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BARSOOMIAN POPULATIONS

David Bruce Bozarth


UPDATE

Thoughts and further speculation 15 years after this article was written:

ERB painted his stories with broad strokes, that's part of the charm. Realities, however, are also part of what he wrote and it is the between the lines reading that gets to the meat.

Burroughs' writing notebooks reveal a green Martian tribe breakdown as 500 warriors supported by 2000 females and children. Tars Tarkas, at best for the assault on Zodanga could have achieved 25,000 by max effort from the green warriors, but more likely that number was actually 12,000 because no sane tribe would leave itself completely defenseless. We know there are Warhoons in addition to Tharks and a suggestion there might be other green tribes, but those numbers are not given. Counting Tharks and Warhoons (assuming they are at least on par with the Tharks) there's a quarter-million all told.

The likelihood there were 1,000 "battleships" is a stretch of the imagination, even for Burroughs. Military ships of any kind are a financial burden on any citizenry and economics alone will keep those expenditures in check. However, there is no doubt that any number of ships, either mothballed or aged beyond general usefulness, might have been impressed to carry Carter's Zodanga strike force.

How many red Martians are there? ERB expressed they were the most populous of the human races on Mars. There are large cities described, but no reliable numbers for red Martian city populations given. However, from descriptions of buildings, occupation density, and land area encompassed, some conclusions can be made: large city/states 50,000 - 250,000, cities 10,000 - 49,000, other population centers are likely 1,000 inhabitants or less. Economic support for city/states and cities would likely encompass 1,000 - 25,000 square miles (Earth measure) and that population might be as much as 25% of the population center. When all calculations are said and done it might be pushing it to say there are 30,000,000 humans on the entire planet ... this includes the Okarians and the First Born (which does have an expressed population number of about 200,000 for the Valley of Kamtol).

How many red Martians are there? ERB expressed they were the most populous of the human races on Mars. There are large cities described, but no reliable numbers for red Martian city populations given. However, from descriptions of buildings, occupation density, and land area encompassed, some conclusions can be made: large city/states 50,000 - 250,000, cities 10,000 - 49,000, other population centers 1,000 or less. Economic support for city/states and cities would likely encompass 1,000 - 25,000 square miles (Earth measure) and that population might be as much as 25% of the population center. When all calculations are said and done it might be pushing it to say there are 30,000,000 humans on the entire planet ... this includes the Okarians and the First Born (which does have an expressed population number of about 200,000 for the Valley of Kamtol).

While the "hearts and minds" of millions might be in the battle, the actual combatants was probably far less in reality—if one can say there is any reality in a work of fiction! Burroughs describes each red Martian male as a warrior, and we know that can't be true. There's hunters and gatherers and builders and shopkeepers and all other forms of trade congress necessary for civilization. Each COULD, of course, be a berserk brawler when called upon, but they are not "military soldiers" by any stretch of the imagination.

Barsoom is a dying world as presented by the wonder pen of Edgar Rice Burroughs and; yet, it has both More and Less Population than the author reveals. Over time and "living in the world of Barsoom" while writing the Ras Thavas and the Calot stories, I've revised my own original estimates, but one thing we know to be true is there are at least two: John Carter and Dejah Thoris!

Book Cover

Not long ago we had a Barsoomian population discussion at ERBList. Barsoom is the world creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs, American author, whose heroic character John Carter of Earth was transported to Mars and became embroiled in the adventure, danger, and romance of that planet.

Ever in the back of my mind has been the knowledge that the population of red men is significant and that millions have engaged in individual wars at one time or another, yet the magnitude of the overall population has occasionally come into debate. I knew my stance on "teeming millions" was correct as a gut response, but it is nice to finally revisit the works and find again the comment which has lurked ever in the back of my brain as the substance for that opinion. The following is a minor passage from GODS as Carter, Kantos Kan, Carthoris, Tars Tarkas and Hor Vastus are about to launch the expedition to rescue Dejah Thoris from the First Born:

"A million veteran fighting-men from Helium's thin waterways man the battleships, the transports, and the convoys," he replied. "Each is sworn to loyalty and secrecy, nor were enough recruited from a single district to cause suspicion."

Were the population of Helium, and the outlying districts which hold allegience to Helium and John Carter, all that thin then the assemblage of 1,000,000 men would be noted. An earthly corollary is America's military which is 1.5M (all services) and that number is a smidge more than 1/28th of the US population. The American people know we have 1.5M persons in uniform, yet hardly 1 in 20 citizens know anyone who is in the military. An equally large Helium population would seem necessary for Kantos Kan and Hor Vastus to have assembled an expedition of this size that was UNNOTICED by Zat Arras—who was then in full siege of Helium—or that any of his lieutenants overlooked a "missing number" of men of fighting age.

Obviously, Kantos Kan and Hor Vastus did recruit from the ranks of the Heliumetic navy, certainly as to the commanders and crews of the 1,000 modified battleships, but the majority of the men had to come from other sources. The statement "nor were enough recruited from a single district to cause suspicion" indicates a very large population, though one that is scattered over a tremendous segment of the planet.

The population of the green men has also been discussed. I have put their numbers at 5 millions worldwide. Tars Tarkas raising 250,000 warriors for the above expedition from 50 different tribes from the south pole to the north seems quite reasonable. Desolate Barsoom, during John Carter's time, was a vast and empty planet where the total land surface area of a smaller world exceeds that of our watery planet, yet it does appear Mars was not that empty of human life!