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 of trouble.
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 below.
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 as wave."
Though the waves beat him about mercilessly, he managed to keep his
head above water and the tempest eventually rough-housed him to shore.
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 increased."
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 again in
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 survived.
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,"
The rain helped them, because "it had driven all within doors."
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
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 on Amtor.
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,
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 to us.'"
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
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 death."
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, Chapter 28
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,"
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
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
There are other references to the supernatural realms scattered about
the books, such as "the peace of heaven" and "bats out of hell."
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
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
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 16
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
And if he did pray, the prayer was answered.