THE MARTIAN OCEANS AND THEIR CITIES
The Eighth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
Part Two: Aaanthor, Torquas, and Lothar
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Lothario. n. A man who seduces women. From
the character in the play,
The Fair Penitent, by Nicholas Rowe (1703).
The main city in Part Two of our Dead Ocean Cities series,
Lothar, is one in which the ancient fair race of Martians still live, although
in a decadent way and in much reduced numbers. In fact, Lothar is specifically
a city without women, which brings irony to its name. However, both of
the chief living male occupants of the city live up to the reputation of
This city appears in ERB’s fourth novel of his Martian
series, Thuvia, Maid of Mars. The reader may recall that Thuvia
is a really hot babe who everyone wants to possess. She gave herself to
John Carter as a love slave in Gods of Mars, but Carter pawned her
off on his son, Carthoris. This novel is in fact the story of how Carthoris
wins the Princess of Ptarth, once the plaything of the Therns for fifteen
years, for himself. He has many rivals and Thuvia’s honor is put at risk
several times as the story progresses. This is a very adult, sexy adventure,
the precursor to The Chessmen of Mars, where Tara of Helium takes
center stage as the woman everyone wants.
Of all the women ERB chose to be the mate for Carter's
son, it is a wonder why he would have chosen Thuvia, with her lurid background.
But he did. Thuvia must have been based on a real woman in ERB's life for
him to have been so obsessed with her. He just couldn’t get her out of
his head until she was won and married off to another.
From the first time we meet her in the Thern’s Chamber
of Mystery in the Golden Cliffs of the Otz Mountains chained bare naked
to a wall, there is something about Thuvia that catches our attention.
As soon as she is rescued by Carter and then armed, she doesn’t hesitate
to kill her dominating sex master, Sator Throg, shooting him coldly and
brutally through the heart with her pistol. Only Tara of Helium and Phaidor
kill more men than Thuvia.
But Thuvia’s real magic is in her mastery of the fierce
Barsoomian lion, the banth. She is an animal charmer, a banth whisperer
– she has the witching way. I like to think of Thuvia as the Red Witch
of Ptarth and I wish ERB had to lived to write another adventure about
this fascinating woman. But as it is, Thuvia, Maid of Mars will
have to stand on its own. And that it does very well.
Carthoris has to overcome at least three big problems
if he hopes to win Thuvia: (1) she had totally given herself over to his
father as his sex slave and still carries a major crush for the Warlord
(see, e.g., GM/4,14.15,18, 22; WM/4); (2) Thuvia is in love with his mother
too, the incomparible Dejah Thoris, with whom she spent several months
in the Temple of the Sun, and then together again as captives of Matai
Shang (GM/18; WM/3,4,,10,11,16); and (3) she is betrothed to Kulan Tith,
Jeddak of Kaol (see below).
On this final matter, Martian custom stands solidly in
his way. We are never told why Thuvia took her fateful journey down the
River Iss to Valley Dor, where she was captured by the Therns and made
their plaything for fifteen years. ERB always refers to her as a girl,
so she must be a relatively young Martian woman. But that could mean anywhere
between one and fifty. Yet, considering Carthoris is called a boy, only
ten years old when John Carter first meets him -- that probably means that
Thuvia is likely around 25 years old.
What sent her down the river? Perhaps it was the same
fate she is facing now: the prospect of being married to her betrothed,
Kulan Tith. Sure, he’s a jeddak, and she would be a queen, but a loveless
one. Not to forget that Kulan Tith’s misplaced trust in Matai Shang almost
caused Thuvia to be a slave forever in Kadabra (WM/7.) Thuvia appears to
be a true romantic, choosing Valley Dor over the prospect of being married
to a man she neither loves nor trusts.
Any surviving Thern left alive on Barsoom after the Battle
of Kadabra would find it amusing to see Thuvia as a haughty Jeddara of
Kaol after groveling at their feet for fifteen years as a sex slave. Yes,
Carthoris has bitten off way too much, but, as we shall see, not more than
he can chew.
The story begins with a seduction scene and near rape.
Astok, the Prince of Dusar, is in strong lust for Thuvia, and likely due
to her lurid past with the Therns, tries to forcibly take her on an ersite
bench in her father’s garden in broad daylight. He whispers heatedly in
“‘Ah, Thuvia of Ptarth,’
he cried, ‘you are cold even before the fiery blasts of my consuming love!
No harder than your heart, nor colder is the hard, cold ersite of this
thrice happy bench which supports your divine and fadeless form! Tell me,
O Thuvia of Ptarth, that I may still hope – that though you do not love
me now, yet some day, some day, my princess, I-------’
I must interrupt at this point before the joke is lost to
point out what ERB meant by the ersite bench being thrice happy. He is
talking about three specific parts of Thuvia’s body that are touching the
bench. We are not told that the bench has a back, but it is unlikely that
it did: it is only referred to as “a massive bench of polished ersite.”
Thus, this joke could be referencing her buttocks and thighs, or if we
take the buttocks as plural, it could be both cheeks and her genitalia.
The latter is more bawdy and probably is the case. This is ERB’s subtle
reminder at the beginning of the story that everyone is naked on Mars.
(See, “Nakedness on Mars,” ERBzine #3177.)
This is ERB’s first Martian novel written after the famous
trilogy and the first written in the third person. There is even a glossary
at the end. Perhaps he imagined this story as the last one in the series
at the time he wrote it. Six more years would pass before he wrote another
Mars novel: The Chessmen of Mars. Perhaps Emma was getting suspicious
Anyway, back to the story. Astok, according to Martian
custom, has just made a major blunder by calling Thuvia his princess:
“The girl sprang to her
feet with an exclamation of surprise and displeasure. Her queenly head
was poised haughtily upon her smooth red shoulders. Her dark eyes looked
angrily into those of the man.
What a great opening scene. In it we learn an important thing
about Thuvia. She enjoys dangerous flirting. Otherwise she would not have
allowed a private conversation with Astok in her father’s garden in the
first place. Moveover, she was willing to allow a certain amount of skin
contact before blowing the whistle on Astok. Pulling the girl to him for
a kiss would have meant genitalia to genitalia contact.
“‘You forget yourself, and the customs
of Barsoom, Astok,’ she said. ‘I have given you no right thus to address
the daughter of Thuvan Dihn, nor have you won such a right.’
“The man reached suddenly forth
and grasped her by the arm. “‘You shall be my princess!’ he cried. ‘By
the breast of Issus, thou shalt, nor shall any other come between Astok,
Prince of Dusar, and his heart’s desire. Tell me that there is another,
and I shall cut out his fool heart and fling it to the wild calots of the
“At touch of the man’s hand upon
her flesh the girl went palid beneath her coppery skin, for the persons
of the royal women of the courts of Mars are held but little less than
sacred. The act of Astok, Prince of Dusar, was profanation. There was no
terror in the eyes of Thuvia of Ptarth – only horror for the thing the
man had done and for its possible consequences.
“‘Release me.’ Her voice was level
“The man muttered incoherently and
drew her roughly toward him. “‘Release me!’ she repeated sharply, ‘or I
call the guard, and the Prince of Dusar knows what that will mean.’
“Quickly he threw his right arm
about her shoulders and strove to draw her face to his lips. With a little
cry she struck him full in the mouth with the massive bracelets that circled
her free arm.
“‘Calot!’ she exclaimed, and then:
‘The guard! The guard! Hasten in protection of the Princess of Ptarth.’”
We are told that at his first touch her skin went palid
beneath her coppery skin, but one can imagine an element of erotic temptation
also. Furthermore, ERB leads us to believe that she was reluctant to call
the guard at first because she knew that doing so would constitute an act
of war between Ptarth and Dusar.
But let us understand one thing. Thuvia’s fifteen years
among the HolyTherns had corrupted her Martian mores. Pay attention: she
is flirting with a Prince while betrothed to another Jeddak. This is a
knock at Martian custom. Not to forget that she was more than willing to
fling herself at John Carter when he arrived on the scene, offering herself
to be his unwedded concubine. She became equally in love with both John
Carter and Dejah Thoris. Thus, even though she is back in her princess
routine in her father’s court, there is still a certain amount of the adventurous
woman in her.
Astok must have been really turned on by this aspect of
her persona. He has literally lost his mind in the garden and is willing
to take Thuvia right there out in the open. Then Carthoris comes to the
rescue before the guard arrives:
“But before they had passed
half across the royal garden to where Astok of Dusar still held the struggling
girl in his grasp, another figure sprang from a cluster of dense foilage
that had a golden fountain close at hand. A tall, straight youth he was,
with black hair and keen gray eyes; broad of shoulder and narrow of hip;
a clean-limbed fighting man. His skin was but faintly tinged with the copper
color that marks the red men of Mars from the other races of the dying
planet – he was like them, and yet there was a subtle difference greater
even than that which lay in his lighter skin and his gray eyes.
It is not hard to imagine quite a bit of skin-on-skin contact
as Thuvia struggled in Astok's grasp. He was still trying to hold on to
her knowing that the guard was coming to her rescue. Yes, Thuvia has this
effect on men.
“There was a difference, too, in
his movement. He came on in great leaps that carried him so swiftly over
the ground that the speed of the guardsmen was as nothing by comparison.
“Astok still clutched Thuvia’s wrist
as the young warrior confronted him. The new-comer wasted no time and he
spoke but a single word.
“‘Calot!’ he snapped, and then his
clenched fist landed beneath the other’s chin, lifting him high into the
air and depositing him in a crumpled heap within the center of the pimalia
bush beside the ersite bench.” (TMM/1.)
Thuvia’s next task will be some swift diplomacy in keeping
the two young princes from each other’s throats. After all, Astok is a
guest of her father and to him alone will the judgment as to Astok’s fate.
The idea of averting a war because of her dangerous flirting might also
have been in her mind.
In quick summation, Carthoris has arrived unannounced
to show-off a new directional compass he has just invented and he just
happens to be in the right place at the right time to rescue the princess.
Astok makes his getaway that evening without mention of his terrible deed
to Thuvan Dihn. Carthoris demonstrates how his directional compass operates
and later flirts with Thuvia, wondering if he has a chance with her.
He reminds her of all the time they spent together in
Kadabra and later a month in her father’s court. His idea of the past is
not the same as Thuvia’s. She recalls their first encounter rather ruefully.
She had decided to stand with John Carter against a Green Martian patrol,
yet his rash son had put her on top of his thoat and slapped it on the
rump with the flat of his sword, sending her off into another scary adventure,
straight into the hands of a lucky Black Pirate patrol (GM/15). That could
not have made a very good first impression.
Thuvia plays with his heart, reminding him of her betrothal
to the Jeddak of Kaol. But knowing of the betrothal only makes their flirting
more daring as together they push the thin envelope of Martian custom.
Sure, she is attracted to Carthoris. How can she not be:
he is a dead ringer for his father, with whom she is still in love. She
gives Carthoris just enough tortured hints to keep him interested but makes
it clear that he will have to win her before she can ever be his.Carthoris
returns to Helium but that night Thuvia is kidnapped by members of Astok’s
bodyguard and taken to the ancient dead-sea bottom city of Aaanthor to
await the arrival of Astok. As soon as Carthoris discovers that Thuvia
is missing – at John Carter’s insistence since Carthoris is the main suspect
– he sets his directional compass to Ptarth and falls asleep on the journey.
However, a spy has sabotaged his compass and he awakens the next morning,
not in Ptarth, but in Aaanthor:
“The breaking of the sudden
dawn found him still asleep. His flier was rushing swiftly above a barren,
ochre plain – the world-old bottom of a long-dead Martian sea.
Carthoris awakes and discovers that his compass has been
tampered with. He hears a scream, looks down and sees Thuvia being dragged
across the plaza below by a Green Martian. Without hesitation he goes into
action, but before he can land several things occur:
“In the distance rose low hills.
Toward these the craft was headed. As it approached them, a great promontory
might have been seen from its deck, stretching out into what had once been
a mighty ocean, and circling back once more to enclose the forgotten harbor
of a forgotten city, which still stretched back from its deserted quays,
an imposing pile of wondrous architecture of a long-dead past.
“The countless dismal windows, vacant
and forlorn, stared, sightless, from their marble walls; the whole city
taking on the semblance of scattered mounds of dead men’s sun-bleached
skulls – the casements having the appearance of eyeless sockets, the portals,
“Closer came the flier, but now
its speed was diminishing – yet this was not Ptarth.
“Above the central plaza it stopped,
slowly settling Marsward. Within a hundred yards of the ground it came
to rest, floating gently in the light air, and at the same instant an alarm
sounded at the sleeper’s ear.” (TMM/3.)
“The green man was hurrying his captive toward
a huge thoat that browsed upon the ochre vegetation of the once scarlet-gorgeous
plaza. At the same instant a dozen red warriors leaped from the entrance
of a nearby ersite palace, pursuing the abductor with naked swords and
shouts of rageful warning.” (TMM/3.)
The story suddenly switches to Thuvia’s perspective, taking
us back to when she was first abducted by Astok’s soldiers in a flier.
Without further incident she is flown to Aaanthor.
“Here the flier settled
slowly into the plaza of one of those mute monuments of Mars’ dead and
forgotten past – the deserted cities that fringe the sad ochre sea-bottoms
where once rolled the mighty floods upon whose bosoms moved the maritime
commerce of the peoples that are gone forever.
One of the soldiers leaves her alone in the center of the
plaza and then hides with the others while they await the arrival of Carthoris,
where they hope to trap and kill him when he lands after he spies Thuvia
in the plaza.
“Thuvia of Ptarth was no stranger
to such places. During her wanderings in search of the River Iss, that
time she had set out upon what, for countless ages, had been the last,
long pilgrimage of Martians, toward the Valley Dor, where lies the Lost
Sea of Korus, she had encountered several of these sad reminders of the
greatness and the glory of ancient Barsoom.
“And again, during her flight from
the temples of the Holy Therns with Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, she had
seen them, with their weird and ghostly inmates, the great white apes of
“She knew, too, that many of them
were used now by the nomadic tribes of green men, but that among them all
was no city that the red men did not shun,for without exception they stood
amidst vast, waterless tracts, unsuited for the continued sustenance of
the dominant race of Martians.” (TMM/4.)
“Then he turned and retraced
his steps toward the palace, leaving her alone in the midst of the unseen
terrors of the haunted city, for in truth these places are haunted in the
belief of many Martians who still cling to an ancient superstition which
teaches the spirit of Holy Therns who die before their allotted one thousand
years, pass, on occasions, into the bodies of the great white apes.
But what she hears is no great white ape, but Thar Ban, Jed
among the green hordes of Torquas, which is either another ancient dead
ocean city – the tribes of the Tharks and Warhoons took their names from
ancient dead cities -- or an area named after the tribe.
“To Thuvia, however, the real danger
of attack by one of the ferocious, manlike beasts was quite sufficient.
She no longer believed in the weird soul transmigration that the therns
had taught her before she was rescued from their clutches by John Carter;
but she well knew the horrid fate that awaited her should one of the terrible
beasts chance to spy her during its nocturnal prowlings.” (TMM/ 4.)
“Thar Ban dismounted. Keeping
in the shadows of the great monoliths that line the Avenue of the Quays
of sleeping Aaanthor, he approached the plaza. Directly behind him, as
a hound at heel, came the slate-gray thoat, his white belly shadowed by
his barrel, his vivid yellow feet merging into the yellow of the moss beneath
If he is a green pervert, he is thinking of sex; if he is
a normal Green Martian, he is thinking about the joy of torturing her.
As it is, he captures Thuvia and makes his escape “down the black canyon
of the Avenue of Quays between the sullen palaces of forgotten Aaanthor.”
“In the center of the plaza Thar
Ban saw the figure of a red woman. A red warrior was conversing with her.
Now the man turned and retraced his steps toward the palace at the opposite
side of the plaza.
“Thar Ban watched until he had disappeared
within the yawning portal. Here was a captive worth having. Seldom did
a female of their hereditary enemies fall to the lot of a green man. Thar
Ban licked his thin lips.” (TMM/4.)
Carthoris lands and fights the remaining red warriors.
He dispatches two of them and the third escapes. Carthoris regains his
flier and takes off in pursuit of Thar Ban but the remaining red martian
takes a rifle and shoots his flier, crippling it. Even though he can still
see Thar Ban in flight, his flier finally crashes and he has to pursue
As mentioned above, all of the cities in this part of
the series are in the region of the green horde of Torquas. Thar Ban is
a Jed, but Hortan Gur is the Jeddak of the entire Torquasian Horde. We
will assume that Torquas is an ancient city in this region – although we
never get to visit it – in order to make this tribe consistent with the
other green hordes named after ancient dead cities: the Tharks and Warhoons.
Anyway, Carthoris tredges on towards the distant mountains in the direction
he last saw Thar Ban traveling with Thuvia.
“All that night he forged
ahead until, with the dawning of a new day, he entered the low foothills
that guard the approach to the fastness of the mountains of Torquas.
Carthoris follows the banth in hope that he will lead him
to an entrance into the natural barrier of the mountains. It soon disappears
and Carthoris leaps to the spot where it vanished.
“Rugged, granite walls towered above
him. Nowhere could he discern an opening through the formidable barrier;
yet somewhere into this inhospitable world of stone the green warrior had
borne the woman of the red man's hearts desire....
“It was drawing towards the day’s
close once more when the keen eyes of the Heliumite discerned the tawny
yellow of a sleek hide moving among the boulders several hundred yards
to his left.
“Crouching quickly behind a large
rock, Carthoris watched the thing before him. It was a huge banth, one
of those savage Barsoomian lions that roam the desolate hills of the dying
“The creature’s nose was close to
the ground. It was evident that he was following the spoor of meat by scent.”
“Before him loomed the
sheer cliff, its face unbroken by any aperture into which the huge banth
might have wormed its great carcass. Beside him was a small, flat boulder,
not larger than the deck of a ten-man flier, nor standing to a greater
height than twice his own stature.
Without hesitation, Carthoris plunges into the cave. In the
dark tunnel he encounters another banth pursuing him from the rear and
he stands and blinds it with his sword. The creature rushes blindly past
“Perhaps the banth was hiding behind
this? The brute might have discovered the man on his trail, and even now
be lying in wait for his easy prey.
“Cautiously, with drawn long-sword,
Carthoris crept around the corner of the rock. There was no banth there,
but something which surprised him infinitely more than would the presence
of twenty banths.
“Before him yawned the mouth of
a dark cave leading downward into the ground. Through this the banth must
have disappeared. Was it his lair? Within its dark forbidding interior
might there not lurk not one but many of the fearsome creatures?” (TMM/4.)
“Carthoris, too, followed
the same direction, nor was it long before his heart was gladdened by the
sight of the moonlit exit from the long, dark passage.
He comes across a dead thoat, and by its harness discerns
it was the one that Thar Ban had been riding. It is being devoured by the
same banth he had followed through the tunnel. The banth he had blinded
smells the dead thoat and the two banths fight over the carcass and kill
each other. Carthoris examines the dead thoat for any clues as to fate
of its riders.
“Before him lay a deep hollow, entirely
surrounded by gigantic cliffs. The surface of the valley was dotted with
enormous trees, a strange sight so far from a Martian waterway. The ground
itself was clothed in brilliant scarlet sward, picked out with innumberable
patches of gorgeous wild flowers.
“Beneath the glorious effulgence
of the two moons the scene was one of indescribable loveliness, tinged
with the weirdness of strange enchantment.” (TMM/5.)
He begins to explore the valley and immediately comes
upon a hair ornament worn by Thuvia. He attaches it to his harness as a
holy relic. He continues on through the night.
“For half the night he
continued his search, until presently he was brought to a sudden halt by
the distant sound of squealing thoats.
As soon as the sun comes up, the green men commence firing
upon the city. He sees a great platform where the Jeddak squats, then spies
another Jed bringing Thuvia to him. He is relieved that she still lives
but watches in horror as Horton Gur strikes her across the face with a
metal-banded arm. Carthoris goes crazy and attacks. Fortunately all the
green men are looking in the direction of the platform and don’t see him
emerge from the forest.
“Guided by the noise of these habitually
angry beasts, he stole forward through the trees until at last he came
upon a level, treeless plain, in the center of which a mighty city reared
its burnished domes and vividly colored towers.
“About the walled city the red man
saw a huge encampment of the green warriors of the dead sea-bottoms, and
as he let his eyes rove carefully over the city he realized that here was
no deserted metropolis of a dead past....
“That he was within the boundary
of Torquas, Carthoris was sure, but that there existed there such a wondrous
city he never had dreamed, nor had the chronicles of the past even hinted
at such a possibility, for the Torquasians were known to live, as did the
other green men of Mars, within the deserted cities that dotted the dying
planet, nor ever had any green horde built so much as a single edifice,
other than the low-walled incubators where their young are hatched by the
“The encircling camp of green warriors
lay about five hundred yards from the city’s walls. Between it and the
city was no semblance of breastwork or other protection against rifle or
cannon fire; yet distinctly now in the light of the rising sun Carthoris
could see many figures moving along the summit of the high wall, and upon
the roof tops beyond.
“That they were beings like himself
he was sure, though they were at too great a distance from him for him
to be positive that they were red men.” (TMM/5.)
“Carthoris had covered
about half the distance between the forest and the green warriors, when
a new factor succeeded in still further directing the attention of the
latter from him.
Hortan Gur is just leaving the platform to join the fight
when Carthoris leaps on it, grabbing Thuvia to his side. He pricks Hortan
Gur with his sword, challenging him to a duel. But two of his chieftans
hasten him to battle the bowmen and banths pouring out of the city.
“Upon a high tower within the beleaguered
city a man appeared. From his upturned mouth there issued a series of frightful
shrieks; uncanny shrieks that swept, shrill and terrifying, across the
city’s walls, over the heads of the besiegers, and out across the forest
to the uttermost confines of the valley....
“And then the great gate in the
city wall opposite the platform of Horton Gur swung suddenly wide. From
it issued as strange a sight as Carthoris ever had witnessed, though at
the moment he had time to cast but a single fleeting glance at the tall
bowmen emerging through the portal behind their long, oval shields; to
note their flowing auburn hair; and to realize that the growling things
at their side were fierce Barsoomian lions.
“Then he was in the midst of the
astonished Torquasians. With drawn long-sword he was among them, and to
Thuvia of Ptarth, whose startled eyes were the first to fall upon him,
it seemed that she was looking upon John Carter himself, so strangely similar
to the fighting of the father was that of the son.
“Even the famous fighting smile
of the Virginian was the semblance true. And the sword arm! Ah, the subtleness
of it, and the speed!” (TMM/5.)
Soon the platform is in the middle of the battle; miraculously
neither Carthoris nor Thuvia are harmed as the battle rages on beyond them.
Pretty soon all they can hear are the sounds of battle in the far off forest.
Dead bowmen, Green Men, and banths lie in heaps on the field of battle.
Thuvia tells Carthoris of her doubts; she had suspected that Carthoris
was originally responsible for her abduction.
“‘Ah, Carthoris,’ she replied
sadly, ‘I did not wish to believe it; but when everything pointed to you
– even then I would not believe it.’
Carthoris is hurt but shrugs it off with a glib smile, which
in turn hurts Thuvia. Carthoris then averts his attention to the current
“‘I did not do it, Thuvia,’ he said.
‘But let me be entirely honest with you. As much as I love your father,
as much as I respect Kulan Tith, to whom you are betrothed, as well as
I know the frightful consequences that must have followed such an act of
mine, hurling into war, as it would, three of the greatest nations of Barsoom
– yet, notwithstanding all this, I should not have hesitated to take you
thus, Thuvia of Ptarth, had you even hinted that it would not have displeased
“‘But you did nothing of the kind,
and so I am here, not in my own service, but in yours, and in the service
of the man to whom you are promised, to save you for him, if it lies within
the power of man to do so,’ he concluded, almost bitterly.
“Thuvia of Ptarth looked into his
face for several moments. Her breast was rising and falling as though to
some restless emotion. She half took a step toward him. Her lips parted
as though to speak – swiftly and impetuously.
“And then she conquered whatever
had moved her.
“‘The future acts of the Prince
of Helium,’ she said coldly, ‘must constitute the proof of his past honesty
of purpose.’” (TMM/5.)
“‘Where are we?’ he asked.
“I do not know.’
Carthoris is feeling the same kind of emotion people on Earth
would feel if someone had just stumbled upon real proof of the legend of
Atlantis. They wonder why the bowmen do not return and then discover that
their dead and wounded on the field of battle have suddenly disappeared.
There is nothing but the corpses of the Green Men and dead banths.
“‘Nor I,’ replied the girl. ‘Those
who stole me from Ptarth spoke among themselves of Aaanthor, so that I
thought it possible that the ancient city to which they took me was that
famous ruin; but where we may be now I have no idea.’
“‘When the bowmen return we shall
doubtless learn all that there is to know,’ said Carthoris. ‘Let us hope
that they prove friendly. What race may they be? Only in the most ancient
of our legends and in the mural paintings of the deserted cities of the
dead sea-bottoms are depicted such a race of auburn-haired, fair-skinned
people. Can it be that we have stumbled upon a surviving city of the past
which all Barsoom believes buried beneath the ages?’” (TMM/5.)
They decide to seek refuge in the city but Carthoris is
worried about all the loose banths that block their way. Thuvia tells him
not to worry then uses her witching way on the banths. They pass freely,
but wonder why the corpses of the green men who have not yet been devoured
have no arrows in them.
“He glanced at Thuvia.
She was advancing with wide eyes fixed upon the city gate. He looked in
the direction of her gaze, but saw nothing.
Auburn is moderate reddish-brown to brown in color. I mistakenly
stated in a past article on the Orovars that there was no evidence of an
ancient race of golden haired people, but I was wrong. In fact, in Gods
of Mars, Thuvia explains to John Carter why the Therns are bald and wear
“His gaze upon her seemed to arouse
her as from a lethargy. She glanced up at him, a quick, brave smile touching
her lips, and then, as though the act was involuntary, she came close to
his side and placed one of her hands in his.
“He guessed that something within
her that was beyond her conscious control was appealing to him for protection.
He threw an arm about her, and thus they crossed the field. She did not
draw away from him. It is doubtful that she realized that his arm was there,
so engrossed was she in the mystery of the strange city before them.
“They stopped before the gate. It
was a mighty thing. From its construction Carthoris could but dimly speculate
upon its unthinkable antiquity.
“It was circular, closing a circular
aperture, and the Heliumite knew from his study of ancient Barsoomian architecture
that it rolled to one side, like a huge wheel, into an aperture in the
“Even such world-old cities as ancient
Aaanthor were as yet undreamed of when the races lived that built such
gates as these.
“As he stood speculating upon the
identity of this forgotten city, a voice spoke to them from above. Both
looked up. There, leaning over the edge of the high wall, was a man.
“His hair was auburn, his skin fair
– fairer even than that of John Carter, the Virginian. His forehead was
high, his eyes large and intelligent.
“The language that he used was intelligible
to the two below, yet there was a marked difference between it and their
“‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘And what
do you here before the gate of Lothar?’” (TMM/6.)
“‘They are all thus from
birth,’ explained Thuvia, noting my surprise. ‘The race from which they
sprang were crowned with a luxuriant growth of golden hair, but for many
ages the present race had been entirely bald. The wig, however, has come
to be a part of their apparel, and so important a part do they consider
it that it is cause for the deepest disgrace were a thern to appear in
public without it.’” (GM/4.)
Which means that the Therns are likely the descendants of
the Orovars of Horz. Carter originally deduced that the Orovars were Therns,
but dismissed the idea since the Orovars were not bald. He just had it
backwards. Thus, the ancient fair skinned people were both golden and auburned
haired. The Lotharians are auburn haired as were the ancient citizens who
inhabited Korad, Thark, and likely, Aaanthor.
The Tarids and Domnians on Thuria are also fair skinned,
but have blue hair. Perhaps the Orovars or Lotharians had long ago set
up a colony on Thuria and because of local conditions -- or that peculiar
relationship between the masses of Barsoom and her lesser moon -- their
hair had turned blue. We must not discount off hand such a connection.
I mean, where else could the Thurians have come from?
Also note the subtle way that Thuvia lets Carthoris know
that an initial boundary has been crossed: she takes his hand in hers.
When she saw Carthoris charging out of the forest to save her the first
thing she thought of was John Carter. Remember, Thuvia stated from her
experience that the Holy Therns were decadent:
decadent. adj. 1. Being in a state of decline or
decay. 2. Marked by or providing unrestrained gratification; self-indulgent.
One can easily conjure up images of incest when one recalls
that the Therns did not practice marriage. Perhaps there is a hint of incest
in Thuvia’s ability to project her lustful feelings for John Carter onto
the one he loves, Dejah Thoris. The same thing can be happening with Carthoris,
their son. By taking his hand she may be telling him, Hey, you really turned
me on because you reminded me of your father, thus I am feeling a transfer
of my lust for him to you.
Or maybe she is just falling for Carthoris for the same
reason she had fallen for Carter: his fighting prowess. Or it could be
that Thuvia was a real woman in ERB’s life and he is writing another story
where he can vicariously have an affair with her in his imagination as
Carthoris without Emma catching on.
As a writer, ERB fell victim to a phenomenon every writer
who knows people faces: everyone wants to know what character in the story
is based on them, and if told that no one is based on them, they will guess
anyway. Other people take this much more seriously than the author. Hatreds
and jealousies may arise from these associations. I’m not a shrink so take
your pick from the above, or add your own theory.
One thing is sure, Carthoris is quick to catch on, putting
his arm around her shoulders. ERB makes it out that Thuvia was likely feeling
the need for male protection, but for whatever reason, Thuvia, as a betrothed
woman, has already committed a serious breach in Martian custom. Her time
with the Therns apparently corrupted her mind so that the desires of the
flesh now outweigh Barsoomian moralilty in her mind and actions. She cannot
help it -- fifteen years as a sex slave have programmed her to think like
a Holy Thern, who thought of themselves as gods, beyond good and evil.
Besides, she cannot possibly have forgotten what Carthoris
had just recently told her, about how he would have willingly abducted
her if she would have given any indication that the act would not displease
her, even if it meant driving their nations to war. By taking his hand
in hers, she has just given him the first indication. But back to the story.
. . .
Continued in ERBzine 3317a