History can be Actual or Mythic depending
upon what you wish to present. The Mythic History of George Washington
involves chopping down a cherry tree to demonstrate honesty or throwing
a silver dollar across a river to demonstrate governmental fiscal irresponsibility
or the superhuman strength of the Father of the US and so on, neither of
which actually happened.
The Mythic history of Christopher Columbus describes
how Columbus was the only person who knew that the world as round whereas
the actual history shows that everyone knew that, but Asia was simply too
far to reach by sea before the ships fell apart.
The Mythic history of Israel describes a multitude
of plagues against Egypt yet, not one person, anywhere in or out of Egypt
ever mentions that ‘hundreds of thousands of children died overnight and
the Nile turned into blood and …”
Now, I have no problem with a mythic history so long
as we recognize that Myth is an allegory for the Human Condition and not
real. As an Irishman, I can talk about the battle over Ireland between
the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha de Dannan and in the same breath describe the
Celtic Invasions. Which leads me to Troy!
The Mythic history of Troy is, as every reader of Homer
knows (unless you watched the films), was a 10 year long war to recover
Helen from Paris, the guy not the city. The Iliad, however, concerns
itself with only a few months near the end of the war and you must read
other sources to get all the rest of the stuff that we ‘think’ was described
in Homer's epic poem.
The Iliad talks about heroes! Specifically, Achilles
and his relations with Agememnon and Hector for in those days, war was
different. The Real history of Troy is simple and quite depressing.
Troy, a vassal state of the Hittite Empire, controlled the Dardenelles,
that narrow strait that allowed travel between the Black Sea (with the
gold fields of Cholcis a la Jason and the Golden Fleece) and the Aegean
Sea which was controlled by the Greeks who were the Mediterranean version
of Vikings. And the Trojan War was merely a series of raids by the Greeks
over decades or even centuries to rob and control that oh so valuable waterway.
But no one wants to hear that their ancestors were simple pirates so Homer
dressed it up to sound like a noble enterprise which sells more tickets
than does the truth.
And the Greeks, Like the Japanese Samurai and the Danish
Vikings and even my own Irish ancestors, were concerned with honor and
glory. And how do you get this glory? You line your followers
up on the field before Troy and wait. Eventually Troy sends out their
greatest hero with his followers and everyone sits in a row watching as
your hero, Achilles, struts around and brags about how great he is.
Then Hector walks forward and calls Achilles a momma’s-boy who wets his
pants and brags about how great he, Hector, is. Eventually one of
them gets tired of holding up that heavy shield and lowers it to take a
break and the other guy tosses a spear at him which he tries to avoid and
the battle starts with both sides watching and commenting on style. In
the meantime Achilles is running around screaming for Patroclus to get
off his fat ass and bring him another spear and when that is done, the
two heroes face off again. Repeat until one hero is dead. If
the fight lasts too long, both sides call it a draw, go home and start
again the next day. If Hector kills Achilles, then the next greatest
Greek hero comes forward to challenge Hector who is, hopefully, too tired
to fight and… repeat. Eventually, all the Heroes are dead or tired
or drinking to each other's health and the sides advance and break into
individual fights to win glory and fame and become Heroes themselves.
Helen, was simply an excuse. Agememnon used Helen
to guilt his friends into doing yet another raid on Troy and this time
they talked Achilles and his personal army of would-be hopeful heroes along
So how does this relate to Jetan? I'm Irish,
I cannot take I-10 from Tucson to Phoenix, I need to go up Oracle Road
and check out the boat store in Catalina, then pull off to see the Monument
to Tom Mix and then stop at a couple yard sales and look over the Casa
Grande monument and maybe the ostrich ranch and… So to get to Jetan,
I need to make a few side trips to justify the journey.
I like chess and I collect chess games. I especially
find a wooden set to be aesthetically pleasing to the touch. It's
like reading a First Edition of Princess of Mars over a Kindle download
(and where the [bleep] is my hard bound 2nd edition of Chessmen of Mars?).
Both present the same story but there is just something about a well-thumbed
hardback that enhances the soul. Plastic chess pieces are ok but
nothing encourages the mind and soul like a god wood Chess set! And
if I can find enough of these smaller wooden travel sets, I can cannibalize
a few to more easily make a wooden Jetan set. And here is where I
am nearing Phoenix. I was sitting in my workshop converting bishops
into Dwars and Padwars and rooks into Fliers and so on when it struck me!
Chess is about lines of attack but Jetan is about areas of Defense!
War on Barsoom isn't about fighting over a few square haads of desert that
can't support even a starving thoat, war on Barsoom is about defending
your Waterways against Green Men and other Red Nations that want your resources.
Jetan is about war and how to win that war! Duh! Any fan of
Chess will tell you the same, but the mindset of Jetan must change.
But there are questions?
In Chess, in all of its variations from the forms played
in Japan or China or India to the SF versions to the modern game we all
should love, is simple. Take the King! By hook or by crook,
by Queen or by Bishop or by pawn, take the king and you win! But
Jetan is different? Why? Why is it that the ONLY way to win
is by capturing the Princess or having a Chief capture a Chief? If
a Dwar or Panthan takes a Chief, the game is a draw! Why? If
Chess is an allegory for war just as every religious book is an allegory
for the human condition, can Jetan not be the same? What if Jetan
is a Mythical History of a real war between the Black and Yellow Races
fought so long ago that the Actual history became lost and only the Mythic
Consider this, how many times did Helium go to war
to rescue Dejah Thoris? The War with Jahar was advertised to rescue
Sonoma Tora. Why are so many wars begun over the abduction of a Princess?
And why would you face off with someone holding a few feet of steel cutlery
when you can plug a thermo-nuclear round into their chest at ten miles?
It's all about honor and glory and getting your name spoken in an epic
poem centuries after you are dead!
If Jetan is a mythic history of a war between the Yellow
Race of the North and the Black Race of the South, what does that tell
us? Well, the key to politics and history is Geography!
The entire Trojan War(s) was fought because of a freak of geography!
The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan was because of Geography! The
USSR needed a warm water port that could not be blockaded and Kabul was
that port. Afghanistan was simply a stepping stone to Pakistan!
So let us look at the Geography of Mars.
Geography tells us that the Northern Ice caps are stable
and large but the Southern Ice caps are small and variable. It tells
us that as Barsoom was dying, the Black Race could not depend upon their
southern ice cap to provide enough water (this was long before the discovery
of Omean) but the Yellow Race had more than enough water in their northern
ice caps. And as the Orovars began to build the Waterways to save
Barsoom, they built them from the North, crossing an entire world to provide
valuable water to the south.
The Black Race NEEDED water! And here is what
I think happened.
The Black Race kidnapped a Yellow Princess to force
them to provide water and, of course, the Yellow Race fielded an army to
recover her! The Yellow Race army met the Black Race army on some
dead seabed, faced off, the Black Race bringing their own Princess to cheer
her Heroes on, and as the two armies faced off, the greatest heroes came
forward and fought it out. When one died, the second-best hero came
forward to challenge and so on until all the great heroes were dead or
exhausted and the ranking Dwar yelled, “Attack” and both armies charged
together which individual combats being fought with each warrior screaming,
Remember in the Knights of King Arthur stories where
only a Knight could fight a Knight? Barsoom, Troy, Ireland and so
on were the same. Only a hero could challenge a hero! If some
low-ranking peasant were to kill Arthur, imagine the embarrassment…
From le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Mallory, final
“…And Arthur had vanquished all of his foes.
Kings from the north and south and east and west were defeated and upon
the plains before Camelot, greatest of all cities, were these fallen kings
brought forth to submit and swear fealty to King Arthur. And as the
Great King rose to his full height to impose sentence, a farmer of unknown
name rose from the peat behind the High King and shoved a dirty wooden
pitchfork up the arse of Arthur who died three days later of an infected
The great shame of Achilles was not his argument with
Agememnon over Chryseis or what he did to the body of the Amazon Penthesilea
(can you spell necrophilia?), nor was it when Patroclus steals his armor,
pretends to be Achilles and got killed by Hector by mistake. No,
the shame of Achilles is getting shot by an arrow from behind by Paris
without the honor of facing the man who killed him and dying in a tent,
NOT in honest battle.
So while the fight is waging, the Chiefs are hacking
their way through the panthans seeking each other when some unknown panthan
rises up and kills the Chief! How humiliating. “nyah nyah,
your Chief got killed by a peasant! Ha hah ha! You guys are such
Both sides retreat and regroup while the one side does
a hasty search-and-coronation of a new Chief and the next day, a new battle
begins. A new game upon the board.
BUT, what if a group of lesser ranking warriors manage
to kidnap the opposing side's Princess? They cannot kill her because
she is a woman and so harming her would be sacrilege, dishonorable, cowardly.
The princess is ‘captured’ not ‘killed’. They get her around the
field and drag her to the royal pavilion where the priests scream, “LOOK!”
Everyone pauses, sees what has happened and the Chief rushes to his pavilion
where he hastily removes one manacle from the captive Princess and before
he is overrun by the enemies, that priest calls out, “Inowpronounceyoumanandwife!”
and the Chief handcuffs himself to the captured Princess and laughs, “I
married your Princess which makes me your Jed! War is over, we won!
It explains so much if we look at Jetan as a Mythic
history of a real event.
It explains why only a Chief can defeat a Chief or
the game is a draw.
It explains why any piece can capture the Princess
And it explains why, to this day, a Barsoomian Wedding
is when the bride and groom are manacled together.
Myths are a history rewritten to make you look good
and to use said myth to explain the human allegory and why we do this,
instead of that. They are as real as Jetan is to war, but equally
valuable if we take the time to feel their meaning.