Edgar Rice Burroughs's heroes come from a variety of backgrounds. Tarzan was an English Lord by birth and didn't really have an occupation other than his first, short-lived job as a member of the French secret service and his voluntary efforts to patrol his jungle domain. His duties in the House of Lords, and his eventual service in the Royal Air Force come much later in the Tarzan series. John Carter was a fighting man for all of his life, a life that may have stretched back centuries, and by innuendo and description, is a fully fleshed character. David Innes was a coal-mining magnate, cut short and direct, no-nonsense. Billy Byrne was a man of the streets with a brain to match his brawn. Barney Custer was a corn farmer of gallant heart and patriotism. Carson Napier, meanwhile, had nothing more than aeronautical expertise, a reasonable physique, lots of money, and an ability to engage in Eastern mysticism.
Napier noted that "before I came to Venus I never carried a weapon of any description." (EV, Chapter 25). However, he had certainly received some weapons training that came in handy on several occasions, especially on a world where it was common for both men and women to walk around armed with swords and daggers, and some had access to spears and R-ray guns as well.
In Chapter 5 of Pirates, he reflected on the fact that "I thanked the good fortune, however, that had led me to take up fencing seriously in Germany, for it was helping me now, though I could not long hold out against these men with the Venusan sword which was a new weapon to me."
After becoming a pirate aboard the So-fal, Carson put his German fencing tricks to good use in defeating the captain of the Sovong (PV 11).
Carson knew he had the disadvantage of not being fully accustomed to the wider Amtorian sword, but believed his strength and German dueling skills would make up for it. But soon he found "difficulty in defending myself" as the captain waged a savage cutting attack. "Being experienced, it did not take him long to discover I was a novice...."
Finally, with his back against the wall of the cabin, Carson got off defense and parried a cut, which gave him an opening which he used to stab the captain in the heart. During the battle, Carson had been nicked a few times in places where blood flowed readily, so his men thought he had been wounded far worse than he was: "Those three little scratches proved of great value to me, but they were nothing in comparison with the psychological effect produced by the wholly disproportionate amount of blood they had spilled upon my naked hide."
Carson always tried to make sure he had a sword with him, but after he got his hands on an R-ray gun, that became his preferred weapon. It never ran out of ammunition and would keep a steady, fatal ray shooting out as long as he held the trigger down. Great for sweeping crowds of onrushing attackers.
Still, on at least one notable occasion, Carson elected to use his sword instead of simply vanquishing an enemy with an R-ray blast. That was near the end of Carson of Venus, when Carson, like a film noir detective, tracked deposed jong Muso through the dives of Sanara to rescue the kidnapped Nna, little janjong of Taman.
Face to face with Muso, the dialogue except for the mention of swords -- sounded like something out of the American West, as Muso cried, "You wouldn't shoot me down in cold blood?"
Carson laid his pistol on the bench and replied, like the sheriff in a cowboy movie, "I should, but I am not going to. We'll fight with swords. Draw!"
With the life of little Nna at stake, this might not have been Carson's smartest option and indeed, moments later, Carson admitted to himself that "...I might have bitten off more than I could chew." Then, just when Carson thought he might be getting the advantage, Muso bet it all on a surprise move, throwing his sword at Carson's face. Just at that moment, little Nna, apparently deciding to choose her own destiny rather than have it decided for her by this pair, grabbed Carson's R-ray gun and shot Muso dead.
Certainly, Carson was not a swordsman in the class of John Carter. Had the Warlord of Barsoom even shown up on Amtor, he would have automatically become the best swordsman of four worlds -- adding Venus to Earth, Mars and Jupiter on his resume!
Carson Napier did have other skills besides being a mediocre swordsman. These physical attainments would come in handy on Venus. He had training in swimming, boxing and wrestling. His waterborne skills included diving and distance swimming, as revealed in his ability to make it through heavy seas to shore in Pirates of Venus, chapter 14.
Escaping from captivity in Lost on Venus, he dove into a river. "I have always been a good diver, but I doubt that I ever made a prettier swan dive in my life than I did that day from the parapet of the gloomy castle of Skor, the jong of Morov." (LV, 8)
His earthly athletic training no doubt contributed to his physical potency. Attacked by a basto (LV, 5), Carson grasped the charging beast's horns in his hands and "...thanks to my unusual strength, I succeeded in breaking the force of the impact as well as diverting the horns from my vitals."
His own strength was boosted by Venus's lesser gravity. In Pirates, Chapter 7, believing his friend Kamlot to be dead, he carried the body while noting, "I am extraordinarily muscular, and then, too, the gravitational pull of Venus favored me more than would that of earth, giving me an advantage of over twenty pounds in the dead weight I should have to carry and even a little better than that in the amount of my own live weight...."
While roaming the upper terraces of the Vepajan forest, seeking the spider web-like tarel, Carson noted that he lacked expertise in tree-climbing "for I am not naturally arboreal" (PV, 6). He soon adapted to such venues, though, as trees were often the only thing that stood between him and a violent death from some denizen of Amtor.
Though Carson became an able climber, he never mastered the art of staying out of trouble. He admitted, "I am rash. I take chances... oftentimes I know the thing I am about to do is stupid, and yet I go ahead and do it. I gamble with Death; my life is the stake. But I have a grand time, and so far I have always beaten Death to the draw." (WV, 1)
As a devil-may-care adventurer, Carson was free to get himself into trouble and, sometimes through skill and sometimes through blind luck, get himself out of it. Yet, one cringes at times as Carson charges, once again, unerringly toward disaster, such as in Escape. After surviving hostilities in many lands and safe with his beloved Duare and friend Ero Shan in the anotar, he made the questionable decision to descend for a closer look at huge war machines moving across the landscape. Only when the land vessels opened fire did he realize the mistake which not only endangered him, but his companions as well.
"With throttle wide I climbed, zig-zagging in an attempt to avoid their fire, upbraiding myself for being such a stupid fool as to have taken this unnecessary chance, and then a moment later, as I was congratulating myself upon having made good our escape, the nose of the anotar disappeared, together with the propeller." (EV, 43)
Edgar Rice Burroughs's first impression of Carson was that he was a man of 25 to 30 years of age, and Carson, later in Pirates, nailed down his age at 27. Carson had blond hair and blue eyes (in later volumes sometimes described as grey, and sometimes as blue-grey eyes), which made him stand out on Venus as no others had those particular features.
He told ERB that "My father was a British army officer, my mother an American girl from Virginia" and that, while his father was stationed in India, he had studied under the tutelage of an old Hindu named Chand Kabi. There he had learned advanced telepathy and the ability to project mental images to great distances. It was through this talent that Carson communicated his Venus adventures to Burroughs across 26 to 30 million miles of space.
Carson inherited his fortune from his grandfather. He first used it to finance a reckless lifestyle, then began using it to build rocket cars and attend flight school. He became an aerial stuntman, which led to his decision to build a rocket capable of flying to another planet.
Napier was not immune to miscalculation, however, and earned a Wrong-Way Corrigan reputation among ERB fans for his mathematical calculations designed to head his spaceship for Mars. His slipup in forgetting the moon's gravitational pull swung him toward Venus instead. The rest is history -- maybe not something you will find in any U.S. history book -- but certainly: History on Venus.
Carson Napier's Preparations and Take-off
|circa 1904||Born in India.|
|circa 1915||Moves with mother to Virginia after father's death.|
|circa 1918||Moves with mother to California after John Carson's death.|
|circa 1921||Enrolls at Pomona College in Claremont.|
|circa 1925||Graduates from Pomona College. Mother dies.|
|circa 1926||Becomes stunt pilot in Hollywood.|
|circa 1927||Begins traveling around the world.|
|1928 - 1929||Finances rocket cars in Germany.|
|1930||Starts building rocketship for Mars.|
|1931||Takes off from earth on July 18, landing on Venus August 18.|
Chronology for ERB's Venus Stories
by Fredrik Ekman
ERB C.H.A.S.E.R ILLUSTRATED BIBLIOGRAPHY :: VENUS (AMTOR) SERIES
2. Lost on Venus
3. Carson of Venus
5. The Wizard of Venus
(Tales of Three Planets)
ALL ABOUT AMTOR by John Martin
INTRO | 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10
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