“Then my old-time spirit reasserted itself. The fighting blood of my Virginian sires coursed hot through my veins. The fierce blood lust and the joy of battle surged over me. The fighting smile that has brought consternation to a thousand foemen touched my lips. I put the thought of death out of my mind, and fell upon my antagonists with fury that those who escaped will remember to their dying day.”
One of the charming and memorable aspects of the Edgar Rice Burroughs “John Carter of Mars” series was the courage and confidence with which John Carter faced whatever challenges or obstacles ERB placed in front of him. Wearing that “faint fighting smile”, John Carter was up to the task — he might be dealt a temporary setback, but as a reader you knew that he had the courage and character to fight to the end, and the skill to prevail.
Yesterday’s news that the John Carter promotional campaign has much, much heavy lifting to do in order for the film to be given a successful launch on March 9 was indeed a bit disheartening for those of us cheering the picture, and Disney, on to a successful finish. But … “We still live!” — and it ain’t over til it’s over. I will be writing more over the weekend about the path to success for John Carter but in the meantime, as a little bit of inspiration in a difficult moment — what better than to read a passage from ERB that captures the spirit of the ERB Mars series, and the character of John Carter.
From Gods of Mars, Chapter 6
At the same moment a girl’s shriek rang out behind me and an instant later, as the blacks fell upon me. I heard far above my head, and faintly, in Thuvia’s voice: “My Prince, O my Prince; I would rather remain and die with—” But the rest was lost in the noise of my assailants.
I knew though that my ruse had worked and that temporarily at least Thuvia and Tars Tarkas were safe, and the means of escape was theirs.
For a moment it seemed that I could not withstand the weight of numbers that confronted me, but again, as on so many other occasions when I had been called upon to face fearful odds upon this planet of warriors and fierce beasts, I found that my earthly strength so far transcended that of my opponents that the odds were not so greatly against me as they appeared.
My seething blade wove a net of death about me. For an instant the blacks pressed close to reach me with their shorter swords, but presently they gave back, and the esteem in which they suddenly had learned to hold my sword arm was writ large upon each countenance.
I knew though that it was but a question of minutes before their greater numbers would wear me down, or get around my guard. I must go down eventually to certain death before them. I shuddered at the thought of it, dying thus in this terrible place where no word of my end ever could reach my Dejah Thoris. Dying at the hands of nameless black men in the gardens of the cruel therns.
Then my old-time spirit reasserted itself. The fighting blood of my Virginian sires coursed hot through my veins. The fierce blood lust and the joy of battle surged over me. The fighting smile that has brought consternation to a thousand foemen touched my lips. I put the thought of death out of my mind, and fell upon my antagonists with fury that those who escaped will remember to their dying day.
That others would press to the support of those who faced me I knew, so even as I fought I kept my wits at work, searching for an avenue of escape.
It came from an unexpected quarter out of the black night behind me. I had just disarmed a huge fellow who had given me a desperate struggle, and for a moment the blacks stood back for a breathing spell.
They eyed me with malignant fury, yet withal there was a touch of respect in their demeanour.
“Thern,” said one, “you fight like a Dator. But for your detestable yellow hair and your white skin you would be an honour to the First Born of Barsoom.”
“I am no thern,” I said, and was about to explain that I was from another world, thinking that by patching a truce with these fellows and fighting with them against the therns I might enlist their aid in regaining my liberty. But just at that moment a heavy object smote me a resounding whack between my shoulders that nearly felled me to the ground.
As I turned to meet this new enemy an object passed over my shoulder, striking one of my assailants squarely in the face and knocking him senseless to the sward. At the same instant I saw that the thing that had struck us was the trailing anchor of a rather fair-sized air vessel; possibly a ten man cruiser.
The ship was floating slowly above us, not more than fifty feet over our heads. Instantly the one chance for escape that it offered presented itself to me. The vessel was slowly rising and now the anchor was beyond the blacks who faced me and several feet above their heads.
With a bound that left them gaping in wide-eyed astonishment I sprang completely over them. A second leap carried me just high enough to grasp the now rapidly receding anchor.
But I was successful, and there I hung by one hand, dragging through the branches of the higher vegetation of the gardens, while my late foemen shrieked and howled beneath me.
Presently the vessel veered toward the west and then swung gracefully to the south. In another instant I was carried beyond the crest of the Golden Cliffs, out over the Valley Dor, where, six thousand feet below me, the Lost Sea of Korus lay shimmering in the moonlight.
Carefully I climbed to a sitting posture across the anchor’s arms. I wondered if by chance the vessel might be deserted. I hoped so. Or possibly it might belong to a friendly people, and have wandered by accident almost within the clutches of the pirates and the therns. The fact that it was retreating from the scene of battle lent colour to this hypothesis.
But I decided to know positively, and at once, so, with the greatest caution, I commenced to climb slowly up the anchor chain toward the deck above me.
One hand had just reached for the vessel’s rail and found it when a fierce black face was thrust over the side and eyes filled with triumphant hate looked into mine.
Ain’t that grand?
Yeah, I know it ends with a cliffhanger but that’ just how it is!
Onward, John Carter.