Just in case anyone is wondering, this is a follow up, perhaps merely a postscript to my essay, LA, HIGH PRIESTESS OF BARSOOM, which in turn follows up on my TARZAN ON MARS, REVIEW, which in turn follows up on my GANYMEDE OR BUST - INTRO: TARZAN ON MARS essay. This in turn touches on JOHN SMALL’S TARZAN ON MARS REVIEW, and JOHN BLOODSTONE’S BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE. The gentle reader is advised to back up a step, or two or three, otherwise forget it, you’ll have no idea what I’m going on about.
Still with us? Okay, a bit of background: Burroughs, of course, wrote the Tarzan and Barsoom series and did quite well with them for a total of some 35 books, give or take, in the two franchises, before passing away in 1950. Thereafter, no more Tarzan, no more Barsoom. Too bad, so sad.
Then in the 1950s, along came sci fi pulp editor Ray Palmer, and writer John Bloodstone (Stu Byrne), who had this project called ‘Tarzan on Mars’ which they tried to get the Burroughs estate to license. It didn’t fly, but the book was written, and became an underground cult item through subsequent fan publications. It became one of those parts of hidden lore. It was the Loch Ness Monster or the Great White Whale of Burroughs fandom. Mysterious, controversial, much talked about, half legendary and little seen.
The key element of the storyline is that La of Opar turns out to have been a Barsoomian all along. And not just any Barsoomian, it turns out that she was the Goddess Issus of the Barsoomians, and that equally, she was also Isis of the Egyptians, and that the Atlantis myth also traces back to her. Pretty shocking stuff.
Anyway, its worth taking a look at the other essays for the whole story. Byrne for his part didn’t invent his book out of thin air. Rather, the took characters and situations from both the Barsoom and Tarzan series.
In our Tarzan on Mars review we observe that the major plot device, the revival of the Thern cult of Iss actually to be found in a few throwaway lines in Burroughs' Chessmen of Mars.
In High Priestess essay, we looked to Burroughs for any signs or hints that La might be otherworldly. We didn’t have to look far. In her first soliloquy in Return of Tarzan, she yammers on several times about being from another world. Probably metaphorical, but its likely that Byrne took that and went literal.
But the connection between La and Isis (Issus)? Where did that come from?
Certainly not Burroughs. But if not Burroughs, then where? And why and how?
Did Byrne just invent that one himself? Or did he, like some scrupulous archeologist find a clue to tie it all together. I think maybe he did indeed have a clue.
Which brings us to H.Rider Haggard and She Who Must Be Obeyed, Ayesha.
H. Rider Haggard doesn’t really seem to be in favour these days. Most of his books, like Burroughs are out of print. There’s not much about Haggard on the web, at least not compared to Burroughs. But he was probably the seminal adventure writer who established many of the early conventions of fantasy and adventure that the pulp genres exploited. Interestingly, if you look around carefully, you can find just about all of Haggard’s important works available at Project Gutenberg in one country or another online. I’d recommend reading it to anyone interested.
Haggard was born in 1856 and died in 1925, which makes him a contemporary of both Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Rice Burroughs. He was the eighth of ten children born to an English Barrister and a poetess. Coming late in the line, nothing much was expected of him and not much was invested in seeing it come about. In due course as a feckless young man he was packed off to South Africa. There he acquired the experiences that would allow him to write authentically about Africa. He eventually became a barrister himself, but his true calling and his real livelihood was writng adventure novels.
His first publications were in 1882 and 1884, but his breakthrough novels, King Solomon’s Mines, and She came in 1885 and 1887, which introduced his two most enduring characters.
King Solomon’s Mines was an adventure story set in Africa, about a middle aged elephant hunter named Allan Quatermain who with a plain spoken and self deprecatory narrative voice lead a party into undiscovered Africa to find a lost Zulu kingdom, a hidden prince and a forgotten treasure. Allan Quatermain proved to be an enduring character, returning for another thirteen novels and short stories. Quatermain was in his day as famous and popular a character as Sherlock Holmes. Part soap opera, part adventure series, Quatermain discovered lost races, monsters, strange gods, and along the way struggled with romances and loves.
She, as in She Who Must Be Obeyed, was the story of Ayesha. Somewhat muddled and overwrought, it seems to have been written all in a white heat by Haggard. The character featured through four novels, Ayesha, a sequel to She, and two prequels - ‘Allan and She’ and ‘Wisdom’s Daughter’. The She novels featured a savage jungle goddess, a white sorceress inhabiting and ruling the lost city of Kor and the savage tribes that surrounded it, in the heart of Africa.
Ayesha and Kor were almost certainly the inspiration for Burroughs La and Opar. No surprise. Ayesha and Kor were literally the template for an entire genre of white Priestesses and Goddesses ruling over lost races and ruined cities. You could fill a library with the tales of women and lost cities who trace their roots back to She. In this sense, the only thing distinctive about La is that she was fortunate enough to be the Ayesha clone who inhabited Tarzan’s world.
In our High Priestess of Barsoom essay we noted that Ayesha’s name translated into Barsoomian. Basically, in Barsoomian, the prefix ‘Ay’ or ‘O’, means first or one, as in ‘Ay-Mad’ or ‘O-Mad.’ The suffix ‘a’ or ‘ia’ means female or daughter. So Ayesha breaks down to Ay-Esh-A, or more accurately, Ay-Iss-A = First Daughter of Iss. It was a nice bit of foolishness.
But is there an argument that Ayesha was really Barsoomian? Can we rope She Who Must Be Obeyed into our expanding Greater Barsoom narrative? Is there any way to connect Ayesha directly to La?
Philip Jose Farmer does so in his Hadon novels. In his fictional world of Opar, Kor is a city that will be founded by Opar, or refugees from Opar’s sister cities. The great axe that Kwasim wields is the great axe that another warrior, Umslopogaas will wield centuries later. Some of the outside characters, the dwarf Pag and the heroine Lalila derive from Allan and the Ice Gods, a prehistoric Quatermain story. (Quatermain was so popular a character that Haggard played with him, chronicling the adventures of the character in previous reincarnations through the use of mystical drugs). Farmer’s literary invention merges the prehistories and lost races of Burroughs and Haggard, so it’s there potentially, in a retroactive sense.
But there’s more. To appreciate it properly, let’s go to Haggard’s third Ayesha novel, Allan and She, which is Haggard’s big crossover novel - linking Ayesha to Allan Quatermain. You can read it yourself by the way, this and a number of other of Haggard’s novels and stories are available through Project Gutenberg. Allan and She can be located at: Project Gutenburg
In it, She Who Must Be Obeyed reveals to Allan:"Aye, and Rezu also was a sun-god whom from his throne in the fires of the Lord of Day, gave life to men, or slew them if he willed with his thunderbolts of drought and pestilence and storm. He was no gentle king of heaven, but one who demanded blood-sacrifice from his worshippers, yes, even that of maids and children. So it came about that the people of Kôr, who saw their virgins slain and eaten by the priests of Rezu, and their infants burned to ashes in the fires that his rays lit, turned themselves to the worship of the gentle moon, the goddess whom they named Lulala, while some of them chose Truth for their queen, since Truth, they said, was greater and more to be desired than the fierce Sun-King or even the sweet Moon-Lady, Truth, who sat above them both throned in the furthest stars of Heaven. Then the demon, Rezu, grew wroth and sent a pestilence upon Kôr and its subject lands and slew their people, save those who clung to him in the great apostasy, and with them some others who served Lulala and Truth the Divine, that escaped I know not how."Now this is very interesting. Ayesha is relating the ancient history of the city state of Kor. Like Opar, it worshipped a ‘flaming god’ or sun god who demanded human sacrifice. Farmer in his Hadon novels makes Resu the sun god of Opar.
But even more significant, Kor also worshipped a rival Moon goddess named Lulala.
Is this the origin of La? Did Burroughs pick up the demonic flaming, human-sacrifice demanding God of Kor for his god of Opar, and did he shorten the Goddess Lulala to La and make that the name of his Ayesha cloen?
Tempting, but I’m afraid not. Allan and She was published in 1921. Return of Tarzan dates back to 1913, so the chronology is all wrong.
But having said that, perhaps we’ve got causation wrong. There’s no doubt that La and Opar were inspired by Ayesha and Kor. Opar’s role as the Ophir of the Bible, the source of King Solomon’s Mines is clear in Burroughs mind. Haggard himself played with the notion of Ophir, and the lost civilization and hidden treasure motif in King Solomon’s Mines. We can say with near certainty that Burroughs probably read both of Haggard’s books and borrowed ideas from them. They were just too popular to miss.
On the other hand, Tarzan was way too popular to miss for Haggard. Haggard was a friend of Rudyard Kipling who had written his Jungle Tales of Mowgli. I can’t see how Haggard could really avoid reading Tarzan, a smash hit novel of the Africa he knew and loved crossed with a version of the Mowgli of his friend. Return of Tarzan came out so quickly after that it seems likely that Haggard probably read or heard about that as well. I’d say it was almost certain.
I simply can’t imagine Haggard being oblivious of Burroughs works, if not immediately, then for the entire next decade. At some point, Haggard has to hear of Tarzan, and perhaps get tempted to either take a look, or get some details relayed to him. So we should take it for granted that Haggard knows of La, Opar and its flaming god. And we should take it for granted that Haggard was more than clever enough to figure out that Burroughs was borrowing from his works.
So perhaps Haggard had this in the back of his mind as he was writing ‘Allan and the Ice Gods’ or more particularly, ‘Allan and She.’
Which implies that perhaps Lulala, the Goddess of Kor, was inspired by La, and Rezu, the Sun God of Kor was inspired by the Flaming God of Opar?
The temptation is to go ‘Nahhh....’ It just seems too fanboyish, too much of an in joke. But you know what, these sorts of things happen and happened all the time. It happened within Haggard’s own writing.
Take Allan and She, for instance. It just doesn’t feature Allan Quatermain and Ayesha. Other characters from Haggard’s stories appear. The Zulu hero Umslopogaas is the central character in Nada the Lilly. Nada herself is referenced frequently in Allan and She, though not seen. The dwarf wizard, Zikali, featured in Marie, Child of the Storm, Finished and Heu Heu possibly among others. So in addition to referencing his casts of characters from the Ayesha and Quatermain series, Allan and She throws in other characters with their own books unrelated to either. Basically, its full of intertexuality and interconnecting references all over the place. It’s basically full of literary in jokes, interconnectivity. It seems to be a very natural recurring thing for writers of all sorts to do. In their head, things, ideas, characters, situations all bleed one into another.
So clearly Haggard wasn’t writing segregated and separate works. Characters from one story or situation would bleed into another, ideas would be picked up and recycled or spun. As far as literary gamesmanship goes, Haggard even collaborated a bit with Rudyard Kipling. He has fun with writing, his Allan Quatermain stories are chock full of wit and humour.
The bottom line? Haggard is a pretty good candidate to play the sort of literary games that in the '20s and '30s, guys like Lovecraft, Howard, Smith, Bloch et al loved to indulge in, putting these little nods and references. If Haggard could reference his own characters, why not reference the famous jungle characters of another writer, especially if some of those characters and settings seemed to derive from his own in the first place.
So Lulala probably really is inspired by La, and in the way of these things, this goddess is probably intended to be the ancestor or inspiration of La’s name, and the unnamed flaming god of Opar is here named as the Sun god, Rezu of Kor.
Indeed, there’s one item which seems to show a bit of clumsy stitching by Haggard. Ayesha gets her immortality from the sacred flame. This should suggest that her loyalty should be to the God or Goddess of Fire, and not to the Goddess of the Moon. Normally, Haggard should have written this direction.
But if he was riffing on Burroughs, then the Flaming God is out, he’s a bad guy, which means that Ayesha, notwithstanding her allegiance to the Sacred Fire, has to be switched over to the other team. Would he have done this if he wasn’t playing with Burroughs, maybe, maybe not.
Okay, so we’ve gotten this far. So what?
Well, let’s take it a little further..."Rezu was his name, and from him came the Egyptian Re or Ra, since in the beginning Kôr was the mother of Egypt and the conquering people of Kôr took their god with them when they burst into the valley of the Nile and subdued its peoples long before the first Pharaoh, Menes, wore Egypt's crown.”So this establishes the connection between Kor and the Egyptian civilization. This is important, because Haggard in the course of the novel goes on to carefully establish that Lulala and Isis are the same being, or the same god.Isis:
"I have heard of Isis of the Egyptians, Lady of the Moon, Mother of Mysteries, Spouse of Osiris whose child was Horus the Avenger."“...Yet if you had imagination you might understand that these goddesses are great Principles of Nature; Isis, of throned Wisdom and strait virtue...”They’re both Moon Goddesses whose aspects are truth, wisdom and virtue. Both are described as alive and dead, based on phases of the Moon, so their aspect includes control or rule of the underworld (according to Haggard).
“So it came about that the people ..., turned themselves to the worship of the gentle moon, the goddess whom they named Lulala, while some of them chose Truth for their queen, since Truth ... Truth, who sat above them both throned in the furthest stars of Heaven.”
There’s more: Ayesha is commanded to Kor by Isis, since Kor is her first temple. Kor is the founder of Egypt, its gods become Egypts gods, so that Rezu becomes Ra, and Lulala becomes Isis. Ayesha in Egypt identifies herself alternately as the priestess and the incarnation of Isis, and in Kor as the incarnation of Lulala.
Lulala and Isis connect to the Moon, not Mars, but that’s understandable. The Moon is in fact the other major celestial body influencing Earth. So if these Gods were ascribed otherworldly origins, such as Mars, then sooner or later, the focus would shift to the Moon, especially if its an important god. Mars is merely a bright star after all, the Moon is BIG.
Well, well well. Here’s the final missing piece that fills in Tarzan on Mars: La is Lulala. And Lulala is Isis, which means that La is Isis. La is also of Barsoom (or at least of another world) which means inevitably that La is not merely the goddess Isis of Earth, but that Isis is truly Issus of Barsoom. It’s the final piece of the puzzle, its Byrnes connection of La of Opar to Issus of Barsoom that is at the core of his novel. And its right here.
Yeah, but maybe it’s a coincidence? Certainly, that’s entirely possible. After all, while its dead certain and painfully obvious that Byrne steeped himself in Barsoom and Tarzan novels, we don’t know that he ever read Allan and She or any of Haggard’s books. Or do we?
From Stu Byrnes (John Bloodstone’s) autobiographical note: ERBzine 1967“But that's only one side of the story. I was always drawn to the mysterious and mystical elements in fantasy fiction (Abraham Merritt, Rider Haggard, etc.) -- and indubitably the unresolved mystery of La of Opar and Issus of Barsoom had to be tied together.”So in fact Byrnes was reading Haggard. And Byrnes was specifically attracted to the mysterious and mystical elements, which means that he was specifically reading Haggard’s Ayesha novels, which pretty much guarantees he would have read Allan and She.
And notice how in the same sentence he references Haggard he segues immediately into the tie between La and Issus? That’s a freudian slip if ever I saw one.
If this was a detective story, that would be the inadvertent confession.
Was it conscious on the part of Byrne? Possibly. He was being asked to write a crossover adventure, so its likely that in addition to delving into Burroughs novels, he would also be inclined to pay special attention to crossovers within Burroughs - Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, the Jason Gridley stuff. And I suspect that he would also look for other crossover novels by other writers, especially crossovers that merged dramatically different characters and styles. So it’s entirely likely that part of his research and thinking involved reading or re-reading Allan and She.
It’s entirely possible that it’s deliberate. Indeed, one thing to remember is that Byrne is steeped in fantasy, this is the 1950s, so Byrne is undoubtedly aware of and familiar with the interconnecting literary gamesmanship of Lovecraft, Smith, Howard, Long, Block etc. The sort of fannish connectivity that Philip Jose Farmer would develop with his Wold Newton stuff was already happening and established in the pulp genre in the thirties. So it’s more than possible that Byrne was operating or acting on a sort of proto-Wold Newton connectivity.
But then again, it could have been unconscious. Byrne was clearly heavily influenced by Haggard, and we’ve seen time and again how these things can get stuck in the back of writer’s minds and simply wind up falling onto a page. But deliberate or not, it’s there....
Actually, there may be another ‘La’ in Haggard’s novels. Allan and the Ice Gods features a mysterious woman named Laleela, who is found by the hero Wi washing up on a dugout canoe, and who seems to be a moon worshipper. Laleela is different from the primitives she washes up among because she wears blue dyed woven cloth and uses combs.
In Philip Jose Farmer’s Hadon of Ancient Opar and Return to Opar, Laleela and Pag wind up drifting into ancient Opar, and Laleela becomes the mother of a daughter named La. This seems to mean that Laleela is either the founding mother of La’s entire ancestral lineage, or that she may be the mother of the immortal La. But in the context of Byrne, we might have another explanation.
The origins of this Laleela?“Thus, at last it came about that Wi and Pag learned as much of her history as she chose to tell them which was but little. She said that she was the daughter of a Great One, the ruler of a tribe that could not be counted, who lived far away to the south....”Well, if La truly is immortal, and truly is Barsoomian, conceivably, this might be her, an ancient tale of her washed up on some shore among primitives. This part of her origin seems consistent with the La of Tarzan of Mars. On the other hand, the rest of the passage clearly depicts an advanced but neolithic society. Do we take this literally, or is this La the Barsoomian trying to translate incredibly alien concepts into the language of cave dwellers?
It’s a funky conceit, and perhaps farfetched. But more plausibly, it’s tempting to link Laleela, the Moon Worshipper and Witch from Allan and the Ice Gods to Lulala, the Moon Goddess from Allan and She. And its not unreasonable to think that Haggard himself was making that link in his own mind. Was this Laleela inspired or derived in part from Burroughs La? Its possible. Allan and the Ice Gods was published in 1927, after Allan and She. Coincidentally, both of Haggard’s books come out after or contemporaneously with Burroughs first three Tarzan/Opar/La novels.
Of course, within Haggard itself, its difficult to connect ‘Ice Gods’ chronologically or sequentially with anything else. We can locate both Ayesha and Kor in historical time, and we’ll do that later. Laleela doesn’t locate and has no greater context. Of course, Philip Joes Farmer may be solving this problem for us with his Opar novels.
Nevertheless, we can assume that Byrne may have read Allan and the Ice Gods. Did he take a bit of inspiration from there? It seems unlikely, but then again, you never know. And certainly, from the evidence we have, it seems possible to retroactively assign Laleela as La and as from Barsoom.
So does this mean that Ayesha is also Barsoomian? Was she La or Lulala’s disciple, the second in command, the priestess of Issus, accompanying her mentor to Earth. That’s tempting, but it probably won’t fly.
Haggard actually gives us a fairly detailed biography of Ayesha which seems to confirm that she’s entirely terrestrial human. Ayesha was born over two thousand years ago to a high class Arab in the Arabian peninsula, probably Yemen.
Actually, she repeatedly claims to be only 2000 years old, which would make her almost contemporaneous with Christ. But actually, she lets slip that she was the high Priestess of Isis in the dynasty of the last pharaoh before the Persian takeover. The Persians conquered Egypt for the first time in 525 BCE, and ruled until 402 BCE. This means that Ayesha is probably closer to 2500 years old. After 402 the Egyptians regained independence for a time, with Egyptian dynasties ruling. But there was a second period of Persian domination from 343 to 332, which forever ended the Egyptian dynasties. The Persians were conquered by the Greeks, leading to the Greek Ptolmaic dynasties, which lasted up until the Roman conquest. So, Ayesha can’t be younger than 2300 years old.
Gifted with incredible beauty and psychic gifts, she refused to marry, instead drifting to Greece where she came to be identified with Aphrodite and eventually was cursed by the Goddess of Love. From there she wandered to Egypt and the temple of Isis, where she rose to the position of High Priestess, and effective ruler of Egypt. So great was her stature that she came to be considered indistinguishable from Isis herself. It’s here that she comes to be called Ayesha, which definitely seems to be a title rather than a name.
Thereafter, things get a bit confused. She has a rivalry with another high Priestess. The two of them fall obsessively for a greek named Kallikrates. Ayesha loses her heart and her position, and is called or summoned or sent to Kor, a city already long in ruins. There she receives immortality from the sacred flame, is worshipped as the Priestess of Lulala, or even as Lulala herself. More cynical worshippers, however, consider Lulala as a witch rather than a goddess. Ayesha spends the next couple of thousand years in Kor, apparently waiting for the reincarnation of Kallikrates to show up, terrorizing and lording it over local black and Arab tribes and refining and developing her magical or psychic abilities.
In ‘She’, the original novel and the first written, the reincarnation of her love shows up, there’s a lot of femme fatale hugger-muggery, and Ayesha tries to persuade her love to accept immortality. He doesn’t want to enter the flame, she steps in to show him its all right. Big mistake, she ages two thousand years in minutes and goes poof into dust. In the sequel Ayesha: The Return of She Who Must be Obeyed, however, it turns out that she didn’t actually die, she was transported to the Himalayas and the last temple of Isis, where she plots to rule the world, and pines away for her love.
So definitely an Earth Girl, definitely not Barsoomian. The Ayesha series is thick with mysticism and magical events, reincarnation is a prominent theme, Gods and Goddesses are real. The series is actually a bit too supernatural for my tastes, and this tends to conflict, I think with the science-fantasy of Burroughs novels. Burroughs has little or nothing of the supernatural in his own works. Haggard on the other hand, is much more prone, even in his Quatermain stories, to invoking supernatural or mystical phenomena.
On the other hand, I suppose that magical abilities are just another version of psychic abilities. It’s all tomaytos and tomahtos, if you know what I mean.
But even if Ayesha is an Earth girl, this story might give us a few clues into the history of La, the Barsoomian Goddess Issus on Earth.
For one thing, it seems pretty safe to assume that La’s full name, and true Barsoomian name, is Lulala. Or possibly Lu-Lala, or maybe Lul-Ala or some version.
It also seems to place both the Issus cult and the Sun cult in central Africa. From there, the cults move out to Egypt, or perhaps they moved back and forth.
In Allan and She, Rezu seems to be the earlier and pre-eminent god, with Lulala coming up from behind, just as Tur precedes Iss on Barsoom. Interestingly, it appears that initially, the Rezu and Lulala cults coexist for a period of time, as do the Tur and Iss cults.
Then, as Ayesha describes it, there’s a power struggle, the cults have a falling out. Now, here’s where it gets interesting. The giant who is the immortal living incarnation of Rezu kidnaps a white european woman from a farmstead, and tricks her out as a rival version of Lulala. This, he claims is the true Lulala, Ayesha is merely a false witch, and he intends to marry his Lulala to consolidate the faiths.“Then I advanced to the figure on the throne, or rather foot-stooled chair of black wood inlaid with ivory.... she was veiled and, with one exception, made up, if I may use the term, exactly to resemble the lady Ayesha, even down to the two long plaits of black hair, each finished with some kind of pearl and to the sandalled feet. .... The exception was that about her hung a great necklace of gold ornaments from which were suspended pendants also of gold representing the rayed disc of the sun in rude but bold and striking workmanship. .....I say savage, but I am not sure that this is a right description of Rezu. Evidently he had a religion of a sort, also imagination, as was shown by the theft of the white woman to be his queen; by his veiling of her to resemble Ayesha whom he dreaded; by the intended propitiatory sacrifice; by the guard of women sworn to her service who slew the priest that tried to kill her, and afterwards committed suicide when they had failed in their office, and by other things. All this indicated something more than savagery, perhaps survivals from a forgotten civilisation...”The figure of the woman is dressed and presented as Lulala. Notice the key difference, the ‘sun’ pendant. The Goddess of the Moon is subordinated to the God of the Sun.
This tells us what happens to Lulala or La of Opar. Essentially, there’s a power struggle between her cult and the increasingly ferocious and paranoid Empire of Opar which needs to embrace a more draconian and bloodthirsty religion. Thus as Opar evolves, it elevates the Sun God with his terror and blood sacrifice. The primacy of Rezu increasingly brings the Rezu cult into conflict with La or Issus.
Eventually, La or Lulala loses this power struggle, being dethroned as Issus. Instead of being killed, she’s recast as the Bride and Servant of the Flaming God. Being still a Goddess (though a somewhat reduced Goddess) she’s technically still above the stature of mere mortals (or mere immortals).
La is stripped of her title as Issus. Despite this, the cult of Isis persists, particularly in outlying regions or rival cities like Egypt and Kor, or among the underclasses of Opar who eventually flee to found Ashair. Indeed, the sudden flowering of the Isis Cult in Egypt and its expansion into the mediterranean world might be traced to refugee priestesses fleeing central Africa for Egypt.
She’s also likely stripped of her powers and memory, psychically or magically lobotomized in order to control more easily by the Priests of the Sun. She can’t be killed, her role is to unify the religions underneath the Sun God, but she can’t be allowed freedom.
There may have been a gap between the time of La’s fall from spiritual and political power to her psychic lobotomization.
If we look to Ayesha’s history, it is clear that she is being directed and controlled by Isis."..I entered the service of the goddess Isis, Queen of Heaven, vowing to remain virgin for ever. Soon I became her high-priestess and in her most sacred shrines upon the Nile, I communed with the goddess and shared her power, since from me her daughter, she withheld none of her secrets...”It is Isis that curses her in Egypt, and Isis that sends her to the lost city of Kor, where she’s guided to immortality and power.“So I followed, as I was taught and commanded, the sistrum being my guide, how it matters not, and giving me the means, and so at last I came to this ancient land whereof the ruin in which you sit was once known as Kôr."Isis seems to be directing Ayesha to rebuild or restore Kor. This hint comes through strongly, and there seems to be little rhyme or reason to send her there otherwise. Working largely alone, the single inhabitant of a ruined city, she doesn’t get very far. But perhaps that wasn’t the intention. Perhaps Isis or La’s intent was to send priestesses, worshippers, refugees and pilgrims to Kor to restore and re-inhabit the city, to make it a challenge to Opar.
"What brought you to Kôr, Ayesha?" I asked irrelevantly.
"Have I not said that I was led hither by the command and the symbol of great Isis whom I serve? Also," she added after a pause, "that I might find a certain pair, one of whom had broken his oaths to her, tempted thereto by the other."
At some point however, the influence of Isis seems to fade or vanish. Early on, in the temple, Ayesha speaks of Isis as a real being, a psychic mentor, a teacher, a parent. It’s a being who speaks directly to Ayesha, complains, curses, guides and directs. But then, peculiarly, this seems to fade or stop. The voice of Isis is silenced. Ayesha stalled without purpose or direction, simply sits and waits in Kor. Allegedly she waits for Kallikrates, but mostly she just seems to wait.
Without psychic guidance from La, Ayesha come to believe that she herself is the incarnation of Isis. But that’s a delusion that’s not supportable given her early descriptions of Isis as an external directing entity. The only way that she could drift into this egocentric belief is if she hasn’t heard from Isis for a long, long time.
Ayesha may have been La’s last great plan or scheme, using her powers to create or guide a disciple or daughter at long distance, sending her to Kor to rebuild a base of power to free her from the Priests of Opar. Unfortunately, La seems to have been cut off in mid-scheme, which suggests that the psychic lobotomy was as recent as a mere 2000 years ago, and well into Opar’s decline.
The sacred fire that confers immortality is likely Barsoomian. What’s fire but a ray, and we all know that the Barsoomians were messing around with all sorts of magical rays, like their ray of levitation. The implication is that at least some of the ruling class in these ancient cities may have been given or given themselves immortality.
The Kavuru in Tarzan’s Quest may have been another route to immortality. Perhaps it was a combination, the sacred flame combined with Kavuru potions. Without the flame, the Kavuru have to keep taking the potion, with the flame it’s a permanent one time treatment. This might give us a few clues as to the society in Opar and Kor. Likely, most of the immortals were killed over the millenia.
We have a few clues in terms of timelines. Kor is described as the founder of Egypt, so clearly its timeline overlaps that of the Egyptian civilization, just as Opar’s does. We know that Opar’s timeline overlaps with Egyptian civilization because it is mentioned in the bible during the period of Solomon, 3000 years ago. Thus, we can determine that Kor and Opar were co-existing cities and civilizations, inhabiting roughly the same general area, southern central Africa.
From this we can assume from other features - such as Sun Worship cults, and anomalous ethnicities which are not typical of the modern population, that Kor and Opar were probably from the same cultural group and perhaps political structure.
Both the Isis and Ra cults were transmitted by Kor to Egypt, which means that both the Rezu and Lulala religions were current and co-existing during the period of overlap with Egypt.
Kor seems to have been devastated by a ferocious plague during the period of rivalry between the Rezu and Lulala cults, which is clearly well into the period of overlap.
It was never rebuilt, or repopulated (or if rebuilt/repopulated, it doesn’t seem to have helped, and the city faded away), which suggests that the plague struck not only Kor but many of the other cities and that the entire region probably experienced a severe depopulation from which their societies never really recovered.
We know from the dating of the bible, however, that Opar of Ophir was a going concern around 3000 years ago. This implies that the devastating plague was after this time. Once the plague hits, Opar or Ophir disappears from the historical record, and the Empire contracts.
However, if Opar is connected to Kor, and Kor is connected to Egypt, then why would Egyptian and Phoenician sailors need to sail three years to Opar, as it was in Solomon’s time. Why not just mount a direct trade mission from Egypt to Kor to Opar?
One explanation is that the plague may have devastated Kor prior to the days of Solomon, that Opar’s empire or cultural region had contracted and that the overland route was no longer available.
The other possibility is that the Opar cultural region was going through one of its periodic periods of division and dissension. That the struggle between the two religions in Kor was mirrored throughout the city states, and that as a result, Kor and Opar were at war, with Opar aggressively pushing its sun cult. In such a circumstance, there would be no Egypt/Opar trade going through Kor.
In any event, the fact that the Lulala and Rezu cults were still battling in Kor suggests to us that La and Issus were still a free power. If La had been captured, reduced to the bride of Rezu and lobotomized by that time, then the struggle in Kor would have been over. Rezu would have been decisively ascendant in Kor and everywhere else.
The clear implication is that La’s own fall comes after the fall of Kor to the plague. If we assume that the biblical period is also the period of religious struggle, then we can sort out a rough timeline. Basically, the plague comes in the post-Solomon era, 3000 years ago or less. La’s fall comes some time after that. After La’s fall comes Ayesha, about 2500 to 2300 years ago. And after or at the time of Ayesha, La loses the remainder of her powers and memory. Ayesha then comes to consider herself the new or current Lulala or Isis.
Well, its silly enough, and it can stand to be refined, but it does seem workable, and it gives us a theory that helps to fill in La’s and Opar’s history.
But mostly, we’ve filled in the last missing pieces of Tarzan on Mars, the connection between the mysteries of La and Issus.
La, High Priestess of Barsoom by Den Valdron
Stuart Byrne aka John Bloodstone
Chessmen of Mars
King Solomon’s Mines
Philip Jose Farmer
Allan and She at: Project Gutenburg
Return of Tarzan
Return of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Den Valdron's Fantasy Worlds of ERB
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