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 consciousness.
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.” (ERBzine #2832.)
“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
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 forked-tongue double-cross:
“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 no deal:
“Zat Arras shrugged his
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
“‘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’
“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
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 bearable.
“‘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
“‘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
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
“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.” (GM/19.)
“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,
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
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
“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
“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
“‘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 lay.
“‘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 the ground.
“‘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
“‘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