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Volume 5791

Possibilities in Pellucidar
By John Martin

ERB map of Pellucidar

  Edgar Rice Burroughs loved telling a good story.

  But he also loved hinting at a good story, and leaving the tantalizing details to the inadequate imagination of the frustrated reader.

  The untold tale probably most famous to ERB fans concerns the mysterious map found by "Tarzan the Untamed" on the body of the dead explorer. What did Tarzan ever do with that map? ERB says no more about it.

  In the Pellucidar series, there are untold tales as well -- hints of other things that did happen, that could happen, that might have happened.

  Here are some of those untold tales:

The Long Trek Home

  "Tanar of Pellucidar" is an action-packed adventure, but when it finally ends, Tanar and his mate, Stellara, are still a world away from their homeland. The last chapter reports: "The story of their long and arduous journey through unknown lands to the kingdom of Sari would be replete with interest, excitement and adventure, but it is no part of this story."

  And so we must forever wonder: What happened? Did they endure capture, enjoy escape, and experience yet other recaptures at the hands of weird races of people, as Von Horst and La-Ja did in "Back to the Stone Age?" How close did they come to death? How many times were they separated? What strange sights did they see? How many sleeps did the journey take? Did they have any children by the time they reached Sari? We'll never know!

The Quest for Harbenite

  In the next book of the series, "Tarzan at the Earth's Core," a lightweight airship must be built to carry the would-be rescuers of David Innes to the inner world, and to build that aircraft a special metal, called Harbenite, must be acquired. ERB writes:

  "It is not my intention to weary you with a recital of the details of the organization and equipment of the Pellucidarian expedition, although that portion of it which relates to the search for and discovery of the native mine containing the remarkable metal now known as Harbenite, filled as it was with adventure and excitement, is well worth a volume by itself."

  But we don't have that volume on our bookshelves, do we? What dangers confront that expedition? Was it Arab slavers? Fierce cannibals? Tantor in must? Communist plotters? Lost civilizations? Amnesia for Tarzan?

  ERB chose to keep us guessing.

The March of the Waziri

  In Chapter 3 of "Tarzan at the Earth's Core," Jason Gridley is separated from the 10 Waziri warriors and Lt. Wilhelm Von Horst. What became of Von Horst is told in another book, "Back to the Stone Age." Of the Waziri's adventures in Pellucidar, however, we do not know much.

  A brief update on the lost party is given in TEC-8 and the Waziri finally play a key role in Chapter 15, when they are reunited with Tarzan. But are we to believe that they just had a peaceful stroll through savage Pellucidar until the time when their scent just happened to be wafted to the nostrils of the ape-man?

  Nay, for there is no such things as a peaceful walk through the Inner World. We are given only a hint of their adventures when Tarzan asks them if they still have plenty of ammo for their rifles, and they reply, "We have saved it, Bwana, using our spears and our arrows whenever we could." That indicates there were times when the Waziri had to resort to their rifles, because they faced an enemy that could not be easily discouraged with the lighter weapons. So, they had adventures in Pellucidar. We just don't know what those adventures were.

  A story about the Waziri could also clear up some mysteries for us. In TEC-3, the Waziri drop their rifles in panic while fleeing the charge of the great carnivorous cats. In TEC-8, we read "they had never again been able to locate the clearing" where the rifles lay. Yet, when Tarzan encounters the Waziri, they have their rifles with them! Obviously, between Chapters 8 and 15, the Waziri must have gotten turned around again (something that is easy to do in Pellucidar) and by chance ended up back at the clearing where their rifles lay. Then, after cleaning the rifles, they somehow wandered around until coming back to the Gyor Cors and the rendezvous with Tarzan. It sounds improbable, perhaps, and yet, are not ALL of the adventures in Pellucidar improbable? That is what makes them such great stories!

  Another thing a Waziri story could do is shed just a little more light on what happened to Von Horst. The German is with the blacks in TEC-8; yet, as "Back to the Stone Age" begins, it appears that Von Horst spends only a short amount of time with the Waziri, before becoming separated from them. That's the key word: time. What seems like a short time to us could, in Pellucidar, be enough time for Von Horst to go clear to TEC-8 before splitting.

  [However, a more likely reason for the Von Horst discrepancy could simply have been ERB using literary license. "Back to the Stone Age" was to be about Von Horst -- not Von Horst and the Waziri. So, in writing BSA, ERB probably just simply and deliberately glossed over the time Von Horst and the Africans had spent together.]

The 'Ana' Sisters?

In "Tarzan at the Earth's Core," chapter 7, we learn that Jana, The Red Flower of Zoram, had a sister, Lana, who had been stolen as a mate from the Mountains of the Thipdars by men of the lowlands. We never learn any more about poor Lana.

  In "Land of Terror," we meet Zor of Zoram, who "had been very much in love with a girl of Zoram, who one day wandered too far from the village and was picked up by a party of raiders from another country." (LT-4) The girl's name, we learn a few pages later, was Rana.

  Jana and Lana of Zoram were sisters. Could Rana have been a third sister? Perhaps names ending in "ana" were popular among Zoram families and maybe the tribe had its share of girls named Dana, Elana, Shana, Vanna and Hanna. Then again, maybe it was just Jana and Lana's mom and dad who were partial to the rhyming names. But we don't really know. We don't know if the three girls were sisters, or even triplets. One argument for a family tie, other than the names, is that all three tended to roam too far from home. Lana and Rana were captured and never heard from again, and Jana was almost captured.

  From what we know of the fighting spunk and spirit of Jana, though, it'd make a good story to hear of what befell these other two lovelies, and how miserable they made the lives of their captors.

David's Second Return to the Outer Crust
We all know that David Innes and Abner Perry first came to Pellucidar in Perry's invention, the Iron Mole, about 1902. We also know that David made a return trip to the outer crust, then back to the inner World, about 1912 or thereabouts.

  But in the opening lines of "Savage Pellucidar" we read of another trip. David says, "When I went back to the outer crust after the Great War that ended in 1918, I heard a lot about the use of aeroplanes in war...."

  That's all we know about that trip: The time. Questions abound. Why did he go back? What did he bring back with him? How did he make the trip? The answer to the last question seems obvious; in 1918, the polar opening had not yet been discovered by David (that came around 1929 in "Tanar of Pellucidar") and it wasn't until "Savage Pellucidar," the last book of the series, that Perry began tinkering with planes and balloons which might eventually have negotiated such an opening. So, the only conveyance we know of that was available to David was the Iron Mole.

  If I was David Innes, I would have thought long and hard about taking another chance in the mole. They were lucky on the first trip (down) to come out on Pellucidar's dry land, rather than at the bottom of one of its oceans. When David made the return trip to the outer crust at the conclusion of "At the Earth's Core," they pointed the prospector straight back the way it had come, so he would end up in Connecticut. But we read: "...on the instant of departure I was nearly thrown from my seat by the sudden lurching of the prospector. At first I did not reralize what had happened, but presently it dawned upon me that just before entering the crust the towering body had fallen through its supporting scaffolding, and that instead of entering the ground vertically we were plunging into it at a different angle. Where it would bring us out upon the upper crust I could not even conjecture." (Earth's Corps, 15)

  Fortunately, the angle of entry was sufficient to bring the mole up in the Sahara Desert, rather than at the bottom of the Atlantic or the Mediterranean Sea.

  (Note: The Titanic sank in 1912. With good timing and a little less luck, David coming up could have met the Titanic on its way down!).

  David was fortunate again on his return trip to the Inner World. He came up on land-- not in an ocean!

  No matter how strong the scaffolding and how good the calculations about where the mole might emerge on its 1918 trip, there had to be a terrific element of danger in such a trip. Therefore, there must have been an extremely important reason to risk such a trip. What was that reason? Where did the mole come out upon the outer crust? On his first return trip to the outside, David had intended to take Dian the Beautiful along, but was thwarted. Did he take her along this time? If so, what did she think of the outer crust? Was she kidnapped by a thug and had a need to be rescued by David while there? Where did they come out when they returned to Pellucidar? What problems did they encounter getting back to Sari? There are answers to these questions, but we do not know what these answers are. It's another untold tale of Pellucidar.

Voyage to the Dead World

  This isn't fully an "untold tale" because a tale of the Dead World was told in the short story, "Back to the Earth's Core," by William Gilmour in Burroughs Bulletin #21, and another concept of the Dead World was explored by F. Paul Wilson in "The Dead World," a story in the anthology volume, "Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs," and perhaps by other pastiche writers as well.

  But we'd like to know what ERB would have had to say about it had he ever written of it.

  The Dead World is the satellite to Pellucidar's eternal noonday sun. It has a fixed orbit and thus always darkens the same circle of land a mile below, a country known as The Land of Awful Shadow.

  The Dead World itself rotates on its axis, and David Innes uses its rotation as a clock for the first time in "Pellucidar," Chapter 12: "I pointed to a great lake upon the surface of the pendent world above us, telling him that if after this lake had appeared four times I had not returned to go either by water or land to Sari and fetch Ghak with an army."

  Yes, there are lakes, and more, on this world. "I could see its mountains and valleys, oceans, lakes, and rivers, its broad, grassy plains and dense forests." (P-6)

  And David and Dian both thought about going there: "Above us the pendent world revolved upon its axis, filling me especially--and Dian to an almost equal state--with wonder and insatiable curiosity as to what strange forms of life existed among the hills and valleys and along the seas and rivers, which we could plainly see." (P-11)

  How would they ever get to that mysterious land in the sky? Two possibilities present themselves in "Savage Pellucidar:" Airplane or balloon!

  Perry invents an airplane in SP, but it taxis backward and he tries his luck at a balloon instead. The balloon is more successful, and daring Dian goes for the first ride. The balloon becomes untethered and Dian is carried along at the mercy of the winds. Her voyage takes her over The Land of Awful Shadow, and beneath the Dead World which creates that shadow. Obviously, Perry's first attempt at a balloon was not capable of great altitudes, but he was known to constantly work at improving his inventions. So, perhaps later, he invented a serviceable and sturdy airplane, or a better gas-filled balloon.

  Could a balloon have reached the Dead World?


  Modern balloons have reached altitudes in excess  of 20,000 feet many times. And a mile, the distance the Dead World orbits above the surface of Pellucidar, is just 5,280 feet. Once Perry had perfected a bigger and better balloon, it would have been simple to float up to the Dead World and, with a balloon, one wouldn't even have to look for a landing strip.

  So, the voyage to the Dead World is one of the great Pellucidar tales that ERB never lived to tell.

  Yet, there is perhaps another untold tale even beyond that. Is the Dead World, we might wonder, hollow, like the interior of the earth? If so, we can only dream of what Edgar Rice Burroughs might have had to say in the never-written tale: "At the Dead World's Core."

 The Pellucidar Series
At the Earth's Core
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Read the Original Pulp Magazine Version
Read the e-Text Edition
Tanar of Pellucidar
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Tarzan at the Earth's Core
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Back to the Stone Age
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Land of Terror
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Savage Pellucidar
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Official Pellucidar Website

A Pilgrimage to Pellucidar By John Martin

ERBzine 5788:
Pellucidar Poetry
ERBzine 5789:
Pellucidar Personalities
ERBzine 5790:
Pellucidar Presuppositions
ERBzine 5791:
Pellucidar Possibilities
ERBzine 5792:
Pellucidar Passions
ERBzine 5793:
Pellucidar Pitch-Black
ERBzine 5794:
Pellucidar Paranormal
ERBzine 5795:
Pellucidar Playing Around
ERBzine 5796
Pellucidar Polar Portal
ERBzine 5797:
Pellucidar Pastiche
Back to Pellucidar Contents

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