John Carter's willingness to depopulate the entire planet
of Barsoom is rapidly coming to a crisis point. He is lost, desperate,
and mentally traumatized over the effects of Martian custom on his love
life. And he is running out of time. He only has two slim opportunities
before the wedding of Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and Sab Than, Prince
of Zodanga, comes to pass.
To possess Dejah Thoris for his own, he must stop the
This will either come as the result of the assassination
of Sab Than by Kantos Kan or, if that fails, he himself must stop it. But
how? His directional compass and speedometer are broken, damaged by a good
shot from a Zodanga cruiser. His only hope was to reach Helium and attain
the assistance of Dejah Thoris’s Jeddak grandfather, Tardos Mors. With
that hope now dashed, he drifts aimlessly over an ancient dead sea bottom,
lost to the ages, without time on his side. And then he sees something
that will forever change his life as well as the evolution of the entire
Passing over a dead city, he sees thousands of Green warriors
having a battle. He is seen by some of them and shot out of the sky. He
has no choice other than to fight or die. Randomly, he chooses one side
and finds himself fighting shoulder to shoulder with Tars Tarkas against
the Warhoons. Ten thousand green warriors fight that day, and three thousand
of them die before the contest is over and Carter and Tars Tarkas are victorious.
Carter returns with Tars Tarkas to Thark, where they must
face the wrath of Tal Hajus.
But first they care of the problem of Sarkoja, sending
her off to exile to the River Iss and the horrible fate that awaits her
there. Tars Tarkas suggests that Carter should escape while he looks the
other way, but Carter demands that they both face Tal Hajus before the
Tal Hajus sentences Carter to death before the council
can deliberate and in doing so he has broken Martian custom, allowing Carter
to challenge his fitness to rule. The other Jeds and chieftans join in
the challenge and Tars Tarkas takes him on and almost immediately slays
him, thus becoming Jeddak of the Tharks. That’s when Carter’s fevered brain
comes to its frenzied climax. He cannot wait to know whether Kantos Kan
has succeeded. He must act and act now.
The ultimate solution to his dilemma: the virtual extinction
“Seeing the favorable disposition
of the warriors toward Tars Tarkas, as well as toward me, I grasped the
opportunity to enlist them in my cause against Zodanga. I told Tars Tarkas
the story of my adventures, and in a few words had explained to him the
thought I had in mind.
Carter seeks allies in “his cause against Zodanga.” This
is a crucial statement since it shows that Carter is still virtually non-political
in his outlook. This is an extremely personal matter and has nothing to
do with the right or wrong of the conflict between Helium and Zodanga.
Carter’s only moral compass at this stage is his physical desire for the
“‘John Carter has made a proposal,’
he said, addressing the council, ‘which meets with my sanction. I shall
put it to you briefly. Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Helium, who was our
prisoner, is now held by the jeddak of Zodanga, whose son she must wed
to save her country from devastation at the hands of the Zodangan forces.
“‘John Carter suggests that we rescue
her and return her to Helium. The loot of Zodanga would be magnificent,
and I have often thought that had we an alliance with the people of Helium
we could attain sufficient assurance of sustenance to permit us to increase
to the size and frequency of our hatchings, and thus become unquestionably
supreme among the green men of Barsoom. What say you?’” (PM/24.)
When I read this passage I imagine a young T.E. Lawrence
reading A Princess of Mars when it was released in hardback, shortly
before joining the British forces in the Middle East during WWI. I see
him remembering this passage as he is negotiating with Anthony Quinn’s
tribe to join his cause against Aqaba. He inspires Quinn’s character with
the temptation of possessing all of the great loot that lies in Aqaba.
If it worked for John Carter, then it can bloody well work for Lawrence
of Arabia and the British Empire. This is likely pure fancy, but it makes
a good comparison.
The Hordes respond affirmatively and it is not long before
Carter is leading an army of Green warriors on Zodanga. I hope the upcoming
movie does justice to this scene as the army approaches the gates.
“In three days we were
on the march toward Zodanga, one hundred thousand strong, as Tars Tarkas
had been able to enlist the services of three smaller hordes on the promise
of the great loot of Zodanga.
I see ERB drawing on the fall of Troy at this point, or more
likely the taking of Jerusalem by David’s forces. The Trojan Horse was
the means by which the Greeks took Troy, and Carter would be the Trojan
Horse in this case. But a better analogy would be Joab crawling through
the underground limestone caverns and vaults to gain entrance into Jerusalem
by its ancient water system. Anyway, at this point the doomed city of Zodanga
is as good as dead.
“At the head of the column I rode
beside the great Thark while at the heels of my mount trotted my beloved
“We traveled entirely by night,
timing our marches so that we camped during the day at deserted cities
where, even to the beasts, we were all kept indoors during the daylight
hours. On the march Tars Tarkas, through his remarkable ability and statesmanship,
enlisted fifty thousand more warriors from various hordes, so that, ten
days after we set out we halted at midnight outside the great walled city
of Zodanga, one hundred and fifty thousand strong.
“The fighting strength and efficiency
of this horde of ferocious green monsters was equivalent to ten times their
number of red men. Never in the history of Barsoom, Tars Tarkas told me,
had such a force of green warriors marched to battle together. It was a
monstrous task to keep even a semblance of harmony among them, and it was
a marvel to me that he got them to the city without a mighty battle among
“But as we neared Zodanga their
personal quarrels were submerged by the greater hatred for the red man,
especially for the Zodangans, who had for years waged a ruthless campaign
of extermination against the green men, directing special attention toward
despoiling their incubators.
“Now that we were before Zodanga
the task of obtaining entry to the city devolved upon me, and directing
Tars Tarkas to hold his forces in two divisions out of earshot of the city,
with each division opposite a large gateway, I took twenty dismounted warriors
and approached one of the small gates that pierced the walls at short intervals.
These gates have no regular guard, but are covered by sentries, who patrol
the avenue that encircles the city just within the walls much as our metropolitan
police patrol their beats.
“The walls of Zodanga are seventy-five
feet in height and fifty feet thick. They are built of enormous blocks
carborundum, and the task of entering the city, seemed, to my escort of
green warriors, an impossibility. The fellows who had been detailed to
accompany me were of one of the smaller hordes, and therefore did not know
“Placing three of them with their
faces to the wall and arms locked, I commanded two more to mount to their
shoulders, and a sixth I ordered to climb upon the shoulders of the upper
two. The head of the topmost warrior towered over forty feet from the ground.
“In this way, with ten warriors,
I built a series of three steps from the ground to the shoulders of the
topmost man. Then starting from a short distance behind them I ran swiftly
up from one tier to the next, and with a final bound from the broad shoulders
of the highest I clutched the top of the great wall and quietly drew myself
to its broad expanse. After me I dragged six lengths of leather from an
equal number of my warriors. These lengths we had previously fastened together,
and passing one end to the topmost warrior I lowered the other end cautiously
over the opposite side of the wall toward the avenue below. No one was
in sight, so, lowering myself to the end of my leather strap, I dropped
the remaining thirty feet to the pavement below.
“I had learned from Kantos Kan the
secret of opening these gates, and in another moment my twenty great fighting
men stood within the doomed city of Zodanga.” (PM/24.)
“I found to my delight
that I entered at the lower boundary of the enormous palace grounds. The
building itself showed in the distance a blaze of glorious light, and on
the instant I determined to lead a detachment of warriors directly within
the palace itself, while the balance of the great horde was attacking the
barracks of the soldiery.
All right, Chapter 24 comes to a resounding finish with the
run-up to Carter’s charge on the palace. I remember this charge as one
of my most favorite scenes in the Mythos and I sure as hell will be disappointed
if the movie doesn’t capture it right. Yes, I know that we all must expect
to be disappointed if a filmmaker doesn’t see a story the same way we do.
But some scenes are just so cinematic in themselves – silent films were
extremely popular at this time, so ERB knew what was cinematic – that I
believe this scene was born to see the light of day on the big screen.
I am keeping my fingers crossed.
“Dispatching one of my men to Tars
Tarkas for a detail of fifty Tharks, with word of my intentions, I ordered
ten warriors to capture and open one of the great gates while with the
nine remaining I took the other. We were to do our work quietly, no shots
were to be fired and no general advance made until I had reached the palace
with my fifty Tharks. Our plans worked to perfection. The two sentries
we met and dispatched to their fathers upon the banks of the lost sea of
Korus, and the guards of both gates followed them in silence.” (PM/24.)
“As the great gate where
I stood swung open my fifty Tharks, headed by Tars Tarkas himself, rode
in upon their mighty thoats. I led them to the palace walls, which I negotiated
easily without assistance. Once inside, however, the gate gave me considerable
trouble, but I finally was rewarded by seeing it swing upon its huge hinges,
and soon my fierce escort was riding across the gardens of the jeddak of
This is one of ERB’s most famous literary coincidences in
the Mythos. Carter returns for the Princess at exactly the same time by
chance her Royal Wedding is to occur. At this point, Carter slides over
the razor’s edge into murderous madness.
“As we approached the palace I could
see through the great windows of the first floor into the brilliantly illuminated
audience chamber of Than Kosis. The immense hall was crowded with nobles
and their women, as though some important function was in progress. There
was not a guard in sight without the palace, due, I presume, to the fact
that the city and palace walls were considered impregnable, and so I came
close and peered within.” (PM/25.)
“At one end of the chamber,
upon massive golden thrones encrusted with diamonds, sat Than Kosis and
his consort, surrounded by officers and dignitaries of state. Before them
stretched a broad aisle lined on either side with soldiery, and as I looked
there entered this aisle at the far end of the hall, the head of a procession
which advanced to the foot of the throne.
The classic graphic novel and movie, Watchmen, dealt with
the problem of psychopathic superheroes in a way that addressed new issues
in the pulp fiction community. An otherwise beautiful Royal Wedding – look
how our world deals with Royal Weddings even today! – is turned into a
fiendish sight in the severely mentally disturbed world of John Carter.
This is against his will. This is his woman! It just cannot be. Darkness,
madness, chaos... and then butchery, ensue. This is the scene that makes
the wedding scene in Kill Bill pale in comparison.
“First there marched four officers
of the jeddak’s Guard bearing a huge salver on which reposed, upon a cushion
of scarlet silk, a great golden chain with a collar and padlock at each
end. Directly behind these officers came four others carrying a similar
salver which supported the magnificent ornaments of a prince and princess
of the reigning house of Zodanga.
“At the foot of the throne these
two parties separated and halted, facing each other at opposite sides of
the aisle. Then came more dignitaries, and the officers of the palace and
of the army, and finally two figures entirely muffled in scarlet silk,
so that not a feature of either was discernible. These two stopped at the
foot of the throne, facing Than Kosis. When the balance of the procession
had entered and assumed their stations Than Kosis addressed the couple
standing before him. I could not hear his words, but presently two officers
advanced and removed the scarlet robe from one of the figures, and I saw
that Kantos Kan had failed in his mission, for it was Sab Than, Prince
of Zodanga, who stood revealed before me.
“Than Kosis now took a set of the
ornaments from one of the salvers and placed one of the collars of gold
about his son’s neck, springing the padlock fast. After a few more words
addressed to Sab Than he turned to the other figure, from which the officers
now removed the enshrouding silks, disclosing to my now comprehending view,
Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium.
“The object of the ceremony was
clear to me; in another moment Dejah Thoris would be joined forever to
the Prince of Zodanga. It was an impressive and beautiful ceremony, I presume,
but to me it seemed the most fiendish sight I had ever witnessed, and as
the ornaments were adjusted upon her beautiful figure and her collar of
gold swung open in the hands of Than Kosis I raised my longsword above
my head, and, with the heavy hilt, I shattered the glass of the great window
and sprang into the midst of the astonished assemblage. With a bound I
was upon the steps of the platform beside Than Kosis, and as he stood riveted
with surprise I brought my long-sword down upon the golden chain that would
have bound Dejah Thoris to another.” (PM/25.)
The poor Zodangans have befriended a stranger and heaped
honors upon his courage and fighting prowess. He has personal knowledge
from many Zodangans that Than Kosis is an unpopular ruler. They gave him
a real chance at an honest life upon his new planet. But Carter never saw
his advent upon Mars has mere every-day-life reincarnation, but as destiny.
It doesn’t take him long to discover that he has superpowers compared to
the rest of the inhabitants of Barsoom, giving him an extraordinary advantage
in most circumstances.
I remember longing to see, with my kids, Yoda fighting
some black lord of the Sith since his fighting skill was allegedly the
best among the Jedi. It amused me to picture this cute little muppet type
creature as the baddest ass with a light saber in three star systems. I
thank George Lucas for providing me with this enjoyment in his second pre-trilogy.
It was a gas to see Yoda bouncing about like a Mexican jumping bean, and
then I recalled that this is how John Carter must have fought beings that
were nine feet taller than him. Anyway, back to the massacre.
“In an instant all was
confusion; a thousand drawn swords menaced me from every quarter, and Sab
Than sprang upon me with a jeweled dagger he had drawn from his nuptial
ornaments. I could have killed him as easily as I might a fly, but the
age-old custom of Barsoom stayed my hand, and grasping his wrist as the
dagger flew toward my heart I held him as though in a vice and with my
longsword pointed to the far end of the hall.
Sab Than may have been angry enough over the death of his
father and by the sleazy betrayal of his bride-to-be to give him extra
adrenaline to believe he stood a good fighting chance facing John Carter,
but this fool-for-love will soon discover how delusional the whole thing
“‘Zodanga has fallen,’ I cried.
“All eyes turned in the direction
I had indicated, and there, forging through the portals of the entranceway
rode Tars Tarkas and his fifty warriors on their great thoats.
“A cry of alarm and amazement broke
from the assemblage, but no word of fear, and in a moment the soldiers
and nobles of Zodanga were hurling themselves upon the advancing Tharks.
“Thrusting Sab Than headlong from
the platform, I drew Dejah Thoris to my side. Behind the throne was a narrow
doorway and in this Than Kosis now stood facing me, with drawn long-sword.
In an instant we were engaged, and I found no mean antagonist.
“As we circled upon the broad platform
I saw Sab Than rushing up the steps to aid his father, but, as he raised
his hand to strike, Dejah Thoris sprang before him and then my sword found
the spot that made Sab Than jeddak of Zodanga. As his father rolled dead
upon the floor the new jeddak tore himself free from Dejah Thoris’ grasp,
and again we faced each other.” (PM/25.)
“He was soon joined by
a quartet of officers, and, with my back against a golden throne, I fought
once again for Dejah Thoris. I was hard pressed to defend myself and yet
not strike down Sab Than, and, with him, my last chance to win the woman
I loved. My blade was swinging with the rapidity of lightning as I sought
to parry the thrusts and cuts of my opponents. Two I had disarmed, and
one was down, when several more rushed to the aid of their new ruler, and
to avenge the death of the old.
Ah, Carter is such a simple study. He does not hesitate to
identify his crazy, possessive love for Dejah Thoris as something greater
than himself, a higher power, so to speak. This, at least in his mind,
absolves him of all guilt and personal responsibility for the lives and
civilization he has just destroyed. His only comment on his vanquished
foes is that they were not cowards. They met their deaths honorably.
“As they advanced there were cries
of “The woman! The woman! Strike her down; it is her plot. Kill her! Kill
“Calling to Dejah Thoris to get
behind me I worked my way to the little doorway back of the throne, but
the officers realized my intentions, and three of them sprang in behind
me and blocked my chances for gaining a position where I could have defended
Dejah Thoris against any army of swordsmen.
“The Tharks were having their hands
full in the center of the room, and I began to realize that nothing short
of a miracle could save Dejah Thoris and myself, when I saw Tars Tarkas
surging through the crowd of pigmies that swarmed about him. With one swing
of his mighty long-sword he laid a dozen corpses at this feet, and so he
hewed a pathway before him until in another moment he stood upon the platform
beside me, dealing death and destruction right and left. “The bravery of
the Zodangans was awe-inspiring, not one attempted to escape, and when
the fighting ceased it was because only Tharks remained alive in the great
hall, other than Dejah Thoris and myself.
“Sab Than lay dead beside his father,
and the corpses of the flower of Zodangan nobility and chivalry covered
the floor of the bloody shambles.
“My first thought when the battle
was over was for Kantos Kan and leaving Dejah Thoris in charge of Tars
Tarkas I took a dozen warriors and hastened to the dungeons beneath the
palace. The jailers had all left to join the fighters in the throne room,
so we searched the labyrinthine prison without opposition.
“I called Kantos Kan’s name aloud
in each new corridor and compartment, and finally I was rewarded by hearing
a faint response. Guided by the sound, we soon found him helpless in a
“He was overjoyed at seeing me,
and to know the meaning of the fight, faint echoes of which had reached
his prison cell. He told me that the air patrol had captured him before
he searched the high tower of the palace, so that he had not even seen
“We discovered that it would be
futile to attempt to cut away the bars and chains which held him prisoner,
so, at his suggestion I returned to search the bodies on the floor above
for the keys to open the padlocks of his cell and of his chains.
“Fortunately among the first I examined
I found his jailer, and soon we had Kantos Kan with us in the throne room.
“The sounds of heavy firing, mingled
with shouts and cries, came to us from the city’s streets, and Tars Tarkas
hastened away to direct the fighting without. Kantos Kan accompanied him
to act as guide, the green warriors commencing a thorough search of the
palace for other Zodangans and for loot, and Dejah Thoris and I were left
“She had sunk into one of the golden
thrones, and as I turned to her she greeted me with a wan smile.
“‘Was there ever such a man!’ she
exclaimed. ‘I know that Barsoom has never before seen your like. Can it
be that all Earth men are as you? Alone, a stranger, hunted, threatened,
persecuted, you have done is a few short months what in all the past ages
of Barsoom no man has ever done: joined together the wild hordes of the
sea bottoms and brought them to fight as allies of a red Martian people.’
“‘The answer is easy, Dejah Thoris,’
I replied smiling. ‘It was not I who did it, it was love, love for Dejah
Thoris, a power that would work greater miracles than this you have seen.’”
“A pretty flush overspread
her face and she answered, “‘You may say that now, John Carter, and I may
listen, for I am free.’
Ultimately, Carter’s mentality is judged normal on Barsoom.
No one is outraged by his behavior. In fact, he is admired for it. After
all, one of the major goals in Barsoomian geopolitics and diplomacy is
the abduction of another nation’s princess and holding her for ransom or
making her someone’s wife or whore. This is not a normal world. It is much
more fun this way.
“‘And more still I have to say,
ere it is again too late,’ I returned. ‘I have done many strange things
in my life, many things that wiser men would not have dared, but never
in my wildest fancies have I dreamed of winning a Dejah Thoris for myself
– for never had I dreamed that in all the universe dwelt such a woman as
the Princess of Helium. That you are a princess does not abash me, but
that you are you is enough to make me doubt my sanity as I ask you, my
princess, to be mine.’” (PM/25.)
Don’t get me wrong about Carter’s obsessive quest for
his princess. I love to read him in the first person, to personally experience
his triumphs, kills, and sufferings. The fact is that ERB allows the reader
to be the hero on Barsoom. In Tarzan, written in the third person, the
reader has to imagine being the hero – and millions do – but in John Carter,
written in the first person, the reader is the hero.
John Carter is not a normal person; no one knows if he
was even born on Earth. He may be somewhat crazy, but it is fun to be crazy
when you are brave and have superpowers. And ERB had his most fun as John
Carter, and so does the reader, in the last authentic work of the Barsoomian
Mythos: Llana of Gathol, where he repeatedly takes on the strongest man
or best swordsmen in several settings and bests them all one by one. Some
critics say that ERB was mocking his own characters and themes in this
book, but they just don’t get the character of John Carter.
The video or interactive game will never be able to replace
the combination of mind, imagination, and writing that engages the brain
in the act of reading. Reading will never go out of style, as the fad of
text messaging so amply proves. And the act of reading, thanks to the genius
of ERB, allows me to be the man that now faces this luscious, naked princess,
the most beautiful woman on two planets – as she says to me in the bloody
audience chamber of the Jeddak of Zodanga:
“‘He does not need to be
abashed who so well knew the answer to his plea before the plea were made,’
she replied, rising and placing her dear hands upon my shoulders, and so
I took her in my arms and kissed her.
There is a pregnant pause between Chapter 25 – which ends
with Carter and his Princess still alone in each other’s arms – and Chapter
26, which begins with “Sometime later...” A lot can happen when you are
all alone in the throne room in this amount of time. It it easy for me
to imagine making love with Dejah Thoris on the golden, diamond encrusted
throne. I bet that is true for all of the men reading this, as it was for
the men first reading it in 1912.
“And thus in the midst of a city
of wild conflict, filled with the alarms of war; with death and destruction
reaping their terrible harvest around her, did Dejah Thoris, Princess of
Helium, true daughter of Mars, the God of War, promise herself in marriage
to John Carter, Gentleman of Virginia.’” (PM/25.)
“Sometime later Tars Tarkas
and Kantos Kan returned to report that Zodanga had been completely reduced.
Her forces were entirely destroyed or captured, and no further resistance
was to be expected from within. Several battleships had escaped, but there
were thousands of war and merchant vessels under guard of Thark warriors.
This is a sad sight: the end of Zodanga, a city that has
become a Biblical nightmare of death, torture, rape, pillage, and destruction.
When I see such mutual hatred for each other as manifested between the
Red Martians and the Green ones, I am amazed that the Therns were able
to successfully carry the Religion of Issus to the Green Hordes. There
must have been many missionaries who suffered horrible deaths during the
initial period of evangelization.
“The lesser hordes had commenced
looting and quarrelling among themselves, so it was decided that we collect
what warriors we could, man as many vessels as possible with Zodangan prisoners
and make for Helium without further loss of time.
“Five hours later we sailed from
the roofs of the dock buildings with a fleet of two hundred and fifty battleships,
carrying nearly one hundred thousand green warriors, followed by a fleet
of transports with our thoats.
“Behind us we left the stricken
city in the fierce and brutal clutches of some forty thousand green warriors
of the lesser hordes. They were looting, murdering, and fighting amongst
themselves. In a hundred places they had applied the torch, and columns
of dense smoke were rising above the city as though to blot out from the
eyes of heaven the horrid sights beneath.’” (PM/26.)
Perhaps they were able to do it through the caretakers
of the atmosphere factory, who wore the same kind of “nine-ray” stones
as the Holy Therns of the Tenth Cycle. The old Red Martian who talked to
Carter inside the factory said the Green men were supposed to respect their
profession out of concern for their survival. Who knows?
In fact, who invented the Religion of Issus? Did the ancient
white race believe in Issus?
And what are the Ten Cycles? Thuvia said she had learned
too much from the Holy Therns and had thus become dangerous to them. Was
it a mystical teaching? Was it like the Kama Sutra or Tantric Yoga? Since
we know that both Sator Throg and Matai Shang used Thuvia for a plaything,
I suspect the Cycles to be both mystical and sexual. If so, no wonder Thuvia
was so popular.
But we have wandered far from our story. With that kiss
and promise – and who knows what else? – Dejah Thoris has forever sealed
John Carter’s allegiance to Helium. From now on he acts as an agent of
Helium. From now on Virginia is just a place where he once laid his head.
“In the middle of the afternoon
we sighted the scarlet and yellow towers of Helium, and a short time later
a great fleet of Zodangan battleships rose from the camps of the besiegers
without the city, and advanced to meet us.
Carter surrenders Dejah Thoris to the Helium fleet, and she
is quite put out with him when he does not stay, for he insists of going
with Tars Tarkas to finish off the Zodangan land forces.
“The banners of Helium had been
strung from stem to stern of each of our mighty craft, but the Zodangans
did not need this sign to realize that we were enemies, for our green Martian
warriors had opened fire upon them almost as they left the ground. With
their uncanny marksmanship they raked the on-coming fleet with volley after
“The twin cities of Helium, perceiving
that we were friends, sent out hundreds of vessels to aid us, and then
began the first real air battle I had ever witnessed.
“The vessels carrying our green
warriors were kept circling above the contending fleets of Helium and Zodanga,
since their batteries were useless in the hands of the Tharks who, having
no navy, have no skill in naval gunnery. Their small-arm fire, however,
was most effective, and the final outcome of the engagement was strongly
influenced, if not wholly determined, by their presence.
“At first the two forces circled
in the same altitude, pouring broadside after broadside into each other.
Presently a great hole was torn in the hull of one of the immense battle
craft from the Zodangan camp; with a lurch she turned completely over,
the little figures of her crew plunging, turning and twisting toward the
ground a thousand feet below; then with sickening velocity she tore after
them, almost completely burying herself in the soft loam of the ancient
“A wild cry of exultation arose
from the Heliumite squadrons, and with redoubled ferocity they fell upon
the Zodangan fleet. By a pretty maneuver two of the vessels of Helium gained
a position above their adversaries, from which they poured upon them from
their keel bomb batteries a perfect torrent of exploding bombs.
“Then, one by one, the battleships
of Helium succeeded in rising above the Zodangans, and in a short time
a number of the beleaguering battleships were drifting hopeless wrecks
toward the high scarlet tower of greater Helium. Several others attempted
to escape, but they were soon surrounded by thousands of tiny individual
fliers, and above each hung a monster battleship of Helium ready to drop
boarding parties upon their decks.
“Within but little more than an
hour from the moment the victorious Zodangan squadron had risen to meet
us from the camp of the besiegers the battle was over, and the remaining
vessels of the conquered Zodangans were headed toward the cities of Helium
under prize crews.
“There was an extremely pathetic
side to the surrender of these mighty fliers, the result of an age-old
custom which demanded that surrender should be signalized by the voluntary
plunging to earth of the commander of the vanquished vessel. One after
another the brave fellows, holding their colors high above their heads,
leaped from the towering bows of their mighty craft to an awful death.
“Not until the commander of the
entire fleet took the fearful plunge, thus indicating the surrender of
the remaining vessels, did the fighting cease, and the useless sacrifice
of brave men come to an end.” (PM/26.)
“The commander of the naval
forces of Helium promised to arrange to have the armies of Helium attack
from the city in conjunction with our land attack, and so the vessels separated
and Dejah Thoris was borne in triumph back to the court of her grandfather,
Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium.
One thing you can say about the Zodangans: they die hard.
Just like the Nazi and Japanese armies of their empires, both of which
were ruthless to their conquered. Yes, evil never dies easy.
“In the distance lay our great fleet
of transports, with the thoats of the green warriors, where they had remained
during the battle. Without landing stages it was to be a difficult matter
to unload these beasts upon the open plain, but there was nothing else
for it, and so we put out for a point about ten miles from the city and
began the task.
“It was necessary to lower the animals
to the ground in slings and this work occupied the remainder of the day
and half the night. Twice we were attacked by parties of Zodangan cavalry,
but with little loss, however, and after darkness shut down they withdrew.
“As soon as the last thoat was unloaded
Tars Tarkas gave the command to advance, and in three parties we crept
upon the Zodangan camp from the north, the south and the east.
“About a mile from the main camp
we encountered their outposts and, as had been prearranged, accepted this
as the signal to charge. With wild, ferocious cries and amidst the nasty
squealing of battle-enraged thoats we bore down upon the Zodangans.
“We did not catch them napping,
but found a well-entrenched battle line confronting us. Time after time
we were repulsed until, toward noon, I began to fear for the result of
“The Zodangans numbered nearly a
million fighting men, gathered from pole to pole, wherever stretched their
ribbon-like waterways, while pitted against them were less that a hundred
thousand green warriors. The forces from Helium had not arrived, nor could
we receive any word from them.
“Just at noon we heard heavy fighting
all along the line between the Zodangans and the cities, and we knew then
that our much-needed reinforcements had come.
“Again Tars Tarkas ordered the charge,
and once more the mighty thoats bore their terrible riders against the
ramparts of the enemy. At the same time the battle line of Helium surged
over the opposite breastworks of the Zodangans and in another moment they
were being crushed as between two millstones. Nobly they fought, but in
“The plain before the city became
a veritable shambles ere the last Zodangan surrendered, but finally the
carnage ceased, the prisoners were marched back to Helium, and we entered
the greater city’s gates, a huge triumphal procession of conquering heroes.”
We will next examine Zodanga in its decline.