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presents
Volume 3911
.
A READERS' COMPANION TO THE BARSOOMIAN MYTHOS
The Seventeenth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
THE EPIPHANIES OF JOHN CARTER AND
THE FAKE AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OF ERB
Parts 4/5 and Conclusion
by
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
J. Allen St. John wraparound: Swords of Mars - 5 interiors

THE FOURTH EPIPHANY

It is 1933 and ERB’s marriage to Emma is on the rocks. This is the novel that ERB brazenly dedicates to the wife, Florence Dearholt, of one of his closest friends, Ashton Dearholt. The first letters of each chapter, beginning with the Foreword to Chapter 17, read: "To Florence,
with all my love. Ed.”

ERB is in lust again; it’s back to the peep show. John Carter will not only have Dejah Thoris to win in this adventure, but he also crosses paths with some of the sexiest women in the Mythos, from Zanda, a slave girl in Zodanga, to Ozara, the Jeddara of the Tarids on the Barsoomian moon, Thuria.

For some reason ERB chose a cabin in Arizona for the next epiphany. Perhaps that’s where he was located with he began the story. At some time during this period, he moved out of the house and away from Emma, moving into the Garden of Allah garden apartments, a notorious pleasure pit in Hollywood. As becomes evident, family problems haunt both ERB and John Carter during the epiphany. Let us now turn to the Prologue of Swords of Mars

“The moon had risen above the rim of the canyon near the headwaters of the Little Colorado. It bathed in soft light the willows that line the bank of the little mountain torrent and the cottonwood trees beneath which stood the tiny cabin where I had been camping for a few weeks in the White Mountains of Arizona.
“I stood upon the little porch of the cabin enjoying the soft beauties of this Arizona night; and as I contemplated that peace and serenity of the scene, it did not seem possible that but a few years before the fierce and terrible Geronimo had stood in this same spot before this self-same cabin, or that generations before that this seemingly deserted canyon had been peopled by a race now extinct.
“I had been seeking in their ruined cities for the secret of their genesis and even stranger secret of their extinction. How I wished that those crumbling lava cliffs might speak and tell me of all that they had witnessed since they poured out in a molten stream from the cold and silent cones that dot the mesa land beyond the canyon.
“My thoughts returned again to Geronimo and his fierce Apache warriors; and these vagrant musings engendered memories of Captain John Carter of Virginia, whose dead body had lain for ten long years in some forgotten cave in the mountains not far south of this very spot – the cave in which he had sought shelter from pursuing Apaches.
“My eyes, following the pathway of my thoughts, searched the heavens until they rested upon the red eye of Mars shining there in the blue-black void; and so it was that Mars was uppermost in my mind and as I turned into my cabin and prepared for a good night’s rest beneath the rustling leaves of the cottonwoods, with whose soft and soothing lullaby was mingled the rippling and the gurgling of the waters of the Little Colorado.
“I was not sleepy; and so, after I had undressed, I arranged a kerosene lamp near the head of my bunk and settled myself for the enjoyment of a gangster story of assassination and kidnaping.
“My cabin consists of two rooms. The smaller back room is my bedroom. The larger room in front of it serves all other purposes, being dining room, kitchen, and living room combined. From my bunk, I cannot see directly into the front room. A flimsy partition separates the bedroom from the living room. It consists of rough-hewn boards that in the process of shrinking have left wide cracks in the wall, and in addition to this the door between the two rooms is seldom closed; so that while I could not see into the adjoining room, I could hear
anything that might go on within it. “I do not know that I am more susceptible to suggestion than the average man; but the fact remains that murder, mystery, and gangster stories always seem more vivid when I read them alone in the stilly watches of the night.
“I had just reached the point in the story where an assassin was creeping upon the victim of kidnapers when I heard the front door of my cabin open and, distinctly, the clank of metal upon metal.
“Now, insofar as I knew, there was no one other than myself camped upon the headwaters of the Little Colorado; and certainly no one had the right to enter my cabin without knocking.
“I sat up in my bunk and reached under my pillow for the .45 Colt automatic that I kept there.
“The oil lamp faintly illuminated my bedroom, but its main strength was concentrated upon me. The outer room was in darkness, as I could see by leaning from my bunk and peering through the doorway.
“‘Who’s there?’ I demanded, releasing the safety catch on my automatic and sliding my feet out of bed to the floor. Then, without waiting for a reply, I blew out the lamp.
“A low laugh came from the adjoining room. ‘It is a good thing your wall is full of cracks,’ said a deep voice, ‘or otherwise I might have stumbled into trouble. That is a mean-looking gun I saw before you blew out your lamp.’
“The voice was familiar, but I could not definitely place it. ‘Who are you?’ I demanded.
“‘Light your lamp and I’ll come in,’ replied my nocturnal visitor. ‘If you’re nervous, you can keep your gun on the doorway, but please don’t squeeze the trigger until you have had a chance to recognize me.’
“‘Damn!’ I exclaimed under my breath, as I started to relight the lamp.
“‘Chimney still hot?’ inquired the deep voice from the outer room.
“‘Plenty hot,’ I replied, as I succeeded at last in igniting the wick and replacing the hot chimney. ‘Come in.’
“I remained seated on the edge of the bunk, but I kept the doorway covererd with my gun. I heard again the clanking of metal upon metal, and then a man stepped into the light of my feeble lamp and halted in the doorway. He was a tall man apparently between twenty-five and thirty, with gray eyes and black hair. He was naked but for leather trappings that supported weapons of unearthly design – a short sword, a long sword, a dagger, and a pistol; but my eyes did not need to inventory all these details before I recognized him. The instant that I saw him, I tossed my gun aside and sprang to my feet.
“‘John Carter!’ I exclaimed.
“None other,’ he replied, with one of his rare smiles.
“We grasped hands. ‘You haven’t changed much,’ he said.
“‘Nor you at all,’ I replied.
“He sighed and then smiled again. ‘God alone knows how old I am. I can recall no childhood, nor have I ever looked other than I look tonight; but come,’ he added, ‘you mustn’t stand here in your bare feet. Hop back into bed again. These Arizona nights are none too warm.’
“He drew up a chair and sat down. ‘What were you reading?’ he asked, as he picked up the magazine that had fallen to the floor and glanced at the illustration. ‘It looks like a lurid tale.’
“‘A pretty little bedtime story of assassination and kidnaping,’ I explained.
“‘Haven’t you enough of that on earth without reading about it for entertainment?’ he inquired. ‘We have on Mars.’
“‘It is an expression of the normal morbid interest in the horrifying,’ I said. ‘There is really no justification, but the fact remains that I enjoy such tales. However, I have lost my interest now. I want to hear about you and Dejah Thoris and Carthoris, and what brought you here. It has been years since you have been back. I had given up all hope of ever seeing you again.’
“He shook his head, a little sadly I thought. ‘It is a long story, a story of love and loyalty, of hate and crime, a story of dripping swords, of strange places and strange people upon a stranger world. The living of it might have driven a weaker man to madness. To have one you love taken from you and not to know her fate!’
“I did not have to ask whom he meant. It could be none other than the incomparable Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and consort of John Carter, Warlord of Mars – the woman for whose deathless beauty a million swords had been kept red with blood on the dying planet for many a long year. 
“For a long time John Carter sat in silence staring at the floor. I knew that his thoughts were forty-three million miles away, and I was loath to interrupt them.
“At last he spoke. ‘Human nature is alike everywhere,’ he said. He flicked the edge of the magazine lying on my bunk. ‘We think that we want to forget the tragedies of life, but we do not. If they momentarily pass us by and leave us in peace, we must conjure them again, either in our thoughts or through some such medium as you have adopted. As you find a grim pleasure in reading about them, so I find a grim pleasure in thinking about them.
“‘But my memories of that great tragedy are not all sad. There was high adventure, there was noble fighting; and in the end there was – but perhaps you would like to hear about it.’
“I told him that I would, so he told me the story that I have set down here in his own words, as nearly as I can recall them.” (SM/Prologue.)
Anyone who has ever been slowed down by traffic while a car’s occupants rubber-neck over an accident scene, will understand the morbid fascination with horror. So, why again did John Carter appear to ERB this time? That’ s right, it is never answered. He just wanted to share his adventure. But ERB believed only an epiphany could set the stage for another installment of the Barsoomian Mythos, four years after the last one. But is John Carter’s earthly body still interred in the specially made tomb in the little cemetary in Richmond? We will never know.

When I think about the torture the readers of G.R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” have had to undergo during the 16 years he has been writing it, waiting for all of the plot lines to resolve, I can now imagine the anticipation the lovers of Barsoom must have had, having to wait from 1912 to 1940, from A Princess of Mars to Llana of Gathol, for ERB to conclude the series, and only then, by his death. As I will explain in the next Runner-Up, it is my belief that the Eleventh installment of the Barsoomian Mythos is apocryphal, written by others; one notably by ERB’s son, Jack; the other by likely an adequate forger who was able to deceive many.

There is one more installment of the Mythos before the last epiphany, Synthetic Men of Mars, written in 1938, five years after the last one. Things have begun to deteriorate in the life of ERB. He is no longer as popular as he used to be. Hugo Gernsback, editor of Amazing Stories (for whom the Hugo is named), has begun to set the stage for most of ERB’s main competitors in the growing science fiction genre.

However, amongst all this pressure, ERB is still able to craft a brilliant tale of science gone awry in Synthetic Men. Once again we learn of this tale of Vor Daj’s journey with John Carter to find Ras Thavas in order to cure Dejah Thoris, who has damaged her spinal chord, by means of the Gridley Wave. ERB tells the story from Vor Daj’s point of view after he sets the story up in the first chapter:

“To him [Vor Daj] we are indebted for this remarkable tale of strange adventure upon the planet Mars; to him and Jason Gridley whose discovery of the Gridley Wave has made it possible for me to receive this story over the special Gridley radio receiving set which Jason Gridley built out here in Tarzana, and to Ulysses Paxton who translated it into English and sent it across some forty million miles of space.
“I shall give you the story as nearly as possible in the words of Vor Daj as is compatible with clarity. Certain Martian words and idioms which are untranslatable, measures of time and of distance will be usually in my own words; and there are occasional interpolations of my own that I have not bothered to assume responsibility for, since their origin will be obvious to the reader. In addition to these, there must have undoubtedly have been some editing on the part of Vad Varo [the Martian name of Paxton].
“So now to the strange tale as told by Vor Daj.” (SMM/1.)
Why this tale was not as special as the one before it or the one after it to not warrant an epiphany is anyone’s guess. I like mine best that the John Carter epiphanies only come either in times of extreme joy or extreme stress, and as a result, the epiphanies work in the same manner as classical epiphanies in the Bible or classical literature worked on those receiving them.


THE FIFTH EPIPHANY

John Coleman Burroughs: Llana of Gathol - 5 interiors
And now we come to our final epiphany. The year is 1940. ERB and his wife of six years, Florence, have moved to Hawaii. ERB has fallen on bad times financially and is getting too old to keep up with his much younger wife. It has been two years since the last installment of the Mythos. ERB has come up with a new method for writing John Carter adventures. He will write four separate stories and link them together with a common theme. In Llana of Gathol, the common theme is the continual rescue of Llana from the fiends of several countries. With a flowing narrative at the beginning and end of each adventure, and a Foreword to show that continuity, ERB successfully pulled this kind of plot off with flying colors. And now to the Foreword:
“Lanikai is a district, a beach, a Post Office, and a grocery store. It lies on the windward shore of the Island of Oahu. It is a long way from Mars. Its waters are blue and beautiful and calm inside its coral reef, and the trade wind sighing through the fronds of its coconut palms at night might be the murmuring voices of the ghosts of the kings and chieftans who fished in its still waters long before the sea captains brought strange diseases or the missionaries brought mother-hubbards [a woman’s loose, unbelted dress].
“Thoughts of the past, mere vague imaginings, were passing idly through my mind one night that I could not sleep and was sitting on the lanai watching the white maned chargers of the sea racing shoreward beneath the floodlight of the Moon. I saw the giant kings of old Hawaii and their mighty chiefs clothed in feather cape and helmet. Kamehameha came, the great conquerer, towering above them all. Down from the Nuuanu Pali he came in great strides, stepping over cane fields and houses. The hem of his feather cape caught on the spire of a church, toppling it to the ground. He stepped on low, soft ground; and when he lifted his foot, the water of a slough rushed into his footprint, and there was a lake.
“I was much interested in the coming of Kamehameha the King, for I had always admired him; though I had never expected to see him, he having been dead a matter of a hundred years or so and his bones buried in a holy, secret place that no man knows. However, I was not at all surprised to see him. What surprised me was that I was not surprised. I distinctly recall this reaction. I also recall that I hoped he would see me and not step on me.
“While I was thinking these thoughts, Kamehameha stopped in front of me and looked down at me. “Well, well!’ he said; ‘asleep on a beautiful night like this! I am surprised.’
“I blinked my eyes and looked again. There before me stood indeed a warrior strangely garbed, but it was not King Kamehameha. Under the moonlight one’s eyes sometimes play strange tricks on one. I blinked mine again, but the warrior did not vanish. Then I knew!
“Leaping to my feet, I extended my hand. ‘John Carter!’ I exclaimed.” (LG/Foreword.)
I believe we have adequately answered the question of whether John Carter is a divine being in the affirmative. This time his coming to Earth is marked by a supernatural vision, rather than by the playing of mischievous tricks in the dark. That cape of Kamehameha’s toppling the church after mention of the missionaries made me wonder if ERB was making a criticism of how the West was ruining the native culture of Hawaii, and the revenge of the ghost of the king in retaliation, but perhaps I was reading too much into the text.

From what we know about ERB’s lifestyle at this time, I think we are not doing too much damage to his reputation by imagining ERB as three sheets to the wind during this epiphany.

Once again ERB is facing marital discord. Flo is not a big fan of Lanikai. By the summer of the next year, she will have left him for the mainland. But that is a year away.

“‘Let’s see,’ he said; ‘where was it we last met – the headwaters of the Little Colorado or Tarzana?”
“‘The headwaters of the Little Colorado in Arizona, I think,’ I said. ‘That was a long time ago. I never expected to see you again.’
“‘No, I never expected to return.’
“‘Why have you? It must be something important.’
“‘Nothing of Cosmic importance,’ he said, smiling; ‘but important to me, nevertheless. You see, I wanted to see you.’
“‘I appreciate that,’ I said.
“‘You see, you are the last of my Earthly kin whom I know personally. Every once in a while I feel an urge to see you and visit with you, and at long intervals I am able to satisfy that urge – as now. After you are dead, and it will not be long now, I shall have no Earthly ties – no reason to return to the scenes of my former life.’
“‘There are my children,’ I reminded him. ‘They are your blood kin.’
“‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I know; but they might be afraid of me. After all, I might be considered something of a ghost by Earth men.’
“‘Not by my children,’ I assured him. ‘They know you quite as well as I. After I am gone, see them occasionally.’
“He nodded. ‘Perhaps I shall,’ he half promised.” (LG/Foreword.)
Did you catch the veiled reference to the Holy Ghost? I just wanted to be sure you are no longer in doubt about Carter being a divine being. Okay, the fake ERB is now very old, warranting such a visit by Carter. Remember, the fake ERB would be about 85 years old; the real one being about 65 – still getting up there (I’m a little over two months from that one myself), but not as if he were 85 with the worries that must come with that age. 
“‘And now,’ I said, ‘tell me something of yourself, of Mars, of Dejah Thoris, of Carthoris and Thuvia and of Tara of Helium. Let me see! It was Gahan of Gathol that Tara of Helium wed.’
“‘Yes,’ replied the war lord, ‘it was Gahan, jed of the free city of Gathol. They have a daughter, one whose character and whose beauty are worthy of her mother’s mother – a beauty which, like that of those other two, hurled nations at each other’s throats in war. Perhaps you would like to hear the story of Llana of Gathol.’
“I said that I would, and this is the story that he told me that night beneath the coconut palms of Oahu.’” (LG/Foreword.)
Thus end the Epiphanies of John Carter and the fake autobiographies of ERB. May they both rest in peace.


CONCLUSION
Thank God ERB was not a con man. He could have easily competed with Paul Twitchell or L. Ron Hubbard in Americanizing the ancient art of astral traveling, especially since his hero astral travels back and forth from Mars. The one big selling point to join Eckankar is that they allegedly can teach the ability to astral travel to other planets. Twitchell, unlike L. Ron Hubbard – who learned from the Jews and Christians that without guilt you have no true religion – lived long enough to establish the basis for his new religion. But in the end, he and Eckankar were exposed as frauds. I imagine the same fate waits for Scientology, regardless of its celebrity members like Tom Cruise and John Travolta. At least ERB spared his readers such embarrassment by never taking what he wrote seriously. When you think about it, that is the correct way to view all religion.
THE SEVEN WONDERS OF BARSOOM SERIES
7 WONDERS: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII

RUNNERS UP: I.a | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII.2.2b.3a.3b | IX | X.2.3.4
|.XI.2.3.4.5.6.7 |.XII.2.| XIII.|.XIV.|.XV.2.3.4.5.6.7.| XVI.2.3.4.5.| XVII..2.3.4 .| XVIII



 
WEB REFS
www.johncarterofmars.ca
www.cartermovie.com
A Princess of Mars
Gods of Mars
Warlord of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Chessmen of Mars
Mastermind of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars
Swords of Mars
Synthetic Men of Mars
Llana of Gathol
Skeleton Men of Jupiter
John Carter and the Giant of Mars



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