Personalities of Pellucidar
By John Martin
A Connecticut Yankee in
King David's Court
David Innes is the protagonist in much of Edgar Rice Burroughs' seven-book
A Twentieth Century man thrust into the stone age
could either help or take advantage of the primitive people, depending
on his character or lack of it. Fortunately for the Pellucidarians, David
Innes is of sound character; he is compassionate, resourceful and brave.
Even without his modern skills, a man like David Innes could probably have
survived pretty well at the Earth's core.
David's character was molded in his 20 years of
life on the outer surface. ERB tells us several things about his early
days that contributed to the makeup of the man.
As the first book opens, David tells us he was
born in Hartford, Conn., and that at the age of 19 he inherited a mining
company from his father. A modern encyclopedia tells us there is not much
going on in the mining business in Connecticut today, so, in retrospect,
it was good that David got out of the business, though unexpectedly, when
David spent many years of his boyhood in the small
town of Andover, Conn., about 15 miles east of Hartford. He learned to
appreciate, care for and love animals, owning a collie named Raja, whose
most memorable feature was his "sad eyes." (Pellucidar, Chapter 7)
Oftentimes, stereotypes are untrue. We are sometimes
presented with images of the bookworm, who has no time nor ability for
sports; or the image of the jock, who can't spell the name of the position
David Innes, however, loved and excelled at both
sports and studies.
Growing up, some of his favorite reading involved
military history, and he was particularly fond of studying the battle strategies
of "Napoleon, Von Moltke, Grant, and the ancients." (Pellucidar, Chapter
3). He was also familiar with the exploits of Columbus, Magellan, Captain
Cook and Balboa. (Land of Terror, Chapter 19)
But he was a boy of action as well as words, and
very likely a three-sport letterman.
In Pellucidar, David sometimes harvested his meals
by knocking birds down with a rock, "for long practice as a pitcher on
prep-school and varsity nines had made me an excellent shot with a hand-thrown
missile." (Pellucidar, Chapter 7).
His baseball expertise had also been good enough
for the college level. "At Andover and, later at Yale, I had pitched on
winning ball teams. My speed and control must have been above the ordinary,
for I made such a record during my senior year at college that overtures
were made to me in behalf of one of the great major-league teams." (At
the Earth's Core, Chapter 3)
The fact that David Innes played college ball as
a senior also tells us something more about him academically. The normal
age for a college senior is 21 to 22, but he had already completed his
senior year before he came to the inner world at age 20. (Land of Terror,
Chapter 1). Thus, his academic excellence may either have allowed him to
skip grades in his elementary or prep years and thus to get to college
sooner, or he may have carried an extra heavy credit load and gone to summer
school in order to finish college so soon.
David combined his natural ability with hard work:
"...always had my physique been the envy and despair of my fellows. And
for that very reason it had waxed even greater than nature had intended,
since my natural pride in my great strength had led me to care for and
develop my body and my muscles by every means within my power. What with
boxing, football and baseball, I had been in training since childhood."
(At the Earth's Core, Chapter 1)
ERB records no practical use of football skills
in Pellucidar, but the boxing came in handy. He wowed the first Pellucidarians
he encountered by knocking flat Hooja, the bully, with a blow from his
fist, a fighting technique apparently unknown to the prehistoric men (At
the Earth's Core, Chapter 4). On another occasion, as Dian the Beautiful
watched, he performed a similar maneuver on Jubal the Ugly One (At the
Earth's Core, Chapter 14). Later, David taught Tanar, the son of his friend
Ghak, the Hairy One, "as he had taught many another young Pellucidarian,
the art of self-defense, including boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu." ("Tanar
of Pellucidar, chapter 5).
One sport at which David did not at first excel
was track. In Earth's Core, chapter 13, he was pursued by Sagoths, which
caused him to reflect: "Running had never been my particular athletic forte,
and now when my very life depended upon fleetness of foot I cannot say
that I ran any better than on the occasions when my pitiful base running
had called down upon my head the rooters' raucous and reproachful cries
of 'Ice wagon' and 'Call a cab.' "
But what practice on a baseball diamond could not
do, exposure to constant danger in Pellucidar apparently did, for 10 years
of hoofing it in the inner world had enabled him to build up his
speed, as we learn in "Pellucidar," chapter 7, when hyenodons were on his
tail: "I have never been much of a runner; I hate running. But if ever
a sprinter broke into smithereens all the world's records it was I that
day when I fled before those hideous beasts along the narrow spit of rocky
David Innes is not a perfect hero. He makes mistakes.
But he admits them. At one time he confessed, "I recalled numerous acts
of my past life which I should have been glad to have had a few more years
to live down. There was the affair in the Latin Commons at Andover when
Calhoun and I had put gunpowder in the stove--and nearly killed one of
the masters." (Earth's Core, Chapter 1)
David tried to learn from his mistakes, and sometimes
such lessons were thrust upon him. After taking a wrong trail one time,
he philosophized: "...I set off down that which seemed the easiest going,
and in this I made the same mistake that many of us do in selecting the
path along which we shall follow out the course of our lives, and again
learned that it is not always best to follow the line of least resistance."
(Earth's Core, Chapter 9)
Yet, his paths, his decisions, his actions, led
him to be the ruler of a people. Abner Perry, his co-adventurer from the
outer world, dubbed him "his serene highness, David I, Emperor of the Federated
Kingdoms of Pellucidar" (Pellucidar, Chapter 3), but David did not revel
in such titles, nor did he surround himself with the trappings of royalty.
He never looked upon his subjects with condescension, but valued their
friendship and loyalty to him, and repaid it with his own, leading them
And for all the technology and know-how he possessed
as a Twentieth Century man, he was wise enough to keep it in perspective,
and balance his attributes with those of the stone age men:
In narrating "Land of Terror," David, in chapter
three, gave voice to some of this wisdom:
"Perry and I used often to discuss the helplessness
of Twentieth-Century man when thrown upon his own resources. We touch a
button and we have light, and think nothing of it; but how many of us could
build a generator to produce that light? We ride on trains as a matter
of course; but how many of us could build a steam engine?....
"Do not look down with condescension upon the men
of the Old Stone Age, for their culture, by comparison with what had gone
before, was greater than yours. Consider, for example, what marvelous inventive
genius must have been his who first conceived the idea and then successfully
created fire by artificial means. That nameless creature of a forgotten
age was greater than Edison."
The Beautiful Empress
In a land where people often have descriptive phrases
attached to their names, such as "the hairy one," "the fleet one," and
"the strong one," you just know there has to be something special about
someone called Dian "the beautiful one."
Dian the Beautiful is the heroine of the Pellucidar
series. She becomes the one who stands by the side of her mate, David Innes,
emperor of Pellucidar.
And this savage beauty is a perfect compliment
in many ways to the modern man who rules a stone-age world. Like
him, she is brave, loyal, and wants the best for her people.
David meets her on a Sagoth chain gang in "At the
Earth's Core," chapter 4. Later, in a chapter titled "The Garden of Eden,"
near the end of the book, Dian tells David that she had loved him from
the first moment she saw him, but didn't realize it until after David had
fought Hooja the Sly One for her. Because David had unwittingly committed
a Pellucidarian social blunder right after fighting for Dian, she had,
quite properly, kept her love a secret until David got around to declaring
his own, similar commitment, to her.
David was a bit slower to define his feelings for
Dian. Eventually, while separated from her and attempting an escape from
the Mahars, he "thought of a beautiful oval face, gazing out of limpid
eyes, through a waving mass of jet-black hair. I thought of red, red lips,
God-made for kissing...I realized that I loved Dian the Beautiful" (Earth's
Once the matter of their love was settled, the
two were united in the purpose of claiming and overseeing their empire.
Dian was particularly ambitious -- David had told Dian of the wonders of
the outer world, and she was anxious for him to bring about the marvels
of which he had spoken.
It is true that she had her own interests in mind,
somewhat. She said, "I long for (civilization's) comforts and luxuries
as I never before longed for anything." (Pellucidar, 5).
Who could blame a cave girl for yearning for something
better? But even so, her yearnings were not selfish, for what she wanted
for herself she also wanted for all the people of Pellucidar. She told
David, "You used to tell me of the wonderful things you could accomplish
with the inventions of your own world. Now you have returned with all that
is necessary to place this great power in the hands of the men of Pellucidar."
She spoke to him of the "knowledge, which you alone may wield, to guide
them toward the wonderful civilization of which you have told me...."
But though Dian yearned for the luxuries of civilization,
she did not slather herself in them once they became a reality.
She was a cave girl at heart, and could fight,
kill and brave new dangers with the toughest of her people.
In a storm-driven boat upon the fearsome ocean,
we're told "If Dian was terrified, she hid it; for was she not the daughter
of a once great chief, the sister of a king, and the mate of an emperor."
Dian was eager to learn the use of new weapons,
such as the bow and arrow that David had introduced to the empire. David
taught her, made arrows for her, and marked them for identification. (Land
of Terror, 15)
Dian had never seen a lighter-than-air balloon
before, and well she knew the track record of Abner Perry's prototypes.
Yet she had the courage to go up in this contraption. "When was a woman
of Sari ever afraid?" she had asked. (Savage Pellucidar I-4)
In "Land of Terror" and "Savage Pellucidar" she
was separated from David and had to battle her way back to Sari against
overwhelming odds. But though she was always happy to leap back into David's
arms, neither time did she require him to rescue her. She came through
dangers to home through her own resources, wits and skill, and the inevitable
David Innes eschewed the usual baggage of an outer
crust emperor, such as a decorative throne, a lavish palace, and a royal
court, but he did allow one royal indulgence. In "Tanar of Pellucidar,"
chapter 13, as Tanar sees the city of the pirate Korsars, he observes that
"Most of the buildings were white with red-tiled roofs, and there were
some with lofty minarets and domes of various colors -- blue and red and
gold, the last shining in the sunlight like the jewels in the diadem of
Dian the Empress."
So David, as an expression of his love for Dian
the Beautiful, the empress, had provided her with this sparkling symbol
of his affection and her office.
But the most wonderful prize was David's alone.
He said, "...for have I not that greatest of all treasures, the love of
a a good woman -- my wondrous empress, Dian the Beautiful?"
Abner 'Prayery': Study
Just as Pellucidar is the opposite of the world's outer crust in many ways,
so one of the series characters, Abner Perry, is the opposite of...Abner
This unique individual is a study in contrasts:
-- He is the only elderly man among a world full
of youthful-looking people;
-- He sometimes seems to be a peace-loving man;
at other times, he exhibits a warlikeness to rival that of humankind's
--He prays, frequently; yet "swears like a trooper."
Perry, David Innes' companion in Pellucidar, is
the inventor of the Iron Mole, the underground prospecting device with
the improperly engineered steering mechanism that sends the two on a downward
course to danger, adventure and, in David's case, romance at the Earth's
The opening chapter of At the Earth's Core is the
first we learn of Perry's penchant to invent things which don't work right
the first time. Later, he would build a sailboat, which would immediately
flip over; gunpowder, which would be useful for extinguishing fires, and
an airplane, which would taxi backward.
To Perry's credit, he was never discouraged with
his early failures, but kept working on his inventions until he got them
right, bringing the wonderful advantages of "civilization" to the stone
age people who sadly lacked these modern improvements.
Abner Perry came from humble roots. His father
had been a minister in a backwoods village (Pellucidar 3). Perhaps it was
growing up in such a place, where modern conveniences may not have abounded,
that spurred him on his constant quest to invent better, easier ways of
Likely, in that backwoods setting, he was required
to do a lot of walking, for he spurned such exercise. "...poor Perry hated
walking," said David Innes (At the Earth's Core, 4). "On earth I had oftren
seen him call a cab to travel a square."
Perry devoted the better part of a long life to
the "perfection" of the Iron Mole." As a relaxation, he studied paleontology
(Earth's Core, 1).
So at about the age of 65, Perry, an old man, came
to the land of youthful Pellucidarians.
In the inner world, the sun hangs eternally at
the position of noon, so it is difficult to keep track of the passage of
time. As a result, there seems to be no such thing as time, nor even aging,
There is, of course, some aging, as children are
born, and mature to become adults. But there the aging seems to slow to
a crawl, if that. Perhaps it is the climate of Pellucidar, or perhaps it
is the fact that people -- without the pressure of having to match their
lifestyles to a clock -- just naturally live longer. Or perhaps it is the
fact that the presence of ferocious beasts and human enemies keeps most
people killed off before they have a chance to get old, thus making it
"seem" like no one gets old. Probably, it is a combination of these and
In any case, "Land of Terror" is set 36 years after
the time that David and Abner first broke into the inner world. Thus, David
calculated, Perry had reached the age of 101, and David, in outer crust
time, had gone from 20 to 56 years of age. Yet, neither he nor Perry had
shown any physical evidence of the passage of time (Land of Terror, 1).
Perry, who probably didn't "feel" 101, was upset
at being told he was past the century mark: "He nearly threw a fit." So
David backed off on his age calculations in the next book, "Savage Pellucidar,"
probably just for Perry's benefit. Apparently, three decades in Pellucidar
had improved Perry's health to where walking was no longer a problem for
him, in spite of his advanced years, for he was proposing to undertake
a long, dangerous hike with David. At that point, David reminded him that
he was "over ninety" (Savage Pellucidar IV:1). "Stuff and nonsense," replied
Perry. "I can keep up with the best of you."
Perry was also a peace lover, yet was warlike.
When David and Perry were attempting to escape
from the intelligent reptile Mahars, David found four sleeping Mahars and
suggested that they kill them, skin them, and use their hides as disguises
to escape. "To my surprise, he (Perry) was horrified," said David (Earth's
Core, 5). "It would be murder, David," he cried.
"Here they are not monsters, David," he replied.
"Here they are the dominant race -- we are the 'monsters' -- the lower
Yet, at other times, Perry often took a warlike stance. He invented gunpowder
and guns to shoot it; he talked about inventing poison gas, and he tried
to invent an airplane to drop bombs on people, all to give them the benefits
When the good ship Sari was involved in the first
great naval engagement of the Empire, Perry scampered below while David
did the fighting with his revolver. After the enemy was driven away, Perry
resurfaced from his hiding place and asked, "Have the scoundrels departed,
have you killed them all, David?" (Pellucidar, 4)
But Perry was merciful as well. after the empire's
armada defeated Hooja's forces in another great sea battle, David says:
"At last I heard Ja shouting to the survivors in
the dugouts--they were all quite close to us now--offering them their lives
if they would surrender. Perry was standing close behind Ja, and I knew
that this merciful action was prompted, perhaps commanded, by the old man;
for no Pellucidarian would have thought of showing leniency to a defeated
foe." (Pellucidar, 14).
Perhaps the greatest contradiction in Abner Perry's
personality though, is his penchant to both pray and cuss.
Before David and Abner began their journey in the
Iron Mole, Perry prayed. When the mole controls refused to respond and
they were being carried toward what they thought was certain death, David
was quite sure that Perry would pray again "for he never left an opportunity
neglected when he might sandwich in a prayer. He prayed when he arose in
the morning, he prayed before he ate, he prayed when he had finished eating,
and before he went to bed at night he prayed again. In between he often
found excuses to pray even when the provocation seemed rather far-fetched
to my worldly eyes. Now that he was about to die I felt positive that I
should witness a perfect orgy of prayer--if one may allude with such a
simile to so solemn an act.
"But to my astonishment I discovered that with
death staring him in the face Abner Perry was transformed into a new being.
From his lips there flowed--not prayer--but a clear and limpid stream of
undiluted profanity, and it was all directed at the quietly stubborn piece
of unyielding mechanism." (Earth's Core, 1)
His backwoods minister father had instilled some
spiritual values into Abner Perry. He did believe in the value of prayer
and in the purpose of God. He told David (Earth's Core, 5), "I believe
that God sent us here for just that purpose--it shall be my life work to
teach them His word--to lead them into the light of His mercy while we
are training their hearts and hands in the ways of culture and civilization."
Yet, he could cuss a blue streak. And up through
the last book of the series, he was still at it. Said David: "He was almost
perpetually good natured; and when he wasn't praying, he was swearing like
a trooper...." (SP, I:10)
Why this contrast in behavior? We're never told
the content of any of Abner's prayers -- only that he prayed. But, we might
assume that some of those prayers were for forgiveness for times when his
temper ruled his mouth.
And since many of his prayers took place at times
when he and David were in deadly peril, it might also be assumed that those
prayers were for salvation from doom.
Though David Innes referred to himself as a worldly
person and to Perry's penchant for praying as a "harmless mania" and a
"little idiosyncrasy," perhaps a certain fact was not lost on the younger
Perry's prayers for deliverance were always answered.