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Barsoom Primer: People and Cultures of Barsoom

Barsoom

Red Martians
The Red Martians are the dominant culture on Barsoom. They are organized into a system of imperial city-states including Helium, Ptarth and Zodanga, controlling the planetary canal system, as well as other, more isolated city-states in the hinterlands. The Red Martians are the interbred descendants of the ancient Yellow Martians, White Martians, and Black Martians, remnants of which exist in isolated areas of the planet, particularly the poles. The Red Martians are said in A Princess of Mars to have been bred when the seas of Barsoom began to dry up, in hopes of creating a hardy race to survive in the new environment.[7][38]

The Red Martians are highly civilized, respect the idea of private property, adhere to a code of honor and have a strong sense of fairness. Their culture is governed by law and is advanced technologically. They are capable of love and have families.[39]

Green Martians
A four armed Green Martian on his thoat, as represented in the original 1920 edition of Thuvia, Maid of Mars.
The Green Martians are fifteen feet tall (males) and twelve feet tall (females), have four arms and eyes mounted at the side of their heads. They are nomadic, warlike and barbaric, do not form families, have little concept of friendship or love and enjoy inflicting torture upon their victims. Their social structure is highly communal – they have no concept of private property – and is rigidly hierarchical, consisting of various levels of chiefs, with the highest office occupied by an all powerful Jeddak. However, the title of Jeddak is obtained by mortal combat, rather than hereditary means. They form tribes, which war among one another constantly. They ride aggressive animals, thoats, and armed themselves with swords, lances and firearms which use ‘radium’ ammunition.[23][39]

The Green Men are primitive, intellectually unadvanced, do not have any kind of art and are without a written language. While they craft weapons, any advanced technology they possess, such as ‘radium pistols’, is stolen from raids upon the Red Martians. They inhabit the ancient ruined cities left behind by civilizations which lived on Barsoom during a more advanced and hospitable era in the planet’s history.[32] They apparently arose from a biological experimental which went awry[citation needed] and as with all other Martians, they are an egg-laying species, concealing their eggs in incubators until hatching. Tars Tarkas, who befriends John Carter when he first arrives on Barsoom, is an unusual exception from the typical ruthless Green Martian, due to having known the love of his own mate and daughter.[23][39]

In the novels, the Green Martians are often referred to by the names of their hordes, which in turn take their names from the dead cities which they inhabit. Thus the followers of Tars Tarkas, based in the ruined ancient city of Thark, are known as “Tharks”. Other hordes bear the names of Warhoon, Torquas and Thurd.

Yellow Martians (Okarians)
Yellow Martians are supposedly extinct, but in The Warlord of Mars they are found hiding in secret domed cities at the North Pole of Mars. They are bearded, exceptionally cruel and keep slaves, acquiring these by using a giant magnetic device which pulls fliers off course, and allows the Yellow Martians to capture their crews.[28][39]

White Martians

Orovars
The White Martians, known as ‘Orovars’ were rulers of Mars for 500,000 years, with an empire of sophisticated cities with advanced technology. They were white skinned, with blond or Auburn hair. They were once a seafaring race but when the oceans began to dry up, they began to cooperate with the Yellow and Black Martians to breed the Red Martians,[40] foreseeing the need for hardy stock to cope with the emerging harsher environment. They became decadent and ‘overcivilized’. At the beginning of the series they are believed to be extinct, but three remaining populations, some original Orovars, Therns and Lotharians, are still living in secret and are discovered as the books progress.[7]

Lotharians
The Lotharians are a remnant population of the original White Martians, which appear only in Thuvia, Maid of Mars. There are only 1000 of them remaining, all of them male. They are skilled in telepathy, able to project images that can kill, or provide sustenance. They live a reclusive existence in a remote area of Barsoom, debating philosophy among themselves.[41]

Therns
Descendants of the original White Martians who live in a complex of caves and passages in the cliffs above the Valley Dor. This is the destination of the River Iss, on whose currents most Martians eventually travel, on a pilgrimage seeking final paradise, once tired of life or reaching 1000 years of age. The valley is actually populated by monsters, overlooked by the Therns, who control these creatures, and ransack, and eat the flesh of those who perish, enslaving those who survive. They consider themselves a unique creation, different from other Martians. They maintain the false Martian religion through a network of collaborators and spies across the planet. They are themselves raided by the Black Martians. They are white skinned and bald but wear blond wigs.[42]

Black Martians (First Born)
Legend suggests that the Black Martians are inhabitants of one of the moons of Mars, when in fact they live in an underground stronghold near the south pole of the planet, around the subterranean Sea of Omean, below the Lost Sea of Korus, where they keep a large aerial navy. They call themselves the ‘First Born’, believing themselves to be a unique creation among Martian races, and worship Issus, a woman who styles herself as the God of the Martian religion, but is no such thing. They frequently raid the White Martian Therns, who maintain the false Martian religion, carrying off people as slaves. John Carter defeats their navy in The Gods of Mars.[42]

2 comments

  • Great resource! I like how it gives a sense of the breadth of the planet to new and potential readers, and is a handy reminder to those who haven’t read through the whole series in a while.

  • No mention of the Kangaroo Men? I’m disappointed. :)

    I know they’re not to everyone’s taste, but I knida liked them, they’re ludicrous but were fun to read.

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