WEIRD CREATURES OF MARS
The Twelfth Runner-Up in
the Seven Wonders of Barsoom
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
B) The Goolians
Vor Daj, whose brain, the reader will recall
from Synthetic Men Of
Mars, has been transplanted inside the hideous body of Tor-dur-bar,
the Hormad, has just rescued Janai upon the wings of a Malagor. Since the
Malagor is exhausted from carrying them for three days, they land on an
large obscure island in the Toonolian Marshes. Tor-dur-bar tells Janai
that if the Malagor recovers he hopes that it will be able to fly them
to Helium. While he is explaining why he wants to go to Helium, they are
interrupted by strange visitors:
“‘Look!’ she cried.
This is, of course, a little joke on the fact that Janai
is a really hot babe. We first learn this fact after Vor Daj, Carter, and
Janai are brought to Morbus by their Hormad captors. Vor Daj walks over
to comfort the girl when an officer enters with several other Hormads:
“I turned in the direction she was
pointing, to see a number of strange creatures coming toward us in prodigious
leaps and bounds. That they were some species of human being was apparent,
but there were variations which rendered them unlike any other animal on
Mars. They had long, powerful legs, the knees of which were always flexed
except immediately after the take-off of one of their prodigious leaps,
and they had long, powerful tails; otherwise, they seemed quite human in
conformation. As they came closer, I noted that they were entirely naked
except for a single harness which supported a short sword on one side and
a dagger on the other. Besides these weapons, each of them carried a spear
in his right hand. They quickly surrounded us, remaining at a little distance
from us, squatting down with their knees bent as they supported themselves
on their broad, flat feet and their tails.
“‘Who are you, and what are you
doing here?’ demanded one of them, surprising me by the fact that he possessed
“‘We were flying over your island,’
I replied, ‘when our malagor became tired and was forced to come to ground
to rest. As soon as we are able, we shall continue on our way.’
“The fellow shook his head. ‘You
will never leave Gooli,’ he said. He was examining me closely. ‘What are
you?’ he asked.
“‘I am a man,’ I said, stretching
the point a little.
“He shook his head. ‘And what is
that?’ He pointed at Janai.
“‘A woman,’ I replied.
“Again he shook his head.
“‘She is only half a woman,’ he
said. ‘She has no way of rearing her young or keeping them warm. If she
had any, they would die as soon as they were hatched.’
“Well, that was a subject I saw
no reason of going into, and so I kept silent. Janai seemed slightly amused,
for if she were nothing else she was extremely feminine.” (SMM/20.)
“They gathered us together,
and the two officers accompanying the officer of the guard looked us over.
‘Not a bad lot,’ said one.
“Extremely feminine,” “more than good looking,” are suggestive
descriptions of a sexpot, a fact of which ERB wants the reader to be aware
for maximum enjoyment, remembering, of course, that she is naked. Anyway,
back to the Goolians:
“‘They don’t want the girl, do they?’
asked the officer of the guard.
“‘Our orders were to bring prisoners,’
replied one of the others.
“‘I should like to keep the girl,’
said the officer of the guard.
“‘Who wouldn’t?’ demanded the other
with a laugh. ‘If she had the face of an ulsio you might get her; but the
good looking ones go to the jeds, and she is more than good looking.’”
“‘What do you intend to
do with us?’ I demanded.
Once again ERB uses his subtle style to hint at acts of sexual
molestation as the villagers manhandle Janai, who we can well imagine is
more than amply endowed. There must have been lots of curious probing.
“‘We shall take you to the Jed,
and he will decide. Perhaps he will let you live and work; perhaps he will
destroy you. You are very ugly, but you look strong; you should be a good
worker. The woman appears useless, if she can be
called a woman.’
“I was at a loss as to what to do.
We were surrounded by fully fifty warriors, well though crudely armed.
With my terrific strength, I might have destroyed many of them; but eventually
I was sure that they would overpower and kill me. It would be better to
go with them to their Jed and await a better opportunity for escape. ‘Very
well,’ I said, ‘we will go with you.’
“‘Of course you will,’ he said.
“What else could you do?’
“‘I could fight,’ I said.
“‘Ho ho, you would like to fight,
would you?’ he demanded. ‘Well, I think that if that is the case, the Jed
will accommodate you. Come with us.’
“They led us back along the stream
and up over a little rise of ground beyond which we saw a forest, at the
edge of which lay a village of thatched huts.
“‘That,’ said the leader, pointing,
‘is Gooli, that largest city in the world. There, in his great palace,
dwells Anatok, Jed of Gooli and all of the Island of Ompt.’
“As we approached the village, a
couple of hundred people came to meet us. There were men, women and children,
and when I examined the women I realized why the leader of the party that
had captured us thought that Janai was not wholly feminine. These Goolians
of the Island of Ompt are marsupials, oviparous marsupials. The females
lay eggs which they carry in a pouch on the lower part of their abdomen.
In this pouch the eggs hatch, and in it the young live and take shelter
until they are able to fend for themselves. It was quite amusing to see
the little heads protruding from their mother’s pouches as they surveyed
us with wondering eyes. Up to this time I had believed that there was only
one marsupial upon Barsoom, and that a reptile; so it seemed quite remarkable
to see these seemingly quite human people bearing their young in abdominal
“The creatures that came out from
the village to meet us were quite rough with us, pulling and hauling us
this way and that as they sought to examine us more closely. I towered
above them all and they were a little in awe of me; but they were manhandling
Janai quite badly when I interfered, pushing several of them away so forcibly
that they were thrown to the ground, whereupon two or three of them drew
their swords and came for me; but the party that had captured us acted
now as a bodyguard and defended us from attack. After this they kept the
rabble at a distance, and presently we were ushered into the village and
led to a grass hut much larger than the others. This, I assumed, was the
magnificent palace of Anatok. Such it proved to be, and presently the Jed
himself emerged from the interior with several men and women and a horde
of children. The women were his wives and attendants; the men were his
“Anatok seemed much interested
in us and asked many questions about our capture, and then he asked us
from whence we came.
I am not sure if ERB had any particular people in mind when
he wrote of the Goolians. They are obviously a backwoods, inbred, type
of swamp people – it is easy to imagine Credence Clearwater Revival playing
in the background. They are too isolated and narrow-minded to imagine any
world outside of their own. And from what we have just read, we can imagine
that they are also heartless and cruel, like most of the inhabitants of
Barsoom. But here we would be wrong.
“‘We came from Morbus,’ I said,
‘and we are on our way to Helium.’
“‘Morbus – Helium,’ he repeated.
‘I never heard of them. Little villages, no doubt, inhabited by savages.
How fortunate we are to live in such a splendid city as Gooli. Don’t you
“‘I think you would be very much
happier in Gooli than in Morbus, and far more at ease here than in Helium,’
I replied, truthfully.
“‘Our countries,’ I continued, ‘have
never harmed you. We are not at war; therefore you should let us go on
our way in peace.’
“At that he laughed. ‘What simple
people come from other villages!’ he exclaimed. ‘You are my slaves. When
you are no longer of service to me you shall be destroyed. Do you think
that we want any strangers to go away from Ompt to lead enemies here to
destroy our magnificent city and steal our vast riches?’
“‘Our people would never bother
you,’ I said. ‘Our country is too far from here. If one of your people
should come to our country, he would be treated with kindness. We fight
only with our enemies.’
“‘That reminds me,’ said the leader
of the party that had captured us, ‘this fellow is indeed our enemy by
his own words, for he said that he wished to fight us.’
“What!’ exclaimed Anatok. ‘Well,
if that is so, he shall have his wish. There is nothing that we like better
than a good fight. With what weapons would you like to fight?’
“‘I will fight with anything that
my antagonist chooses,’ I replied.” (SMM/20.)
“It soon appeared that
a personal combat was a matter of considerable importance to the Goolians.
The chief and his advisors held a lengthy discussion relative to the selection
of an antagonist for me. The qualities of a number of warriors were discussed,
and even their ancestors as far back as the fifth and sixth generation
were appraised and compared. It might have been a momentous matter of state,
so serious were they. The conference was often interrupted by suggestions
and comments from other members of the tribe; but at last they selected
a husky young buck, who, impressed by the importance now attached to him,
launched into a long and windy speech in which he enumerated his many virtues
and those of his ancestors while belittling me and bragging about the short
work he would make of me. He finally concluded his harangue by selecting
swords as the weapons we were to use; and then Anatok asked me if I had
anything to say, for it seemed that this speech-making was a part of the
ceremony preceding the duel.
The reader should be getting the idea by now that the Goolians
are the biggest bullshitters on Barsoom. They remind me of the arrogant,
clueless citizens in the movie Idiocracy.
“‘I have only a question to ask,’
“‘And what is that?’ demanded Anatok.
“‘What will be my reward if I defeat
your warrior?’ I asked.
“Anatok appeared momentarily confused.
‘Now that is an outcome that had not occurred to me,’ he said; ‘but of
course, after all, it is unimportant, as you will not win.’
“‘But it might happen,’ I insisted,
‘and if it does, what is to be my reward? Will you grant freedom to my
companion and myself?’
“Anatok laughed. ‘Certainly,’ he
said. ‘I can safely promise you anything you ask for; for when the fight
is over you will have lost, and you will be dead.’
“‘Very good,’ I replied; ‘but don’t
forget your promise.’
“‘Is that all you have to say?’
demanded Anatok. ‘Aren’t you going to tell us how good you are, and how
many men you have killed, and what a wonderful fighter you are? Or aren’t
you any good?’
“‘That is something that only the
sword may decide,’ I replied. ‘My antagonist has done a great deal of boasting,
and he might continue to do so indefinitely without drawing any blood or
harming me in any way. He has not even frightened me, for I have heard
men boast before; and those who boasted the loudest usually have the least
to boast about.’
‘It is evident,’ said Anatok, ‘that
you know nothing about the warriors of Gooli. We are the bravest people
in the world and our warriors are the greatest swordsmen. It is because
of these attributes that we are the most powerful nation in the world,
which is evidenced by the fact that we have built this magnificent city
and protected it for generations, and that we have been able during all
this time to safeguard our vast treasures.’
“I looked around at the mean little
village of grass huts and wondered where Anatok’s vast treasures might
be hidden, and of what they consisted. Perhaps it was a vast store of rare
gems and precious metals.
“‘I see no evidence of great wealth
or of any treasure,’ said. ‘Perhaps you are only boasting again.’
“At this, Anatok flew into a rage.
‘You dare doubt me, you hideous savage’ he cried. ‘What do you know of
wealth or treasures? Your eyes have probably never rested upon anything
that compares with the riches of Gooli.’
“‘Show him the treasure before he
dies,’ cried a warrior. ‘Then he will understand why we have to be such
a brave and warlike people in order to protect and hold it.’
“‘That is not a bad idea,’ said
Anatok. ‘Let him learn by his own eyes that we of Gooli do not boast about
our wealth, just as he will learn by experience that we do not boast about
our bravery and swordsmanship. Come, fellow, you shall see the treasures.’”
“He led the way into his
palace, and I followed with a score of warriors pressing about me. The
interior of the grass hut was bare, except for a litter of dead grass and
leaves around the walls which evidently served for beds, some weapons,
a few crude cooking utensils, and a large chest that stood in the exact
center of the building. To this chest, Anatok conducted me; and, with a
grand flourish, raised the lid and exhibited the contents to me as much
as to say, ‘Now there is nothing more in the world for you to see; you
have seen everything.’
Yes, things are about to get even more insane. ERB could
be a good Mark Twain humorist when he wanted to be one.
“‘Here,’ he said, ‘are the riches
“The chest was about three-quarters
filled with marine shells. Anatok and the others watched me closely to
note my reaction.
“‘Where is the treasure?’ I asked.
‘These are nothing but shells.’
“Anatok trembled with suppressed
rage. ‘You poor, ignorant savage,’ he cried. ‘I might have known that you
could not appreciate the true value and beauty of the treasure of Gooli.
Come, on with the fight; the sooner you are destroyed, the better off the
world will be. We Goolians cannot abide ignorance and stupidity; we, who
are the most intelligent and wisest people in the world.’
“‘Come on,’ I said. ‘The quicker
we get it over the better.’
“It appeared that the preparation
for the duel was quite a ceremonious affair. A procession was formed with
Anatok and his counselors at the head. Then, following my antagonist, was
a guard of honor consisting of about ten warriors. Behind these, I trailed;
and would have been alone but for the fact that I took Janai with me, nor
did they raise any objections to this. The rest of the tribe, including
warriors, women and children, followed behind us. It was a remarkable procession
in that it was all procession and no audience. We marched around the palace
once and then down the main street and out of the village. The villagers
formed a circle, in the center of which were I, my antagonist and his guard
of honor. At a word from Anatok I drew my sword; so did my antagonist and
the ten warriors with him. Then we advanced toward one another.
“‘I turned to Anatok. ‘What are
those other warriors doing there?’ I asked.
“‘They are Zuki’s assistants,’ he
“‘Am I supposed to fight all of
them?’ I demanded.
“‘Oh, no,’ replied Anatok. ‘You
will only fight Zuki, and his assistants will only help him if he gets
“In reality then, I was to fight
“‘Fight, coward!’ cried Anatok.
‘We want to see a good fight.’
“‘I turned again toward Zuki and
his helpers. They were coming toward me very, very slowly; and they were
making faces at me as though in effort to frighten me. The whole thing
struck me as so ridiculous that I could not refrain from laughing; yet
I knew that it was serious, for the odds of eleven to one were heavily
against me, even though the eleven might be inferior swordsmen.
“My face was in itself extremely
hideous, and suddenly I twisted it into a horrible grimace and with a wild
shout leaped toward them. The reaction was amazing. Zuki was the first
to turn and flee, colliding with his fellows, who, in their turn, attempted
to escape my onslaught. I did not pursue them; and when they saw that I
had not, they stopped and faced me again.
“‘Is this an example of the vaunted
courage of the Gooli’s?’ I asked Anatok.
“‘You have just witnessed a fine
piece of strategy,’ replied Anatok; ‘but you are too ignorant to appreciate
“Once again they came toward me,
but still very slowly; and this time they voiced a kind of war whoop while
they were making their faces.
“I was just about to rush them again
when a woman screamed and pointed down the valley. With the others, I turned
to see what had attracted her attention, and discovered half a dozen savages
such as those which had attacked our boat while Gan Had, Tun Gan, and I
had been pursuing Sytor and Janai. At sight of them, a great wail rose
from the villagers. The women and children and all but a handful of warriors
ran for the woods; and I couldn’t tell whether those who remained did so
because they were paralyzed with fright and unable to run, or because of
a sudden access of courage. Zuki, my late antagonist, was not among them.
He and Anatok were racing nip and tuck for the woods in advance of all
“‘Who are they?’ I asked
a warrior standing near me.
They retrace their steps, searching for their Malagor, but
it has disappeared. They return and build a boat, since it is their only
hope of escape.
“‘The man-eaters,’ he replied. ‘After
their last raid, we were chosen to be the sacrifice when they should come
“‘What do you mean,’ I asked, ‘“the
“‘Yes, it is a sacrifice,’ he replied.
‘If we do not willingly give up five warriors to them when they come, they
will attack the village and burn it, they will take our treasure, they
will steal our women and kill as many of our men as they can find. It is
simpler this way; but it hard on those who are chosen. However, we have
no alternative but to obey, for if we did not the tribe would kill us with
“‘But why give up to them?’ I asked.
‘There are only six, and we are six; let’s fight them. We have as good
a chance to win as they.’
“They looked at me in surprise.
‘But we never fight anyone,’ they said, ‘unless we outnumber them ten to
one. It would not be good strategy.’
“‘Forget your strategy,’ I commanded,
‘and stand up against these men with me.’
“‘Do you suppose we could?’ asked
one of another.
“‘It has never been done,’ was the
“‘That is no reason why it can’t
be done now,’ I snapped. ‘If you will give me even a little help, we can
kill them all.’
“‘Give me a sword,’ said Janai,
‘and I will help, too.’
“‘Let us try it,’ said one of the
“‘Why not?’ demanded another. ‘We
are going to die anyway.’
“The savages had now approached
and were quite near us. They were laughing and talking among themselves
and casting contemptuous glances at the Goolians. ‘Come on,’ said one,
‘throw down your arms and come with us.’
“For answer, I leaped forward and
clove the fellow from crown to breastbone with a single stroke. The five
Goolians came forward slowly. They had no stomach for fighting; but when
they saw the success of my first blow they were encouraged; and, in the
same measure, the savages were taken aback. I did not stop with the one
but pushed on toward the remainder of the savages. I now met with a little
competition; but my great reach and my enormous strength gave me an advantage
which they could not overcome, with the result that three of them were
soon down and the other three running away as fast as they could go.
“At sight of the enemy in retreat,
something which they had probably seldom seen in their lives, the Goolians
became demons of bravery and set out in pursuit of them. They could easily
have overtaken them, for they moved in great bounds that carried them fully
twenty feet at a time; but they let them escape over the edge of the plateau;
and then they came bounding back, their chests stuck out and their expressions
radiating self-satisfaction and egotism.
“Evidently the encounter had been
witnessed by those in hiding in the woods, for now the entire tribe came
straggling toward us. Anatok looked a little shame-faced, but his first
words belied his expression. ‘You see the value of our strategy,’ he said.
‘By appearing to run away in fright, we lured them on and then destroyed
“‘You are not fooling me or yourself
either,’ I said. ‘You are a race of braggarts and cowards. I saved the
five men and you would have given them up as tribute without a single effort
to defend them. You permitted six savages to route you and all your warriors.
I could kill you all single-handed, and you know it. Now I demand that
you reward me for what I have done by permitting me and my companion to
remain here in safety until we are able to make plans for continuing our
journey. If you refuse, you shall be the first to feel the edge of my
“‘You don’t have to threaten me,’
he said, trembling. ‘It was my intention to give you your liberty as a
reward for what you have done. You are free to remain with us and to go
and come as you please. You may remain as long as you like, if you will
fight against our enemies when they come.’” (SMM/21.)
“I immediately set to work
building a boat, and in this the Goolians helped me a little although they
were extremely lazy and tired easily. They were without a doubt the most
useless race of people I had ever encountered, expending practically all
their energies in boasting and little or none in accomplishment. Within
a few hours after the encounter with the savages, they were boasting of
their great victory and taking all the credit to themselves, Anatok claiming
most of it for his marvelous strategy, as he called it. There are lots
of people in the world like the Goolians, but some of them are never found
Yes, ERB has just summed-up delusion for the reader, regardless
of whether it is religious, political, economic, or social: delusions are
never the best descriptions of realilty and never will be. It is the mental
comfort that can derive from them that are the most deadly seductions.
“I became quite intimate with Zuki
in the weeks that followed while we were building the boat. I found him
rather above average intelligence and the possessor of a rudimentary sense
of humor which the other Goolians seemed to lack entirely. One day I asked
him why they considered the shells such a valuable treasure.
“‘Anatok has to have the treasure,’
he replied, ‘in order to give him a feeling of superiority; and it was
the same with the rulers who preceded him, and, in fact, with all of us.
It makes us feel tremendously important to have a great treasure; but,
being a cautious people, we chose a treasure that nobody else would want;
otherwise, warlike people would be coming constantly to steal our treasure
from us. Sometimes I think it is a little silly, but I would not dare say
so to Anatok or to any others. All their lives they have heard of the great
value of the vast treasure of Gooli; and so they have come to believe in
it, and they do not question it because they do not wish to question it.’”
“‘And they feel the same
way about their vaunted courage and the strategy of Anatok?’ I asked.
It couldn’t stand the strain of doubting the valor of the
Goolis or the strategy of Anatok. Perhaps the Goolis were better off as
they were, for their silly egotism gave them a certain morale that would
have been wholly lacking had they admitted the truth....
“‘Oh, that is different,’ replied
Zuki. ‘Those things are real. We are really the bravest people in the world,
and Anatok the greatest strategist.’
“Well, his sense of humor had gone
the limit in questioning the treasure.
“At last the boat was completed,
and the Goolians helped me to carry it down to the lake. They stocked it
with provisions for me, and they gave me extra spears and a sword and dagger
for Janai. They bragged about the building of the boat, telling us that
it was the best boat that was ever built and that no one but Goolians could
have built it. They bragged about the weapons they gave us and the provisions.
Thus we left them still boasting, and set out upon our perilous journey
toward the west through the Great Toonolian Marshes.” (SMM/22.)
At this point, I like to think of Michael Whelan’s Del Rey
paperback cover depiction of Tor-dur-bar and Janai in the boat after they
leave Gooli for the danger of the open marshes. (ERBzine
#0352; HERE for
full screen) I am sure by now that every reader has some one or some
group in mind as representative of the Goolis.
I have just realized that I left out ulsios and malagors
from the menagerie list at the beginning of this article. Perhaps the reader
can recall another species I have missed. As I said before, the legs and
tails, creating the ability to leap and bound, are about the only things
the Plant Men and the Goolians have in common. The Plant Men can be seen
as types of sacred animals that are not only allowed to amble about freely,
but are worshipped as holy, like the cows in India, or other animals in
The Goolians can be seen as types of all boasting cowards
and foolish people, the main problem being how does a rational person handle
themselves in front of the Goolian type? I suppose when faced with such
a dilemma, the best bet is to fall back upon King Solomon’s Paradox:
“Answer not a fool according
to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
The answer is purely situational, depending upon the reader’s
amount of wisdom. That such an ambiguous answer should be found in a book
that many deluded Goolians believe never contradicts itself, is a lasting
Jasoomian wonder of its own.
“Answer a fool according to his
folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” (Proverbs 26:4-5.)
And there you have it,
ERB’s Weird Creatures of Mars:
the Twelfth Runner-up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom!
BARSOOMIAN GREEN MEN and TARS TARKAS ART GALLERIES
| II | III
| IV | V
| VI | VII