First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life & Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Since 1996 ~ Over 10,000 Web Pages in Archive
Volume 3380
The Eleventh Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
Part Four

Tars Tarkas
Rafael Kayanan Gallery
J. Allen St. John
Thark Warrior by J. Allen St. John
ERBzine Thark Galleries

Thark Green Man
Rafael Kayanan Gallery
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.

B) The Warhoons
In comparison to the Warhoons, the Tharks – especially the band commanded by Lorquas Ptomel and Tars Tarkas – are the height of Green Martian reason and civility. The reader may recall that they were all ears and listened with interest to the impassioned plea of Dejah Thoris during her stirring oration before them, only broken when the young chieftan made his fatal mistake of leaping down and striking her a terrible blow to the face. This act seemed to stun the chieftans who were listening, but this act would have been normal and expected among the Warhoons.

Carter is swift to learn this lesson. He regains consciousness after falling in battle and discovers his captors are not Tharks as he originally thought. 

“It must have been several hours before I regained consciousness and I well remember the feeling of surprise which swept over me when I realized that I was not dead.

“I was lying among a pile of sleeping silks and furs in the corner of a small room in which there were several green warriors, and bending over me was an ancient and ugly female.

“As I opened my eyes she turned to one of the warriors, saying.

“‘He will live, O, Jed.’

“‘ ’Tis well,’ replied the one so addressed, rising and approaching my couch, ‘he should render rare sport for the great games.’

“And now as my eyes fell upon him, I saw that he was no Thark, for his ornaments and metal were not of that horde. He was a huge fellow, horribly scarred about the face and chest, and with one broken tusk and a missing ear. Strapped on either breast were human skulls and depending from these a number of dried human hands.” (PM/18.)

This, by the way, is the only reference that gives us a strong clue as to how many shoulders and breasts the Green Martians have, for, as we all know, they have an extra set of appendages that can be used either as arms or legs halfway between their shoulders and hips.

Some artists have in their depictions given them an extra set of shoulders and breasts where these appendages are attached to the body, going for a more logical anatomy, but ERB seems to suggest in this passage that they have only one set of shoulders and breasts.

“His reference to the great games of which I had heard so much while among the Tharks convinced me that I had but jumped from purgatory into gehenna.

“After a few more words with the female, during which she assured him that I was now fully fit to travel, the jed ordered that we mount and ride after the main column.

“I was strapped securely to as wild and unmanageable a thoat as I had ever seen, and, with a mounted warrior on either side to prevent the beast from bolting, we rode forth at a furious pace in pursuit of the column. My wounds gave me but little pain, so wonderfully and rapidly had the applications and injections of the female exercised their therapuetic powers, and so deftly had she bound and plastered the injuries.

“Just before dark we reached the main body of troops shortly after they had made camp for the night. I was immediately taken before the leader, who proved to be the jeddak of the hordes of Warhoon.

“Like the jed who had brought me, he was frightfully scarred, and also decorated with a breastplate of human skulls and dried dead hands which seemed to mark all the greater warriors among the Warhoons, as well as to indicate their awful ferocity, which greatly transcends even that of the Tharks.

“The jeddak, Bar Comas, who was comparatively young, was the object of the fierce and jealous hatred of his old lieutenant, Dak Kova, the jed who had captured me, and I could not but note the almost studied efforts which the latter made to affront his superior.

“He entirely omitted the usual formal salutation as we entered the presence of the jeddak, and as he pushed me roughly before the ruler he exclaimed in a loud and menacing voice, 

“‘I have brought a strange creature wearing the metal of a Thark whom it is my pleasure to have battle with a wild thoat at the great games.’

“‘He will die as Bar Comas, your jeddak, sees fit, if at all,’ replied the young ruler, with emphasis and dignity.

“‘If at all?’ roared Dak Kova. ‘By the dead hands at my throat but he shall die, Bar Comas. No maudlin weakness on your part shall save him. O, would that Warhoon were ruled by a real jeddak rather than by a water-hearted weakling from whom even old Dak Kova could tear the metal with his bare hands!’

“Bar Comas eyed the defiant and insubordinate chieftan for an instant, his expression one of haughty, fearless contempt and hate, and then without drawing a weapon and without uttering a word he hurled himself at the throat of his defamer.

“I had never before seen two green Martian warriors battle with nature’s weapons and the exhibition of animal ferocity which ensued was as fearful a thing as the most disordered imagination could picture. They tore at each others’ eyes and ears with their hands and with their gleaming tusks repeatedly slashed and gored until both were cut fairly to ribbons from head to foot.

“Bar Comas had much the better of the battle as he was stronger, quicker and more intelligent. It soon seemed that the encounter was done saving only the final death thrust when Bar Comas slipped in breaking away from a clinch. It was the one little opening that Dak Kova needed, and hurling himself at the body of his adversary he buried his single mighty tusk in Bar Comas’ groin and with a last powerful effort ripped the young jeddak wide open the full length of his body, the great tusk finally wedging in the bones of Bar Comas’ jaw. Victor and vanquished rolled limp and lifeless upon the moss, a huge mass of torn and bloody flesh.

“Bar Comas was stone dead, and only the most herculean efforts on the part of Dak Kovas’ females saved him from the fate he deserved. Three days later he walked without assistance to the body of Bar Comas which, by custom, had not been moved from where it fell, and placing his foot upon the neck of his erstwhile ruler he assumed the title of Jeddak of Warhoon.

“The dead jeddak’s hands and head were removed to be added to the ornaments of his conquerer, and then his women cremated what rermained, amid wild and terrible laughter.” (PM/18.)

That’s quite a scene to imagine, the great tusk ripping the body of Bar Comas from groin to jaw, getting stuck in the bone. ERB never disappoints in his descriptions of violence and gore. He knew, like movies trying to avoid an “R” rating today, that violence is okay as long as there is no sex.

The injuries of Dak Kovas delays the march so greatly, they give up their original intention, which was to raid a small Thark community in retaliation for the destruction of their  incubator, which Carter had witnessed. They decide to wait until the great games are concluded before continuing the mission, and the warriors, ten thousand in number, ride back to Warhoon. 

“My introduction to these cruel and bloodthirsty people was but an index to the scenes I witnessed almost daily while with them. They are a smaller horde than the Tharks but much more ferocious. Not a day passed but that some members of the various Warhoon communities met in deadly combat. I have seen as high as eight mortal duels within a single day.” (PM/18.)
When they arrive in Warhoon three days later, Carter is cast into a dungeon and heavily chained to the wall and floor in utter darkness. The inky black isolation and glowing eyes of scary creatures drive him into a state of near lunacy, driving him to take it out on his jailer, who regularly brings him his food:
“Finally all the hatred and maniacal loathing for these awful creatures who had placed me in this horrible place was centered on my tottering reason upon this single emissary who represented to me the entire horde of Warhoon.

“I had noticed that he always advanced with his dim torch to where he could place the food within my reach and as he stooped to place it on the floor his head was about on a level with my breast. So, with the cunning of a madman, I backed into the far corner of my cell when next I heard him approaching and gathering a little slack of the great chain which held me in my hand I waited his coming, crouching like some beast of prey. As he stooped to place my food upon the ground I swung the chain above my head and crashed the links with all my strength upon his skull. Without a sound he slipped to the floor, stone dead.

“Laughing and chattering like the idiot I was fast becoming I fell upon his prostrate form my fingers feeling for his dead throat. Presently they came in contact with a small chain at the end of which dangled a number of keys. The touch of my fingers upon these keys brought back my reason with the suddenness of thought. No longer was I a jibbering idiot, but a sane, reasoning man with the means of escape within my very hands.” (PM/18.)

Again Carter experiences glowing eyes in the dark, this time six pair of them, slowly approaching him. He backs against the wall in terror with palms outstretched, but they stop at the body of the jailer, and, as Carter discovers when he returns to the body for the keys after the eyes have disappeared, there is no longer a body, for the creatures have dragged it away into the darkness. He is back where he started.

I believe ERB had first hand experience of the madness that comes with isolation. He and his wife, Emma, had spent many a lonely night sledging for gold in Idaho on the Snake River. Many pioneers went mad with cabin fever in this kind of exile from civilization. Besides, ERB had received a mighty blow to his head in Toronto when as a guest he went there with Frank Martin in his father’s private train car. Martin was a wealthy rival for the hand of Emma in Chicago, and I tend to agree with R.E. Prindle (ERBzine #1343), that the train trip was arranged to get rid of ERB once and for all. They were accompanied by Martin’s bodyguard, R.H. Patchin, who I imagine played the same kind of role as David Warner’s bodyguard detective did to Billy Zane’s wealthy Wall Street trader in the movie, Titanic.

Prindle learned of this injury to ERB from an article by ERB scholar Robert Barrett in the Fall 2003 issue of Burroughs Bulletin. Barrett received a copy of a letter that Patchin wrote about the event from Danton Burroughs, who also made it available to Prindle for copying. It details the three of them bar hopping in a slummy area of Toronto and coming into conflict with some thugs, one of whom hit ERB on the head with a sap or pipe. Only the fact that ERB protected himself with an upraised hand prevented the blow from being fatal. 

As it was, ERB was knocked unconscious and suffered horrible headaches, nightmares, and temporary bouts of amnesia for the rest of his life. In fact, many of his close associates attributed many of the ideas in his novels as deriving from the nightmares he suffered.

ERB used amnesia as a literary device in many his novels, most famously in Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. On this, he truly wrote what he knew. I once experienced a very short bout of amnesia after waking up from a deep dream one morning when I was married with two young daughters. I awoke in a cold sweat, having no idea of who or where I was. I heard noises in the next room, a television, and rushed into the room, and seeing two little girls on a couch watching the TV, I screamed, “Where am I?”

Fortunately, my daughters thought I was joking, yelling back, “Daddy!” Suddenly, my reason was restored exactly as ERB describes it in the story of Carter’s killing of the jailer above. This was one of the most frightening events in my life, not knowing who or where I was. No wonder ERB was a master of horror. He wrote from hard experience.

John Carter formed two lasting friendships and the love of his life in A Princess of Mars, to wit: Tars Tarkas, Kantos Kan, and, of course, Dejah Thoris. In the next scene he meets Kantos Kan for the first time. Their friendship was so intense, Carter originally planned to marry his daughter, Tara of Helium, to Djor Kantos, the son of Kantos Kan. That is, until Gahan of Gathol entered the scene in The Chessmen of Mars.

Anyway, back to the story. Carter doesn’t receive any food for two days until a new jailer takes the place of the dead one, and things go on as before, until a new prisoner is brought into the dungeon.

“Shortly after this episode another prisoner was brought in and chained near me. By the dim torch light I saw that he was a red Martian and I could scarcely await of his guards to address him. As their retreating footsteps died away in the distance, I called out softly the Martian word of greeting, kaor.

“‘Who are you who speaks out of the darkness?’ he answered.

“‘John Carter, a friend of the red men of Helium.’

“‘I am of Helium,’ he said, ‘but I do not recall your name.’

“‘And then I told him my story as I have written it here, omitting only any reference to my love for Dejah Thoris. He was much excited by the news of Helium’s princess and seemed quite positive that she and Sola could easily  have reached a point of safety from where they left me. He said that he knew the place well because the defile through which the Warhoon warriors had passed when they discovered us was the only one ever used by them when marching to the south.

“Dejah Thoris and Sola entered the hills not five miles from a great waterway and are now probably quite safe,’ he assured me.

“My fellow prisoner was Kantos Kan, a padwar (lieutenant) in the navy of Helium. He had been a member of the ill-fated expedition which had fallen into the hands of the Tharks at the time of Dejah Thoris’ capture, and he brieflly related the events which followed the defeat of the battleships.

“Badly injured and only partially manned they had limped slowly toward Helium, but while passing near the city of Zodanga, the capital of Helium’s hereditary enemies among the red men of Barsoom, they had bee attacked by a great body of war vessels and all but the craft to which Kantos Kan belonged were either destroyed or captured. His vessel was chased for days by three of the Zodangan war ships but finally escaped during the darkness of a moonless night.

“Thirty days after the capture of Dejah Thoris, or about the time of our coming to Thark, his vessel had reached Helium with about ten survivors of the original crew of seven hundred officers and men. Immediately seven great fleets, each of one hundred mighty war ships, had been dispatched to search for Dejah Thoris, and from these vessels two thousand smaller craft had been kept out continuously in futile search for the missing princess.

“Two green Martian communities had been wiped off the face of Barsoom by the avenging fleets, but no trace of Dejah Thoris had been found. They had been searching among the northern hordes, and only within the past few days had they extended their search to the south.

“Kantos Kan had been detailed to one of the small one-man fliers and had had the misfortune to be discovered by the Warhoons while exploring their city. The bravery and daring of the man won my greatest respect and admiration. Alone he had landed at the city’s boundary and on foot had penetrated to the buildings surrounding the plaza. For two days and nights he had explored their quarters and their dungeons in search of his beloved princess only to fall into the hands of a party of Warhoons as he was about to leave, after assuring himself that Dejah Thoris was not a captive there.

“During the period of our incarceration Kantos Kan and I became well acquainted, and formed a warm personal friendship. A few days only elapsed, however, before we were dragged forth from our dungeon for the great games.” (PM/19.)

Now comes the first arena scene in the Barsoomian Mythos. The great games are everything you imagined, especially if you are a fan of the Star Wars Saga, Spartacus, and the movie, Gladiator. But even then, the Warhoons give the idea a whole different kind of twist.
“We were conducted early one morning to an enormous amphitheater, which instead of having been built upon the surface of the ground was excavated below the surface. It had partially filled with debris so that how large it had originally been was difficult to say. In its present condition it held the entire twenty thousand Warhoons of the assembled hordes.

“The arena was immense but extremely uneven and unkempt. Around it the Warhoons had piled building stone from some of the ruined edifices of the ancient city to prevent the animals and the captives from escaping into the audience, and at each end had been constructed cages to hold them until their turns came to meet some horrible death upon the arena.

“Kantos Kan and I were confined together in one of the cages. In the others were wild calots, thoats, mad zitidars, green warriors, and women of other hordes, and many strange and ferocious wild beasts of Barsoom which I had never before seen. The din of their roaring, growling and squealing was deafening and the formidable appearance of any one of them was enough to make the stoutest heart feel grave forebodings.

“Kantos Kan explained to me that at the end of the day one of these prisoners would gain freedom and the others would lie dead about the arena. The winners in the various contests would be pitted against each other until only two remained alive; the victor in the last encounter being set free, whether animal or man. The following morning the cages would be filled with a new consignment of victims, and so on throughout the ten days of the games. 

“Shortly after we had been caged the amphitheater began to fill and within an hour every available part of the seating space was occupied. Dak Kova, with his jeds and chieftans, sat at the center of one side of the arena upon a large raised platform.

“At a signal from Dak Kova the doors of two cages were thrown open and a dozen green Martian females were driven to the center of the arena. Each was given a dagger and then, at the far end, a pack of twelve calots, or wild dogs were loosed upon them.

“As the brutes, growling and foaming, rushed upon the almost defenseless women I turned my head that I might not see the horrid sight. The yells and laughter of the green horde bore witness to the excellent quality of the sport and when I turned back to the arena, as Kantos Kan told me it was over, I saw three victorious calots, snarling and growling over the bodies of their prey. The women had given a good account of themselves.

“Next a mad zitidar was loosed among the remaining dogs, and so it went throughout the long, hot, horrible day.

“During the day I was pitted against first men and then beasts, but as I was armed with a long-sword and always outclassed my adversary in agility and generally in strength as well, it proved but child’s play to me. Time and time again, I won the applause of the bloodthirsty multitude, and toward the end there were cries that I be taken from the arena and be made a member of the hordes of Warhoon.

“Finally there were but three of us left, a great green warrior of some far northern horde, Kantos Kan, and myself. The other two were to battle and then I to fight the conqueror for the liberty which was accounted the final winner.

“Kantos Kan had fought several times during the day and like myself had always proven victorious, but occasionally by the smallest of margins, especially when pitted against the green warriors. I had little hope that he could best his giant adversary who had mowed down all before him during the day. The fellow towered nearly sixteen feet in height, while Kantos Kan was some inches under six feet. As they advanced to meet one another I saw for the first time a trick of Martian swordsmanship, which centered Kantos Kan’s every hope of victory and life on one cast of the dice, for, as he came to with about twenty feet of the huge fellow he threw his sword arm far behind him over his shoulder and with a mighty sweep hurled his weapon point foremost at the green warrior. It flew true as an arrow and piercing the poor devil’s heart laid him dead upon the arena.” (PM/19.)

This is a trick Carter will utilize time and again as he continuously learns and grows in knowledge and skill until no one can face him on two planets with a chance of winning. 
“Kantos Kan and I were now pitted against each other but as we approached to the encounter I whispered to him to prolong the battle until nearly dark in the hope that we find some means of escape. The horde evidently guessed that we had no hearts to fight each other and so they howled in rage as neither of placed a fatal thrust. Just as I saw the sudden coming of dark I whispered to Kantos Kan to thrust his sword between my left arm and my body. As he did so I staggered back clasping the sword tightly with my arm and thus fell to the ground with his weapon apparently protruding from my chest. Kantos Kan perceived my coup and stepping quickly to my side he placed his foot upon my neck and withdrawing his sword from my body gave me the final death blow through the neck which is supposed to sever the jugular vein, but in this instance the cold blade slippped harmlessly into the sand of the arena. In the darkness which had now fallen none could tell but that he had really finished me. I whispered to him to go and claim his freedom and then look for me in the hills east of the city, and so he left me.

“When the amphitheater had cleared I crept stealthily to the top and as the great excavation lay far from the plaza and in the untenanted portion of the great dead city I had little trouble in reaching the hills beyond.” (PM/19.)

If the movie, John Carter of Mars, coming out in 2012, can do equal justice to this scene as James Killian Spratt renders the combat in the arena (ERBzine #1320-1322), it will be well worth the price of admission.

Carter then has his adventures at the atmosphere factory and with the Zodangans, and after slaying several guards in the palace seeking Dejah Thoris, he escapes in a one-man flier headed to Helium. However, on the way, as he passes over an ancient dead city, he discovers several thousand Green Martians fighting among themselves.

“About noon I passed low over a great dead city of ancient Mars, and as I skimmed out across the plain beyond I came full upon several thousand green warriors engaged in a terrific battle. Scarcely had I seen them than a volley of shots was directed at me, and with the almost unfailing accuracy of their aim my little craft was instantly a ruined wreck, sinking erratically to the ground.

“I fell almost directly in the center of the fierce combat, among warriors who had not seen my approach so busily were they engaged in life and death struggles. The men were fighting on foot with long-swords, while an occasional shot from a sharpshooter on the outskirts of the conflict would bring down a warrior who might for an instant separate himself from the tangled mass.

“As my machine sank among them I realized that it was fight or die, with good chances of dying in any event, and so I struck the ground with drawn longsword ready to defend myself as I could. 

“I fell beside a huge monster who was engaged with three antagonists, and as I glanced at his fierce face, filled with the light of battle, I recognized Tars Tarkas the Thark. He did not see me, as I was a trifle behind him, and just then the three warriors opposing him, and whom I recognized as Warhoons, charged simultaneously. The mighty fellow made quick work of one of them, but in stepping back for another thrust he fell over a dead body behind him and was down and at the mercy of his foes in an instant. Quick as lightning they were upon him, and Tars Tarkas would have been gathered to his fathers in short orderhad I not sprung before his prostrate form and engaged his adversaries. I had accounted for one of them when the mighty Thark regained his feet and quickly settled the other.

“He gave me one look, and a slight smile touched his grim lips as, touching my shoulder, he said,

“‘I would scarcely recognize you, John Carter, but there is no other mortal upon Barsoom who would have done what you have for me. I think I have learned that there is such a thing as friendship, my friend.’

“He said no more, nor was there opportunity, for the Warhoons were closing in about us, and together we fought, shoulder to shoulder, during all that long, hot afternoon, until the tide of battle turned and the remnant of the fierce Warhoon horde fell back upon their thoats, and fled into the gathering darkness. 

“Ten thousand men had been engaged in that titanic struggle, and upon the field of battle lay three thousand dead. Neither side asked or gave quarter, nor did they attempt to take prisoners.” (PM/24.)

Fighting together in this battle forms one of the greatest bonds of friendships in American literature. Whenever in the future Tars Tarkas and John Carter meet each other, this conflict is foremost in their minds. Yes, to create this bond, ERB uses the device of coincidence, almost drives it into the ground, but that is what the mature ERB reader expects in his author, for he has gone down in history as the master of coincidence.

In our final two sections in Part Five, we will look at Tars Tarkas Triumphant, as well as what scant information we can gather on the Torquas and Thurd hordes.

~ continued

I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII
Murphy Anderson ~ DC comics
Green Man Horde by Murphy Anderson
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.|6 |

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

Visit our thousands of other sites at:
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
ERB quotes ©ERB Inc.
All Original Work ©1996-2011 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.