A READERS' COMPANION TO THE BARSOOMIAN MYTHOS
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
“3 Hikers on Treasure Hunt in Superstitions
“The lure of the legendary Dutchman Mine has likely
claimed three more lives.
“Lost Dutchman Park Curtis Merworth, Malcolm
Meeks and Ardean Charles left Salt Lake City on July 6 in search of the
fabled lode of gold hidden in the Superstition Mountains east of Apache
Junction. Their vehicle was found at a trailhead July 11, but an exhaustive
search for the men has, so far, turned up empty.
“It was the third time Merworth had come to the
Superstitions looking for treasure. Searchers rescued him from the terrain
in May 2009, but the harrowing experience didn’t deter him from what family
members say had become an obsession.
“Merworth, 48, was ‘gold crazy,’ his mother, Carol,
said this week from her Salt Lake City home.
“‘He was certain he was going to find this mine,’
“The pursuit of the Dutchman’s mine has been going
on for more than century in ‘some of the most rugged wilderness areas of
the U.S. Forest Service,’ said George E. Johnston, president emeritus of
the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction.
“‘It’s hard to separate the legend and the lore
from the lies and the BS and everything else about it,’ he said. ‘But there’s
enough to it to encourage people that have been interested in it to go
after that gold. For almost 120 years now, they’ve been looking for it.’
“The story goes that during the mid-1880's, the
Peralta family of Mexico operated several mining claims, including a fabulously
rich gold mine in the Superstitions. An expedition returning gold ore to
Mexico City was attacked by Apaches.
“Only one member of the Peralta expedition survived
the attack. Decades later, he revealed the location of the richest of the
family’s mines to Jacob Waltz, who has come to be immortalized as the Dutchman.
“The story is based on some nuggets of truth.
Jacob Waltz was born in 1808 in Germany, and he came to the United States
in 1846. He worked as a miner in North Carolina and Georgia and later in
Arizona Territory. In 1868, he homesteaded 160 acres near the Salt River
in what is now the East Valley. Waltz died a pauper in 1891.
“Legend has it that, on his deathbed, Waltz told
three caretakers about the mine he discovered in the Superstitions and
where they could find it. The mine, he said, had enough gold to make millionaires
out of 20 men. Beneath his bed was a wooden candle box with pieces of rich
“The trio spent the rest of their lives searching
for the gold based on Waltz’s clues. One of the caretakers, Julia Thomas,
made a living off drawing and selling maps to the treasure, Johnston said.
“The lure of the gold, the greed, he said, continues
to draw treasure seekers from all over the world to the Superstitions.
Weekly, he fields questions by phone and from visitors who want to know
where they can find the bounty....”
– Lindsey Collum, The Arizona Republic,
July 17, 2010
At the time ERB began his writing career in 1911 most of his readers were
as familiar with the story of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine as we are today
with modern urban legends. Even many modern fans of ERB might not have
realized that the opening chapter of A Princess of Mars, is driven by this
legend. In fact, the genius of ERB was to realize that he didn’t have to
mention it to his readers at all – that it had so infiltrated the imaginations
of the readers of the time, that they would have immediately understood
that Captain John Carter of Virginia, and his ex-Confederate cavalry officer
friend, Captain James K. Powell, had indeed discovered the Lost Dutchman’s
Mine. By the way, Waltz, even though a German, was called the Dutchman
by his associates because of his accent, ignorantly mistaken for Dutch.
This historical fact is the logical answer to the question: Is a readers’
companion to the Barsoomian Mythos necessary? Yes, it is. It is necessary
to give the modern reader the full experience a normal reader would have
had at the time. The reader of the time would have recognized that John
Carter is a divine being, like Hercules, a classical hero transported to
a foreign planet by means of Native American sorcery. Even his initials,
JC, would have reminded the reader of his divine origins if they were too
dense to have gotten the hint in the original opening lines of the book’s
opening chapter, titled, “On the Arizona Hills”:
“I am a very old man; how old I do not
know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more; but I cannot tell because
I have never aged as other men, nor do I remember any childhood. So far
as I can recollect I have always been a man, a man of about thirty. I appear
today as I did forty years and more ago, and yet I feel that I cannot go
on living forever; that some day I shall die the real death from which
there is no resurrection. I do not know why I should fear death, I who
have died twice and am still alive; but yet I have the same horror of it
as you who have never died, and it is because of this terror of death,
that I am so convinced of my own mortality.” (PM/1.)
ERB was criticized by many for ripping off other pulp authors for ideas
and plots, but ERB always claimed that the source for his many stories
was ancient mythology. After all, even Hercules, died in the end. In fact,
ERB’s writing style reflects his many years studying the classics in their
ancient languages. ERB always said that he was terrible at English grammar
because he spent too much time studying Latin and Greek grammar as a student.
A note on the references to the Mythos. “PM/1" stands for A Princess
of Mars, Chapter One. There are no page references to the text because
there are so many printed versions of the Mythos that it is impractical
to name one text as the main text. To aid the reader, I will now list every
book in the Mythos with their shorthand notations, as well as references
to ERBzine, where
their publishing histories are documented:
1. A Princess of Mars: PM (ERBzine
2. The Gods of Mars: GM (ERBzine
3. The Warlord of Mars: WM (ERBzine
4. Thuvia, Main of Mars: TMM (ERBzine
5. The Chessmen of Mars: CM (ERBzine
6. The Master Mind of Mars: MMM (ERBzine
7. A Fighting Man of Mars: FMM (ERBzine
8. Swords of Mars: SM (ERBzine
9. Synthetic Men of Mars: SMM (ERBzine
10. Llana of Gathol: LG (ERBzine
11. John Carter of Mars: JCM (ERBzine
# 0740 & # 0739.)
The references to Llana of Gathol are further complicated by
the fact that the novel is divided into four separate stories, each with
their own chapters. Thus, each part is given a Roman numeral, and each
chapter of each section is given a regular number. For example, a quote
reference to Book One, “The Ancient Dead,” Chapter Three, would be noted
The same is true for the two Apocryphal stories of John Carter of
Mars. (See, “The Martian Apocrypha,” ERBzine
Back to our origins. Carter is transported to Mars where everyone is
naked as the day they were hatched. A readers’ companion helps the modern
reader, jaded by today’s modern media, realize that ERB was also an aficionado
of the Peep Show. In essense, as far as the censorship of the time would
permit, ERB wrote soft pornography. I believe absolutely that A Princess
of Mars provided much male bathroom reading in 1912. (See, e.g., “Nakedness
on Mars,” ERBzine # 3177.)
His near-rape scenes would have had the same erotic effect upon the
reader of 1912 as the graphic sex scenes in George R.R. Martin’s “Song
of Ice and Fire” have upon the modern reader.
The same is true for my screenplay biography experiment, ERB, the Screenplay
), where I have graphically altered the near-rape scenes in the Mythos
to reflect today’s modern standards of censorship.
The unifying theme of this readers’ companion are the Seven Wonders
of Mars and their Runners-Up. As literate travelers of the ancient world
mapped out the Seven Wonders on Earth, I thought this would be a good way
to deal with the entire Mythos, for I feel that only in such a manner can
the full scope of the corpus be easily grasped as an entire Mythos. The
history of how this readers’ companion was conceived and evolved can be
found in the Preface to “Ghek’s Manatorian Mind Games,” ERBzine
Hopefully, with the release of Disney’s movie, John Carter, there
will be a renewed interest in the written Mythos. If so, then the modern
reader will have to deal with major changes made in the major characters,
as well as the plot – for, because of unknown reasons, the movie took many
liberties with the original story. For example, John Carter is no longer
a divine being in the movie – he’s just an average deflated Southerner
with a normal wife and child, who tragically die due to the brutality of
His confederate friend is no longer a fellow Southerner, but in the
movie, he is an Union cavalry officer in the Kevin Costner “Dances with
Wolves” mold. Helium and Zodanga are no longer exotic cities like I imagined
them in the books (the exotic cities in the HBO series, “Game of Thrones,”
are much like the Martian cities I had in mind), but are depicted in the
strange futuristic cities that remind me of illustrations of sci-fi
artists from the Fifties. Plus, absurdly – when I think about what these
CGI effects must have cost, I cringe – the city of Zodanga moves. This
is one of the lamest things I have ever seen on film.
I also thought the depictions of Sola and Tars Tarkas were unforgiveable.
I will point out two scenes that I loved that were accurate to the original
and then I will be done. The first was the breathtaking long shot of Carter
and the Tharks riding into Korad, the ancient dead sea-bed city. What wonderful
detail. I almost missed our heroes at the bottom of the screen I was so
mesmerized. I saw it on opening day in IMAX 3-D with about twenty other
people. They gave the movie a standing ovation at the end.
The other scene is when Carter was fighting the Warhoons and was overwhelmed.
That’s exactly how I imagined the scene when I read it. To tell you the
truth, when I see the kind of accuracy to Tolkien’s main plot carried out
in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, I cannot see why Disney felt
the need to tamper so much with the Mythos for the movie version. The original
story is timeless.
Furthermore, I have no opinion why the movie was such a blockbuster
everywhere else in the world except in the United States, where, even having
made its money back, it is considered the biggest flop in history. Perhaps
some of the animus that occurred between ERB and Hollywood in the late
30's still survives today. Some Hollywood grudges never die.
So, here is the Mythos in all of its original glory. Enjoy.