Pitch-Black in Pellucidar?
By John Martin
The Dark of the Moon
Is there such a thing as day and night in the
Inner World? Yes.
Is there such a thing as day and night in Pellucidar?
Depends on your definition of Pellucidar.
Pellucidar is the name given to the Inner World
which curves ever upward on the inside of our globe, 500 miles below our
surface. The name Pellucidar comes from the English word "Pellucid," which
means "translucently clear." It's a good name for the land which is lit
at all times by the eternal noonday sun at the true center of the earth.
This sun happens to have a moon-like satellite,
and it is not called by the name of Pellucidar but by the name of "Dead
World." This moon rotates on an axis, so that the side facing the Pellucidarian
sun is experiencing day while the side facing Pellucidar below is having
David Innes, getting his first real look at the
Dead World in "Pellucidar," noted, "As I watched it, I saw that it was
revolving upon an axis that lay parallel to the surface of Pellucidar,
so that during each revolution its entire surface was once exposed to the
world below and once bathed in the heat of the great sun above. The little
world had that which Pellucidar could not have -- a day and night and --
greatest of boons to one outer-earthly born -- time."
The "Dead World" had mountains, rivers and forests
just like Pellucidar below it and the outer surface beyond that. But ERB
never wrote of any flight undertaken by denizens of Pellucidar to attempt
to explore the world above, although its bottom side was always only about
a mile above Pellucidar itself. Thus, it never became known whether the
"Dead" World was actually populated by any living creatures which could
experience the regimentation of night and day cycles.
ERB reports that Pellucidar itself is a timeless
land because no one can keep track of time, the sun always positioned at
"noon." For awhile, Abner Perry and David Innes used the Dead World, also
referred to as "The Pendent World," as a timepiece, announcing the completion
of a time cycle each time a certain landmark on the Dead World completed
a rotation. However, the people of Pellucidar were happier with timelessness,
so after the invention of time proved unpopular, the whole idea was scrapped.
Night in the Inner World?
Because Pellucidar is lit by an eternal noonday
sun, which hangs in the exact center of the Earth and lights up the landscape
on the concave side of our planet, there is no such thing as night.
Or is there?
There are at least two references in the Pellucidar
series which mention night, something which is impossible on Pellucidar.
Are these simply the result of a slip of ERB's pen, or is there some reason
to believe the references are exactly as reported?
In neither case does ERB himself report that there
is such a thing as night falling; rather, the references are both contained
in quotes by people in the Inner World.
The first comes in the second book of the series,
"Pellucidar." David Innes's search for his lovely mate, Dian the Beautiful,
takes him to The Land of Awful Shadow, the shady part of Pellucidar which
lies directly below the Pellucidarian moon, known alternately as either
the Dead World or the Pendent World. It hangs a mile above the surface
of Pellucidar and in an orbit synchronized with the movement of the Earth
so that it always casts a shadow over the same landscape below.
The shadow covers a large area, for in The Land
of Awful Shadow are seas, islands and various villages and peoples. When
David first entered the vicinity of the land, he said, "However, when the
river led me to the sea, or rather just before it reached the sea, of a
sudden the sky became overcast and the size and luxuriance of the vegetation
diminished as by magic -- as if an omnipotent hand had drawn a line upon
the earth, and said: 'Upon this side shall the trees and the shrubs, the
grasses and the flowers, riot in profusion of rich colors, gigantic size
and bewildering abundance; and upon that side shall they be dwarfed and
pale and scant.'"
Even though the land is in shadow, there is still
enough light available, perhaps coming in from the lighted areas circling
the shadow, to allow people to see. On his trek, David is spotted by a
lad from a village who, obviously, can see him. "The youth who had seen
us was evidently of the Thurians. That he had lost no time in racing homeward
and spreading the word of my coming was evidenced when we had come within
sight of the clearing, and the village -- the first real village, by the
way, that I had ever seen constructed by human Pellucidarians." (Pellucidar,
chapter VII, "Plight to Plight.')
A couple of pages later, David says, "As we came
in sight of the warriors the men set up a great jabbering. Their eyes were
wide in astonishment..."
So, we have several references to seeing. The youth
saw; David came within sight of the clearing, David saw the village, and
came "in sight" of the warriors, whose "eyes were wide." A whole lot of
seeing going on in the Land of Awful Shadow.
That is easily explained because just as we on
the outer surface can see just fine in shady areas, so could the Pellucidarians.
One reference, though, is puzzling. As David describes
a village, he says, "There was no gate. Ladders that could be removed by
night led over the palisade." But David! There is no night in Pellucidar!
We can, perhaps, easily explain this seeming contradiction
simply by attributing it to an erroneous assumption and forgetfulness on
David's part. He was a man of the outer surface and accustomed to night
and day. When he saw that the ladders were not permanently fixed, his first
thought may have been that they pulled them up at night. A more accurate
assumption would have been that they pulled them up when enemies attacked.
The Night of the Korsar
We've seen that there is real night and day on
the Dead World which orbits above Pellucidar, and we've seen how people
from the outer crust can think in terms of night and day even in a land
where the sun always hangs at noon. But native Pellucidarians were never
think in those ways. Or would they?
There is at least one other mention of night in
ERB's Pellucidar series. It comes in the third book in the series, "Tanar
of Pellucidar." Tanar and Stellara experience many harrowing adventures,
including capture and recapture by the Korsars, a pirate-like people who
had originally come to Pellucidar through the Polar opening from the outer
In Chapter 17, the pair are imprisoned in the Korsar
city when the opportunity comes to escape. Tanar thinks their best bet
it to disguise themselves as bearded Korsar seamen. He applies pitch to
their faces and they stick on hair cut from the beard of a Korsar Tanar
had slain. Tanar is easily able to complete his disguise with Korsar clothing,
but it's a different matter for the lovely and shapely Stellara. The hair
applied to her face had done its job, but Tanar saw no easy way to disguise
her girlish figure until Stellara herself came up with a solution: "Wait,"
exclaimed Stellara. "Sometimes the sailors, when they are going on long
voyages, wear cloaks, which they use to sleep in if the nights are cool.
Let us see if we can find such a one here."
This is harder to explained. The Korsars well may
have used such cloaks when they or their forbears, perhaps the Mediterranean
Corsairs, were on the outer surface, but Stellara would have had no way
of knowing that. Nor would she have had any idea of the concept of night,
or the word for it.
But perhaps there is a logical explanation for
this one as well. She may actually have said something about them sleeping
in them when the weather was cool. "Tanar of Pellucidar" was narrated by
Abner Perry, in a radio message to Jason Gridley on the Earth's surface.
Abner, an outer crust man accustomed to the concept of night, may have
mistranslated Stellara's words and mistakenly used the term of "night"
when he should have said something about "when they sleep."
Or, Abner could have said it accurately but ERB himself
could have typed it wrongly when he was converting the story, third or
fourth hand, to his typewriter.
It's a natural assumption for an outer crust man
to make, even when he knows better.