Weather a Friend or Foe
The vagaries of the weather played a role in many of
ERB's tales, usually serving as a plot device to get his hero into or out
Some famous weather scenes in Burroughs works include
the young Tarzan's comparison of an approaching rainstorm to lions successfully
hunting their prey in Jungle
Tales of Tarzan, and the huge Barsoomian tempest which drove
the flier of Tara of Helium overnight and much of the following day, leading
her to an eventual adventure among The
Chessmen of Mars.
In Pellucidar, the eternal noonday sun was ever present
and ever directly overhead and ERB referred to it frequently in those novels,
as his characters played out their risky lives on the exotic landscape
With a planet like Venus, perpetually enveloped in clouds,
one could expect cloudy weather to have a role in some of the stories,
although ERB used it sometimes just for effect, to help stimulate the reader's
imagination in envisioning the world in which his characters walked.
An example comes from Lost on Venus, Chapter 3.
"The relative proximity of the sun lights up the inner cloud envelope brilliantly,
but it is a diffused light that casts no well-defined shadows nor produces
contrasting highlights. There is an all-pervading glow from above that
blends with the perpetual light emanating from the soil, and the resultant
scene is that of a soft and beautiful pastel."
But other times, the weather is a plot factor. In Chapter
14 of Pirates of Venus, a fierce gale arose and Kiron discouraged
Carson from sailing immediately to Noo-bol, because "No boat could live
in this sea."
A few minutes later, after Carson had been swept overboard
by a "Titan" wave, he said amen to Kiron's statement and added "...and
no swimmer could breast the terrific onslaught of those racing, wind-driven
mountains of water that might no longer be described by so puny a word
Though the waves beat him about mercilessly, he managed
to keep his head above water and the tempest eventually rough-housed him
ERB describes Venus as surrounded by two cloud envelopes
-- outer and inner. Venusans knew nothing of the solar orb we call the
sun, so they attributed the source of heat and light to "the all-enveloping
fire which rose from the molten mass upon which Amtor is supposed to float."
But those clouds occasionally parted, and when they did the proximity of
the sun can cause a hot time on Venus. In the opening of Escape on Venus,
the sun broke through the clouds.
By Chapter 2, the sun had burnt through both layers so
that "the ocean commenced to boil.... Vast clouds of steam arose. The heat
Carson turned the anotar and tried to outrace the searing
heat. "But then the wind changed! It blew in a sudden furious gust from
the south, bringing with it stifling heat that was almost suffocating.
Clouds of condensing vapor whirled and swirled about us, drenching us with
mois-ture and reducing visibility almost to zero."
The wind became a gale and then increased to hurricane
force and Carson could see nothing beyond the nose of the anotar. But they
survived, and eventually the two were flying over a new country, ready
to land for food and water, get captured and have an adventure.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them, Ero Shan, in an anotar
he had built from Carson's plans after Carson and Duare had fled Havatoo,
was caught in the same storm. They found that out when they met Ero Shan
Escape, Chapter 33, when all had become prisoners, and
exhibits, in the Natural History Museum of Voo-ad. "The Sun broke through
rifts in the cloud envelopes, causing terrific winds, and making the ocean
boil," Ero Shan said, describing the same storm that Carson and Duare had
It was not surprising that Ero Shan should speak of the
sun, since Carson's public service in Havatoo had been to teach the science
of astronomy, previously unknown to Amtorians.
In The Wizard of Venus, Carson and Ero Shan had
a different encounter with the clouds. That time the sun did not break
through to boil anything, but the clouds themselves dropped lower than
usual and, at the same time, the compass on the anotar went awry.
As the clouds continued to descend, Carson brought the
plane in for a landing to await the time when they would lift again and
visibility would return. While on the ground, they had the adventure with
the unfriendly neighborhood self-styled wizard, Morgas.
My favorite weather story in the Venus series, however,
comes in Lost on Venus, Chapter 1, with a plain old earth-style
rainstorm. Maybe I like this story because I live in rainy Washington state
and it reminds me of home.
Carson had escaped The Room of the Seven Doors in time
to locate and rescue Duare from the unwanted advances of Moosko. Then,
it was time to get out of the city of Kapdor -- quickly!
"When I went to the window, I found that it had commenced
to rain," Carson said.
The rain helped them, because "it had driven all within
Since Moosko only visited Kapdor occasionally, Duare figured
that if Carson took the slain ongyan's ring, with his insignia of office,
that it could be useful in getting them past the gatekeepers. "Furthermore,"
she said, "it is night; and with the darkness and the rain the danger that
your imposture will be discovered is mini-mized."
In the street, "The drizzle had become a downpour. Objects
were indiscernible a few yards distant, and for this I was thankful." As
they got nearer the gate, "The rain in-creased in violence."
While the rain was beneficial, it also created a problem.
Duare warned Carson that the guard would be suspicious because "...you
can have no possible excuse for wishing to leave the safety of a walled
city on a night like this...."
As she predicted, the guard was doubtful, and it took
a bold ruse by Carson to get him to open the gate before pursuers arrived.
But once he had, "Duare and I hastened into the outer darkness and were
lost to his view in the rain."
And not only lost to view, but lost on Venus, as the title
of the book and the final line of Chapter 2 makes clear.
But it was better than Carson being dead and Duare suffering
a fate worse than death!
The Gods of Amtor
In some of his stories, Edgar Rice Burroughs liked to
invent false, hypocritical religions for his heroes to expose and destroy.
On Amtor, however, ERB eliminated organized religion as
a whipping boy by having Carson learn, early, that there was no such things
Having mentioned to his teacher, Danus, that he had caught
a fleeting glimpse of a girl (Duare) in a garden, the instructor cautioned
him not to mention it to anyone, and to forget it happened.
Carson reasoned: "It occurred to me that she might be
a priestess of some holy order, but I was forced to discard that theory
becauase of my belief that these people had no religion, at least none
that I could discover in my talks with Danus. I had attempted to describe
some of our earthly religious beliefs to him, but he simply could not perceive
either their purpose or meaning any more than he could visualize the solar
system of the universe." (PV, Chapter 5)
Of course, knowledge is not universal on Venus but for
the most part the Vepajan instructor was correct. Carson did not encounter
any religion in his travels until he made it into the Northern Hemisphere
in Escape on Venus, and was taken, a captive, to the land of Brokol,
where he encountered the only recorded religious system he'd known on Venus,
the cult of the fire goddess, Loto-el-Ho-Ganja (most high more than woman).
However, the Vepajans did have a kind of religion, even
though they did not characterize it as such.
When Kamlot and Carson, aboard the Sofal, discussed Duare,
Carson began, for the first time, to understand just how special she really
was. Kamlot declared: " '...all Vepaja loves her -- she is the virgin daughter
of a Vepajan jong!' "
Carson thought: "Had he been announcing the presence of
a goddess on shipboard, his tone could have been no more reverential and
awed." PV, Chapter 11
A few lines later, Kamlot himself made the comparison:
" 'You have told me of the divinities of that strange world from which
you come; the persons of the jong and his children are similarly sacred
And then, Carson uttered a false prophecy: "Then, of course,
they shall be sacred to me."
Long after Duare had yielded her love and, presumably,
her body to Carson, she herself made the same comparison in the opening
pages of Carson of Venus.
Telling Carson that he must never fall into the hands
of her father, she said, "The unwritten law that decrees this thing is
as old as the ancient empire of Vepaja. You have told me of the gods and
goddesses of the religions of your world. In Vepaja the royal family occupies
a similar position in the minds and hearts of the people, and this is especially
true of the virgin daughter of a jong -- she is absolutely sacrosanct.
To look at her is an offense; to speak to her is a crime punishable by
But Carson eventually found a more earthlike religious
system. In the strange case of the goddess of Brokol, Carson heard, for
the first time, a resident of Venus use the word "God" -- the English word
"God" -- when he said, "Thank God, this is the end. I feel it." EV,
The story broadly hinted that this goddess was actually
from Brooklyn in the United States, and although no details were provided,
the reader familiar with Burroughs's other works would conclude she had
been mysteriously transported to Venus in the same way that John Carter
and Ulysses Paxton had been transported to Mars.
Carson was surprised to hear her utter the word "God"
in English. "There is no word for God in Amtorian. Most High More than
Woman of the fire is the nearest approach to the name of a deity that I
have ever heard here," he observed.
Carson himself appeared to be a man who, while familiar
with the religions of Earth, did not particularly adhere to any. In Pirates,
Chapter 14, he was swept overboard but brought safely to shore in such
a way that he exclaimed "I had been the beneficiary of a miracle." However,
he added, "A more devout man would have given thanks, but I felt that as
yet I had little for which to give thanks."
In Pirates, Chapter 3, as his off-course rocket
hurtled toward the sun, he mused, "What if I were to approach Venus more
closely than any other human being of all time! It meant nothing. Were
I to see God, himself, even that would mean nothing."
I don't think Carson was actually contemplating meeting
God, but rather simply using the word as a way of expressing the futility
that he felt as he approached his end in a way that would go unnoticed
by his fellow man.
While trying to figure out how to safely escape from the
room of the Seven Doors in Lost on Venus, he mused about having had his
share of lucky breaks and how Fate had guided him.
"Yet I was not unmindful of that sound advice, 'Put your
trust in God, my boys; and keep your powder dry!' In this event I might
have paraphrased it to read, 'Put your trust in fate, but keep an avenue
of retreat open!' "
But while Carson was no parson, he later showed he can
think about the almighty on certain occasions.
For example, after the battle with the giant Amtorian
spiker-like creature, Carson was left with what he believed was the dead
body of non-religious Kamlot. He de-cided he would try to do the "right
thing," so, he found a suitable location on the floor of the Vepajan forest
to dig a grave.
"While I worked I tried to recall the service for the
dead. I wanted Kamlot to have as decent and orderly a burial as I could
contrive. I wondered what God would think about it, but I had no doubt
but that he would receive this first Amtorian soul to be launched into
the unknown with a Christian burial and welcome him with open arms."
So, at least for this moment, Carson thought it would
do some good to call on God. But that was for Kamlot. For himself, Carson
tended not to depend too heavily on God but did make references to deity
in the sense that a lot of people do, simply as a figure of speech.
Aboard the anotar in Chapter 2 of Escape, the anotar
was buffeted by heavy winds. "How long we were the plaything of the Storm
God, I may only guess; but it was not until almost dawn that the wind abated
a little, and once more we were permitted to have some voice in the direction
of our destiny...."
There are other references to the supernatural realms
scattered about the books, such as "the peace of heaven" and "bats out
But one can wonder: If there is no God who watches over
the events of Amtor, then who do its people turn to when they need help
beyond their own abilities?
In Escape, Carson met Kandar of Japal, a fellow
slave of the Myposans. "Our work ashore is not heavy," Kandar explained,
"and we are not treated so very badly; but at sea -- that is different.
Pray that you are not sent to sea."
One might wonder just who, exactly, Kandar meant that
Carson should pray to.
We don't know much about the culture of Kandar's home
of Japal, but maybe they believed in God and Kandar might have influenced
Carson to believe as well. Because, after those harrowing experiences in
Mypos, Carson quit thanking "fate" and the "good fortune" for getting Duare
and him out of trouble, but credited God Himself: "I shall never forget
with what a sense of gratitude to God and with what relief we felt the
ship rise above the menace of this inhospitable land." EV, Chapter
And then Carson himself, in The Wizard of Venus,
called for sacred petition on the part of Ero Shan. The two were imprisoned
in the castle of Morgas, the supposed wizard, when Carson decided to put
his mind to work to create some telepathic images that might help spring
them from their cell. He told Ero Shan that while he was busy with his
telepathy, "...you may devote yourself to silent prayer."
It didn't say if Ero Shan knew who to pray to or if he
understood the definition of the word prayer, but he did lapse into at
least a "moment of silence."
And if he did pray, the prayer was answered.