THE MARTIAN OCEANS AND THEIR CITIES
The Eighth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
Part Two: Aaanthor, Torquas, and Lothar
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Lothario. n. A man who seduces women. From the character
in the play,
The Fair Penitent, by Nicholas Rowe (1703).
The main city in Part Two of our Dead Ocean Cities series, Lothar, is
one in which the ancient fair race of Martians still live, although in
a decadent way and in much reduced numbers. In fact, Lothar is specifically
a city without women, which brings irony to its name. However, both of
the chief living male occupants of the city live up to the reputation of
This city appears in ERB’s fourth novel of his Martian series, Thuvia,
Maid of Mars. The reader may recall that Thuvia is a really hot babe
who everyone wants to possess. She gave herself to John Carter as a love
slave in Gods of Mars, but Carter pawned her off on his son, Carthoris.
This novel is in fact the story of how Carthoris wins the Princess of Ptarth,
once the plaything of the Therns for fifteen years, for himself. He has
many rivals and Thuvia’s honor is put at risk several times as the story
progresses. This is a very adult, sexy adventure, the precursor to The
Chessmen of Mars, where Tara of Helium takes center stage as the woman
Of all the women ERB chose to be the mate for Carter's son, it is a
wonder why he would have chosen Thuvia, with her lurid background. But
he did. Thuvia must have been based on a real woman in ERB's life for him
to have been so obsessed with her. He just couldn’t get her out of his
head until she was won and married off to another.
From the first time we meet her in the Thern’s Chamber of Mystery in
the Golden Cliffs of the Otz Mountains chained bare naked to a wall, there
is something about Thuvia that catches our attention. As soon as she is
rescued by Carter and then armed, she doesn’t hesitate to kill her dominating
sex master, Sator Throg, shooting him coldly and brutally through the heart
with her pistol. Only Tara of Helium and Phaidor kill more men than Thuvia.
But Thuvia’s real magic is in her mastery of the fierce Barsoomian lion,
the banth. She is an animal charmer, a banth whisperer – she has the witching
way. I like to think of Thuvia as the Red Witch of Ptarth and I wish ERB
had to lived to write another adventure about this fascinating woman. But
as it is, Thuvia, Maid of Mars will have to stand on its own. And
that it does very well.
Carthoris has to overcome at least three big problems if he hopes to
win Thuvia: (1) she had totally given herself over to his father as his
sex slave and still carries a major crush for the Warlord (see, e.g., GM/4,14.15,18,
22; WM/4); (2) Thuvia is in love with his mother too, the incomparible
Dejah Thoris, with whom she spent several months in the Temple of the Sun,
and then together again as captives of Matai Shang (GM/18; WM/3,4,,10,11,16);
and (3) she is betrothed to Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol (see below).
On this final matter, Martian custom stands solidly in his way. We are
never told why Thuvia took her fateful journey down the River Iss to Valley
Dor, where she was captured by the Therns and made their plaything for
fifteen years. ERB always refers to her as a girl, so she must be a relatively
young Martian woman. But that could mean anywhere between one and fifty.
Yet, considering Carthoris is called a boy, only ten years old when John
Carter first meets him -- that probably means that Thuvia is likely around
25 years old.
What sent her down the river? Perhaps it was the same fate she is facing
now: the prospect of being married to her betrothed, Kulan Tith. Sure,
he’s a jeddak, and she would be a queen, but a loveless one. Not to forget
that Kulan Tith’s misplaced trust in Matai Shang almost caused Thuvia to
be a slave forever in Kadabra (WM/7.) Thuvia appears to be a true romantic,
choosing Valley Dor over the prospect of being married to a man she neither
loves nor trusts.
Any surviving Thern left alive on Barsoom after the Battle of Kadabra
would find it amusing to see Thuvia as a haughty Jeddara of Kaol after
groveling at their feet for fifteen years as a sex slave. Yes, Carthoris
has bitten off way too much, but, as we shall see, not more than he can
The story begins with a seduction scene and near rape. Astok, the Prince
of Dusar, is in strong lust for Thuvia, and likely due to her lurid past
with the Therns, tries to forcibly take her on an ersite bench in her father’s
garden in broad daylight. He whispers heatedly in her ear:
“‘Ah, Thuvia of Ptarth,’ he cried, ‘you
are cold even before the fiery blasts of my consuming love! No harder than
your heart, nor colder is the hard, cold ersite of this thrice happy bench
which supports your divine and fadeless form! Tell me, O Thuvia of Ptarth,
that I may still hope – that though you do not love me now, yet some day,
some day, my princess, I-------’
I must interrupt at this point before the joke is lost to point out what
ERB meant by the ersite bench being thrice happy. He is talking about three
specific parts of Thuvia’s body that are touching the bench. We are not
told that the bench has a back, but it is unlikely that it did: it is only
referred to as “a massive bench of polished ersite.” Thus, this joke could
be referencing her buttocks and thighs, or if we take the buttocks as plural,
it could be both cheeks and her genitalia. The latter is more bawdy and
probably is the case. This is ERB’s subtle reminder at the beginning of
the story that everyone is naked on Mars. (See, “Nakedness on Mars,” ERBzine
This is ERB’s first Martian novel written after the famous trilogy and
the first written in the third person. There is even a glossary at the
end. Perhaps he imagined this story as the last one in the series at the
time he wrote it. Six more years would pass before he wrote another Mars
novel: The Chessmen of Mars. Perhaps Emma was getting suspicious
Anyway, back to the story. Astok, according to Martian custom, has just
made a major blunder by calling Thuvia his princess:
“The girl sprang to her feet with an
exclamation of surprise and displeasure. Her queenly head was poised haughtily
upon her smooth red shoulders. Her dark eyes looked angrily into those
of the man.
What a great opening scene. In it we learn an important thing about Thuvia.
She enjoys dangerous flirting. Otherwise she would not have allowed a private
conversation with Astok in her father’s garden in the first place. Moveover,
she was willing to allow a certain amount of skin contact before blowing
the whistle on Astok. Pulling the girl to him for a kiss would have meant
genitalia to genitalia contact.
“‘You forget yourself, and the customs of Barsoom,
Astok,’ she said. ‘I have given you no right thus to address the daughter
of Thuvan Dihn, nor have you won such a right.’
“The man reached suddenly forth and grasped her
by the arm. “‘You shall be my princess!’ he cried. ‘By the breast of Issus,
thou shalt, nor shall any other come between Astok, Prince of Dusar, and
his heart’s desire. Tell me that there is another, and I shall cut out
his fool heart and fling it to the wild calots of the dead seabottoms!’
“At touch of the man’s hand upon her flesh the
girl went palid beneath her coppery skin, for the persons of the royal
women of the courts of Mars are held but little less than sacred. The act
of Astok, Prince of Dusar, was profanation. There was no terror in the
eyes of Thuvia of Ptarth – only horror for the thing the man had done and
for its possible consequences.
“‘Release me.’ Her voice was level – frigid.
“The man muttered incoherently and drew her roughly
toward him. “‘Release me!’ she repeated sharply, ‘or I call the guard,
and the Prince of Dusar knows what that will mean.’
“Quickly he threw his right arm about her shoulders
and strove to draw her face to his lips. With a little cry she struck him
full in the mouth with the massive bracelets that circled her free arm.
“‘Calot!’ she exclaimed, and then: ‘The guard!
The guard! Hasten in protection of the Princess of Ptarth.’” (TMM/1.)
We are told that at his first touch her skin went palid beneath her
coppery skin, but one can imagine an element of erotic temptation also.
Furthermore, ERB leads us to believe that she was reluctant to call the
guard at first because she knew that doing so would constitute an act of
war between Ptarth and Dusar.
But let us understand one thing. Thuvia’s fifteen years among the HolyTherns
had corrupted her Martian mores. Pay attention: she is flirting with a
Prince while betrothed to another Jeddak. This is a knock at Martian custom.
Not to forget that she was more than willing to fling herself at John Carter
when he arrived on the scene, offering herself to be his unwedded concubine.
She became equally in love with both John Carter and Dejah Thoris. Thus,
even though she is back in her princess routine in her father’s court,
there is still a certain amount of the adventurous woman in her.
Astok must have been really turned on by this aspect of her persona.
He has literally lost his mind in the garden and is willing to take Thuvia
right there out in the open. Then Carthoris comes to the rescue before
the guard arrives:
“But before they had passed half across
the royal garden to where Astok of Dusar still held the struggling girl
in his grasp, another figure sprang from a cluster of dense foilage that
had a golden fountain close at hand. A tall, straight youth he was, with
black hair and keen gray eyes; broad of shoulder and narrow of hip; a clean-limbed
fighting man. His skin was but faintly tinged with the copper color that
marks the red men of Mars from the other races of the dying planet – he
was like them, and yet there was a subtle difference greater even than
that which lay in his lighter skin and his gray eyes.
It is not hard to imagine quite a bit of skin-on-skin contact as Thuvia
struggled in Astok's grasp. He was still trying to hold on to her knowing
that the guard was coming to her rescue. Yes, Thuvia has this effect on
“There was a difference, too, in his movement.
He came on in great leaps that carried him so swiftly over the ground that
the speed of the guardsmen was as nothing by comparison.
“Astok still clutched Thuvia’s wrist as the young
warrior confronted him. The new-comer wasted no time and he spoke but a
“‘Calot!’ he snapped, and then his clenched fist
landed beneath the other’s chin, lifting him high into the air and depositing
him in a crumpled heap within the center of the pimalia bush beside the
ersite bench.” (TMM/1.)
Thuvia’s next task will be some swift diplomacy in keeping the two young
princes from each other’s throats. After all, Astok is a guest of her father
and to him alone will the judgment as to Astok’s fate. The idea of averting
a war because of her dangerous flirting might also have been in her mind.
In quick summation, Carthoris has arrived unannounced to show-off a
new directional compass he has just invented and he just happens to be
in the right place at the right time to rescue the princess. Astok makes
his getaway that evening without mention of his terrible deed to Thuvan
Dihn. Carthoris demonstrates how his directional compass operates and later
flirts with Thuvia, wondering if he has a chance with her.
He reminds her of all the time they spent together in Kadabra and later
a month in her father’s court. His idea of the past is not the same as
Thuvia’s. She recalls their first encounter rather ruefully. She had decided
to stand with John Carter against a Green Martian patrol, yet his rash
son had put her on top of his thoat and slapped it on the rump with the
flat of his sword, sending her off into another scary adventure, straight
into the hands of a lucky Black Pirate patrol (GM/15). That could not have
made a very good first impression.
Thuvia plays with his heart, reminding him of her betrothal to the Jeddak
of Kaol. But knowing of the betrothal only makes their flirting more daring
as together they push the thin envelope of Martian custom.
Sure, she is attracted to Carthoris. How can she not be: he is a dead
ringer for his father, with whom she is still in love. She gives Carthoris
just enough tortured hints to keep him interested but makes it clear that
he will have to win her before she can ever be his.Carthoris returns to
Helium but that night Thuvia is kidnapped by members of Astok’s bodyguard
and taken to the ancient dead-sea bottom city of Aaanthor to await the
arrival of Astok. As soon as Carthoris discovers that Thuvia is missing
– at John Carter’s insistence since Carthoris is the main suspect – he
sets his directional compass to Ptarth and falls asleep on the
journey. However, a spy has sabotaged his compass and he awakens the
next morning, not in Ptarth, but in Aaanthor:
“The breaking of the sudden dawn found
him still asleep. His flier was rushing swiftly above a barren, ochre plain
– the world-old bottom of a long-dead Martian sea.
Carthoris awakes and discovers that his compass has been tampered with.
He hears a scream, looks down and sees Thuvia being dragged across the
plaza below by a Green Martian. Without hesitation he goes into action,
but before he can land several things occur:
“In the distance rose low hills. Toward these
the craft was headed. As it approached them, a great promontory might have
been seen from its deck, stretching out into what had once been a mighty
ocean, and circling back once more to enclose the forgotten harbor of a
forgotten city, which still stretched back from its deserted quays, an
imposing pile of wondrous architecture of a long-dead past.
“The countless dismal windows, vacant and forlorn,
stared, sightless, from their marble walls; the whole city taking on the
semblance of scattered mounds of dead men’s sun-bleached skulls – the casements
having the appearance of eyeless sockets, the portals, grinning jaws.
“Closer came the flier, but now its speed was
diminishing – yet this was not Ptarth.
“Above the central plaza it stopped, slowly settling
Marsward. Within a hundred yards of the ground it came to rest, floating
gently in the light air, and at the same instant an alarm sounded at the
sleeper’s ear.” (TMM/3.)
“The green man was hurrying his captive toward a huge thoat
that browsed upon the ochre vegetation of the once scarlet-gorgeous plaza.
At the same instant a dozen red warriors leaped from the entrance of a
nearby ersite palace, pursuing the abductor with naked swords and shouts
of rageful warning.” (TMM/3.)
The story suddenly switches to Thuvia’s perspective, taking us back to
when she was first abducted by Astok’s soldiers in a flier. Without further
incident she is flown to Aaanthor.
“Here the flier settled slowly into the
plaza of one of those mute monuments of Mars’ dead and forgotten past –
the deserted cities that fringe the sad ochre sea-bottoms where once rolled
the mighty floods upon whose bosoms moved the maritime commerce of the
peoples that are gone forever.
One of the soldiers leaves her alone in the center of the plaza and then
hides with the others while they await the arrival of Carthoris, where
they hope to trap and kill him when he lands after he spies Thuvia in the
“Thuvia of Ptarth was no stranger to such places.
During her wanderings in search of the River Iss, that time she had set
out upon what, for countless ages, had been the last, long pilgrimage of
Martians, toward the Valley Dor, where lies the Lost Sea of Korus, she
had encountered several of these sad reminders of the greatness and the
glory of ancient Barsoom.
“And again, during her flight from the temples
of the Holy Therns with Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, she had seen them,
with their weird and ghostly inmates, the great white apes of Barsoom.
“She knew, too, that many of them were used now
by the nomadic tribes of green men, but that among them all was no city
that the red men did not shun,for without exception they stood amidst vast,
waterless tracts, unsuited for the continued sustenance of the dominant
race of Martians.” (TMM/4.)
“Then he turned and retraced his steps
toward the palace, leaving her alone in the midst of the unseen terrors
of the haunted city, for in truth these places are haunted in the belief
of many Martians who still cling to an ancient superstition which teaches
the spirit of Holy Therns who die before their allotted one thousand years,
pass, on occasions, into the bodies of the great white apes.
But what she hears is no great white ape, but Thar Ban, Jed among the green
hordes of Torquas, which is either another ancient dead ocean city – the
tribes of the Tharks and Warhoons took their names from ancient dead cities
-- or an area named after the tribe.
“To Thuvia, however, the real danger of attack
by one of the ferocious, manlike beasts was quite sufficient. She no longer
believed in the weird soul transmigration that the therns had taught her
before she was rescued from their clutches by John Carter; but she well
knew the horrid fate that awaited her should one of the terrible beasts
chance to spy her during its nocturnal prowlings.” (TMM/ 4.)
“Thar Ban dismounted. Keeping in the
shadows of the great monoliths that line the Avenue of the Quays of sleeping
Aaanthor, he approached the plaza. Directly behind him, as a hound at heel,
came the slate-gray thoat, his white belly shadowed by his barrel, his
vivid yellow feet merging into the yellow of the moss beneath them.
If he is a green pervert, he is thinking of sex; if he is a normal Green
Martian, he is thinking about the joy of torturing her. As it is, he captures
Thuvia and makes his escape “down the black canyon of the Avenue of Quays
between the sullen palaces of forgotten Aaanthor.” (Id.)
“In the center of the plaza Thar Ban saw the figure
of a red woman. A red warrior was conversing with her. Now the man turned
and retraced his steps toward the palace at the opposite side of the plaza.
“Thar Ban watched until he had disappeared within
the yawning portal. Here was a captive worth having. Seldom did a female
of their hereditary enemies fall to the lot of a green man. Thar Ban licked
his thin lips.” (TMM/4.)
Carthoris lands and fights the remaining red warriors. He dispatches
two of them and the third escapes. Carthoris regains his flier and takes
off in pursuit of Thar Ban but the remaining red martian takes a rifle
and shoots his flier, crippling it. Even though he can still see Thar Ban
in flight, his flier finally crashes and he has to pursue on foot.
As mentioned above, all of the cities in this part of the series are
in the region of the green horde of Torquas. Thar Ban is a Jed, but Hortan
Gur is the Jeddak of the entire Torquasian Horde. We will assume that Torquas
is an ancient city in this region – although we never get to visit it –
in order to make this tribe consistent with the other green hordes named
after ancient dead cities: the Tharks and Warhoons. Anyway, Carthoris tredges
on towards the distant mountains in the direction he last saw Thar Ban
traveling with Thuvia.
“All that night he forged ahead until,
with the dawning of a new day, he entered the low foothills that guard
the approach to the fastness of the mountains of Torquas.
Carthoris follows the banth in hope that he will lead him to an entrance
into the natural barrier of the mountains. It soon disappears and Carthoris
leaps to the spot where it vanished.
“Rugged, granite walls towered above him. Nowhere
could he discern an opening through the formidable barrier; yet somewhere
into this inhospitable world of stone the green warrior had borne the woman
of the red man's hearts desire....
“It was drawing towards the day’s close once more
when the keen eyes of the Heliumite discerned the tawny yellow of a sleek
hide moving among the boulders several hundred yards to his left.
“Crouching quickly behind a large rock, Carthoris
watched the thing before him. It was a huge banth, one of those savage
Barsoomian lions that roam the desolate hills of the dying planet.
“The creature’s nose was close to the ground.
It was evident that he was following the spoor of meat by scent.” (TMM/4.)
“Before him loomed the sheer cliff, its
face unbroken by any aperture into which the huge banth might have wormed
its great carcass. Beside him was a small, flat boulder, not larger than
the deck of a ten-man flier, nor standing to a greater height than twice
his own stature.
Without hesitation, Carthoris plunges into the cave. In the dark tunnel
he encounters another banth pursuing him from the rear and he stands and
blinds it with his sword. The creature rushes blindly past him.
“Perhaps the banth was hiding behind this? The
brute might have discovered the man on his trail, and even now be lying
in wait for his easy prey.
“Cautiously, with drawn long-sword, Carthoris
crept around the corner of the rock. There was no banth there, but something
which surprised him infinitely more than would the presence of twenty banths.
“Before him yawned the mouth of a dark cave leading
downward into the ground. Through this the banth must have disappeared.
Was it his lair? Within its dark forbidding interior might there not lurk
not one but many of the fearsome creatures?” (TMM/4.)
“Carthoris, too, followed the same direction,
nor was it long before his heart was gladdened by the sight of the moonlit
exit from the long, dark passage.
He comes across a dead thoat, and by its harness discerns it was the one
that Thar Ban had been riding. It is being devoured by the same banth he
had followed through the tunnel. The banth he had blinded smells the dead
thoat and the two banths fight over the carcass and kill each other. Carthoris
examines the dead thoat for any clues as to fate of its riders.
“Before him lay a deep hollow, entirely surrounded
by gigantic cliffs. The surface of the valley was dotted with enormous
trees, a strange sight so far from a Martian waterway. The ground itself
was clothed in brilliant scarlet sward, picked out with innumberable patches
of gorgeous wild flowers.
“Beneath the glorious effulgence of the two moons
the scene was one of indescribable loveliness, tinged with the weirdness
of strange enchantment.” (TMM/5.)
He begins to explore the valley and immediately comes upon a hair ornament
worn by Thuvia. He attaches it to his harness as a holy relic. He continues
on through the night.
“For half the night he continued his
search, until presently he was brought to a sudden halt by the distant
sound of squealing thoats.
As soon as the sun comes up, the green men commence firing upon the city.
He sees a great platform where the Jeddak squats, then spies another Jed
bringing Thuvia to him. He is relieved that she still lives but watches
in horror as Horton Gur strikes her across the face with a metal-banded
arm. Carthoris goes crazy and attacks. Fortunately all the green men are
looking in the direction of the platform and don’t see him emerge from
“Guided by the noise of these habitually angry
beasts, he stole forward through the trees until at last he came upon a
level, treeless plain, in the center of which a mighty city reared its
burnished domes and vividly colored towers.
“About the walled city the red man saw a huge
encampment of the green warriors of the dead sea-bottoms, and as he let
his eyes rove carefully over the city he realized that here was no deserted
metropolis of a dead past....
“That he was within the boundary of Torquas, Carthoris
was sure, but that there existed there such a wondrous city he never had
dreamed, nor had the chronicles of the past even hinted at such a possibility,
for the Torquasians were known to live, as did the other green men of Mars,
within the deserted cities that dotted the dying planet, nor ever had any
green horde built so much as a single edifice, other than the low-walled
incubators where their young are hatched by the sun’s heat.
“The encircling camp of green warriors lay about
five hundred yards from the city’s walls. Between it and the city was no
semblance of breastwork or other protection against rifle or cannon fire;
yet distinctly now in the light of the rising sun Carthoris could see many
figures moving along the summit of the high wall, and upon the roof tops
“That they were beings like himself he was sure,
though they were at too great a distance from him for him to be positive
that they were red men.” (TMM/5.)
“Carthoris had covered about half the
distance between the forest and the green warriors, when a new factor succeeded
in still further directing the attention of the latter from him.
Hortan Gur is just leaving the platform to join the fight when Carthoris
leaps on it, grabbing Thuvia to his side. He pricks Hortan Gur with his
sword, challenging him to a duel. But two of his chieftans hasten him to
battle the bowmen and banths pouring out of the city.
“Upon a high tower within the beleaguered city
a man appeared. From his upturned mouth there issued a series of frightful
shrieks; uncanny shrieks that swept, shrill and terrifying, across the
city’s walls, over the heads of the besiegers, and out across the forest
to the uttermost confines of the valley....
“And then the great gate in the city wall opposite
the platform of Horton Gur swung suddenly wide. From it issued as strange
a sight as Carthoris ever had witnessed, though at the moment he had time
to cast but a single fleeting glance at the tall bowmen emerging through
the portal behind their long, oval shields; to note their flowing auburn
hair; and to realize that the growling things at their side were fierce
“Then he was in the midst of the astonished Torquasians.
With drawn long-sword he was among them, and to Thuvia of Ptarth, whose
startled eyes were the first to fall upon him, it seemed that she was looking
upon John Carter himself, so strangely similar to the fighting of the father
was that of the son.
“Even the famous fighting smile of the Virginian
was the semblance true. And the sword arm! Ah, the subtleness of it, and
the speed!” (TMM/5.)
Soon the platform is in the middle of the battle; miraculously neither
Carthoris nor Thuvia are harmed as the battle rages on beyond them. Pretty
soon all they can hear are the sounds of battle in the far off forest.
Dead bowmen, Green Men, and banths lie in heaps on the field of battle.
Thuvia tells Carthoris of her doubts; she had suspected that Carthoris
was originally responsible for her abduction.
“‘Ah, Carthoris,’ she replied sadly,
‘I did not wish to believe it; but when everything pointed to you – even
then I would not believe it.’
Carthoris is hurt but shrugs it off with a glib smile, which in turn hurts
Thuvia. Carthoris then averts his attention to the current situation.
“‘I did not do it, Thuvia,’ he said. ‘But let
me be entirely honest with you. As much as I love your father, as
much as I respect Kulan Tith, to whom you are betrothed, as well as I know
the frightful consequences that must have followed such an act of mine,
hurling into war, as it would, three of the greatest nations of Barsoom
– yet, notwithstanding all this, I should not have hesitated to take you
thus, Thuvia of Ptarth, had you even hinted that it would not have displeased
“‘But you did nothing of the kind, and so I am
here, not in my own service, but in yours, and in the service of the man
to whom you are promised, to save you for him, if it lies within the power
of man to do so,’ he concluded, almost bitterly.
“Thuvia of Ptarth looked into his face for several
moments. Her breast was rising and falling as though to some restless emotion.
She half took a step toward him. Her lips parted as though to speak – swiftly
“And then she conquered whatever had moved her.
“‘The future acts of the Prince of Helium,’ she
said coldly, ‘must constitute the proof of his past honesty of purpose.’”
“‘Where are we?’ he asked. “I do not
Carthoris is feeling the same kind of emotion people on Earth would feel
if someone had just stumbled upon real proof of the legend of Atlantis.
They wonder why the bowmen do not return and then discover that their dead
and wounded on the field of battle have suddenly disappeared. There is
nothing but the corpses of the Green Men and dead banths.
“‘Nor I,’ replied the girl. ‘Those who stole me
from Ptarth spoke among themselves of Aaanthor, so that I thought it possible
that the ancient city to which they took me was that famous ruin; but where
we may be now I have no idea.’
“‘When the bowmen return we shall doubtless learn
all that there is to know,’ said Carthoris. ‘Let us hope that they prove
friendly. What race may they be? Only in the most ancient of our legends
and in the mural paintings of the deserted cities of the dead sea-bottoms
are depicted such a race of auburn-haired, fair-skinned people. Can it
be that we have stumbled upon a surviving city of the past which all Barsoom
believes buried beneath the ages?’” (TMM/5.)
They decide to seek refuge in the city but Carthoris is worried about
all the loose banths that block their way. Thuvia tells him not to worry
then uses her witching way on the banths. They pass freely, but wonder
why the corpses of the green men who have not yet been devoured have no
arrows in them.
“He glanced at Thuvia. She was advancing
with wide eyes fixed upon the city gate. He looked in the direction of
her gaze, but saw nothing.
Auburn is moderate reddish-brown to brown in color. I mistakenly stated
in a past article on the Orovars that there was no evidence of an ancient
race of golden haired people, but I was wrong. In fact, in Gods of Mars,
Thuvia explains to John Carter why the Therns are bald and wear blond wigs:
“His gaze upon her seemed to arouse her as from
a lethargy. She glanced up at him, a quick, brave smile touching her lips,
and then, as though the act was involuntary, she came close to his side
and placed one of her hands in his.
“He guessed that something within her that was
beyond her conscious control was appealing to him for protection. He threw
an arm about her, and thus they crossed the field. She did not draw away
from him. It is doubtful that she realized that his arm was there, so engrossed
was she in the mystery of the strange city before them.
“They stopped before the gate. It was a mighty
thing. From its construction Carthoris could but dimly speculate upon its
“It was circular, closing a circular aperture,
and the Heliumite knew from his study of ancient Barsoomian architecture
that it rolled to one side, like a huge wheel, into an aperture in the
“Even such world-old cities as ancient Aaanthor
were as yet undreamed of when the races lived that built such gates as
“As he stood speculating upon the identity of
this forgotten city, a voice spoke to them from above. Both looked up.
There, leaning over the edge of the high wall, was a man.
“His hair was auburn, his skin fair – fairer even
than that of John Carter, the Virginian. His forehead was high, his eyes
large and intelligent.
“The language that he used was intelligible to
the two below, yet there was a marked difference between it and their Barsoomian
“‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘And what do you here
before the gate of Lothar?’” (TMM/6.)
“‘They are all thus from birth,’ explained
Thuvia, noting my surprise. ‘The race from which they sprang were crowned
with a luxuriant growth of golden hair, but for many ages the present race
had been entirely bald. The wig, however, has come to be a part of their
apparel, and so important a part do they consider it that it is cause for
the deepest disgrace were a thern to appear in public without it.’” (GM/4.)
Which means that the Therns are likely the descendants of the Orovars of
Horz. Carter originally deduced that the Orovars were Therns, but dismissed
the idea since the Orovars were not bald. He just had it backwards. Thus,
the ancient fair skinned people were both golden and auburned haired. The
Lotharians are auburn haired as were the ancient citizens who inhabited
Korad, Thark, and likely, Aaanthor.
The Tarids and Domnians on Thuria are also fair skinned, but have blue
hair. Perhaps the Orovars or Lotharians had long ago set up a colony on
Thuria and because of local conditions -- or that peculiar relationship
between the masses of Barsoom and her lesser moon -- their hair had turned
blue. We must not discount off hand such a connection. I mean, where else
Thurians have come from?
Also note the subtle way that Thuvia lets Carthoris know that an initial
boundary has been crossed: she takes his hand in hers. When she saw Carthoris
charging out of the forest to save her the first thing she thought of was
John Carter. Remember, Thuvia stated from her experience that the Holy
Therns were decadent:
decadent. adj. 1. Being in a state of decline or decay. 2. Marked
by or providing unrestrained gratification; self-indulgent.
One can easily conjure up images of incest when one recalls that the
Therns did not practice marriage. Perhaps there is a hint of incest in
Thuvia’s ability to project her lustful feelings for John Carter onto the
one he loves, Dejah Thoris. The same thing can be happening with Carthoris,
their son. By taking his hand she may be telling him, Hey, you really turned
me on because you reminded me of your father, thus I am feeling a transfer
of my lust for him to you.
Or maybe she is just falling for Carthoris for the same reason she had
fallen for Carter: his fighting prowess. Or it could be that Thuvia was
a real woman in ERB’s life and he is writing another story where he can
vicariously have an affair with her in his imagination as Carthoris without
Emma catching on.
As a writer, ERB fell victim to a phenomenon every writer who knows
people faces: everyone wants to know what character in the story is based
on them, and if told that no one is based on them, they will guess anyway.
Other people take this much more seriously than the author. Hatreds and
jealousies may arise from these associations. I’m not a shrink so take
your pick from the above, or add your own theory.
One thing is sure, Carthoris is quick to catch on, putting his arm around
her shoulders. ERB makes it out that Thuvia was likely feeling the need
for male protection, but for whatever reason, Thuvia, as a betrothed woman,
has already committed a serious breach in Martian custom. Her time with
the Therns apparently corrupted her mind so that the desires of the flesh
now outweigh Barsoomian moralilty in her mind and actions. She cannot help
it -- fifteen years as a sex slave have programmed her to think like a
Holy Thern, who thought of themselves as gods, beyond good and evil.
Besides, she cannot possibly have forgotten what Carthoris had just
recently told her, about how he would have willingly abducted her if she
would have given any indication that the act would not displease her, even
if it meant driving their nations to war. By taking his hand in hers, she
has just given him the first indication. But back to the story. . . .
Continued in ERBzine 3317a