Playing Around in and with Pellucidar
By John Martin
Humor in Savage World
Often Takes Subtle Turn
The name of the book is "Land of Terror," not
"Land of Humor," but the aforesaid volume and the one after, "Savage Pellucidar,"
despite their frightening titles, probably contain more intentionally humorous
remarks and situations than do, on the average, any of the preceding five
books in the inner world series.
Humor always plays a role in any Edgar Rice Burroughs
story, but it seems that ERB exercised his gift of making people smile
even more in his later years.
One might read through the earlier books and come
away with the impression that inner world dwellers don't do a whole lot
of laughing. But David Innes corrects this impression in "Land of Terror,"
describing one kind of humor, at least:
"Possibly because they didn't like him, the men
of the tribe made U-Val the butt of crude jokes because of his profitless
attention to O-Ra; and I may say that Stone Age humor is often raw. However,
much of it has come down intact for perhaps a million years to the present
day on the outer crust. I recognized in many of the paleolithic jokes old
friends with which I had been well acquainted back in Hartford, Connecticut."
(Land of Terror, 25)
Yes, there is humor in the Pellucidar series, though
not all of it comes at us directly. Some of it comes through the way ERB
tells it, and some is there between the lines in things ERB doesn't say.
Take subjects on which ERB is silent, for instance.
In the first book, we read of David and Abner Perry's capture by monkey
men: "When they had examined me for a few moments one of them discovered
that my clothing was not a part of me, with the result that garment by
garment they tore it from me amidst peals of the wildest laughter." (Earth's
When David is taken to the monkey man "camp," he
finds Abner Perry also captured and also naked. Before the men can do much
more than laugh at each other's condition, they are snatched again by the
monkey men and taken to an arena, where they are to be killed for sport.
But fate intervenes in the person of Sagoths, who charge the arena, capture
David and Abner, and immediately add them to a chain of human prisoners.
It is there they meet fellow captives, including
David's future mate, Dian the Beautiful. David and Abner seem to fit easily
into the group, learning the language and customs of Pellucidar. What ERB
doesn't say, though, is if and when and how David and Abner ever got any
clothes again! It appears they were put on the chain naked, where David
nonchalantly makes the acquaintance of his beautiful bride-to-be. It seems
to me that David should have been just a wee bit self-conscious about his
nude condition, but ERB makes nary a comment about it.
ERB comes right out and makes lots of humorous
statements, though. One such is David's encounter with a cave bear on a
snow-swept mountain: "I was going up for a fur coat. He was coming down
for breakfast. Each realized that here was the very thing he sought." (Pellucidar,
There's a lot of intentional and double-edge humor
in "Back to the Stone Age." On the one hand, we can laugh at the outer-crust
jokes Von Horst cracks. On the other hand, we can smile at La-Ja's failure
to "get" the jokes.
But I found a bit of, perhaps, unintentional humor
in chapter 9.
La-Ja, talking about finding her way in Pellucidar,
says, "When one does not know and cannot follow one's head, then one should
always turn to the left and follow one's heart." But a few pages later,
La-Ja must have forgotten her own advice. They come to some branch tunnels
in a cave and she wonders which one to take. Von Horst has forgotten her
advice, too, because he then says, "Let's start with the one farthest on
our right. It may be as good a guess as any, and at best it's only a guess,
no matter which one we decide on."
Then there is the little cave near where Hodon
is held prisoner in "Savage Pellucidar." (I:2)
Hodon would like to get out on the ledge to examine
the possibilities of escape. He asks another prisoner if they are allowed
on the ledge. "If you have a good reason," is the reply, "you will be allowed
to go to the little cave at the far end of the ledge."
"I have a good reason," Hodon responds. He goes
to the mouth of the cave, speaks to a guard, and is given permission to
go to the little cave.
Just what is this little cave anyway, and what
would be the "good reason" for going there. The unwritten answer seems
obvious...it is the "bathroom cave."
There are many other things that bring smiles in
the Pellucidar series. One final one: When O-aa wades ashore to be greeted
by the religious people of Tanga-Tanga, they think she is the goddess "Noada"
and it is their duty to cover their eyes in the presence of Noada. O-aa,
who knows nothing of religion, can imagine only one reason for people covering
their eyes: So, she "glanced down to see if she had lost her loin-cloth,
and was relieved to find that she had not." (SP 2:4)
Trivial Pursuit: The Inner
(No word yet on when this edition of the popular board
game will hit Toys R Us.)
1. Who dumped Rana for Kleeto?
A. Zuppner of the zeppelin
B. Zor of Zoram
C. Zurk the Zurt
D. None of Zee above
3. What question are we specifically told you never ask
A. What's your sign?
B. What time is it?
C. Are you afraid?
D. Is there a Santa Claus?
3. The "buried people" are also known as:
4. Which of the following was on Abner Perry's drawing
D. Flushing toilet
5. Jana's sister is:
D. Chiquita Banana
6. Who, in Pellucidar, could give an order to "strike
up the band?"
A. The Korsars
B. The Mahars
C. Lolo-Loloans & Tanga-tangans
D. Abner Perry
7. The prime minister of the Empire of Pellucidar is:
A. Ghak the Hairy One
B. Abner Perry
C. Dacor the Strong One
8. Which group is religious?
A. The Ja-rus
B. The Jukans
C. The Jakoks
D. The Juloks
9. Abner Perry is the narrator of:
B. Tanar of Pellucidar
C. Savage Pellucidar
D. Beyond the Farthest Star
10. Gr-Gr-Gr is:
A. Noise made by stuttering cave bear
B. Grum's wedding song
C. Mate of Mamth
D. Ruler of Brute-Men
For non-Pellucidar experts, the answers can be found by
THE STUNNING ANSWERS:
1. B (LT-15)
2. C (SP-I:7)
3. A (TP-5)
4. A (SP-IV:1)
5. A (TEC-7)
6. B (AEC-6)
7. B (P-3)
8. B (LT-6)
10. D (P-8)
When, at First, He Doesn’t
"What is that thing, Abner?" asked David Innes
of his crochety old inventor friend.
"It's a television set, David," he beamed. "I just
invented it. And we're just in time to watch the Super Bowl."
"What's a Super Bowl?" asked David, completing
forgetting to ask the preliminary question of "What does a television set
"You'll see, David," said Perry. "Now you and Ghak
sit there. Dian is at the fire pit making sandwiches, and I'll just turn
Perry clicked the switch and after a couple of
minutes of snow there appeared a picture bright and clear.
David and Ghak looked at each other and rolled
their eyes. Dian came in with the sandwiches and said, "Oh Goodie, look
"Abner!" roared David in exaasperation. "Your TV
set only gets figure skating!"