Having done looking after Barsoomian society and after the inner depths of its members, here’s the essay looking for their physical envelope.
More specifically, let’s go after the reportedly most charming of them, that of Dejah Thoris. We’ll stay general, but with her as goal. A bit like running round the planet until reaching her. Like JC keeps doing…
Why her? Well she’s the most “incomparable” – and yet, the apex of her kind.
Also, judging from the drawings one finds on the net, everyone sees her according to his /her own fancy, and I don’t like approximation unless it respects certain borders. After all, the fans must remain the closest to what the Master intended…
Some of you might object that if we had to stick to ERB’s private vision, we’d end up with someone like Mary Pickford or whatever… But I think this is not the good look to take at it: the idea is, we take all of ERB’s descriptions and details, we infer from them what we can, and then we draw the logical conclussions and we admire the result. Which result could be different from what the Master imagined – we, his analysts, have long proved him to be wrong here and there – but the named result would be as close as possible to the logic of his mental construction. The result might therefore be “truer” than what the inventor imagined. I’m not talking nonsense here. A man like him with 19th century education could not envision an alternate society with the same ease as we have, our imagination being, if not more fertile, than surely more unbridled. Besides we have a “tradition” of constructing and analyzing imaginary cultures that him and his age didn’t have – just think of the “Star Wars” detailed plans for ships and the ecosystems of the various planets and stuff.
So, let’s go and search for the looks that our favorite princess could most likely have.
First, let’s think of her general type.
She has red skin, all right. But this doesn’t make her a Native American in any way. In one of the books ERB says that only the coloration differentiates the red Barsoomians from the Anglo-Saxons. I think he’s pushing a bit, here… Pretty much everything about them makes one think of the Mediterranean regions, maybe even India. Jeddaks and stuff seem pretty Raja like to me… Add to this the red hue…
Now, racially speaking, Northern Europeans of Saxon stock are more like whitened Mediterraneans, true, they even originate in norther Iran according to Snori Sturlusson and to anthropologists, but there still are differences that are obvious, one cannot equate them even if we ignore the skin/eye/hair hues. This is why I think ERB’s affirmation is a bit hasty.
What makes me be so stuck on a Meditteranean type? For starters it goes better with the darker hues and the exotic esthetics they are said to have. Besides it goes well with the image of a composite race, ancient stabilized mixture like the Hindus.
But there’s more: it is said it is a globally good-looking race. Of course, here on Earth one cannot say some race is all-beautiful and some other is all-ugly. Mediterraneans have pretty and ugly people like all the others. But let’s think a bit of it: what does widespread beauty suggest? One thing more than any other: relative androgynic tendency.
Let’s explain: why are there beautiful and ugly people together in the world? Mostly because of two causes:
The first is the difference between sexes. Let’s exemplify very superficially: if as it is usually the case, women have gracile features and men have strong ones, it is quite often that daughters inherit the fathers and boys inherit the mothers! Result? Horsy girls and effete boys. (very shortly put)
The second is disgenics: bad habits of the parents, bad alimentation during gestation and early childhood, plus the lack of natural selection, all these play a part in downgrading the quality of the genes one transmits further. Plus, as we see here on Jasoom, during the long peaceful periods is is quite often that rich ugly and/or well (self) advertised people get the best mates. Woody Allen is not a good enough example since he has qualities (he’s smart), but we talk looks here, and on Barsoom nobody would rely on him as a companion through a tough violent life, obviously. But Paris Hilton is the perfect example. A lot of handsome men, much better than her in all respects, dream of her just because she uses well the media.
Let’s talk disgenics first since it’s secondary in my argumentation: Barsoomians destroy the defective eggs, and the young comes out almost grown. The egg-thing, as Den Valdron analyzed it, is most likely a symbiont of the Martian humans and therefore the little human grows inside in function of the good functionning of the named symbiont much more than in function of his/her parents.
As for the parental genes, let’s see: there definitely is natural selection, a lot of it, with all this fighting going on for millenia. The civilization has long solved its feeding and housing problems so, no shortages of vital stuff to be expected. Also, no big effort is required for earning a living, so no need for burly guys. War is ritualized so no big destructions, in general, appear to induce shortages. Besides, I doubt beautiful women are often assasinated…
Fighting being ritualized and generally chivalric, the need is not for tough heavy soldiers, but for agile and swift ones.
As I showed in my preceding essays, the wealth seems to be pretty evenly distributed, the rich class being likely very small and the middle class occupying almost the whole social spectrum.
The generalized telepathy must have a word to say in this aspect of life too, inducing people to select mates in function of the socio-esthetical requirements and ideals and discouraging selection according to financial or superficial considerations.
For all the reasons above, the disgenic mate selections and behaviors must be negligible across the Barsoomian society.
And now, the androgyny thing: in order for equilibred features to exist in a population, there must not be strong differenciations between sexes, or else we end up with girls looking like their hunk fathers etc. This calls for gracile types of humans in both sexes. The closest to this is the Classic Mediterranean type, like the ancient Egyptians or Cretans.
Being of Earthly stock, the Barsoomians must thrive in an environment of low gravitation. All features and bones must be long and thin, although the medium height must not be big: not good for swift movements. A gracile but compact body should be the norm. A bit like Kylie Minogue’s, for the women. Or Eva Longoria’s.
Women don’t bear their children, so no need for large pelvises. No big hips upon Barsoom.
Because of the thinner atmosphere, the torax must be bigger in order to accommodate larger lungs. As it happens in Tibet.
The waist must be thinner than upon Earth, since the smaller gravity means smaller amount of energy – ergo, nutrients – to consume in order to power the body.
What about breasts? The women don’t breastfeed, and besides, not having babies in them, there’s not much need for a lot of emission of feminine hormones and stuff like this. But, I suspect there has to be a contribution of some sort to the growing of the egg. Quite a large contribution in fact, since it’s supposed to grow from say two pounds/1 kilo to around 50 kilos or so. Where does al this substance come from? Atmosphere? Soil? Some of it maybe, but can’t be all of it. I strongly suppose that mothers routinely contribute from their own substance to this growth, that the egg-symbiont absorbs. So, Barsoomian breasts have all the reasons to be quite sizeable, especially since gravity is not as big an impediment as it sometimes is here upon Jasoom.
Since the face features seem to fit Mediterranean standards, then the nose is of medium length, straight and narrow, the cheek bones not really noticeable, the lips must be a big big for the exoticism, the face must be rather long. Jaws must be gracile. Eyes must be big for two reasons: first, the luminosity is smaller upon that planet, so they have to captate more of the scarcer light. Second, they live in a dangerous world where one must be very receptive all the time in order to survive. The telepathy is generally associated with higher receptivity and therefore with big eyes. Just look at the average hypnotists and mediums. And to the terrestrial statues representing various idols.
What about the facial expression? As I talked with Den, we agreed that Barsoomians should have some of the air of upper-caste Hindus, but much less peaceful: the Hindu culture is very spirit-oriented, they lost almost all their wars. The Barsoomian facial expression must be to the Hindu one what is the Cheetah to the house cat.
So, Dejah Thoris?
Well, upon a bit more lithe and fit body of Eva Longoria, with a bit narrower hips, and maybe bigger breasts, stands a head similar to Catherine Zeta Jones’s, but with bigger lips and eyes, and a bit finer jaws… As for the expression, she looks all the time like a Cheetah ready to jump for a kill…
I’m sorry, Frank Franzetta’s work is great but less so the human physical aspect, especially of the women: too voluptuous for Barsoomian females. Especially these large hips, they just don’t fit…The torax seems to be small too, and this doesn’t fit either.
Just for the fun, let’s distribute actresses to the book characters:
- if only Catherine Zeta Jones was younger and more lithe, with longer face and a bit bigger eyes… but maybe someone in the type of Jordana Brewster, or like Eva Longoria, but a bit classier… anyway, someone with exotic aspect
- that’s quite an easy one – Umma Thurman or Kristanna Loken or someone like them, or like Kylie Minogue
- easy one too – who else than Hilary Swank? She would be soooo perfect for this part…
- well, could be one like Amy Lee from Evanescence… do you know any actress of that type?
- I’d say Kristen Kreuk; but maybe Angelina, hypnotic as she can be, she would be believable in bewitching the lions…
- maybe someone like Jessica Biel/ Victoria Beckham – but only if she becomes brunette again…
Rojas? Zanda? the others?
- someone like Penelope Cruz/Salma Hayek/Natalie Portmann/Saffron Burroughs/Keira Knightley…
Let’s give some males to these fine women:
- Hugh Jackman or Christian Bale seem fine enough
- I’d say Timothy Dalton; or, what if it’s the Agent Smith-Elrond guy, what’s his name? old Ras could be Ben Kingsley
- why not Stellan Skarsgard?
- I’d give Orlando Bloom that part, more than that of Kantos, despite what fans have suggested… it’s a more important role, he shouldn’t be wasted on a relatively small one – lithe and Med looking as he is, he’s all Barsoomian (with the proper hue). Besides, his image of fantastic hero is established
The guy from Synthetic Men
- maybe the guy that played Hector in Troy
- someone like Brad Pitt?
- the guy that played King Arthur lately is a must; among the Blacks, Denzel is a must
Barsoom Analysis Part I: Demography, Polity, Society and Economy
Barsoomian Analysis II: Sociology and Morality
Barsoomian Analysis III: Girl, Reconstructed
More Barsoomologist and Amtorianist Musings
Tarzan and Nemone of the City of Gold
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2007/2010 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.