An Interesting Take on Tars Tarkas

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Over at, the artist who goes by the moniker “MonsterCaesar” has put up an interesting take on Tars Tarkas. Quite different from what we’ve gotten used to seeing, but it seems close in some ways to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ description.

As a reminder, here are the passages in A Princess of Mars where Burroughs describes the Tharks. (And thanks to Khanada Taylor for pointing this one out to me.)

He begins by describing the hatchlings:

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.

Next he describes Tars Tarkas, who has attacked him while mounted on a thoat:

The man himself, for such I may call him, was fully fifteen feet in height and, on Earth,
would have weighed some four hundred pounds. He sat his mount as we
sit a horse, grasping the animal’s barrel with his lower limbs, while
the hands of his two right arms held his immense spear low at the side
of his mount; his two left arms were outstretched laterally to help
preserve his balance, the thing he rode having neither bridle or reins
of any description for guidance.


While the Martians are immense, their bones are very large and they are
muscled only in proportion to the gravitation which they must overcome.
The result is that they are infinitely less agile and less powerful, in
proportion to their weight, than an Earth man, and I doubt that were
one of them suddenly to be transported to Earth he could lift his own
weight from the ground; in fact, I am convinced that he could not do so.

And finally:

He was the one whose spear had so nearly transfixed me, and was
evidently the leader of the band, as I had noted that they seemed to
have moved to their present position at his direction. When his force
had come to a halt he dismounted, threw down his spear and small arms,
and came around the end of the incubator toward me, entirely unarmed
and as naked as I, except for the ornaments strapped upon his head,
limbs, and breast.

When he was within about fifty feet of me he unclasped an enormous
metal armlet, and holding it toward me in the open palm of his hand,
addressed me in a clear, resonant voice, but in a language, it is
needless to say, I could not understand. He then stopped as though
waiting for my reply, pricking up his antennae-like ears and cocking
his strange-looking eyes still further toward me.

As the silence became painful I concluded to hazard a little
conversation on my own part, as I had guessed that he was making
overtures of peace. The throwing down of his weapons and the
withdrawing of his troop before his advance toward me would have
signified a peaceful mission anywhere on Earth, so why not, then, on

Placing my hand over my heart I bowed low to the Martian and explained
to him that while I did not understand his language, his actions spoke
for the peace and friendship that at the present moment were most dear
to my heart. Of course I might have been a babbling brook for all the
intelligence my speech carried to him, but he understood the action
with which I immediately followed my words.

Stretching my hand toward him, I advanced and took the armlet from his
open palm, clasping it about my arm above the elbow; smiled at him and
stood waiting. His wide mouth spread into an answering smile, and
locking one of his intermediary arms in mine we turned and walked back
toward his mount. At the same time he motioned his followers to
advance. They started toward us on a wild run, but were checked by a
signal from him. Evidently he feared that were I to be really
frightened again I might jump entirely out of the landscape.

He exchanged a few words with his men, motioned to me that I would ride
behind one of them, and then mounted his own animal. The fellow
designated reached down two or three hands and lifted me up behind him
on the glossy back of his mount, where I hung on as best I could by the
belts and straps which held the Martian’s weapons and ornaments.

And just for reference, in case you would like to explore other takes on Tars Tarkas, here is what came up when I just did a search on “Tars Tarkas”.

Here is the link to explore these images.

I’d be interested in seeing links to other people’s favorite Tars…..


  • Virtually no one who illustrates Martian Green Men appear to have read or perhaps I should say “read and digested” what John Carter actually describes in his first meeting with them. The green men are EXTREMELY THIN – fifteen feet tall and weighing no more than 400 lbs (if they were on Earth). Most depictions of the green men are of creatures proportioned like human body builders that would be enormously heavy. Remember, double the size of an object and the weight is cubed – twice as tall, twice as wide, twice as thick. A six foot, muscular 250 lb human scaled to 15 feet tall would weigh (250lbs X 2.5 tall X 2.5 thick X 2.5 wide) just over 3,900 lbs, nearly 10 times the 400 lbs described by our eye witness – “..they are infinitely less agile and less powerful, in
    proportion to their weight, than an Earth man, and I doubt that were
    one of them suddenly to be transported to Earth he could lift his own
    weight from the ground”. Picture a preying mantis or a walking stick insect, moving slowly as Ents, as if under water, rather than the two ton behemoths usually portrayed. Professional illustrator Mike Whelen in his Del Rey/Ballantine paperback covers for Burroughs’ Martian series, while still making them far too bulky, is the only artist I’m aware of that has made any effort to show us tall skinny Martians.

  • It seems to me no better nor worse than many other representations. Missing are the eyes on the sides of the head (this one would probably be unable to see being without turning his head), and the tusks should be raised at eyes level. There’s this tendency to humanize Tharks that I never really agreed with!

    Other than nitpicks, it’s great work. He looks indeed as fierce as I imagine a Thark should be.

    The funny thing is: I always wondered if ERB himself remembered that Tars Tarkas could look behind him without turning his head. It would have been useful when he and John Carter were assaulted from behind by banths coming from hidden entrances, in Gods of Mars! Tars should have been the one who discovers the trick, not John.

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