of the Inner Mars
Shaping of Mars, Exterior
Shaping of Mars, Interior
there be Darkness
of the Underworld
of the Interior
Races of the Underworld
For a Project
In Burroughs Universe, we discover
two hollow worlds, Earth's Pellucidar and the Moon's Vah Nah.
Now, here's the problem. One is acceptable. One is a
freak, a fluke, a long shot, a once in a million event.
Two? That's hard to call it a fluke. Two is a one
in a million event squared, and two in a row is one in a million event
We could accept Pellucidar, and
just put it down to Earth being unique in the Universe. On
the other hand, if the very next large body/small planet we come to also
possesses this inner world, then we have to wonder just how unique it is.
If we surveyed a handful of planets and found two out of ten were hollow,
we could claim that chances of hollow worlds were 20%. On the
other hand, if chances of hollow worlds are 20%, then odds are five to
one that the next world Earth comes to, the moon, is solid.
Two for two means 100%. This suggests that at the very least,
hollow worlds are probably extremely common, and perhaps the rule in Burroughs
So what does this mean?
It means that there is a very good
chance, verging on certainty, that the other worlds in the inner Solar
System, Mars, Venus and even Mercury, the small rocky worlds,
are hollow worlds.
The gas giants of the outer solar
system are almost certainly not hollow. Their composition is
simply immense balls of gas wrapped around small cores. Pluto
and the giant satellites of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune may also be hollow.
Burroughs, of course, never suggests
that Barsoom or Amtor possess their own inner Pellucidars. So I'll
freely admit that I'm working without a net here. I'm making suggestions
and jumping to conclusions that the master quite possibly never contemplated.
So, if you're a purist, you can stop reading now.
On the other hand, I am, in going
through this exercise, merely taking Burroughs various ideas, and applying
them. He was the man who created Pellucidar. And
then, having created Pellucidar, he was the man who chose to create Vah-nah,
the Moon's inner world. He let the cat out of the bag.
I'm just following his lead and
adding a few sprinkles of modern physics and cosmology to make it interest.
So, if you dare, join me on a journey beneath Barsoom....
of the Inner Mars
Assuming Barsoom is a hollow world,
like Earth and the Moon, what would that interior be like?
For a start, let's consider comparative
dimensions. Earth's diameter is about 8000 miles, its surface
area is about 200 million square miles, of which about 50 million square
miles is land. The distance between Earth's surface and Pellucidar
is roughly 500 to 800 miles, therefore, the surface area of Pellucidar
is approximately 150 to 130 million square miles. It is not clear
how much of this is land and sea, but assuming a rough reversal of surface
terms, if the seas constitute 30 to 50% of the total surface area, then
Pellucidar's land area is somewhere between 100 and 65 million square miles,
significantly more than the surface land area.
The Moon's diameter is only 2000
miles, and its surface area is therefore roughly 16 million square miles,
or roughly the same as Asia. The distance between the Moon's
outer and inner surface is estimated at approximately 250 miles, though
likely greater. The Moon's inner surface area is about seven
or eight million square miles, roughly the size of the North American continent.
The Moon's interior, Vah Nah has three oceans, whose size we do not know.
Assuming that the oceans are between 30 and 70% of the inner surface, that
leaves anywhere from 2.4 to 5.6 million square miles surface area.
Basically, a small to middling sized Earth continent.
Mars diameter is 4200 miles, the
surface area is 55 million square miles. But because Mars has lost
its oceans, the land area of Mars is actually greater than the land area
of Earth. The Earth's ‘inner world’ is 800 to 500 miles below the
outer one, the moon's is 250. Based on this we assume that Mars core
between the inner and outer surfaces is 400 miles thick. This
gives an inner world diameter of 3400, and an interior surface area of
36 million square miles, which is a bit better than Asia, Europe Africa
and Australia combined. That's fairly respectable.
So, we have the dimensions of our
inner world. Working from Pellucidar and Vah-Nah, what else
can we determine?
With Pellucidar, there are permanent
entrances to the inner world at Earth's poles. Further, Earth
has an active geography with moving tectonic plates on the inner and outer
worlds. The tectonic plates rest on a terrestrial mantle, which
are the underlying rock, under such heat and pressure that they act like
slow liquids, allowing the continents to literally float and drift on top.
Based on this, the indirect evidence
seems to suggest that ‘holes’ or ‘whirlpools’ open up between inner and
outer worlds allowing contact and allowing various kinds of surface life
to move into the underworld. When I say whirlpools, I would
caution the reader not to think of them as the fast moving terrestrial
whirlpools, but rather a process working on geologic time frames, taking
thousands or even millions of years to open and close. While
in one, there wouldn't be any real sense that the area is moving, instead
you'd merely experience Earthquakes more often. The distance would
be so great, and the curvature so slight that a person might walk from
the outer to the inner world without ever really realizing it (barring
a foreshortened horizon, unreliable compasses and strange phenomena in
the sky like two suns, stars being in the wrong place and the day becoming
variably long). On the surface, these whirlpools have
created pockets of Pellucidar life, such as Burroughs' Pal-ul-don and Caprona,
King Kong's Skull Island and Doyle's Lost World in South America.
These whirlpools may also be responsible for strange areas like the Bermuda
The Moon also formed these whirlpools,
but because the moon was a much smaller body than Earth, it cooled faster
and became geologically dead. It would cool fastest around the whirlpools,
so they tended to freeze in place. Thus the Moon's surface is dotted
with ‘Hoos’ (permanent large openings) to the inner world.
Mars or Barsoom probably occupies
a middle space between Earth which remains geologically hot and active
to this day, and the Moon which cooled off and froze in place aeons ago.
Mars lacks active plate tectonics and it surface has been stable for a
very long time, but is still large enough to retain sufficient internal
heat to support immense volcanoes.
Like both Earth and the Moon, Barsoom
probably had a period when whirlpools or holes periodically opened between
the inner and outer worlds. However, unlike the Moon, Mars
was large enough and sustained enough heat that these holes would not freeze
open. The geological processes that had enough energy to open them,
would have enough energy to close them. However, Mars has cooled
since that period, and the age of Hoos opening and closing is long past.
It seems clear that Mars has no
known remaining holes to the underworld left on its surface.
Through Burroughs Barsoom series, most of the planet has been explored.
In particular, it is clear that there are no polar openings, since John
Carter has explored and fought his way through both regions.
There may have been polar openings, but if there are, then the north pole
entrance has been sealed by ice, and the south pole entrance is blocked
by the buried sea, Omean.
Meanwhile, John Carter and his relatives
and allies have never found either an entrance or even active hints of
Indeed, it would seem that if there
had been an accessible entry to the underworld, then it would have been
a refuge for the fleeing populations during the collapse of the Martian
civilization in the great drought. In which case, it might
have become a mecca for refugees and very well known in lore and myth.
There is no evidence of that. Of course, Barsoom contains many
forgotten corners and lost cities and races, so it is possible that in
some inaccessible area, there may be a relic Hoos, and a lost colony of
surface Barsoomians on the inner world.
On the Moon, the Hoos seem to be
surrounded by high craters or mountain rings, at least on the outer surface.
There may or may not be similar structures on the inner world.
On Earth, Hoos remnants like Doyle's lost world or Burroughs Caprona and
Pal Ul Don are often surrounded by barrier cliffs and mountains, cutting
them off from the outside world. A similar phenomena is likely on
the inside, and it is likely that the slow geological vortex that creates
a Hoos also distorts the surrounding territory, creating barrier rings.
So even if there was a remaining
Hoos on Barsoom it would likely be surrounded by impenetrable mountains,
cliffs and treacherous air currents on both sides. Surface
refugees might find it extremely difficult to get into, and extremely difficult
to penetrate very far into the underworld.
Apart from that, there are likely
networks of caverns and volcanic tubes and tunnels that connect inner and
outer worlds, though the passages would necessarily be long and difficult.
The most likely sites for such passages on the surface of Barsoom would
be the Artolian Hills, the Toonolian Marshes, the Valley Dor and the Carrion
Shaping of Mars, Exterior
So, what does the inside look like?
Well, the outer surface of Mars
was shaped by two gigantic asteroid impacts billions of years ago.
The first one, in the southern hemisphere created the gigantic Argyre Basin,
a vast depression a million square miles in extent, the debris from that
impact was kicked up into the upper atmosphere, falling in a surrounding
ring, coating the southern hemisphere and creating a layer of rock and
debris over the south polar cap. Because of orbital rotation, comparatively
little debris crossed into the northern hemisphere. The impact
also produced rings of mountains and hills around the impact site.
The shock wave was so powerful that it traveled all the way around the
planet and caused volcanoes to develop in the Elysium area.
Then, sometime after that, an even
bigger asteroid hit the southern hemisphere and created the Hellas basin,
a continent sized depression and the deepest region on Mars.
Like Argyre the impact distorted the surrounding geography producing rings
of mountains and hills and pushing up highlands all around the impact site.
The shock wave raced around the planet, concentrating on the opposite side
and resulting in explosive volcanic activity, creating Olympus Mons and
several other great volcanoes. This volcanic region became known
as the Tharsis bulge, the highest elevation area on the planet.
The stress of impact, and the distortion of the Tharsis bulge also tore
the crust of the planet open, producing the gigantic 3000 mile canyon system
known as Valles Marinis. The impact kicked up billions
of tons of rock into the upper atmosphere. Again, because of
rotation, most of this material was confined to the southern hemisphere
when it fell back. Some of it fell across Argyre, partially
burying it and making it shallower and more fertile than it was originally.
Again, because of the planet's rotation, a great deal of it tended to be
swept to the south pole, where it covered the already thick layer of debris
from the Argyre impact. The Argyre debris, under the weight
and heat of the new, even heavier layer of Hellas debris, was hardened
into a solid rock layer, pressing down on the now buried ice cap.
Meanwhile, the highlands raised
by the impacts in the southern hemisphere, distorted the northern hemisphere
producing lowlands, an effect that was exaggerated by the vast debris layer
that coated the south.
The result of these impacts was
modern Mars and ancient Barsoom. Water filled the northern
basins, resulting in a polar ocean and three of Barsoom's five seas.
The Hellas and Argyre basins became the other two seas, and in particular,
Argyre became the lost sea of Korus. The Elysium volcano became
Gathol. The volcanoes of the Tharsis bulge became the snow
capped Artolian hills and Valles Marinis became the source of the Toonolian
Marshes. The small south polar ice cap, buried beneath two
layers of debris, melted under heat and pressure and became the buried
sea of Omean.
Shaping of Mars, Interior
So much for the surface.
What happened to the underworld?
Well, first, neither impact actually
managed to break on through to the underworld. If that had
happened, Barsoom would likely have shattered into asteroids.
Barsoom's shell is 400 miles thick, and even the Hellas impact only penetrated
five or six miles.
On the surface, these impacts were
probably like super-hydrogen bombs with sterilizing bursts of heat and
light, shock waves that pulped everything in the atmosphere and billions
and billions of tons of rock, debris and dust scattered.
If there was any life on the surface of Mars when these impacts hit, it
was gone, nothing more complex than bacteria could have survived, and even
bacteria would have been lucky.
On the inner world a lot of this
shock would have been muffled. The sheer magnitude of
the blast would have been shielded.
But still, these blasts were immense
on the surface. The shockwave would have travelled straight
through to the other side of the shell. Directly underneath
Argyre and Korus, the underworld surface crust would have literally exploded
outward, flinging millions of tons of boulders and rock like shotgun blasts
all over the underworld.
While only a fraction of the debris
raised by the surface impacts, these blasts would still have scattered
a debris layer over the inner surface. Unlike the outer surface
the debris layer would tend to scatter over the whole of the interior.
Also, unlike the outer debris, which originally blew up away from the planet
into the upper atmosphere before falling, the inner debris would be blown
towards the inner curves of the surface, their initial blast energy adding
to gravity to increase the impact..
The result is that the inner world
is peppered with a vast number of impact craters, and many of the larger
craters are actually unusually deep pits with steep edges and impact rings.
On top of that, there are giant boulders, ridges, and debris piles and
formations dotting the inner surface. The bottom line is rough
Centrifugal processes would have
left debris concentrating or drafting into thicker layers at the poles.
Mars, being a smaller world, would likely have smaller polar openings,
and it is possible that these polar openings simply glaciated or froze
over. If that was the case, then the small south polar cap,
which was to become Omean, would be sealed by debris from the inside as
well as the outside, closing it off forever. The north polar
cap would have received a layer of debris as well, but likely not as much.
The outer surface of the polar cap would not have been covered by debris,
so it would be a more active or live glacial cap. In such a
case, the glacial processes might have swept the inner surface of the glacier
cap clean, so that the north polar opening remains merely glacier covered.
Both the Argyre and Hellas impacts
would have produced extensive volcanism under their basins. Their
impacts would have disrupted the crusts of the inner world, exposing magma
and triggering runaway volcanism. These immense volcanic zones
remain live to this day, with continually burning mountains, rivers of
lava, and lands of fire.
Meanwhile, the shockwaves of the
impacts raced around the world, concentrating on the opposite sides of
the planet. On the surface, this produced two volcanic areas.
On the underworld, the impact was not further volcanoes, or at least, that's
less interesting (we've already got our volcanic areas).
We have the example of the Moon
and Mercury, both of which received immense asteroid impacts (though nothing
quite on the comparative scale of Hellas). In those impacts,
the shockwave traveled all the way through the planet, concentrating on
the opposite sides. The results were not volcanoes, as on Mars, but
rather, ‘strange territory’ distorted, shocked, jumbled.
Strange territory is probably what
we get on the inner world of Barsoom. Thus, on the opposite
sides of the planet from the two impacts, the inner world produces two,
or possibly a single vast jumbled badlands of ridges, cliffs, chasms, valleys
and strange twisting rock formations making a nightmarish landscape.
Finally, lets finish it off with
a mirrored feature. A great chasm complex on the inner surface
mirroring the path and length of Valles Marinis. This chasm
is not directly connected to Valles Marinis in the sense that the Marinis
crack in the crust runs all the way to the underworld. Rather, both
cracks in inner and outer crusts are produced by the same forces at the
same points. These forces also produce chasms or instabilities
in the mantle between, eventually creating tortuous winding connections
which loosely join the two complexes.
All right, so what about air, water,
light and heat? We must assume that the inner world has an
atmosphere roughly similar to the outer atmosphere, and its own deposits
of life sustaining water.
However, the theory is that Earth's
water, and therefore, likely the water of Mars, came from comets during
the primeval ages. If this is correct, then the water of the
underworld is obtained indirectly, it filters in from the surface.
This may explain why the surface of Pellucidar has less water coverage
than the surface of Earth.
In the case of the Barsoomian inner
world, this is a handicap. Earth has huge permanent openings
at the poles, and continuously forms Hoos right to the current day.
So there is a continuing exchange of water and air between Pellucidar and
Earth, and Pellucidar remains well watered.
Barsoom's polar openings were smaller
and glaciated closed. The period of opening and closing holes
was much shorter and is long over. This means that the Barsoomian
inner world would have received comparatively less water than Pellucidar.
Arbitrarily, lets say only a third, comparatively. This would
mean that Barsoom's inner surface is at best, only ten or fifteen per cent
water. This is pathetic compared to the mighty oceans and seas
which once covered half of Barsoom's surface. On the other
hand, its probably pretty good compared to the surface of modern Barsoom.
Of course, on the outer surface,
much of Barsoom's water was simply vapourized and boiled into space by
the impact of the Hellas and Argyre strikes. Barsoom's oceans
had to be replenished by additional comets. On the inside,
the water was probably primeval and it would have been preserved during
Currently, the small water losses
from the closed system of the sealed inner world is probably compensated
for by glacial crawl from the north pole glacier shell. The edges
of the glacier feed rivers which drain the length of the inner world.
Water on the interior is probably
found in a few small shallow seas, in a swamp area paralleling the Toonolian
marshes, in the bottoms of the ‘badlands’, in deep crater lakes created
by ‘shotgun’ and in rivers and canals.
Barsoom's inner atmosphere is likewise
sealed off. On Earth, the atmospheres of Pellucidar and the
surface are likely identical due to mixing. On Barsoom there is no
significant mixing. The inner world's atmosphere diverges from
the surface in being more heavily contaminated with volcanic gases, including
hydrogen sulfides and even hydrocarbons. There are heavy fumes, layers
of smog and smoke, and a smell of sulfur to the air.
So why don't the volcanoes eventually
render the air completely toxic? What keeps the air of the inner
world breathable? The same thing that maintains a breathable
air mixture on Earth and Pellucidar, and presumably Va-Nah, Amtor and Barsoom....
Life. Biological processes of underworld plants absorb the heavy
gases and toxic elements and release oxygen, which is consumed by animals
who produce carbon dioxide. The belief is that life, that a
surface covered with photosynthesizing life, stabilizes the atmosphere
in ways conducive to life.
there be Darkness
Of course, we have to wonder where
the light comes from for photosynthesis in the underworld?
There are three sources.
Pellucidar has a sun which produces
light and heat comparable to the terrestrial sun. The Moon's
inner world, Va-Nah has no comparable sun. Obviously, Pellucidar's
sun is not a star like the outer sun, it is not a gigantic ball of hydrogen
creating fusion through immense mass and gravity.
But if that is the case, how does
Pellucidar’s sun produce its heat and light. In ‘Star of Pellucidar’
I hypothesized that Pellucidar’s sun was actually a tiny dwarf black hole.
Normally black holes are believed to start at three times the mass of the
sun, but at least some theories allow for microscopic singularities.
In Burroughs universe, there are dwarf black holes, massing at a fraction
of a terrestrial planet and with tiny event horizons of only a few inches
or a foot or so, or even smaller.
The problem for a black hole that
size is that you devour everything that crosses your event horizon, the
point at which not even light can escape. But matter can get pretty
crowded approaching the event horizon. At some point, there
may be so much mass crowded around by gravity, that it actually chokes
the black hole around its event horizon. Think of a black hole
as a bucket with a hole in it, the hole is the event horizon.
It's possible to fill the bucket to the top by putting in water faster
than the hole can let it out. The black hole winds up surrounded
by a shell of compressed matter. Eventually, the shell becomes so
compact that it starts to block matter entering the event horizon.
Very nice, but how do we get to
the star of Pellucidar? Because, matter crossing the event
horizon releases a burst of cherenkov radiation. Further energy
is released from the compression of the shell of dense matter around the
black hole. The dangerous radiation is soaked up by the dense
matter, and all that gets released is heat and light: Pellucidar’s sun.
The Moon's inner world, Vah-Nah,
has no apparent sun. It's light and heat comes from other
sources. But there is one piece of evidence which suggests
that there may be something odd in the skies of Vah-nah: The
atmosphere. Vah-nah’s atmosphere is many times thicker than
the surface of the Moon. The inner atmosphere supports terrestrial
life, the outer atmosphere is wafer thin and almost sterile.
Yet the gravity on both sides of the Moon is basically equal, and the two
surfaces connect through numerous Hoos.
The solution is that the lunar atmosphere
is an artifact of a hidden dwarf black hole, which holds the envelope of
gases that the moon cannot. The Moon's black hole is not visible
and not active because the matter around the event horizon has collapsed
to an inert shell that prevents even residual matter from slipping in.
The presence of two likely black
holes inside two hollow worlds suggests that this structure, is actually
common in the Burroughs Universe. In fact, it may well be the mechanism
for formation of small rocky planets like Earth. A solid planet
without a hungry dwarf at the core, the rule in our Universe, may represent
an odd phenomena in Burroughs cosmos.
So, does Barsoom's interior have
a healthy sun? Alas, probably not. Earth has an internal star
that supplies light and heat akin to the orbital sun, Vah-Nah’s sun is
an inert invisible body. Perhaps the activity of an internal sun
is related to its mass, and in turn, that mass is related to the size of
the body surrounding it. It may be that the more massive and
powerful a dwarf black hole, the more tightly a world forms around it,
the smaller the planetary body, and the more densely compressed the surrounding
shell. A less powerful dwarf black hole results in a larger
world forming around it, and its gravity does not compress the surrounding
shell as densely.
Barsoom is midway between Earth
and the Moon in size. The odds are that its putting out much
more energy than the inert Moon's object, but far far less than Pellucidar’s
star. Instead of a bright daytime light, Barsoom's inner star
is a dim, angry red object, supplying perhaps a full moon's share of light.
It's gravity leaves the heavy black volcanic clouds swirling around it,
so that looked upon, it always appears as an angry red pupil surrounded
by a roiling smoky iris.
Most of the real light and heat
in Barsoom's underworld comes from the permanent active volcanic area under
Hellas and Argyre. This produces a harsh light that supplies
the bulk of illumination, particularly in the surrounding area.
The further away one gets, the darker the underworld becomes.
Volcanic heat is carried all over
the inner world by convection currents which, which are driven in part
by cool air from the north pole glacier cap, and partly by winds and storms
generated by the tidal interactions between the gravity of the internal
sun and the gravity of the internal Barsoomian surface. It
is, of course, warmest around the volcanic regions, and perhaps in the
‘strange territory’ opposite them which may exhibit geothermal energies.
It is coldest around the north pole, partly because of the glacier and
partly because of extreme distance from the volcanic area.
A final source of light comes from
the north pole glacier. A faint cold blue light filters
through the ice, waxing and waning with the seasons. This blue
light provides a faint illumination, but little heat.
From the volcanic areas of Hellas and Argyre there would come a harsh red
light and soft heat from the volcano complexes. Thus, much of the
inner world would be dimly lit from these two areas of burning mountains.
Not much light to work with.
Hence, the Barsoomian underworld
is a dim place of variable lighting. Almost pitch black in
some areas, almost bright in others, the light level varies by changing
of polar seasons and volcanic activity, and varies by distance from these
two sources. The composition and mixture of light also shifts
in the changing relationship between the two. For Barsoom's
inner earth, there is never day, but merely an unending series of shades
of twilight waxing and waning and turning to darkest night.
of the Underworld
Ah, but photosynthesis may not be
necessary for underworld plants. Instead, as on Earth in deep undersea
trenches, the plants or plantlike animals and bacteria may be metabolizing
hydrogen sulfides and other volcanic residues for energy. Others
may be able to metabolize heat energy. Photosynthesis may play a
relatively small part in the ecology of the underworld.
The result would be strange and
unearthly plants, trees that might breath like lungs, giant delicate palms
with puffball tops, each tendril of the puffball straining the atmosphere
for precious sulfides. Leaves, trunks, stems and colours would all
be exotic and misshapen, replete with unearthly colours.
The vegetation beneath the surface
of Barsoom may have little resemblance to the surface vegetation.
Is has had millions, perhaps tens of millions of years of radically different
Much of the surface of the interior
will not be terribly conducive to the inner world plant life.
Even if they can metabolize heat and hydrogen sulfides, these are erratic
commodities, hardly as steady as sunlight. Around the volcanic areas,
life may be permanently lush, and lush in the Toonolian mirror swamp and
around the badlands. But beyond that, life may become sparse, and
much of the interior may be desertlike, dependent on chances of wind or
water flow for their opportunities.
Dependent on a variety of factors
of heat, light, sulfides, it is probably hardy and opportunistic, literally
blooming overnight and withering just as quickly, depending on the shifting
of resources. The shift from desert to garden and back again may
be as quick as a shift of wind.
As to where Barsoomian underworld
plants come from, that is a good question. Some of them may
be incredibly ancient lines of plants, survivors of species that made it
into the underworld but whose species were vaporized topside by the Hellas
and Argyre strikes.
Alternately, after the Hellas and
Argyre strikes there may well have been a declining period of Hoos and
the primitive plants then emerging on the surface may have made it down
under, suggesting that the two lines departed each other extremely early.
A final option is to simply say
that the underworld plants were derived from Earth in the same transformation
of life that made the Martian surface habitable. For more on
that, I would refer the reader to ‘Are Barsoomians Human.’
If this is the case, then underworld plants are not descendants, but siblings
of surface plants, and doubtless underwent radical mutation to their present
forms to survive.
Given the radical nature of the
changes needed to survive, it is likely that most plant species did not
make the transition. Thus the range and diversity of underworld
flora is much narrower than that of old Barsoom. Modern Barsoom,
of course, has undergone a mass extinction, so its own range of flora has
of the Interior
The period of Hoos or holes ended
relatively early in Martian history. Thus, only the most primitive
forms of life would have been around to take advantage of it.
These primitive life forms would have found themselves in a plant poor,
energy poor environment, and would likely have proceeded to evolve slowly.
Some later more advanced animals
might have made it through the north polar opening, assuming it wasn't
permanently glaciated. Of these, the Apt is the most likely
candidate, being the most northern extreme animal on record, and a cavern
dweller to boot. The inner world may be host to a dark adapted,
desert species of Apt, ranging widely in the barren interior world.
After that, what creatures could
possibly have entered the inner world? The only routes would
be tunnel complexes in different areas. The most likely creatures
would have been lizards, snakes and spiders, all recorded by Burroughs
as Barsoomian cave dwellers, and small reclusive or burrowing animals
like the Ulsio the eight legged Barsoomian rat, the Sorak, a six legged
cat-sized creature, and the chameleon-like Darseen.
These are all guesses of course,
but not unreasonable ones. Old Barsoom probably had a great
many more, and more active and robust species that might have made it into
the underworld. On the other hand, the species which are noted
to exist now on the surface, are the survivors of a mass extinction, and
so must be judged the toughest of the tough and the hardiest of the hard.
The journey through endless tunnels into an underworld four hundred miles
below the surface, would tax the abilities of even the toughest species.
So it may be that the most likely creatures to make it into the underworld
were also among the most likely to survive the cataclysms on the surface.
White Apes, Thoats and Zitidars, of course, are all plenty tough.
But their great size means great food requirements, and their large bodies
might find it harder to make their way through the tunnels and crevices
which might take them to the inner world. Thus, I select for small
creatures, with preference given to those who already have a habit of burrowing
underground or concealing themselves.
Of course, once underground, these
small hardy creatures would have found mostly empty ecological niches.
They would have rapidly evolved and adapted into new species.
The Darseen quickly became gigantic,
replacing the thoat and zitidar as the largest herbivore of the underworld,
and rivalling them in size. The Darseen's colour changing abilities
would have adapted to generate light, as luminous cave animals or deep
sea creatures do. Thus, the barren countryside would be trod by giant
luminous Darseen, perhaps with adapted flashlights organs to allow them
to spy vegetation more quickly.
The Ulsio and the Sorak would evolve
into large predators like Banths and Calots Perhaps luminous
on their own, or perhaps with other adaptations, like super-sized eyes,
or batlike ears, or sonic radar. The Ulsio would become a ferocious
Banth like monster, with an apparent rotting face. A creature to
Together with altered Apts, Lizards,
Snakes, Spiders and Soraks, and together with the early primitive life
of the interior, Barsoom's underworld would be an exotic and unearthly
Of course, many species may have
been spontaneously generated with the transformation of the underworld.
However, conditions were so harsh that many of them would have quickly
died off, leaving only the strangest, fiercest and hardiest.
I leave it to the imagination of
Races of the Underworld
Of course, it is inevitable that
humans would come into the Barsoomian underworld, either through astral
projection there from the surface, from Earth or from other worlds.
Or more likely, through intrepid explorers from the surface.
Of all Barsoomian animals, the humans
would be the most likely to be driven by curiosity to explore the tunnels
and tubes that would lead them to the underworld, so their presence should
be taken as a given.
But if so, what lost races might
they become? It's likely that Burroughs would have turned some
into human glow worms, radiating their own biologically generated light.
He might have given others big red eyes to see in the dark, or large ears
to hear by, or even conferred batlike sonar. A lightless or
low light world would result in pasty skin, and repulsive grub-like complexions.
But Burroughs might also have gone with camouflage patterns, after all,
he'd worked his way through the rainbow, so the logical next step was patterns,
and camouflage works quite well in dim light.
Burroughs would have likely included
the Green men, or some savage variation on them like White Apes or Apts.
Given that this was the underworld, it he might well have been tempted
to add in bat winged flyers like his Wieroo or Angan. The corpselike
appearance of the winged Wieroo of Caprona is suggestive.
Beyond that, Burroughs was likely
to have peopled his underworld with city states, savage tribes and more
savage beasts. There would have been dueling city states, or perhaps
rival empires, perhaps a strange lost race or two, a Princess in need of
rescue, a plucky stalwart fighting man, an honourable enemy who becomes
a friend and a dishonourable enemy that earns his fate. In
short, however exotic its appearance, life beneath Barsoom was likely to
be much the same as life above.
I'm sure that the reader could develop
its own notions. But, for entertainment, I'll offer a brief survey
of the races and peoples Beneath Barsoom, and I'll confess, these are notes
for a project I'm calling “John Carter in the Underworld”, which may or
may not be written, but hopefully, these paltry notes will amuse....
These are normal humans whose skin contains luminescent elements so that
they glow in the dark. When frightened, their glow diminishes
to imperceptibility, when excited or aroused or angry, their glow is brightest.
Different parts of their bodies glow with different brightnesses, such
as their faces and breasts, but they have little control over this.
In normal light, their skins are pale and ashy. They rule in
fertile areas around the volcano complexes, are most common in the southern
hemisphere, and their main center is called the City of Light.
They are the dominant underworld race.
Tiger Men: The
principle rivals to the Bright People. So called because in the perpetual
dusky twilight, they have developed tiger striped camouflage which confers
effective invisibility upon them. The Tiger Men frequent the river
systems, and in particular control the north and the rivers that flow from
the north pole glacial cap.
Are predominant in the Toonolian Mirror Marsh and the crater lakes of the
northern hemisphere. Their skin is soft gray or light blue,
and visibly marbled for camouflage within their environments. They
are heavily set and well muscled. Their natural enemies are....
Rock Men: Whose
skin is armoured with oddly shaped rocklike nodules, giving them almost
perfect camouflage. When not moving, or at rest, they seem
like nothing more than another strange pile of rocks. They
are vicious tribesmen who wander the deserts of the underworld. Notorious
cannibals, they are feared by the other races.
Radar Men: Are
actually derived from Green Men or perhaps White Apes, it is not clear
which. They are six armed giants, slate gray in colour, who inhabit
the lightless wastes of the Strange territory beneath Elysium and Tharsis.
They are blind, without eyes, but they have evolved a batlike radar, and
like bats, their faces have developed a series of fleshy paddles and pouches
to facilitate their hearing, making them completely horrific. They
live in small primitive tribal groups, shun outsiders and are known to
This is a small colony of exiled heretic and blasphemer Therns who have
established a small city at the edges of the Argyre volcano complex.
They have found their way underground from tunnels and tubes around the
Otz Mountains and Valley Dor. They are reviled and despised
by all the other races for their cruel and sadistic practices.
They are aware of the fall of the Iss faith in the upper world and celebrate
The descendants of Orovars or perhaps Red Men who found their way into
a relic Hoos in the Northern hemisphere which is the surface's only large
connection to the underworld. The region topside around the
Hoos is surrounded by impenetrable cliffs and mountains, and generates
savage air currents which make air navigation almost impossible.
The inside isn't much better. The surface worlds who found
their way in here thousands of years ago do not realize that they are on
the inside of Barsoom, but believe that this is the outside world, transformed
into a hellish nightmare. They believe that they are the last
civilized human people left. They confine themselves to a small city.
There may be a couple of warring Damned cities, or even competing warring
cities of Red and Green men, both believing themselves damned.
Winged men similar to the Wieroo of Caprona and Angans of Amtor, and somehow
related to both, confined to a few Aeries. Sometimes found
in service to the Tiger Men or the Bright people.
The underworld races have their
own languages, but speak the common tongue of upper Barsoom as a trade
speech among each other. The Bright People, Tiger People, Clay
People and Bat Men are aware of the surface and the civilization upon it,
but only the Bright People truly understand the nature of the inner and
outer worlds. The Radar Men are unaware of the Surface. The
Damned and the Apostates are from that world.
Both the Bright People and Tiger
People have sent spies to the upper world, and these spies have returned
with Barsoomian technology and knowledge. Thus such things as flyers
and pistols exist in the Underworld, but not are not nearly as common as
in the surface. However, the knowledge to make these things,
and the technical skills and resources are developing quickly.
On the whole, however, most travel is by river barge or riding Sorak.
Weapons are swords and lances. The overall level of technology
within society is below that of the surface.
The Bright people live in cities
and city states which frequently war with each other. Other people's
have fewer city states and more nomadic tribal organizations.
However, the Tiger People, Bat People, Clay People each have their own
cities. The Apostates and Damned are confined to single cities.
The Radar Men are rumoured to have a single city hidden within the badlands
of the Strange territories. Only the Rock Men are not believed to
have a city.
The dominant religion in the underworld
appears to be a form of polytheism. The Chief God, called Tur,
is a sky being who perpetually watches over all with his single disapproving
red eye. He has created this world as a punishment. Priests
of this faith put out one of their eyes. This Tur is loosely
similar to the Tur of Phundahl, and is clearly derived from that god, but
is substantially diverged. Tur is generally acknowledged as
the ruling God but most worshippers prefer to focus their prayers and attention
on intermediary Gods. Tur, having created the world and set the mess
running, now stands aloof and above. His intercession is not sought,
his wrath is feared.
The Apostate Therns have a variation
on this faith of the Red Eyed Tur. Their Tur is a monotheistic
faith in which no other Gods are acknowledged, the tenets of the Iss faith
are bowdlerized and incorporated as a heavenly otherworld.
The Apostate Therns believe their assigned role is to torture and torment
all others in order to finally be worthy of elevation to heaven.
Like the surface Therns, their religion is highly hierarchical and essentially
a mystery cult. The faith embraces notions of reincarnation, in which
lower orders of human are purged of their suffering in each incarnation,
until they finally end up as Therns, and from there, ascend to heaven in
their next life.
Below Tur, the principal divine
figures are Orz and Asa, the fire twins. Capricious wedded
siblings of identical natures and fiery temperaments who are both gods
of fire and fertility. They are the bickering patrons of the Bright
Another God, sometimes a rival of
Tur, sometimes a subsidiary deity, is Omaz the blue eyed God of Ice and
Water. He is the patron god of the Tiger People. Omaz, like
Tur, is a one-eyed God, and is associated with the north pole glacier cap.
He is the patron of the Tiger people. Omaz created humanity
against Tur's wishes by carnal congress with Orz. To make up for
this transgression, Omaz engaged in congress with Asa creating all other
life. Omaz’ affairs are the source of tension between Orz and
Other races and other tribes have
their own Patron Gods, often of rivers, lakes, deeps or beasts. The
Rock Men worship a subsidiary pantheon of beast-gods, or gods incarnated
as beasts. The Clay Men worship and fear a submarine fertility God
who lives beneath the surface of the waters of their swamp.
The Radar Men have a baroque theology, but its relationship to the main
religion is confused. The Bat Men have no deity and no religious
There are multiple variations on
this creation myth, including apocryphal stories that Orz and Asa are the
product of Tur and Omaz’ joining, that Orz and Asa were separately created
by Omaz and Tur in rivalry, that Orz and Asa were created by Tur as a check
upon Omaz, and so forth. Practically ever city and tribe has their
own variations. It is generally agreed, however, that Omaz
is weaker than Tur, and perhaps even weaker than Orz and Asa because the
light of his one eye waxes and wanes, while Tur's red eye, up in the sky,
The Damned are Tur worshippers who
have incorporated bits of the Iss faith into their theology, as well as
the local gods. In their faith, Tur is dead, destroyed by the
demons Orz and Asa, but awaiting rebirth. Meanwhile, the world has
been transformed into hell.
For a Project
The current situation, at the time
of John Carter is that U-Lor a warrior-jeddara of the Bright People has
risen to power in the City of Lights. Think of her as a Cleopatra
who succeeded in conquering Rome. As beautiful as she is ferocious,
and more than usually capable, she has conquered most of the Bright People
cities (though unrest and rebellion seethes) and turned to overwhelm many
cities of the Bat People, Tiger People and even Clay People.
Each of these races retains independent strongholds and large areas, including
large parts of the marshes, the north polar region and the Strange territory
badlands remain outside outside of her control. However, conservatively,
U-Lor now rules directly or receives tribute from well over half the underworld,
putting her on a par with such conquerors as Napoleon and Alexander.
Correctly perceiving that the remaining
areas are beyond the capacity of her armies to conquer and hold, U-Lor
has changed her focus and now concentrates on three principle goals: (1)
Consolidating, pacifying and modernizing her empire; (2) Extending
her Empire to the surface world, to which end she is constructing an army
of digging machines to create tunnels to the upper world; (3) Finding a
suitable mate of satisfactory stature....
John Carter, bored of his peaceful
existence, joins Ras Thavas on a mission of exploration. Thavas
has crafted a small submarine and hopes to plumb the depths of the Toonolian
Marshes, a place no Barsoomian has ever seen. The two men,
together with an assistant, go for their first submarine ride.
Problems emerge immediately, as they discover the assistant sabotaging
the ship to descend continuously. They cannot control it, and are
therefore doomed to die on the bottom of the Toonolian Marshes.
John Carter discovers that the assistant's skin is dyed to resemble a red
man, a trick he himself has used, and takes the assistant for a Thern bent
on vengeance. Ras Thavas intervenes and they realize that this
man has gray-white skin, like a grub, and is of no known Martian race.
The submarine continues to descend beyond all reason. Ras Thavas
instruments reveal that it has descended hundreds of miles and continues
to drop. Gradually, they seem to be rising, but Ras Thavas
instruments find no change in course. It is a mystery.
Abruptly they surface at night in
what is apparently the Toonolian Marsh, but it is a strange and different
place. A baleful red sun hangs in the night sky, no stars are
visible only two strange red glowing regions. They are seized
by waiting soldiers of unfamiliar harness and after a struggle are subdued.
Ras Thavas Assistant is now revealed to be an officer of these strange
They are taken in flyers, and John
Carter notices other strange features of these warriors. Their skins
seem to glow. Ras Thavas, after studying the environment, deduces
that they are in a hollow world beneath Barsoom, a discovery that comes
too little too late. Taken before Queen U-Lor, she reveals
why she has kidnapped the two men. Ras Thavas will put his
genius to work for her, building weapons, perfecting her mole ships and
helping modernize her industries. As for John Carter.....
John Carter, Warlord of Mars, is to be her mate!
Ras Thavas disappears. U-Lor
bends all her considerable feminine wiles to the seduction of John Carter,
but his love for Dejah Thoris stands him in good stead, and he repudiates
each of her advances. Her Captain, Car Ma, the man who
engineered the kidnapping, is incensed by Carter's refusal to embrace his
Queen and grows to hate him. The Queen grows increasingly angry
with his loyalty, vowing to break his bond with Dejah Thoris at any cost.
The Captain, pushed beyond all endurance,
decides that John Carter is unworthy of his Queen and determines to prove
it by slaying him in a duel. Foolishly, he gives Carter a blade
to defend himself, and is soon hard pressed. But before Carter
can finish him off, the room fills with assassins intent on attacking U-Lor
by killing her betrothed. Carter and Captain Car Ma must fight
together to defeat the assassins.
After the battle, Carter sees his
opportunity to escape, but unwilling to kill the Car Ma, who he has now
decided is a good and honourable man, knocks him out and binds him.
Carter then stumbles through the castle, bluffing his way up to the towers
where he just about commandeers a flyer when the Captain, having escaped
bondage, bursts upon them.
Carter has no choice but to desperately
hijack the flyer. Captain Car Ma jumps on to the ship.
The flyer crashes against the side of the building, but Carter subdues
his adversary, again refusing to kill him, and makes good his escape.
Unfortunately, the flyer's buoyancy
tanks are torn and Carter has no idea where he is going. Unutterably
lost in this strange world, Carter's flyer gradually is forced to the ground
and he abandons it. They are attacked by Stone Men, and Carter
is having a hard time of it, when Car Ma, having again freed himself from
his bonds, comes to Carter's rescue. The two men agree to put
aside their feud in the interests of survival.
Meanwhile, another aspect of U-Lor’s
plans come to fruition as her agents kidnap Dejah Thoris and transport
her to the underworld, and the tender mercies of the frustrated Queen...
John Carter and the Car Ma are captured
by the Tiger Men, but their martial valor soon winds them friends and they
are involuntarily enlisted in a great army being put together by a self
styled Jeddak of the Tiger Men, Han Zad. This confuses Han
Zad as the Tiger Men have never had a Jeddak, only Jeds ruling city states
and tribes. The two men observe other races, Bright Men, Clay
Men, Bat Men and even Rock Men in the growing army.
Carter, while covertly looking
for a flyer to steal, discovers that Han Zad has been secretly putting
together a great coalition, and an army, to crush U-Lor. He
has no problem with this, but is disturbed to hear that the next step in
Han Zad's plans will be to carry out U-Lor’s planned conquest of the surface
and exterminate its inhabitants to relocate his people. Carter,
with some misgivings, tells Car Ma a carefully edited version of this story,
revealing only the plot to destroy the surface world but not the crushing
of U-Lor in order to obtain his assistance.
Car Ma pledges fealty to John Carter
and vows to assist him in saving his nation, after which Carter pledges
to return Car Ma to his Bright People. Car Ma notes that there
is a city of Red Men who call themselves the Damned in the Underworld.
Excited, Carter realizes that the only way Red Men could be in the underworld
is if there was a passageway to the surface. He resolves to
go there immediately, and Car Ma vows to aid him.
There is only one problem, the City
of the Damned lies on the other side of the underworld, and to reach it
they must cross some of the most forbidding territory of the Underworld,
the Badlands of the Radar Men....
After that, things get interesting...