THE GREEN HORDES OF MARS
The Eleventh Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
C) Tars Tarkas Triumphant
A strange new idea has entered into the mind of Tars Tarkas:
the idea of friendship. In fact, the title of chapter 24 of A Princess
of Mars is called “Tars Tarkas Finds a Friend.” One might at first
think that this idea might diminish the ability of Tars Tarkas to have
a psychological edge in combat, but you would be wrong.
In fact, Tars Tarkas, his secret wife and their daughter, Sola, are
mutations among the Green Men, evidence of evolving higher consciousness
in the minds of certain individuals.
These new factors of friendship and love make him even a greater warrior
than before, as witnessed in the following scene after the great battle
with the Warhoons.
“On our return to the city after the
battle we had gone directly to Tars Tarkas’ quarters, where I was left
alone while the chieftan attended the customary council which immediately
follows an engagement.
I always felt short-changed by this scene. After all the villainy that
the Green Martian witch had put both Sola and Dejah Thoris through, I imagined
a really horrible end for her. As it was, ERB used the scene as a demonstration
of the kindness that Tars Tarkas had learned as the result of the idea
“As I sat awaiting the return of the green warrior
I heard something move in an adjoining apartment, and as I glanced up there
rushed suddenly upon me a huge and hideous creature which bore me backward
upon the pile of silks and furs upon which I had been reclining. It was
Woola – faithful, loving Woola. He had found his way back to Thark and,
as Tars Tarkas later told me, had gone immediately to my former quarters
where he had taken up his pathetic and seemingly hopeless watch for my
“‘Tal Hajus knows that you are here, John Carter,’
said Tars Tarkas, on his return from the jeddak’s quarters; ‘Sarkoja saw
and recognized you as we were returning. Tal Hajus as ordered me to bring
you before him tonight. I have ten thoats, John Carter; you may take your
choice from among them, and I will accompany you to the nearest waterway
that leads to Helium. Tars Tarkas may be a cruel green warrior, but he
can be a friend as well. Come, we must start.’
“‘And when you return, Tars Tarkas?’ I asked.
“‘The wild calots, possibly, or worse,’ he replied.
‘Unless I should chance to have the opportunity I have so long waited of
battling with Tal Hajus.’
“‘We will stay, Tars Tarkas, and see Tal Hajus
tonight. You shall not sacrifice yourself, as it may be that tonight you
can have the chance you wait.’
“He objected strenuously, saying that Tal Hajus
often flew into wild fits of passion at the mere thought of the blow I
had dealt him, and if ever he laid his hands upon me I would be subjected
to the most horrible tortures.
“While we were eating I repeated to Tars Tarkas
the story which Sola had told me that night upon the sea bottom during
the march to Thark.
“He said but little, but the great muscles of
his face worked in passion and in agony at recollection of the horrors
which had been heaped upon the only thing he had ever loved in all his
cold, cruel, terrible existence.
“He no longer demurred when I suggested that we
go before Tal Hajus, only saying that he would like to speak to Sarkoja
first. At his request I accompanied him to her quarters, and the look of
venomous hatred she cast upon me was almost adequate recompense for any
future misfortunes this accidental return to Thark might bring me.
“‘Sarkoja,’ said Tars Tarkas, ‘forty years ago
you were instrumental in bringing about the torture and death of a woman
named Gozava. I have just discovered that the warrior who loved that woman
has learned of your part in the transaction. He may not kill you, Sarkoja,
it is not our custom, but there nothing to prevent him tying one end of
a strap about your neck and the other end to a wild thoat, merely to test
your fitness to survive and help perpetuate our race. Having heard that
he would do this on the morrow, I thought it only right to warn you, for
I am a just man. The river Iss is but a short pilgrimage, Sarkoja. Come,
“The next morning Sarkoja was gone, nor was she
ever seen after.” (PM/24.)
But wait! I forgot what is in actual store for Sarkoja at the end of
her pilgrimage. What better end could be imagined for her that having her
skull smashed in by the tail of a Plant Man, having her blood drained by
the same, and then being eaten by the Great White Apes? And, after all,
ERB doesn’t want to divert our attention away from the Charles Bronson
Death Wish scenario forming as Carter and Tars Tarkas decide to keep their
appointment with Tal Hajus:
“In silence we hastened to the jeddak’s
palace, where we were immediately admitted to his presence; in fact, he
could scarcely wait to see me and was standing erect upon his platform
glowering at the entrance as I came in.
Remembering the state of degeneracy that Tal Hajus had been in when he
tried to rape Dejah Thoris, it is no wonder that his duel with Tars Tarkas
was not a battle worthy of Homeric description. But with the Green Martian
enthusiasm at an all-time high, John Carter makes his messianic move that
brings the Green Men into alliance with the Red Men of Helium by making
them the enemy of the Red Men of Zodanga, thus changing the natural evolution
and balance of power in Barsoomian history and politics by introducing
a wild card.
“‘Strap him to that pillar,’ he shrieked. ‘We
shall see who it is dares strike the mighty Tal Hajus. Heat the irons;
with my own hands, I shall burn the eyes from his head that he may not
pollute my person with his vile gaze.’
“‘Chieftans of Thark,’ I cried, turning to the
assembled council and ignoring Tal Hajus, ‘I have been a chief among you,
and today I have fought for Thark shoulder to shoulder with her greatest
warrior. You owe me, at least, a hearing. I have won that much today. You
claim to be just people –’
“‘Silence,’ roared Tal Hajus. ‘Gag the creature
and bind him as I command.’
“‘Justice,’ Tal Hajus,’ exclaimed Lorquas Ptomel.
‘Who are you to set aside the customs of ages among the Tharks.’
“‘Yes, justice!’ echoed a dozen voices, and so,
while Tal Hajus fumed and frothed, I continued.
“‘You are a brave people and you love bravery,
but where was your mighty jeddak during the fighting today? I did not see
him in the thick of battle; he was not there. He rends defenseless women
and little children in his lair, but how recently has one of you seen him
fight with men? Why, even I, a midget beside him, felled him with a single
blow of my fist. Is it of such that the Tharks fashion their jeddaks? There
stands beside me now a great Thark, a mighty warrior and a noble man. Chieftans,
how sounds, Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark?’
“A roar of deep-toned applause greeted this suggestion.
“‘It but remains for this council to command,
and Tal Hajus must prove his fitness to rule. Were he a brave man he would
invite Tars Tarkas to combat, for he does not love him, but Tal Hajus is
afraid; Tal Hajus, your jeddak, is a coward. With my bare hands I could
kill him, and he knows it.’
“After I ceased there was tense silence, and all
eyes were riveted upon Tal Hajus. He did not speak or move, but the blotchy
green of his countenance turned livid, and the froth froze upon his lips.
“‘Tal Hajus,’ said Lorquas Ptomel in a cold, hard
voice, ‘never in my long life have I seen a jeddak of the Tharks so humiliated.
There could be but one answer to this arraingment. We wait it.’ And still
Tal Hajus stood as though petrified.
“‘Chieftans,’ continued Lorquas Ptomel, ‘shall
the jeddak, Tal Hajus, prove his fitness to rule over Tars Tarkas?’
“There were twenty chieftans about the rostrum,
and twenty swords flashed high in assent.
“There was no alternative. That decree was final,
and so Tal Hajus drew his longsword and advanced to meet Tars Tarkas.
“The combat was soon over, and, with his foot
upon the neck of the dead monster, Tars Tarkas became jeddak among the
“His first act was to make me a full-fledged
chieftan with the rank I had won by my combats the first few weeks of my
captivity among them.
Carter’s cause against Zodanga is motivated by a complex series of events
and customs and emotions, not always rational. In the natural order of
things, the two greatest empires on Barsoom are Zodanga and Helium, with
Zodanga poised to be ascendant. Zodanga has seized upon the opportunity
of Helium being relatively defenseless as her ships are scattered over
the face of the planet searching for their beloved Princess, Dejah Thoris.
Zodanga thus launched an invasion force against the twin cities that is
on the verge of toppling the seat of the Helium Empire.
“Seeing the favorable disposition of the warriors
toward Tars Tarkas, as well as toward me, I grasped the opportunity to
enlist them in my cause against Zodanga. I told Tars Tarkas the story of
my adventures, and in a few words had explained to him the thought I had
in mind.” (PM/24.)
This act of war, however, is unpopular among many Zodangas, most of
whom live in the rural outlying areas of the cultivated waterways. Thus,
the Zodangans are a divided people.
Plus, their capital city is also, like Helium, not fully protected since
most of her navy and army have been dispatched to seize Helium.
Even though all of the Red Martian Zodangans he has met so far have
extended kindness to him – he even saved a high ranking officer in Jeddak
Than Kosis’ court – he ends up throwing his allegiance toward Helium because
of his love for Dejah Thoris and his jail-house friendship with Kantos
Kan. These feelings lead to the death of four brave unfortunate guards,
ending with Carter fleeing from Zodanga with the death penalty weighing
heavily over his head. He needs to defeat Zodanga before they defeat Helium,
or compromise her in a marriage between Princess Dejah Thoris and Prince
Sab Than of Zodanga.
Carter needs a powerful ally, and he finds that ally in Tars Tarkas.
With an army of Green Men at his command, there is nothing to stop him.
Because of his developing higher consciousness, Tars Tarkas is swift to
realize how such an alliance can advance his horde above all the others:
“‘John Carter has made a proposal,’ he
said, addressing the council, ‘which meets with my sanction. I shall put
it to you briefly. Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Helium, who was our prisoner,
is now held by the jeddak of Zodanga, whose son she must wed to save her
country from devastation at the hands of the Zodangan forces.
This reminds me of the scene in Lawrence of Arabia, where Lawrence
enlists the aid of Anthony Quinn’s tribe on the promise of the great loot
in Aqaba. As it is, the lust for loot works wonderfully:
“‘John Carter suggests that we rescue her and
return her to Helium. The loot of Zodanga would be magnificent, and I have
often thought that had we an alliance with the people of Helium we could
obtain sufficient assurance of sustenance to permit us to increase the
size and frequency of our hatchings, and thus become unquestionably supreme
among the green men of all Barsoom. What say you?’
“It was a chance to fight, an opportunity to loot,
and they rose to the bait as a speckled trout to a fly.
“For Tharks they were wildly enthusiastic, and
before another half hour had passed twenty mounted messengers were speeding
across dead sea bottoms to call the hordes together for the expedition.
“In three days we were on the march toward Zodanga,
one hundred thousand strong, as Tars Tarkas had been able to enlist the
services of three smaller hordes on the promise of the great loot of Zodanga.”
“At the head of the column I rode beside
the great Thark while at the heels of my mount trotted my beloved Woola.
I can imagine vividly an aerial view of this scene: the great horde, one
hundred and fifty thousand strong, approaching the great wall of Zodanga,
in full barbaric anticipation of the great bloodshed and looting to come.
With the advent of John Carter, Barsoomian history is reaching its zenith.
“We traveled entirely by night, timing our marches
so that we camped during the day at deserted cities where, even to the
beasts, we were all kept indoors during the daylight hours. On the march
Tars Tarkas, through his remarkable ability and statesmanship, enlisted
fifty thousand more warriors from various hordes, so that, ten days after
we set out we halted at midnight outside the great walled city of Zodanga,
one hundred and fifty thousand strong.
“The fighting strength and efficiency of this
horde of ferocious green monsters was equivalent to ten times their number
of red men. Never in the history of Barsoom, Tars Tarkas told me, had such
a force of green warriors marched to battle together. It was a monstrous
task to keep even a semblance of harmony among them, and it was a marvel
to me that he got them to the city without a mighty battle among themselves.”
“But as we neared Zodanga their personal
quarrels were submerged by her greater hatred for the red men, and especially
for the Zodangans, who had for years waged a ruthless campaign of extermination
against the green men, directing special attention toward despoiling their
Here we detect another fatal flaw in Zodangan foreign policy: genocide
of the Green Men. Yes, Sieg Heil! We may view Carter as another Clint Eastwood
“Man With No Name,” who takes sides arbitrarily to his own advantage, knowing
that each side is just as bad as the other and neither to be trusted –
but in Carter’s choice of Helium over Zodanga, it appears he made the right
moral and socio-political choice.
As far as my reading of the text goes, I don’t know of any policy of
genocide toward the Green Men practiced in the Empire of Helium. Their
policy seems to be that of moderate toleration. From the speech Dejah Thoris
gave to the Thark council, it appears that Helium would have welcomed some
kind of alliance. As it is, in John Carter, Helium has their alliance,
even though they don’t know it yet.
“Now that we were before Zodanga the
task of obtaining entry to the city devolved upon me, and directing Tars
Tarkas to hold his forces in two divisions out of earshot of the city,
with each division opposite a large gateway, I took twenty dismounted warriors
and approached one of the small gates that pierced the walls at short intervals.
These gates have no regular guard, but are covered by sentries, who patrol
the avenue that encircles the city just within the walls much as our metropolitan
police patrol their beats.
Already you can see the idea of the Martian paradise beginning to form
in the mind of ERB as he concludes this first episode of the Barsoomian
Mythos. As it was, Newell Metcalf, his editor at All-Story Magazine, suggested
he do a story on ritualized religion on Mars and the rest is history, concluding
with the apocalypic Battle of Kadabra. But first, the first apocalypse:
“The walls of Zodanga are seventy-five feet in
height and fifty feet thick. They are built of enormous blocks of carborundum,
and the task of entering the city seemed, to my escort of green warriors,
an impossibility. The fellows who had been detailed to accompany me were
of one of the smaller hordes, and therefore did not know me.
“Placing three of them with their faces to the
wall and arms locked, I commanded two more to mount their shoulders, and
a sixth I ordered to climb upon the shoulders of the upper two. The head
of the topmost warrior towered over forty feet from the ground.
“In this way, with ten warriors, I built a series
of three steps from the ground to the shoulders of the topmost man. Then
starting from a short distance behind them I ran swiftly up from one tier
to the next, and with a final bound from the broad shoulders of the highest
I clutched the top of the great wall and quietly drew myself to its broad
expanse. After me I dragged six lengths of leather from an equal amount
of my warriors. These lengths we had previously fastened together, and
passing one end to the topmost warrior I lowered the other end cautiously
over the opposite side of the wall toward the avenue below. No one was
in sight, so lowering myself to the end of the leather strap, I dropped
the remaining thirty feet to the pavement below.
“I had learned from Kantos Kan the secret of opening
these gates, and in another moment my twenty great fighting men stood within
the doomed city of Zodanga.
“I found to my delight that I had entered at the
lower boundary of the enormous palace grounds. The building itself showed
in the distance a blaze of glorious light, and on the instant I determined
to lead a detachment of warriors directly within the palace itself, while
the balance of the great horde was attacking the barracks of the soldiery.
“Dispatching one of the men to Tars Tarkas for
a detail of fifty Tharks, with word of my intentions, I ordered ten warriors
to capture and open one of the great gates while with the nine remaining
I took the other. We were to do our work quietly, no shots were to be fired
and no general advance made until I had reached the palace with my fifty
Tharks. Our plans worked to perfection. The two sentries we met were dispatched
to their fathers upon the banks of the lost sea of Korus, and the guards
at both gates followed them in silence.” (PM/24.)
“As the great gate where I stood swung
open my fifty Tharks, headed by Tars Tarkas himself, rode in upon their
mighty thoats. I led them to the palace walls, which I negotiated easily
without assistance. Once inside, however, the gate gave me considerable
trouble, but I finally was rewarded by seeing it swing upon its huge hinges,
and soon my fierce escort was riding acrosss the gardens of jeddak of Zodanga.”
As Carter approaches he can see inside the palace throne room, he sees
his beloved princess about to be married. Immediately, he goes into action.
“It was an impressive and beautiful ceremony,
I presume, but to me it seemed to most fiendish sight I had ever witnessed,
and as the ornaments were adjusted upon her beautiful figure and her collar
of gold swung open in the hands of Than Kosis I raised my long-sword above
my head, and, with the heavy hilt, I shattered the glass of the great window
and sprang into the midst of the astonished assemblage. With a bound I
was upon the steps of the platform beside Than Kosis, and as he stood riveted
with surprise I brought my long-sword down upon the golden chain that would
have bound Dejah Thoris to another.” (PM/25.)
Carter has an epic swordfight with Than Kosis, his son, Sab Than, and a
few of the officers and the guards. He kills Than Kosis, but he cannot
kill Sab Than because the killer of a woman’s betrothed cannot become her
husband. He must wait for Tars Tarkas to do the deed.
“The Tharks were having their hands full
in the center of the room, and I began to realize that nothing short of
a miracle could save Dejah Thoris and myself, when I saw Tars Tarkas surging
through the crowd of pigmies that swarmed about him. With one swing of
his mighty long-sword he laid a dozen corpses at his feet, and so he hewed
a pathway before him until in another moment he stood upon the platform
beside me, dealing death and destruction right and left.
His first thought is to rescue Kantos Kan, which he proceeds to accomplish
without delay. Tars Tarkas hastens to take care of business and the sounds
of heavy firing throughout the city indicate wide-spread chaos. Carter
returns to the side of his princess and they kiss.
“The bravery of the Zodangans was awe-inspiring,
not one attempted to escape, and when the fighting ceased it was because
only Tharks remained alive in the great hall, other than Dejah Thoris and
“Sab Than lay dead beside his father, and the
corpses of the flower of Zodangan nobility and chivalry covered the floor
of the bloody shambles.” (PM/25.)
“Sometime later Tars Tarkas and Kantos
Kan returned to report that Zodanga had been completely reduced. Her forces
were entirely destroyed or captured, and no further resistance was to be
expected from within. Several battleships had escaped, but there were thousands
of war and merchant vessels under guard of Thark warriors.
As a result of the Looting of Zodanga by the Green Hordes, John Carter’s
name would forever be a curse upon the lips of Zodangans for generations,
as witnessed by the attitude of the Zodangan slave girl, Zanda, in Swords
“The lesser hordes had commenced looting and quarrelling
among themselves, so it was decided that we collect what warriors we could
, man as many vessels as possible with Zodangan prisoners and make for
Helium without further loss of time.
“Five hours later we sailed from the roofs of
the dock buildings with a fleet of two hundred and fifty battleships, carrying
nearly one hundred thousand green warriors, followed by a fleet of transports
with our thoats.
“Behind us we left the stricken city in the fierce
and brutal clutches of some forty thousand green warriors of the lesser
hordes. They were looting, murdering, and fighting amongst themselves.
In a hundred places they had applied the torch, and columns of dense smoke
were rising above the city as though to blot out from the eye of heaven
the horrid sights beneath.” (PM/26.)
“In the middle of the afternoon we sighted
the scarlet and yellow towers of Helium, and a short time later a great
fleet of Zodangan battleships rose from the camps of the besiegers without
the city, and advanced to meet us.
Did I mention that this story was written in 1911, three years before airplanes
were regarded as serious weapons of war, and crucial years before the science
of the dogfight was worked out by hard experience in the French skies?
ERB was imagining real aerial combat in such vivid detail and near accuracy
of later experience that a learned reader almost feels as if a science
fiction Nostradamas of the Verne or Wells quality was hatching from its
American egg. Yes, good old Normal Bean, who saw it all before it happened.
“The banners of Helium had been strung from stern
to stern on each of our mighty craft, but the Zodangans did not need this
sign to realize that we were enemies, for our green Martian warriors had
opened fire upon them almost as they left the ground. With their uncanny
marksmanship they raked the on-coming fleet with volley after volley.
“The twin cities of Helium, perceiving that we
were friends, sent out hundreds of vessels to aid us, and then began the
first real air battle I had ever witnessed.
“The vessels carrying our green warriors were
kept circling above the contending fleets of Helium and Zodanga, since
their batteries were useless in the hands of the Tharks who, having no
navy, have no skill in naval gunnery. Their small arm fire, however, was
most effective, and the final outcome of the engagement was strongly influenced,
if not wholly determined, by their presence.
“At first the two forces circled at the same altitude,
pouring broadside after broadside into each other. Presently a great hole
was torn in the hull of one of the immense battle craft from the Zodangan
camp; with a lurch she turned completely over, the little figures of her
crew plunging, turning and twisting toward the ground a thousand feet below;
then with sickening velocity she tore after them, almost completely burying
herself in the soft loam of the ancient sea bottom.
“A wild cry of exultation arose from the Heliumite
squadron, and with redoubled ferocity they fell upon the Zodangan fleet.
By a pretty maneuver two of the vessels of Helium gained a position above
their adversaries, from which they poured upon them from their keel bomb
batteries a perfect torrent of exploding bombs.” (PM/26.)
“Then, one by one, the battleships of
Helium succeeded in rising above the Zodangans, and in a short time a number
of the beleaguering battleships were drifting hopeless wrecks toward the
high scarlet tower of greater Helium. Several others attempted to escape,
but they were soon surrounded by thousands of tiny individual fliers, and
above each hung a monster battleship of Helium ready to drop boarding parties
upon their decks.
I am currently reading the Patrick O’Brian Captain Aubrey seafaring adventure
novels of the Napoleanic Age, and after reading the late Mr. O’Brian’s
meticulously recreated scenes of naval battle, these Barsoomian scenes
of aerial naval combat ring true as authentic sailing accounts of warfare.
Moreover, after reading the real life adventure of The Speedwell Voyage,
by Kenneth Poolman (Naval Institute Press: Annapolis, MD; 1990), I know
that there is nothing an author can imagine that was not actually accomplished
by someone during this exciting period. ERB increases the pleasure by imagining
the combat it in three dimensions.
“Within but little more than an hour from the
moment the victorious Zodangan squadron had risen to meet us from the camp
of the besiegers the battle was over, and the remaining vessels of the
conquered Zodangans were headed toward the cities of Helium under prize
“There was an extremely pathetic side
to the surrender of these mighty fliers, the result of an age-old custom
which demanded that surrender should be signalized by the voluntary plunging
to earth of the commander of the vanquished vessel. One after another the
brave fellows, holding their colors high above their heads, leaped from
the towering bows of their mighty craft to an awful death.
Yes, some customs come to a hard end. Like the idea infecting America that
before she can withdraw from a bad idea, she has to do so under some kind
of delusion of victory or honor.
“Not until the commander of the entire fleet took
the fearful plunge, thus indicating the surrender of the remaining vessels,
did the fighting cease, and the useless sacrifice of the brave men come
to an end.” (PM/26.)
Where is the honor in being wrong, except in the understanding that
it is wrong?
Now comes a scene little understood for its global impact in the Barsoomian
Mythos.The Heliumites discover that their saviors are a white man from
Jasoom and a Green Martian Horde. How will they cope with this new truth,
this new major paradigm shift in the balance of
“We now signaled the flagship of Helium’s
navy to approach, and when she was within hailing distance I called out
that we had the Princess Dejah Thoris on board, and that we wished to transfer
her to the flagship that she might be taken immediately to the city.
It appears that the mere presence of the Princess and Kantos Kan was all
it took to give Carter and Tars Tarkas the credibility they needed at the
time. The reader will recall that it was the horde under Lorquas Ptomel
and Tars Tarkas that had decimated Helium’s scientific fleet, of whom Kantos
Kan had been one of the few survivors. It is easy to imagine that Kantos
Kan never had to buy a drink again at popular watering holes, for he must
have been full of the kinds of stories most military men enjoy telling
and hearing, especially the last-man-standing battle in the Warhoon arena.
“As the full import of my announcement bore in
upon them a great cry arose from the decks of the flagship, and a moment
later the colors of the Princess of Helium broke from a hundred points
upon her upper works. When the other vessels of the squadron caught the
meaning of the signals flashed them they took up the wild acclaim and unfurled
their colors in the gleaming sunlight.
“The flagship bore down upon us, and as she swung
gracefully to and touched our side a dozen officers sprang upon our decks.
As their astonished gaze fell upon the hundreds of green warriors, who
now came forth from the fighting shelters, they stopped aghast, but at
sight of Kantos Kan, who advanced to meet them, they came forward, crowding
“Dejah Thoris and I then advanced, and they had
no eyes for other than her. She received them gracefully, calling each
by name, for they were men high in the esteem and service of her grandfather,
and she knew them well.
“‘Lay your hands upon the shoulder of John Carter,’
she said to them, turning toward me, ‘the man to whom Helium owes her princess
as well as her victory today.’
“They were very courteous to me and said many
kind and complimentary things, but what seemed to impress them most was
that I had won the aid of the fierce Tharks in my campaign for the liberation
of Dejah Thoris, and the relief of Helium.
“‘You owe your thanks more to another man than
to me,’ I said, ‘and here he is; meet one of Barsoom’s greatest soldiers
and statesmen, Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark.’
“With the same polished courtesy that had marked
their manner toward me they extended their greetings to the great Thark,
nor, to my surprise, was he much behind them in ease of bearing or courtly
speech. Though not a garrulous race, the Tharks are extremely formal, and
their ways lend themselves amazingly to dignified and courtly manners.
“Dejah Thoris went aboard the flagship, and was
much put out that I would not follow, but, as I explained to her, the battle
was but partly won; we still had the land forces of the besieging Zodangans
to account for, and I would not leave Tars Tarkas until that had been accomplished.”
This book will prove to be the prototype of most of ERB’s literary future
output, the hurried ending that finally – like a Charles Dickens novel
– brings all of the loose ends together.
Oh, but what a hurried ending! Some of the greatest succinct field commander
descriptions of warfare in fiction. And, on another planet.
“The commander of the naval forces of
Helium promised to arrange to have the armies of Helium attack from the
city in conjunction with our land attack, and so the vessels separated
and Dejah Thoris was borne in triumph back to the court of her grandfather,
Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium.
ERB likely believed he was doing his father proud – the Old Union Civil
War Major, the hero from First Bull Run to Appomatox Court House – when
he penned this battle scene, but history has gone down with the brutal
assessment that ERB’s father hated John Carter, the Virginian from the
South, and hated more his son’s fake biography where he purported to have
been a southern slave owner before the Civil War. In his favor, however,
his father loved Tarzan.
“In the distance lay our fleet of transports,
with the thoats of the green warriors, where they had remained during the
battle. Without landing stages it was to be a difficult matter to unload
these beasts upon the open plain, but there was nothing else for it, and
so we put out for a point about ten miles from the city and began the task.
“It was necessary to lower the animals to the
ground in slings and this work occupied the remainder of the day and half
the night. Twice we were attacked by parties of Zodangan cavalry, but with
little loss, however, and after darkness shut down, they withdrew.
“As soon as the last thoat was unloaded Tars Tarkas
gave the command to advance, and in three parties we crept upon the Zodangan
camp from the north, the south and the east.
“About a mile from the main camp we encountered
their outposts and, as had been prearranged, accepted this as the signal
to charge. With wild, ferocious cries and amidst the nasty squealing of
battle-enraged thoats we bore down upon the Zodangans.
“We did not catch them napping, but found a well-entrenched
battle line confronting us. Time after time we were repulsed until, toward
noon, I began to fear for the result of the battle.
“The Zodangans numbered nearly a million fighting
men, gathered from pole to pole, wherever stretched their ribbon-like waterways,
while pitted against them were less than a hundred thousand green warriors.
The forces from Helium had not arrived, nor could we receive any word from
“Just at noon we heard heavy firing all along
the line between the Zodangans and the cities, and we knew then that our
much-needed reinforcements had come.
“Again Tars Tarkas ordered the charge, and once
more the mighty thoats bore their terrible riders against the ramparts
of the enemy. At the same moment the battle line of Helium surged over
the opposite breastworks of the Zodangans and in another moment they were
being crushed as between two millstones. Nobly they fought, but in vain.
“The plain before the city became a veritable shambles ere the last Zodangans
surrendered, but finally the carnage ceased, the prisoners were marched
back to Helium, and we entered the greater city’s gates, a huge triumphal
procession of conquering heroes.” (PM/26.)
“The broad avenues were lined with women
and children, among which were the few men whose duties necessitated that
they remain within the city during the battle. We were greeted with an
endless round of applause and showered with ornaments of gold, platinum,
silver, and precious jewels. The city had gone mad with joy.
ERB downplays this scene, but to fully grasp its reality, it must be remembered
that in the thousands of years of post-oceanic Mars, the Green and Red
men had never seen eye-to-eye before. This must have had the same effect
in the minds of the populace as the Berlin Wall falling in 1989 had in
the minds of the German volk. The people may not have been fully aware,
but a great Paradigm Shift has just occurred on their planet in the advent
of John Carter. This literary motif is at the heart of the Barsoomian Mythos.
“My fierce Tharks caused the wildest excitement
and enthusiasm. Never before had an armed body of green warriors entered
the gates of Helium, and that they came now as friends and allies filled
the red men with rejoicing.
“That my poor services to Dejah Thoris had become
known to the Heliumites was evidenced by the loud crying of my name, and
by the loads of ornaments that were fastened upon me and my huge thoat
as we passed up the avenues to the palace, for even in the face of the
ferocious appearance of Woola the populace pressed close about me.” (PM/26.)
“As we approached the magnificent pile
we were met by a party of officers who greeted us warmly and requested
that Tars Tarkas and his jeds with the jeddaks and jeds of his wild allies,
together with myself, dismount and accompany them to receive from Tardos
Mors an expression of his gratitude for our services.
I thought this article was going to conclude our series on Tars Tarkas,
but, alas, I was wrong. No other character deserves this amount of space,
but Tars Tarkas is more than worthy, and his legacy in the Barsoomian Mythos
must taken fully into account. The conclusion, I promise, of the Green
Hordes, in the next installment.
“At the top of the great steps leading up to the
main portals of the palace stood the royal party, and as we reached the
lower steps one of their number descended to meet us. He was an almost
perfect specimen of manhood; tall, straight as an arrow, superbly muscled
and with the carriage and bearing of a ruler of men. I did not need to
be told that he was Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium.
“The first member of our party he met was Tars
Tarkas and his first words sealed forever the new friendship between the
“‘That Tardos Mors,’ he said, earnestly, ‘may
meet the greatest living warrior of Barsoom is a priceless honor, but that
he may lay his hand on the shoulder of a friend and ally is a far greater
“‘Jeddak of Helium,’ returned Tars Tarkas, ‘it
has remained for a man of another world to teach the green warriors of
Barsoom the meaning of friendship; to him we owe the fact that the hordes
of Thark can understand you; that they can appreciate and reciprocate the
sentiments so graciously expressed.’
“Tardos Mors then greeted each of the green jeddaks
and jeds, and to each spoke words of friendship and appreciation.” (PM/26.)
“For ten days the hordes of Thark and their wild
allies were feasted and entertained, and, then, loaded with costly presents
and escorted by ten thousand soldiers of Helium commanded by Mors Kojak,
they started on the return journey to their own lands. The jed of lesser
Helium with a small party of nobles accompanied them all the way to Thark
to cement more closely the new bonds of peace and friendship.
“Sola also accompanied Tars Tarkas, her father,
who before all his chieftans had acknowledged her as his daughter.
“Three weeks later, Mors Kojak and his officers,
accompanied by Tars Tarkas and Sola, returned upon a battleship that had
been dispatched to Thark to fetch them in time for the ceremony which made
Dejah Thoris and John Carter one.” (PM/27.)
BARSOOMIAN GREEN MEN and TARS TARKAS ART GALLERIES
| II | III
| IV | V
| VI | VII
Green Man Horde by Murphy Anderson