Few are the people from Earth who have visited Barsoom. Fewer still are those who have survived long enough to appreciate the planet and fewer still are those who managed to return to or communicate with the planet of their origin. There are many things which will strike the visitor to Barsoom as strange when compared to their native Earth. This paper will attempt to explain the planet to make your visit more enjoyable, interesting and safe.
STELLAR FORMATION- Astronomy for Dummies
To fully understand Barsoom and why it differs from Earth, we must understand how planets form, for it is this evolution that determines the structure of the individual worlds.
Stars form from stable gas clouds that are set into motion by a passing stellar object or a galactic gravity wave that begins the individual atoms of that cloud moving.
As these atoms collide, some remain in the vicinity of their fellows and this increased gravity field attracts others. Eventually, over millions or even billions of years, enough of this gas collects to form a large ball which becomes the kernel for the star system.
This ball, by virtue of its size, generates a large gravity field which causes the ball of Hydrogen gas to collapse into a proto-star. As it collapses, it begins to spin, attracting more gas, dust and whatever else is in the vicinity to the star then flinging that dust into a disc that revolves around the star. The result is similar to a large ball stuck through a Frisbee.
If the star is large enough (about ½ Solar mass), the increased gravity heats up the center and eventually the pressure generates a thermo nuclear explosion which causes the actual star to form! This formation creates a solar flare of incredible magnitude and the ensuing shock-wave as the star ignites tosses all the remaining dust and gas from the system as the star turns into a sun.
But what about the planets themselves?
As the accretion disc begins to form around the star, the same process that formed the star happens on a smaller scale to form planetissimals. Small clumps of dust and gas collect. These attract more and more dust and gas through gravitational attraction and as they grow, they sweep up more dust from the disc as they orbit the proto-star.
If the planetissimal grows large enough (about ¾ Earth mass), the iron will settle to the center and the weight of the planet will keep it molten, thus forming a molten iron core that generates both a Van Allen radiation belt to shield the planet from harsh radiation and provide a magnetic field to allow for the invention of a compass. If the planetissimal is too small, then the iron remains scattered throughout the planet and neither form. This is an important fact to remember.
As the planets form, they are molten and with their motion and the attraction of other planetissimals, the matter gets mixed up. Two conflicting things happen. The heavier materials tend to sink to the center (depending on the mass of the planetissimal) with the lighter on the surface and the constant movement of the molten rock keeps mixing the materials up. On a larger stony planet like earth, the majority of the heavier elements like iron sink to the center then the planet cools before ALL of the iron can do so. On lighter planets such as Mars, the gravity isn't enough to cause the iron to sink before the planet cools, thus the rocks are mixed up with no clear layering as on Earth.
Then the star flares and the shock wave blows away not only the remaining dust in the system but whatever primitive atmosphere has developed on the planets.
The planets, now cooling, set about producing their future.
THE STELLAR ECO-SYSTEM
The star, being a giant nuclear bomb (currently an H-bomb but in transition into an He-Bomb), the closer you get to the star, the hotter it gets. Mercury, at 36 million miles (59 million km) is so close that the temperature on the sunward surface is some 425 degrees centigrade or 800 degrees Fahrenheit or hot enough to melt lead. By the time you reach Earth the temperature cools considerably and with liquid water flowing around, carbon-based life manages to form.
About each star is a series of overlapping eco-spheres where the temperature is ideal for some kind of life, be it Carbon, Silicon, Hydrogen, Helium or such. As an example, Helium life can exist only at a temperature a degree or two above absolute zero (around -273 degrees). Thus you can find Helium-based life on Pluto but never on Jupiter, Mars, or any other, warmer planet. For a star the size of Sol, the eco-sphere for carbon-based life is about 95 million miles (152 million Km) give or take 20-30%. In the Burroughs solar system, Venus is barely within that inner boundary of the eco-sphere (protected by her cloud layer) and Mars barely within the outer reaches. Had Mars been a few million miles further out or the Sun a few thousand degrees cooler, carbon-based life would never have been able to form on Mars. But it did.
So here is what we have today… Mars is a planet that was barely able to form carbon-based life. Perhaps it was closer to the Sun, then when the planet between Mars and Jupiter blew up, the gravitational shock-wave pushed Mars into a larger orbit. Or maybe the mass of Jupiter prevented a fifth planet form forming and that mass pulled Mars into a larger orbit. Or maybe Mars was always there and just got lucky with Mother Nature. I will leave it to the real astronomers to figure that out.
BARSOOM, THE DISTANT PAST
When we visit the red planet a dozen million years ago, what do we see?
Upon approaching, you see a world covered with uncountable impact craters. Asteroids to smaller meteors to dust peppered the planet from the beginning of his formation. Rocks from the formation of the Solar System to bits of the 5th planet abound. Craters are everywhere, some isolated, some connected into chains. Some so large that they filled with water to form a small sea. Rivers formed to follow these linked craters, eroding the walls between to form a series of canyons at some places, then slow moving lakes at others, swamps at still others. Some rivers are wide such as the one that connected the Torquas Sea to the Eastern Throxeus Ocean at Dusar with another that cut east to follow a series of impact craters. This eastern river with its bay south of the Forest of Lost Souls, cut north to avoid the Helium Valley (itself a giant impact crater so large that the rim is over the horizon) then north to empty into the East Throxeus some fifty degrees east of Dusar. Others, like the Iss, are narrow and winding to drain the Toonol Lake and cut through the Great Desert of the South and fill the Korus Sea.
The land itself is divided into lowlands, highlands, low mountains and shallow seas. The mightiest of these seas is the Throxeus in the north. One huge ocean watered by the Northern ice cap and broken by the Artolian plateau, itself broken by the snow-capped Artolian Hills. Another peninsula juts north between Horz and Dusar to divide the Throxeus into the Western and the Eastern with maybe 18 degrees of latitude of ocean and ice to allow a fragile and occasionally frozen connection.
Following much of the ancient Throxeus seabed are the Northern highlands that support the great forests of Koal, Manator and Lost Souls. Zodanga lies on the desert highlands between the Forest of Lost Souls and the Phundahl Hills.
Just south of the Island of Gathol, this Highland branches south to skirt the now-dry Torques Basin to run east below the Helium Valley then north above Korus to join at the Koalian Forest.
The River Iss, last of the great rivers of Ancient Barsoom flows from the eastern edge of the Toonolian Bay into the Throxeus. Then the Iss frees herself from the Throxeus to flow into the Koal Forest, then south to wind her way through the Great Desert as she connects dozens of impact craters. This majestic Iss, beautiful in the lakes and swamps of the wider craters, majestic in the canyons of the narrower and deeper craters, works her way through the Great Desert to enter the Otz Mountains, themselves the rim of an ancient asteroid impact that formed the Sea of Korus. Korus herself, fed by the Iss until, overflowing, she breaks through the surface to create and flood the great cavern of Omean, the last of the Five Oceans of Barsoom.
BARSOOM - INTERMISSION
Millions of years pass. Life evolves from a series of different sources, some, six-limbed which evolve into the White Ape, the Green Man and others. Some are eight legged to form the thoats, banths and still others and some ten legged to form the Calots and their like.
Mankind arrives on Barsoom, the White, the Black and the Yellow, their four-footed biology implying an extra-Barsoomian origin. They interact and trade and even war. Iron, being plentiful from countless meteoric impacts, the iron Age happens early and advances quickly. On Earth the Iron Age required that rare meteoric iron to encourage people to find iron deposits. On Barsoom, the iron was lumped easily into meteoric nuggets and forged into steel. Then, the Orovars conquer all and peace reigns. Art, science literature, all advance.
Slowly at first, the atmosphere leaks away in the low gravity. With no tall mountains to climb and no aviation, this is unnoticed save by a few astronomers. Then as the air pressure drops, the oceans dry up for evaporation increases as the atmospheric pressure falls. The coastal cities follow the receding seas, not fearing disaster but grateful in the rich silt now revealed... until it is almost too late.
Then the Orovars turn their science to escape. Rasoom is too hot as is Cosoom. Jasoom is ideal but the crushing gravity would cripple them all so they turn to the stars. But FTL is impossible for even the Orovars so they seek to stave off extinction with a world-wide water system to irrigate the lands and only a world at peace could or even would make the attempt at such a project. The southern ice cap varies too great to be of use. To collect ice to melt to water in the south would require the stations to penetrate almost to the pole then more every dozen haads to keep the stations at the edge of the growing and shrinking ice. No, the North is best. The northern ice cap is stable so there is no fear of a growing iceberg crushing the station or leaving it haads from the desperately needed ice. Slowly a network of underground pipes covers the planet. Croplands expand from these water-pipes to cover such an area as to be seen from orbit or even other worlds.
As the air dwindles, the Orovars invent the Atmosphere Plant. One major device which generates and pumps life-giving oxygen to six subsidiary plants around the planet lies not too far from Zodanga, her exact location kept secret.
Death is staved off, for awhile. But the grim Reaper is patient and Barsoom is dying. It is just a matter of time and circumstance.
With all their attention diverted to the waterways, there is not enough for defense and the Green Men, barbarians, move out of the deserts to raid. The three races, combine to face the double threat of a dying planet and the barbaric hoards. Slowly, they integrate to form the Red Race. And so life goes on, some cities being abandoned, others being built. They survive.
The first thing you will notice about modern Barsoom is that everything is RED! The ground is red! The plants are red! At times, even the sky is red (pink actually)! There is no more blue for the seas are long-gone save Korus which remains in hiding.
This is because of the vast amount of iron ore in the surface ground. Without a high gravity (as on Earth), the iron has no chance to sink to the core and so remains on the surface. This iron ore then combined with the moisture of the planet and … the impression one gets is that the planet is slowly rusting away!
Next you realize that the horizon is far too close for comfort. On Earth, to a six foot man, the horizon at sea is about three miles away. The rolling hills of the land make that deceptively further. But on Barsoom, the horizon is only a bit more than two miles. Far enough so that if you stand in a large meteoric impact crater, you won't see the edges.
Next you realize that the ground is not flat. On the sea beds, with their millions of years of erosion and silting, the ground is gently rolling with low hills, even the impact craters rounded nearly flat. Along the sea beds are the highlands, low by Earthly standards but on Barsoom, even a few meters is considered high. Then there are the rocky lowlands. And covering them all are the uncountable numbers of meteoric impact craters that range from a foot or less across to hundreds of miles from rim to rim. The larger ones, inhabited by the Red Men where the walls create moisture traps, are called ‘valleys.’ Helium lies in one such ‘valley’, an asteroid crater some 700 miles across with a meteoric iron rock in the center that gave Helium such an unbelievably rich and pure iron mine that it vaulted her to power long before the arrival of the Warlord.
On the other side of the world lies an equally large crater, only this one filled with water from the Iss to form the Sea of Korus, lost for millennia. And halfway between the Torquas Basin. Site of an impact so massive it nearly split the planet in twain. Only 350 miles across today, the rim covers another 500 miles of fill and the shock of the impact settled the ground for another 400 miles around the rim of the crater. This is the land of the Green Hoard of Torquas who settled there for the rich moss and occasional streams and ponds still found in the mountains of Torques.
To the west of the Torques lies the fertile highlands of Jahar which end at the Great Desert. Once one of the great world powers, Jahar has since fallen on disastrous times.
The River Iss remains the last of the great rivers of Barsoom. Draining the Toonol Marsh at the east, without the Iss the Marsh would fill and return to being a large lake, the Iss turns south to follow the ancient seabed until it enters the Koalian Forest to add precious water to the forest soil. Leaving the Forest at the south, the Iss wanders ever southwards, entering valley after crater, creating lakes, marshes and even fertile croplands until it enters the Otz mountains where the Iss forces her way through narrow canyons to finally enters the Lost Sea of Korus at the entrance to the Valley Dor. The Therns still keep the Iss free of colonization and it is rumored that many lost cities manage to survive along the Iss despite the travels of the pilgrims and the attempts of the Therns.
Three great forests belt Barsoom at the equator. The Koalian, being the most lush, retains creatures long extinct elsewhere. A dry region follows east until the Bantoom Hills which border the western regions of Manator and their forests, the western hills capturing airborne water to create streams to flow both into Bantoom and the Manator forests. Then, eastwards for another 2900 miles there is nothing until you reach the Forest of Lost Souls. This forest strips the Jet Stream of its remaining moisture, creating a desert forest that is adapted to semi-arid conditions.
Gathol, lying next to the Great Rift Valley of Kamtol, once a mighty island nation, is now but a mountain in the midst of a salt marsh, inhabited by herdsmen who are noted for their strength in battle.
And of the Kamtol Rift? Once a deep water trench that stretched into the Throxeus, it remains fertile and lush only because of its depth below the surface, her high walls trapping the remaining moisture within.
This then is Barsoom. A world of vast deserts, lush jungles and marshes, low hills, deep crater-valleys and crossed by many waterways to stave off the extinction of the people.
The plants on Barsoom evolved from Red Algae (on Earth they evolved from Green algae) thus all the vegetation you will see is reddish or yellow-red.
The moss that covers most of Barsoom is thicker and of a deeper red in the dead sea bottoms indicating thicker air and some water still trapped below the surface. It is here that the herds of wild thoats seek to graze with packs of banths to hunt the thoats. One wonders why, with all this lush moss and few cities, the Green Hoards remain in the barren south to scratch their living from the rocky soil.
Along much of the old shoreline are the highlands, low by Earthly standards but on Barsoom, even a few meters is considered high. These highlands are noted for a more yellowish-red moss, adapted to the drier conditions. Hardy and thick, almost fern-like as they stretch their leaf-like fronds to the distant sun.
In the lowlands, a hardier version of the red moss is sparse, often with distances of dirt and rock separating them. Here truly is the vast Martian Desert. Home to the Green Men and their hardy giant thoats, rocky, dry and with sandstorms that would pit metal, life here survives, but barely. It is said that if you can survive the Great Desert that surrounds the Iss, you can live anywhere. To the all too rare inhabitants of the great Desert, a spoon of water is worth more than a bag of gold, if such inhabitants lived.
Still, even considering the thickness of the seabed moss, the planet of Barsoom is mostly desert with a very narrow temperate band just below the ice caps. Open water is rare, the River Iss being the only known river of any size which is guarded by both the fanatical Therns and religious custom. The only surviving ocean is the Lost Sea of Korus. All other water comes from the waterways built by the Orovars nearly a half-million years ago or the occasional and shallow streams that feed the even rarer forests.
The Northern ice cap is consistent in size which encouraged the majority of the waterways to build from that place. The southern ice cap varies greatly in size and so the technical problems of building a waterway that moves with the ice cap were so enormous that only a few were built. Even Helium in the south receives her water from the northern ice caps. Along these waterways and following them for dozens of miles into the desert lie the actual croplands of Barsoom. It is here that Nobles are sent to protect the vital foods of the planet. There are no open ditches as on Earth for the water is transmitted from the waterways to the roots of the plants with the occasional covered well, carefully guarded. Deep Wells are so rare as to be virtually unknown, Gathol having some of the few that were dug.
Being a low gravity world, the plants never had to develop strong woody fibers to support the weight of large foliage as with the Redwoods on Earth or the city trees on Amtor. Thus most of the plants resemble oversized reddish ferns. Trees are rare, growing in the shelter of the crater rims, protected and carefully harvested for their wood.
All animals, with the exception of a single rodent-like animal, including humans, are born from an egg. The mechanics of this are unknown or at best, not fully understood by the Earth man, but women, both red and green, upon Barsoom lay up to thirteen eggs a year, one each month or less. Most of these are infertile and die quickly. But when fertilized, they gestate, and when placed in a warm location such as between sun-warmed rocks or within an incubator, the egg grows for five years until it hatches, producing a nearly fully grown person, naked and savage, to be captured and trained until they mature at forty. It is rare for a Red Man to begin reproduction before their first century has passed. Yet, Jahar taught that with care, each of the thirteen eggs can grow and hatch to overrun the world with starving hoards. Beware the lesson of U-Gor.
These people of Barsoom are gifted with a life span of a thousand years or more, though we do not know if this is a thousand Earth years or a thousand Barsoom years. Perhaps this is an adaptation to the radiation to which the planet is constantly exposed. Perhaps it is the fantastic medical prowess of the inhabitants that often renders Death a formality.
And as the Barsoomian ages, so do their powers increase. Mildly telepathic in their youth, this ability increases with age until well into their first millennium, the aged are capable of not only reading every thought in the minds of the younger, but often they may read the last thoughts of the dead as well. There are stories of the elders even being able to see into the bodies of others as if they possessed x-ray vision.
Such powers are unfathomable to the Earth man to whom telepathy is but a wish for to the Red and Green Man, the Earth men are telepathically invisible. Our minds closed to their probes, our very presence unsettling as if the red man were blind in our presence.
The prevailing winds come from the Northern Hemisphere (the Artolian Hills), picking up moisture from the eternal snows, then, heavy with water, they sink low and sweep South East to the Toonolian marshes where they pick up more moisture. Then they move to the Koalian Forest where they turn east and follow the Equator across the Forests of Manator and the Forest of Lost Souls, depositing moisture all along that rich forested area. Then, dry and lightened of their moisture, they divert north again to the Artolian Hills. Without this jet stream, the forests would perish.
The Southern winds move along a westerly path that crosses over the southern regions of Helium, to Torquas where they pick up more moisture which is deposited in the Jahar region which gives that area such fertile riches. The now dry winds cross the Great Desert to collect water from the Lost Sea of Korus and then west again to deposit this water along the fertile highland belt that touches the southern part of the Valley of Helium. Some of this is diverted northwest to loose the moisture along the NW valley wall to water the Helium Forests. The rest continues to Torquas and Jahar.
The Throxeus sea-beds of the north endure a series of circular eddies created by the Artolian Jet stream. These were both bane and blessing to the ancient sailors and today broadcast to the wild banths and Calots the location of prey hundreds of haads away.
The sun is small in the sky, so tiny that you wonder how it could warm such a world, but without any molten iron core, there is no magnetic field, no Van Allen radiation belts to protect the planet from hard UV, no ionosphere to block that same UV. Sunburn is a danger here for the tourist. Think SPF-2000. The red and green skins of the current race is UV-tolerant and prevents skin cancer. The tourist from Earth is not so lucky. And leave your compass home as useless.
Two moons orbit the world, Clurios and Thuria. One so small and low that it seems to shoot across the sky like a misshapen cannonball. The other, larger and further, moves slowly, so slowly that when the nearer moon crosses the sky, the further seems to move backwards. Although their orbits are not fully equatorial, they are close enough to ensure that the inhabitants of the poles will see neither and so their majesty can be fully appreciated only within thirty or fifty degrees of the equator. The further away you travel the closer to the horizon the moons appear until they vanish.
With the thin air, there is little ability for the sun's heat or light to be retained and so with the setting of the sun, both warmth and light vanish as if one had extinguished a lamp. Yet, the stars that appear are larger and brighter than those of Earth for without a thick atmosphere to inhibit their light, they twinkle less, are brighter and those too faint to see from Earth are visible. On the best night on earth, one can see perhaps seven thousand stars in the night sky, appearing one by one. On Barsoom, that many appear almost instantly with thousands more appearing within the zode. And those that do appear are huge and bright, Sirius as seen on Earth would pale by comparison with the average star's light seen on Barsoom.
Barsoom is a world ruled by custom and tradition. Had they heard the Earthly saying, “it's good enough for my grandfather, it's good enough for me”, they would understand completely. Custom rules law. Custom rules dress. Custom rules their very lives. Why else would the Iss remain uninhabited save by the occasional apostate pilgrim who hides away from contact? Why else would entire nations go to war to rescue a single Princess or follow a madman to destruction? There are no reasons for the customs men follow other than, “it is the way it is.”
Democracy also is unknown. Cities are ruled by Jeds. When a Jed conquers another city, the Jed becomes a Jeddak and empires are born. Yet, even when a city is conquered, often, after executing the ruling leaders, the conqueror will place a member of the murdered ruling family upon the throne as a puppet in the new empire. And with a life span that lasts to a thousand years, with care, reigns are long unless ended by assassination or the disaster of war.
Although crime is almost unknown, assassination and kidnapping are common. Thus you may place a chest of gold upon your bed in a common barracks and not one coin shall be missing. But fear for your family and fellows for slavery is universal and kidnapping an art. And if you anger the wrong person, someone too weak to challenge you to a duel or too powerful for you to challenge, the dagger of the assassin may find your heart.
Thus everyone habitually goes armed. Long sword, shorts word, dagger and radium revolver are the minimum carried and not even the Jeddak himself can disarm you as you approach his throne. Being disarmed implies that the person you are facing is a base coward, and thus open to assassination himself, or that you are a prisoner. For even slaves are often armed and trained to fight that they may defend their owners and the role of the Panthan, the mercenary soldier-bodyguard is an honorable profession.
Few wear much in the way of clothing and none see shame with exposing most if not all of their bodies in public. For often, the belts that hold your instruments of destruction, are the closest you will se in the way of modesty. Hats are unknown yet headdresses of feathers and gems are prized as are the jewels that bedeck the harness and limbs of the wearer.
Despite this lack of apparel, or perhaps because of it, sex is rare and reserved among husband and wife for pre-marital and extra-marital sex is rare. Some of the wealthy do possess a harem and slaves, both male and female, are at the call of their owners. But only the basest coward would think of violating a free woman nor would your fellows stand by as this was done, killing you themselves without recrimination for even the Jeddaks themselves would risk their lives to save a woman even were she a slave. Honor is more than a word, it is a lifestyle and those who lie, cheat, steal, abuse are quickly killed, often by their own friends less they become befouled by association with a dastard.
Such do the men of Barsoom prize their reputation, for many own naught but a sword, a belt to hang it from and their reputation, that dueling over honor is common and the victor is rarely punished for their killings.
War is common and peace rare upon the face of a planet that has been dying for thousands of years. Even though the nations possess flying battleships and cannon that hurl nuclear-like rounds hundreds of miles, to face your opponent with a naked sword is the preferred manner of battle. Thus even battleships will clash, eschewing the firearm for the joy of hand-to-hand combat. Cavalry and infantry are as valuable as is the airborne navy on this world of edged steel.
This then is the world facing the tourist.
A FEW PLACES TO VISIT
With such a world, where should one travel? Here are a very few interesting sights.
The Toonol Marshes. Huge covering more than 5000 haads east-west by 800 haads north-south (a haad being about 1950 feet or 594 meters), the marshes are the remains of the Toonol Bay. Now, surviving only by the depth of her placement between the cliffs and the moisture dropped upon the marsh by the Jet Stream passing over the Artolian Hills, only in the Marshes will you find rain. Here also is the canoeist's paradise, could you avoid the predators of the marsh. Serpents and marsh Calots, darseen and arbok and even other creatures, venomous and clawed fight for survival within the Marsh. And each will find an unarmed person easier prey. Yet the Marsh is ripe with beauty, her flowers gorgeous, the plants vivid, the trees beautiful. But beware the two main empires of the marsh, Phundahl and Toonol. The former religiously fanatical, the latter fanatically atheistic. Both eternally at war. There are a few independent cities within the marsh but these owe their freedom more to being unimportant and unknown than their military prowess. Yet cities, both free and tributary, encircle the marsh, risking conquest for precious water.
The Koal Forest. Home to the empire of Koal, the forest is the first stop of the river Iss and once was situated on the banks of the Throxeus Sea.. The Koal Forest is now three forests in one. To the northwest, the lowest section is surrounded by crater walls that create a marsh-like wetlands. To the east, a true forest and in the center, a higher region through which the Iss is rumored to flow, is the Barsoomian equivalent of a conifer forest. Although the vegetation is of deep reds and scarlets with patches of yellow-red and even oranges, it is the animals one must avoid. For the carnivorous Calot tree is dangerous but easily avoided but the Koalian Forest hosts creatures unknown elsewhere since the seas dried. The most terrible of this is the Sith, a wasp the size of an earthly bull that is so tenacious that only a spear tipped with the sith's own venom can kill it fast enough to save its prey.
The River Iss. Moving from the easternmost edge of the Toonolian Marsh, the Iss drains water from the marsh and thus prevents then from flooding and returning to a bay. The Iss turns south, following the ancient seabed until it enters the Koalian Forest where it becomes lost, to emerge again at the south to wind her way through the Great Desert until it enters the Otz Mountains to refresh the Lost Sea of Korus. It is the journey of the Iss across half the planet that is now important for this was the avenue of the Pilgrims who sought the release of Heaven. Owned by the once-holy Therns, only a few remain at their ancient occupation. Yet as the Iss carved her way south, she eroded crater walls and flowed through low areas so the trip, could you survive the dangers, passing through canyons of such beauty that the Grand Canyon of Arizona would fill itself in despair. Forests and swamps and lakes are encountered along the way with all the myriad of animal and plant life attracted to this last belt of moving water. And, it is said, that lost cities may even exist along the path.
Dor. This is heaven, yet a nightmarish concept of heaven would be more proper for the valley is inhabited by Calots, banths, white apes and the horribly fearsome Plant Man through whose veins run not blood but sap. So terrible is the entrance to Dor that many pilgrims would turn aside and scratch their meager living from the Valley of Lost Souls. So terrible is Dor that even now, decades after the fall of the Thern Religion and the death of the Goddess Isis, the valley remains unconquered by the outside. It is the Sea of Korus where one may find the last body of water upon the surface of Barsoom.
The Valley of Helium. Can anyone visit Barsoom and NOT seek to see the Valley of the Twin Cities of Helium? Nested into a giant impact crater, her walls beyond the horizon and almost invisible, the valley hosts one of the richest iron mines on Barsoom. The nickel-iron asteroid that struck here remained close to the surface and produces nearly pure iron for the Helium military machine. To the northwest lies the Helium Forest, one of the rare that still grows skeel and soropus. This forest exists only because the winds that steal water from Korus loose much of their water to the cliff walls. Seventy-five mile away lies Lesser Helium and within both Helium and lesser helium stand a mile-high tower, a monument to the abilities of the Heliumites. Travel between may be done by thoat, flier or by the underground pneumatic tube, the last being the fastest, most comfortable and safest way to travel. Helium is also the place of the palace of the warlord, John Carter and his incomparable princess, Dejah Thoris.
Gathol, once an island in the Throxeus Sea, now is a mountain in a salt marsh, her exports being thoats and salt and gemstones for Gathol boasts the last remaining gem mine that has not been exhausted. Such riches invite conquest but when called to duty, the foppish Gatholians become some of the best soldiers on Barsoom who prefer to speak to their foes with tongues of steel.
Jahar. Once one of the mightiest empires on Barsoom, this well watered space that resides between the Great Desert of the west and the Torquas seabed of the east suffered the megalomania of a former ruler who decreed that no eggs be destroyed in his mad attempt to breed an unstoppable army. What he created was the nightmare of U-Gor which proves that left alone, eggs will hatch and the wild things that come from that fragile shell resembles humanity only in form. Avoid U-Gor for although the heirs of Jahar have sought to exterminate the poor savages that Tul Axter created, they are far from finished and death by cannibalism is often the fate of those who enter.
Manator is the place where Jetan is a passion. While other cities have an arena for sports that deal with sword-play and other martial arts, the cities of Manator boast gigantic jetan boards where the pieces are living beings who fight to the death over a disputed square. Most of the players are condemned criminals or slaves or visitors who trespass into the Manator forest but others, the Chieftains, are often troublesome nobles sent to the Board in the hope of their deaths or the occasional person seeking fame and glory and wealth for a winning player receives both.
Nearby Bantoom is a series of underground hives, each ruled by an egg-laying ‘king’ who is father to all the insect kaldanes in his hive. Breeding people with animals, they developed the headless Rykor as a human-like steed to carry them about. Each of the many hives is obsessed with logic and so breed for intellect and they spend their lives in storing food for the day when Barsoom finally dies and they, the pure intellect Kaldane, will inherit Barsoom.
Across the southern low deserts and stretching into the highlands are the various Green Hoards of Thark, Warhoon, Torquas, Thurid and others. Barbarians all, they life only to plunder and fight. War is their life and those whom they take alive will suffer endless tortures at the hands of their cruel captors. The Tharken hoard is the only one that offers the red Man the slightest chance of civility for the great warrior, tars Tarkas, has allied himself with the Jasoomian John Carter and so the Tharken society is slowly changing. Although they retain the common incubators, more and more young are being raised by parents instead of strangers and marriages are occasionally happening in this cruel society.
These are but some of the places that the tourist may wish to investigate. The beauties of the snow-clad Artolian Hills, the mysteries of Bantoom and her insect Kaldane lords, the nightmarish insects of the Koalian Forest, the glories of the dead cities of Horz. Many are the sights of Barsoom. Many are her wonders and equally sad will be her eventual death.
ERBzine Guide to Barsoom
Rick Johnson Feature Articles and Fiction in ERBzine
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ERBzine 1522: Sociology of the Wieroo
ERBzine 1527: Maltheusian Decimation in Pal-Ul-Don
ERBzine 1547: Opar
ERBzine 1710: Conflict!
ERBzine 1965: Rescue In Pellucidar
ERBzine 1974: Anatomy of an Alien
ERBzine 2304: Prelude to Weir-Lu of Caspak
ERBzine 2388: Bright-Eyed Flower of Pal-ul-don
ERBzine 2394: Dinosaur Survival On Earth
|ERBzine 1578: Barsoom
ERBzine 1370: Mapping Barsoom I: Can It Be Done?
ERBzine 1562: Mapping Barsoom II: Compromises
ERBzine 1565: Mapping Barsoom III: The Past
ERBzine 1633: Valley Dor
ERBzine 1634: Swords On Mars
ERBzine 1711: A Panthan of Mars
ERBzine 1712: Spy: Arrival On Mars
ERBzine 2165: Battle at U-Gor
ERBzine 2166: Lost On Barsoom
ERBzine 2167: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. I
ERBzine 2168: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. II
ERBzine 2169: North to Barsoom
ERBzine 2196: Jahar
ERBzine 2303: Return to Barsoom I: Letters
The Fantastic Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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