WEIRD CREATURES OF MARS
The Twelfth Runner-Up in
the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
From an Earthly perspective, all creatures on
Mars are weird. If the reader has been following this series, he or she
has been introduced to a virtual menagerie of Martian fauna, such as the
Green Hordes, the Great White Apes, calots, thoats, zitidars, siths, soraks,
silians, apts, orluks, and banths, all of which are fascinating in themselves.
However, two of ERB’s creations stand out in their weirdness:
the Plant Men, which appear in Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars;
and the Goolians, who appear in Synthetic Men of Mars. Both groups
of these weird creatures are able to leap long distances and have long
powerful tails. Both sets of creatures appear to be social in nature, although
the system of organization in the Plant Men appears to be more instinctive,
whereas the Goolians have a Jeddak form of government evidencing a higher
evolved self-conscious form of government. Moreover, while there is nothing
amusing about the Plant Men, the Goolians provide the reader with hardy
A) The Plant Men:
John Carter first comes across the Plant Men at the time
of his second advent on Barsoom when he finds himself unknowingly in the
Valley Dor, the Martian paradise. Carter awakens naked and unarmed in a
forest of gigantic multi-colored trees, a fantasy forest. Beyond the trees
he makes out a grassy plain of red vegetation and, rarest of sights on
Mars, an open sea.
“As I neared the confines
of the forest I beheld before me, and between the grove and open sea, a
broad expanse of meadow land, and as I was about to emerge from the shadows
of the trees a sight met my eyes that banished all romantic and poetic
reflection upon the beauties of the strange landscape.
From the first descriptions, the reader may be lured into
thinking that the Plant Men are merely just the gardeners of Valley Dor.
After all, what better caretakers for flora than Plant Men. Carter likely
has these thoughts in mind as his curiousity almost gets the best of him.
I believe Michael Whelan has done a fantastic job of rendering the Plant
Men on the cover of a Del Rey paperback edition from the late Seventies.
(ERBzine #0423; for
full screen, see www.tarzan.org/art/whelans.jpg)
“To my left the sea extended as
far as the eye could reach, before me only a vague, dim line indicated
its further shore, while at my right a mighty river, broad, placid, and
majestic, flowed between scarlet banks to empty into the quiet sea before
“At a little distance up the river
rose mighty perpendicular bluffs, from the very base of which the great
river seemed to rise.
“But it was not these inspiring
and magnificent evidences of Nature’s grandeur that took my immediate attention
from the beauties of the forest. It was the sight of a score of figures
moving slowly about the meadow near the bank of the mighty river.
“Odd, grotesque shapes they were;
unlike anything that I had ever seen upon Mars, and yet, at a distance,
most man-like in appearance. The larger specimens appeared to be about
ten or twelve feet in height when they stood erect, and to be proportioned
as to torso and lower extremities precisely as is earthly man.
“Their arms, however, were very
short, and from where I stood seemed as though fashioned much after the
manner of an elephant’s trunk, in that they moved in sinuous and snake-like
undulations, as though entirely without bony structure, or if there were
bones it seemed that they must be vertebral in nature.
“As I watched them from behind the
stem of a huge tree, one of the creatures moved slowly in my direction,
engaged in the occupation that seemed to the be the principal business
of each of them, and which consisted in running their oddly shaped hands
over the surface of the sward, for what purpose I could not determine.
“As he approached quite close to
me I obtained an excellent view of him, and though I was later to become
better acquainted with his kind, I may say that that single cursory examination
of this awful travesty on Nature would have proved quite sufficient to
my desires had I been a free agent. The fastest flier of the Heliumetic
Navy could not quickly enough have carried me far from this hideous creature.
“Its hairless body was a strange
and ghoulish blue, except for a broad band of white which encircled its
protruding single eye: an eye that was all dead white – pupil, iris, and
“Its nose was a ragged, inflamed,
circular hole in the center of its blank face; a hole that resembled more
closely nothing I could think of other than a fresh bullet wound which
has not yet commenced to bleed.
“Below this repulsive orifice the
face was quite blank to the chin, for the thing had no mouth that I could
“The head, with the exception of
the face, was covered by a tangled mass of jet-black hair some eight or
ten inches in length. Each hair was about the bigness of a large angle-worm,
and as the thing moved the muscles of its scalp this awful head-covering
seemed to writhe and wriggle and crawl about the fearsome face as though
indeed each separate hair was endowed with independent life.
“The body and the legs were as symmetrically
human as Nature could have fashioned them, and the feet, too, were human
in shape, but of monstrous proportions. From heel to toe they were fully
three feet long, and very flat and very broad.
“As it came quite close to me I
discovered that its strange movements, running its odd hands over the surface
of the turf, were the result of its peculiar method of feeding, which consists
in cropping off the tender vegetation with its razor-like talons and sucking
it up from its two mouths, which lie one in the palm of each hand, through
its arm-like throats.
“In addition to the features which
I have already described, the beast was equipped with a massive tail about
six feet in length, quite round where it joined the body, but tapering
to a flat, thin blade toward the end, which trailed at right angles to
“By far the most remarkable feature
of this most remarkable creature, however, were the two tiny replicas of
it, each about six inches in length, which dangled, one on either side,
from its armpits. They were suspended by a small stem which seemed to grow
from the exact tops of their heads to where it connected with the body
of the adult.
“Whether they were the young, or
merely portions of a composite creature, I did not know.
“As I had been scrutinizing this
weird monstrosity the balance of the herd had fed quite close to me and
I now saw that while many had the smaller specimens dangling from them,
not all were thus equipped, and I further noted that the little ones varied
in size from what appeared to be but tiny unopened buds an inch in diameter
through various stages of development to the full-fledged and perfectly
formed creature of ten or twelve inches in length.
“Feeding with the herd were many
of the little fellows not much larger than those which remained attached
to their parents, and from the young of that size the herd graded up to
the immense adults.
“Fearsome-looking as they were,
I did not know whether to fear them or not, for they did not seem to be
particularly well equipped for fighting, and I was on the point of stepping
from my hiding-place and revealing myself to them to note the effect upon
them of the sight of a man when my rash resolve was, fortunately for me,
nipped in the bud by a strange shrieking wail, which seemed to come from
the direction of the bluffs at my right.” (GM/1.)
It appears, however, that in the ten years that John Carter
has gone missing, he has forgotten that very few creatures are innocuous
on Barsoom. He is about to discover the true mission of the Plant Men in
the Valley Dor and the essential role they play in the Religion of Issus.
“Naked and unarmed, as
I was, my end would have been both speedy and horrible at the hands of
these cruel creatures had I had time to put my resolve into execution,
but at the moment of the shriek each member of the herd turned in the direction
from which the sound seemed to come, and at the same instant every particular
snake-like hair upon their heads rose stiffly perpendicular as if each
had been a sentient organism looking or listening for the source or meaning
of the wail. And indeed the latter proved to be the truth, for this strange
growth upon the craniums of the plant men of Barsoom represents the thousand
ears of these hideous creatures, the last remnant of the strange race which
sprang from the original Tree of Life.
The Plant Men then engage in a manner of tactics, either
signifying some form of higher intelligence, or a bit of more sophisticated
“Instantly every eye turned toward
one member of the herd, a large fellow who evidently was the leader. A
strange purring sound issued from the mouth in the palm of one of his hands,
and at the same time he started rapidly toward the bluff, followed by the
“Their speed and method of locomotion
were both remarkable, springing as they did in great leaps of twenty or
thirty feet, much after the manner of a kangaroo.
“They were rapidly disappearing
when it occurred to me to follow them, and so, hurling caution to the winds,
I sprang across the meadow in their wake with leaps and bounds ever more
prodigious than their own, for the muscles of an athletic Earth man produce
remarkable results when pitted against the lesser gravity and air pressure
“Their way led directly towards
that apparent source of the river at the base of the cliff, and as I neared
this point I found the meadow dotted with huge boulders that the ravages
of time had evidently dislodged from the towering crags above.
“For this reason I came quite close
to the cause of the disturbance before the scene broke upon my horrified
gaze. As I topped a great boulder I saw the herd of plant men surrounding
a little groupl of perhaps five or six green men and women of Barsoom.
“That I was indeed upon Mars I now
had no doubt, for here were members of the wild hordes that people the
dead sea bottoms and deserted cities of that dying planet.
“Here were the great males towering
in all the majesty of their imposing height; here were the gleaming white
tusks protruding from their massive lower jaws to a point near the center
of their foreheads, the laterally placed, protruding eyes with which they
could look forward or backward, or to either side without turning their
heads, here the strange antennae-like ears rising from the tops of their
foreheads; and the additional pair of arms extending from midway between
the shoulders and the hips.
“Even without the glossy green hide
and metal ornaments which denoted the tribes to which they belonged, I
would have known them on the instant for what they were, for where else
in all the universe is their like duplicated?
“There were two men and four females
in the party and their ornaments denoted them as members of different hordes,
a fact which tended to puzzle me infinitely, since the various hordes of
green men of Barsoom are eternally at deadly war with one another, and
never, except on that single historic instance when the great Tars Tarkas
of Thark gathered a hundred and fifty thousand green warriors from several
hordes to march upon the doomed city of Zodanga to rescue Dejah Thoris,
Princess of Helium, from the clutches of Than Kosis, had I seen green martians
of different hordes associated in other than mortal combat.
“But now they stood back to back,
facing, in wide-eyed amazement, the very evidently hostile demonstrations
of a common enemy.
“Both men and women were armed with
long-swords and daggers, but no firearms were in evidence, else it had
been short shrift for the gruesome plant men of Barsoom.” (GM/1.)
“Presently the leader of
the plant men charged the little party, and his method of attack was as
remarkable as it was effective, and by its very strangeness was the more
potent, since in the science of the green warriors there was no defense
for this singular manner of attack, the like of which it soon was evident
to me they were as unfamiliar with as they were with the monstrosities
which confronted them.
Carter’s warrior spirit gets the best of him. He makes a
half dozen leaps and gains the bloody killing field, then he grabs a long-sword
from one of the dead Green Men and hurls himself into the fight.
“The plant man charged to within
a dozen feet of the party, and then, with a bound, rose as though to pass
directly above their heads. His powerful tail was raised high to one side,
and as he passed close above them he brought it down in one terrible sweep
that crushed a green warrior’s skull as though it had been an eggshell.
“The balance of the frightful herd
was now circling rapidly and with bewildering speed about the little knot
of victims. Their prodigious bounds and the shrill, screeching purr of
their uncanny mouths were calculated to confuse and terrorize their prey,
so as two of them leaped simultaneously from either side, the mighty sweep
of those awful tails met with no resistance and two more green Martians
when down to an ignoble death.
“There were now but one warrior
and two females left, and it seemed that it could be but a matter of seconds
ere these, also, lay dead upon the scarlet sward.
“But as two more of the plant men
charged, the warrior, who was now prepared by the experiences of the past
few minutes, swung his mighty longsword aloft and met the hurtling bulk
with a clean cut that clove one of the plant men from chin to groin.
“The other, however, dealt a single
blow with his cruel tail that laid both of the females crushed corpses
upon the ground.
“As the green warrior saw the last
of his companions go down and at the same time perceived that the entire
herd was charging him in a body, he rushed boldly to meet them, swinging
his long-sword in the terrible manner that I had so often seen the men
of his kind wield it in their ferocious and almost continual warfare among
their own race.
“Cutting and hewing to right and
left, he laid an open path straight through the advancing plant men, and
then commenced a mad race for the forest, in the shelter of which he evidently
hoped that he might find a haven of refuge.” (GM/1.)
“Swift as I was I was none
too soon, for the green warrior had been overtaken ere he had made half
the distance to the forest, and now he stood with his back to a boulder,
while the herd, temporarily balked, hissed and screeched about him.
Leave it to ERB to give us that anatomical detail about the
Plant Man while Carter and Tars Tarkas are in the midst of dissecting them
with their huge swords, giving us a wonderful graphic scene to imagine.
“With their single eyes in the center
of their heads and every eye trained upon their prey, they did not note
my soundless approach, so that I was upon them with my great long-sword
and four of them lay dead ere they knew that I was among them.
“For an instant they recoiled before
my terrific onslaught, and, in that instant the green warrior rose to the
occasion and, springing to my side, laid to the right and left of him as
I had never seen but one other warrior do, with great circling strokes
that formed a figure eight about him and that never stopped until none
stood living to oppose him, his keen blade passing through flesh and bone
and metal as though each had been alike thin air.
“As we bent to the slaughter, far
above us rose that shrill, weird cry which I had heard once before, and
which had called the herd to the attack upon their victims. Again and again
it rose, but we were too much engaged with the fierce and powerful creatures
about us to attempt to search out even with our eyes the author of the
“Great tails lashed in frenzied
anger about us, razor-like talons cut our limbs and bodies, and a green
and sticky syrup, such as oozes from a crushed caterpillar, smeared us
from head to foot, for every cut and thrust of our longswords brought spurts
of this stuff upon from the severed arteries of the plant men, through
which it courses in sluggish viscisity in lieu of blood.” (GM/1.)
“Once I felt the great
weight of one of the monsters upon my back and as keen talons sunk into
my flesh I experienced the frightful sensation of moist lips sucking the
lifeblood from the wounds to which the claws still clung.
I just love that description of the moist lips sucking the
blood from his back. Anyway, Carter and Tars Tarkas – although Carter is
slow to understand that the Green Warrior is Tars Tarkas – stand back to
back against the boulder, preventing the Plant Men from their overhead
tactic of bashing in their skulls with a flick of their powerful tails.
“I was very much engaged with a
ferocious fellow who was endeavoring to reach my throat from in front,
while two more, one on either side, were lashing viciously at me with their
“The green warrior was much put
to it to hold his own, and I felt that the unequal struggle could last
but a moment longer when the huge fellow discovered my plight, and tearing
himself from those that surrounded him, he raked the assailant from my
back with a single sweep of his blade, and thus relieved I had little difficulty
with the others.” (GM/1)
They hear the shrill wail again, and this time see that
the wail has summoned a new menace to their sorry predicament: thousands
of Great White Apes now join in the carnage. It is at this point, when
Carter says that it will be a great death – and the Green Man answers with
his name – that Carter realizes that the Green Man next to him is his best
friend on two planets.
Carter will soon learn why Tars Tarkas was not surprised
to find him in Valley Dor. It was precisely the place Tars Tarkas expected
to find him. They make a mad dash for the five thousand feet high cliffs
where Carter has spied some caves high above at the tree top level. When
the sun hits the cliffs at the right angle, Carter perceives that they
are made of pure gold, and watches in amazement as they shimmer in the
sunlight. They finally make the forest.
“At length, however, we
reached the shadows of the forest, while right behind us sprang the swiftest
of our pursuers – a giant plant man with claws outreaching to fasten his
blood-sucking mouths upon us.
I recall watching a horror movie on TV with my youngest daughter
a couple of years ago. It was a three or four part movie dealing with various
adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft stories. I told my daughter that in order
for the monsters to be legitimate in a H.P. Lovecraft story, they must
have tentacles, and I enjoyed the twist ERB gave the elephant trunk arms
of the Plant Men being
“He was, I should say, a hundred
yards in advance of his closest companion, and so I called to Tars Tarkas
to ascend a great tree that brushed the cliff’s face while I dispatched
the fellow, thus giving the less agile Thark an opportunity to reach the
higher branches before the entire horde should be upon us and every vestige
of escape cut off.
“But I had reckoned without a just
appreciation either of the cunning of my immediate antagonist or the swiftness
with which his fellows were covering the distance which had separated them
“As I raised my long-sword to deal
the creature its death thrust it halted in its charge and, as my sword
cut harmlessly through the empty air, the great tail of the thing swept
with the power of a grizzly’s arm across the sward and carried me bodily
from my feet to the ground. In an instant the brute was upon me, but ere
it could fasten its hideous mouths into my breast and throat I grasped
a writhing tentacle in either hand.
“The plant man was well muscled,
heavy, and powerful but my earthly sinews and greater agility, in conjunction
with the deathly strangle hold I had upon him, would have given me, I think,
an eventual victory had we had time to discuss the merits of our relative
prowess uninterrupted. But as we strained and struggled about the tree
into which Tars Tarkas was clambering with infinite difficulty, I suddenly
caught a glimpse over the shoulder of my antagonist of the great swarm
of pursuers that now were fairly upon me.” (GM/1.)
more like tentacles, which are always a lot more creepy.
I also like the counterintuitive idea of Carter strangling the Plant Man
by squeezing his tentacles, for they are indeed the throats of the Plant
Men. Then the Great White Apes reach them.
“It was into the eyes of
such as these and the terrible plant men that I gazed above the shoulder
of my foe, and then, in a mighty wave of snarling, snapping, screaming,
purring rage, they swept over me – and of all the sounds that assailed
my ears as I went down beneath them, to me the most hideous was the horrid
purring of the plant men.
It is at this point that Carter and Tars Tarkas have their
semi-amusing argument over who is to be first down the large rabbit hole-like
entrance that Tars Tarkas has discovered at the base of the trunk. In the
end, Carter orders Tars Tarkas down the hole and the Green Jeddak obeys
“Instantly a score of cruel fangs
and keen talons were sunk into my flesh; cold, sucking lips fastened themselves
upon my arteries. I struggled to free myself, and even though weighed down
by these immense bodies, I succeeded in struggling to my feet, where, still
grasping my long-sword, and shortening my grip upon it until I could use
it as a dagger, I wrought such havoc among them that at one time I stood
for an instant free.
“What it has taken minutes to write
occurred in but a few seconds, but during that time Tars Tarkas had seen
my plight and had dropped from the lower branches, which he had reached
with such infinite labor, and as I flung the last of my immediate antagonists
from me the great Thark leaped to my side, and again we fought, back to
back, as we had done a hundred times before.
“Time and again the ferocious apes
sprang in to close with us, and time and again we beat them back with our
swords. The great tails of the plant men lashed with tremendous power about
us as they charged from various directions or sprang with the agility of
greyhounds above our heads; but every attack met a gleaming blade in sword
hands that had been reputed for twenty years the best Mars ever had known;
for Tars Tarkas and John Carter were names that the fighting men of the
world of warriors loved to speak.
“But even the best two swords in
a world of fighters can avail not for ever against overwhelming numbers
of fierce and savage brutes that know not what defeat means until cold
steel teaches their hearts no longer to beat, and so, step by step, we
were forced back. At length we stood against the giant tree that we had
chosen for our ascent, and then, as charge after charge hurled its weight
upon us, we gave back again and again, until we had been forced half-way
around the huge base of the colossal trunk.
“Tars Tarkas was in the lead, and
suddenly I heard a little cry of exultation from him.” (GM/2.)
“As he dropped to the ground
to force his way into the tree, the whole howling pack of hideous devils
hurled themselves upon me. To right and left flew my shimmering blade,
now green with the sticky juice of a plant man, now red with the crimson
blood of a great white ape; but always flying from one opponent to another,
hesitating but the barest fraction of a second to drink the lifeblood in
the center of some savage heart.
Then Tars Tarkas grabs him by the ankles and pulls him down
into the hole and out of the grasp of the fiendish foes. They climb a ladder,
enter a cave above, wander down a corridor, find themselves in the Chamber
of Mystery, fight banths and therns, then free Thuvia, who explains to
them the function of the Plant Men in the religious world view of Issus.
“And thus I fought as I never had
fought before, against such frightful odds that I cannot realize even now
that human muscles could have withstood that awful onslaught, that terrific
weight of hurtling tons of ferocious, battling flesh.
“With the fear that we should escape
them, the creatures redoubled their efforts to pull me down, and though
the ground about me was piled high with their dead and dying comrades,
they succeeded at last in overwhelming me, and I went down beneath them
for the second time that day, and once again felt those awful sucking lips
against my flesh.” (GM/2.)
“‘The Holy Therns eat human
flesh,’ she answered me; ‘but only that which has died beneath the sucking
lips of a plant man – flesh from which the defiling blood of life has been
drawn. And to this cruel end I have been condemned. It was to be within
a few hours, had your advent not caused an interruption of their plans....
They escape together, and as they make their way through
the labyrinth corridors of the giant cliffs of the Otz Mountains, they
come across an opening that allows them to peer down on the balcony from
which the Therns call the Plant Men to the feast.
“‘All who reach the Valley Dor are,
by custom, the rightful prey of the plant men and the apes, while their
arms and ornaments become the portion of the therns; but if one escapes
the terrible denizens of the valley for even a few hours the therns may
claim such a one as their own....
“‘The therns are mortal,’ she replied.
‘They die from the same causes as you or I might; those who do not live
their allotted span of time, one thousand years, when by the authority
of custom they may take their way in happiness through the long tunnel
that leads to Issus.
“‘Those who die before are supposed
to spend the balance of their allotted time in the image of a plant man,
and it is for this reason that the plant men are held sacred by the therns,
since they believe that each of these hideous creatures was formerly a
“‘And should a plant man die?’ I
“‘Should he die before the expiration
of the thousand years from the birth of the thern whose immortality abides
within him then the soul passes into a great white ape; but should the
ape die short of the exact hour that ternimates the thousand years the
soul is for ever lost and passes for all eternity into the carcass of the
slimy fearsome silian whose wriggling thousands seethe the silent sea beneath
the hurtling moons when the sun has gone and strange shapes walk through
the Valley Dor.’” (GM/4.)
“At our right the sun was
setting, a huge red orb, below the western range of Otz. A little below
us stood the Holy Thern on watch upon his balcony. His scarlet robe of
office was pulled tightly about him in anticipation of the cold that comes
so suddenly with darkness as the sun sets....From brilliant light you are
plunged without warning into utter darkness. Then the moons come; the mysterious,
magic moons of Mars, hurtling like monster meteors low across the face
of the planet.
Later, Carter is captured by the Black Pirates and while
bound within one of their warships, he tells Phaidor, daughter of the leader
of the Holy Therns, his ultimate intention toward the Plant Men.
“The declining sun lighted brilliantly
the eastern banks of Korus, the crimson sward, the gorgeous forest. Beneath
the trees we saw feeding many herds of plant men. The adults stood aloft
upon their toes and their mighty tails, their talons pruning every available
leaf and twig. It was then that I understood the careful trimming of the
trees which had led me to form the mistaken idea when first I opened my
eyes upon the grove that it was the playground of a civilized people.
“As we watched, our eyes wandered
to the rolling Iss, which issued from the base of the cliffs beneath us.
Presently there emerged from the mountain a canoe laden with lost souls
from the outer world. There were a dozen of them. All were of the highly
civilized and cultured race of red men who are dominant on Mars.
“The eyes of the herald upon the
balcony beneath us fell upon the doomed party as soon as did ours. He raised
his head and, leaning far out over the low rail that rimmed his dizzy perch,
voiced the shrill, weird wail that called the demons of this hellish place
to the attack.
“For an instant the brutes stood
with stiffly erected ears, then they poured from the grove toward the river’s
bank, covering the distance with great, ungainly leaps.
“The party had landed and was standing
on the sward as the awful horde came in sight. There was a brief and futile
effort of defense. Then silence as the huge, repulsive shapes covered the
bodies of their victims and scores of sucking mouths fastened themselves
to the flesh of their prey.
“I turned away in disgust.
“‘Their part is soon over,’ said
Thuvia. ‘The great white apes get the flesh when the plant men have drained
the arteries. Look, they are coming now.’
“As I turned my eyes in the direction
the girl indicated, I saw a dozen of the great white monsters running across
the valley toward the river bank. Then the sun went down and darkness that
could almost be felt engulfed us.” (GM/5.)
“‘I fear that I would ill-requite
your father’s hospitality,’ I answered, ‘since the first thing that I should
do were I a thern would be to set an armed guard at the mouth of the River
Iss to escort the poor deluded voyagers back to the outer world. Also should
I devote my life to the extermination of the hideous plant men and their
horrible companions, the great white apes.’” (GM/8.)
This, of course, horrifies Phaidor, for such ideas threaten
the very existence of the Therns. After Carter becomes Warlord of Mars
we are not told if Carter ever attempted to carry out his threat of extermination.
If he changed his mind, it was perhaps because of the compliancy of the
Plant Men toward the First Born that he witnesses as he and his son, Carthoris,
are marched off through the Valley to the arena for the gladiator games.
“When we reached the gardens
of Issus we were led away from the temple instead of toward it. The way
wound through enchanted parks to a mighty wall that towered a hundred feet
in the air.
After the Therns and Black Pirates are defeated by the Red
Martians and the Green Hordes, Carter is able to secretly follow the black
dator, Thurid, across the Valley Dor at night without fear of the Plant
Men or Great White Apes, as recorded in the third book of the opening trilogy,
Warlord of Mars:
“Massive gates gave egress upon
a small plain, surrounded by the same gorgeous forests that I had seen
at the foot of the Golden Cliffs.
“Crowds of blacks were strolling
in the same direction that our guards were leading us, and with them mingled
my old friends the plant men and great white apes.
“The brutal beasts moved among the
crowd as pet dogs might. If they were in the way the blacks pushed them
roughly to one side, or whacked them with the flat of a sword, and the
animals slunk away as in great fear.” (GM/11.)
“So it was that I remained
hidden until after Thurid had disappeared over the edge of the steep bank
beside the sea a quarter of a mile away. Then, with Woola following, I
hastened across the open after the black dator.
The Plant Men play no major role in any of the other stories
in the Barsoomian Mythos, and since their function was mainly to drain
people of blood before the Therns could eat them, and since it is assumed
that cannibalism too was made taboo after their defeat, there does not
seem to be a legitimate function for these animals in Valley Dor. Unless
it is for the gardening skills of the Plant Men. Perhaps they were allowed
to exist for that sole reason, if they were allowed to exist at all. We
will deal with the Goolians in the next part.
“The quiet of the tomb lay upon
the mysterious valley of death, crouching deep in its warm nest within
the sunken area at the south pole of the dying planet. In the far distance
the Golden Cliffs raised their mighty barrier faces far into the starlit
heavens, the precious metals and scintillating jewels that composed them
sparkling in the brilliant light of Mars’s two gorgeous moons.
“At my back was the forest, pruned
and trimmed like the sward to parklike symmetry by the browsing of the
ghoulish plant men.
“Before me lay the Lost Sea of Korus,
while farther on I caught the shimmering ribbon of Iss, the River of Mystery,
where it wound out from beneath the Golden Cliffs to empty into Korus,
to which for countless ages had been borne the deluded and unhappy Martians
of the outer world upon the voluntary pilgrimage to this false heaven.
“The plant men, with their blood-sucking
hands, and the monstrous white apes that make Dor hideous by day, were
hidden in their lairs for the night.
“There was no longer a Holy Thern
upon the balcony in the Golden Cliffs above the Iss to summon them with
weird cry to the victims floating down to their maws upon the cold, broad
bosom of ancient Iss.
“The navies of Helium and the First
Born had cleared the fortresses and the temples of the therns when they
had refused to surrender and accept the new order of things that had swept
their false religion from long-suffering Mars.” (WM/1.)
BARSOOMIAN GREEN MEN and TARS TARKAS ART GALLERIES
| II | III
| IV | V
| VI | VII