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Volume 3319
The Ninth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.


You may recall Amhor from our last article on Carter’s escape from the Black Pirates of Kamtol in the Valley of the First Born. Carter liberated Llana of Gathol, Pan Dan Chee, and the brother of Janai of Amhor, from the First Born in one of their fliers. Janai is, of course, the maiden princess captured by the Hormads and taken to the island of Morbus with John Carter and the young padwar of his guard, Vor Daj. And Vor Daj, you may recall, is the fool for love that had his brain transplanted into that of a Hormad, Tor-dur-bar, in order to rescue Janai from the Seven Jeds of Morbus. This is ERB’s version of Beauty and the Beast.

Amhor is like a town out of the wild west: a rough and tumble cattle town, filled with men with money to spend. It also sports one of the oddest zoos on all Barsoom, for it exhibits Red Martians from other lands, as if they are exotic beasts. It also has acquired a new animal to house in its cages: Tor-dur-bar! Synthetic Men of Mars. It is an exciting story of how he manages to escape from his cage and wreak vengeance upon Amhor’s inept leader, Jal Had, Prince of Amhor.

Directly before me, on a table, lay my bodyThe culture tank swarmed with writhing life like an enormous witch's potMy superhuman strength and long sword arm gave us a great advantageA number os strange creatures came running toward usThere is no place in the world for such a hideous monster as I.
Synthetic Men of Mars art by John Coleman Burroughs


Tor-dur-bar first learns of the identity of Janai while they are being interrogated by Sytor, an officer of the Seven Jeds of Morbus:

“She was Janai, and she said that she came from Amhor, a city about seven hundred miles north of Morbus. It is a small city ruled by a prince named Jal Had who has such a bad reputation that is has reached to far away Helium.” (SMM/4.)
Later in the story, after Vor Daj has his brain transplanted into the Hormad body of Tordur-bar, he escapes from Morbus along with Janai, Sytor, Gur Tan -- the original Tor-dur-bar’s new body, which previously had belonged to the Red Martian Assassin of Amhor -- and Pandarthe Phundalian. Tor-dur-bar, you recall, is not a pretty sight:
“One arm was a little longer than the other, his torso was out of proportion to his short legs, and he had six toes on one foot and an extra thumb on his left hand; but, altogether, he was a pretty good specimen for a Hormad.” (SMM/8.)

“My face was really something to arrest attention. Not a single feature was placed where it should have been, and all were out of proportion, some being too large and some too small. My right eye was way up on my forehead, just below the hair line, and was twice as large as my left eye which was about half an inch in front of my left ear. My mouth started at the bottom of my chin and ran upward at an angle of about 45 degrees to a point slightly below my huge right eye. My nose was scarcely more than a bud and occupied the place that my little left eye should have had. One ear was close set and tiny, the other a pendulous mass that hung almost to my shoulder.” (SMM/9.)

As Tor-dur-bar, Vor Daj provides an endless source of amusement to John Carter:
“John Carter is one of the most human persons I have ever known. He is in every sense of the word a great man, a statesman, a soldier, perhaps the greatest swordman that ever lived, grim and terrible in combat; but with it all he is modest and approachable, and he has never lost his sense of humor. When we were alone he would joke with me about my newly acquired ‘pulchritude,’ laughing in his quiet way until his sides shook; and I was, indeed, a sight to inspire both laughter and horror. My great torso on its short legs, my right arm reaching below my knees, my left but slightly below my waist line, I was all out of proportion.

“‘Your face is really your greatest asset,’ he said, after looking at me for a long time. ‘I should like to take you back to Helium as you are and present you at the jeddak’s next levee. You know, of course, that you were considered one of the handsomest men in Helium. I should say, “Here is the noble Vor Daj, a padwar of The Warlord’s Guard,” and how the women would cluster around you.’” (SMM/9.)

Sytor and Pandar take Janai and abandon the others on Treason Island, leaving them to fend for himself. After several adventures, Tor-dur-bar is reunited with Janai and they are befriended by the Toonolian swamp people, the Goonlians, who make a canoe for them. They paddle out into the dangerous marshes: 
“Vast expanses of the Great Marshes were uninhabitable by man, and for a week we passed through dismal wastes where not even the savage aborigines could live; but we encountered other menaces in the form of great reptiles and gigantic insects, some of the latter being of enormous proportions with a wingspread well over thirty feet. Equipped with powerful jaws and rapier-like stingers, and sometimes with both, as some of them were, one of these monsters could easily have annihilated us; but fortunately we were never attacked. The smaller reptiles of the Marshes were their natural prey and we witnessed many an encounter in which the insects always came off victorious.” (SMM/23.)
They spot an airship overhead and hope that it belongs to Helium, but, of course, it belongs to Amhor instead:
“As the ship drew nearer it dropped still lower; so I knew that we had been observed; and finally it came to rest just above us. Landing tackle was lowered to us through a keel port, and I quickly made it fast to Janai’s body so that she could be raised comfortably to the ship. While I was engaged in this, another tackle was lowered for me; and soon we were both being hoisted toward the vessel. 

“The instant that we were hoisted into the hold of the vessel and I had a chance to note the sailors who surrounded us, I realized that this was no ship of Helium for the men wore the harness of another country. 

“Janai turned toward me with frightened eyes. ‘Neither John Carter nor Ras Thavas are on this ship,’ she whispered; ‘it is no ship of Helium, but one of the ships of Jal Had, Prince of Amhor. I should have been as well off in Morbus as I shall be now, if they discover my identity.’” (SMM/23.)

Of course one of the Amhorians with a keen eye recognizes Janai, and they split them up. As Tor-dur-bar is being escorted to his new quarters he sees a man run across the deck and jump overboard, then swimming to the now abandoned canoe. His new room contains one other captive, Tun Gan. He explains to Tor-dur-bar that he and Pandar had been captured a week earlier, and that Pandar did not wish to go to Amhor, but to his beloved Phundahl, which is why he jumped overboard when he had a chance. Tun Gan is not adverse to going to Amhor for everyone believes he is Gantun Gur, the famous assassin. 

Tor-dur-bar asks why the Prince of Amhor flies his ships over the Great Toonlian Marshes and Tun Gan replies:

“‘Jal Had, the Prince of Amhor, has a hobby for collecting wild beasts. They say that he has a great number of them, and this ship has been searching the Great Toonlian Marshes for new specimens.” (SMM/23.)
They are taken to Amhor, which lies seven hundred and fifty miles north of the position in which they have been captured. Then Tor-dur-bar is hustled into a ground flier:
“These ground fliers are a common means of private transportation in many Martian cities. They have a ceiling of about one hundred feet and a maximum speed of sixty miles an hour. In Amhor all north and south traffic moves at ground level at intersections, east and west traffic passing above it. East and west traffic is compelled to rise above north and south traffic at each intersection because there is a short runway inclining upward to a height of about ten feet at each intersection, ending in an abrupt drop at the intersection. These inclines force all east and west traffic to rise above the north and south traffic intersections. All vehicular traffic moves in but one direction on any avenue, the direction of flow alternating, so that half the avenues carry traffic in one direction and the other half in the opposite direction. Left turns are made without diminishing speed by the simple expedient of rising above both lanes of traffic.

The result is that traffic flows steadily in all directions at an average speed of fifty miles an hour. Parking accomodations are frequent, and are found inside buildings at a level of about sixty feet above the pavement. North and south pedestrian traffic moves without interruption in either direction on both sides of North and South Streets at the ground level; and, simililarly, on East and West Streets through underpasses at street intersections.” (SMM/24.)

The narrator shares this information because Carter has told him of the traffic congestion problems on Earth. Thus, ERB, always the efficiency expert, offers some Barsoomian advice on how to correct the problem. Too bad Earth hasn’t invented the ray of propulsion yet. Then we get our first description of Amhor:
“The palace grounds, which were our destination, covered an area of about eighty acres. The avenues leading to it were lined with the palaces of the nobility, just beyond which were the better-grade shops and hotels. Amhor is a small city and the only one in the principality which might claim the dignity of such a title, the others being but small and widely scattered villages. The chief business of the principality is the raising of thoats and zitidars, the former the saddle animals the latter the mammoth draft animals of Mars. Both are also raised for food, and Amhor exports preserved meats, hides, and other by-products to Duhor, Phundahl,
and Toonol.

“Amhor is the mecca of the stockmen from the country, hard-riding, profane, belligerent men; good spenders, always provided with plenty of money. So it is withal an interesting city, though one may scarcely enjoy it from the inside of a cage in a zoological garden, which is exactly where I landed a few minutes after I was driven through the rear gate of the palace grounds.

“Here, upon both sides of an avenue, were cages, pits, and dens containing specimens of a wide variety of Martian animal life, an exhibition of the fauna of a planet which must have been instructive and certainly was entertaining and amusing to the crowds that passed along the avenue daily; for to this part of the palace grounds the public was freely admitted during daylight hours.

“A unique feature of the zoological display of Jal Had, Prince of Amhor, was the inclusion of various types of Martian humans. In the cage at my left was a huge green man, with his ivory tusks and four arms; and at my right was a red man from Ptarth. There were thoats and zitidars and the great white apes of Barsoom, fierce, hairy monsters closely resembling man, and, perhaps, the most feared of all Martian beasts. Near me also were two apts, arctic monsters from far Okar. These great beasts are covered with white fur and have six legs, four of which are short and heavy and carry it over snow and ice. The other two grow forward from its shoulders on either side of its long, powerful neck, and terminate in white, hairless hands, with which it seizes and holds its prey. The head and mouth, John Carter has told me, are similar to those of an Earthly hippopotamus, except that from the flat sides of the lower jawbone, two mighty horns curve slightly toward the front. Its two huge eyes extend in large oval patches from the center of the top of the cranium down either side of the head to below the roots of the horn, so that these weapons really grow out from the lower part of the eyes, which are composed of several thousand ocelli each. Each ocellus is furnished with its own lid, so that the apt can close as many of the facets of its eyes as it wishes. There were banths, calots, darseens, orluks, siths, soraks, ulsios, and many other beasts, insects and men, including even a kaldane, one of the strange spider-men of Bantoom.” (SMM/24.)

A sign is hung outside his cage which reads: “HORMAD FROM MORBUS, A MANLIKE MONSTER CAPTURED IN THE WILDS OF THE GREAT TOONOLIAN MARSHES.” (Id.) You may recall the sith, not from the Dark Lords of Star Wars, but from Carter’s adventure in Kaol when he and his faithful calot, Woola, in Warlord of Mars, were pursuing Matai Shang:
“Toward noon we stumbled upon a well-constructed road running in the general direction we had been pursuing. Everything about this highway marked it as the work of skilled engineers, and I was confident, from the indications of antiquity which it bore, as well as from the very evident signs of its being still in everyday use, that it must lead to one of the principal cities of Kaol.

“Just as we entered it from one side a huge monster emerged from the jungle upon the other, and at sight of us charged madly in our direction.

“Imagine, if you can, a bald-faced hornet of your earthly experience grown to the size of a prize Hereford bull, and you will have some faint conception of the ferocious appearance and awesome formidability of the winged monster that bore down on me.

“Frightful jaws in front and mighty, poisoned sting behind made my relatively puny long-sword seem a pitiful weapon of defense indeed. Nor could I hope to escape the lightning-like movements or hide from those myriad facet eyes which covered three-fourths of the hideous head, permitting the creature to see in all directions at one and the same time.” (WM/5.)

Consulting the glossary at the end of Thuvia, Maid of Mars, we discover that a darseen is a chameleon-like reptile. It doesn’t sound like any of the reptiles Tor-dur-bar and Janai saw as prey to the monster insects in the marshes were darseens, at least we are not told that they were. 

We do, however, read of menacing reptiles in A Fighting Man of Mars, when Hadron of Hastor and Nur-An are sentenced to die the Death and are lowered down into a tributary of the River Iss, which flows underground for a thousand miles before emptying into the Lost Sea of Korus. They stumble along the bank of the underground river until they come across a hideous reptile:

“But whatever musing upon the flora of this strange land I may have been indulging in was brought to a sudden termination as we rounded the shoulder of a jutting promontory and came face to face with as hideous a creature as ever I had set my eyes upon. It was a great white lizard with gaping jaws large enough to engulf a man in a single swallow. At the sight of us it emitted an angry hiss and advanced menacingly towards us. 

“Being unarmed and absolutely at the mercy of any creature that attacked us, we pursued the only plan that our intelligence could dictate -- we retreated -- and I am not ashamed to admit that we retreated rapidly.” (FMM/7.)

This also does not sound like a description of a darseen, but it just about covers the reptiles described in the Barsoomian Mythos. As for the sorak, the glossary describes it as a little pet animal among the Red Martian women, about the size of a cat. We all remember what a kaldane is from the encounter of Luud with Tara of Helium in the land of Bantoom. Anyway, this is the menagerie in which Tor-dur-bar is caged.

After about two hours in his new environment, Tor-dur-bar is visited by a retinue of the Prince; Janai is among them:

“The royal party was approaching, Jal Had walking a few paces ahead of the others. He was a gross-appearing man, with a cruel mouth and shifty eyes. He came and stopped before my cage; and as the others approached and stopped behind him, I saw that Janai was one of them. She looked up at me, and I saw tears forming in her eyes. ‘Splendid,’ said Jal Had, after he had examined me minutely for several moments. ‘I’ll wager that there is not another specimen like this anywhere in world.’ He turned towards his companions. ‘What do you think of it?’ he demanded.

“‘It is wonderful,’ they all replied, practically in unison, that is, all but Janai. She remained silent.

“The Jal Had fixed his gaze upon Janai. ‘And what do you think of it, my love?’ he asked.

“‘I think a great deal of it,’ she replied. ‘Tor-dur-bar is my friend, and I think that it is a cruel shame to cage him up like this.’

“‘You would like to have wild beasts roaming around the city, then?’ he demanded.

“‘Tor-dur-bar is not a wild beast; he is a brave and loyal friend. But for him, I should have been long since dead; and though perhaps I had been better off, I shall never cease to appreciate the dangers and hardships that he endured for me.’

“‘For that, he shall be rewarded, then,’ said Jal Had, magnanimously. ‘He shall receive the scraps from the royal table.’

“Now that was something. I, a noble of Helium, to be fed with the scraps from the table of Jal Had, Prince of Amhor. However, I consoled myself with the thought that scraps from his table would probably be far better fare than than ordinarily served to the beasts of the zoo, and I could easily swallow my pride along with his scraps.

“Of course, I had no opportunity to converse with Janai, as I could not learn what had happened to her, nor what the future held for her. 

“‘Tell me something about yourself,’ demanded Jal Had. ‘Are you just a freak, or are there more like you? What were your father and mother like.’ 

“‘I had no father and mother,’ I replied, ‘and there are many more like me, millions of us.’

“‘No father and mother?’ he demanded. ‘But some sort of a creature must have laid the egg from which you hatched.’

“‘I came from no egg,’ I replied.

“‘Well,’ said Jal Had, ‘you are not only the greatest freak I ever saw, but the greatest liar. Perhaps a good beating will teach you better manners than to lie to Jal Had.’

“‘He has not lied,’ said Janai. ‘He has told you the truth.’

“‘So you, too,’ he demanded of her, ‘you too, think I am a fool? I can have my women beaten, as well as my animals, if they do not behave themselves.’

“‘You are proving definitely that you are a fool,’ I said, ‘for you have heard the truth from both of us, and yet you do not believe it.’

“‘Silence!’ called an officer of the guard. ‘Shall I kill the presumptuous beast, Jal Had?’

“‘No,’ replied the Prince. ‘He is too valuable. Perhaps later I shall have him beaten.’ I wondered who would have the temerity to enter my cage to beat me, I, who could tear an ordinary man limb from limb. 

“Jal Had turned and walked away, followed by the members of his party; and when they had left the avenue, the public was once more admitted; and, until dark, I had to endure the gaze and insults of a loud-mouthed rabble. Now I realized with what contempt caged beasts must look upon the human beings which gape and gawk at them.” (SMM/24.)

The crowds are eventually expelled and the animals fed; then Tor-dur-bar is visited by a goggle-eyed slave boy who comes with the scraps from Jal Had’s table.
“There was a small door in the front of my cage near the floor through which the food could be passed to me; but the youth was evidently afraid to open it for fear that I might seize him.

“‘Don’t be afraid,’ I said. ‘I shall not harm you. I am not a wild beast.’

“He came closer then and timidly opened the little door. ‘I am not afraid,’ he said; but I knew that he was.

“‘Where are you from?’ I asked.

“‘From Duhor,’ he replied.

“‘A friend of a friend of mine lives there,’ I said.

“‘And who might that be?’

“‘Vad Varo,’ I replied.

“‘Ah, Vad Varo! I have seen him often. I was to have taken service in his guard when I finished my training. He married Valla Dia, our Princess. He is a great warrior. And who is your friend that his friend?’

“‘John Carter, Prince of Helium, Warlord of Mars,’ I replied.” (SMM/24.)

The mention of John Carter’s name sends a shock wave in the ears of everyone listening. By this time in the Mythos, it would almost be unheard of for anyone not to know about John Carter.
“Then indeed did his eyes go wide. ‘John Carter, you know him? Who has not heard of him, the greatest swordsman of all Barsoom? But how could such as you be friend of John Carter?’

“‘It may seen strange to you,’ I admitted, ‘but the fact remains that John Carter is my best friend.’

“‘But what do you know of John Carter?’ demanded the red man in the adjoining cage. ‘I am from Helium; and there is no creature like you in the entire empire. I think you are a great liar. You lied to me, and you lied to Jal Had, and now you are lying to this young slave. What do you think you can gain by telling so many lies? Have you never heard that Martians pride themselves upon being truthful men?’

“‘I have not lied,’ I said.

“‘You do not even know what John Carter looks like,’ taunted the red man.

“‘He has black hair and gray eyes, and a lighter skin than yours,’ I replied; ‘and he came from Jasoom, and he is married to Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium. When he came to Barsoom, he was captured by the green men of Thark. He has fought in Okar, the land of the yellow men in the far north; and he has fought therns in the Valley Dor; the length and breadth of Barsoom, he has fought; and when I saw him last, we were in Morbus together.’

“The red man looked surprised. ‘By my first ancestor,’ he exclaimed, ‘but you do know a lot about John Carter. Perhaps you are telling the truth after all.’” (SMM/24.)

This is certainly the John Carter myth from a fighting man’s perspective. Tor-dur-bar gets the boy to come close to his cage, then whispers that he wishes to learn everything he can about Janai. The boy, Orm-O, agrees to do what he can. Tor-dur-bar becomes friends with the Red Martian, Ur Raj, who comes from Hastor, a city on the frontier of the empire, and home to Hadron. He learns that Janai is in peril from Vanuva, one of Jal Had’s wives, and that he needs to act quickly to save her. Tur-Gan, pretending to be Gantun Gur, the Assassin of Amhor, aids Tor-dur-bar, eventually coming to his cage:
“It was almost dark and I had almost given up all hope of Gantun Gur, when I saw him approach my cage. ‘Kaor, Tor-dur-bar!’ he said. ‘I was delayed; no less a person than Jal Had himself. He came to me in conversation.’

“‘Whom does he wish killed now?’ asked Ur Raj.

“‘He only wished to be certain that I was not planning on killing him,’ replied Gantun Gur. ‘Do you know that I would rather be what I am, head of the Assassin’s Guild, than to be Prince of Amhor! My power is unlimited; everyone fears me, for, while I am known, all my assassins are not; and even those who might plot against me fear to do so lest my spies learn of it.’

“‘You have come a long way from the Laboratory Building, Gantun Gur,’ I said, with a smile. ‘But tell me, does Janai still live? Is she well? Is she safe.’” (SMM/25.)

Tor-dur-bar convinces Gantun Gur that Janai does not want to marry Jal Had because she is in love with Vor Daj, and that they must save her. 
“‘Vor Daj,’ said Gantun Gur, ‘lying as one dead in the pits beneath the Laboratory Building of Morbus, certainly surrounded and perhaps long since devoured by the horror that spreads from Vat Room No. 4. No, no, Tor-dur-bar, while I admire your loyalty to Vor Daj, I think that it is wasted.’” (SMM/25.)
Nevertheless, after Tor-dur-bar shares his plan with him, Gantun Gur agrees to cooperate. Tor-dur-bar waits patiently for his moment to come. 
“My cell was divided laterally by a partition, the front of the cell being open on the avenue, the rear consisting of a dark compartment in which there was a single, small window and a heavy door in the back wall. This was my bedroom, and my bed was a pile of the moss-like, ochre vegetation that covers the dead sea bottoms of Barsoom. A sliding door, that was raised and lowered by means of a rope passing over a pulley and thence outside the back of the cage, connected the two compartments. When I was in the front compartment, attendants could lower the door and enter the rear compartment for the purpose of cleaning it out, and vice versa, no one venturing to come into either compartment alone with me. I must say for Jal Had, that he had our cages kept reasonably clean; but that was because he realized that he could thus keep us in a more healthy condition and not
because of any humanitarian instincts which he possessed.” (SMM/26.)
They are awakened by the sound of dirgeful music and are left wondering if Jal Had has died. Then the Green Martian, previously unfriendly to Tor-dur-bar, speaks up:
“‘If Jal Had is dead,’ he said, ‘there will be confusion for several days. I have been here a long time and I have learned much. I have learned that there are several who would like to succeed Jal Had, and if he is dead Amhor may have a civil war on her hands. Then would be a good time for us to try to escape.’” (SMM/26.)
The death turns out not be that of Jal Had, but of Vanuma his wife, the one that was trying to kill Janai. It appears that Jal Had had her poisoned. O, happy day! 

Tor-dur-bar convinces a guard that a reptile has bitten him and when the guard comes to see the situation, Tor-dur-bar lures him close: 

“He came close, and when he did so I reached between the bars quickly and seized him by the throat. So quickly and so tightly did I close upon his windpipe that he had no opportunity to make an outcry. Ur Raj and the green man were pressed against the bars of their cages watching me. Only we three saw the guard die.

“I dragged the body upward until I could seize the keys that hung upon a ring by his harness. Then I let it drop to the ground. I easily reached the padlock that secured the door in the front of the cage, and in a few seconds I was out on the ground. From there I crawled quickly beneath the cages to the rear where my activities would be hidden from view from any who might pass along the avenue. I released the green man and Ur Raj, and for a moment we stood there discussing the advisability of carrying out in full the plan we had contemplated. It offered considerable risk for us, but we felt that it might create such a diversion that in the
ensuing confusion we might have a better chance of escaping. 

“‘Yes,’ agreed Ur Raj, ‘the more confusion there is, the better we shall have to reach the palace and find your Janai.’

“I must say that the whole plan was hair-brained and hopeless. It had perhaps one chance in a hundred million of succeeding.

“‘Very well,’ I said, ‘come on.’ 

“Back of the cages we found a number of the staves and goads used by the attendants to control the beasts, and armed with these we started toward the lower cages nearest the gate and farthest from the palace. I was also armed with the shortsword and dagger I had taken from the attendant I had killed, but I could not hope that they would be of much use to me in the event our plans miscarried. 

“Beginning at the cage nearest the gate, we released the animals, driving them ahead of us along the rear of the cages in the direction of the palace. 

“I had been fearful that we would be unable to control them and that they would turn upon us and destroy us; but I soon learned that from experience they had become afraid of the sharp goads used by the keepers, with which we threatened and prodded them along. Even the two great apts and the white apes moved sullenly before us. At first there was little noise or confusion, only low growls from the carnivores and the nervous snorting of the herbivorous animals; but as we proceeded and the number and variety of the beasts increased, so did the volume of the sounds until the air rang with the bellowing of the zitidars and the squeals of the maddened thoats, and the roars and growls of banths and apts and the scores of other beasts moving nervously ahead of us.

“A gate that is always kept closed separates the zoo from the grounds immediately surrounding the palace. This, the attendants in their excitement had left open today, and through it we drove the beasts into the palace grounds without interference.

“By now every beast in the horrible pack, excited to a high pitch of nervous tension by this unaccustomed liberty and the voices of their fellows, had joined in the horrid diapason of ferocity so that no one within the palace grounds or, for that matter, for some distance beyond them, could have failed to hear, and now I saw the attendants who had deserted their posts running to meet us. The beasts saw them, too, and some of the more intelligent, such as the great white apes, must have remembered indignities and cruelties heaped upon them during their captivity, for with snarls and growls and roars of rage they sprang forward to meet the keepers, and fell upon them and destroyed them; and then, further incited by this taste of blood and revenge, they moved on toward the soldiers defending the gates....

“This was precisely what we had hoped for, as it created a diversion which permitted Ur Raj, the green man, and me to enter a side door of the palace unobserved.” (SMM/26.)

In the end, Tor-dur-bar succeeds in rescuing Janai and they are all eventually reunited with John Carter. On their way back to Morbus, where Vor Daj is finally reunited with his real brain, he muses as they fly over the Great Toonolian Marshes:
“The desolate wastes of the Great Toonolian Marshes over which we passed that night took on a strange, weird beauty and added mystery in the darkness. Their waters reflected the myriad stars which the thin air of Mars reveals; and the passing moons were reflected back from the still lagoons or touched the rocky islets with a soft radiance that transformed them into isles of enchantment. Occasionally, we saw the campfires of savages, and faintly to our ears rose the chanting of barbaric songs and the booming of drums muffled by distance; all punctuated by the scream or bellow of some savage thing.

“‘The last of the great oceans,’ said John Carter, who had joined me at the rail. ‘Its eventual passing will doubtless mark the passing of a world, and Mars will hurtle on through all eternity peopled by not even a memory of its past grandeur.’

“‘It saddens me to think of it,’ I said.

“‘And me, too,’ he replied.

“‘But you could return to Earth,’ I reminded him.

“He smiled. ‘I do not think that either of us need worry about the end of Mars; at least, not for another million years, perhaps.’

“I laughed. ‘Somehow, when you spoke of it, it seemed as though the end were very near,’ I said.

“‘Comparatively speaking, it is,’ he replied. ‘Here we have only a shallow marshland to remind us of the mighty oceans which once rolled across the major portions of Barsoom. On Earth, the waters cover three-quarters of the globe, reaching a depth of over five miles; yet, eventually the same fate will overtake that planet. The mountains will wash down into the seas; the seas will evaporate; and some day all that will be left to mark their great oceans will be another Toonolian Marsh in some barren waste where the great Pacific rolls today.’ 

“‘You make me sad,’ I said.” (SMM/30.)


Yes, very sad. But like Carter said, we don’t really have anything to worry about for millions of years, unless you buy into the apocalypses of religion. But that’s been going on ever since man invented heaven and hell. Maybe some day we will have all evolved into a more rational view of the universe. “Imagine there’s no heaven,,” sang John Lennon. Yes, such an impossible idea still seems more possible to me than an apocalypse from an angry, vengeful deity.

I live in Fresno, California, a major center of world-wide agribusiness. The reason for this is that Fresno was built on an ancient sea bottom. A mighty sea once rolled over the desert land which now comprises both the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, from Redding to Bakersfield. Look at a map or a globe. Both valleys make up a gigantic bowl-shaped dead sea bed, 600 miles long and 100 wide. When I lived in Berkeley, I would often visit the University of California Science Building and stare long at the huge skeleton of a sea monster which used to live and prowl in this sea. I often experienced the same kind of melancholic fugue Carter and Vor Daj felt while flying over what was left of the mighty Throxeus.

And there you have it, 
ERB's Zoological Gardens of Amhor:
the Ninth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom!

7 WONDERS: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII

RUNNERS UP: I.a | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII.2.2b.3a.3b | IX | X.2.3.4 | XI.2.3.

A Princess of Mars
Gods of Mars
Warlord of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Chessmen of Mars
Mastermind of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars
Swords of Mars
Synthetic Men of Mars
Llana of Gathol
Skeleton Men of Jupiter
John Carter and the Giant of Mars

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