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Volume 1108

Iím Yet Alive! 

    -- Phra the Swordsman
and all that stuff --

by Dale R. Broadhurst

back to part 2

Part Three:

What Edwin Arnold Hath Wrought

About the end of September, 1964 I was passing through Salt Lake City and thought I'd stop and browse in a downtown book shop that carried a wide assortment of science fiction, fantasy and various other unusual items. One oddity that quickly caught my eye was a 40 cent Ace Books paperback, stuck in with the metaphysical offerings. Its vibrant Frank Frazetta artwork looked strangly out of place among the bland covers and traditional titles that surrounded it: "The Light of Asia," "The Bhagavad Gita," and "Indian Idylls from the Mahabharata." However, I shrugged my shoulders, plunked down my 40 cents and started on my way out of the store. Only then did I happen to glance at the back cover of the strange book. Here's what Ace Books Editor Donald A. Wollheim had printed there:


Lieutenant Gulliver Jones, U. S. N., arrived on Mars in a most unexpexected fashion and promptly found himself head-over-heels in adventure. For Mars was a planet of ruined cities, ancient peoples, copper-skinned swordsmen, and weird and awesome monsters. There was a princess to be rescued, a River of Death to be navigated, and a strange prophecy to be fulfilled.

Here is a long-lost classic of interplanetary adventure which some science-fiction experts think may have helped to inspire the immortal Edgar Rice Burroughs. Though by no means a Burroughs novel, everyone who has ever enjoyed a novel of Barsoom will find Edwin L. Arnold's Gulliver of Mars a special reading delight.

Well! This was interesting stuff after all -- said to have possibly inspired "the immortal Edgar Rice Burroughs," eh? The book also had an Introduction penned by the Canaveral Press editor, Richard A. Lupoff. That was also news to me. I had recently met personally with Dick, at the 1964 SF Con in Oakland, and I could not recall his saying a darned thing about any new proto-ERB book coming on the market. My comprehension must have been as dense as Ptarthian ersite, when Uncle Dick was speeking to us fellow Burroughs Bibliophiles in California earlier that month. I must have simply dismissed the rumors that Lupoff had discovered some literary oddity (and then had given it to Wollheim at Ace, when Canaveral didn't publish it). At any rate, here is what Lupoff had to say in his Introduction to the Ace Books paperback edition of Gulliver of Mars:


Sometimes a mystery is solved by long exertions, the tracking down and examination of innumerable clues, and the methodical labors of the detective. Sometimes a mystery is solved by brilliant insight or complex ratiocination. Sometimes the detective stumbles across the solution more by chance than by virtue. And sometimes, he has a solution handed him on a silver platter!

The last was the case in answering two mysterious questions: Did Edgar Rice Burroughs contact his marvelous Martian series out of thin air, or did he have some source or sources? And, if there was a source, what was it? Such questions have become increasingly relevant as the Burroughs boom of the 1960's has gone from a minor literary curiosity to a sensation remarked upon by such varied journals as "Antiquarian Bookman" magazine, "The New York Times" book review, and "Life."

Where, then, if anywhere than his own fertile imagination, did ERB find the planet Barsoom with its decadent civilization, its red men and its green barbarians, its curious biology and its sacred River Iss, down which any Barsoomian, ready to face death, took the final pilgrimage from which none ever return? 

The answer came to me in 1963 when Stephen Takacs, the prominent science-fiction book dealer and collector, decided to liquidate most of his personal collection. Takacs knew that I had recently been appointed editor-in-chief of Canaveral Press, the exclusive authorized hardcover Burroughs publisher, and that I was of course vitally interested in ERB's works and all matters related to them.

"Here's a Burroughs-type novel," Takacs said to me one day, offering a rather thick, red-bound edition. I looked the book over. It was a 1905 publication by a London publisher, long since defunct. The title was "Lieut. Gulliver Jones: His Vacation," by Edwin L. Arnold. I had barely heard of Arnold, and that by virtue of his best-known work, an earlier novel titled "Phra The Phoenician." I had never read "Phra," and had never come across "Gulliver Jones" at all.

I will confess that gave Steve Takacs a slightly fishy look at the moment. He was, after all, trying to sell me the book. But I finally took it home, whereupon I put it aside in favor of some other reading and had nearly forgotten it when, some months later, I again came across the book. This time I thought I'd try a few chapters, and although the "science" was hardly air tight (Gully get to Mars by flying carpet!) the style was sprightly, the characters were interesting, and the pace of the story was, to make a gross understatement, rapid. In short, this is a dilly of a book!

But more to the point for a literary detective, is the fact that Gulliver Jones's Mars and John Carter's Barsoom bear such resemblance as to stretch the long arm of coincidence far beyond the breaking point. Following Gully's unscientific advent on Mars (and John Carter's apparent astral projection to the red planet is hardly more feasible than Jones's flying carpet), he encounters a civilization remarkably like that of ERB's books, even down to the curious absence of old people and small children from Martian society.

Jones meets his Dejah Thoris -- she is Princess Heru -- and his Heliumites -- the magnificently conceived Hither People. He duplicates Carter's rescue of Dejah as recounted in "A Princess of Mars" and Carter's voyage down the Iss as described in Burroughs's "The Gods of Mars." And his return to Earth near the end of Arnold's book parallels Carter's return at the end of "Princess."

As for publishing dates, "Lieut. Gulliver Jones" appeared in 1905. Burroughs wrote "A Princess of Mars" in 1911, and it was first published the following year in "All-Story" magazine. How a copy of "Gulliver Jones" found its way from England to America and Burroughs' possession will probably never be known. The book never had an American edition before now. Nor did ERB ever refer to it, as far as available records show. (One might still ask, Did Burroughs ever read "Gulliver Jones," but after reading the Arnold book and the opening trilogy of the Barsoomian series, one would not be inclined to do so.)

Perhaps the only major flaw in the comparison of "Gulliver Jones" with Burroughs' Martian books, is the central character. John Carter, as we all know, is immortal, daring, the greatest swordsman of two worlds. Gully Jones is no John Carter.

If the search for Barsoom leads to Edwin Lester Arnold's "Lieut. Gulliver Jones," where will the search for John Carter lead? With the thousands upon thousands of fantasy novels that have ever appeared (or rather, that appeared before 1911), it would seem a hopeless task to trace one character. Unless...

Unless... if Barsoom comes from one Arnold book, might Carter not come from another? From Arnold's best-known work, "Phra the Phoenician"?

That was where I next turned, and there, plain as can be: Phra the Phoenician is John Carter! But that is another story, another book. Maybe someday someone will reprint it.   -- Richard A. Lupoff

Another Turn of the Karmic Wheel?

All of this sudden enlightenment caused me to go back to the rack where the careless book dealer had mixed the Gulliver (or "Gullivar" for the Arnold purists) Jones book in with all those metaphysical tomes. As I was looking for more titles by "Edwin Lester Arnold," I realized that the books on either side of the Ace paperback were Theosophical Society editions of writings by an older "Sir Edwin Arnold," a fellow who, I soon surmised, was probably the father of the younger Edwin. In fact, that was my introduction to the "Eastern" writings of Sir Edwin, a famous Victorian Era British diplomat and poet who had served his country throughout the Orient and who eventually wrote a number of interesting volumes as a result of that unique experience. 

Captain John Carter's so-called "astral projection" to Mars.
By Jim Gary. © 1939, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

At first I thought that perhaps the two British Edwins were Theosophists and what the son had written between the covers of the Gulliver Jones book might serve to vindicate Fritz Leiber's old notion that ERB had taken a few ideas from Theosophist teachings to embellish his Martian tales. However, that did not prove to be the case. I could never find any evidence that either the famous father or the son were Theosophists, despite that occult group's fascination with Sir Edwin's texts. Totally lacking from the Gulliver Jones story were any mentions of astral projection to neighboring planets, fantastic aliens who looked like Lemurians, or airships with tanks full of buoyant vril. Edwin Lester Arnold may have picked up a few tidbits of Eastern thought from his father (reincarnation, the Thai word "Phra," Dad's interesting "Introduction" to young Edwin's first book, etc.) but this author was definitely not a link between mystical religion and the imagination of Edgar Rice Burroughs. If there was a connection between the younger Arnold and ERB, it was one of common Martian story devices, not any shared dependence upon the Theosophical writers.

Any reader who looked over Lupoff's 1964 Introduction would have been justified in thinking that the Gullivar story was going to read as much like an ERB novel as the tales of Otis A. Kline did. After all, Lupoff was doing a hard sell of his ideas, practically accusing Burroughs of intentional borrowings and he was also ignoring the softer, less assertive language of Wollheim ("may have helped to inspire," "by no means a Burroughs novel," etc.). Now Dick may have been a great SF and comics fan, and his zine Xero may have won a Hugo award, and all that, but his jarring claims soon roused the ire of hundreds of ERB fans. Whatever thematic parallels they might share, Arnold's book just didn't read at all like Burroughs' prose! To ERB fans like Sam Peeples and Vern Coriell it must have looked like Lupoff and Wollheim were simply gleaning a few more bucks from unwary Barsoom enthusiasts, by deceptively repackaging antique interplanetary fantasy to look like another Ace production drawn from the vaults of ERB Inc. Here's part of what Samuel A. Peeples had to say, shortly after the Arnold book appeared:

... It seems that any author who attains a fairly marked success is fair game for these literary scavengers. Lacking any creative talents, they seek to destroy and belittle that of others... Richard Lupoff, admittedly a man who had never read a Burroughs book until he became affiliated with Canaveral Press in their publishing venture as editor, has blossomed out as the latest of these self-styled literary marvels... In the recently published (with no royalty being paid the original author) Ace edition of Gulliver of Mars, Mr. Lupoff implies that Edgar Rice Burroughs was a master plagiarist -- a man who not only stole the central theme of his Mars Series from Edwin L. Arnold's... but also stole his leading character, JOHN CARTER, from another Arnold work, PHRA THE PHOENICIAN!

Mr. Lupoff... has "discovered" the "lost" classic by Arnold. That's nice of him. Twenty-two years ago I paid $7.50 for a copy of this book. I didn't need his help to find it.... In Burroughs' Mars Series, we have a man transported by some strange telephathic [sic] power to the planet Mars. In Lt. Gulliver Jones, he goes by magic carpet!... Now if Burroughs stole this idea from Arnold -- where did Arnold steal it from?...

Then we have much ado about the River Iss, and the journey down it to the dead world. Is it more likely that Burroughs read a book that was a dismal failure in England... or that he thought of the legend of the River Styx?... Is the character of JOHN CARTER, buckle-swasher and a man who has lived many lives, PHRA THE PHOENICIAN? ... It is nice to single out Edwin L. Arnold as the father of this literary character gambit. But not very accurate historically....

In every field of creative endeavor, there is a similar trend; one man builds upon the basic discoveries of another, and in the development, it is the user who gains... Somehow, as in the case of Edgar Rice Burroughs, I doubt if a defense is truly necessary. Just who would Richard Lupoff impress in the first place?   "The Day of the Debunker," Burroughs Bulletin #15, fall, 1964 [issued near the end of that year].

Phra the Phoenician (1890 art - colorized)

To Phra, or not to Phra -- That is the Question!

Of course, one person may look at a glass and say that it is half full, while another will look at the same glass and say that is half empty. Peeples was not arguing about whether literary parallels might be found in reading both Arnold and Burroughs -- he was saying that any such parallels didn't matter, because ERB was not a plagiarist. And, it must be admitted, Lupoff's published words implied that he was. Disinterested (Sam and Dick certainly were not) investigators might ask questions about how long the river of death was in each of the respective Mars books -- where it flowed to -- and whether the Martians merely crossed it or traveled to its end, etc. Compiling charts of the occurrences of such literary similiarities can help the critic determine whether supposed literary borrowings are substantial or trivial -- whether they might be coincidental, accidental, or intential transfers from one text to another. But, in the heat of the "Gullivar debate" of 40 years ago, few participants were disinterested enough to conduct such objective examinations. Militant fans like Peeples were defending the repute of ERB, the honor of Dejah Thoris, and the borders of the glorious Empire of Helium, all at once! The badly bloodied Lupoff counter-thrusted:

I must say that Sam Peeples' article "The Day of the Debunker" ls a bitter disappointment to me. I knew that he was writing about "Gulliver of Mars,"... and I knew that he was going to disagree with my introduction in the Ace edition: Hully Burroughs told me as long ago as August 1964 that Sam was very upset about the introduction. But I expected to find a rebuttal of a scholarly nature. ... Sam seems to feel that Dick Lupoff is a bad fellow because Ace Books did not pay royalties for "Gullivar Jones" to Edwin Lester Arnold, who died in 1935, and whose works are all in public domain.... Dick Lupoff is just the fellow who brought "Gullivar Jones" to the attention of Don Wollheim... I must express once more my disappointment at his taking this occasion to attack me personally rather than to discuss the substance of the issue at hand.   "BIFF! BAM! ALA SHAZAM!" (Burroughs Bulletin #16, summer, 1966)

Some Rough Take-offs from Canaveral

This was not all there was to the matter, of course. The attack upon Lupoff did not materialize out of thin air: the Burroughs Bibliophiles held mixed feelings about Canaveral, Ace and their respective editors all through 1962, '63 and '64. Even though the two publishers had apologized for initially publishing unauthorized ERB books (and had begun sending proper royalities to ERB Inc.), their earlier defiant examples had encouraged such publisher pirates as Charlton Comics and Gold Star Books to produce still more rip-offs of trademarked and/or copyrighted Burroughs characters. Besides that, the quality of even the authorized Canaveral editions seemed poor to many ERB collectors and readers. Vintage art was mangled in slap-dash reprints, several unsuitable illustrations were printed, and even exemplary new art was poorly reproduced in some Canaveral editions. Burroughs fans were beginning to feel like they had some bones to pick with Canaveral editor Richard A. Lupoff.

Besides all of that, Lupoff was seen by some as an outsider who had wormed his way into Burroughsdom without sufficient regard for "Old Burroughs" himself. Dick seemed to always be talking about how Tarzan was a literary development of Kipling's Mowgli, and other things irksome to the "true blue" ERB fanatics. For example, at the 1964 Burroughs Bibliophiles gathering, Lupoff was a member of a panel discussion wherein various ERB topics were talked over. Dick seemed particularly interested in talking about "possible sources from which the idea of Tarzan may have been derived" and wished to make it known that the author of Tarzan had admitted being influenced by "the reading of Kipling's Jungle Stories," wherein are found the tales of jungle boys Mowgli and Toomai. Jeremy A. Barry and I attended the panel discussion and Jeremy later reported all of this in the 15th issue of The Gridley Wave, circulated in Oct., 1964. Editor Vernell Coriell appended these comments:

... TARZAN owes nothing to MOWGLI or the mythical twins, Remus and Romulus, and there is no similarity between ERB's TARZAN, his beasts and jungle, and Kipling's MOWGLI and his JUNGLE STORIES [sic].... Stories of shipwrecked sailors and children being adopted and befriended by animals date back to antiquity. Captured by Apes, or, How Philip Garland Became King of Apeland by Harry Prentice pre-dates Kipling's JUNGLE BOOK. Kipling's TOOMAI OF THE ELEPHANTS is the friend of Kala Nag, the elephant, and witnesses what no man had seen before -- the dance of the elephants. Will Dick ask us to believe that Kala Nag was the inspiration for Kala, Tarzan's foster mother? That the dance of the elephants inspired the great apes to dance the Dum-Dum?... Judging by his erroneous introduction to Ace's Gulliver of Mars, he may do just that! Older fans of Burroughs' works and more authoritative "experts" will laugh or shrug off Lupoff's suppositions, but the sad part of it is that younger fans could take him serious! So before he spreads his marvelous discoveries, after years of research (2), and gets a few misguided fans believing him, it might be wise to glean a few facts.

When Kipling's biography was published, he was quoted as saying that he believed the Tarzan stories were inspired by his Mowgli stories.... Later, Burroughs remarked about the Romulus and Remus bit: "I've told that story so often I'm beginning to believe it myself."... Tarzan of the Apes is the story of heredity against environment.... If TARZAN was inspired by anything, it was Charles Robert Darwin and his theory of evolution... Who cares what inspired ERB to create Tarzan of the Apes -- all who have read and enjoyed the stories are just glad he did -- and long after Lupoff, Sprague de Camp and their buddi-debunkers have journeyed down the river Iss, Tarzan of the Apes will stand... he is legend!

Rudyard Kipling's "Toomai of the Elephants"

Not one Shred of Evidence !!!

Uncle Dick took the hint and piped down a bit on the Tarzan origins subject -- but he was far from finished in his quest for Gullivar Jones Carter. At the 1965 Burroughs Bibliophiles meeting an advance copy of Lupoff's new book was passed around, and, to the horror of many, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure dared to offer a "critical review of all ERB stories, together with possible sources." So reported the The Gridley Wave for Dec., 1965. The next issue (#20 - May, 1966) contained a review of the new Lupoff volume from Canaveral Press. The reviewer, mellow Al Howard, noted that certain readers were "bound to be disappointed" with the book, but that he thought the writer was "fair in his criticism" and that "he should please all but the most rabid Burroughs fan, to whom the Master could do no wrong."

Then the reviewer stepped gingerly over the potential minefields of the writer's source critical analysis: "Along the way, Lupoff delves into possible sources that may have influenced or inspired Burroughs. Although his alleged influences are not entirely convincing, Lupoff does not put himself entirely out on a limb. As there exists a singular lack of positive proof as to just what these sources may have been, Lupoff very wisely decides that speculation on these wellsprings of derivation must remain a moot (your guess is as good as mine). Thus he should forestall many of the wearers of hob-nail boots."

However, editor Vern Coriell could not allow Lupoff to get off so lightly -- in the same issue he took the author of Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure to task for numerous errors in the text and inserted this telling remark within the list: "I got a charge out of the way Lupoff tossed off Sam Moskowitz's suggestion of a Kline-ERB "feud" as "unproved" while he devotes a whole chapter of his book trying to convince readers that he is correct in his assumption that ERB used E. L. Arnold's stories as a source for Barsoom and John Carter, which is equally unproven..."

It took months more before the affray began to subside. Lupoff's thematic source assertions in Master of Adventure were slightly more conciliatory to the Bibliophiles than were his previous remarks regarding Phra the Phoenician, Gullivar Jones, et al., but none of the Burroughs fans were taking up his crusade. I recall being mildly interested at the time, but unwilling to say much about ERB story origins among the ranks of my fellow fanatics. Vern let Sam Peeples respond to Dick's note in the #16 issue of the Burroughs Bulletin. By then Sam still had not read Master of Adventure, but he was disgruntled enough over the Gullivar Jones book, so as not to need any additional fuel piled upon the flames of controversy. Among other things, he said:

If anything I wrote about Richard Lupoff's introduction to the Ace pirated edition of Lt. Gullivar Jones has been construed as in any way a personal attack upon him or his character, I most abjectly apologize.... But this does not mitigate one iota my conviction that he has no right of any kind to accuse Edgar Rice Burroughs of plagiarism. There is not one shred of evidence to support him. His opinion as to the source of Burroughs' Mars stories is just that -- his opinion....

I quarrel with the open implication in Lupoff's article that Burroughs' unique Mars novels with all their finely detailed ephemera was based upon anything that anyone else wrote.... If I am biased in Mr. Burroughs' favor, isn't it understandable? Perhaps a little more so than a man who professes to be a great fan and then writes an article snidely assuming Burroughs stole his most famous story ideas? ... I am not against anyone saying anything they please. But isn't it a bit unsporting to cast slurs on a dead man?

Vernell Coriell added a bit more, saying that the controversy had "caused hundreds of BB members to write letters commenting on Sam's article." One might have expected that at least a few of these correspondents favored the Gullivar Jones assertions, but, if Vern was being fully candid, "only five of these were of the opinion that Sam was a bit harsh with Dick." According to Vern, "Lupoff could have avoided the wrath of the fans simply by mentioning he believed Burroughs was inspired by Arnold's book. But nowhere in his intro for the Ace book does Lupoff use the term. It seems his intent was to propose that ERB was a plagiarist." As mentioned previously, Don Wollheim used "the term" in his little advertisement of the book's contents, but Lupoff could not be credited with that section of the commentary.

Uncle Dick avoided saying anything more on this subject in Coriell's zines. He reserved his further learned expostulations for the pages of Amra (see "A Further Note on Edwin Edgar Lester Rice Arnold Burroughs" in Vol. 2, No. 42, Sept., 1966) and for the pages of his revised 1968 edition of Master of Adventure. The Amra readers indulged Lupoff's theorizing and wrung their hands over "the scurrilous personal attack" of the philistine ERBites, but even among the swordplay and sorcery readers Uncle Dick was not immune to criticism. L. Sprague de Camp felt it his duty to remind them all (in issue 2:37, Jan., 1966) that it was Blavatsky they should be crediting for supplying Barsoomian source material, not Edwin L. Arnold. Mr. Lupoff was thus able to gracefully accept the "gentlemanly and scholarly disagreement" of his literary peers and make the necessary textual adjustments for the second version of his Master of Adventure. So, if any further criticism is to be laid at the doorstep of Richard A. Lupoff, it should probably be held in abeyance until would-be literary analysts have carefully perused that particular 317 page treatise.

Part Four: 

Re-Mastering the Grand Adventures

I do not know what is between the covers of Richard A. Lupoff's 1965 hardback Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure, for I was in the Navy when it came out and I never saw a copy. By the time I was back in civilian employment, it was out of print. His revised 1968 Ace Books edition, on the other hand, can still be easily found at a low price. So I'll confine my remarks to the contents of that edition, even though Dick must have said practically the same things three years earlier. 

The chapter most relevant to what I've been reporting in this article is number III, which is titled: "A Phoenician on Mars." The hopeful reader might have expected that Lupoff would have confined such a speculative exegesis of the works of Edwin Lester Arnold and Edgar Rice Burroughs to the relative obscurity of an appendix, but the subject is so central to Lupoff's "origins thesis" that he was literally forced to place it before his audience quite early in the show. Like the doorway to the dining room, we all must pass through it before we can fill up our plates with whatever Burroughsian delicacies we relish consuming. And, I suppose I must admit, that if he's right in even half of what he has to say in this chapter, the writer has every right in the world to subject all his readers to its contents before they can contemplate and absorb the remainder of his text. I'll risk being taken to copyright infringement court by offering some lengthy quotes from Uncle Dick's opus:

... In reading seriously in turn-of-the-century interplanetary tales, a great difficulty exists m locating copies of many books... My own discovery of it was by merest chance... Prior to 1964 one of the scarcest of all science fiction novels, and one of the least known... was Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation by Edwin Lester Arnold. Edwin Lester Arnold was the son of a distinguished English diplomat, Sr. Edwin Arnold. The senior Arnold served in Asia for some years, making a home in Tokyo, and produced a number of literary works influenced by Eastern life...

... the younger Arnold... produced only four books in ... the years 1890 through 1905; Gullivar Jones was his last published work.

The hero of the story, an American naval lieutanant on leave in New York... A carpet found... the carpet flies into the air, wraps itself into an airtight cocoon with Jones inside, zooms... [to] Mars. As science fiction purists have tried, over the years, to rationalize John Carter's trip to Barsoom away from the mystical, astral explanation, so a similar attempt may be made concerning Gullivar Jones's carpet. ... Gullivar Jones tells us that: " swamped my efforts... lapped me in fold after fold... crushed life and breath back into my innermost being, and then, with the last particle of consciousness, I felt myself lifted from the floor..."

Dumped by the carpet on Mars, Gully makes the acquaintance of the local residents... and learns... Only at the time of death do they suddenly show the signs of age. Dead Martians are... floated down a sacred river... from which, of course, no deceased Martian ever returns.

Roving bands of semi-human barbarians operate in the wastes between the cities of Arnold's Mars; little by little they are tearing apart the remnants of a once-great civilization... [but] a truce exists between the "Hither people" among whom he lands, and the barbaric "Thither people"... [and] the most beautiful maiden of the Hither people [is] selected each year and presented to the chief of the barbarians.

Jones is... precipitated upon the face of the scared river, and... floats downstream in the company of the beautiful, pallid corpse of a Martian girl... Jones reaches the ultimate destination of the river, a gigantic ice field, into which the corpses of hundreds of generations of Martians are frozen... Jones returns from his strange pilgrimage, only to find that the Princess Heru, his Martian sweetheart, has been taken as this year's tribute to the Thither folk.... Jones rescues the maiden from the clutches of the barbarians, returns with her to the city, and as a result of a desperately voiced "I wish I were in New York!" is whisked home again by the same carpet that had carried him to Mars. (III "A Phoenician on Mars" pp. 55-58)

Gil Kane's "Gullivar of Mars" from page 8, issue 16 of Marvel's Creatures on the Loose

A Lecture from the Learned Lu-Pov 

As in ERB's initial Martian tale, Edwin L. Arnold's earthman's sweetheart is put into a situation where she is to marry another suitor -- a dull royal relative named "Hath," who is by no means the Martian crown prince of Zodanga. Gully muses to himself: "And after all I had done for her..." As things turn out, the barbarians burst upon the scene and capture Princess Heru. Her listless suitor Hath fails to save the lady from the fate worse than death, and so jilted Gully rushes to the rescue instead. The barbarians take the princess from her habitation and leave it in flames, while Gully stumbles upon his flying carpet, says the magical words, and is whisked back to his home planet. 

There he marries another girl and presumably lives happily ever after -- (while back on the red planet the atmosphere plant fails, Heru is locked away in the great revolving prison for a full Martian year, and... -- well, not really -- just kidding, folks!).

According to Uncle Dick, "there is an uncanny prediction, in the Mars of Lieut. Gullivar Jones, of the Barsoom of Edgar Rice Burroughs' great trilogy, Princess, Gods, Warlord." Where Lupoff sees an "uncanny prediction," many readers might only see an insignificant set of thematic parallels, more or less "predictable" in this genre of fiction. Although he listed them in a more detailed and convincing manner in his Amra article, these are basically Lupoff's discoveries:

In each case there is a formerly elevated civilization, the descendents of the great people now living in deteriorating splendor. In each case semi-human barbarian nomads control the countryside and bear implacable enmity toward the city-dwellers. In each case there are few or no children about, due to rapid maturation, nor aged to be seen, for age does not appear until near or at the end of life."

The element of the sacred river of death is nearly identical (although in Burroughs the pilgrimage is performed as the final act of life, while in Arnold it is a pilgrimage of the already-dead), and the destination of the river, an ice field in both cases, is all the more remarkable. And of course the crucial plot element of the "civilized" princess rescued by the earthly military man (Arnold's lieutenant, Burroughs' captain) from the barbaric nomads... (III "A Phoenician on Mars" pp. 58-59)

While all the other similarities are rather interesting, it is the "river of death" that most strikes me as being a significant, substantial parallel. This is not Marilyn Monroe's "River of No Return;" nor is it Joseph Smith, Jr.'s "River of Destruction;" and it certainly isn't the "one more river to cross" of the old Black slave song. A hundred such earthly rivers associated in one way or another with death might be here conjured up. But the two Martian rivers under consideration almost certainly have their origins in the mythical Styx, which deceased Greeks and Romans were wont to cross to get into the underworld. Also worthy of consideration here is the river in the ancient Gilgamesh epic, at the end of which lived Utanapishtim, (who knew the secret of deathlessness). At any rate, Lupoff is correct in pointing out the significance of both Martian rivers ending in the fields of ice on a frigid part of the planet. Rivers do not run very far toward such a place -- check out the frozen streams of the north Siberian shoreline on a map to see why. Both of these Martian rivers run against logic, into the polar ice, to an undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler has returned. Here is a connection worth pondering -- but it in no way proves that ERB was crossing off passages from his Edwin Arnold books, while he was writing his John Carter tales. 

But Lupoff continues:

Greatly impressed with the Arnold book, both as a work in its own right and as a hardly disputable source of Burroughs, I brought it to the attention of my friend Donald A. Wollheim... editor of the paperback Ace Books. Wollheim read my copy of the original edition of Gullivar Jones and promptly announced its first American edition under the title Gulliver of Mars. Invited to write an introduction for the paperback, I pointed out the likely relationship between Arnold's Mars and Barsoom... Perhaps the only major flaw in the comparison of Gullivar Jones with Burroughs' Martian books, is the central character. John Carter, as we all know, is immortal, daring, the greatest swordsman of two worlds. Gully Jones is no John Carter.

... [In The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician, 1890] one finds a prologue, in which the title figure asserts that "When I say that I have lived in this England more than one thousand years, and have seen her bud from callowest barbarity to the height of a prosperity and honour with which the world is full, I shall at once be branded as a liar. Let it pass! The accusation is familiar to my ears. I tired of resenting it before your fathers' fathers were born, and the scorn of your offended sense of veracity is less to me than the lispmg of a child."... 

Phra seems to be about thirty years of age. He loses his earliest youth in the shifting sands of ancient memory. In the course of the book we learn that he is an expert swordsman and soldier, that he lives and dies again and again, only to revive after the passage of years, and resume his life -- always a soldier -- always thirty.

The clincher: John Carter is convinced that "Someday I shall die the real death from which there is no resurrection," while Phra, after living life upon life, dies truly while laboring over his memoirs. "It is over," he writes, "... I have come here... to die..." So ends Phra. (III "A Phoenician on Mars" pp. 59, 61-62)

So, for Richard A. Lupoff at least, "Phra the Phoenician is John Carter.... the internal evidence is massive." But, as Uncle Dick freely admits, ERB fans did not necessarily agree -- "Hulbert Burroughs sat across a desk from me not a year ago, with a copy of the paperback Gulliver of Mars in his hand, and said 'You pulled this out of thin air.'"

Looking about for some moral support in the world of fandom, Uncle Dick came across the ERB = Theosophy notions, first put forth in 1959 in Amra, and thrust at him directly, by de Camp, in that same publication, six years later. Lupoff therefore admits: "Leiber makes a rather good case for Madame Helena P. Blavatsky as a source for Burroughs, starting with John Carter's "astral" trip to Mars (astral flight being a favored Theosophical theme) and continuing through various aspects of Barsoomian history and their resemblance to Theosophical teachings.... Still, I will hold with Edwin Lester Arnold as the primary source for Burroughs' Martian trilogy." The thought apparently never entered Lupoff's mind, that a study of Theosophy, and Arnold, and Burroughs might yield additional literary parallels, favorable to his cause.

Battling the Beasts of Barsoom

Although the thematic parallels presented by Leiber, de Camp and Lupoff may tickle the fancies (and fantasies) of some readers, such compilations and conclusions do not bring the Burroughs fan much closer to any reasonable idea about how the "Old Boy" wrote his feats of fiction. Uncle Dick dances around this important issue in his Master of Adventure, but provides no real answers. At least he admits that he discovered no "smoking gun" to conclusively demonstrate ERB's supposed dependance upon arcane Theosophical teachings or Edwin L. Arnold's indulgent inventions.

Belatedly Lupoff began to realize that certain literary influences might have animated the mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs long before he began to compose marketable heroic fiction. If this were indeed the case, the stimulation from outside sources may have stretched all the way back into the previous century, when the budding storyteller was yet a daydreaming juvenile. Back to the time when he may have read popular authors like Twain, Verne, Wells, Kipling and Haggard just for fun, with no thoughts of ever emulating their writings. Hear what Lupoff has to say near the end of his Master of Adventure:

Scholarly inquiries into Burroughs' life and works continue. In the area of sources, while all of those cited or suggested in the present volume may not have served as direct inspiration for ERB, many of them seem to have influenced him, and more remain to be found ... [among] other authors of their period....

According to Broadhurst, "Burroughs advertised in August of 1898 that he could supply readers in Pocatello with any periodical from America or elsewhere." ... Of Edwin Lester Arnold's books, for instance, 1898 would have been too early for Lepidus or Gullivar Jones but would have been in plenty of time for Phra or The Constable or Ulla, the reading of which might have whetted ERB's appetite for later books by the same author. By 1898 Burroughs might have stocked -- and read -- Haggard, Kipling, Swift, Verne, Wells, Harry Prentice, Helena Blavatsky -- Much research remains to be done... (XX "The Surprise in the Safe" pp. 300-301)

A Second Helping of the Lu-Povian Legacy

Uncle Dick took his own 1965 advice to heart and did some "further digging" into the story and stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The results of his further explorations may be had in his 1976 book, Barsoom: Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Martian Vision. This book is something more than just a mechanical expansion of the Mars sections of Master of Adventure. In his second book Uncle Dick provides a pretty good overview of ERB's red planet, along with a close inspection of each of the "standard" John Carter tales in the ERB canon. He also sets about determining where all of this came from, and reports that most of it came from the daydreams of the "Old Boy" himself -- that Barsoom was ERB's personal continuing fantasy and that he used a good deal of that imaginative escapism when he set down the words of the first few Martian novels on paper.

This seems to be to be a most promising yellow brick road to venture out upon, in seeking explanations for certain story elements in the Barsoom series. I feel much more inclined to follow this mental route than the ideas put forth by Camille E. Cazedessus -- that ERB's literary parallels with certain writers arise from his consciously trying to write better "hero-rescues-the-princess" stories than he was finding in the pulp fiction magazines of 1911. On the other hand, who can ever expect to learn much about a deceased author's private thoughts? There is great room for speculation here, and Lupoff deserves some credit for opening the door to a new way of considering the "origins problem." But I do not expect that inquisitive fans and serious readers will reach many mutually affirmed conclusions, based upon Lupoff's ideas and method. Consider this combination of quotes from Barsoom:

... Years later, seeing John Carter after a lengthy lapse of time, [the semi-fictional] Burroughs was amazed that his uncle had not aged visibly. Tall, dark-haired, gray-eyed, John Carter was youthful in appearance as ever, while Burroughs had grown from a boy into a man. But now that John Carter had died, there was a bit of mumbo-jumbo about his funerary arrangements at Burroughs' hands. No embalming was to be perfommed, the body was to lie in an open coffin, and the coffin was to be placed in a mausoleum with a door that could be opened only from the inside.

... there were a number of interesting aspects to John Carter's character, other than the many colorful adventures which he experienced on Mars. The foremost of these was his agelessness. He had the appearance of a man in his thirties... He apparently did not age from book to book in the series... The Martians themselves... are... characterized by amazing longevity but not by immortality per se. Not so John Carter. Even before the opening of the cycle he was of indeterminate age. He described himself as "a very old man." ... He may have been several hundred years old, or several thousand....

The "ageless warrior" is far from unique in fiction and myth; the closest analogue for John Carter is Phra the Phoenician, the title figure in a novel by the English writer Edwin Lester Arnold, published in 1890. Phra was astonishingly like John Carter -- or the other way around, considering the sequence of their debuts... Arnold gave Phra a very lengthy career... his adventures spanned many centuries and many episodes separated by periods of temporary "death."

There was a suggestion of death before John Carter's first journey to Mars. He returned to earth after a decade on Mars as a result of "dying" on Mars, and resumed his former, terrestrial body. As the cycle progressed this peculiar mechanism -- apparent death and astral travel culminating in what might be regarded as astral death and physical resurrection -- gave way to a simpler notion of psychically powered interplanetary flight in physical flesh... (pp. 14-15)

I see this as food for some very deep thought. Did ERB, in his initial period of authoring John Carter's adventures, consider having his hero seemingly die and then experience miraculous resuscitation a number of times? By "seemingly die," I mean the depiction of a wounded and expiring John Carter who slips into a lengthy healing coma and later emerges very much alive after months, years, or centuries of unconsciousness. There are several ERB stories in which something approaching this kind of immortality is presented or hinted at, but it is not exactly what John Carter experiences in his "lives" and "deaths." It is, however, exactly what Phra the Phoenician experiences in the one book devoted to his adventures. In the case of both authors (Arnold and ERB) readers might be excused for guessing that the writer was subject to a nagging preoccupation with death and the unknown answer to the question, "what lies beyond death?"

My own guess is that ERB at first toyed with the notion of lengthy healing comas for his hero, but eventually discarded that plot device for others that were less awkward to deal with in fast-paced heroic adventure. And, returning to the personal fantasy idea, would a young man like Burroughs have had any conceivable reason to use such a story device in his own daydreams, youthful imaginings, or adult fantasies? Short of his truly experiencing out-of-body or near death episodes himself, I can only picture Burroughs dwelling upon such ideas in his maturity -- I cannot quite envision his being preoccupied with such matters in his younger days, prior to taking up writing as a career.

Lupoff continues his "personal fantasy" train of thought thusly:

The Martian fantasy was originally "primitive" not in the sense that it was crude, but in the sense that it revealed Burroughs' primal dreams. The more closely the trilogy with which the cycle opens is examined, particularly A Princess of Mars, the more it becomes obvious that Burroughs was indeed transcribing dreams. The images, themes, visions and situations were created somewhere in his subconscious... Freudian... symbols are so powerful that they force themselves into the awareness of any reader beyond the age of twelve.

The womb-and-birth fantasy of the Arizona cave sequence, the "birth trauma" of John Carter's separation from his body, the transition through the void to the world (Barsoom), the constant titilation with nudity... the infantile projection of John Carter as a tiny crawling "child" among the "adult" sized green Martians... 

But because his stories flowed from a natural well, rather than being carefully planned and outlined, they were frequently sloppy in structure, and in particular were marked with the presence of loose ends.... never fully worked out, never fully thought out. (pp. 15-16)

Yeah, I suppose I can buy that. At least for ERB's earlier writings. Someday a capable literary analyist should comment upon the the contents of the first two Mars stories, the first two Tarzan stories, and the first Pellucidar story, as a distinct body creative writing, comprising five mega-chapters in a cloudy revelation of the personal thoughts of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He was, at that early period, in the process of teaching himself how to write publishable fiction. And he soon learned how to do just that: he obviously did research and pre-plan the contents of many of his subsequent tales to match the needs and desires of editors and the reading public. So, I think that if what Dick is saying here holds any water at all, it must apply primarily to ERB's earliest works -- and to his first two or three Martian tales in particular. And, as I might have predicted, this is precisely where Uncle Dick hangs his reporter's hat for the remainder of his Martian Vision. The question thus expands from Leiber and de Camp's original inquiries about Barsoomian literary origins, to the more intimate query -- "Who is John Carter?"

He's not so much just Phra, as Burroughs Himself

If Carter is ERB, he is obviously not the semi-fictional Burroughs who appears within the Martian stories at times. Nor is he the public Burroughs whom people saw and spoke with through the years --- Carter, according to Lupoff, is the inner ERB, the imagination of the author. According to Uncle Dick:

... John Carter was Edgar Rice Burroughs... in his most dearly imagined dreams. Burroughs was happiest when he was John Carter, and as John Carter he was happiest when he was on Mars. Patricia Loring, a popular-media journalist, made a very striking observation which bears directly on this point, when she completed reading the series. "John Carter doesn't show any particular regret at leaving earth," she remarked, "or any particular wish to get back there once he realizes that he's on Mars." ... [no] thought of getting home again... John Carter, in expressing his reaction to his translation, makes nary a mention of earth!

As a fictional device, that omission serves neatly to fix the reader's attention where Burroughs wanted it, on Mars, not earth. But if that had been a conscious device on Burroughs' part, he could simply have started the story off on Mars, without the use of the elaborate framing device.... (p. 25)

and --

Burroughs put John Carter on Mars. There he was at home. There Burroughs dreamed his dreams.

The John Carter stories were the first and the last that Burroughs wrote in his life, and while the demands of commerce drew from him more Tarzan books than those in any other series, the Martian cycle was the next most numerous. Further, he wrote himself into the Martian stories repeatedly, something that he did only rarely in ... the remainder of his works. Indeed, Burroughs clearly identified John Carter as his own blood relative, a kinship he offered to none other of his creations.... (pp. 62-63)

I still recall some of my earliest fantasies. They were not particularly complex or consistent. In them, one moment I was Robin Hood and the next moment, I was the Lone Ranger. I battled bigger, meaner, scarrier villains and wild beasts -- and I always won the battles. Such are the daydreams of a ten year old. By the time I was twelve my daydreams were of being a sea captain, sailing far off waters in search of pirates -- or of being Tom Corbett and flying to the Moon. The element of fantastic location was now there: I had my private imaginary realms, where other knights of the round table or other coon-skin capped frontiersmen could not intrude. And, not long after this, came the dream of rescuing some beautiful female -- one who would have to like me, because I'd saved her life. Exactly what I would do with her once she was safe from the pirates or the bug-eyed monsters, I wasn't quite sure. Those kinds of sequels started materializing within my head about the time I was first learning to shave.

Did ERB's private fantasies progress in a similar manner through his youth? Fight the monsters. Then fight the monsters in some never-never land. Then fight the monsters to save the girl. Then leave the monsters and hang out with the girl -- ??? In a rough sort of way, isn't that how the plot of the first Mars novel works itself out? Vernell Coriell once said that the story of Tarzan is the story of humankind's evolution, all condensed into the early life of one man. Is the story of John Carter the story of pre-pubescent imagination all condensed into the first chapters of "Under the Moons of Mars," supplemented by the more mature fantasies of post-adolescence, and laid out in a sequence of exciting events in ERB's own private never-never land?

So, where is all of this leading? Well, one path leads into ERB's own psyche, and perhaps the reader and literary critic should allow the Mr. Burroughs some privacy there. Another path leads through the evolution of any young person's escapist fantasies, especially when they are set in exotic realms where practically anything is possible. And a third path leads through the dark forest of evolution itself -- evolution of life, of animal reproduction, of intelligence, of human society, and of ultimate realizations. Does evolution enhance or negate religion? Does evolution ultimately produce beings more complex, more capable and more compassionate than their ancestors? What are the effects of a hostile or troublesome environment upon personal and species progression? Will goodness (and good bloodlines) win over badness in the end? If I had to take a wild guess, I'd say that these kinds of questions began to haunt ERB's daydreams at about the same time he took up writing for a living. I'd also say that concerns over avoiding death and prolonging life cast an early shadow over the entire panoply of imaginary adventures, fantastic escapes and fantastic triumphs. Richard A. Lupoff is not quite with me on all of this, but he's close enough to provide me with many more useful quotes.

Consider this one:

The social organization of the green men was intimately tied up with their breeding practices, a situation which of course has its analogue in every earthly society, human or animal. The urge to form families and to breed influenced Martian custom as well as earthly.

The green Martians were apparently not mammals. Burroughs said that there were only two mammalian species on the planet, and while he was somewhat coy about specifying what they were, it would seem that one was the "true" humans of Mars, and the other an animal....

It is not the oviparity of the green men which militates against their being considered mammals; there are oviparous mammals on earth for precedent. Rather, it is their complete hairlessness which suggests that they are not mammals...

Did the green women provide milk for their babies? Apparently they did not. (pp. 83-84)

Four-limbed and four-bosomed Thark female with John Carter.
As (mistakenly?) drawn by Jim Gary. © 1939, ERB Inc.

The Beasts and Breasts of Barsoom

If I may jump back to the Theosophical teachings for just a second, I'd like to emphasize that they were very much interested in providing a story for human evolution that would help unite converts in a cosmic view that superseded biblical teachings. The early Theosophists present a fantastic explanation (but to many a believeable explanation) of how a certain kind of evolution, guided by spiritual powers, had produced the world and its sentient beings. To accept the Theosophists' cosmic view meant relegating both Darwin and the Bible to the status of half-truths and primitive interpretations.

Was this what Edgar Rice Burroughs was attempting to do with his otherworldly cosmogonies -- to create great, all-encompassing explanations for the existence of life and intelligence, that in no way depended upon traditional earthly understandings? If so, he may have found some hints about constructing such explanations in the writings of the Theosophists. And, if my theories of all this are correct, ERB may have been toying with these kinds of ideas before he ever sat down to write the first sentence of the first Mars tale.

But, no matter how alien a world and its inhabitants, so concocted, might be, the fantasy required some way for the interplanetary hero to experience romance and passion with the opposite sex in that alien world. Such a love episode would make practically, any pulp fiction story more marketable. And, you must now recall, Burroughs the daydreaming boy had become Burroughs the writing adult -- that green-skinned, flat-chested, bug-eyed Sola the Thark just wouldn't do in the eyes and heart of that gallant swordsman: John Edgar Burroughs Carter!

Lupoff says that the green Martians faded from prominence in the Mars series "as Burroughs became increasingly interested in creating the many little city-states of the red men and the other true humans." For example, "Tars Tarkas hung around as John Carter's friend and sometime ally, but one receives the impression that Burroughs simply changed his mind about the green men, starting them as leading players, then reducing hem to a supporting role, and finally banishing them to the wings of the stage." Or, in other words, "Burroughs first populated Mars with green goliaths, threw in some regulation sized humans after a while, then dropped the green men almost completely." I wonder why it worked out that way?

Did ERB fade the green Martians from his stories (consciously or unconsciously), as a sort of metaphor of their dead-end status in Martian race progression? Are they the transitory link between reptilian, non-sentient creatures and mammalian almost-humans? Both green and red Martians lay eggs, and so the civilized Barsoomians are not quite human in the earthly sense of the term. Theosophy allows for such an overlap in sub-races and root-races, (with the members of different races on the scale of evolution evidently still able to inter-breed). Near-human females on Mars are oviparous, but produce breast-milk; they apparently do not have menstrual periods, but do have pores and body hair. They seem to occupy a physiological niche immediately below earthly females in an unexplained parallel evolution from lower species. And yet, John Carter is able to father fertile children by the Martian Dejah Thoris. Probably the other earthman on Mars, Ulysses Paxton, could do the same with his full-breasted Martian consort. For more thinking (fantasizing?) along these lines, consult John Harwood and H. W. Starr's "A Scholarly Analysis of the Females of Barsoom," in the original Burroughs Bulletin, issue #14 (1963).

I cannot quite follow Lupoff's lead, in believing that ERB only invented his red Martians after writing several chapters of the initial Barsoomian novel. It may have worked out that way in ERB's earlier escapist fantasies, but I more or less think that his imagination developed earthman-compatible Martians before he began his writing. After all, Lupoff postulates that ERB was greatly inspired by Arnold -- if that was so, then it should be recalled that Arnold used only human Martians in his Gulliver Jones story. If ERB was inspired, to some extent by Arnold's Mars account, then that initial inspiration should have included human Martians, to carry through the developing fantasy of John Carter's adventures on Mars. It seems to me that this would have been the basis for both Arnold's hero and ERB's hero rescuing a human-like Martian princess. It does not seem logical, to assume that Burroughs wrote his story up to the point of introducing the mammalian beauty, Dejah Thoris, and only then became inspired by Edwin L. Arnold, so as to have Carter become as romantically involved with Dejah as Gully had been with Heru (or, as had the protagonists penned by authors Gustave Pope and John Q. Mawhinney with their Martians, if you follow the "origins" suggestions put forth by Sam Moskowitz and Camille E. Cazedessus). .

A final thought on Barsoomian buxomness -- If ERB's green Martians are reptiles, or something of that ilk, "Old Burroughs" didn't seem to mind their females being depicted somewhat like mammals in various illustrations authorized and copyrighted by Edgar Rice Burroughs Incorporated. Then again, he allowed some inaccurately drawn thoats, calots and green warriors to slip onto the published page, with nary a word of protest. After all, how could anybody tell J. Allen St. John to go back and re-paint Tars Tarkas with pop-eyes on the sides of his head? It may have been more true to the text and it may have been more true to the form of four-armed, weirdly-eyed, giant Theosophical Lemurians -- but, hey, it was all just a fantasy, after all!

Sola the Thark -- as drawn by John Coleman Burroughs
© 1941 by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

Whaddya Think I am? A Mind-Reader?

Dick Lupoff wonders about Barsoomian telepathy. Did ERB introduce that element into his green Martian society, so as to allow John Carter to quickly communicate with his huge green captors? Was it put into the story just to make it seem especially unearthly? Or, did Burroughs simply carry over the concept from the Theosophists' Lemurians and Atlanteans? So far as I can tell, he did not get it from the younger Edwin Arnold -- though an open-minded reading of Edwin the Elder might leave the door of imagination open to almost anything, from the Mahabharata's ancient airships to Tibetan lamas' astral projections. But, there seems no answer to be had at this late date. Green Martians use telepathy to control their domesticated animals and they apparently use it now and then to communicate among themselves across short distances. But what does that say about telepathic powers? Are they a function of development at the lower or higher end of the evolutionary path?

Do the primitive plant men of the Barsoomian south pole communicate at all? Uncle Dick thinks that their lack of language sets them outside the limits of human evolution -- but then again, they are constructed rather like humanoids. Perhaps telepathy is a lower level function on Mars, and the plant men tell jokes among themselves that human beings cannot hear: "mind-games" of a silent sort. Whatever answer might be given, it seems that ERB only made use of telepathy in his Mars stories when it suited certain of his purposes. There may not be much the reader can learn from that. Nor from the ability of certain Martians (the white-skinned Lotharians) to summon up phantom beings by their exertion of mental energy. It all sounds very Theosophical -- but who knows for sure?

I half expect to one day see ERB's Kar Komak materializing on the "holodeck" of the Starship Enterprise, on television; and then refusing to dissolve back into binary code when the human game players cry "end program." But that would be just too fantastic, "Elementary, Dear Data," "Ship in a Bottle," Pygmalion and Galatea, Pinocchio, and the Velveteen Rabbit altogether notwithstanding. 

Uncle Dick does make one interesting point in considering these kinds of Barsoomian paranormalities, however. He says that ERB never uses true magic in the Mars series. Impossible pseudo-science? yes -- occultists' mind over matter manipuations? yes -- but, sword and sorcery? no. There's plenty of "sword" to be had there, but precious little "sorcery." What little passes for magic, Lupoff labels "mystic." Again, this is reminiscent of things Theosophical, where claims of occult powers are juxtaposed with accounts true mysticism and claims of quasi-mysticism. What does it all men? Did ERB eschew the introduction of truly supernatural elements in his fiction, simply on the grounds of anti-religious principle? I haven't a clue, folks.

But it does seem utterly strange to me that John Carter and associates take all of these occult happenings in stride, never getting too curious as to how they originate. It would have made for an interesting chapter, if in the first Mars book, Carter had sought out some of the elusive Holy Therns in a Helium temple and asked their opinions as to why he was ageless, or could traverse the space between planets, or open atmosphere plant locks by sheer mental energy. But Captain John Carter is content to offer a little spilled blood to Ares on the battlefield altar, and let his religion end with that. Too bad. I'd love to delve into the deeps of spirituality with the greatest swordsman on two worlds, but he simply isn't interested. I strongly suspect that Ed Burroughs was interested, but didn't quite know how to go about discerning the sound of one hand clapping.

Did ERB once read the Theosophists to seek out possible answers about religion? Or, just to examine their imaginative accounts of evolution? Or, maybe not at all? Perhaps he learned all he needed to know by reading a couple of book reviews in the Chicago newspapers. We'll probably never know -- and that's kind of neat.


There's still one more page to be read this this series.


1: John Carter: Sword of Theosophy Revisited
2. Lupoff of Mars
3. ERB: Search for Ultimate Answers

Issue 1108

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