THE GREEN HORDES OF MARS
The Eleventh Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
A) Tars Tarkas and the Tharks (continued)
And then John Carter meets Dejah Thoris for the first time.
Again, this is a seminal scene in American literature. It comes unexpectedly
and with an immediate misunderstanding which highlights the difference
between Earthly and Martian customs.
Three days after the incubator ceremony, they set off for their journey
back to Thark, but scarcely have they begun, when a full retreat is called
back to Korad. Red Martian air ships have been spotted and the Green Horde
immediately melts into the buildings to avoid detection.
Without warning they fire upon the air ships with deadly accuracy:
“It seems that each green warrior has
certain objective points for his fire under relatively identical circumstances
of warfare. For example, a proportion of them, always the best marksmen,
direct their fire entirely upon the wireless finding and sighting apparatus
of the big guns of an attacking naval force; another detail attends to
the smaller guns in the same way; others pick off the gunners; still others
the officers; while certain quotas concentrate their attention upon the
other members of the crew, upon the upper works, and upon the steering
gear and propellers.
The Green Martians keep up their fire until the ships disappear below the
crests of the neighboring hills, but one lingers behind in its death throws.
When it gets low enough, the Green Martians lasso it down to roof level
and then plunder it, murdering all of the survivors except for one, whom
they take prisoner.
“Twenty minutes after the first volley the great
fleet swung trailing off in the direction from which it had first appeared.
Several of the craft were limping perceptibly, and seemed but barely under
the control of their depleted crews. Their fire had ceased entirely and
all their energies seemed focused upon escape.” (PM/8.)
“As Sola and I entered the plaza a sight
met my eyes which filled my whole being with a great surge of mingled hope,
fear, exultation, and depression, and yet most dominant was a subtle sense
of relief and happiness; for just as we neared the throng of Martians I
caught a glimpse of the prisoner from the battle craft who was being roughly
dragged into a nearby building by a couple of green Martian females.
As I have stated before, I believe the best rendering of his seminal scene
in early American science fiction is depicted by Thomas Yeates (see www.tarzan.org/yeates.)
Except for the pubic hair on the Green Martian females – who are, after
all, devoid of all body hair – the nakedness of all parties is rendered
as the author originally imagined it. Until a motion picture deals with
the natural nakedness on Mars realistically, only the books will deliver
an accurate depiction of Barsoom.
“And the sight which met my eyes was that of a
slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of
my past life. She did not see me at first, but just as she was disappearing
through the portal of the building which was to be her prison she turned,
and her eyes met mine. Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme,
her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and
lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair,
caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a
light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks
and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strange enchanting
“She was as destitute of clothes as the green
Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments
she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty
of her perfect and symmetrical figure.
“As her gaze rested on me her eyes opened wide
in astonishment, and she made a little sign with her free hand; a sign
which I did not, of course, understand. Just a moment we gazed upon each
other, and then the look of hope and renewed courage which had glorified
her face as she discovered me, faded into one of utter dejection, mingled
with loathing and contempt. I realized I had not answered her signal, and
ignorant as I was of Martian customs, I intuitively felt that she had made
an appeal for succor and protection which my unfortunate ignorance had
prevented me from answering. And then she was dragged out of my sight into
the depths of the deserted edifice.” (PM/8.)
When John Carter of Mars is released by Disney in the spring of 2012,
keep in mind that it will always be missing that essential detail that
makes the literary Barsoom so special and enduring to discerning readers.
After all, Martians have no body shame or guilt about being naked in public.
Cable movie channels are getting close to this kind of nudity in the series
they have done on Rome and Spartacus (which were accused by some critics
as being nothing but cheap soft porn) – perhaps this is the proper forum
where Barsoom will finally achieve its first realistic rendering since
ERB imagined it in 1911. Oh well, one can only hope.
There is something in the way that ERB introduces the emotions of Carter
when he catches that first glance of Dejah Thoris that alerts the knowing
reader to the dilemma that Carter was facing as a human relating with a
totally alien species. This is especially so if we imagine a sexual relationship
between Sola and Carter, for the dominant feeling Carter expressed was
of relief and happiness. This could have been accompanied by a physical
reaction at seeing a woman exactly alike in every detail to the earthly
women he had previously known. SHWING!
Just listen to the nuances of female jealousy in the next paragraph:
“As I came back to myself I glanced at
Sola, who had witnessed this encounter and I was surprised to note a strange
expression upon her usually expressionless countenance. What her thoughts
were I did not know, for as yet I had learned but little of the Martian
tongue; enough only to suffice for my daily needs.
I imagine Carter having his “Lawrence of Arabia” moment at this time, strutting
about in his new garb, whipping out his swords, pistol, and dagger, and
altogether showing off – especially since it marks the first time he is
wearing something since his advent. After all, it must have been somewhat
depressing for the best swordsman on two planets to be totally naked and
“As I reached the doorway of our building a strange
surprise awaited me. A warrior approached bearing the arms, ornaments,
and full accouterments of his kind. These he presented to me with a few
unintelligible words, and a bearing at once respectful and menacing.
“Later, Sola, with the aid of several of the other
women, remodeled the trappings to fit my lesser proportions, and after
they completed the work I went about garbed in all the panoply of war.”
“From then on Sola instructed me in the
mysteries of the various weapons, and with the Martian young I spent several
hours each day practicing upon the plaza. I was not yet proficient with
all the weapons, but my great familiarity with similar earthly weapons
made me an unusually apt pupil, and I progressed in a very sastifactory
“The training of myself and the young Martians
was conducted solely by the women, who not only attend to the education
of the young in the arts of individual defense and offense, but are also
the artisans who produce every manufactured article wrought by the green
Martians. They make the powder, the cartridges, the firearms; in fact everything
of value is produced by the females. In time of actual warfare they form
a part of the reserves, and when the necessity arises fight with even greater
intelligence and ferocity than the men.
“The men are trained in the higher branches of
the art of war; in strategy and the maneuvering of large bodies of troops.
They make the laws as they are needed; a new law for each emergency. They
are unfettered by precedent in the administration of justice. Customs have
been handed down by ages of repetition, but the punishment for ignoring
a custom is a matter for individual treatment by a jury of the culprit’s
peers, and I may say that justice seldom misses fire, but seems rather
to rule in inverse ratio to the ascendency of law. In one respect at least
the Martians are a happy people; they have no lawyers.” (PM/9.)
Oh, that ERB; always with the lawyer jokes. Carter doesn’t see Dejah
Thoris for several days after their first encounter; when he does, he notes
that she is treated brutally:
“I did not see the prisoner again for
several days subsequent to our first encounter, and then only to catch
a fleeting glimpse of her as she was being conducted to the great audience
chamber where I had had my first meeting with Lorquas Ptomel. I could not
but note the unnecessary harshness and brutality with which her guards
treated her; so different from the almost maternal kindliness which Sola
manifested toward me, and the respectful attitude of the few green Martians
who took the trouble to notice me at all.” (PM/9.)
He takes note that on two occasions the Red Martian woman converses with
the Green Martian females, deducing that they have a common language, which
he then sets about to eagerly learn. This allows him to follow the gossip
chatter of the women that share his quarters.
“At this time our sleeping quarters were
occupied by three or four females and a couple of the recently hatched
young, beside Sola and her youthful ward, myself, and Woola the hound.
After they had retired for the night it was customary for the adults to
carry on a desultory conversation for a short time before lapsing into
sleep, and now that I could understand their language I was always a keen
listener, although I never proffered any remarks myself.
This, in legal parlance, is called consciousness of guilt of a sexual relationship
with Sola. Why else would she be jealous if there was nothing between her
and Carter? It’s these little hints every now and then that cleanse my
“On the night following the prisoner’s visit to
the audience chamber the conversation finally fell upon this subject, and
I was all ears on the instant. I had feared to question Sola relative to
the beautiful captive, as I could not but recall the strange expression
I had noted upon her face after my first encounter with the prisoner. That
it denoted jealousy I could not say, and yet, judging all things by mundane
standards as I still did, I felt it safer to affect indifference in the
matter until I learned more surely Sola’s attitude toward the object of
my solicitude.” (PM/9.)
“Sarkoja, one of the older women who
shared our domicile, had been present at the audience as one of the captive’s
guards, and it was toward her the questioners turned.
Wow, what a negative existentialism! If she only knew what awaits the doomed
pilgrims at the end of the River Iss, her philosophy would be even more
bleak. Sola, by the way, would be regarded in earthly terms among her people
as a Red Martian lover. She finds Dejah Thoris to be very beautiful. This
is why a sexual relationship with John Carter is not out of the question.
“‘When,’ asked one of the women, ‘will we enjoy
the death throes of the red one? or does Lorquas Ptomel, Jed, intend holding
her for ransom?’
“‘They have decided to carry her with us back
to Thark, and exhibit her last agonies at the great games before Tal Hajus,’
“‘What will be the manner of her going out?’ inquired
Sola. ‘She is very small and very beautiful; I had hoped that they would
hold her for ransom.’
“Sarkoja and the other women grunted angrily at
this evidence of weakness on the part of Sola.
“‘It is sad, Sola, that you were not born a million
years ago,’ snapped Sarkoja, ‘when all the hollows of the land were filled
with water, and the peoples were as soft as the stuff they sailed upon.
In our day we have progressed to a point where such sentiments mark weakness
and atavism. It will not be well for you to permit Tars Tarkas to learn
that you hold such degenerate sentiments, as I doubt that he would care
to entrust such as you with the grave responsibilities of maternity.’
“‘I see nothing wrong with my expression of interest
in this red woman,’ retorted Sola. ‘She has never harmed us, nor would
she should we have fallen into her hands. It is only the men of her kind
who war upon us, and I have ever thought that their attitude toward us
is but the reflection of ours toward them. They live at peace with all
their fellows, except when duty calls upon them to make war, while we are
at peace with none; forever warring among our own kind as well upon the
red men, and even in our own communities the individuals fight among themselves.
Oh, it is one continual, awful period of bloodshed from the time we break
the shell until we gladly embrace the bosom of the river of mystery, the
dark and ancient Iss which carries us to an unknown, but at least no more
frightful and terrible existence! Fortunate indeed is he who meets his
end in an early death. Say what you please to Tars Tarkas, he can mete
out no worse fate to me than a continuation of the horrible existence we
are forced to lead in this life.” (PM/9.)
person’s race or species is of no matter to her when it comes to love.
Sola has the capacity to get beyond jealousy and is able to love both John
Carter and Dejah Thoris at the same time.
“This wild outbreak on the part of Sola
so greatly surprised and shocked the other women, that, after a few words
of general reprimand, they all lapsed into silence and were soon asleep.
One thing the episode had accomplished was to assure me of Sola’s friendliness
toward the poor girl, and also to convince me that I had been extremely
fortunate in falling into her hands rather than those of some of the other
females. I knew that she was fond of me, and now that I had discovered
that she hated cruelty and barbarity I was confident that I could depend
upon her to aid me and the girl captive to escape, provided of course that
such a thing was within the range of possibilities.” (PM/9.)
With Carter now planning escape, he catches his third glimpse of the Red
“On regaining the plaza I had my third
glimpse of the captive girl. She was standing with her guards before the
entrance to the audience chamber, and as I approached she gave me one haughty
glance and turned her back full upon me. The act was so womanly, so earthly
womanly, that though it stung my pride it also warmed my heart with a feeling
of companionship; it was good to know that someone on Mars beside myself
had human instincts of a civilized order, even though the manifestation
of them was so painful and mortifying.
He halts, noticing that the girl is the center of attention, and presently
Lorquas Ptomel and his retinue enter the building which houses the audience
chamber. He takes a chance at entering hoping that his popularity will
allow him inside. He succeeds and watches the hearing, learning almost
as much of Martian custom as he had learned previously.
“Had a green Martian woman desired to show dislike
or contempt she would, in all likelihood, have done it with a sword thrust
or a movement of her finger; but as their sentiments are mostly atrophied
it would have required a serious injury to have aroused such passions in
them. Sola, let me add, was an exception; I never saw her perform a cruel
or uncouth act, or fail in uniform kindliness and good nature. She was
indeed, as her fellow Martian had said of her, an atavism; a dear and precious
reversion to a former type of loved and loving ancestor.” (PM/10.)
“The council squatted upon the steps
of the rostrum, while below them stood the prisoner and her two guards.
I saw that one of the women was Sarkoja, and thus understood how she had
been present at the hearing of the preceding day, the results of which
she had reported to the occupants of our dormitory last night. Her attitude
toward the captive was most harsh and brutal. When she held her, she sunk
her rudimentary nails into the poor girl’s flesh, or twisted her arm in
a most painful manner. When it was necessary to move from one spot to another
she either jerked her roughly, or pushed her headlong before her. She seemed
to be venting upon this poor defenseless creature all the hatred, cruelty,
ferocity, and spite of her nine hundred years, backed by unguessable ages
of fierce and brutal ancestors.
This marks Carters clear advancement as a Green Martian chieftan. He converses
with the Princess about his motives, and they are interrupted by a warrior:
“The other woman was less cruel because she was
entirely indifferent; if the prisoner had been left to her alone, and fortunately
she was at night, she would have received no harsh treatment, nor, by the
same token, would she have received any attention at all.
“As Lorquas Ptomel raised his eyes to address
the prisoner they fell on me and he turned to Tars Tarkas with a word,
and gesture of impatience. Tars Tarkas made some reply which I could not
catch, but which caused Lorquas Ptomel to smile; after which they paid
no further attention to me.
“‘What is your name?’ asked Lorquas Ptomel, addressing
“‘Dejah Thoris, daughter of Mors Kajak of Helium.’
“‘And the nature of your expedition?’ he continued.
“‘It was a purely scientific research party sent out by my father’s father,
the Jeddak of Helium, to rechart the air currents, and to take atmosphere
density tests,’ replied the fair prisoner, in a low, well-modulated voice.
“‘We were unprepared for battle,’ she continued,
‘as we were on a peaceful mission, as our banners and the colors of our
craft denoted. The work we were doing was as much in your interests as
in ours, for you know full well that were it not for our labors and the
fruits of our scientific operations there would not be enough air or water
on Mars to support a single human life. For ages we have maintained the
air and water supply at practically the same point without an appreciable
loss, and we have done this in the face of the brutal and ignorant interference
of you green men.
“‘Why, oh, why will you not learn to live in amity
with your fellows, must you ever go on down the ages to your final extinction
but little above the plane of the dumb brutes that serve you! A people
without written language, without art, without homes, without love; the
victim of eons of the horrible community idea. Owning everything in common,
even to your women and children, has resulted in your owning nothing in
common. You hate each other as you hate all else except yourselves. Come
back to the ways of our common ancestors, come back to the light of kindliness
and fellowship. The way is open to you, you will find the hands of the
red men stretched out to aid you. Together we may do still more to regenerate
our dying planet. The granddaughter of the greatest and mightiest of the
red jeddaks has asked you. Will you come?’
“Lorquas Ptomel and the warriors sat looking silently
and intently at the young woman for several moments after she had ceased
speaking. What was passing in their minds no man may know, but that they
were moved I truly believe, and if one man high among them had been strong
enough to rise above custom, that moment would have marked a new and mighty
era for Mars.
“I saw Tars Tarkas rise to speak, and on his face
was such an expression as I had never seen upon the countenance of a green
Martian warrior. It bespoke an inward and mighty battle with self, with
heredity, with age-old custom, and as he opened his mouth to speak, a look
almost of benignity, of kindliness, momentarily lighted up his fierce and
“What words of moment were to have fallen from
his lips were never spoken, as just then a young warrior, evidently sensing
the trend of thought among the older men, leaped down from the steps of
the rostrum, and striking the frail captive a powerful blow across the
face, which felled her to the floor, placed his foot upon her prostrate
form and turning toward the assembled council broke into peals of horrid,
“For an instant I thought that Tars Tarkas would
strike him dead, nor did the aspect of Lorquas Ptomel augur any too favorable
for the brute, but the mood passed, their old selves reasserted their ascendency,
and they smiled. It was portentious however that they did not laugh aloud,
for the brute’s act constituted a side-splitting witticism according to
the ethics which rule green Martian humor.
“That I have taken moments to write down a part
of what occurred as that blow fell does not signify that I remained inactive
for any such length of time. I think I must have sensed something of what
was coming, for I realized now that I was crouched as for a spring as I
saw the blow aimed at her beautiful, upturned, pleading face, and ere the
hand descended I was halfway across the hall.
“Scarcely had his hideous laugh rang out but once,
when I was upon him. The brute was twelve feet in height and armed to the
teeth, but I believe I could have accounted for the whole roomful in the
terrific intensity of my rage. Springing upward, I struck him full in the
face as he turned at my warning cry and then as he drew his short-sword
I drew mine and sprang up again upon his breast, hooking one leg over the
butt of his pistol and grasping one of his huge tusks with my left hand
while I delivered blow after blow upon his enormous chest.
“He could not use his short-sword to advantage
because I was too close to him, nor could he draw his pistol, which he
attempted to do in direct opposition to Martian custom which says that
you may not fight a fellow warrior in private combat with any other than
the weapon with which you are attacked. In fact he could do nothing but
make a wild and futile attempt to dislodge me. With all his immense bulk
he was little if any stronger than I, and it was but the matter of a moment
or two before he sank, bleeding and lifeless, to the floor.
“Dejah Thoris had raised herself upon one elbow
and was watching the battle with wide, staring eyes. When I had regained
my feet I raised her in my arms and bore her to one of the benches at the
side of the room.” (PM/10.)
“We were interrupted at this juncture
by the approach of one of the warriors, bearing arms, accouterments and
ornaments, and in a flash one of her questions was answered and a puzzle
cleared up for me. I saw that the body of my dead antagonist had been stripped,
and I read in the menacing yet respectful attitude of the warrior who had
brought me these trophies of the kill the same demeanor as that evidenced
by the other who had brought me my original equipment, and now for the
first time I realized that my blow, on the occasion of my first battle
in the audience chamber had resulted in the death of my adversary.
Tars Tarkas approaches and compliments Carter on his mastery of the Martian
tongue and Carter says Sola is to be thanked.
“The reason for the whole attitude displayed toward
me was now apparent; I had won my spurs, so to speak, and in the crude
justice, which always marks Martian dealings, and which, among other things,
has called me to call her the planet of paradoxes, I was accorded the honors
due a conqueror; the trappings and the position of the man I killed. In
truth, I was a Martian chieftan, and this I learned later was the cause
of my great freedom and my toleration in the audience chamber.” (PM/10.)
“‘She has done well,’ he answered, ‘but
your education in other respects needs considerable polish. Do you know
what your unprecedented temerity would have cost you had you failed to
kill either of the two chieftans whose metal you now wear?’
Carter agrees, but warns Tars Tarkas that if any harm comes to his Martian
princess, there will be hell to pay. He then wanders with Dejah Thoris
inside the ancient buildings of the dead city until a messenger bids Carter
back to Lorquas Ptomel. The Jeddak is concerned because Sarkoja was spying
on Carter and reported that he was planning on escaping with the Red Martian
woman. He tells Carter that if he runs off with the red woman it will be
his head on the line when they return to Tal Hajus, causing him to either
demonstrate his right to command or his dead carcass will be replaced by
a better man, as is the custom of the Tharks. He then proceeds to make
an ominous prediction:
“‘I presume that one of whom I had failed to
kill, would have killed me,’ I answered, smiling.
“‘No, you are wrong. Only in the last extremity
of self-defense would a Martian warrior have killed a prisoner; we like
to save them for other purposes,’ and his face bespoke possibilities that
were not pleasant to dwell upon.
“‘But one thing can save you now,’ he continued.
‘Should you, in recognition of your remarkable valor, ferocity, and prowess,
be considered by Tal Hajus as worthy of his service you may be taken into
the community and become a full-fledged Tharkian. Until we reach the headquarters
of Tal Hajus it is the will of Lorquas Ptomel that you be accorded the
respect your acts have earned you. You will be treated by us as a Tharkian
chieftan, but you must not forget that every chief that ranks you is responsible
for your safe delivery to our mighty and most ferocious ruler. I am done.’”
“‘I have no quarrel with Tars Tarkas;
together we rule supreme the greatest of the lesser communities among the
green men; we do not wish to fight between ourselves; and so if you were
dead, John Carter, I should be glad. Under two conditions only, however,
may you be killed by us without orders from Tal Hajus; in personal combat
in self-defense, should you attack one of us, or were you apprehended in
an attempt to escape.
Tars Tarkas meets him and is surprised that he has placed the care and
custody of Dejah Thoris in the hands of Sola, commanding that Sola serve
“As a matter of justice I must warn you that we
only await one of these two excuses of ridding ourselves of so great a
responsibility. The safe delivery of the red girl to Tal Hajus is of the
greatest importance. Not in a thousand years have the Tharks made such
a capture; she is the granddaughter of the greatest of the red jeddaks,
who is also our bitterest enemy. I have spoken. The red girl told us that
we were without the softer sentiments of humanity, but we are a just and
truthful race. You may go.’...
“However, instead of putting plans of possible
escape from my mind, my audience with Lorquas Ptomel only served to center
my every faculty on this subject. Now, more than before, the absolute necessity
of escape, insofar as Dejah Thoris was concerned, was impressed upon me,
for I was convinced that some horrible fate awaited her at the headquarters
of Tal Hajus.
“As described by Sola, this monster was the exaggerated
personification of all the ages of cruelty, ferocity, and brutality from
which he had descended. Cold, cunning, calculating; he was also, in marked
contrast to most of his fellows, a slave to that brute passion which the
waning demands for procreation upon their dying planet has almost stilled
in the Martian breast.
“The thought that the divine Dejah Thoris might
fall into the clutches of such an abysmal atavism started the cold sweat
upon me.” (PM/12.)
“I understand,’ he continued, ‘that you
have given up your woman to the red prisoner. Well, as you have said, your
ways are not our ways, but you can fight well enough to do about as you
please, and so, if you wish to give your woman to a captive, it is your
own affair; but as a chieftan you should have those to serve you, and in
accordance with our customs you may select any or all the females from
the retinue of the chieftans whose metal you now wear.’
Carter goes on with his life, making friends with the Green Martian thoats,
using kindness as his tool of animal control to contain their natural ferocity.
“I thanked him, but assured him that I could get
along very nicely without assistance except in the matter of preparing
food, and so he promised to send women to me for this purpose and also
for the care of my arms and the manufacture of my ammunition, which he
said would be necessary. I suggested that they might also bring some of
the sleeping silks and furs which belonged to me as spoils of combat, for
the nights were cold and I had none of my own....
“My thoughts were cut short by the advent of several
young females bearing loads of weapons, silks, furs, jewels, cooking utensils,
and casks of food and drink, including considerable loot from the air craft.
All this, it seemed, had been the property of the two chieftans I had slain,
and now, by the customs of the Tharks, it had become mine. At my direction
they placed the stuff in one of the back rooms, and then departed, only
to return with a second load, which they advised me constituted the balance
of my goods. On the second trip they were accompanied by ten or fifteen
other women and youths, who, it seemed, formed the retinue of the two chieftans.
“They were not their families, nor their wives,
nor their servants; the relationship was peculiar, and so unlike anything
known to us, that it is most difficult to describe. All property among
the green Martians is owned in common by the community, except the personal
weapons, ornaments and sleeping silks and furs of the individuals. These
alone can one claim undisputed right to, nor may he accumulate more of
these than are required for his actual needs. The surplus he holds merely
as custodian, and it is passed on to the younger members of the community
as necessity demands.
“The women and children of a man’s retinue may
be likened to a military unit for which he is responsible in various ways,
as in matters of instruction, discipline, sustenance, and the exigencies
of their continual roamings and their unending strife with other communities
and with the red Martians. His women are in no sense wives. The green Martians
use no word corresponding in meaning with this earthly word. Their mating
is a matter of community interest solely, and is directed without reference
to natural selection. The council of chieftans of each community control
the matter as surely as the owner of a Kentucky racing stud directs the
scientific breeding of his stock for the improvement of the whole.
“In theory it may sound well, as is often the
case with theories, but the results of ages of this unnatural practice,
coupled with the community interest in the offspring being held paramount
to that of the mother, is shown in the cold, cruel creatures, and their
gloomy, loveless, mirthless existence.
“It is true that the green Martians are absolutely
virtuous, both men and women, with the exception of such degenerates as
Tal Hajus; but better far a finer balance of human characteristics even
at the expense of a slight and occasional loss of chastity.
“Finding that I must assume responsibility for
these creatures, whether I would or not, I made the best of it and directed
them to find quarters on the upper floors, leaving the third floor to me.
One of the girls I charged with the duties of my simple cuisine, and directed
the others to take up the various activities which had formerly constituted
their vocations. Thereafter I saw little of them, nor did I care to.” (PM/12.)
“During our period of inactivity, Tars
Tarkas had instructed me in many of the customs and arts of war familiar
to the Tharks, including lessons in riding and guiding the great beasts
which bore the warriors. These creatures, which are known as thoats, are
as dangerous and vicious as their masters, but once subdued are sufficiently
tractable for the purposes of the green Martians.
After a few days his thoats follow him around like dogs to the amazement
of the Green Martian community. His success blows the mind of Tars Tarkas.
“Two of these animals had fallen to me from the
warriors whose metal I wore, and in a short time I could handle them quite
as well as the native warriors. The method was not at all complicated.
If the thoats did not respond with sufficient celerity to the telepathic
instructions of their riders, they were dealt a terrific blow between the
ears with the butt of a pistol, and if they showed fight this treatment
was continued until the brutes either were subdued, or had unseated their
“In the latter case it became a life or death
struggle between the man and the beast. If the former were quick enough
with his pistol he might live to ride again, though upon some other beast;
if not, his torn and mangled body was gathered up by his women and burned
in accordance with Tharkian custom.
“My experience with Woola determined me to attempt
the experiment of kindness in my treatment of my thoats. First I taught
them that they could not unseat me, and even rapped them sharply between
the ears to impress upon them my authority and mastery. Then, by degrees,
I won their confidence in much the same manner I had adopted countless
times with my many mundane mounts. I was ever a good hand with animals,
and by inclination, as well as because it brought more lasting and satisfactory
results. I was always kind and humane in my dealings with the lower orders.
I could take a human life, if necessary, with far less compunction than
that of a poor, unreasoning, irresponsible brute.” (PM/13.)
“‘How have you bewitched them?’ asked
Tars Tarkas one afternoon, when he had seen me run my arm far between the
great jaws of one of my thoats which had wedged a piece of stone between
two of his teeth while feeding upon the
BARSOOMIAN GREEN MEN and TARS TARKAS ART GALLERIES
moss-like vegetation within our court yard.
“‘By kindness,’ I replied. ‘You see, Tars Tarkas,
the soflter sentiments have their value, even to a warrior. In the height
of battle as well upon the march I know that my thoats will obey my every
command, and therefore my fighting efficiency is enhanced, and I am a better
warrior for the reason that I am a kind master. Your other warriors would
find it to the advantage of themselves as well as of the community to adopt
my methods in this respect. Only a few days since you, yourself, told me
that these great brutes, by the uncertainty of their temper, often were
the means of turning victory into defeat, since, at a crucial moment, they
might elect to unseat and rend their riders.’
“‘Show me how you accomplish these results,’ was
Tars Tarkas’ only rejoinder.
“And so I explained as carefully as I could the
entire method of training I had adopted with the beasts, and later he had
me repeat it before Lorquas Ptomel and the assembled warriors. That moment
marked the beginning of a new existence for the poor thoats, and before
I left the community of Lorquas Ptomel I had the satisfaction of observing
a regiment of as tractable and docile mounts as one might care to see.
The effect on the precision and celerity of the military movements was
so remarkable that Lorquas Ptomel presented me with a massive anklet of
gold from his own leg, as a sign of his appreciation of my service to the
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Green Man Horde by Murphy Anderson