Passions and Pulchritude in
By John Martin
Love and Marriage in the
The traditions of love, courtship, engagement
and marriage are as varied in Pellucidar as they are in the many cultures
of the outer world.
Our first glimpse of an inner world courtship custom
comes when Dian the Beautiful tells the reason she is far from her home
tribe. "Jubal the Ugly One placed his trophy before my father's house....It
remained there and no greater trophy was placed beside it. So I knew that
Jubal the Ugly One would come and take me as his mate." (At the Earth's
She further explained that there was a way out
for her. It was permitted that close relatives could discourage suitors.
In her case, there were none available or capable of thus intervening,
so she had no choice but to flee.
Our second lesson in the Pellucidarian "rites of
Spring" comes at the expense of David Innes, who decks Hooja when he determines
the Sly One's advanaces to Dian are unwelcome. Having fought on Dian's
behalf, David sees Dian look "at me with wide, wondering eyes, and then
she dropped her head, her face half averted, and a delicate flush suffused
her cheek. Then her head went high and she turned her back upon me....Dian's
cheek went suddenly from red to white."
From then on, Dian refused to have anything to
do with David. Ghak the Hairy One finally explained the situation to this
other-worlder: "When a man of Pellucidar intervenes between another man
and the woman the other man would have, the woman belongs to the victor....Had
you taken her hand, it would have indicated your desire to make her your
mate, and had you raised her hand above her head and then dropped it, it
would have meant that you did not wish her for a mate and that you released
her from all obligation to you. By doing neither you have put upon her
the greatest affront that man may put upon a woman. Now she is your slave."
Later, when David has another chance with Dian,
he grabs her hand and says "You are mine." She rebuffs him, saying, "I
do not believe you, for if you meant it you would have done this when the
others were present to witness it -- then I should truly have been your
mate; now there is no one to see you do it, for you know that without witnesses
your act does not bind you to me." (Earth's Core, 14)
This last pronouncement by Dian, however, was not
really a Pellucidarian custom, but Dian's hurt-fueled white lie. Witnesses
were not really needed; it was "magic words" that were necessary. Later,
when it finally occurred to David to utter those magic words ("I love you,"
chapter 14), there was no longer any insistence by Dian that witnesses
be present. In fact, the presence of others in their "Garden of Eden" at
that particular time would have been about as welcome as a serpent.
Perhaps because of Dian's experience with Jubal,
and perhaps at her urging, David made one of his official acts as Emperor
of Pellucidar to change some of the courtship rules. Hodon notes (Savage
Pellucidar, I:4) "that David Innes did not approve of the old fashioned
method of knocking a lady over the head with a club and dragging her off
to one's cave. He had made very strict laws on the subject. Now no man
could take a mate without the girl's consent."
Dian had waited for David to declare his love before
revealing her own. But as we read on in the Inner World series, we find
this is not so in every "land down under."
On the "island of love," Amiocap, is a young woman
named Letari who "does not hesitate to reveal what is in her heart" in
declaring her affection for Tanar, (Tanar of Pellucidar, 4). Says Tanar,
whose father, Ghak, is king of Sari, "The girls of Sari are not like that.
They would die rather than reveal their love before the man had declared
his. But perhaps she is only a child and did not realize what she said."
Snaps Stellara, Tanar's true love: "A child nothing.
She knew perfectly well what she was saying...."
Not all women of Pellucidar insist that a man make
some kind of decision after fighting for her. Jana, The Red Flower of Zoram,
is rescued from four attackers by Jason Gridley, another out-worlder ("Tarzan
at the Earth's Core, 7), but she apparently doesn't expect him to take
her hand afterward and evinces no hostility when he doesn't. She "saves"
her temper for later, when she hints to Jason that he loves her and he
hesitates just a little too long before replying (Tarzan at Earth's Core,
Eventually, Jason tells Jana he does love her and,
as in the case of Dian the Beautiful, that declaration is sufficient for
her to announce, at the end of the book, that she, too, loves him.
There is a pecking order for marriage among the
Mammoth Men, just as there is among many tribes and cultures of the outer
surface. It was considered proper that the oldest daughter have a man first.
This tribe also practiced polygamy, since a man who wanted a younger daughter
had to take the older one(s) along with her if the father insisted (Back
to the Stone Age, 14). Just like Laban snookered Jacob into marrying his
oldest, Leah, before he got Rachel, the one he really wanted (Genesis 29).
If a Mammoth Woman picked a reluctant groom-elect,
her father or another champion could fight him. If the champion won, the
groom would belong to the woman. (Back to the Stone Age, 15)
While placing a grisly hunting trophy at the door
of a woman's hut might be comparable to an engagement ring, the actual
wedding rite seemed to be far less complicated.
In only one passage in the series do we read of
a "marriage ceremony," when David says, "While I was waiting for sleep
to come, I overheard a conversation in a nearby hut. A man was speaking,
and he was trying to persuade a woman to enter the hut with him, which
would have consummated the simple marriage ceremony of the Ruvans..." (Land
of Terror, 25)
If such a marriage "ceremony" was recognized on
the outer surface, there would be a lot more "married" folks than there
are now. But it is binding and respected in Pellucidar. After David and
Dian declare their love, anything more is left to our imagination. But
when David is reunited with Perry, he introduces Dian as his wife. (Earth's
ERB describes a rather unromantic marriage "seal"
when the gruesome Grum of the Mammoth Men takes Horg as mate. She begins
their wedded bliss by beating the tar out of him. "You've got to start
right with them," she explained. "If you give them the least little toe-hold,
By way of reaction, Von Horst remembers he "had
known women of the outer crust who were like her. Perhaps their technic
[sic] was more refined, but their aim was identical. Marriage to them meant
a struggle for supremacy. It was a 50-50- proposition of their own devising
-- they took fifty and demanded the other fifty." (Stone Age, 15)
If marriage ceremony there be in Pellucidar, then
it is the simple and honest declaration of love and commitment between
man and woman, the same type made by Bowen Tyler and Lys LaRue at the conclusion
of the novelette about the prehistoric world on the outer surface, "The
Land that Time Forgot."
Thus, for all practical purposes, Tanar and Stellara
are married in Chapter 9 of "Tanar" with words as moving and binding as
any ever heard in an outer-worldly service:
"Before him stood Stellara, her beautiful eyes
filled with incredulity and with happiness.
" 'Tanar!' It was only a whisper, but it carried
to him a world of meaning that sent thrill after thrill through his body.
" 'Stellara!' he cried, as he took the girl in
his arms. 'Stellara, I love you.'
"Her soft arms stole around his neck and drew his
face to hers. His mouth covered her mouth in a long kiss, and, as she raised
his face to look down into hers, from her parted lips burst a single exclamation,
'Oh, God!' and from the depth of her half-closed eyes burned a love beyond
" 'My mate,' he cried, as he pressed her form to
" 'My mate,' breathed Stellara, 'while life remains
in my body and after life, throughout death forever!' "
Thus, they pronounced themselves man and wife.
Exotic Flowers of the
While writing of courageous adventurers and fearsome monsters in the inner
world, Edgar Rice Burroughs paused along the way to appreciate its beauty,
as passed on to him by the narrators of the stories he recorded.
In the first book, he described "...the gorgeous
flowering grass of the inner world, each particular blade of which is tipped
with a tiny, five-pointed blossom--brilliant little stars of varying colors
that twinkle in the green foliage to add still another charm to the weird,
yet lovely, landscape." (At the Earth's Core, 7)
Flowery writing? Yes. But I believe ERB topped
himself in "Savage Pellucidar" (I:6) when he wrote a sentence that is as
descriptively clever as any ever penned by any great writer anywhere:
"Great sprays of orchids trailed down the rocky
face of the cliff, gorgeous corsages pinned to the breast of the mountain."
One of the most intriguing descriptions of a flower
ever to grace the pages of an ERB book, though, came in "Tarzan at the
Earth's Core," Chapter 7, when he described this beauty of Pellucidar:
"Her single, soft garment made from the pelt of
tarag cubs, whipped about her naked legs, half revealing, half concealing
the rounded charms of her girlish figure. The noonday sun shone down upon
her light, bronzed skin, glistening from the naked contours of a perfect
shoulder and imparting golden glints to her hair that was sometimes a lustrous
brown and again a copper bronze. It was piled loosely upon her head and
held in place by slender, hollow bones of the dimorphodon, a little long-tailed
cousin of the thipdar. The upper ends of these bone pins were ornamented
with carving and some of them were colored. A fillet of soft skin ornamented
in colors encircled her brow and she wore bracelets and anklets made of
the vertebrae of small animals, strung upon leather thongs. These, too,
were carved and colored. Upon her feet were stout, little sandals, soled
with the hide of the mastodon and from the center of her headband rose
a single feather. At her hip was a stone knife and in her right hand a
Such was Jana, The Red Flower of Zoram.