WEIRD CREATURES OF MARS
The Twelfth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
B) The Goolians
Vor Daj, whose brain, the reader will recall from Synthetic
Men Of Mars, has been transplanted inside the hideous body of Tor-dur-bar,
the Hormad, has just rescued Janai upon the wings of a Malagor. Since the
Malagor is exhausted from carrying them for three days, they land on an
large obscure island in the Toonolian Marshes. Tor-dur-bar tells Janai
that if the Malagor recovers he hopes that it will be able to fly them
to Helium. While he is explaining why he wants to go to Helium, they are
interrupted by strange visitors:
“‘Look!’ she cried.
This is, of course, a little joke on the fact that Janai is a really hot
babe. We first learn this fact after Vor Daj, Carter, and Janai are brought
to Morbus by their Hormad captors. Vor Daj walks over to comfort the girl
when an officer enters with several other Hormads:
“I turned in the direction she was pointing, to
see a number of strange creatures coming toward us in prodigious leaps
and bounds. That they were some species of human being was apparent, but
there were variations which rendered them unlike any other animal on Mars.
They had long, powerful legs, the knees of which were always flexed except
immediately after the take-off of one of their prodigious leaps, and they
had long, powerful tails; otherwise, they seemed quite human in conformation.
As they came closer, I noted that they were entirely naked except for a
single harness which supported a short sword on one side and a dagger on
the other. Besides these weapons, each of them carried a spear in his right
hand. They quickly surrounded us, remaining at a little distance from us,
squatting down with their knees bent as they supported themselves on their
broad, flat feet and their tails.
“‘Who are you, and what are you doing here?’ demanded
one of them, surprising me by the fact that he possessed speech.
“‘We were flying over your island,’ I replied,
‘when our malagor became tired and was forced to come to ground to rest.
As soon as we are able, we shall continue on our way.’
“The fellow shook his head. ‘You will never leave
Gooli,’ he said. He was examining me closely. ‘What are you?’ he asked.
“‘I am a man,’ I said, stretching the point a
“He shook his head. ‘And what is that?’ He pointed
“‘A woman,’ I replied.
“Again he shook his head.
“‘She is only half a woman,’ he said. ‘She has
no way of rearing her young or keeping them warm. If she had any, they
would die as soon as they were hatched.’
“Well, that was a subject I saw no reason of going
into, and so I kept silent. Janai seemed slightly amused, for if she were
nothing else she was extremely feminine.” (SMM/20.)
“They gathered us together, and the two
officers accompanying the officer of the guard looked us over. ‘Not a bad
lot,’ said one.
“Extremely feminine,” “more than good looking,” are suggestive descriptions
of a sexpot, a fact of which ERB wants the reader to be aware for maximum
enjoyment, remembering, of course, that she is naked. Anyway, back to the
“‘They don’t want the girl, do they?’ asked the
officer of the guard.
“‘Our orders were to bring prisoners,’ replied
one of the others.
“‘I should like to keep the girl,’ said the officer
of the guard.
“‘Who wouldn’t?’ demanded the other with a laugh.
‘If she had the face of an ulsio you might get her; but the good looking
ones go to the jeds, and she is more than good looking.’” (SMM/5.)
“‘What do you intend to do with us?’
Once again ERB uses his subtle style to hint at acts of sexual molestation
as the villagers manhandle Janai, who we can well imagine is more than
amply endowed. There must have been lots of curious probing.
“‘We shall take you to the Jed, and he will decide.
Perhaps he will let you live and work; perhaps he will destroy you. You
are very ugly, but you look strong; you should be a good worker. The woman
appears useless, if she can be
called a woman.’
“I was at a loss as to what to do. We were surrounded
by fully fifty warriors, well though crudely armed. With my terrific strength,
I might have destroyed many of them; but eventually I was sure that they
would overpower and kill me. It would be better to go with them to their
Jed and await a better opportunity for escape. ‘Very well,’ I said, ‘we
will go with you.’
“‘Of course you will,’ he said. “What else could
“‘I could fight,’ I said.
“‘Ho ho, you would like to fight, would you?’
he demanded. ‘Well, I think that if that is the case, the Jed will accommodate
you. Come with us.’
“They led us back along the stream and up over
a little rise of ground beyond which we saw a forest, at the edge of which
lay a village of thatched huts.
“‘That,’ said the leader, pointing, ‘is Gooli,
that largest city in the world. There, in his great palace, dwells Anatok,
Jed of Gooli and all of the Island of Ompt.’
“As we approached the village, a couple of hundred
people came to meet us. There were men, women and children, and when I
examined the women I realized why the leader of the party that had captured
us thought that Janai was not wholly feminine. These Goolians of the Island
of Ompt are marsupials, oviparous marsupials. The females lay eggs which
they carry in a pouch on the lower part of their abdomen. In this pouch
the eggs hatch, and in it the young live and take shelter until they are
able to fend for themselves. It was quite amusing to see the little heads
protruding from their mother’s pouches as they surveyed us with wondering
eyes. Up to this time I had believed that there was only one marsupial
upon Barsoom, and that a reptile; so it seemed quite remarkable to see
these seemingly quite human people bearing their young in abdominal pouches.
“The creatures that came out from the village
to meet us were quite rough with us, pulling and hauling us this way and
that as they sought to examine us more closely. I towered above them all
and they were a little in awe of me; but they were manhandling Janai quite
badly when I interfered, pushing several of them away so forcibly that
they were thrown to the ground, whereupon two or three of them drew their
swords and came for me; but the party that had captured us acted now as
a bodyguard and defended us from attack. After this they kept the rabble
at a distance, and presently we were ushered into the village and led to
a grass hut much larger than the others. This, I assumed, was the magnificent
palace of Anatok. Such it proved to be, and presently the Jed himself emerged
from the interior with several men and women and a horde of children. The
women were his wives and attendants; the men were his counselors.” (SMM/20.)
“Anatok seemed much interested in us
and asked many questions about our capture, and then he asked us from whence
I am not sure if ERB had any particular people in mind when he wrote of
the Goolians. They are obviously a backwoods, inbred, type of swamp people
– it is easy to imagine Credence Clearwater Revival playing in the background.
They are too isolated and narrow-minded to imagine any world outside of
their own. And from what we have just read, we can imagine that they are
also heartless and cruel, like most of the inhabitants of Barsoom. But
here we would be wrong.
“‘We came from Morbus,’ I said, ‘and we are on
our way to Helium.’
“‘Morbus – Helium,’ he repeated. ‘I never heard
of them. Little villages, no doubt, inhabited by savages. How fortunate
we are to live in such a splendid city as Gooli. Don’t you think so?’
“‘I think you would be very much happier in Gooli
than in Morbus, and far more at ease here than in Helium,’ I replied, truthfully.
“‘Our countries,’ I continued, ‘have never harmed
you. We are not at war; therefore you should let us go on our way in peace.’
“At that he laughed. ‘What simple people come
from other villages!’ he exclaimed. ‘You are my slaves. When you are no
longer of service to me you shall be destroyed. Do you think that we want
any strangers to go away from Ompt to lead enemies here to destroy our
magnificent city and steal our vast riches?’
“‘Our people would never bother you,’ I said.
‘Our country is too far from here. If one of your people should come to
our country, he would be treated with kindness. We fight only with our
“‘That reminds me,’ said the leader of the party
that had captured us, ‘this fellow is indeed our enemy by his own words,
for he said that he wished to fight us.’
“What!’ exclaimed Anatok. ‘Well, if that is so,
he shall have his wish. There is nothing that we like better than a good
fight. With what weapons would you like to fight?’
“‘I will fight with anything that my antagonist
chooses,’ I replied.” (SMM/20.)
“It soon appeared that a personal combat
was a matter of considerable importance to the Goolians. The chief and
his advisors held a lengthy discussion relative to the selection of an
antagonist for me. The qualities of a number of warriors were discussed,
and even their ancestors as far back as the fifth and sixth generation
were appraised and compared. It might have been a momentous matter of state,
so serious were they. The conference was often interrupted by suggestions
and comments from other members of the tribe; but at last they selected
a husky young buck, who, impressed by the importance now attached to him,
launched into a long and windy speech in which he enumerated his many virtues
and those of his ancestors while belittling me and bragging about the short
work he would make of me. He finally concluded his harangue by selecting
swords as the weapons we were to use; and then Anatok asked me if I had
anything to say, for it seemed that this speech-making was a part of the
ceremony preceding the duel.
The reader should be getting the idea by now that the Goolians are the
biggest bullshitters on Barsoom. They remind me of the arrogant, clueless
citizens in the movie Idiocracy.
“‘I have only a question to ask,’ I replied.
“‘And what is that?’ demanded Anatok.
“‘What will be my reward if I defeat your warrior?’
“Anatok appeared momentarily confused. ‘Now that
is an outcome that had not occurred to me,’ he said; ‘but of course, after
all, it is unimportant, as you will not win.’
“‘But it might happen,’ I insisted, ‘and if it
does, what is to be my reward? Will you grant freedom to my companion and
“Anatok laughed. ‘Certainly,’ he said. ‘I can
safely promise you anything you ask for; for when the fight is over you
will have lost, and you will be dead.’
“‘Very good,’ I replied; ‘but don’t forget your
“‘Is that all you have to say?’ demanded Anatok.
‘Aren’t you going to tell us how good you are, and how many men you have
killed, and what a wonderful fighter you are? Or aren’t you any good?’
“‘That is something that only the sword may decide,’
I replied. ‘My antagonist has done a great deal of boasting, and he might
continue to do so indefinitely without drawing any blood or harming me
in any way. He has not even frightened me, for I have heard men boast before;
and those who boasted the loudest usually have the least to boast about.’
‘It is evident,’ said Anatok, ‘that you know nothing
about the warriors of Gooli. We are the bravest people in the world and
our warriors are the greatest swordsmen. It is because of these attributes
that we are the most powerful nation in the world, which is evidenced by
the fact that we have built this magnificent city and protected it for
generations, and that we have been able during all this time to safeguard
our vast treasures.’
“I looked around at the mean little village of
grass huts and wondered where Anatok’s vast treasures might be hidden,
and of what they consisted. Perhaps it was a vast store of rare gems and
“‘I see no evidence of great wealth or of any
treasure,’ said. ‘Perhaps you are only boasting again.’
“At this, Anatok flew into a rage. ‘You dare doubt
me, you hideous savage’ he cried. ‘What do you know of wealth or treasures?
Your eyes have probably never rested upon anything that compares with the
riches of Gooli.’
“‘Show him the treasure before he dies,’ cried
a warrior. ‘Then he will understand why we have to be such a brave and
warlike people in order to protect and hold it.’
“‘That is not a bad idea,’ said Anatok. ‘Let him
learn by his own eyes that we of Gooli do not boast about our wealth, just
as he will learn by experience that we do not boast about our bravery and
swordsmanship. Come, fellow, you shall see the treasures.’” (SMM/21.)
“He led the way into his palace, and
I followed with a score of warriors pressing about me. The interior of
the grass hut was bare, except for a litter of dead grass and leaves around
the walls which evidently served for beds, some weapons, a few crude cooking
utensils, and a large chest that stood in the exact center of the building.
To this chest, Anatok conducted me; and, with a grand flourish, raised
the lid and exhibited the contents to me as much as to say, ‘Now there
is nothing more in the world for you to see; you have seen everything.’
Yes, things are about to get even more insane. ERB could be a good Mark
Twain humorist when he wanted to be one.
“‘Here,’ he said, ‘are the riches of Gooli.’
“The chest was about three-quarters filled with
marine shells. Anatok and the others watched me closely to note my reaction.
“‘Where is the treasure?’ I asked. ‘These are
nothing but shells.’
“Anatok trembled with suppressed rage. ‘You poor,
ignorant savage,’ he cried. ‘I might have known that you could not appreciate
the true value and beauty of the treasure of Gooli. Come, on with the fight;
the sooner you are destroyed, the better off the world will be. We Goolians
cannot abide ignorance and stupidity; we, who are the most intelligent
and wisest people in the world.’
“‘Come on,’ I said. ‘The quicker we get it over
“It appeared that the preparation for the duel
was quite a ceremonious affair. A procession was formed with Anatok and
his counselors at the head. Then, following my antagonist, was a guard
of honor consisting of about ten warriors. Behind these, I trailed; and
would have been alone but for the fact that I took Janai with me, nor did
they raise any objections to this. The rest of the tribe, including warriors,
women and children, followed behind us. It was a remarkable procession
in that it was all procession and no audience. We marched around the palace
once and then down the main street and out of the village. The villagers
formed a circle, in the center of which were I, my antagonist and his guard
of honor. At a word from Anatok I drew my sword; so did my antagonist and
the ten warriors with him. Then we advanced toward one another.
“‘I turned to Anatok. ‘What are those other warriors
doing there?’ I asked.
“‘They are Zuki’s assistants,’ he replied.
“‘Am I supposed to fight all of them?’ I demanded.
“‘Oh, no,’ replied Anatok. ‘You will only fight
Zuki, and his assistants will only help him if he gets in trouble.’
“In reality then, I was to fight eleven men.
“‘Fight, coward!’ cried Anatok. ‘We want to see
a good fight.’
“‘I turned again toward Zuki and his helpers.
They were coming toward me very, very slowly; and they were making faces
at me as though in effort to frighten me. The whole thing struck me as
so ridiculous that I could not refrain from laughing; yet I knew that it
was serious, for the odds of eleven to one were heavily against me, even
though the eleven might be inferior swordsmen.
“My face was in itself extremely hideous, and
suddenly I twisted it into a horrible grimace and with a wild shout leaped
toward them. The reaction was amazing. Zuki was the first to turn and flee,
colliding with his fellows, who, in their turn, attempted to escape my
onslaught. I did not pursue them; and when they saw that I had not, they
stopped and faced me again.
“‘Is this an example of the vaunted courage of
the Gooli’s?’ I asked Anatok.
“‘You have just witnessed a fine piece of strategy,’
replied Anatok; ‘but you are too ignorant to appreciate it.’
“Once again they came toward me, but still very
slowly; and this time they voiced a kind of war whoop while they were making
“I was just about to rush them again when a woman
screamed and pointed down the valley. With the others, I turned to see
what had attracted her attention, and discovered half a dozen savages such
as those which had attacked our boat while Gan Had, Tun Gan, and I had
been pursuing Sytor and Janai. At sight of them, a great wail rose from
the villagers. The women and children and all but a handful of warriors
ran for the woods; and I couldn’t tell whether those who remained did so
because they were paralyzed with fright and unable to run, or because of
a sudden access of courage. Zuki, my late antagonist, was not among them.
He and Anatok were racing nip and tuck for the woods in advance of all
“‘Who are they?’ I asked a warrior standing
They retrace their steps, searching for their Malagor, but it has disappeared.
They return and build a boat, since it is their only hope of escape.
“‘The man-eaters,’ he replied. ‘After their last
raid, we were chosen to be the sacrifice when they should come again.’
“‘What do you mean,’ I asked, ‘“the sacrifice?”’
“‘Yes, it is a sacrifice,’ he replied. ‘If we
do not willingly give up five warriors to them when they come, they will
attack the village and burn it, they will take our treasure, they will
steal our women and kill as many of our men as they can find. It is simpler
this way; but it hard on those who are chosen. However, we have no alternative
but to obey, for if we did not the tribe would kill us with torture.’
“‘But why give up to them?’ I asked. ‘There are
only six, and we are six; let’s fight them. We have as good a chance to
win as they.’
“They looked at me in surprise. ‘But we never
fight anyone,’ they said, ‘unless we outnumber them ten to one. It would
not be good strategy.’
“‘Forget your strategy,’ I commanded, ‘and stand
up against these men with me.’
“‘Do you suppose we could?’ asked one of another.
“‘It has never been done,’ was the reply.
“‘That is no reason why it can’t be done now,’
I snapped. ‘If you will give me even a little help, we can kill them all.’
“‘Give me a sword,’ said Janai, ‘and I will help,
“‘Let us try it,’ said one of the Goolians.
“‘Why not?’ demanded another. ‘We are going to
“The savages had now approached and were quite
near us. They were laughing and talking among themselves and casting contemptuous
glances at the Goolians. ‘Come on,’ said one, ‘throw down your arms and
come with us.’
“For answer, I leaped forward and clove the fellow
from crown to breastbone with a single stroke. The five Goolians came forward
slowly. They had no stomach for fighting; but when they saw the success
of my first blow they were encouraged; and, in the same measure, the savages
were taken aback. I did not stop with the one but pushed on toward the
remainder of the savages. I now met with a little competition; but my great
reach and my enormous strength gave me an advantage which they could not
overcome, with the result that three of them were soon down and the other
three running away as fast as they could go.
“At sight of the enemy in retreat, something which
they had probably seldom seen in their lives, the Goolians became demons
of bravery and set out in pursuit of them. They could easily have overtaken
them, for they moved in great bounds that carried them fully twenty feet
at a time; but they let them escape over the edge of the plateau; and then
they came bounding back, their chests stuck out and their expressions radiating
self-satisfaction and egotism.
“Evidently the encounter had been witnessed by
those in hiding in the woods, for now the entire tribe came straggling
toward us. Anatok looked a little shame-faced, but his first words belied
his expression. ‘You see the value of our strategy,’ he said. ‘By appearing
to run away in fright, we lured them on and then destroyed them.’
“‘You are not fooling me or yourself either,’
I said. ‘You are a race of braggarts and cowards. I saved the five men
and you would have given them up as tribute without a single effort to
defend them. You permitted six savages to route you and all your warriors.
I could kill you all single-handed, and you know it. Now I demand that
you reward me for what I have done by permitting me and my companion to
remain here in safety until we are able to make plans for continuing our
journey. If you refuse, you shall be the first to feel the edge of my
“‘You don’t have to threaten me,’ he said, trembling.
‘It was my intention to give you your liberty as a reward for what you
have done. You are free to remain with us and to go and come as you please.
You may remain as long as you like, if you will fight against our enemies
when they come.’” (SMM/21.)
“I immediately set to work building a
boat, and in this the Goolians helped me a little although they were extremely
lazy and tired easily. They were without a doubt the most useless race
of people I had ever encountered, expending practically all their energies
in boasting and little or none in accomplishment. Within a few hours after
the encounter with the savages, they were boasting of their great victory
and taking all the credit to themselves, Anatok claiming most of it for
his marvelous strategy, as he called it. There are lots of people in the
world like the Goolians, but some of them are never found out.
Yes, ERB has just summed-up delusion for the reader, regardless of whether
it is religious, political, economic, or social: delusions are never the
best descriptions of realilty and never will be. It is the mental comfort
that can derive from them that are the most deadly seductions.
“I became quite intimate with Zuki in the weeks
that followed while we were building the boat. I found him rather above
average intelligence and the possessor of a rudimentary sense of humor
which the other Goolians seemed to lack entirely. One day I asked him why
they considered the shells such a valuable treasure.
“‘Anatok has to have the treasure,’ he replied,
‘in order to give him a feeling of superiority; and it was the same with
the rulers who preceded him, and, in fact, with all of us. It makes us
feel tremendously important to have a great treasure; but, being a cautious
people, we chose a treasure that nobody else would want; otherwise, warlike
people would be coming constantly to steal our treasure from us. Sometimes
I think it is a little silly, but I would not dare say so to Anatok or
to any others. All their lives they have heard of the great value of the
vast treasure of Gooli; and so they have come to believe in it, and they
do not question it because they do not wish to question it.’” (SMM/22.)
“‘And they feel the same way about their
vaunted courage and the strategy of Anatok?’ I asked.
It couldn’t stand the strain of doubting the valor of the Goolis or the
strategy of Anatok. Perhaps the Goolis were better off as they were, for
their silly egotism gave them a certain morale that would have been wholly
lacking had they admitted the truth....
“‘Oh, that is different,’ replied Zuki. ‘Those
things are real. We are really the bravest people in the world, and Anatok
the greatest strategist.’
“Well, his sense of humor had gone the limit in
questioning the treasure.
“At last the boat was completed, and
the Goolians helped me to carry it down to the lake. They stocked it with
provisions for me, and they gave me extra spears and a sword and dagger
for Janai. They bragged about the building of the boat, telling us that
it was the best boat that was ever built and that no one but Goolians could
have built it. They bragged about the weapons they gave us and the provisions.
Thus we left them still boasting, and set out upon our perilous journey
toward the west through the Great Toonolian Marshes.” (SMM/22.)
At this point, I like to think of Michael Whelan’s Del Rey paperback cover
depiction of Tor-dur-bar and Janai in the boat after they leave Gooli for
the danger of the open marshes. (ERBzine
#0352; HERE for
full screen) I am sure by now that every reader has some one or some
group in mind as representative of the Goolis.
I have just realized that I left out ulsios and malagors from the menagerie
list at the beginning of this article. Perhaps the reader can recall another
species I have missed. As I said before, the legs and tails, creating the
ability to leap and bound, are about the only things the Plant Men and
the Goolians have in common. The Plant Men can be seen as types of sacred
animals that are not only allowed to amble about freely, but are worshipped
as holy, like the cows in India, or other animals in ancient Egypt.
The Goolians can be seen as types of all boasting cowards and foolish
people, the main problem being how does a rational person handle themselves
in front of the Goolian type? I suppose when faced with such a dilemma,
the best bet is to fall back upon King Solomon’s Paradox:
“Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest thou also be like unto him.
The answer is purely situational, depending upon the reader’s amount of
wisdom. That such an ambiguous answer should be found in a book that many
deluded Goolians believe never contradicts itself, is a lasting Jasoomian
wonder of its own.
“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he
be wise in his own conceit.” (Proverbs 26:4-5.)
And there you have it,
ERB’s Weird Creatures of Mars:
the Twelfth Runner-up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom!
BARSOOMIAN GREEN MEN and TARS TARKAS ART GALLERIES
| II | III
| IV | V
| VI | VII