of the Inner Mars
of Mars, Exterior
of Mars, Interior
Water Down Under
Let there be Darkness
Plants of the Underworld
Animals of the Interior
The Races of the
Outline 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 cubed.
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
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
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 Triangle.
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,
Meanwhile, John Carter and his relatives and allies
have never found either an entrance or even active hints of an underworld.
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
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 country.
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
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
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
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 the strike.
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
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 evolution.
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
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
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 narrowed considerably.
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
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 give nightmares.
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 place.
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 the reader.
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....
Bright People: 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
Clay People: 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
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
Apostates: 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 Damned: 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.
Bat Men: 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
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 people.
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 Asa.
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 impulse.
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, never
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 warriors.
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...