial difficulties, ERB was faced with the harsh reality that his publishing markets had dwindled. Those few pulp venues which still remained after the war were focused on a different brand of speculative fiction which did not embrace the famous, if now passe, Burroughs Formula. I personally believe the events of World War II significantly altered, if not completely dampened, ERB's interest in the adventures of Carson Napier and Duare.
Written between January and October 1941, Wizard lay undiscovered in the company safe until first published in the 1964 Canaveral anthology Tales of Three Planets, which also paired for the first time the previously unpublished segment Tangor Returns with Beyond the Farthest Star, and an amusing short novel "The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw," previously published in the February 20, 1937 issue of Argosy.
PS: As managing editor of the ERBList Summary Project, my sincere admiration is extended to Fredrik Ekman for his excellent effort as ERBList ERB Venus Summary project editor!
Edgar Rice Burroughs recalls how he met Carson Napier and how Carson related his wonderful adventures on Venus through telepathy learned from the East Indian mystic Chand Kabi. Burroughs wonders why Carson so rarely used his powers to get out of a tough position.
Carson relates how he came to Venus and tells of the times that he and his mate Duare met their friend Ero Shan, first in Havatoo where Carson built the first aeroplane (anotar) on Venus, later as a prisoner in Voo-ad. Together they had to escape to Sanara, capital of the kingdom Korva on Anlap, where Carson is the adopted son of the jong (emperor) Taman.
Carson designs and builds two anotars for the Korvan army. He has also constructed a parachute that can be used from as low as two hundred feet and he has plans to make a sort of parachute balloon (ballochute) based on the same technology that is used in the Amtorian (Venusan) engines. When one of the anotars is ready, Carson and Ero Shan decide to take it out for a test flight over the western part of the continent Anlap. On the second day they encounter low clouds and the compass becomes useless. They decide to turn back but soon become lost. They fly above a forest when clouds completely envelope them, and Carson decides to take the anotar to fifteen thousand feet so as not to risk flying into a mountain or a tree.
They fly for hours between the double cloud layers of Venus until the cloud layers meet and reduce visibility to nil. Then they decide to risk going down. They find themselves flying over a beautiful land, but are mostly concerned with finding someone who they can ask where they are. They see two abandoned castles and later a large group of armed men who guard some zaldars (cattle) of the small kind called neozaldars. A third castle is inhabited. They are mistaken for someone called Morgas and are met with insults, but eventually gain permission to land. A man calls from within the castle to ask whether they are wizards. They are let into the castle, but under armed guard.
by Fredrik Ekman
They ask where they are and are told that it is the country Gavo in the land Donuk. Their host is the Vootogan Tovan of the house Pandar. In the castle also live his mate, the Vootoganja Noola, his son, the Klootogan Endar and the son's mate, the Klootoganja Yonda (the word "togan" approximately means "baron", the prefix voo- here means "first" and kloo- means "second"). They are invited inside to study a map, which however turns out to be no better than the ones Carson already have. They are given a meal in the company of their hosts, but the meal is far from cheerful and Noola in particular seems to think that they are wizards. Carson asks who Morgas is and is told that he is a wizard who turns people into zaldars. After dinner they are taken to see Tovan's daughter Vanaja who is a zaldar since she was "turned" by Morgas. Carson thinks them mad but decides to play along. Tovan takes them to a tower and shows Morgas's castle in the distance. Morgas has turned the Tolan and Ladja families, inhabitants of the two abandoned castles that they saw, into zaldars. It is now too dark to take off and they are given a room for the night. As they leave the dining room, Yonda tries to warn them, but is silenced by Noola.
The situation reminds Carson of the Arthurian legend which he explains to Ero Shan before they go to bed. In the middle of the night they are rudely awakened by armed men in the company of Tovan and his family. Noola accuses them of being in league with Morgas and orders them killed, but Yonda comes to their aid in saying that if they are killed Morgas might come after them. Instead, they are thrown out, weaponless and not allowed to take the anotar. As they talk the matter over they start calling each other by the names of knights of the Round Table. Carson is Sir Galahad and Ero Shan is Sir Gawain. They decide that the only thing they can do is to reveal what Carson believes to be a bluff by Morgas. Carson thinks that Morgas, who had already a reputation of being a wizard, invented the whole story with the zaldars so that the others would be afraid to steal from his herds, while he would be able to steal theirs.
Carson and Ero Shan meet Vootogan Morgas, the wizard of Gavo at his castle. He is quite insane and tries to impress the heroes with sleight-of-hand tricks. He makes a Ladjan pretend that he is a zaldar. Carson asks his aid in getting his anotar back from Tovar and inquires about the whereabouts of Vanaja. Morgas tells him that Tovar's stronghold is impregnable and that he has already sent Vanaja back to him, transformed into a zaldar.
An officer, Fadan, shows Carson and Ero Shan to their quarters and tells them to stay out of the main building and the garden to avoid Morgas. Trying to find Vanaja, the heroes try to talk to some prisoner-herdsmen, but they insist they are really zaldars out of fear of Morgas, or from self-hypnotism resulting from long suggestion. Carson goes into the forbidden garden and finds Vanaja, who imagines herself to be a zaldar. Using powers he has learned in his youth from Chand Kabi, the old East Indian mystic, Carson removes the hypnotic spell from Vanaja. Just then, Morgas enters with a dozen men.
Morgas tries to turn Carson into a zaldar, but Carson laughs at him and ends up in a donjon with Ero Shan. Carson uses his Chand Kabi magic and appears to Morgas in his sleeping chamber. When the guards arrive and find him still in his cell, he tells them he must be released with Ero Shan and the girl, Vanaja or he will return to haunt Morgas.
Carson does the spell again and chases Morgas around his room. He then does a spell to convince the jailer with the face of a Gila monster to set them all free. They take Vanja back to Tovar's castle but get lost and camp in a cave in a canyon. In the morning, Morgas rides into the canyon with 25-30 warriors mounted on zorats (horses) and heads straight for their hiding place.
Carson relates that his use of the "strange power" learned from Chand Kabi is unreliable. Nevertheless he projects an image which takes Morgas on a counterfeit trail. They climb atop a wooded hill where, from concealment, they watch Morgas. Carson teases Morgas with the figment's superhuman abilities and brazen defiance, finally causing the figment to leap across a river "a couple of hundred feet wide." Morgas gives up in confusion. They wait for night to continue toward the castle of Tovar. Morgas's spell on Vanaja dissipates, revealing a "normal," "likable," and "quite courageous" woman. At Tovar's castle, they are denounced as imposters and wizards by Noola. Carson uses his power to cause the zaldar that Noola believed to be Vanaja to appear to speak, calling Noola an "old fool" and telling them that the Vanaja outside is the real woman. Carson's lack of control, however, results in the entire assemblage hearing the voice instead of Noola only. Noola rushes out to embrace Vanaja, her madness apparently passing. They decide to eat the "impudent" zaldar. That night Ero Shan asks if Sir Galahad and Sir Gawain would be satisfied to rescue only one maiden and unite only one family. Carson says he would address that in the morning.
Carson fixes the anotar's compass. Ero Shan asks Carson his plans. Carson replies that it would be simple enough to fly over Morgas's fortress and shoot everyone, but such a scheme is dismissed as "close to being plain murder." Instead they decide to drop messages from the sky revealing Morgas as a fake. They circle over his castle dropping the weighted notes. The wind is turbulent and Carson is pitched from the anotar. He opens his chute and drops into the compound. Alighting on his feet he calls the onlookers to come out of hiding and denounces Morgas to his warriors and servants. He then causes Morgas to see the penned zaldars become tharbans which escape to pursue him. Morgas flees to the top of the tower and jumps to his death. Carson tells the people to go back to their homes. Ero Shan leaps through the gates to effect a belated rescue of Carson. The two return to Tovar's castle for zaldar steaks and the next morning take off for Sanara.