Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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Exploring Barsoom With Ras Thavas and the Calot Contains Spoilers
MAP OF NEW CITY Image
Exploring Barsoom With Ras Thavas and the Calot
David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2004
New Material Copyright © 2017
Illustration by David Burton
WHY THE RTC SERIES WAS WRITTEN
Edgar Rice Burroughs explored Barsoom in eleven novels, taking us to places extraordinary in vista and view–but he did not stay overlong in any one place: his heroes and heroines were always in a hurry to get somewhere else! Thus we, the readers, were often left wondering about some place or culture of Barsoom, or what happened to some of those wonderful characters we met.
The Ras Thavas and the Calot stories started with the premise of exploring Barsoom. Once that was decided, the principal explorer had to be found...and Ras Thavas, master scientist and physician was chosen. If Edgar Rice Burroughs couldn't give us the details of Barsoom we should ask Ras Thavas go find them for us!
Then, too, there has always been curiosity regarding the long term romantic relationships on Barsoom. For example, we know that John Carter and his wife Dejah Thoris remained together over the years (and we assume the other major characters who married did as well), but we never saw much of the actual characters' relationships after marriage. There is one small exception at the beginning of one of Burroughs' Barsoom stories which deals with Dejah Thoris, John Carter and their daughter Tara. Chessmen of Mars).
Ras Thavas wasn't married in either of the two volumes in which he appeared, Master Mind of Mars and Synthetic Men of Mars, therefore Ras Thavas gave us the opportunity to explore his adventures in marriage so we could observe the interplay between the master mind and his wife. That romantic interlude is found in Ras Thavas: THE NEW CITY. Ultimately the relationship between Ras Thavas and Thasa Ras is the glue holding this series of short stories together—with an additional twist guaranteed to make that marriage both loving and stormy.
WHO IS RAS THAVAS AND WHAT IS A CALOT?
For those who have not read any of the Barsoom stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ras Thavas is one of the more intriguing characters in the Martian series. Ras Thavas is a scientist with vastly superior knowledge. He is able to do brain transplants from one body to another. He was also ruthless, greedy, and ambitious. When we first meet Ras Thavas in Master Mind of Mars. Ras Thavas is a man who has lived beyond the 1,000 year life span of Barsoomians. Just when it seems he might obtain all he desired, his body began to betray him with old age. Enter Ulysses Paxton of Earth, newly arrived on Mars, into the hands of Ras Thavas. Paxton, who took the name Vad Varo, soon became a confidant and assistant to Ras Thavas. He was eventually taught the secrets of brain transplants and—because the Earthman wished to save a woman wronged—transferred the brain of Ras Thavas into the physically spectacular body of a man murdered for his body. The operation was successful. Vad Varo then embarked on his own adventure as chronicled in the remainder of Master Mind of Mars.
Ras Thavas appeared later in Synthetic Men of Mars, again as a would-be world conqueror whose armies of artificial beings had become unmanageable. At the conclusion of Synthetic the world's greatest scientist had a change of heart, vowing to take a path beneficial to Barsoom. It is the remorseful and contrite Ras Thavas that is the central character in the Ras Thavas and the Calot series. The stories follow the master mind through personal and emotional growth and from one end of Barsoom to another as an explorer and observer of the planet and cultures.
The Ras Thavas and the Calot stories have been written over an extended period and the chronology of the story line has resulted in a suggested reading order. A few stories should be read in order:NEW CITY, THERNS, BOWMAN, DESERT in particular. A second section is: ARENA and MORGOR. As the series evolves other continued stories may appear.
A calot? Think of a beast with a body about the size of a Shetland pony with ten legs, a gaping maw filled with three rows of very sharp teeth, a short bristle of mane and an ugly disposition. Large eyes, a fearsome contenance, and a physical constitution just short of marvelous. The calot is the most successful predator of Barsoom and can travel a hundred or more miles in a day. Calots have been domesticated by some Barsoomian cultures and generally serve their masters much as dogs serve humans on Earth.
RAS THAVAS AND THE CALOT EXPLORING
The RTC premise provides opportunity to revisit places ERB had written about in brief fashion and to explore observations of the emotional and psychological aspects of the characters when they were in times less dramatic than war. The premise also provided ample opportunity to create places and people logical to the Martian series by Burroughs. The following are author notes regarding each of the stories so far published:
THE FOLLOWING NOTES
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
TO THE NEXT SECTION
WHAT THE STORIES EXPLORE...
AMONG THE THERNS
John Carter tangled with Barsoomian religion in several of the Martian novels. A Princess of Mars gave some detail regarding the burial rites of several human societies–basically a funeral barge down the River Iss to Valley Dor which was considered to be "heaven." In the sequel, Gods of Mars, Carter exposed the religion of Issus to be a horrendous hoax perpetuated by the white and black races of the south polar regions. The white race collected the valuables and prettiest maidens from the pilgrims seeking entrance to heaven and let the carnivorous plant men eat the rest. The black race, hidden from all, manipulated the Holy Therns beliefs in Issus, who turned out to be an ancient hag with an appetite for the flesh of young girls (in soup, steaks, or tar tar).
Among The Therns is a query regarding what path the one-time power holders of the emotional beliefs of the cultures of Barsoom might have taken after Carter busted their game.
The location is a logically created city. Empar is not found in the books by ERB. The recording values of the destination compass are a logical extension of the unit's abilities.
Kar Komak and the mentalists of Lothar from Burroughs' Thuvia, Maid of Mars novel are among the most ingenious characters in the Barsoomian saga. At the end of Thuvia Kar Komak, now a physical being, leads an imaginary army of Orovars in pursuit of a horde of green men and that is the last the reader sees of this warrior from a million years ago.
The impact of the Orovar civilization, long considered extinct, is found in most of the books in the Barsoom series, but we are not given a lot of information regarding the Orovars themselves. Bowman takes a longer look at possibilities and indicates where some of the more fantastic things ERB created might have originated–if there really is a Barsoom.
The question of Barsoomian telepathy has never been fully addressed by ERB. Bowman attempts to examine that aspect of Martian humanity. The green man's six limbs, on a planet where humans, plant men, kangaroo men have four, banths and thoats have eight, and calots have ten is an oddity; Bowman examines the possibility of an artificial life form.
Faz, as a location, is not found in the books. The Throxeus Ocean, however, is mentioned many times-–and is the only ocean named of Barsoom's "five mighty oceans." The geothermal vents are a logical creation based on Burroughs' recurring underground water reserves and subterranean rivers, though volcanic action is not specifically mentioned in the books.
All too frequently I hear folks say "ERB's romance is sappy." Sometimes the comment is delivered with fond nostalgia, at others with a sneer. Desert is a slice of life incident in the lives of two people trying to survive a harsh environment and physical hardships. The relationship between Ras Thavas and Thasa Ras, however, is unusual and the commitments expressed have two levels: There is love between these two personalities, yet there is also the secondary bond of necessity. Thasa Ras cannot obtain her human form without Ras Thavas.
The land through which Ras Thavas and the calot travel is no much different than other vast tracts of terrain described by Burroughs.
The airship is a fixture of the novels.
The young doctor is an expression of Ras Thavas' commitment to do no (more) harm; a promise given at the conclusion of Synthetic Men of Mars.
THE GREAT APE
The reader of Burroughs' Martian stories is carried onward by the non-stop action and immediate results. The grand master of adventure was noted for his rapid-fire story telling which maintained that pace at the sometimes expense of deeper understanding of what happens after the action. Ras Thavas, in Master Mind of Mars, had long indulged his scientific interests in science and medicine, at the expense of innocent (or some not-so-innocent) lives. Human brains were put in the bodies of animals, animal brains into humans, and exotic brain grafts of human and animal brain were created. Meanwhile, to pay for this medical research Ras Thavas would, for a price, put the brain of anyone into any body–even providing bodies as the need arose. Master Mind explored one of those consequences and, much later in the series so did the events of Synthetic Men of Mars. Great Ape examines a different aspect of consequences of Ras Thavas' animal/human experiments.
The island is a logically created place. The ruins of Tur and the House of Tur are logical extensions of canon, but are not found in the books. The discovery of the ruins shows, yet more clearly, the absurdity of the Phundahlian religion of Tur.
Exploring: BARBARIANS AND CONCEPTION
Burroughs repeatedly informed his readers of the barbaric ways of the nomadic green men. Mentioned in Gods of Mars was the arenas where gladiatorial-style battles were fought for the amusement of the horde. Thasa Ras learns first hand just how barbaric the green Martians might be in Arena. The Qathor horde is a logically created tribe of green men, they are not found by name in the ERB texts.
The increasing stress of the relationship between Ras Thavas and Thasa Ras.
The life cycle of the calot is this author's invention. Nowhere in the books is conception, breeding, or life cycles (other than burial beetles) mentioned. Human reproduction is described in detail.
Exploring: THE MILITARY AND SUPER SCIENCE
Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote of vast armadas and fighting ships in the aerial navies of Barsoom, but precious little detail on operations was ever discussed. The air defense units of Thavas are no where near the size of Helium or Gathol, but the basic structure of units, operational ranges (in a navy where fuel isn't the problem there has to be another kind of tour limiter), and manpower make for interesting speculation.
Super science unexplained is also a hallmark of the Barsoom series. THE MORGOR take another look at the creation of super weapons and fantastic devices in the broadest terms possible.
RT:MORGOR is special in a different sense: It contains more Barsoomian (created) character names than any other story--by ERB or anyone!
NOTE: The Morgors had not yet invaded Barsoom when Edgar Rice Burroughs stopped writing. THE MORGOR assumes there was a previous invasion and the prospect of a second is very unsettling indeed!
THE ODWAR'S WIFE
Exploring: KIDNAPING AND RAPE
Kidnaping is one of the main adventure components of the Barsoom books. Carthoris searched for Thuvia, Gahan sought Tara, and Vad Varo dealt with a kind of kidnaping. The forceful obtainment of human females appears to be an long tradition among the cultures of Mars. Odwar's Wife explores a Barsoomian kidnaping from the woman's point of view and that always implied, if obtusely, danger of rape.
Thasa Ras' secret is revealed. Brutality implied in ERB's books is examined more realistically.
The interior hold of the flier is logically created. Few descriptions of the internal workings of airships are found in ERB's books.
The Barsoomian characters of Burroughs' writing are filled with emotional crises, most prevalently love, hate, fear, and hope. Few of these characters, however, show regret or remorse for their actions. What would be Ras Thavas' reaction when faced by the family of someone he had wronged years before?
Zodanga is a nation that once warred with Helium.
Ras Thavas' office life in New City of Thavas is explored.
Exploring: SECRETS AND MURDER
A recurring theme in the Barsoomian stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs is dead cities and secrets. The dead city location and secret that Dejah Thoris has in RT:Hunted is based on events found in WHEN THE PRINCESS DISAPPEARED, a novel length Barsoomian tale written by David Bruce Bozarth, Andy Nunez, Don Bearden and Terry Klasek.
Ras Thavas is presented from a different view point. HUNTED is written in first person. The master mind of Mars displays more of his scientific prowess in a medical emergency that involves telepathy, cloning, and cross-species transfers, logical extensions created by this author.
LOST IN THE MARSH
Exploring: TOONOLIAN MARSH
Synthetic Men of Mars visited the Toonolian Marsh. Lost in the Marsh is a closer look at the dangers found in that vast area which represents the dregs of a nearly vanished Martian ocean. The flora and fauna are given logical extensions to what can be found in the books. The rain cloud is this author's extrapolation of what might be possible over this vast body of surface water, even on arid Barsoom.
Exploring: OMEAN AND MURDER
Okay, the butler did it. Exploring ERB's "murder mysteries" which were rarely mysterious or mystery. The use of mental powers to examine minds is first stated in Gods of Mars, but seldom thereafter, and only as required to move ERB's action plots along. The First Born, also know as the Black Pirates, were a foe of John Carter and, unless things did not go well after he became Warlord, would probably have become allies. The on-going strife between First Born and Thern is a logical extension as both races are mutually incompatible and seeking control of the same limited resources.
The Omean, the underground ocean, is found in the books. The palace carved into the cavern wall is a logical extension of some aspects described in the opening Martian trilogy. The tunnel project and Eighth Ray device is both extension and invention of this author.
Exploring: BANTOOM AND TRADE
We first visit Bantoom, the land of the spidermen of Mars, in Burroughs' Chessmen of Mars. One of the few areas with open surface water and agriculture, Bantoom seemed a logical resource to be exploited. Kaldane looks at one of the methods of exploitation: Trade. Burroughs mentioned trade between some city/nations of Barsoom, but few details were offered.
While Bantoom and the underground storage chambers are in the books by ERB, the method of construction of the towers, the chemical and physiological make up of kaldanes and rykors, and the methods of agriculture and animal breeding are logical extensions or inventions of this author.
At first glance the role of panthan in Barsoomian society seems obvious; soldiers of fortune willing to sell their fighting abilities. In several of Burroughs' books the lead characters took on the role of panthan, yet, in reality, were little more than body guards. Ras Thavas, in Panthan, operates as one might expect the soldiers of fortune and mercenaries of Barsoom might: in dangerous situations, protection of property, or as supplemental forces in wars between nations.
The marriage ceremony described is a logical extension of other marriage rites as found in the books.
Exploring: THE MIND AND CONCLUSIONS
Telepathy is the main method of communication on Barsoom, a form of speech that is mind to mind. Science and medicine are pursuits that benefit from having a brain that is able to learn, ponder, and create. The mind is also where human beings live. The heart really doesn't think, nor the liver or other organs–what makes humans human is the ability to reason. Ras Thavas is the most brilliant scientist of Barsoom, a master of logic and thought, of mental skills superior to his peers. The Dungeon is an exploration of the breakdown of such a mind.
I must confess there was a second exploration, but one of the author's interest: I wanted to conclude the Ras Thavas and the Calot series the way it started: Ras Thavas, Vad Varo, and Valla Dia, a severe medical condition, and regrets for long happiness between mates threatened.
Will there be more Ras Thavas and the Calot stories?
Exploring: CONSTRUCTION DETAILS
When David Adams asked about Jusaj, being interested in the character which had grown over a number of RTCalot stories, I, too, thought it might be interesting to look into the possibilities of other lead characters.
Jusaj serves the same function for Ras Thavas that Kantos Kan did for John Carter: the go to guy to get things done. There is a difference, however, Jusaj is not military as is Kantos Kan.
RT:HELPER takes a look at construction of Martian towers and speculates on how such edifice building might occur. Further demonstrations of Ras Thavas' medical abilities. Political intrigues of the Toonol Marsh region.
WRITE ABOUT RAS THAVAS
AND THE CALOT
The Ras Thavas and the Calot series is open to any author who is interested in exploring Barsoom. For details on how to participate, see the specifications.
Artists and Illustrators are also invited to join in the fun. See the specifications page in the link above.
Enjoy exploring Barsoom!
David Bruce Bozarth