I’m probably going to start posting some of the pieces of John Carter and The Gods of Hollywood that are getting left on the “cutting room floor”. Here’s one. I really wanted to put a condensed version of APOM right into the text of the book and so I created this one, which is designed to make sure that readers, even if they haven’t read ERB, get a feel for the book that is the subject of all this.
But it really is just too much.
I have done a different version for the book. Five or six pieces of Burroughs writing with more summary. 2,000 words instead of 10,000. But here’s the full 10,000 word version, which I kinda miss, but it had to go.
Burroughs’ Martian Princess
Author’s Note: A reading of the actual text of A Princess of Mars, which is in the public domain, is an essential prerequisite to much of the discussion that will follow about the choices made by Andrew Stanton and his team in adapting it. While it is perhaps too much to expect readers of John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood to pause and read the entire book (although this would be ideal), it is perhaps not unreasonable to present an 8,000 word annotated condensed version of the 68,000 word novel, including full excerpts of many of the most memorable and important scenes and commentary designed to highlight key concepts and exmples of style. For those who have read the book but not recently, this will be two cups of coffee well enjoyed. For those who have not read it and are interested in understanding “what really happened” with John Carter — it is an essential component to ERB 101, and well worth the reading. To avoid SPOILERS, this version stops well short of the final resolution; however, for those who wish to avail of it, a linksto an online summary of the completion of the story is provided.
DEJAH THORIS, MARTIAN PRINCESS
by Normal Bean (Edgar Rice Burroughs)
To the Reader of this Work:
In submitting Captain Carter’s strange manuscript to you in book form, I believe that a few words relative to this remarkable personality will be of interest.
My first recollection of Captain Carter is of the few months he spent at my father’s home in Virginia, just prior to the opening of the civil war. I was then a child of but five years, yet I well remember the tall, dark, smooth-faced, athletic man whom I called Uncle Jack.
He seemed always to be laughing; and he entered into the sports of the children with the same hearty good fellowship he displayed toward those pastimes in which the men and women of his own age indulged; or he would sit for an hour at a time entertaining my old grandmother with stories of his strange, wild life in all parts of the world. We all loved him, and our slaves fairly worshipped the ground he trod.
He was a splendid specimen of manhood, standing a good two inches over six feet, broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, with the carriage of the trained fighting man. His features were regular and clear cut, his hair black and closely cropped, while his eyes were of a steel gray, reflecting a strong and loyal character, filled with fire and initiative. His manners were perfect, and his courtliness was that of a typical southern gentleman of the highest type.
Even in this first description, Burroughs can be seen to be laying the groundwork for several aspects of the tale that would become signature elements of Burroughs style. First, Burroughs’ orderly, rationale description of Carter gave the reader a sense of confidence in Burroughs, not as a literary genius — there was no attempt to impress in that direction — but rather as a sober reliable observer possessing of a ‘Normal Bean’ and hence capable of rationally and accurately transmitting information which might come into his possession. The style was careful, correct, and provided subliminal reassurances that said: “Trust me, what I’m telling you is the truth as I know it–I have not embellished or gone on flights of fancy, I’m a reliable messenger, no more.”
Burroughs then describes how Captain Carter, absent for “15 or 16 years” during which the war was fought and lost, and when Carter returned, he was genial as before, but did not seem to have aged appreciably. Burroughs also observes: “when he thought himself alone I have seen him sit for hours gazing off into space, his face set in a look of wistful longing and hopeless misery; and at night he would sit thus looking up into the heavens, at what I did not know until I read his manuscript years afterward.”
Deftly, Burroughs sets up John Carter as a mysterious, vaguely spiritual wanderer, for whom there is some tragedy, or some yearning unfulfilled — we don’t’ know what.
Then Burroughs describes receiving a telegram from Carter, asking him to visit, and when he arrives he finds that Carter is dead, and has left Burroughs in charge of the estate and the funeral arrangements which specify — no embalming, and interment in a tomb that , perplexingly, opens only from the inside. And it is on this note (tomb opening only from the inside), that he hands of the narrative to “Captain Carter.”
On the surface, Burroughs’ frame story can be viewed as “just a device” to get the story going, but through this simple device Burroughs allows us to enter the world of his “damphool narrative”, with the sense, carefully implanted, that it what we are about to experience is a reliable, sane narrative of extraordinary events. Burroughs has softened the reader up gently, and prepared him for the wild ride that will follow.
Carter begins to narrate his own story:
I am a very old man; how old I do not know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more; but I cannot tell because I have never aged as other men, nor do I remember any childhood. So far as I can recollect I have always been a man, a man of about thirty. I appear today as I did forty years and more ago, and yet I feel that I cannot go on living forever; that some day I shall die the real death from which there is no resurrection. I do not know why I should fear death, I who have died twice and am still alive; but yet I have the same horror of it as you who have never died, and it is because of this terror of death, I believe, that I am so convinced of my mortality.
And because of this conviction I have determined to write down the story of the interesting periods of my life and of my death. I cannot explain the phenomena; I can only set down here in the words of an ordinary soldier of fortune a chronicle of the strange events that befell me during the ten years that my dead body lay undiscovered in an Arizona cave
A few paragraphs later Carter infuses his narrative with sly, ironic humor:
At the close of the Civil War I found myself possessed of several hundred thousand dollars (Confederate) and a captain’s commission in the cavalry arm of an army which no longer existed; the servant of a state which had vanished with the hopes of the South. Masterless, penniless, and with my only means of livelihood, fighting, gone, I determined to work my way to the southwest and attempt to retrieve my fallen fortunes in a search for gold.
His travels take him to Arizona, where in a cave that shows magnificent veins of gold, he is overcome by drowsiness, so that a sense of “delicious dreaminess” overcomes him, and is at the point of giving in to his desire to sleep when he hears horsed approaching an attempts to spring to his feet, only to be “horrified to discover the my muscles refused to respond to my will”. He then notices a vapor filling the cave, and concludes initially that he has been overcome by poisonous gas. The sound of horses are revealed to be Apaches, who climb to the entrance of the cave, look at Carter’s prostrate body, and recoil in fear, leaving him where he lies.
Then, with the Apaches gone, a new terror — from the cave, out of sight to Carter’s rear, the sound of a “low, distinct moaning”. Carter hears it approach, yet he cannot move – he is paralyzed. He ponders his predicament:
To be held paralyzed, with one’s back toward some horrible and unknown danger from the very sound of which the ferocious Apache warriors turn in wild stampede, as a flock of sheep would madly flee from a pack of wolves, seems to me the last word in fearsome predicaments for a man who had ever been used to fighting for his life with all the energy of a powerful physique.
He lies still, unable to move, until near midnight, when suddenly he hears the moaning again.
The shock to my already overstrained nervous system was terrible in the extreme, and with a superhuman effort I strove to break my awful bonds. It was an effort of the mind, of the will, of the nerves; not muscular, for I could not move even so much as my little finger, but none the less mighty for all that. And then something gave, there was a momentary feeling of nausea, a sharp click as of the snapping of a steel wire, and I stood with my back against the wall of the cave facing my unknown foe.
Carter stands above the “lifeless clay” of his former body, and wonders “Have I indeed possed over forever into that other life?” But he can feel his heart pounding; he can feel the cold sweat…..At the entrance to the cave he looks into the Arizona moonlit landscape.
My attention was quickly riveted by a large red star close to the distant horizon. As I gazed upon it I felt a spell of overpowering fascination—it was Mars, the god of war, and for me, the fighting man, it had always held the power of irresistible enchantment. As I gazed at it on that far-gone night it seemed to call across the unthinkable void, to lure me to it, to draw me as the lodestone attracts a particle of iron.
My longing was beyond the power of opposition; I closed my eyes, stretched out my arms toward the god of my vocation and felt myself drawn with the suddenness of thought through the trackless immensity of space. There was an instant of extreme cold and utter darkness.
Next, under the Chapter title “My Advent on Mars”, Carter relates:
I opened my eyes upon a strange and weird landscape. I knew that I was on Mars; not once did I question either my sanity or my wakefulness. I was not asleep, no need for pinching here; my inner consciousness told me as plainly that I was upon Mars as your conscious mind tells you that you are upon Earth. You do not question the fact; neither did I.
I found myself lying prone upon a bed of yellowish, mosslike vegetation which stretched around me in all directions for interminable miles. I seemed to be lying in a deep, circular basin, along the outer verge of which I could distinguish the irregularities of low hills.
He is naked, and his attempts at locomotion are produce “a series of evolutions which even then seemed ludicrous in the extreme”. He finds that he must learn to walk all over again due to the lower gravity. In spite of the difficulty with walking he is determined to explore a walled structure, about four feet in height, which is adjacent to where he finds himself. That structure turns out to be an incubator, filled with eggs of uniform size, about two and one half feet in diameter. He then describes — with what the reader will come to know is typical Burroughsian detail — the creatures that are emerging from the eggs.
Five or six had already hatched and the grotesque caricatures which sat blinking in the sunlight were enough to cause me to doubt my sanity. They seemed mostly head, with little scrawny bodies, long necks and six legs, or, as I afterward learned, two legs and two arms, with an intermediary pair of limbs which could be used at will either as arms or legs. Their eyes were set at the extreme sides of their heads a trifle above the center and protruded in such a manner that they could be directed either forward or back and also independently of each other, thus permitting this queer animal to look in any direction, or in two directions at once, without the necessity of turning the head.
The ears, which were slightly above the eyes and closer together, were small, cup-shaped antennae, protruding not more than an inch on these young specimens. Their noses were but longitudinal slits in the center of their faces, midway between their mouths and ears.
There was no hair on their bodies, which were of a very light yellowish-green color. In the adults, as I was to learn quite soon, this color deepens to an olive green and is darker in the male than in the female. Further, the heads of the adults are not so out of proportion to their bodies as in the case of the young.
The iris of the eyes is blood red, as in Albinos, while the pupil is dark. The eyeball itself is very white, as are the teeth. These latter add a most ferocious appearance to an otherwise fearsome and terrible countenance, as the lower tusks curve upward to sharp points which end about where the eyes of earthly human beings are located. The whiteness of the teeth is not that of ivory, but of the snowiest and most gleaming of china. Against the dark background of their olive skins their tusks stand out in a most striking manner, making these weapons present a singularly formidable appearance.
Having paused long enough to describe the detail of the strange creatures, Carter than acknowledges that he made most of the reported observations later, for he is warned by the rattling of accoutrements of an advancing adult warrior of the same species, riding upon an 8 legged thoat and bearing down on him with a lance that would have impaled him had his reflexes and new-found jumping ability not allowed him to leap high and out of harms way.
Carter’s remarkable ability to “sak” — (‘jump’ in Barsoomian), provokes Tars Tarkas, the leader of the group of “Tharks”, the green martian adults, to come forward and make gestures of peace, which Carter reciprocates, and he is then taken peacefully by the Tharks to their encampment, where the next phase of his adventure begins.
This opening sequence reveals much about Burroughs style and peculiar narrative gifts. Much has been made of the fact that he dispenses with any attempt at scientific explanation of John Carter’s passage to Mars, and this is often referred to as a liability. Very little has been written about the very spiritual nature of how Burroughs engineers the passage; how John Carter experiences death or at least a death-like state in the cave in Arizona; how he is unsure as to whether he has passed into the afterlife; and how he then feels an intense longing for Mars before being drawn there and awakening naked, a newborn, among the newborn Tharks.
With images of death and rebirth; of peculiar creatures at the first moment of their lives paired with Carter at the first moment of his advent on Barsoom, Burroughs has deftly propelled the reader through time and space to a moment of rebirth with Carter – a moment of spiritual and corporeal renewal on a new world. Earth is left behind; Carter does not mention it, he does not think of it; he does not yearn for it. He is, by implication, precisely where he is meant to be, and the reader is right there with him, ready to explore, ready to be immersed in a world which thus far has been revealed only in one small way — an ochre desert, and incubator, and fifteen foot high green warriors.
Tars Tarkas and the Tharks take Carter to the foot of nearby mountains and into a ruined city, where in and around the central plaza are encamped as many as 1000 Tharks. Carter the observer provides detailed — but never so lengthy as to interrupt the force of the narrative — descriptions of what he sees; the males, the females, the children, the city.
Carter is taken by Tars Tarkas, whom Carter discerns is vice-chieftain of the community, to Lorquas Ptomel, the chieftain. Carter encounters difficulty walking and as a result finds himself “skipping and flitting about among the chairs and desks like some monstrous grasshopper.” This results in one of the warriors grabbing him:
“I was roughly jerked to my feet by a towering fellow who laughed heartily at my misfortunes.
As he banged me down upon my feet his face was bent close to mine and I did the only thing a gentleman might do under the circumstances of brutality, boorishness, and lack of consideration for a stranger’s rights; I swung my fist squarely to his jaw and he went down like a felled ox. As he sunk to the floor I wheeled around with my back toward the nearest desk, expecting to be overwhelmed by the vengeance of his fellows, but determined to give them as good a battle as the unequal odds would permit before I gave up my life.
My fears were groundless, however, as the other Martians, at first struck dumb with wonderment, finally broke into wild peals of laughter and applause. I did not recognize the applause as such, but later, when I had become acquainted with their customs, I learned that I had won what they seldom accord, a manifestation of approbation.
Having proved his mettle, Carter is granted status as an “honored Prisoner” and turned over to Sola, a Thark female, for training in the language and ways of the green martians. She takes him to her quarters, then calls in the creature that will be Carter’s watch-dog and guardian, Woola, the calot:
It waddled in on its ten short legs, and squatted down before the girl like an obedient puppy. The thing was about the size of a Shetland pony, but its head bore a slight resemblance to that of a frog, except that the jaws were equipped with three rows of long, sharp tusks.
Sola stared into the brute’s wicked-looking eyes, muttered a word or two of command, pointed to me, and left the chamber. I could not but wonder what this ferocious-looking monstrosity might do when left alone in such close proximity to such a relatively tender morsel of meat; but my fears were groundless, as the beast, after surveying me intently for a moment, crossed the room to the only exit which led to the street, and lay down full length across the threshold.
Burroughs deftness in handling the exposition of the story up to this point (Chapter 5) deserves comment. He has established John Carter’s narrative voice and with it his character; transported him to Mars via a death/rebirth scenario; and twice through a combination of wit and physical skills, Carter has not only survived threat — he has made an impression and won allies. This is a pattern that is essential to Burroughs’ approach — Carter is threatened occasionally, each threat proves a trial which advances him on the scale of Thark culture, allowing him to win additional allies, gain stature, and progress in his new world. The narrative does not rely an major action sequences; rather the reader is pulled forward with astonished delight as each new detail of the strange world of Barsoom is revealed, and John Carter reveals different aspects of his intelligence, courage, and humanity. Most importantly, the reader is on the journey with Carter — for the most part the reader encounters Barsoom as Carter encounters it, with the only concession to exposition being that Carter frequently reveals knowledge of Thark culture out of sequence–drawing on later-acquired knowledge when describing his first encounter with different aspects of the society. Burroughs choices in how he layers in the exposition are extraordinarily deft–he repeatedly finds just the right mixture of current scene description; latter-acquired knowledge; and character response to the surroundings. These are talents not frequently addressed in literary analysis; Burroughs, the first time author dealing with what he would later call the “damphool species of narrative”, navigates these early expository sequences with the same deftness that John Carter manages his status among the Tharks.
Left alone in Sola’s quarters, Carter briefly allows his ‘fancy to run riot in wild conjecture on the possible explanation of the strange aonomalies which I had so far met with on Mars”, but his curiousity about his surroundings is greater than his fear. He examines the room in which he is being held — sees mural paintings of wonderful natural beauty, work “evidently wrought by a master hand”, but no representation of any living animals “either human or brute, by which I could guess at the likeness of these other and perhaps extinct denizens of Mars.”
When Sola returns with food he ponders it — “some solid substance of the consistency of cheese and almost tasteless…..not unpleasant….” then sleeps until he is awakened by the cold, whereupon Sola — who is emerging as a solicitous and caring friend — throws a fur over him. He ruminates on something he learned later — that Martian nights are extremely cold; then remarks on the two moons of Mars, deftly and with a scientists’ precision explaining how the nearer moon may be seen “hurling through the sky like some huge meteor two or three times a night”, and how the green martians have only crude lighting technology.
In four short paragraphs, without interrupting the flow of the story, Burroughs imparts a historical mystery (who were the inhabiants of the dead city), key sensory images (cold nights; hurtling moons), and the basics of sustenance as experienced by the Tharks.
The next morning Carter offers the following observation of his own character which is consistent with what has been revealed thus far:
I have ever been prone to seek adventure and to investigate and experiment where wiser men would have left well enough alone. It therefore now occurred to me that the surest way of learning the exact attitude of this beast toward me would be to attempt to leave the room.
He attempts to leave the room; Woola does not stop him, but instead simply follows him as he explores. Testing the beast, Carter tries leaping to confuse and elude him — only to discover that the squat, ugly creature is incredibly swift. “As I was to learn, this is the fleetest animal on Mars, and owing to its intelligence, loyalty, and ferocity, is used in hutning, in war, and as the protector of the Martian man.”
Carter’s explorations take him into abandoned buildings where he unwittingly tangles with great white apes of Barsoom, which he describes efficiently but vividly:
The creatures were about ten or fifteen feet tall, standing erect, and had, like the green Martians, an intermediary set of arms or legs, midway between their upper and lower limbs. Their eyes were close together and non-protruding; their ears were high set, but more laterally located than those of the Martians, while their snouts and teeth were strikingly like those of our African gorilla. Altogether they were not unlovely when viewed in comparison with the green Martians.
A fight ensues, and Woola joins Carter in battling the apes, and in the process Woola falls into the vise-like grip of the powerful jaws of an ape. Carter sees that Woola is about to die:
Suddenly I came to myself and, with that strange instinct which seems ever to prompt me to my duty, I seized the cudgel, which had fallen to the floor at the commencement of the battle, and swinging it with all the power of my earthly arms I crashed it full upon the head of the ape, crushing his skull as though it had been an eggshell.
The fight — the first true life and death struggle of the book — continues and Carter eventually prevails, with Woola badly wounded. He then realizes that Tars Tarkas, Sola, and other warriors, attracted by the fracas, have entered and witnessed Carter’s victory over the apes – and once again Carters stature grows. Tars Tarkas, seeing Woola’s condition, give an order which Carter correctly interprets to be to put the wounded Woola out of his misery. Carter strikes the gun away just before the lethal shot is fired. Tars Tarkas gestures to the warrior to desist — then Carter, Sola, and the wounded Woola depart. The chapter ends:
I had at least two friends on Mars; a young woman who watched over me with motherly solicitude, and a dumb brute which, as I later came to know, held in its poor ugly carcass more love, more loyalty, more gratitude than could have been found in the entire five million green Martians who rove the deserted cities and dead sea bottoms of Mars.
By now the reader knows that Carter lives by a code, and as that code is tested, he either meets the test or fails, but the result of passing the successive tests is to rise in stature among his hosts. His need for human companionship is only hinted at; but his his need for respect and friendship is apparent, and it is the filling of those needs that fuel the early part of the novel.
The next day the entire community journeys to the incubator where where the hatchlings are now ready to be adopted into the tribe. They are turned loose in a melee that results in random females from the tribe taking on a new child. Those hatchlings that have failed to hatch, or are judged weak, are killed. Sola is given a charge; and now she has two newborn charges to educate — Carter and the hatchling that has been assigned to her.
Burroughs quickly summarizes how Carter quickly learns the language, and more of the culture of the Tharks. Significantly, until now (50 pages into the story) Carter has heard nothing of humans inhabiting Mars. The ruined city inhabited by the Tharks appears, based on the scale of the chairs, doorways, etc, to have possibly been inhabited in the past by humans. But there has been no confirmation.
It is now, 50 pages into the story, that Burroughs — having taken the reader step by step with Carter on his journey — is ready to reveal the human races of Barsoom.
He does so under the Chapter heading: “A Fair Captive From the Sky”. At the ruined city, Carter sees the tribe of Tharks suddenly disappear within the buildings, almost instantly hiding all trace of their presence. Inside a building, Carter climbs to the roof and looks out to see:
A huge craft, long, low, and gray-painted, swung slowly over the crest of the nearest hill. Following it came another, and another, and another, until twenty of them, swinging low above the ground, sailed slowly and majestically toward us.
Each carried a strange banner swung from stem to stern above the upper works, and upon the prow of each was painted some odd device that gleamed in the sunlight and showed plainly even at the distance at which we were from the vessels. I could see figures crowding the forward decks and upper works of the air craft. Whether they had discovered us or simply were looking at the deserted city I could not say, but in any event they received a rude reception, for suddenly and without warning the green Martian warriors fired a terrific volley from the windows of the buildings facing the little valley across which the great ships were so peacefully advancing.
Carter is an observer to the battle that ensues, with the green Martians displaying deadly accuracy and military precision in their fire at the airships. Ever the fighting man, Carter observed later — and reports now for clarity to the reader:
Each green warrior has certain objective points for his fire under relatively identical circumstances of warfare. For example, a proportion of them, always the best marksmen, direct their fire entirely upon the wireless finding and sighting apparatus of the big guns of an attacking naval force; another detail attends to the smaller guns in the same way; others pick off the gunners; still others the officers; while certain other quotas concentrate their attention upon the other members of the crew, upon the upper works, and upon the steering gear and propellers.
The battle ends with the intruders chased away — but one damaged craft remains–drifting, zeppelin-like (without evidence of lighter than air gases being used), 50 feet above the ground. The Tharks swarm the wounded vessel as it hits, and Carter sees a prisoner taken from the vessel — too far away from him to make out any details.
The creature was considerably less than half as tall as the green Martian warriors, and from my balcony I could see that it walked erect upon two legs and surmised that it was some new and strange Martian monstrosity with which I had not as yet become acquainted.
The Tharks then loot the ship, leaving the dead bodies of the foreign warriors on board, then light a fire. The fire blossoms into a veritable funeral pyre, and Carter watches as the great ship drifts away on the wind, burning brightly. Carter feels unaccounably depressed:
The scene I had witnessed seemed to mark the defeat and annihilation of the forces of a kindred people, rather than the routing by our green warriors of a horde of similar, though unfriendly, creatures. I could not fathom the seeming hallucination, nor could I free myself from it; but somewhere in the innermost recesses of my soul I felt a strange yearning toward these unknown foemen, and a mighty hope surged through me that the fleet would return and demand a reckoning from the green warriors who had so ruthlessly and wantonly attacked it.
Carter, Sola, and Woola descend and enter the plaza–and there follows a scene that any reader of the Barsoom series can never forget:
As Sola and I entered the plaza a sight met my eyes which filled my whole being with a great surge of mingled hope, fear, exultation, and depression, and yet most dominant was a subtle sense of relief and happiness; for just as we neared the throng of Martians I caught a glimpse of the prisoner from the battle craft who was being roughly dragged into a nearby building by a couple of green Martian females.
And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life. She did not see me at first, but just as she was disappearing through the portal of the building which was to be her prison she turned, and her eyes met mine. Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect.
She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.
As her gaze rested on me her eyes opened wide in astonishment, and she made a little sign with her free hand; a sign which I did not, of course, understand. Just a moment we gazed upon each other, and then the look of hope and renewed courage which had glorified her face as she discovered me, faded into one of utter dejection, mingled with loathing and contempt. I realized I had not answered her signal, and ignorant as I was of Martian customs, I intuitively felt that she had made an appeal for succor and protection which my unfortunate ignorance had prevented me from answering. And then she was dragged out of my sight into the depths of the deserted edifice.
To this point, Carter has never mentioned Earth, nor has he spoken of the lack of human companionship — but the realization that there are humans on Mars changes everything. He is acutely conscious of a desire to be among his own kind; and he witnesses cruelty by the Tharks that further convinces him to escape.
I did not even know that there were any better conditions to escape to, but I was more than willing to take my chances among people fashioned after my own mold rather than to remain longer among the hideous and bloodthirsty green men of Mars. But where to go, and how, was as much of a puzzle to me as the age-old search for the spring of eternal life has been to earthly men since the beginning of time.
I decided that at the first opportunity I would take Sola into my confidence and openly ask her to aid me, and with this resolution strong upon me I turned among my silks and furs and slept the dreamless and refreshing sleep of Mars.
Burroughs carefully pivots with the arrival of the “fair captive” — Carter’s objective, previously to make friends allies and rise among the Tharks, now becomes to escape the Tharks and find companionship among his own kind.
The next morning, with thoughts of escape in mind, Carter takes Woola beyond the bounds of the city to test the calot’s loyalty.
As I approached the boundary line Woola ran anxiously before me, and thrust his body against my legs. His expression was pleading rather than ferocious, nor did he bare his great tusks or utter his fearful guttural warnings. Denied the friendship and companionship of my kind, I had developed considerable affection for Woola and Sola, for the normal earthly man must have some outlet for his natural affections, and so I decided upon an appeal to a like instinct in this great brute, sure that I would not be disappointed.
I had never petted nor fondled him, but now I sat upon the ground and putting my arms around his heavy neck I stroked and coaxed him, talking in my newly acquired Martian tongue as I would have to my hound at home, as I would have talked to any other friend among the lower animals. His response to my manifestation of affection was remarkable to a degree; he stretched his great mouth to its full width, baring the entire expanse of his upper rows of tusks and wrinkling his snout until his great eyes were almost hidden by the folds of flesh. If you have ever seen a collie smile you may have some idea of Woola’s facial distortion.
He threw himself upon his back and fairly wallowed at my feet; jumped up and sprang upon me, rolling me upon the ground by his great weight; then wriggling and squirming around me like a playful puppy presenting its back for the petting it craves. I could not resist the ludicrousness of the spectacle, and holding my sides I rocked back and forth in the first laughter which had passed my lips in many days; the first, in fact, since the morning Powell had left camp when his horse, long unused, had precipitately and unexpectedly bucked him off headforemost into a pot of frijoles.
My laughter frightened Woola, his antics ceased and he crawled pitifully toward me, poking his ugly head far into my lap; and then I remembered what laughter signified on Mars—torture, suffering, death. Quieting myself, I rubbed the poor old fellow’s head and back, talked to him for a few minutes, and then in an authoritative tone commanded him to follow me, and arising started for the hills.
Next Carter observes the captive being taken before Lorquas Ptomel, and enters the back of the chamber to observe. What follows is another of the most memorable scenes from the series:
“What is your name?” asked Lorquas Ptomel, addressing the prisoner.
“Dejah Thoris, daughter of Mors Kajak of Helium.”
“And the nature of your expedition?” he continued.
“It was a purely scientific research party sent out by my father’s father, the Jeddak of Helium, to rechart the air currents, and to take atmospheric density tests,” replied the fair prisoner, in a low, well-modulated voice.
“We were unprepared for battle,” she continued, “as we were on a peaceful mission, as our banners and the colors of our craft denoted. The work we were doing was as much in your interests as in ours, for you know full well that were it not for our labors and the fruits of our scientific operations there would not be enough air or water on Mars to support a single human life. For ages we have maintained the air and water supply at practically the same point without an appreciable loss, and we have done this in the face of the brutal and ignorant interference of your green men.
“Why, oh, why will you not learn to live in amity with your fellows, must you ever go on down the ages to your final extinction but little above the plane of the dumb brutes that serve you! A people without written language, without art, without homes, without love; the victim of eons of the horrible community idea. Owning everything in common, even to your women and children, has resulted in your owning nothing in common. You hate each other as you hate all else except yourselves. Come back to the ways of our common ancestors, come back to the light of kindliness and fellowship. The way is open to you, you will find the hands of the red men stretched out to aid you. Together we may do still more to regenerate our dying planet. The granddaughter of the greatest and mightiest of the red jeddaks has asked you. Will you come?”
Lorquas Ptomel and the warriors sat looking silently and intently at the young woman for several moments after she had ceased speaking. What was passing in their minds no man may know, but that they were moved I truly believe, and if one man high among them had been strong enough to rise above custom, that moment would have marked a new and mighty era for Mars.
I saw Tars Tarkas rise to speak, and on his face was such an expression as I had never seen upon the countenance of a green Martian warrior. It bespoke an inward and mighty battle with self, with heredity, with age-old custom, and as he opened his mouth to speak, a look almost of benignity, of kindliness, momentarily lighted up his fierce and terrible countenance.
What words of moment were to have fallen from his lips were never spoken, as just then a young warrior, evidently sensing the trend of thought among the older men, leaped down from the steps of the rostrum, and striking the frail captive a powerful blow across the face, which felled her to the floor, placed his foot upon her prostrate form and turning toward the assembled council broke into peals of horrid, mirthless laughter.
For an instant I thought Tars Tarkas would strike him dead, nor did the aspect of Lorquas Ptomel augur any too favorably for the brute, but the mood passed, their old selves reasserted their ascendency, and they smiled. It was portentous however that they did not laugh aloud, for the brute’s act constituted a side-splitting witticism according to the ethics which rule green Martian humor.
That I have taken moments to write down a part of what occurred as that blow fell does not signify that I remained inactive for any such length of time. I think I must have sensed something of what was coming, for I realize now that I was crouched as for a spring as I saw the blow aimed at her beautiful, upturned, pleading face, and ere the hand descended I was halfway across the hall.
Scarcely had his hideous laugh rang out but once, when I was upon him. The brute was twelve feet in height and armed to the teeth, but I believe that I could have accounted for the whole roomful in the terrific intensity of my rage. Springing upward, I struck him full in the face as he turned at my warning cry and then as he drew his short-sword I drew mine and sprang up again upon his breast, hooking one leg over the butt of his pistol and grasping one of his huge tusks with my left hand while I delivered blow after blow upon his enormous chest.
He could not use his short-sword to advantage because I was too close to him, nor could he draw his pistol, which he attempted to do in direct opposition to Martian custom which says that you may not fight a fellow warrior in private combat with any other than the weapon with which you are attacked. In fact he could do nothing but make a wild and futile attempt to dislodge me. With all his immense bulk he was little if any stronger than I, and it was but the matter of a moment or two before he sank, bleeding and lifeless, to the floor.
Carter’s status changes again – he is awarded the armor of the dead Thark he just killed, and the status of a Chieftain among the Tharks. Dejah Thoris is put under his protection with the condition that he not attempt to escape — and with the understanding that his final fate will be decided by Tal Hajus, the leader of all the Tharks, whom the group will journey to in the city of Thark. Tars Tarkus explains:
Until we reach the headquarters of Tal Hajus it is the will of Lorquas Ptomel that you be accorded the respect your acts have earned you. You will be treated by us as a Tharkian chieftain, but you must not forget that every chief who ranks you is responsible for your safe delivery to our mighty and most ferocious ruler. I am done.”
“I hear you, Tars Tarkas,” I answered. “As you know I am not of Barsoom; your ways are not my ways, and I can only act in the future as I have in the past, in accordance with the dictates of my conscience and guided by the standards of mine own people. If you will leave me alone I will go in peace, but if not, let the individual Barsoomians with whom I must deal either respect my rights as a stranger among you, or take whatever consequences may befall. Of one thing let us be sure, whatever may be your ultimate intentions toward this unfortunate young woman, whoever would offer her injury or insult in the future must figure on making a full accounting to me. I understand that you belittle all sentiments of generosity and kindliness, but I do not, and I can convince your most doughty warrior that these characteristics are not incompatible with an ability to fight.”
Ordinarily I am not given to long speeches, nor ever before had I descended to bombast, but I had guessed at the keynote which would strike an answering chord in the breasts of the green Martians, nor was I wrong, for my harangue evidently deeply impressed them, and their attitude toward me thereafter was still further respectful.
Tars Tarkas himself seemed pleased with my reply, but his only comment was more or less enigmatical—”And I think I know Tal Hajus, Jeddak of Thark.”
I now turned my attention to Dejah Thoris, and assisting her to her feet I turned with her toward the exit, ignoring her hovering guardian harpies as well as the inquiring glances of the chieftains. Was I not now a chieftain also! Well, then, I would assume the responsibilities of one. They did not molest us, and so Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and John Carter, gentleman of Virginia, followed by the faithful Woola, passed through utter silence from the audience chamber of Lorquas Ptomel, Jed among the Tharks of Barsoom.
Now a Chieftain, Carter establishes new quarters for his retinue of Sola and Dejah Thoris, with his own quarters nearby. There follows a “getting-to-know-you” period with Dejah Thoris, with Carter clearly smitten but not yet acknowledging it to himself, and with Dejah Thoris warily curious about Carter.
With Dejah Thoris, Carter examines the architecture and art of the chambers of the building they are occupying, and in a few short paragraphs Burroughs summarizes the main history of the human races of Barsoom — all inserted while the reader is charting the subtext of the emerging relationship between John Carter and Dejah Thoris:
Dejah Thoris and I then fell to examining the architecture and decorations of the beautiful chambers of the building we were occupying. She told me that these people had presumably flourished over a hundred thousand years before. They were the early progenitors of her race, but had mixed with the other great race of early Martians, who were very dark, almost black, and also with the reddish yellow race which had flourished at the same time.
These three great divisions of the higher Martians had been forced into a mighty alliance as the drying up of the Martian seas had compelled them to seek the comparatively few and always diminishing fertile areas, and to defend themselves, under new conditions of life, against the wild hordes of green men.
Ages of close relationship and intermarrying had resulted in the race of red men, of which Dejah Thoris was a fair and beautiful daughter. During the ages of hardships and incessant warring between their own various races, as well as with the green men, and before they had fitted themselves to the changed conditions, much of the high civilization and many of the arts of the fair-haired Martians had become lost; but the red race of today has reached a point where it feels that it has made up in new discoveries and in a more practical civilization for all that lies irretrievably buried with the ancient Barsoomians, beneath the countless intervening ages.
These ancient Martians had been a highly cultivated and literary race, but during the vicissitudes of those trying centuries of readjustment to new conditions, not only did their advancement and production cease entirely, but practically all their archives, records, and literature were lost.
Dejah Thoris related many interesting facts and legends concerning this lost race of noble and kindly people. She said that the city in which we were camping was supposed to have been a center of commerce and culture known as Thark. It had been built upon a beautiful, natural harbor, landlocked by magnificent hills. The little valley on the west front of the city, she explained, was all that remained of the harbor, while the pass through the hills to the old sea bottom had been the channel through which the shipping passed up to the city’s gates.
The shores of the ancient seas were dotted with just such cities, and lesser ones, in diminishing numbers, were to be found converging toward the center of the oceans, as the people had found it necessary to follow the receding waters until necessity had forced upon them their ultimate salvation, the so-called Martian canals.
Life among the Tharks resumes, and Carter intervenes in the training of the Thoats, who serve the purpose of cavalry animals. The Tharks customarily control the Thoats via vicious cuffs; Carter achieves success with “kindness”, which confounds Tars Tarkas and the Tharks. Carter explains:
You see, Tars Tarkas, the softer sentiments have their value, even to a warrior. In the height of battle as well as upon the march I know that my thoats will obey my every command, and therefore my fighting efficiency is enhanced, and I am a better warrior for the reason that I am a kind master. Your other warriors would find it to the advantage of themselves as well as of the community to adopt my methods in this respect. Only a few days since you, yourself, told me that these great brutes, by the uncertainty of their tempers, often were the means of turning victory into defeat, since, at a crucial moment, they might elect to unseat and rend their riders.
Next comes another major encounter between Carter and Dejah Thoris.
I liked and trusted Sola, but for some reason I desired to be alone with Dejah Thoris, who represented to me all that I had left behind upon Earth in agreeable and congenial companionship. There seemed bonds of mutual interest between us as powerful as though we had been born under the same roof rather than upon different planets, hurtling through space some forty-eight million miles apart.
That she shared my sentiments in this respect I was positive, for on my approach the look of pitiful hopelessness left her sweet countenance to be replaced by a smile of joyful welcome, as she placed her little right hand upon my left shoulder in true red Martian salute.
“Sarkoja told Sola that you had become a true Thark,” she said, “and that I would now see no more of you than of any of the other warriors.”
“Sarkoja is a liar of the first magnitude,” I replied, “notwithstanding the proud claim of the Tharks to absolute verity.”
Dejah Thoris laughed.
“I knew that even though you became a member of the community you would not cease to be my friend; ‘A warrior may change his metal, but not his heart,’ as the saying is upon Barsoom.”
“I think they have been trying to keep us apart,” she continued, “for whenever you have been off duty one of the older women of Tars Tarkas’ retinue has always arranged to trump up some excuse to get Sola and me out of sight. They have had me down in the pits below the buildings helping them mix their awful radium powder, and make their terrible projectiles. You know that these have to be manufactured by artificial light, as exposure to sunlight always results in an explosion. You have noticed that their bullets explode when they strike an object? Well, the opaque, outer coating is broken by the impact, exposing a glass cylinder, almost solid, in the forward end of which is a minute particle of radium powder.
The moment the sunlight, even though diffused, strikes this powder it explodes with a violence which nothing can withstand. If you ever witness a night battle you will note the absence of these explosions, while the morning following the battle will be filled at sunrise with the sharp detonations of exploding missiles fired the preceding night. As a rule, however, non-exploding projectiles are used at night.” [I have used the word radium in describing this powder because in the light of recent discoveries on Earth I believe it to be a mixture of which radium is the base. In Captain Carter’s manuscript it is mentioned always by the name used in the written language of Helium and is spelled in hieroglyphics which it would be difficult and useless to reproduce.]
While I was much interested in Dejah Thoris’ explanation of this wonderful adjunct to Martian warfare, I was more concerned by the immediate problem of their treatment of her. That they were keeping her away from me was not a matter for surprise, but that they should subject her to dangerous and arduous labor filled me with rage.
“Have they ever subjected you to cruelty and ignominy, Dejah Thoris?” I asked, feeling the hot blood of my fighting ancestors leap in my veins as I awaited her reply.
“Only in little ways, John Carter,” she answered. “Nothing that can harm me outside my pride. They know that I am the daughter of ten thousand jeddaks, that I trace my ancestry straight back without a break to the builder of the first great waterway, and they, who do not even know their own mothers, are jealous of me. At heart they hate their horrid fates, and so wreak their poor spite on me who stand for everything they have not, and for all they most crave and never can attain. Let us pity them, my chieftain, for even though we die at their hands we can afford them pity, since we are greater than they and they know it.”
Had I known the significance of those words “my chieftain,” as applied by a red Martian woman to a man, I should have had the surprise of my life, but I did not know at that time, nor for many months thereafter. Yes, I still had much to learn upon Barsoom.
“I presume it is the better part of wisdom that we bow to our fate with as good grace as possible, Dejah Thoris; but I hope, nevertheless, that I may be present the next time that any Martian, green, red, pink, or violet, has the temerity to even so much as frown on you, my princess.”
Dejah Thoris caught her breath at my last words, and gazed upon me with dilated eyes and quickening breath, and then, with an odd little laugh, which brought roguish dimples to the corners of her mouth, she shook her head and cried:
“What a child! A great warrior and yet a stumbling little child.”
“What have I done now?” I asked, in sore perplexity.
“Some day you shall know, John Carter, if we live; but I may not tell you. And I, the daughter of Mors Kajak, son of Tardos Mors, have listened without anger,” she soliloquized in conclusion.
Then she broke out again into one of her gay, happy, laughing moods; joking with me on my prowess as a Thark warrior as contrasted with my soft heart and natural kindliness.
“I presume that should you accidentally wound an enemy you would take him home and nurse him back to health,” she laughed.
“That is precisely what we do on Earth,” I answered. “At least among civilized men.”
This made her laugh again. She could not understand it, for, with all her tenderness and womanly sweetness, she was still a Martian, and to a Martian the only good enemy is a dead enemy; for every dead foeman means so much more to divide between those who live.
I was very curious to know what I had said or done to cause her so much perturbation a moment before and so I continued to importune her to enlighten me.
“No,” she exclaimed, “it is enough that you have said it and that I have listened. And when you learn, John Carter, and if I be dead, as likely I shall be ere the further moon has circled Barsoom another twelve times, remember that I listened and that I—smiled.”
It was all Greek to me, but the more I begged her to explain the more positive became her denials of my request, and, so, in very hopelessness, I desisted.
Day had now given away to night and as we wandered along the great avenue lighted by the two moons of Barsoom, and with Earth looking down upon us out of her luminous green eye, it seemed that we were alone in the universe, and I, at least, was content that it should be so.
The chill of the Martian night was upon us, and removing my silks I threw them across the shoulders of Dejah Thoris. As my arm rested for an instant upon her I felt a thrill pass through every fiber of my being such as contact with no other mortal had even produced; and it seemed to me that she had leaned slightly toward me, but of that I was not sure. Only I knew that as my arm rested there across her shoulders longer than the act of adjusting the silk required she did not draw away, nor did she speak. And so, in silence, we walked the surface of a dying world, but in the breast of one of us at least had been born that which is ever oldest, yet ever new.
I loved Dejah Thoris. The touch of my arm upon her naked shoulder had spoken to me in words I would not mistake, and I knew that I had loved her since the first moment that my eyes had met hers that first time in the plaza of the dead city of Thark.
Moments later, however, Carter blunders by asking Dejah Thoris too many personal questions:
She was silent, nor could I venture to repeat the question.
“The man of Barsoom,” she finally ventured, “does not ask personal questions of women, except his mother, and the woman he has fought for and won.”
“But I have fought—” I started, and then I wished my tongue had been cut from my mouth; for she turned even as I caught myself and ceased, and drawing my silks from her shoulder she held them out to me, and without a word, and with head held high, she moved with the carriage of the queen she was toward the plaza and the doorway of her quarters.
I did not attempt to follow her, other than to see that she reached the building in safety, but, directing Woola to accompany her, I turned disconsolately and entered my own house. I sat for hours cross-legged, and cross-tempered, upon my silks meditating upon the queer freaks chance plays upon us poor devils of mortals.
So this was love! I had escaped it for all the years I had roamed the five continents and their encircling seas; in spite of beautiful women and urging opportunity; in spite of a half-desire for love and a constant search for my ideal, it had remained for me to fall furiously and hopelessly in love with a creature from another world, of a species similar possibly, yet not identical with mine. A woman who was hatched from an egg, and whose span of life might cover a thousand years; whose people had strange customs and ideas; a woman whose hopes, whose pleasures, whose standards of virtue and of right and wrong might vary as greatly from mine as did those of the green Martians.
Yes, I was a fool, but I was in love, and though I was suffering the greatest misery I had ever known I would not have had it otherwise for all the riches of Barsoom. Such is love, and such are lovers wherever love is known.
To me, Dejah Thoris was all that was perfect; all that was virtuous and beautiful and noble and good. I believed that from the bottom of my heart, from the depth of my soul on that night in Thark as I sat cross-legged upon my silks while the nearer moon of Barsoom raced through the western sky toward the horizon, and lighted up the gold and marble, and jeweled mosaics of my world-old chamber, and I believe it today as I sit at my desk in the little study overlooking the Hudson. Twenty years have intervened; for ten of them I lived and fought for Dejah Thoris and her people, and for ten I have lived upon her memory.
With the departure of the Tharks for Thark imminent, Carter attempts to make amends with Dejah Thoris but she will have none of it. He ends up seeking counsel from Sola:
Dejah Thoris would have none of me again on this evening, and though I spoke her name she neither replied, nor conceded by so much as the flutter of an eyelid that she realized my existence. In my extremity I did what most other lovers would have done; I sought word from her through an intimate. In this instance it was Sola whom I intercepted in another part of camp.
“What is the matter with Dejah Thoris?” I blurted out at her. “Why will she not speak to me?”
Sola seemed puzzled herself, as though such strange actions on the part of two humans were quite beyond her, as indeed they were, poor child.
“She says you have angered her, and that is all she will say, except that she is the daughter of a jed and the granddaughter of a jeddak and she has been humiliated by a creature who could not polish the teeth of her grandmother’s sorak.”
I pondered over this report for some time, finally asking, “What might a sorak be, Sola?”
“A little animal about as big as my hand, which the red Martian women keep to play with,” explained Sola.
Not fit to polish the teeth of her grandmother’s cat! I must rank pretty low in the consideration of Dejah Thoris, I thought; but I could not help laughing at the strange figure of speech, so homely and in this respect so earthly. It made me homesick, for it sounded very much like “not fit to polish her shoes.” And then commenced a train of thought quite new to me. I began to wonder what my people at home were doing. I had not seen them for years. There was a family of Carters in Virginia who claimed close relationship with me; I was supposed to be a great uncle, or something of the kind equally foolish. I could pass anywhere for twenty-five to thirty years of age, and to be a great uncle always seemed the height of incongruity, for my thoughts and feelings were those of a boy. There was two little kiddies in the Carter family whom I had loved and who had thought there was no one on Earth like Uncle Jack; I could see them just as plainly, as I stood there under the moonlit skies of Barsoom, and I longed for them as I had never longed for any mortals before. By nature a wanderer, I had never known the true meaning of the word home, but the great hall of the Carters had always stood for all that the word did mean to me, and now my heart turned toward it from the cold and unfriendly peoples I had been thrown amongst. For did not even Dejah Thoris despise me! I was a low creature, so low in fact that I was not even fit to polish the teeth of her grandmother’s cat; and then my saving sense of humor came to my rescue, and laughing I turned into my silks and furs and slept upon the moon-haunted ground the sleep of a tired and healthy fighting man.
On the road to Thark, a Thark warrior, Zad, who has been spoiling for a fight with John Carter, approaches Carter and without a word strikes Carter’s thoat a terrific blow with this long-sword.
I did not need a manual of green Martian etiquette to know what reply to make, for, in fact, I was so wild with anger that I could scarcely refrain from drawing my pistol and shooting him down for the brute he was; but he stood waiting with drawn long-sword, and my only choice was to draw my own and meet him in fair fight with his choice of weapons or a lesser one.
This latter alternative is always permissible, therefore I could have used my short-sword, my dagger, my hatchet, or my fists had I wished, and been entirely within my rights, but I could not use firearms or a spear while he held only his long-sword.
I chose the same weapon he had drawn because I knew he prided himself upon his ability with it, and I wished, if I worsted him at all, to do it with his own weapon. The fight that followed was a long one and delayed the resumption of the march for an hour. The entire community surrounded us, leaving a clear space about one hundred feet in diameter for our battle.
Zad first attempted to rush me down as a bull might a wolf, but I was much too quick for him, and each time I side-stepped his rushes he would go lunging past me, only to receive a nick from my sword upon his arm or back. He was soon streaming blood from a half dozen minor wounds, but I could not obtain an opening to deliver an effective thrust. Then he changed his tactics, and fighting warily and with extreme dexterity, he tried to do by science what he was unable to do by brute strength. I must admit that he was a magnificent swordsman, and had it not been for my greater endurance and the remarkable agility the lesser gravitation of Mars lent me I might not have been able to put up the creditable fight I did against him.
We circled for some time without doing much damage on either side; the long, straight, needle-like swords flashing in the sunlight, and ringing out upon the stillness as they crashed together with each effective parry. Finally Zad, realizing that he was tiring more than I, evidently decided to close in and end the battle in a final blaze of glory for himself; just as he rushed me a blinding flash of light struck full in my eyes, so that I could not see his approach and could only leap blindly to one side in an effort to escape the mighty blade that it seemed I could already feel in my vitals. I was only partially successful, as a sharp pain in my left shoulder attested, but in the sweep of my glance as I sought to again locate my adversary, a sight met my astonished gaze which paid me well for the wound the temporary blindness had caused me. There, upon Dejah Thoris’ chariot stood three figures, for the purpose evidently of witnessing the encounter above the heads of the intervening Tharks. There were Dejah Thoris, Sola, and Sarkoja, and as my fleeting glance swept over them a little tableau was presented which will stand graven in my memory to the day of my death.
As I looked, Dejah Thoris turned upon Sarkoja with the fury of a young tigress and struck something from her upraised hand; something which flashed in the sunlight as it spun to the ground. Then I knew what had blinded me at that crucial moment of the fight, and how Sarkoja had found a way to kill me without herself delivering the final thrust. Another thing I saw, too, which almost lost my life for me then and there, for it took my mind for the fraction of an instant entirely from my antagonist; for, as Dejah Thoris struck the tiny mirror from her hand, Sarkoja, her face livid with hatred and baffled rage, whipped out her dagger and aimed a terrific blow at Dejah Thoris; and then Sola, our dear and faithful Sola, sprang between them; the last I saw was the great knife descending upon her shielding breast.
My enemy had recovered from his thrust and was making it extremely interesting for me, so I reluctantly gave my attention to the work in hand, but my mind was not upon the battle.
We rushed each other furiously time after time, ’til suddenly, feeling the sharp point of his sword at my breast in a thrust I could neither parry nor escape, I threw myself upon him with outstretched sword and with all the weight of my body, determined that I would not die alone if I could prevent it. I felt the steel tear into my chest, all went black before me, my head whirled in dizziness, and I felt my knees giving beneath me.
When consciousness returns, Carter is with Sola, who informs him that Zad is dead, while Carter has sustained only flesh wounds. Sola tells Carter her own remarkable story, that ends with the revelation that in a culture where no child knows their real parents — Sola knows that her father is Tars Tarkas.
The caravan makes it to the city of Thark, with Carter having no contact with Dejah Thoris. In Thark, he approaches her:
“Dejah Thoris, I do not know how I have angered you. It was furtherest from my desire to hurt or offend you, whom I had hoped to protect and comfort. Have none of me if it is your will, but that you must aid me in effecting your escape, if such a thing be possible, is not my request, but my command. When you are safe once more at your father’s court you may do with me as you please, but from now on until that day I am your master, and you must obey and aid me.”
She looked at me long and earnestly and I thought that she was softening toward me.
“I understand your words, Dotar Sojat,” she replied, “but you I do not understand. You are a queer mixture of child and man, of brute and noble. I only wish that I might read your heart.”
“Look down at your feet, Dejah Thoris; it lies there now where it has lain since that other night at Korad, and where it will ever lie beating alone for you until death stills it forever.”
She took a little step toward me, her beautiful hands outstretched in a strange, groping gesture.
“What do you mean, John Carter?” she whispered. “What are you saying to me?”
“I am saying what I had promised myself that I would not say to you, at least until you were no longer a captive among the green men; what from your attitude toward me for the past twenty days I had thought never to say to you; I am saying, Dejah Thoris, that I am yours, body and soul, to serve you, to fight for you, and to die for you. Only one thing I ask of you in return, and that is that you make no sign, either of condemnation or of approbation of my words until you are safe among your own people, and that whatever sentiments you harbor toward me they be not influenced or colored by gratitude; whatever I may do to serve you will be prompted solely from selfish motives, since it gives me more pleasure to serve you than not.”
“I will respect your wishes, John Carter, because I understand the motives which prompt them, and I accept your service no more willingly than I bow to your authority; your word shall be my law. I have twice wronged you in my thoughts and again I ask your forgiveness.”
Note: the foregoing is an 8,000 word condensed version of the first 50,000 words of the 68,000 word story. It is intended to provide the reader with a feel for the story, Burroughs’ style, and the main characters without delivering “spoilers”. For readers who wish to read a brief summary of the remainder of the book, please visit the following URL: