John Carter's willingness to depopulate the entire planet of Barsoom
is rapidly coming to a crisis point. He is lost, desperate, and mentally
traumatized over the effects of Martian custom on his love life. And he
is running out of time. He only has two slim opportunities before the wedding
of Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and Sab Than, Prince of Zodanga, comes
To possess Dejah Thoris for his own, he must stop the Royal Wedding.
This will either come as the result of the assassination of Sab Than
by Kantos Kan or, if that fails, he himself must stop it. But how? His
directional compass and speedometer are broken, damaged by a good shot
from a Zodanga cruiser. His only hope was to reach Helium and attain the
assistance of Dejah Thoris’s Jeddak grandfather, Tardos Mors. With that
hope now dashed, he drifts aimlessly over an ancient dead sea bottom, lost
to the ages, without time on his side. And then he sees something that
will forever change his life as well as the evolution of the entire planet.
Passing over a dead city, he sees thousands of Green warriors having
a battle. He is seen by some of them and shot out of the sky. He has no
choice other than to fight or die. Randomly, he chooses one side and finds
himself fighting shoulder to shoulder with Tars Tarkas against the Warhoons.
Ten thousand green warriors fight that day, and three thousand of them
die before the contest is over and Carter and Tars Tarkas are victorious.
Carter returns with Tars Tarkas to Thark, where they must face the wrath
of Tal Hajus.
But first they care of the problem of Sarkoja, sending her off to exile
to the River Iss and the horrible fate that awaits her there. Tars Tarkas
suggests that Carter should escape while he looks the other way, but Carter
demands that they both face Tal Hajus before the assembled council.
Tal Hajus sentences Carter to death before the council can deliberate
and in doing so he has broken Martian custom, allowing Carter to challenge
his fitness to rule. The other Jeds and chieftans join in the challenge
and Tars Tarkas takes him on and almost immediately slays him, thus becoming
Jeddak of the Tharks. That’s when Carter’s fevered brain comes to its frenzied
climax. He cannot wait to know whether Kantos Kan has succeeded. He must
act and act now.
The ultimate solution to his dilemma: the virtual extinction of Zodanga!
“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.
Carter seeks allies in “his cause against Zodanga.” This is a crucial statement
since it shows that Carter is still virtually non-political in his outlook.
This is an extremely personal matter and has nothing to do with the right
or wrong of the conflict between Helium and Zodanga. Carter’s only moral
compass at this stage is his physical desire for the Princess.
“‘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.
“‘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
attain sufficient assurance of sustenance to permit us to increase to the
size and frequency of our hatchings, and thus become unquestionably supreme
among the green men of Barsoom. What say you?’” (PM/24.)
When I read this passage I imagine a young T.E. Lawrence reading A
Princess of Mars when it was released in hardback, shortly before joining
the British forces in the Middle East during WWI. I see him remembering
this passage as he is negotiating with Anthony Quinn’s tribe to join his
cause against Aqaba. He inspires Quinn’s character with the temptation
of possessing all of the great loot that lies in Aqaba. If it worked for
John Carter, then it can bloody well work for Lawrence of Arabia and the
British Empire. This is likely pure fancy, but it makes a good comparison.
The Hordes respond affirmatively and it is not long before Carter is
leading an army of Green warriors on Zodanga. I hope the upcoming movie
does justice to this scene as the army approaches the gates.
“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
I see ERB drawing on the fall of Troy at this point, or more likely the
taking of Jerusalem by David’s forces. The Trojan Horse was the means by
which the Greeks took Troy, and Carter would be the Trojan Horse in this
case. But a better analogy would be Joab crawling through the underground
limestone caverns and vaults to gain entrance into Jerusalem by its ancient
water system. Anyway, at this point the doomed city of Zodanga is as good
“At the head of the column I rode beside the great
Thark while at the heels of my mount trotted my beloved Woola.
“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 the greater hatred for the red man, especially for the
Zodangans, who had for years waged a ruthless campaign of extermination
against the green men, directing special attention toward despoiling their
“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.
“The walls of Zodanga are seventy-five feet in
height and fifty feet thick. They are built of enormous blocks 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 to 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 number
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 my 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.” (PM/24.)
“I found to my delight that I 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.
All right, Chapter 24 comes to a resounding finish with the run-up to Carter’s
charge on the palace. I remember this charge as one of my most favorite
scenes in the Mythos and I sure as hell will be disappointed if the movie
doesn’t capture it right. Yes, I know that we all must expect to be disappointed
if a filmmaker doesn’t see a story the same way we do. But some scenes
are just so cinematic in themselves – silent films were extremely popular
at this time, so ERB knew what was cinematic – that I believe this scene
was born to see the light of day on the big screen. I am keeping my fingers
“Dispatching one of my 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 and dispatched
to their fathers upon the banks of the lost sea of Korus, and the guards
of 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 across the gardens of the jeddak of
This is one of ERB’s most famous literary coincidences in the Mythos. Carter
returns for the Princess at exactly the same time by chance her Royal Wedding
is to occur. At this point, Carter slides over the razor’s edge into murderous
“As we approached the palace I could see through
the great windows of the first floor into the brilliantly illuminated audience
chamber of Than Kosis. The immense hall was crowded with nobles and their
women, as though some important function was in progress. There was not
a guard in sight without the palace, due, I presume, to the fact that the
city and palace walls were considered impregnable, and so I came close
and peered within.” (PM/25.)
“At one end of the chamber, upon massive
golden thrones encrusted with diamonds, sat Than Kosis and his consort,
surrounded by officers and dignitaries of state. Before them stretched
a broad aisle lined on either side with soldiery, and as I looked there
entered this aisle at the far end of the hall, the head of a procession
which advanced to the foot of the throne.
The classic graphic novel and movie, Watchmen, dealt with the problem of
psychopathic superheroes in a way that addressed new issues in the pulp
fiction community. An otherwise beautiful Royal Wedding – look how our
world deals with Royal Weddings even today! – is turned into a fiendish
sight in the severely mentally disturbed world of John Carter. This is
against his will. This is his woman! It just cannot be. Darkness, madness,
chaos... and then butchery, ensue. This is the scene that makes the wedding
scene in Kill Bill pale in comparison.
“First there marched four officers of the jeddak’s
Guard bearing a huge salver on which reposed, upon a cushion of scarlet
silk, a great golden chain with a collar and padlock at each end. Directly
behind these officers came four others carrying a similar salver which
supported the magnificent ornaments of a prince and princess of the reigning
house of Zodanga.
“At the foot of the throne these two parties separated
and halted, facing each other at opposite sides of the aisle. Then came
more dignitaries, and the officers of the palace and of the army, and finally
two figures entirely muffled in scarlet silk, so that not a feature of
either was discernible. These two stopped at the foot of the throne, facing
Than Kosis. When the balance of the procession had entered and assumed
their stations Than Kosis addressed the couple standing before him. I could
not hear his words, but presently two officers advanced and removed the
scarlet robe from one of the figures, and I saw that Kantos Kan had failed
in his mission, for it was Sab Than, Prince of Zodanga, who stood revealed
“Than Kosis now took a set of the ornaments from
one of the salvers and placed one of the collars of gold about his son’s
neck, springing the padlock fast. After a few more words addressed to Sab
Than he turned to the other figure, from which the officers now removed
the enshrouding silks, disclosing to my now comprehending view, Dejah Thoris,
Princess of Helium.
“The object of the ceremony was clear to me; in
another moment Dejah Thoris would be joined forever to the Prince of Zodanga.
It was an impressive and beautiful ceremony, I presume, but to me it seemed
the 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 longsword 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.)
The poor Zodangans have befriended a stranger and heaped honors upon
his courage and fighting prowess. He has personal knowledge from many Zodangans
that Than Kosis is an unpopular ruler. They gave him a real chance at an
honest life upon his new planet. But Carter never saw his advent upon Mars
has mere every-day-life reincarnation, but as destiny. It doesn’t take
him long to discover that he has superpowers compared to the rest of the
inhabitants of Barsoom, giving him an extraordinary advantage in most circumstances.
I remember longing to see, with my kids, Yoda fighting some black lord
of the Sith since his fighting skill was allegedly the best among the Jedi.
It amused me to picture this cute little muppet type creature as the baddest
ass with a light saber in three star systems. I thank George Lucas for
providing me with this enjoyment in his second pre-trilogy. It was a gas
to see Yoda bouncing about like a Mexican jumping bean, and then I recalled
that this is how John Carter must have fought beings that were nine feet
taller than him. Anyway, back to the massacre.
“In an instant all was confusion; a thousand
drawn swords menaced me from every quarter, and Sab Than sprang upon me
with a jeweled dagger he had drawn from his nuptial ornaments. I could
have killed him as easily as I might a fly, but the age-old custom of Barsoom
stayed my hand, and grasping his wrist as the dagger flew toward my heart
I held him as though in a vice and with my longsword pointed to the far
end of the hall.
Sab Than may have been angry enough over the death of his father and by
the sleazy betrayal of his bride-to-be to give him extra adrenaline to
believe he stood a good fighting chance facing John Carter, but this fool-for-love
will soon discover how delusional the whole thing really is.
“‘Zodanga has fallen,’ I cried. ‘Look!’
“All eyes turned in the direction I had indicated,
and there, forging through the portals of the entranceway rode Tars Tarkas
and his fifty warriors on their great thoats.
“A cry of alarm and amazement broke from the assemblage,
but no word of fear, and in a moment the soldiers and nobles of Zodanga
were hurling themselves upon the advancing Tharks.
“Thrusting Sab Than headlong from the platform,
I drew Dejah Thoris to my side. Behind the throne was a narrow doorway
and in this Than Kosis now stood facing me, with drawn long-sword. In an
instant we were engaged, and I found no mean antagonist.
“As we circled upon the broad platform I saw Sab
Than rushing up the steps to aid his father, but, as he raised his hand
to strike, Dejah Thoris sprang before him and then my sword found the spot
that made Sab Than jeddak of Zodanga. As his father rolled dead upon the
floor the new jeddak tore himself free from Dejah Thoris’ grasp, and again
we faced each other.” (PM/25.)
“He was soon joined by a quartet of officers,
and, with my back against a golden throne, I fought once again for Dejah
Thoris. I was hard pressed to defend myself and yet not strike down Sab
Than, and, with him, my last chance to win the woman I loved. My blade
was swinging with the rapidity of lightning as I sought to parry the thrusts
and cuts of my opponents. Two I had disarmed, and one was down, when several
more rushed to the aid of their new ruler, and to avenge the death of the
Ah, Carter is such a simple study. He does not hesitate to identify his
crazy, possessive love for Dejah Thoris as something greater than himself,
a higher power, so to speak. This, at least in his mind, absolves him of
all guilt and personal responsibility for the lives and civilization he
has just destroyed. His only comment on his vanquished foes is that they
were not cowards. They met their deaths honorably.
“As they advanced there were cries of “The woman!
The woman! Strike her down; it is her plot. Kill her! Kill her!’
“Calling to Dejah Thoris to get behind me I worked
my way to the little doorway back of the throne, but the officers realized
my intentions, and three of them sprang in behind me and blocked my chances
for gaining a position where I could have defended Dejah Thoris against
any army of swordsmen.
“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 this 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. “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 myself.
“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.
“My first thought when the battle was over was
for Kantos Kan and leaving Dejah Thoris in charge of Tars Tarkas I took
a dozen warriors and hastened to the dungeons beneath the palace. The jailers
had all left to join the fighters in the throne room, so we searched the
labyrinthine prison without opposition.
“I called Kantos Kan’s name aloud in each new
corridor and compartment, and finally I was rewarded by hearing a faint
response. Guided by the sound, we soon found him helpless in a dark recess.
“He was overjoyed at seeing me, and to know the
meaning of the fight, faint echoes of which had reached his prison cell.
He told me that the air patrol had captured him before he searched the
high tower of the palace, so that he had not even seen Sab Than.
“We discovered that it would be futile to attempt
to cut away the bars and chains which held him prisoner, so, at his suggestion
I returned to search the bodies on the floor above for the keys to open
the padlocks of his cell and of his chains.
“Fortunately among the first I examined I found
his jailer, and soon we had Kantos Kan with us in the throne room.
“The sounds of heavy firing, mingled with shouts
and cries, came to us from the city’s streets, and Tars Tarkas hastened
away to direct the fighting without. Kantos Kan accompanied him to act
as guide, the green warriors commencing a thorough search of the palace
for other Zodangans and for loot, and Dejah Thoris and I were left alone.
“She had sunk into one of the golden thrones,
and as I turned to her she greeted me with a wan smile.
“‘Was there ever such a man!’ she exclaimed. ‘I
know that Barsoom has never before seen your like. Can it be that all Earth
men are as you? Alone, a stranger, hunted, threatened, persecuted, you
have done is a few short months what in all the past ages of Barsoom no
man has ever done: joined together the wild hordes of the sea bottoms and
brought them to fight as allies of a red Martian people.’
“‘The answer is easy, Dejah Thoris,’ I replied
smiling. ‘It was not I who did it, it was love, love for Dejah Thoris,
a power that would work greater miracles than this you have seen.’” (PM/25.)
“A pretty flush overspread her face and
she answered, “‘You may say that now, John Carter, and I may listen, for
I am free.’
Ultimately, Carter’s mentality is judged normal on Barsoom. No one is outraged
by his behavior. In fact, he is admired for it. After all, one of the major
goals in Barsoomian geopolitics and diplomacy is the abduction of another
nation’s princess and holding her for ransom or making her someone’s wife
or whore. This is not a normal world. It is much more fun this way.
“‘And more still I have to say, ere it is again
too late,’ I returned. ‘I have done many strange things in my life, many
things that wiser men would not have dared, but never in my wildest fancies
have I dreamed of winning a Dejah Thoris for myself – for never had I dreamed
that in all the universe dwelt such a woman as the Princess of Helium.
That you are a princess does not abash me, but that you are you is enough
to make me doubt my sanity as I ask you, my princess, to be mine.’” (PM/25.)
Don’t get me wrong about Carter’s obsessive quest for his princess.
I love to read him in the first person, to personally experience his triumphs,
kills, and sufferings. The fact is that ERB allows the reader to be the
hero on Barsoom. In Tarzan, written in the third person, the reader has
to imagine being the hero – and millions do – but in John Carter, written
in the first person, the reader is the hero.
John Carter is not a normal person; no one knows if he was even born
on Earth. He may be somewhat crazy, but it is fun to be crazy when you
are brave and have superpowers. And ERB had his most fun as John Carter,
and so does the reader, in the last authentic work of the Barsoomian Mythos:
Llana of Gathol, where he repeatedly takes on the strongest man or best
swordsmen in several settings and bests them all one by one. Some critics
say that ERB was mocking his own characters and themes in this book, but
they just don’t get the character of John Carter.
The video or interactive game will never be able to replace the combination
of mind, imagination, and writing that engages the brain in the act of
reading. Reading will never go out of style, as the fad of text messaging
so amply proves. And the act of reading, thanks to the genius of ERB, allows
me to be the man that now faces this luscious, naked princess, the most
beautiful woman on two planets – as she says to me in the bloody audience
chamber of the Jeddak of Zodanga:
“‘He does not need to be abashed who
so well knew the answer to his plea before the plea were made,’ she replied,
rising and placing her dear hands upon my shoulders, and so I took her
in my arms and kissed her.
There is a pregnant pause between Chapter 25 – which ends with Carter and
his Princess still alone in each other’s arms – and Chapter 26, which begins
with “Sometime later...” A lot can happen when you are all alone in the
throne room in this amount of time. It it easy for me to imagine making
love with Dejah Thoris on the golden, diamond encrusted throne. I bet that
is true for all of the men reading this, as it was for the men first reading
it in 1912.
“And thus in the midst of a city of wild conflict,
filled with the alarms of war; with death and destruction reaping their
terrible harvest around her, did Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, true
daughter of Mars, the God of War, promise herself in marriage to John Carter,
Gentleman of Virginia.’” (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.
This is a sad sight: the end of Zodanga, a city that has become a Biblical
nightmare of death, torture, rape, pillage, and destruction. When I see
such mutual hatred for each other as manifested between the Red Martians
and the Green ones, I am amazed that the Therns were able to successfully
carry the Religion of Issus to the Green Hordes. There must have been many
missionaries who suffered horrible deaths during the initial period of
“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 eyes of heaven
the horrid sights beneath.’” (PM/26.)
Perhaps they were able to do it through the caretakers of the atmosphere
factory, who wore the same kind of “nine-ray” stones as the Holy Therns
of the Tenth Cycle. The old Red Martian who talked to Carter inside the
factory said the Green men were supposed to respect their profession out
of concern for their survival. Who knows?
In fact, who invented the Religion of Issus? Did the ancient white race
believe in Issus?
And what are the Ten Cycles? Thuvia said she had learned too much from
the Holy Therns and had thus become dangerous to them. Was it a mystical
teaching? Was it like the Kama Sutra or Tantric Yoga? Since we know that
both Sator Throg and Matai Shang used Thuvia for a plaything, I suspect
the Cycles to be both mystical and sexual. If so, no wonder Thuvia was
But we have wandered far from our story. With that kiss and promise
– and who knows what else? – Dejah Thoris has forever sealed John Carter’s
allegiance to Helium. From now on he acts as an agent of Helium. From now
on Virginia is just a place where he once laid his head.
“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.
Carter surrenders Dejah Thoris to the Helium fleet, and she is quite put
out with him when he does not stay, for he insists of going with Tars Tarkas
to finish off the Zodangan land forces.
“The banners of Helium had been strung from stem
to stern of 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 in 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
squadrons, 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.
“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
“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.
“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 brave men come to
an end.” (PM/26.)
“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.
One thing you can say about the Zodangans: they die hard. Just like the
Nazi and Japanese armies of their empires, both of which were ruthless
to their conquered. Yes, evil never dies easy.
“In the distance lay our great 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 that 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 fighting 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 time 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 Zodangan 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.)
We will next examine Zodanga in its decline.