THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS OF AMHOR
The Ninth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
You may recall Amhor from our last article on Carter’s escape from the
Black Pirates of Kamtol in the Valley of the First Born. Carter liberated
Llana of Gathol, Pan Dan Chee, and the brother of Janai of Amhor, from
the First Born in one of their fliers. Janai is, of course, the maiden
princess captured by the Hormads and taken to the island of Morbus with
John Carter and the young padwar of his guard, Vor Daj. And Vor Daj, you
may recall, is the fool for love that had his brain transplanted into that
of a Hormad, Tor-dur-bar, in order to rescue Janai from the Seven Jeds
of Morbus. This is ERB’s version of Beauty and the Beast.
Amhor is like a town out of the wild west: a rough and tumble cattle
town, filled with men with money to spend. It also sports one of the oddest
zoos on all Barsoom, for it exhibits Red Martians from other lands, as
if they are exotic beasts. It also has acquired a new animal to house in
its cages: Tor-dur-bar! Synthetic
Men of Mars. It is an exciting story of how he manages to escape
from his cage and wreak vengeance upon Amhor’s inept leader, Jal Had, Prince
Synthetic Men of Mars art by John Coleman Burroughs
Tor-dur-bar first learns of the identity of Janai while they are being
interrogated by Sytor, an officer of the Seven Jeds of Morbus:
“She was Janai, and she said that she
came from Amhor, a city about seven hundred miles north of Morbus. It is
a small city ruled by a prince named Jal Had who has such a bad reputation
that is has reached to far away Helium.” (SMM/4.)
Later in the story, after Vor Daj has his brain transplanted into the Hormad
body of Tordur-bar, he escapes from Morbus along with Janai, Sytor, Gur
Tan -- the original Tor-dur-bar’s new body, which previously had belonged
to the Red Martian Assassin of Amhor -- and Pandarthe Phundalian. Tor-dur-bar,
you recall, is not a pretty sight:
“One arm was a little longer than the
other, his torso was out of proportion to his short legs, and he had six
toes on one foot and an extra thumb on his left hand; but, altogether,
he was a pretty good specimen for a Hormad.” (SMM/8.)
As Tor-dur-bar, Vor Daj provides an endless source of amusement to John
“My face was really something to arrest attention.
Not a single feature was placed where it should have been, and all were
out of proportion, some being too large and some too small. My right eye
was way up on my forehead, just below the hair line, and was twice as large
as my left eye which was about half an inch in front of my left ear. My
mouth started at the bottom of my chin and ran upward at an angle of about
45 degrees to a point slightly below my huge right eye. My nose was scarcely
more than a bud and occupied the place that my little left eye should have
had. One ear was close set and tiny, the other a pendulous mass that hung
almost to my shoulder.” (SMM/9.)
“John Carter is one of the most human
persons I have ever known. He is in every sense of the word a great man,
a statesman, a soldier, perhaps the greatest swordman that ever lived,
grim and terrible in combat; but with it all he is modest and approachable,
and he has never lost his sense of humor. When we were alone he would joke
with me about my newly acquired ‘pulchritude,’ laughing in his quiet way
until his sides shook; and I was, indeed, a sight to inspire both laughter
and horror. My great torso on its short legs, my right arm reaching below
my knees, my left but slightly below my waist line, I was all out of proportion.
Sytor and Pandar take Janai and abandon the others on Treason Island, leaving
them to fend for himself. After several adventures, Tor-dur-bar is reunited
with Janai and they are befriended by the Toonolian swamp people, the Goonlians,
who make a canoe for them. They paddle out into the dangerous marshes:
“‘Your face is really your greatest asset,’ he
said, after looking at me for a long time. ‘I should like to take you back
to Helium as you are and present you at the jeddak’s next levee. You know,
of course, that you were considered one of the handsomest men in Helium.
I should say, “Here is the noble Vor Daj, a padwar of The Warlord’s Guard,”
and how the women would cluster around you.’” (SMM/9.)
“Vast expanses of the Great Marshes were
uninhabitable by man, and for a week we passed through dismal wastes where
not even the savage aborigines could live; but we encountered other menaces
in the form of great reptiles and gigantic insects, some of the latter
being of enormous proportions with a wingspread well over thirty feet.
Equipped with powerful jaws and rapier-like stingers, and sometimes with
both, as some of them were, one of these monsters could easily have annihilated
us; but fortunately we were never attacked. The smaller reptiles of the
Marshes were their natural prey and we witnessed many an encounter in which
the insects always came off victorious.” (SMM/23.)
They spot an airship overhead and hope that it belongs to Helium, but,
of course, it belongs to Amhor instead:
“As the ship drew nearer it dropped still
lower; so I knew that we had been observed; and finally it came to rest
just above us. Landing tackle was lowered to us through a keel port, and
I quickly made it fast to Janai’s body so that she could be raised comfortably
to the ship. While I was engaged in this, another tackle was lowered for
me; and soon we were both being hoisted toward the vessel.
Of course one of the Amhorians with a keen eye recognizes Janai, and they
split them up. As Tor-dur-bar is being escorted to his new quarters he
sees a man run across the deck and jump overboard, then swimming to the
now abandoned canoe. His new room contains one other captive, Tun Gan.
He explains to Tor-dur-bar that he and Pandar had been captured a week
earlier, and that Pandar did not wish to go to Amhor, but to his beloved
Phundahl, which is why he jumped overboard when he had a chance. Tun Gan
is not adverse to going to Amhor for everyone believes he is Gantun Gur,
the famous assassin.
“The instant that we were hoisted into the hold
of the vessel and I had a chance to note the sailors who surrounded us,
I realized that this was no ship of Helium for the men wore the harness
of another country.
“Janai turned toward me with frightened eyes.
‘Neither John Carter nor Ras Thavas are on this ship,’ she whispered; ‘it
is no ship of Helium, but one of the ships of Jal Had, Prince of Amhor.
I should have been as well off in Morbus as I shall be now, if they discover
my identity.’” (SMM/23.)
Tor-dur-bar asks why the Prince of Amhor flies his ships over the Great
Toonlian Marshes and Tun Gan replies:
“‘Jal Had, the Prince of Amhor, has a
hobby for collecting wild beasts. They say that he has a great number of
them, and this ship has been searching the Great Toonlian Marshes for new
They are taken to Amhor, which lies seven hundred and fifty miles north
of the position in which they have been captured. Then Tor-dur-bar is hustled
into a ground flier:
“These ground fliers are a common means
of private transportation in many Martian cities. They have a ceiling of
about one hundred feet and a maximum speed of sixty miles an hour. In Amhor
all north and south traffic moves at ground level at intersections, east
and west traffic passing above it. East and west traffic is compelled to
rise above north and south traffic at each intersection because there is
a short runway inclining upward to a height of about ten feet at each intersection,
ending in an abrupt drop at the intersection. These inclines force all
east and west traffic to rise above the north and south traffic intersections.
All vehicular traffic moves in but one direction on any avenue, the direction
of flow alternating, so that half the avenues carry traffic in one direction
and the other half in the opposite direction. Left turns are made without
diminishing speed by the simple expedient of rising above both lanes of
The narrator shares this information because Carter has told him of the
traffic congestion problems on Earth. Thus, ERB, always the efficiency
expert, offers some Barsoomian advice on how to correct the problem. Too
bad Earth hasn’t invented the ray of propulsion yet. Then we get our first
description of Amhor:
The result is that traffic flows steadily in all
directions at an average speed of fifty miles an hour. Parking accomodations
are frequent, and are found inside buildings at a level of about sixty
feet above the pavement. North and south pedestrian traffic moves without
interruption in either direction on both sides of North and South Streets
at the ground level; and, simililarly, on East and West Streets through
underpasses at street intersections.” (SMM/24.)
“The palace grounds, which were our destination,
covered an area of about eighty acres. The avenues leading to it were lined
with the palaces of the nobility, just beyond which were the better-grade
shops and hotels. Amhor is a small city and the only one in the principality
which might claim the dignity of such a title, the others being but small
and widely scattered villages. The chief business of the principality is
the raising of thoats and zitidars, the former the saddle animals the latter
the mammoth draft animals of Mars. Both are also raised for food, and Amhor
exports preserved meats, hides, and other by-products to Duhor, Phundahl,
A sign is hung outside his cage which reads: “HORMAD FROM MORBUS, A MANLIKE
MONSTER CAPTURED IN THE WILDS OF THE GREAT TOONOLIAN MARSHES.” (Id.) You
may recall the sith, not from the Dark Lords of Star Wars, but from Carter’s
adventure in Kaol when he and his faithful calot, Woola, in Warlord of
Mars, were pursuing Matai Shang:
“Amhor is the mecca of the stockmen from the country,
hard-riding, profane, belligerent men; good spenders, always provided with
plenty of money. So it is withal an interesting city, though one may scarcely
enjoy it from the inside of a cage in a zoological garden, which is exactly
where I landed a few minutes after I was driven through the rear gate of
the palace grounds.
“Here, upon both sides of an avenue, were cages,
pits, and dens containing specimens of a wide variety of Martian animal
life, an exhibition of the fauna of a planet which must have been instructive
and certainly was entertaining and amusing to the crowds that passed along
the avenue daily; for to this part of the palace grounds the public was
freely admitted during daylight hours.
“A unique feature of the zoological display of
Jal Had, Prince of Amhor, was the inclusion of various types of Martian
humans. In the cage at my left was a huge green man, with his ivory tusks
and four arms; and at my right was a red man from Ptarth. There were thoats
and zitidars and the great white apes of Barsoom, fierce, hairy monsters
closely resembling man, and, perhaps, the most feared of all Martian beasts.
Near me also were two apts, arctic monsters from far Okar. These great
beasts are covered with white fur and have six legs, four of which are
short and heavy and carry it over snow and ice. The other two grow forward
from its shoulders on either side of its long, powerful neck, and terminate
in white, hairless hands, with which it seizes and holds its prey. The
head and mouth, John Carter has told me, are similar to those of an Earthly
hippopotamus, except that from the flat sides of the lower jawbone, two
mighty horns curve slightly toward the front. Its two huge eyes extend
in large oval patches from the center of the top of the cranium down either
side of the head to below the roots of the horn, so that these weapons
really grow out from the lower part of the eyes, which are composed of
several thousand ocelli each. Each ocellus is furnished with its own lid,
so that the apt can close as many of the facets of its eyes as it wishes.
There were banths, calots, darseens, orluks, siths, soraks, ulsios, and
many other beasts, insects and men, including even a kaldane, one of the
strange spider-men of Bantoom.” (SMM/24.)
“Toward noon we stumbled upon a well-constructed
road running in the general direction we had been pursuing. Everything
about this highway marked it as the work of skilled engineers, and I was
confident, from the indications of antiquity which it bore, as well as
from the very evident signs of its being still in everyday use, that it
must lead to one of the principal cities of Kaol.
Consulting the glossary at the end of Thuvia, Maid of Mars, we discover
that a darseen is a chameleon-like reptile. It doesn’t sound like any of
the reptiles Tor-dur-bar and Janai saw as prey to the monster insects in
the marshes were darseens, at least we are not told that they were.
“Just as we entered it from one side a huge monster
emerged from the jungle upon the other, and at sight of us charged madly
in our direction.
“Imagine, if you can, a bald-faced hornet of your
earthly experience grown to the size of a prize Hereford bull, and you
will have some faint conception of the ferocious appearance and awesome
formidability of the winged monster that bore down on me.
“Frightful jaws in front and mighty, poisoned
sting behind made my relatively puny long-sword seem a pitiful weapon of
defense indeed. Nor could I hope to escape the lightning-like movements
or hide from those myriad facet eyes which covered three-fourths of the
hideous head, permitting the creature to see in all directions at one and
the same time.” (WM/5.)
We do, however, read of menacing reptiles in A Fighting Man of Mars,
when Hadron of Hastor and Nur-An are sentenced to die the Death and are
lowered down into a tributary of the River Iss, which flows underground
for a thousand miles before emptying into the Lost Sea of Korus. They stumble
along the bank of the underground river until they come across a hideous
“But whatever musing upon the flora of
this strange land I may have been indulging in was brought to a sudden
termination as we rounded the shoulder of a jutting promontory and came
face to face with as hideous a creature as ever I had set my eyes upon.
It was a great white lizard with gaping jaws large enough to engulf a man
in a single swallow. At the sight of us it emitted an angry hiss and advanced
menacingly towards us.
This also does not sound like a description of a darseen, but it just about
covers the reptiles described in the Barsoomian Mythos. As for the sorak,
the glossary describes it as a little pet animal among the Red Martian
women, about the size of a cat. We all remember what a kaldane is from
the encounter of Luud with Tara of Helium in the land of Bantoom. Anyway,
this is the menagerie in which Tor-dur-bar is caged.
“Being unarmed and absolutely at the mercy of
any creature that attacked us, we pursued the only plan that our intelligence
could dictate -- we retreated -- and I am not ashamed to admit that we
retreated rapidly.” (FMM/7.)
After about two hours in his new environment, Tor-dur-bar is visited
by a retinue of the Prince; Janai is among them:
“The royal party was approaching, Jal
Had walking a few paces ahead of the others. He was a gross-appearing man,
with a cruel mouth and shifty eyes. He came and stopped before my cage;
and as the others approached and stopped behind him, I saw that Janai was
one of them. She looked up at me, and I saw tears forming in her eyes.
‘Splendid,’ said Jal Had, after he had examined me minutely for several
moments. ‘I’ll wager that there is not another specimen like this anywhere
in world.’ He turned towards his companions. ‘What do you think of it?’
The crowds are eventually expelled and the animals fed; then Tor-dur-bar
is visited by a goggle-eyed slave boy who comes with the scraps from Jal
“‘It is wonderful,’ they all replied, practically
in unison, that is, all but Janai. She remained silent.
“The Jal Had fixed his gaze upon Janai. ‘And what
do you think of it, my love?’ he asked.
“‘I think a great deal of it,’ she replied. ‘Tor-dur-bar
is my friend, and I think that it is a cruel shame to cage him up like
“‘You would like to have wild beasts roaming around
the city, then?’ he demanded.
“‘Tor-dur-bar is not a wild beast; he is a brave
and loyal friend. But for him, I should have been long since dead; and
though perhaps I had been better off, I shall never cease to appreciate
the dangers and hardships that he endured for me.’
“‘For that, he shall be rewarded, then,’ said
Jal Had, magnanimously. ‘He shall receive the scraps from the royal table.’
“Now that was something. I, a noble of Helium,
to be fed with the scraps from the table of Jal Had, Prince of Amhor. However,
I consoled myself with the thought that scraps from his table would probably
be far better fare than than ordinarily served to the beasts of the zoo,
and I could easily swallow my pride along with his scraps.
“Of course, I had no opportunity to converse with
Janai, as I could not learn what had happened to her, nor what the future
held for her.
“‘Tell me something about yourself,’ demanded
Jal Had. ‘Are you just a freak, or are there more like you? What were your
father and mother like.’
“‘I had no father and mother,’ I replied, ‘and
there are many more like me, millions of us.’
“‘No father and mother?’ he demanded. ‘But some
sort of a creature must have laid the egg from which you hatched.’
“‘I came from no egg,’ I replied.
“‘Well,’ said Jal Had, ‘you are not only the greatest
freak I ever saw, but the greatest liar. Perhaps a good beating will teach
you better manners than to lie to Jal Had.’
“‘He has not lied,’ said Janai. ‘He has told you
“‘So you, too,’ he demanded of her, ‘you too,
think I am a fool? I can have my women beaten, as well as my animals, if
they do not behave themselves.’
“‘You are proving definitely that you are a fool,’
I said, ‘for you have heard the truth from both of us, and yet you do not
“‘Silence!’ called an officer of the guard. ‘Shall
I kill the presumptuous beast, Jal Had?’
“‘No,’ replied the Prince. ‘He is too valuable.
Perhaps later I shall have him beaten.’ I wondered who would have the temerity
to enter my cage to beat me, I, who could tear an ordinary man limb from
“Jal Had turned and walked away, followed by the
members of his party; and when they had left the avenue, the public was
once more admitted; and, until dark, I had to endure the gaze and insults
of a loud-mouthed rabble. Now I realized with what contempt caged beasts
must look upon the human beings which gape and gawk at them.” (SMM/24.)
“There was a small door in the front
of my cage near the floor through which the food could be passed to me;
but the youth was evidently afraid to open it for fear that I might seize
The mention of John Carter’s name sends a shock wave in the ears of everyone
listening. By this time in the Mythos, it would almost be unheard of for
anyone not to know about John Carter.
“‘Don’t be afraid,’ I said. ‘I shall not harm
you. I am not a wild beast.’
“He came closer then and timidly opened the little
door. ‘I am not afraid,’ he said; but I knew that he was.
“‘Where are you from?’ I asked.
“‘From Duhor,’ he replied.
“‘A friend of a friend of mine lives there,’ I
“‘And who might that be?’
“‘Vad Varo,’ I replied.
“‘Ah, Vad Varo! I have seen him often. I was to
have taken service in his guard when I finished my training. He married
Valla Dia, our Princess. He is a great warrior. And who is your friend
that his friend?’
“‘John Carter, Prince of Helium, Warlord of Mars,’
I replied.” (SMM/24.)
“Then indeed did his eyes go wide. ‘John
Carter, you know him? Who has not heard of him, the greatest swordsman
of all Barsoom? But how could such as you be friend of John Carter?’
This is certainly the John Carter myth from a fighting man’s perspective.
Tor-dur-bar gets the boy to come close to his cage, then whispers that
he wishes to learn everything he can about Janai. The boy, Orm-O, agrees
to do what he can. Tor-dur-bar becomes friends with the Red Martian, Ur
Raj, who comes from Hastor, a city on the frontier of the empire, and home
to Hadron. He learns that Janai is in peril from Vanuva, one of Jal Had’s
wives, and that he needs to act quickly to save her. Tur-Gan, pretending
to be Gantun Gur, the Assassin of Amhor, aids Tor-dur-bar, eventually coming
to his cage:
“‘It may seen strange to you,’ I admitted, ‘but
the fact remains that John Carter is my best friend.’
“‘But what do you know of John Carter?’ demanded
the red man in the adjoining cage. ‘I am from Helium; and there is no creature
like you in the entire empire. I think you are a great liar. You lied to
me, and you lied to Jal Had, and now you are lying to this young slave.
What do you think you can gain by telling so many lies? Have you never
heard that Martians pride themselves upon being truthful men?’
“‘I have not lied,’ I said.
“‘You do not even know what John Carter looks
like,’ taunted the red man.
“‘He has black hair and gray eyes, and a lighter
skin than yours,’ I replied; ‘and he came from Jasoom, and he is married
to Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium. When he came to Barsoom, he was captured
by the green men of Thark. He has fought in Okar, the land of the yellow
men in the far north; and he has fought therns in the Valley Dor; the length
and breadth of Barsoom, he has fought; and when I saw him last, we were
in Morbus together.’
“The red man looked surprised. ‘By my first ancestor,’
he exclaimed, ‘but you do know a lot about John Carter. Perhaps you are
telling the truth after all.’” (SMM/24.)
“It was almost dark and I had almost
given up all hope of Gantun Gur, when I saw him approach my cage. ‘Kaor,
Tor-dur-bar!’ he said. ‘I was delayed; no less a person than Jal Had himself.
He came to me in conversation.’
Tor-dur-bar convinces Gantun Gur that Janai does not want to marry Jal
Had because she is in love with Vor Daj, and that they must save her.
“‘Whom does he wish killed now?’ asked Ur Raj.
“‘He only wished to be certain that I was not
planning on killing him,’ replied Gantun Gur. ‘Do you know that I would
rather be what I am, head of the Assassin’s Guild, than to be Prince of
Amhor! My power is unlimited; everyone fears me, for, while I am known,
all my assassins are not; and even those who might plot against me fear
to do so lest my spies learn of it.’
“‘You have come a long way from the Laboratory
Building, Gantun Gur,’ I said, with a smile. ‘But tell me, does Janai still
live? Is she well? Is she safe.’” (SMM/25.)
“‘Vor Daj,’ said Gantun Gur, ‘lying as
one dead in the pits beneath the Laboratory Building of Morbus, certainly
surrounded and perhaps long since devoured by the horror that spreads from
Vat Room No. 4. No, no, Tor-dur-bar, while I admire your loyalty to Vor
Daj, I think that it is wasted.’” (SMM/25.)
Nevertheless, after Tor-dur-bar shares his plan with him, Gantun Gur agrees
to cooperate. Tor-dur-bar waits patiently for his moment to come.
“My cell was divided laterally by a partition,
the front of the cell being open on the avenue, the rear consisting of
a dark compartment in which there was a single, small window and a heavy
door in the back wall. This was my bedroom, and my bed was a pile of the
moss-like, ochre vegetation that covers the dead sea bottoms of Barsoom.
A sliding door, that was raised and lowered by means of a rope passing
over a pulley and thence outside the back of the cage, connected the two
compartments. When I was in the front compartment, attendants could lower
the door and enter the rear compartment for the purpose of cleaning it
out, and vice versa, no one venturing to come into either compartment alone
with me. I must say for Jal Had, that he had our cages kept reasonably
clean; but that was because he realized that he could thus keep us in a
more healthy condition and not
They are awakened by the sound of dirgeful music and are left wondering
if Jal Had has died. Then the Green Martian, previously unfriendly to Tor-dur-bar,
because of any humanitarian instincts which he
“‘If Jal Had is dead,’ he said, ‘there
will be confusion for several days. I have been here a long time and I
have learned much. I have learned that there are several who would like
to succeed Jal Had, and if he is dead Amhor may have a civil war on her
hands. Then would be a good time for us to try to escape.’” (SMM/26.)
The death turns out not be that of Jal Had, but of Vanuma his wife, the
one that was trying to kill Janai. It appears that Jal Had had her poisoned.
O, happy day!
Tor-dur-bar convinces a guard that a reptile has bitten him and when
the guard comes to see the situation, Tor-dur-bar lures him close:
“He came close, and when he did so I
reached between the bars quickly and seized him by the throat. So quickly
and so tightly did I close upon his windpipe that he had no opportunity
to make an outcry. Ur Raj and the green man were pressed against the bars
of their cages watching me. Only we three saw the guard die.
In the end, Tor-dur-bar succeeds in rescuing Janai and they are all eventually
reunited with John Carter. On their way back to Morbus, where Vor Daj is
finally reunited with his real brain, he muses as they fly over the Great
“I dragged the body upward until I could seize
the keys that hung upon a ring by his harness. Then I let it drop to the
ground. I easily reached the padlock that secured the door in the front
of the cage, and in a few seconds I was out on the ground. From there I
crawled quickly beneath the cages to the rear where my activities would
be hidden from view from any who might pass along the avenue. I released
the green man and Ur Raj, and for a moment we stood there discussing the
advisability of carrying out in full the plan we had contemplated. It offered
considerable risk for us, but we felt that it might create such a diversion
that in the
ensuing confusion we might have a better chance
“‘Yes,’ agreed Ur Raj, ‘the more confusion there
is, the better we shall have to reach the palace and find your Janai.’
“I must say that the whole plan was hair-brained
and hopeless. It had perhaps one chance in a hundred million of succeeding.
“‘Very well,’ I said, ‘come on.’
“Back of the cages we found a number of the staves
and goads used by the attendants to control the beasts, and armed with
these we started toward the lower cages nearest the gate and farthest from
the palace. I was also armed with the shortsword and dagger I had taken
from the attendant I had killed, but I could not hope that they would be
of much use to me in the event our plans miscarried.
“Beginning at the cage nearest the gate, we released
the animals, driving them ahead of us along the rear of the cages in the
direction of the palace.
“I had been fearful that we would be unable to
control them and that they would turn upon us and destroy us; but I soon
learned that from experience they had become afraid of the sharp goads
used by the keepers, with which we threatened and prodded them along. Even
the two great apts and the white apes moved sullenly before us. At first
there was little noise or confusion, only low growls from the carnivores
and the nervous snorting of the herbivorous animals; but as we proceeded
and the number and variety of the beasts increased, so did the volume of
the sounds until the air rang with the bellowing of the zitidars and the
squeals of the maddened thoats, and the roars and growls of banths and
apts and the scores of other beasts moving nervously ahead of us.
“A gate that is always kept closed separates the
zoo from the grounds immediately surrounding the palace. This, the attendants
in their excitement had left open today, and through it we drove the beasts
into the palace grounds without interference.
“By now every beast in the horrible pack, excited
to a high pitch of nervous tension by this unaccustomed liberty and the
voices of their fellows, had joined in the horrid diapason of ferocity
so that no one within the palace grounds or, for that matter, for some
distance beyond them, could have failed to hear, and now I saw the attendants
who had deserted their posts running to meet us. The beasts saw them, too,
and some of the more intelligent, such as the great white apes, must have
remembered indignities and cruelties heaped upon them during their captivity,
for with snarls and growls and roars of rage they sprang forward to meet
the keepers, and fell upon them and destroyed them; and then, further incited
by this taste of blood and revenge, they moved on toward the soldiers defending
“This was precisely what we had hoped for, as
it created a diversion which permitted Ur Raj, the green man, and me to
enter a side door of the palace unobserved.” (SMM/26.)
“The desolate wastes of the Great Toonolian
Marshes over which we passed that night took on a strange, weird beauty
and added mystery in the darkness. Their waters reflected the myriad stars
which the thin air of Mars reveals; and the passing moons were reflected
back from the still lagoons or touched the rocky islets with a soft radiance
that transformed them into isles of enchantment. Occasionally, we saw the
campfires of savages, and faintly to our ears rose the chanting of barbaric
songs and the booming of drums muffled by distance; all punctuated by the
scream or bellow of some savage thing.
“‘The last of the great oceans,’ said John Carter,
who had joined me at the rail. ‘Its eventual passing will doubtless mark
the passing of a world, and Mars will hurtle on through all eternity peopled
by not even a memory of its past grandeur.’
“‘It saddens me to think of it,’ I said.
“‘And me, too,’ he replied.
“‘But you could return to Earth,’ I reminded him.
“He smiled. ‘I do not think that either of us
need worry about the end of Mars; at least, not for another million years,
“I laughed. ‘Somehow, when you spoke of it, it
seemed as though the end were very near,’ I said.
“‘Comparatively speaking, it is,’ he replied.
‘Here we have only a shallow marshland to remind us of the mighty oceans
which once rolled across the major portions of Barsoom. On Earth, the waters
cover three-quarters of the globe, reaching a depth of over five miles;
yet, eventually the same fate will overtake that planet. The mountains
will wash down into the seas; the seas will evaporate; and some day all
that will be left to mark their great oceans will be another Toonolian
Marsh in some barren waste where the great Pacific rolls today.’
“‘You make me sad,’ I said.” (SMM/30.)
Yes, very sad. But like Carter said, we don’t really have anything to
worry about for millions of years, unless you buy into the apocalypses
of religion. But that’s been going on ever since man invented heaven and
hell. Maybe some day we will have all evolved into a more rational view
of the universe. “Imagine there’s no heaven,,” sang John Lennon. Yes, such
an impossible idea still seems more possible to me than an apocalypse from
an angry, vengeful deity.
I live in Fresno, California, a major center of world-wide agribusiness.
The reason for this is that Fresno was built on an ancient sea bottom.
A mighty sea once rolled over the desert land which now comprises both
the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, from Redding to Bakersfield. Look
at a map or a globe. Both valleys make up a gigantic bowl-shaped dead sea
bed, 600 miles long and 100 wide. When I lived in Berkeley, I would often
visit the University of California Science Building and stare long at the
huge skeleton of a sea monster which used to live and prowl in this sea.
I often experienced the same kind of melancholic fugue Carter and Vor Daj
felt while flying over what was left of the mighty Throxeus.
And there you have it,
ERB's Zoological Gardens of Amhor:
the Ninth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom!