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Volume 2146

Pellucidarian Cogitations
J. Allen St. John: At the Earth's Core - 9 sepia interior platesPaul F. Berdanier: Tanar of Pellucidar - wrap-around DJ - b/w FP
by Cristian Sildan

Click cover images to go to the ERB C.H.A.S.E.R. Illustrated Bibliography Entries
By keeping analyzing ERB's Opus, I came to develop the desire to go really deep in my investigation. So deep, to the point of reaching Pellucidar…

This buried world is among the most peculiar in the ERB universe. Of course, other analysts like our good old Den Valdron have had their say on it, and a strong say at that. Still, there remain some things, here and there, that could be added to the texts already written.

So I will attack and … unearth the various aspects that interest me about Pellucidar as follows; I hope you'll …dig it:


The problem of the climate

To begin with, as big and mighty as it appears to be, the famous inner sun seems weak, for a handful of reasons:

First, the reader learns on many occasions along the opus that it is enough to have some dense shadow, even induced by clouds or dense foliage, to provoke cool temperatures. The eternal noon seems heavy enough to necessitate shelter from its light, at least from time to time, but nevertheless, it seems to get a bit too frisky in the dense forests like the Forest of Death, or during the rains. On the other hand, some adventures take place in caves, which are dark by definition, and it's nowhere mentioned that it's cold inside them. Now that's curious and I think it gives us a clue on something: within Pellucidar, the heat at ground level comes in equal measure from the inner orb and from the ground itself. Since we have to do with an inner world, we can suppose its tectonical plates are thinner than ours and so, the heat from the magma beneath comes a bit more to the surface than it does upon our side of the planet. Also, the heat accumulates instead of dissipating into space as it happens in our case. All these difference point to the case of a weak sun, that gives apparently lots of light and heat, but in fact, this plentiness is more due to their cumulative effect than to their strength. In the depths of the earth like the caves, you have more magma-originated heat accumulated, so you don't feel cold. But right at the surface, the effect of this ground heat is much more dissipated and the heat from the sun is feeble, as a bit of shadow suffices to show.

Another clue is the existence of different races of humans and humanoids, even if the living conditions and the light intensity and all seem to be the same everywhere – that means there’s no significant influence of the sun upon the metabolism and the tendency of nature to adaptation-mutation; we have to link this clue with all these living fossils roaming around. We have thus the evidence the ecosystem of Pellucidar is more of a conservative rather than an innovative one – and that means it runs at low levels of energy, as it is known that life is boosted by mutations and climate changes induced mostly by the variations of the input of solar energy.

What about the water cycle? Well, it seems there’s no much rain upon/in Pellucidar – in the books we witness only two in fact, during Tarzan's foray into Zoram and after David escapes the tribe of crazy people, if I remember well. In fact we clearly notice the scarcity of storms upon land and their relative frequency upon sea (there’s at least one almost each time a character takes the sea) – but what can be the cause of this difference? I'd risk the hypothesis that giving the eternal day and uniform climate and temperatures, the water cycle in Pellucidar is very local in the sense that what evaporates, precipitates fairy rapidly back on the soil. The land doesn't hold much moisture so, what evaporates must mostly come back as dew, rapidly sucked by the ground and the plants and therefore mostly invisible at a casual glance. But upon the sea, the matter is different, there’s plenty of water and the strong rhythm of evaporation under the eternal day must lead to a lot of accumulation of clouds and with them energy, electricity, you name them.

Could there be any significant variation of the climatic condition in Pellucidar? Yes there is variation, the vegetation is different - there are forests, savannas, swamps etc. there has to be variation, but less because of the climate or the water cycle as we saw they are very uniform, as the differences are more likely to be in function of the position of  the chains of mountains and the water expanses towards each other, and also probably the degree of remoteness from the sea and the position of the region in respect to the humid atmospheric currents that may exist. Another cause of the difference of vegetation could be the composition of the soils, as it is known that plants don't thrive uniformly on any soil.

Desserts could be possible – though unlikely since some amount of moisture must be present and therefore recycle locally in any region. So the dry areas must be more like savannas, or like “green deserts” as is Australia.

What influence do the Polar openings have upon the climate? ERB says the winds of the inner world are influenced by the exterior polar summer and winter, but since the polar openings don't seem to be very large, their influence must be rather small at the scale of the whole world, I don't think they beat the heat of the eternal sun at any moment, except in their own vicinity.


The mahars

The problem of this non-human dominant species is one of the most interesting of the cycle.

They are obviously universally known, since most tribes talk of them as we see in the books – even the tribe of Ja-ru which is thousands of miles away from the Peninsula where most of the action happens. Yet, we never see them out of their domain which seems to be confined to the eastern part of the Peninsula, more precisely the territory between the eastern ocean and the Terrible Mountains which run along the spine of the named peninsula. They don't seem to have cities north of Kali and Suvi, nor westwards of the named mountains, nor south of the Straits where the bronze-age towns are found…

How can they be so much known and yet so absent? How come they and the Korsars never met until the 1930s? Even in the rather complicated theology of the bronze-age Xexot people, there’s no place for them…

They had a world map of Pellucidar in Phutra, as shown in the first book. They had obviously surveyed all their world and knew it was spherical. Yet they didn't discover the polar openings and the exterior world of ours. Which could be a proof of two things: one, these openings are definitely small and easily missed during a not very systematic exploration. And second, their mapping skills can't be much more evolved than say, our medieval ones.

I would try a very likely hypothesis, that of an ancient presence pretty much everywhere, followed by a very steep numerical decline. All this, long before the arrival of David and Perry and even that of  the Korsars.

But what would make this mighty race dwindle to only a fraction of the planet territory? I mean, the Peninsula seems bigger than half Europe or so, but it's only a bit of the total land mass of Pellucidar. Why did this happen, since there’s no mention of any catastrophe occurring in the past, that could explain their retreat?

Well, what if this dwindling was a chosen one? After all, the Mahars don't reproduce naturally since a long time… Maybe they chose to retreat to their heartland and renounce the rest of the world, while keeping a minimal number of themselves living. It seems like a very unlikely political choice, but we do see upon our side of the planet the same thing happening under our eyes: didn't the West, after all, retreat from many of its colonies even if there was no serious resistance in them? It did it just because the post-1945 generations were not willing to fight anymore, and because capitalism had discovered better ways to use the human capital than the direct domination. For not to speak of the fall in birthrate of all the developed and prosperous countries. Of course, corporate capitalism doesn't apply to the Mahars, and sure as “Molop Az”, our vision of hedonism doesn't either; but they could have had a similar drive.

Let's talk a bit about the Mahar religion, which I think is much more interesting than it would seem.

Basically, they secretly gather in subterranean temples where they bring humans, hypnotize them, make them swim and eat them alive bit by bit. Charming, but what could be the significance of all this? And what is all about their secrecy about eating warm blooded creatures? Why such secrecy when you're dominant and you don't even believe the dominated ones even understand basic stuff? And why they leave the men to the thipdars?

For starters, they don't seem to believe in some personal supernatural instance. They are said to believe that “everything has been made for them”. By someone? Not necessarily. Both Buddhists and Daoists believe that the world is whether an illusion or a whirlwind of materialized energies in different mixing of Yin and Yang. If gods there are they are subjected to the big scheme of things like everybody else. So the Mahars are likely to think that they are the embodiment of reason and perfection that the energies composing the world strive to achieve as a part of some cosmic destiny – well, rather pocket-dimension-destiny, in this case. Think of the Omega Point of de Chardin or Steiner, or something like that. So basically, the Mahars celebrate their own magnificence as Elected of the Nature, by playing with, and gulping, their subjects. Now, why should their sacred meal not be warm blooded – has this anything to do with some sort of Mana transfer? The natives from many of our tribes believe that since each being has a part of sacred energy in him, eating him according to certain rituals gives this energy, the Mana as commonly known, to the eater as a supplement of force and sacrality. But here's the problem, to extract mana means the victim is worthy… Maybe that's why the Mahars don't want the world to know they eat warm-blooded “gilaks”.

Why would the Mahars consider humans worthy?

Not necessarily because they would have any hint of their intelligence. Maybe they have appraised humans as resourceful beasts, as we appreciate the Dinosaurs, or something. But maybe they fear their potential, although they don't admit it.

Why would they eat them outside their cities, since they consider these as holly places? I mean, nothing's best than dispatching the enemy within the perimeter of the holly place… Instead of what, they seem to reserve the cities for the arena games, where the victims do have a chance to escape. Maybe they believe in Fate and since fate doesn't play in their temples, they feel like forcing it. Maybe that's why this side of their rituals takes place on Mezop, meaning enemy, ground. Cities reserved for rituals where Fate reigns, whereas the temples in the enemy islands are reserved to the cult of Mahar Strength. Makes sense.

Why the prohibition of the warm blood? Maybe it is commonly believed that only reptiles have the right Mana, and the collection of it from warm blooded creatures would be a weakness, like a doubting of the reptilian superiority. I begin to suspect the Mahars were aware of the human potential for supremacy, if not of the human intelligence…

Why eating only the women and children and leave the men to the pterodactyls? Well, maybe they are fascinated with live birth? Maybe they consider the essence of the sacred force passes through the females, as they believe about themselves by the way? Also, maybe they fear humans secretly and want to debase them by depreciating the strongest ones, deeming them as just food for the lesser subjects.

These are my suggestions. We don't have many details to develop too much. But maybe later, after some more inspiration…

J. Allen St. John: Tarzan at the Earth's Core - wrap-around DJ - different b/w FPJohn Coleman Burroughs: Back to the Stone Age - 7 b/w plates


Demography, my old love…

Let's see what we can say about the state of the population in Pellucidar. What appear to be its characteristics: well the most striking seem to be the long life and the low birthrate. We see in the books that people don't age very quickly – Perry actually gets better! Anyway, I think the old sailor that appears in the last book is a quite good indicator of what goes on there: he was 40 when he arrived in the inner world, and he was feeling 60 when he appeared in the book. While in fact he was 150 something! Which means that people do get old, but at a pace 4-5 times slower than upon the surface! Which means that in order to get to look 70, one there should live 280-350 of our years. The counterpart of a 120 old would be 600 in Pellucidar!

Why would people live for so long? Well, might be, among other things, the significantly smaller amount of radiation from the Sun and from outer space. As I said, Pellucidar is a conservative environment, there are no adaptive/evolutive mutations there, but the small amount of change probably also means a smaller entropy…

What about the low birthrate? Well, no wonder it's low with such long lives. But what exactly is the situation? Well, we encounter a lot of families with just one kid, in all the books. Two seem to be the norm. As a matter of fact, only one family from Zoram and one from Hime appear with 3 kids. Just read the books. Many families have just one son/daughter, and when some boast 7 brothers nobody believes them, although that should rather be the norm, from what we know of ancient demography in tribal times…

Would such a small birthrate be sustainable, with all these man-eating monsters loitering around, and all these charming human relations the guys there seem to have the secret? Well, let's review a bit the approximative reasons for mortality, and the violence:

  • intra-tribal violence: normally it should be low, small groups can't afford strong inner tensions due to conflicts between their members; as a rule, all observable tribes in our world punish severely such tensions, as a matter of fact they punish severely even things we regard lightly; the tribes down below should be no exception
  • inter-tribal violence: this too should be rare, for the tribes appear to be very scattered, with hundreds of miles of empty terrain between them; as a matter of fact, the stealing of girls seems to be the only source of armed conflict in 90% of the cases, throughout the books; also, we notice that even in case of total victory, the victor seldom exterminates the vanquished, as we see with the two rival tribes on the floating islands
  • the Mahars seem to activate only in the Eastern parts of the Peninsula
  • most captives appear to be made slaves rather than killed/eaten
  • the beasts: that's another story; but, let's analyze the odds one primordial human denizen has to be masticated by some Megafauna club member. It appears the tribes don't move a lot around, unlike the ones that once roamed the surface of our orb. As you might know, our own ancestors were moving a lot in search for food, since they were following the pattern of seasonal change, and the resulting migration of the animals they were consuming. These displacements were implying a constant modification of their routines, and were very likely to produce accidents and stuff. On the other hand, in Pellucidar there are no seasons so, likely no significant migrations of the herds. Maybe just local ones, in the sense that for example the Triceratopses move a bit further in the Gyor Kors after depleting the grass from a certain surface. Therefore, humans are very likely to just stay put, in the best place of the territory, from where most of the herds are easily reachable. Maybe at a distance as equal as possible from the most unavoidable passes and fords and drinking places and other spots where one can be sure to find prey often and where the said prey doesn't have much space to move. The humans must be really good at the routine established in each of the hunting places, since these don't vary much. And since they are good, they are likely to avoid many accidents and injuries that would occur in more unstable scenarios. Also, we are repeatedly told in the books that when humans are in large groups – more than three appears to be ok already – animals usually don't attack unless they are the biggest bosses in the Megafauna club. All this can only mean that losses by animal attack can't be that many, anyway not as many as one would expect. As a matter of fact, we see that it's usually some mistake, some rush or some strong incentive that brings a lone hero/heroine to try his/her chances alone in the wild. Usually humans go grouped, and then relatively few things can happen to them. Which brings us to consider that for most people, who don't run away alone, the wild beasts can't be too much of a reason for high mortality either.
  • One thing appears to be peculiar for the tribes of Pellucidar, and that's their effectives. From what we see, most tribes appear to comprise between 300 and 500 people, or so. That's bigger than the average Terrestrial ones of the Paleolithic, which are not bigger than 40 to 200 at most. Must be the particular conditions linked to the lack of seasonality I talked about above. I mean, a more luxuriant and stable nature means a lot more animals, and these mean more food. Especially if they don't migrate a lot.

    Speaking of demography, one can't help noticing the difference between the Peninsula upon which the Empire develops, versus the rest of the world: indeed, the tribes seem to be much bigger and more frequent there than in other regions of the inner world: I mean, in all the adventures that take place somewhere else, except among the Korsars, one notices how far away are the tribes one from the others and how they aren't more than 500 strong. Whereas in the Peninsula, we know there are at least 20 tribes, and that they can muster tens of thousands of warriors! That's 500 to 1,000 armed males per tribe, which means the tribes are on average much bigger than 1,000. Also, we learn that most are composed of more than one village.

    To give a global image of the situation, it looks like outside the Peninsula, there is no more than a 200-500 strong tribe every 10,000 sq mi (20-30,000 sq km), or so. Which gives a density of 2-3 people per 100 square kilometers (5-6 per 100 square miles). A bit like Australia, or most of Canada, before the colonization. That's Paleolithic-like.

    In the Peninsula, the matter is very different: the surface where the action takes place and the Empire takes shape is probably the size of Western Europe, or so. Maybe a bit smaller. And I'm sure there must be 200 to 400,000 individuals there. A density of around 1 per 10 sq km (0.22 per sq mi). That's early Neolithic level. The Mahars were hunting the humans, but I suspect they were also doing something to make them thrive, somehow, to make them be much more present than outside their sphere of influence. From what we see, the way of life is very little different from one tribe to another, apart of course the tribes of various kinds of weirdos and mutants. And nature appears to offer about the same stuff, no different climates meaning less variation in the general conditions of living. So, what would make humans thrive more in the Peninsula? There might be something: maybe the demographic increase of a given tribe is very slow, and it's very difficult to gather a number strong enough to make for a viable new tribe without destabilizing the ancient group by some of its members departing. So the chiefs likely prefer to waste the excess of people in wars. Or infanticide. Or maybe the best warriors keep many women, as we see in the books, forcing the younger and less strong men to perilous expeditions of stealing mates from other tribes. That acted as a malthusian tool too. So it may be that in the Peninsula, things were different because the Mahars wanted more subjects, so at intervals, they were collecting the excedent of people from many tribes and grouping them so as to help the formation of new tribes and the spread of a numerous population, from which they would have more slaves to take. It appears from the books that their expeditions of capture and the killing of the prisoners are not random nor unplanified, as we see in the case of this rule they have about making taboo the slaves that succeeded in surviving in the arena. It's relatively obvious they don't simply “waste” and “prey upon” the humans, but they “manage” this “resource”, at least to a certain degree. Maybe they facilitated the formation of a thicker settlement in the past, in order to have less space to cover when fresh meat needed.

    And now let's analyze the problem of the Mezops. They are peculiar not just by being red unlike most of the tribes that we encounter in the inner world but they appear, at least at the beginning, to know agriculture, and then we learn they are “in the millions”.  Maybe ERB realized there was no way for a rather primitive human community to build a fleet in a relatively short time unless it has many members. But on the other hand, he may also have realized - later in the composition of the picture of his inner world - that the pill was too big to swallow. So in the later books we hear nothing more of the Mezop agriculture - nor do we of the railroad that was said to exist at the end of the second book, or of the strong industrialization and other great strides in modernization that were also depicted initially. Once again, ERB must have realized that the picture was too exaggerated and toned it down. In the last book he elegantly gave some hints that many initial attempts to a greater modernism were later disregarded by the uninterested, not evolved enough, locals – he doesn't explain were the train and various industrial platforms evaporated, though. He just gave minor examples, that were supposed to be sufficient to explain the reason why the whole later picture didn't exude so much of an Industrial Revolution anymore. And the readers, loving ERB, understand the trick, of course. Suspension of disbelief is an art more than an exact science. Similar to these must be the case with the number of the Mezops: they can't be millions, or if they were they should have logically taken over the whole Empire, for we know that the rest of the population all together must be smaller than a million. It's just not in the human nature not to take advantage of one's force to make the feebler submit, or even disappear. Besides a millionaire population upon small islands requires quite sophisticated agriculture, and that takes us way far from the hunter-gatherers of the Stone Age. It is understandable that ERB ends up leaving the whole thing in the mists. Put briefly, Mezops must be 100-200,000 or so. That's already big, but small enough not to destabilize the balance of power of the tribes of the Empire.

    Korsars
    Their apparition in the novels is a colorful surprise.
    But where on Earth – literally – do they come from, and how in Earth – again literally – did they get in Pellucidar?
    And why and how should they be Spanish originated?
    I'll lie before your eyes one of these monumental hypotheses I have the secret:
    Ta-daaa!


    The Invincible Armada hypothesis

    We all know how this unhappy great fleet went, from the hope of conquering England, to the fact of nourishing the fish and birds on the crags of Ireland and in the North Atlantic ocean.

    To my knowledge, there must be a helluva lot of Spaniard ships around, in order to get some of them to hit the spot and descend into Pellucidar. And the northern parts of the planetary ocean have never teemed with them, again to my knowledge. Except on this occasion. Maybe some of the wrecked ships have been captured by some freaky current and transported through the later-to-be Canadian archipelago right towards the famed Pole hole. Yes, I know, there’s no current like this. But the Earth we discuss isn't ours, it's the parallel one from the Burroughs universe… And it has a polar hole connecting to another system of oceans, remember? Of course the pattern of its maritime currents is totally different. It's even likely that these polar openings have a capital role in the very structure of the maritime currents of the whole planetary – and infra-planetary – ocean.

    But why make the Korsars descend from the marooned Armada members and not from some pirates that chanced too much upon the Bering sea, going up the West coast, after departing from Acapulco, for example?

    Well, for starters, the Korsar society seems pretty complex. They have all the crafts that make possible a 17th century European culture, and that's far from nothing. It has to have been started by a sizable number of people whose array of qualifications had to encompass all the named crafts or otherwise the knowledge would have been lost and their culture would have been much more primitive. And to find such a knowledge stuffed in a crew of a pirate ship is just impossible. You have to have a fleet, and you need the big luck that all the qualified people survive the ordeal of the northern seas and the final wreckage. And that they live enough upon their new land in order to pass on their knowledge. This is why their initial number must have been big, at the very least 1,000 or so.

    Other thing would be that their leader is a “Cid’’. The Cid, as many know, was a key character of the Spanish reconquista. A crusader of sorts, although a non-conformistic one, playing double jeu and stuff but that's another story. The idea is, to the Spaniards he's a national hero and a symbol of a crusading fight. Pirates are not crusaders, unless they are Moorish corsairs fighting in the name of Jihad. But these are not Spaniards. European corsairs never saw themselves as crusaders, as the Moors saw themselves as Jihadis, to my knowledge. They saw themselves as patriots fighting the enemy guerilla-style and in a private venture, but not crusaders. To be a crusader you need to be part of something much bigger than a royal licence to kill and plunder enemies. You have to have a much bigger load of religious motivation in you to do the stuff, and from what I know, the expedition of the Armada is the only Spanish initiative that came close to a maritime crusade in the northern seas during the 16th century.

    Which fact, after solving a mystery, brings us to a new puzzle: from Crusaders to outlaws – why did they morph like that? Why do they call themselves Korsars and not Krusadar or Armadar or Spanidar? Well, let's get a bit psychological here:

    They were Crusaders destined to re-Catholicize the English, and they had failed. Besides, they probably lost all their priests in the subsequent ordeal. So, bereft they were of noble goal, bereft also of Liturgy and so, of salvation…  and to surpass everything, they ended up marooned among Dinos! The links with Spain and with the Church could not be possibly more severed than that. So maybe they had this reflex of the soul that believes all is lost, and so they said something like: “that's it, we're screwed, we're not honorable anymore, we've been spit here in some sort of Limbo, so, we're outlaws now”. Their kids, conceived as they were with the local women, didn't feel the same tragedy, since they had no idea how another world would be like and so, it was very likely they were not longing for Spain. Especially since here in the new country they lived longer, under a perpetual day, and they were the most developed tribe… and so, the next generation  just took upon them the new identity that was forming, making it totally local and voila, here's the Korsar culture taking root in Northern Pellucidar.

    One more great question about the Korsars: why “in” earth do they speak Pellucidarian and not Spanish? Let's think a bit about all this: how could one guy from Pellucidar be a Korsar, without waking up of his bed, opening the windows, putting on his trousers, shirt, boots and hat, donning his sword and pistol, coming out of his house, through the door, going down the street, passing by the Palace and the shops and the warehouses, and through the gate of the city, all the way to the port, where he is to climb aboard the ship and raise the anchor and then the sails? All the highlighted words should be Spanish, because they don't exist in the native language, as a matter of fact not even in approximate and far sinonimity. And I could go on for hours. Full adoption of the Spanish language would make very much sense. The native words should be a minority, logically: words like jar, cave, silex, you know, things that are not often used by more modern people. Or words like mother, cradle, lullaby etc. that have to do with being reared by local women even if daddy's Spanish. Or the names of the local animals and plants of course. But instead of that, we barely see a handful of Spanish words in their vocabulary, like Korsar and Cid. And even these are corrupted. It just doesn't make sense. I think ERB sacrificed to the commodity of the common language, which characterizes him: all his imaginary worlds are monolingual, and if not, the minority languages are just marginal idioms from the fringes.


    Korsar demography, society and economy

    From what we know, their city has half a million inhabitants and the countryside, 5 million. This is very good, their domain is as populated as Elisabethan England and their city, as big as Paris around 1700.

    But there are some problems with this situation: how come they seem to cling to some loosely colonial scheme instead of erecting a full-blown Renaissance nation with cities, castles, villages, temples, mills and craft shops, inns and harbors, and why aren't they as present in the Pellucidarian oceans as the English were in the 1600s? You know, circumnavigating the globe and starting a colonial empire abroad? Or, from what we read, they had barely reached a couple of thousands miles eastwards and westwards from Korsar, when they had met our heroes. They don't seem to be bereft of talent, after all they managed to duplicate the 17th century and besides, to run and keep approvisioned a half a million city is something few nations could do in the 1600s! Especially while not having a nation behind, but just some loosely connected domains and tributary tribes!

    I mean, there could be an explanation for the population of their capital, maybe it is placed not far from some region of the ocean that teems with fish and cetaceans that are easy to pick and which account for easy and abundant food. Nevertheless, such a population needs a lot of wood work, metal work, textile work… plus brick and stone work, paper work, jewelry work etc. They should normally have a lot of towns around the capital, mining towns, milling towns, towns that gather the agricultural produce of the various regions… We hear nothing of all that, or very little.

    The very size of the Korsar polity forces it towards complexity: it just can't function if it remains unorganized like that.

    Of course, ERB was writing to make us dream pleasantly and not very profoundly – this is what pulp is all about. But we, analysts of his opus, we can't help not being bugged at times when his otherwise magnificently built dream registers a false sound. There are constructions that just don't work, they are not enough refined, when it's bad it's bad.

    One might come with the counter-example of Angkor: here we have a 1 million megalopolis right in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by much more backward tribes, without significant infrastructure connecting it around, and mostly self-sufficient – except for the Chinese traders – and accomplishing marvels in the domains of agriculture and building. Yeah, but the Angkor culture was religion-oriented not 17th century mercantilistic, and it had no industry and craftship of the 17th century either…

    We could paint a more realistic image of the Korsar polity and of its power by a simple expedient: dividing its population by 10. So, 50,000 for the capital, 500,000 for its hinterland, that should do. And that should solve all the problems, a polity reduced like that has excuses for not being too organized, nor too assertive in the exterior. A community only 50,000 strong can still manage to arm 100 ships or so, and to be contented with a disorganized hinterland. Besides, it's much easier to go from 1,000 individuals to 50,000 in 3 centuries, than from 1,000 to 500,000. Still, a handful of towns around the capital, and some feudal domains and stuff would have made the picture ring much more true.


    Bronze Age

    Let's address the two communities of yellow fellows who know bronze metallurgy. Why does this culture seem to be present only in a small area with two small cities? And why is this culture so impotent, so unable to conquer and spread around? We see its members are less strong and adaptable and less brave and less able to cope with the surrounding savagery than the Stone Age ones. We keep seeing the idea of the gradual degeneres-cence of the humans going hand in hand with the material progress in ERB’s opus, but still, this culture really impresses with its feebleness. I mean, Bronze Age types were far from feeble, let's think only of Achilles for an instant, or the proto-Kelts… not really sucklings, these… As for exploring and spreading around, let's think of the Phoenicians, the Minoans, the trade between Sumer and the Indus Valley…

    Methinks these folks must be from some secondary culture from Asia, some colony of a colony of the early Shang culture, some neck-of-the-woods of a periphery. They likely got trapped into some of these temporary earth-vortexes that Den Valdron talked about when discussing the weird ecosystems – Caprona, Don, Skull Island – of the surface of the Earth of the Burroughs Universe, one that opened in their area and brought them to Pellucidar, and never recovered from the shock. They were probably never destined to be a great culture in the first place. Nevertheless, they survived, but likely owing to the relative lack of challenges. Let's think of it: their world is roughly limited by the sea to the East, by the straits to the North, by the jungle to the West and by nothing to the South. Their world has a handful of miles depth and a couple of dozens of miles in length. Normally, they should have spread at least to the South. Since the time they are there, they should even have colonized the world had they been half the Myceneans.

    Why do only they have a religion? I mean, the Korsars also invoke some gods once, but they don't appear to have any well-defined cult. Here we come once more upon ERB’s rigorously evolutionary philosophy of the beginning 20th century according to which religion developed only from the late Neolithic on, and took over only beginning with the Bronze Age. Even in ERB's time, people like Frobenius had demonstrated that Paleolithic people already had deeply simbolistic and spiritual ceremonies, painted animals in the caves being at the same time the stars of the constellations and the souls of the living creatures with which the shaman established contact etc. etc. Today we know that the Neanderthals had funerary rituals which means they had beliefs. So this simplistic view was becoming obsolete even as ERB was still alive. But he was something of a heavy agnostic if not atheist, so we must not wonder he took advantage of the superficial opinion of the age concerning primitive religion in order to insert his own view in the picture. Every author does that. Anyway, in the case of the Xexots, he just used them, as Bronze Age types, in order to invent some more advanced mythology for the obvious pleasure to deride the religious feeling in a more refined manner, since a more complicated ridiculous creed is much funnier to scorn.

    Let's address some more socio-economical elements of the inner world: can there be a complex economic life without money? We know that David and Perry decided not to introduce the notion of money in the society they were building.

    But considering human nature, I'm afraid the picture is just not possible. Despite toning down the advances of the Empire in the later volumes, the new civilization has a fleet, weapon factories, and at least a handful of workshops for many industrious crafts without which no modern implements are possible. Or, who does work in these places, and for what reward? And how do the communities trade with each other? Especially considering the fact that the local guys have remained quite short-tempered, any trade without means to give a clear and rather precise value to a thing that, by the way, is new and marvelous to them, is very likely to turn into a bloodbath. Especially since the very process of making the said thing is magic to most of them. So, even with money, it should be a helluva job to set value to the items they trade. Especially considering the chronological discrepancy of the objects with the surroundings and the mentality. The idea is, maybe the Mezops would agree to build ships in the measure they would realize it serves the strength of their nation. Still, it would be difficult to appreciate the reward for the ones who effectively do the work. But when it comes to give ships to the other tribes, then the problems would turn impossible. What amount of animal skins is worth a quasi-magical big boat? How many women? How much ivory? What if women or mammoths happen to be sacred too? You see what I mean. Money would be the only straightforward way to solve such puzzles and also to – in time, after slowly shaping the local ethos - correlate the mentality with the way of crafting, and working with, the modern items. These things don't work separately. They just don't. Money is the vector of modern socio-economic information, as Hayek, Mises and the others have shown it long ago. Having modernism without money it's like having a computer without wires.

    Let's see the limits of the Empire that David Innes builds in the books, just for the sake of more precise geographical location.

    So we know the new state occupies the eastern part of the Peninsula that separates two oceans - Korsar and Darel Az. It's western limit consist mostly in the range of mountains that is the “spine” of the Peninsula. Its eastern limit is the ocean, but it encompasses many islands upon it. Not all of the islands close to the Peninsula though, for even in the last book we see a guy appearing from one island called Canda, that is known to the Mezops and seems to have quite a developed culture. Still, the Empire hasn't reached it yet. The northeastern limit of the Empire is not well defined, it just coincides with the limit of the territories of the tribes called Kali and Suvi. As for the southwestern limit of the Empire, it is relatively undefined too, for despite the Peninsula ending in the Strait in that direction, the Empire hasn't reached officially these shores as a limit by the end of the cycle. As a matter of fact, David Innes has even conceded the Mahars the right to live on a spot upon the shore of Korsar Az, in a part uninhabited by men. So it means the limits of the state in these directions are rather those of human peoplement rather than the geographical ones. And it would also suggest a not so old peoplement with humans after all, for the Empire is among the most densely populated areas we see in Pellucidar and yet, there are empty areas just in its vicinity. That can only mean the humans are not at all ancient, in these parts…

    And finally, a bit of day-dreaming (can't be otherwise in this particular case of Pellucidar…) about the remainder of the territory of the inner world

    So far, the adventures of our friends in the books have only taken us upon  say, 5 to 10 million sq km (2 to 4 million sq. miles) of lands. That's less than 3% of the surface of the land there. We can only imagine what could be found upon such a huge surface as the land area of Pellucidar offers. Only the continent that roughly corresponds to our Pacific Ocean is bigger than all our land masses combined, or almost. What could be located there? Pretty much everything.

    Can be enough room for Atlantis, or the Shambhalla of the Tibetans, or the one of the Conspiracy Theorists, or why not, Morgan the Warlord's Skartaris, the Neuschwabenland of the Nazis … plus all the lost cities and civilizations one can imagine. Or a total civilization like ours, but made of huge violet snails. There’s room for pretty much the whole possible universe one can imagine. And that means there’s enough volume for each of us to set there his/her own lost citadel full of treasures and pretty babes/dudes. With this encouraging thought, I leave you here. But don't remain too much in Pellucidar. This pesky eternal sun, even weaker than our own, is likely to give too much insolation. Very dangerous for already hyper brainy geeks like us.


    John Coleman Burroughs: Land of Terror - FP and interiors unusedJ. Allen St. John: Savage Pellucidar - 6 b/w interiors
    Phil Normand's new Savage Pellucidar dust jacket
    For more Pellucidar art visit the Lord Greystoke Gallery series
    ERBzine 0282 ~ ERBzine 0323 ~ ERBzine 0326 ~ ERBzine 0326a

    CRISTIAN SILDAN ARTICLES IN ERBzine
    Meet Christian Sildan

    Pellucidarian Cogitations 
    Pal-ul-Don
    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


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