THE GLORY THAT WAS ONCE
The Fifteenth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders
by Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
More on the Dejah Thoris Effect. I just learned as the result
of a query to Bill Hillman that my pronunciation of the incomparable Princess
has been incorrrect ever since I first saw her name in print in October
1973. I always imagined it to be like deja vu (Day-jah). However, after
Bill emailed me ERBzine numbers 2832-2836,
comprising the correspondence between ERB and Thomas Metcalf of All-Story
between 1911 and 1913, I learned how ERB wanted the name to be pronounced,
with a long “e,” thus "Dee-jah Thoris." This he made known to a fan in
a letter written to that person, dated December 22, 1931. (ERBzine
It did come as somewhat of a suprise to me to discover that Metcalf
wanted ERB to kill Dejah Thoris off at the end of Princess by some plague
or other such catastrophe. Metcalf thought that this would pose no problem,
for as ERB boasted in a letter of August 6, 1911:
“I wrote this story because I needed
the money it might bring, and not from motives of sentiment, although I
became very much interested in it while writing. I am therefore open to
suggestions, and would like to know just what parts you consider unessential
to the story and avoid a recurrence in the balance of the manuscript.”
Like I said, for some bizarre reason Metcalf thought the Princess should
die. He also wanted to do away with "Sola’s Story," the chapter where she
tells Carter about the history of the love affair between her father and
mother. Good grief, no wonder these guys had a short career working together.
ERB rejected both of these suggestions, and for good reason. Without "Sola's
story,” Tars Tarkas loses most of his motivation for his shift to higher
As for Dejah Thoris, she is the only reason Carter is willing to stop
calling Virginia his home in favor of Barsoom. Without her, Barsoom loses
a major part of its otherworldly mystique. Fortunately, ERB understood
this. As he wrote to Metcalf in a letter of September 20, 1912, dealing
with Mecalf’s desire for Dejah Thoris to die in The Gods of Mars:
"Speaking of sequels, I have the second
John Carter tale nearly completed. I can’t tell you anything about it because
I am no judge. I think it will prove as readable as the first. I doubt
if I can kill Dejah Thoris though. You know I told you that I was purely
mercenary in so far as my work is concerned, but when it comes to the characters
I find that I develop a real affection for them – funny, isn’t it?" (ERBzine
#2834; emphasis added.)
Well, at least we know that the God of Barsoom truly loved his creatures,
even if it isn't at all that funny. And by the way, I also learned that
I had been mispronouncing “Issus” as well. I thought with the double "s"
it would sound like "hiss" – with that evil connotation that a snakelike
hissing sound always engenders – but according to ERB's chart, it is correctly
pronounced with a long "i," making it "Eye-sis." (ERBzine
#2834.) This makes it sound exactly the same as the Egyptian goddess
Isis, leading more credence to my belief that this Religion consisted of
secret mystical-sexual practices otherwise known as the Ten Cycles. It
also makes the cold bosom of the River Iss sound like the River "Ice."
One last thing. I mentioned how I believed ERB was working from a loose
outline, for I found his treatment of the Zodangans to be cruel after the
generosity they showed him. However, from the letter of August 26, 1911,
ERB relates to Metcalf an outline for the second and third parts of the
story that he had not completed at the time. The characters of Kantos Kan
and the Ptor brothers are noticeably absent, as well as any mention of
the atmosphere factory or its caretakers. At least I was right in my deduction
that a Zodangan air patrol had captured Dejah Thoris and Sola and brought
them to Zodanga, even though ERB had not even thought of the name “Zodanga”
yet. See for yourself:
“Part 2: Dejah Thoris and Sola, after
leaving Carter, are picked up in the hills by ‘aerial scout cruiser’ of
a nation of red men at war with Dejah Thoris’ people. Taken to capital.
Son of ruler falls in love with Dejah Thoris. She repulses him. Helium
about to fall before the armies of his people. Dejah Thoris can avert further
disaster to her grandfathers’ realm by marrying him. Hears of death of
Carter and concedes to marriage. Wedding ceremony.
Metcalf then suggested in a letter written on August 28, 1911, that he
kill Dejah Thoris off with something like a plague:
“Part 3: Carter among the Warhoons. Battle between
Warhoons and Tharks. Carter saves life of Tars Tarkas, but is recaptured
by Tharks and sentenced to torture by Tal Hajus. Tells Tars Tarkas story
of Sola, his daughter. Tars Tarkas fights with and kills Tal Hajus, thus
becoming ruler of the Tharks. Carter learns of incarceration of Dejah Thoris
among the red men and hastens to their city. Appears with horde of green
warriors in time to interrupt wedding ceremony. Escape with Dejah Thoris.
Appears before Helium and relieves the city from siege. Accepted by the
grandfather and people of Dejah Thoris as their deliverer. Weds Dejah Thoris.
Later attempts to explore the mysterious Valley Dor at mouth of River Iss.
Is caught in mighty air currents above Valley and borne high aloft into
cold and darkness. Loses consciousness and awakens in this Arizona cave.”
“May I suggest that the conclusion be
changed somewhat? After Carter marries the ‘lady’, why would it not be
possible to have the Martian city attacked by some kine of plague, or something
of that sort? Then you could have the ‘lady’ die and depict Carter’s grief,
– after which he, himself, might realize that he is smitten with this illness
and is dying; and when he comes to again he might be back in the cave in
Arizona.” (ERBzine #2832.)
However, ERB – was it due to the Dejah Thoris Effect? – came up with a
better idea: the collapse of the atmosphere factory and a Jesus-like sacrificial
death for all Barsoomians by John Carter, the Messiah of Mars! As for "Sola’s
story," Metcalf first wanted ERB to omit it as irrelevant, then he went
to the position where he thought that if ERB really thought if it was absolutely
essential to the plot that he should leave it in, to finally, on November
4, 1911, when the finished manuscript was finally submitted, going to a
“I should like to stipulate that I might
change the title and that I shall very likely do some cutting especially
at the very beginning of the story, and also very likely entirely eliminate
Sola’s story, as the latter does not seem to me to be necessary to the
rest of the story.” (ERBzine
One can easily see from ERBzine
#3425 that ERB and Metcalf reached a compromise for the All-Story edition,
since an abbreviated form of Sola’s story did appear in that edition. Thus,
Metcalf was saved from being a total idiot since the whole idea of evolved
higher consciousness among the Green Men is lost without this story.
I must say, however, with the added characters of Kantos Kan and the
Ptor brothers, as well as the added feature of the atmosphere factory,
ERB’s development of the plot takes on a strange cruel element, since Carter
is first befriended and then actively befriends the Zodangans before almost
wiping them off the face of Barsoom because of his crazy love for the Princess.
Oh well, as we have seen, the story evolved as it went along and, considering
the malignant influence of Metcalf, it is fortunate that it ended up being
what it is: a great story!
Anyway, back to our story at hand. Carter has been kidnapped and taken
before Zat Arras in the pits of Helium. I always have a tendency to skip
this part of the story because so much time was spent setting up the rescue
of the Princess prior to Carter’s incarceration that I find the story of
the jailer and the temptation that Carter provides for him nothing but
a sideshow. I mean, since it is going to take at least six months for his
companions to prepare for the rescue, something has to happen during that
six months of waiting. What better way to handle a long period of boring
time than to place the hero into a pitch black dungeon? But the more that
I think about it, the real reason I believe this scene disturbs me is that
it likely reminds me of my own incarceration, which was actually a mildly
terrifying experience. But at least the rescue actually takes place after
the incarceration, and, examined closely, the story of the tempted jailer
provides us with an excellent parable of Martian culture and Zodangan character.
There is another enigma raised by the story: why did Carter so quickly
descend into madness while in the Warhoon dungeon for such a relatively
short period of time in light of the fact that he doesn’t he even come
close to madness while in the pits of Helium for nearly a year.
In both places, he was subjected to absolute darkness except when his
jailer came to feed him.
Carter says in A Princess of Mars that he may have been in the Warhoon
dungeon for days, weeks, and even months, before he went over the edge
and murdered his jailer in a state of near lunacy. However, in Helium,
as we shall see, he takes a totally different approach. Well, at least
in the beginning.
But, first, Carter tells Zat Arras that he does not believe that Tardos
Mors is dead and that, therefore, Zat Arras should imply that there is
“Zat Arras shrugged his shoulders.
This youth is totally loyal to Zat Arras. If he is a normal Zodangan, we
can get some kind of idea of what his mental state must be toward John
Carter. He must know that he only lives because of the sacrifice Carter
made at the atmosphere factory, but he also knows that it was this same
man that brought his nation into ignominious vassalage.
“‘It will not be long, John Carter,’ he said,
‘that your opinions will be of interest even to yourself, so make the best
of them while you can. Zat Arras will permit you in due time to reflect
further upon the magnanimous offer he has made you. In the silence and
darkness of the pits you will enter upon your reflection this night with
the knowledge that should you fail within a reasonable time to agree to
the alternative which has been offered you, never shall you emerge from
the darkness and the silence again. Nor shall you know at what minute the
hand will reach out through the darkness and the silence with the keen
dagger that shall rob you of your last chance to win again the warmth,
and the freedom and joyousness of the outer world.’
“Zat Arras clapped his hands as he ceased speaking.
The guards returned.
“Zat Arras waved his hand in my direction.
“‘To the pits,’ he said. That was all. Four men
accompanied me from the chamber, and with a radium hand-light to illumine
the way, escorted me through seemingly interminable tunnels, down, ever
down beneath the city of Helium.
“At length they halted within a fair-sized chamber.
There were rings set in the rocky walls. To them chains were fastened,
and at the ends of many of the chains were human skeletons. One of these
they kicked aside, and unlocking the huge padlock that had held the chain
about what had once been a human ankle, they snapped the iron band about
my own leg. Then they left me, taking the light with them.
“Utter darkness prevailed. For a few minutes I
could hear the clanking of accoutrements, but even this grew fainter and
fainter, until at last the silence was as complete as the darkness. I was
alone with my gruesome companions – with the bones of dead men whose fate
was likely but the index of my own.
“How long I stood listening in the darkness I
do not know, but the silence was unbroken, and at last I sunk to the hard
floor of my prison, where, leaning my head against the stony wall, I slept.
“It must have been several hours later that I
awakened to find a young man standing before me. In one hand he bore a
light, in the other a receptacle containing a gruel-like mixture – the
common prison fare of Barsoom.
“‘Zat Arras sends you greetings,’ said the young
man, ‘and commands me to inform you that though he is fully advised of
the plot to make you Jeddak of Helium, he is, however, not inclined to
withdraw the offer which he has made you. To gain your freedom you have
but to request me to advise Zat Arras that you accept the terms of his
“I but shook my head. The youth said no more,
and, after placing the food upon the floor at my side, returned up the
corridor, taking the light with him.
“Twice a day for many days this youth came to
my cell with food, and ever the same greetings from Zat Arras. For a long
time I tried to engage him in conversation upon other matters, but he would
not talk, and so, at length, I desisted.” (GM/19.)
Thus, all of Carter’s superpowers and physical strength are as nothing
as he faces one of his ultimate challenges to escape the wrath of Zat Arras:
loyalty to rulers. ERB had fun writing this section and we should relax
from the tension of the rescue of the Princess to the slow, tortuous process
Carter takes to win his freedom:
“For months I sought to devise methods
to inform Carthoris of my whereabouts. For months I scraped and scraped
upon a single link of the massive chain which held me, hoping eventually
to wear it through, that I might follow the youth back through the winding
tunnels to a point where I could make a break for liberty.
Vanity, all is vanity. Carter has zeroed-in on every man’s weakness. If
one has gifts and abilities, and yet not ranking, one always feels as if
life is dealing one unfairly. Carter understands this weakness.
“I was beside myself with anxiety for knowledge
of the progress of the expedition which was to rescue Dejah Thoris. I felt
that Carthoris would not let the matter drop, were he free to act, but
in so far as I knew, he also might be a prisoner in Zat Arras’ pits.
“That Zat Arras’ spy had heard our conversation
relative to the selection of a new Jeddak, I knew, and scarcely a half-dozen
minutes prior we had discussed the details of the plan to rescue Dejah
Thoris. The chances were that the matter, too, was known to him. Carthoris,
Kantos Kan, Tars Tarkas, Hor Vastus, and Xodar might even now be the victims
of Zat Arras’ assassins, or else his prisoners.
“I determined to make at least one more effort
to learn something, and to this end I adopted strategy when next the youth
came to my cell. I had noticed that he was a handsome fellow, about the
size and age of Carthoris. And I had also noticed that his shabby trappings
but illy comported with his dignified and noble bearing.” (GM/19.)
“It was with these observations as a
basis that I opened my negotiations with him upon his next subsequent visit.
The boy proves to be a really tough nut to crack. Of course, the idea of
reading the note the boy carries beforehand is a wise one in light of the
story of David and Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba. You may
recall that story as being the sad tale of a cuckholded husband
“‘You have been very kind to me during my impriosonment
here,’ I said to him, ‘and as I feel that I lave at best but a very short
time to live, I wish, ere it is too late, to furnish substantial testimony
of my appreciation of all that you have done to render my imprisonment
“‘Promply you have brought my food each day, seeing
that it was pure and of sufficient quantity. Never by word or deed have
you attempted to take advantage of my defenseless condition to insult or
torture me. You have been uniformly courteous and considerate – it is this
more than any other thing which prompts my feeling of gratitude and my
desire to give you some slight token of it.
“‘In the guard-room of my palace are many fine
trappings. Go thou there and select the harness which most pleases you
– it shall be yours. All I ask is that you wear it, that I may know that
my wish has been realized. Tell me that you will do it.’
“The boy’s eyes had lighted with pleasure as I
spoke, and I saw him glance from his rusty trappings to the magnificence
of my own. For a moment he stood in thought before he spoke, and for that
moment my heart fairly ceased beating – so much for me there was which
hung upon the substance of his answer.
“‘And I went to the palace of the Prince of Helium
with any such demand, they would laugh at me and, into the bargain, would
more than likely throw me headforemost into the avenue. No, it cannot be,
though I thank you for the offer. Why, if Zat Arras even dreamed that I
contemplated such a thing he would have my heart cut out of me.’
“‘There can be no harm in it, my boy,’ I urged.
‘By night you may go to my palace with a note from me to Carthoris, my
son. You may read the note before you deliver it, that you may know that
it contains nothing harmful to Zat Arras. My son will be discreet, and
so none but us three need know. It is very simple, and such a harmless
act that it could be condemned by no one.’
“Again he stood silently in deep thought.’” (GM/19.)
refusing to sleep with his wife while his troops are out in the field
after David has impregnated her.
David’s solution was for Uriah to carry orders back to Joab, the commander
of the troops.
One of those orders was Uriah’s death warrant: Joab was ordered to have
Uriah rush the enemy with his men, then have his men withdraw from him,
leaving him to face the enemy alone. Thus, David has Uriah slain gloriously
in battle and at the same time he prevents public exposure for the adultery,
a sin which carried the death penalty under the Ten Commandments. Yes,
the poet of God knew how to solve problems, even though the karma that
went with that one was a real bitch for the rest of his life. Carter’s
solution is to up the ante in the psychological battle for the boy’s soul:
“‘And there is a jewelled short-sword
which I took from the body of a northern Jeddak. When you get the harness,
see that Carthoris gives you that also. With it and the harness which you
may select there will be no more handsomely accoutred warrior in all Zodanga.
We assume Carter is talking about the short-sword of Salensus Oll, Jeddak
of Kadabra, unless he is referring to another Jeddak that he had dealings
with during the ten year silent period he dwelt on Barsoom as a Prince
of Helium. As it is, Carter is left guessing at the success of his temptation
of the jailer.
“‘Bring writing materials when you come back next
to my cell, and within a few hours we shall see you garbed in a style befitting
your birth and carriage.’” (GM/19.)
“Still in thought, and without speaking,
he turned and left me. I could not guess what his decision might be, and
for hours I sat fretting over the outcome of the matter.
Since we have already learned what is at stake at the Games of Issus, the
idea of his princess being torn apart by the Great White Apes, or parts
of her eaten as dainties by the old witch, nearly drive Carter over the
edge as he rots in the pits.
“If he accepted a message to Carthoris it would
mean to me that Carthoris still lived and was free. If the youth returned
wearing the harness and the sword, I would know that Carthoris had received
my note and that he knew that I still lived. That the bearer of the note
was a Zodangan would be sufficient to explain to Carthoris that I was a
prisoner of Zat Arras.
“It was with feelings of excited expectancy which
I could scarce hide that I heard the youth’s approach upon the occasion
of his next regular visit. I did not speak beyond my accustomed greeting
of him. As he placed my food upon the floor by my side he also deposited
writing materials at the same time.
“My heart fairly bounded for joy. I had won my
point. For a moment I looked at the materials in feigned surprise, but
soon I permitted an expression of dawning comprehension to come into my
face, and then, picking them up, I penned a brief order to Carthoris to
deliver to Parthak a harness of his selection and the short-sword which
I described. That was all. But it meant everything to me and to Carthoris.
“I laid the note open upon the floor. Parthak
picked it up and, without a word, left me.
“As nearly as I could estimate, I had at this
time been in the pits for three hundred days. If anything was to be done
to save Dejah Thoris it must be done quickly, for, were she not already
dead, her end must come soon, since those whom Issus chose lived but a
single year.’ (GM/19.)
“The next time I heard approaching footsteps
I could scarce wait to see if Parthak wore the harness and the sword, but
judge, if you can, my chagrin and disappointment when I saw that he who
bore my food was not Parthak.
This technique is becoming so common now, I reluctantly point it out, and
that is the point that once again all of Carter’s planning seems to be
for nothing. The reason I spend so much time highlighting this technique
is because in the Barsoomian Apocrypha – those two John
“‘What has become of Parthak?’ I asked, but the
fellow would not answer, and as soon as he had deposited my food, turned
and retraced his steps to the world above.” (GM/19.)
Carter stories not written by ERB, but under his name – this technique
is noticeably absent. But more of that later.
“Days came and went, and still my new
jailer continued his duties, nor would he ever speak a word to me, either
in reply to the simplest question or of his own initiative.
This is the dilemma one always must face in the realm of temptation. How
do you trust someone who has just betrayed someone in power or trust over
them? “I can’t believe she cheated on me,” says the beleagured husband
of his wife, forgetting that she had cheated on her previous husband with
him. Reflecting endlessly on his plan gone bad, Carter realizes that he
might not have read the boy properly. He now thinks of all of the reasons
the boy has for doublecrossing him, but even this cannot stop him from
also thinking about the ultimate horror facing is princess.
“I could only speculate on the cause of Parthak’s
removal, but that it was connected in some way directly with the note I
had given him was most apparent to me. After all my rejoicing, I was no
better off than before, for now I did not even know that Carthoris lived,
for if Parthak had wished to raise himself in the estimation of Zat Arras
he would have permitted me to go on precisely as I did, so that he could
carry my note to his master, in proof of his own loyalty and devotion.”
“Thirty days had passed since I had given
the youth the note. Three hundred and thirty days had passed since my incarceration.
As closely as I could figure, there remained a bare thirty days ere Dejah
Thoris would be ordered to the
Here is the mastery of pulp fiction. Nowadays, in movies, they can close
in on the actor’s face and then fade out in into whatever he or she is
remembering or imagining, but in pulp fiction, this has to be done through
vivid description. In describing what is going on in Carter’s imagination,
we are dealt with a gruesome picture: the mutilation and cannibalization
of Dejah Thoris. We are actually served up an image of her body parts being
served as a fancy meal for the First Born nobility. How ERB must have loved
writing this scene.
arena for the rites of Issus.
“As the terrible picture forced itself vividly
across my imagination, I buried my face in my arms, and only with the greatest
difficulty was it that I repressed the tears that welled to my eyes despite
my every effort. To think of that beautiful creature torn and rended by
the cruel fangs of the hideous white apes! It was unthinkable. Such a horrid
fact could not be; and yet my reason told me that within thirty days my
incomparable princess would be fought over in the arena of the First Born
by those very wild beasts; that her bleeding corpse would be dragged through
the dirt and the dust, until at last a part of it would be rescued to be
served as food upon the tables of the black nobles.” (GM/19.)
“I think that I should have gone crazy
but for the sound of my approaching jailer. It distracted my attention
from the terrible thoughts that had been occupying my entire mind. Now
a new and grim determination came to me. I would make one super-human effort
to escape. Kill my jailer by a ruse, and trust to fate to lead me to the
outer world in safety.” (GM/19.)
This was Carter’s plan when he was out of his mind in Warhoon. Thus, one
must gauge his mental status at the present time for coming up with the
same solution as before as mentally defective, as the consequences demonstrate:
“With the thought came instant action.
I threw myself upon the floor of my cell close by the wall, in a strained
and distorted posture, as though I were dead after a struggle or convulsions.
When he should stoop over me I had but to grasp his throat with one hand
and strike him a terrible blow with the slack of my chain, which I gripped
firmly in my right hand for the purpose.
This is some mighty fine writing. When you learn how to write, action sequences
can be the most challenging. Building suspense is the key. And ERB was
a master at it.
“Nearer and nearer came the doomed man. Now I
heard him halt before me. There was a muttered exclamation, and then a
step as he came to my side. I felt him kneel beside me. My grip tightened
upon the chain. He leaned close to me. I must open my eyes to find his
throat, grasp it, and strike one mighty final blow all at the same instant.”
“The thing worked just as I had planned.
So brief was the interval in between the opening of my eyes and the fall
of the chain that I could not check it, though in that minute interval
I recognized the face so close to mine as that of my son, Carthoris.
ERB writes this section as if he were no stranger to negative synchronicity.
With this sequence he not only turns the whole story on its head, he reveals
his most inner fears of either an imagined or real traumatic event in his
life. The horror of such a deed, inadvertently killing your only son, is
something you don’t often return from.
“God! What cruel and malign fate had worked to
such a frightful end! What devious chain of circumstances had led my boy
to my side at this one particular minute of our lives when I could strike
him down and kill him, in ignorance of his identity! A benign though tardy
Providence blurred my vision and my mind as I sank into unconsciousness
across the lifeless body of my only son.” (GM/19.)
“When I regained consciousness it was
to feel a cool, firm hand pressed upon my forehead. For an instant I did
not open my eyes. I was endeavoring to gather the loose ends of many thoughts
and memories which flitted elusively through my tired and overwrought brain.
There are few and very far in between times that ERB gives us a glimpse
of his spiritual views. In this section alone, we have heard of a benign
yet tardy Providence, a cruel and malign fate, a devious chain of circumstances,
and yet, in the end the end, Carter sends a fervent prayer of gratitude
to the Eternal Mystery. Of course, on Barsoom, ERB is the Eternal Mystery.
“At length came the cruel recollection of the
thing that I had done in my last conscious act, and then I dared not to
open my eyes for fear of what I should see lying beside me. I wondered
who it could be who ministered to me. Carthoris must have had a companion
whom I had not seen. Well, I must face the inevitable some time, so why
not now, and with a sigh I opened my eyes.
“Leaning over me was Carthoris, a great bruise
upon his forehead where the chain had struck, but alive, thank God, alive!
There was no one with him. Reaching out my arms, I took my boy within them,
and if ever there arose from any planet a fervent prayer of gratitude,
it was there beneath the crust of dying Mars as I thanked the Eternal Mystery
for my son’s life.” (GM/19.)
Thus, we can put to rest any ideas that ERB was an atheist. He just
had nothing to do with organized religion, especially with dogma. Since
all religious ideas originate in the human mind, which is subject to delusion
and corruption, ERB knew that any human definition of God or about what
he or she might want of us, was purely imaginary and therefore not absolute.
“The brief instant in which I had seen
and recognized Carthoris before the chain fell must have been ample to
check the force of the blow. He told me that he had lain unconscious for
a time – how long he did not know.
Currently on TV, they are debating whether waterboarding provided any of
the information which led to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Many
credible government officials attest that traditional, non-waterboarding,
techniques, usually psychological, provided the much needed information
leading to the death of this monster. These are the kind of techniques
utilized by Xodar against Parthak. Trickery works better than pain.
“‘How came you here at all?’ I asked, mystified
that he had found me without a guide.
“‘It was by your wit in apprising me of your existence
and imprisonment through the youth, Parthak. Until he came for his harness
and his sword, we had thought you dead. When I had read your note I did
as you had bid, giving Parthak his choice of the harness in the guardroom,
and later bringing the jewelled shortsword to him; but the minute that
I had fulfilled the promise you evidently had made him, my obligation to
him ceased. Then I commenced to question him, but he would give me no information
as to your whereabouts. He was intensely loyal to Zat Arras.
“‘Finally, I gave him a fair chance between freedom
and the pits beneath the palace – the price of freedom to be full information
as to where you were imprisoned and directions which would lead us to you;
but still he maintained his stubborn partisanship. Despairing, I had him
removed to the pits, where he still is.
“‘No threats of torture or death, no bribes, however
fabulous, would move him. His only reply to all our importunities was that
whenever Parthak died, were it tomorrow or a thousand years hence, no man
could truly say, “A traitor is gone to his deserts.”
“‘Finally, Xodar, who is a fiend for subtle craftiness,
evolved a plan whereby we might worm the information from him. And so I
caused Hor Vastus to be harnessed in the metal of a Zodangan soldier and
chained in Parthak’s cell beside him. For fifteen days the noble Hor Vastus
has lanquished in the darkness of the pits, but not in vain. Little by
little he won the confidence and friendship of the Zodangan, until only
today Parthak, thinking that he was speaking not only to a countryman,
but to a dear friend, revealed to Hor Vastus the exact cell in which you
“‘It took me but a short time to locate the plans
of the pits of Helium among thy official papers. To come to you, though,
was a trifle more difficult matter. As you know, while all the pits beneath
the city are connected, there are but single entrances from those beneath
each section and its neighbor, and that at the upper level just underneath
“‘Of course, these openings which lead from contiguous
pits to those beneath government buildings are always guarded, and so,
while I easily came to the entrance to the pits beneath the palace which
Zat Arras is occupying, I found there a Zodangan soldier on guard. There
I left him when I had gone by, but his soul was no longer with him.
“‘And here I am, just in time to be nearly killed
by you,’ he ended, laughing.’” (GM/19.)
I recall getting a call from my youngest daughter the evening of May
1, 2011, informing me that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. I, along with
millions of Americans, celebrated his “Ding-dong, the witch is dead,” moment
without shame or guilt. It was the like the ending of a perfect ERB cliffhanger.
Since there is no hell, I can’t really imagine Osama rotting there for
eternity, but at least I am satisfied that there is some kind of karma
in this universe of the Eternal Mystery.
In Part Six we will examine the Second Demise of Zodanga.
BARSOOMIAN GREEN MEN and TARS TARKAS ART GALLERIES
| II | III
| IV | V
| VI | VII