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Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter®of Mars


51. "THE PLANT KING" -- Nov. 22, '42
(read novelization

P1: After being passed along by the strange plants, John Carter was finally placed upon a giant mushroom before the king. 

P2: The man and the plant eyed each other in silence for a long while. 

P3: The king drew a long breath and opened wide his leafy mouth. "Say something funny!" he shrieked, "before I wilt away. 

P4: It's been simply ages since I've heard anything to make me laugh," wailed the king. 

P5: "People from Earth," replied the astonished man, "would laugh uproarously were I to tell them that I had once conversed with a leafy vegetable!" 

P6: "Excuse me," said the king, "but I am not amused." Whereupon, clutching the Earthman in its arms, the plant thrust its head toward the ceiling of the cavern. 


1. Compare 


Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst

Several important things occurred to John Carter as he was being passed from plant to plant though the lower branches of the trees. The first thing that he found to be odd was that he was now in a jungle very much like the one that covered the Plateau of Eo. And yet he had fallen such a great distance through the bowls of that same mountain that he logically must have exited the cavern somewhere near its base. Although one side of the mountain merged into lightly forested hills, nothing he had seen below the mesa top suggested that a great rain forest jungle existed adjacent to the Plateau of Eo. The second thing that seemed odd was that the rays of sunlight penetrating the forest came from directly overhead. The bird-men had begun their chase just after sunrise and probably not even an earthly hour had elapsed between that time and when he fell into the shaft that took him deep inside the mountain. Half a day could not have passed so quickly, no matter how much insanity had come upon him. Finally, he had certainly lost his radium torch and his dagger inside the cavern, yet they were now inexplicably attached to his harness again. 

Had Captain Carter paused to consider these points a bit more carefully, he might have added one more oddity -- the very fact that he henceforth gave them no further thought. But such are the ways of madmen and if he was indeed insane he need not worry about small matters. 

After being passed along by the strange plants for what seemed like many minutes, John Carter finally found himself seated upon a giant mushroom before the king. The man did not know whether to call the weird intelligent plant a jed, jeddak or jeddra, so he imitated the other flowers, who called their leader "mighty one," which is the general Barsoomian idiom indicating "king" or "queen." The Virginia Captain did not feel it was a proper subject of inquiry to try and determine the sex of the "mighty one," but simply called the extraordinary plant "king" and "him." 

After exchanging the usual Barsoomian "koar" greetings, the man and the plant eyed each other in silence for a long while. What this interval signified, John Carter had absolutely no idea, but it gave him ample opportunity to look the leader over, from top to bottom. The king of the plant men was perhaps a dozen times the height of the Earthman, and had a long stem-like body which was perhaps a half dozen times his girth. Fully a quarter of this huge body was taken up by the plant king's head. And if Captain Carter's memory is correct, the plant king's countenance bore an uncanny resemblance to both the giant durkoos of Go-La-Ra and to the giant bird-men who lived on the northeastern slopes of the Plateau of Eo. 

The plant king's stem-like body was mostly light brown interspersed with patches of orange color. Three quarters of the way up from its root-like bottom the plant split into three parts with the center portion supporting the great head and the side portions tapering off into stubby arms that ended in three claws or clawed fingers. 

The plant king's head was surrounded by a frame of large green sepals, which in turn was surmounted by a mass of long, thin red and yellow petals. In the center of all this colorful finery was the plant king's huge green beak, projecting between two bird-like eyes. The head was topped by a tall shock of yellow foliage. All in all the plant king cut a most dashing and imposing figure and any stranger could be easily forgiven for supposing that the bestowal of kingship among the plant men depended primarily upon how resplendent and flamboyant a candidate's head coloration was judged to be by his fellow flowers. 

Whether or not these plants had lungs, Captain Carter never decided, but the king appeared to draw in a long breath before he opened wide his leafy mouth. Then again, perhaps it is not quite correct to say that the plant king spoke with his mouth. The Virginia Captain was almost certain that the beings' primary communication was telepathic, but for reasons that seemed good at the time, he did not preoccupy himself what that small matter. 

"Say something funny!" the intelligent plant shrieked, "before I wilt away. It's been simply ages since I've heard anything to make me laugh," 

Despite his earlier easy success with the plant king's subjects, he could not think of much to say that was humorous. The audience reminded him of nothing else so much as a recurring dream he once suffered for several years, in which President Jefferson Davis would ask Captain Carter to read a speech before his assembled generals and the Captain would fumble through all his pockets and never be able to locate his handwritten copy of the address. 

"When asked why it had crossed the road, the chicken replied, 'to get to the other side," the Earthman began lamely. 

"No doubt that is true, man-thing. But now please say something hilarious!" wailed the king. 

"People from Earth," replied the astonished man, "would laugh uproariously were I to tell them that I had once conversed with a leafy vegetable!" 

John Carter felt like an idiot and he had not a shadow of a doubt that the plant king was think the exact same thing about him. If plants faces can be said to hold expressions, that of the king was quite dour at the moment. 

"Excuse me," said the king, "but I am not at all amused." 

"I was afraid that might be the case..." the Earthman began. 

Whereupon, clutching the Earthman in its arms, the plant king thrust itself high up into the forest canopy. The man's skull missed a huge tree limb by a finger's width and he was left choking upon mouthfuls, nosefuls and earfuls of pasty green leaves. 

"I take it that you're trying to kill me?" was all that John Carter could think to say, once he had spit the leaves out. 

"Why goodness gracious! That's the funniest thing you have said so far!" roared the plant king. Do you suppose I'm going to chop you up and feed your remains to my own roots? Why, then you would be in my sap and seeds!" 

The plant kind laughed outrageously at his own joke, but the confused Earthman could only wonder what was coming next. 


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