Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Duane Adams, 1999



In delivering the tale of the Julians and the Moon, Edgar Rice Burroughs used the longest introductory framing device in all his works to draw the reader into the adventure. Burroughs opens with a description of the Earth, after a century of war, embarked upon a new era of peace wherein all the weapons of destruction have been gathered and destroyed. The jubilant note is the communication between Earth and the planet Mars, which is represented by the Warlord, John Carter, once of Earth. The exchange of communications indiate the future prospects for the human race are bright and full of hope.

Our fictional Burroughs, who is a character in the Moon tales, encounters a passenger on the 1967 flight which is celebrating these momentous events. His companion is an admiral, who relates a strange tale of reincarnation.

"I am going to tell you," he said, "what I have never told another; but on the condition that if you retell it you are not to use my name. I have several year sof this life ahead of me and I do not care to be pointed out as a lunatic. First let me say that I do not try to explain anyting, except that I do not believe prevision to be a proper explanation. I have actually lived the experiences I shall tell you of, and that girl we saw dancing on the table tonight lived them with me; but she does not know it. If you care to, you can keep in mind the theory that there is no such thing as Time--just keep it in mind--you cannot understand it, or at least I cannot. Here goes."

The Moon Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs is an expression of the author's personal politics warning against the dangers of disarming America and its citizens. The current Gun Law debates which fill the present media and Congress are nothing new. For many decades the debate of gun control has raged. Burroughs offers a chilling scenario, expressed in 1924, of what might happen if, in the pursuit of peace and harmony, a nation or world should confiscate all weapons. Unarmed, such a population would be incapable of defending itself from agression.

And where we as readers go is into the future. Earth has decided to send a spaceship to Mars. In command of the Barsoom is a young officer named Julian 5th and a rival, Lieutenant Orthis, is also aboard the five man ship. The inevitable tension, betrayal and sabotage which is an Ed Burroughs trademark occurs, crippling the Barsoom as it nears the Moon.

Narrowly avoiding complete disaster, the Barsoom enters a vast crater which is apprently bottomless. Not long after the ship and crew enter the interior world (ala Pellucidar) of the Moon which is known as Vanah.

Emerging from the opposite end of the crater, into an area with an atmosphere similar to Earth's, the pervasive glow from rock and ground and refracted sunlight through hundreds of crater tunnels to the surface, reveals rugged mountains, immense forests and vast bodies of water. The atmosphere is confined to within 50 miles of the inner surface, becoming extremely rarified very quickly. The mountains are perpetually covered with ice and snow, sending huge glaciers which melt to provide flowing water. Thick clouds pass above the dense forests and the temperature remains a nearly constant 80 degrees Fahrenheit year round.

Vanah is a place of violent monthly storms which the natives view with superstitious dread. Trees and animals--and people, too--are often carried away.

Julian 5th soon learns there are other dangers, such as the centaur-like Va-gas. Equally dangerous are the court intrigues of the humans. These are all overcome by Julian 5th and he and the Barsoom, with Nah-ee-lah a lunar princess, return to Earth. Orthis, however, was not on that voyage and this would come back to haunt the commander of the Barsoom.

Burroughs' examination of the evils of Communisim is not lost by the readers of the second Moon tale. The Moon Men, originally Under the Red Flag, was not intended as science fiction. Red Flag expressly warned of the dangers of Communisim and loss of personal freedoms. Unable to sell Red Flag in the early 1920's Burroughs revamped the story. He had to create a prequel, The Moon Maid in a science fiction format, and then found a market.

In the sequel, The Moon Men, Orthis has militarized the Moon and given them space technology.

Let me preface this story, as I did the other that I told you on board the liner Harding two years ago, with the urgent request that you attempt to keep constantly in mind the theory that there is no such thing as time—that there is no past and no future—that there is only now, there never has been anything but now, and there never will be anything but now. It is a theory analogous to that which stipulates that there is no such thing as space. I have told you of the attempt made to reach Mars in The Barsoom and of how it was thwarted by Lieutenant Commander Orthis. That was in the year 2026.

The son that was born to Julian 5th and the Princess Nah-ee-lah in 2036 was the great-grandfather of Julian 9th for whose story you have asked me, and in whom I lived again in the twenty-second century.

For some reason no further attempts were made to reach Mars with whom we had been in radio communication for seventy years. Possibly it was due to the rise of a religious cult which preached against all forms of scientific progress and which by political pressure was able to mold and influence several successive weak administrations of a notoriously weak party that had had its origin nearly a century before in a group of peace-at-any-price men.

In the year 2050 the blow fell. Lieutenant Commander Orthis, after twenty-four years upon the Moon, returned to Earth with, one hundred thousand Kalkars and a thousand Va-gas. In a thousand great ships they came, bearing arms and ammunition and strange, new engines of destruction fashioned by the brilliant mind of the arch villain of the universe. No one but Orthis could have done it. No one but Orthis would have done it. ...

The tale of Julian 9th is a grim vision of a dictatorial regime trodding heavily upon the conquered Earth. The State, as embodied by the Kalkar rulers and the dictates of the descendents of Or-tis impose such a harsh government that the lives of the conquered Americans are somber and without hope. Marriage is all but unrecognized and it is with great difficulty that Julian 9th protects his mother from an unwanted suitor, wins his own lady, and then finds himself embroiled in an uprising.

Several hundred years later the results of the rebellion chronicled in The Moon Men is continued in Buroughs' The Red Hawk, which details the culmination of events between the descendents of the Julians and Or-tis. This time it is a final battle for control of the Earth.

Since fell my great ancestor, Julian 9th, in the year 2122, at the end of the first uprising against the Kalkars, we have been driving them slowly back across the world. That was over three hundred years ago. For a hundred years they have held us here, a day's ride from the ocean. just how far it is we do not know; but in 24o8 my grandfather, Julian isth, rode alone almost to the sea. He had won back almost to safety when he was discovered and pursued almost to the tents of his people. There was a battle, and the Kalkars who had dared invade our country were destroyed, but Julian i8th died of his wounds without being able to tell more than that a wondrous rich country lay between us and the sea, which was not more than a day's ride distant. A day's ride, for us, might be anything under a hundred miles.

We are desert people. Our herds range a vast territory where feed is scarce that we may be always near the goal that our ancestors set for us three centuries ago-the shore of the western sea into which it is our destiny to drive the remnants of our former oppressors. In the forests and mountains of Arizona there is rich pasture, but it is far from the land of the Kalkars where the last of the tribe of Or-tis make their last stand, and so we prefer to live in the desert near our foes, driving our herds great distances to pasture when the need arises, rather than to settle down in a comparative land of plenty, resigning the age-old struggle, the ancient feud between the house of Julian and the house of Or-tis.

Americans, holding the Flag as a totem of their patriotic Indian-like culture, carry the battle into the area once known as California. The Kalkars, no longer supported from the Moon, have their backs to the wall, but they are not insignificant in their control and power. The battle engaged is one that might be won or lost by either side.

The Moon Series

The Moon Maid
The Moon Men
The Red Hawk