Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute Weekly Webzine Site
Since 1996 ~ 15,000 Web Pages In Archive
Volume 5793

Pitch-Black in Pellucidar?
By John Martin

The Dark of the Moon

  Is there such a thing as day and night in the Inner World? Yes.

  Is there such a thing as day and night in Pellucidar? Depends on your definition of Pellucidar.

  Pellucidar is the name given to the Inner World which curves ever upward on the inside of our globe, 500 miles below our surface. The name Pellucidar comes from the English word "Pellucid," which means "translucently clear." It's a good name for the land which is lit at all times by the eternal noonday sun at the true center of the earth.

  This sun happens to have a moon-like satellite, and it is not called by the name of Pellucidar but by the name of "Dead World." This moon rotates on an axis, so that the side facing the Pellucidarian sun is experiencing day while the side facing Pellucidar below is having "night."

  David Innes, getting his first real look at the Dead World in "Pellucidar," noted, "As I watched it, I saw that it was revolving upon an axis that lay parallel to the surface of Pellucidar, so that during each revolution its entire surface was once exposed to the world below and once bathed in the heat of the great sun above. The little world had that which Pellucidar could not have -- a day and night and -- greatest of boons to one outer-earthly born -- time."

  The "Dead World" had mountains, rivers and forests just like Pellucidar below it and the outer surface beyond that. But ERB never wrote of any flight undertaken by denizens of Pellucidar to attempt to explore the world above, although its bottom side was always only about a mile above Pellucidar itself. Thus, it never became known whether the "Dead" World was actually populated by any living creatures which could experience the regimentation of night and day cycles.

  ERB reports that Pellucidar itself is a timeless land because no one can keep track of time, the sun always positioned at "noon." For awhile, Abner Perry and David Innes used the Dead World, also referred to as "The Pendent World," as a timepiece, announcing the completion of a time cycle each time a certain landmark on the Dead World completed a rotation. However, the people of Pellucidar were happier with timelessness, so after the invention of time proved unpopular, the whole idea was scrapped.

Night in the Inner World?

  Because Pellucidar is lit by an eternal noonday sun, which hangs in the exact center of the Earth and lights up the landscape on the concave side of our planet, there is no such thing as night.

  Or is there?

  There are at least two references in the Pellucidar series which mention night, something which is impossible on Pellucidar. Are these simply the result of a slip of ERB's pen, or is there some reason to believe the references are exactly as reported?

  In neither case does ERB himself report that there is such a thing as night falling; rather, the references are both contained in quotes by people in the Inner World.

  The first comes in the second book of the series, "Pellucidar." David Innes's search for his lovely mate, Dian the Beautiful, takes him to The Land of Awful Shadow, the shady part of Pellucidar which lies directly below the Pellucidarian moon, known alternately as either the Dead World or the Pendent World. It hangs a mile above the surface of Pellucidar and in an orbit synchronized with the movement of the Earth so that it always casts a shadow over the same landscape below.

  The shadow covers a large area, for in The Land of Awful Shadow are seas, islands and various villages and peoples. When David first entered the vicinity of the land, he said, "However, when the river led me to the sea, or rather just before it reached the sea, of a sudden the sky became overcast and the size and luxuriance of the vegetation diminished as by magic -- as if an omnipotent hand had drawn a line upon the earth, and said: 'Upon this side shall the trees and the shrubs, the grasses and the flowers, riot in profusion of rich colors, gigantic size and bewildering abundance; and upon that side shall they be dwarfed and pale and scant.'"

  Even though the land is in shadow, there is still enough light available, perhaps coming in from the lighted areas circling the shadow, to allow people to see. On his trek, David is spotted by a lad from a village who, obviously, can see him. "The youth who had seen us was evidently of the Thurians. That he had lost no time in racing homeward and spreading the word of my coming was evidenced when we had come within sight of the clearing, and the village -- the first real village, by the way, that I had ever seen constructed by human Pellucidarians." (Pellucidar, chapter VII, "Plight to Plight.')

  A couple of pages later, David says, "As we came in sight of the warriors the men set up a great jabbering. Their eyes were wide in astonishment..."

  So, we have several references to seeing. The youth saw; David came within sight of the clearing, David saw the village, and came "in sight" of the warriors, whose "eyes were wide." A whole lot of seeing going on in the Land of Awful Shadow.

  That is easily explained because just as we on the outer surface can see just fine in shady areas, so could the Pellucidarians.

  One reference, though, is puzzling. As David describes a village, he says, "There was no gate. Ladders that could be removed by night led over the palisade." But David! There is no night in Pellucidar!

  We can, perhaps, easily explain this seeming contradiction simply by attributing it to an erroneous assumption and forgetfulness on David's part. He was a man of the outer surface and accustomed to night and day. When he saw that the ladders were not permanently fixed, his first thought may have been that they pulled them up at night. A more accurate assumption would have been that they pulled them up when enemies attacked.

The Night of the Korsar

  We've seen that there is real night and day on the Dead World which orbits above Pellucidar, and we've seen how people from the outer crust can think in terms of night and day even in a land where the sun always hangs at noon. But native Pellucidarians were never think in those ways. Or would they?

  There is at least one other mention of night in ERB's Pellucidar series. It comes in the third book in the series, "Tanar of Pellucidar." Tanar and Stellara experience many harrowing adventures, including capture and recapture by the Korsars, a pirate-like people who had originally come to Pellucidar through the Polar opening from the outer surface.

  In Chapter 17, the pair are imprisoned in the Korsar city when the opportunity comes to escape. Tanar thinks their best bet it to disguise themselves as bearded Korsar seamen. He applies pitch to their faces and they stick on hair cut from the beard of a Korsar Tanar had slain. Tanar is easily able to complete his disguise with Korsar clothing, but it's a different matter for the lovely and shapely Stellara. The hair applied to her face had done its job, but Tanar saw no easy way to disguise her girlish figure until Stellara herself came up with a solution: "Wait," exclaimed Stellara. "Sometimes the sailors, when they are going on long voyages, wear cloaks, which they use to sleep in if the nights are cool. Let us see if we can find such a one here."

  This is harder to explained. The Korsars well may have used such cloaks when they or their forbears, perhaps the Mediterranean Corsairs, were on the outer surface, but Stellara would have had no way of knowing that. Nor would she have had any idea of the concept of night, or the word for it.

  But perhaps there is a logical explanation for this one as well. She may actually have said something about them sleeping in them when the weather was cool. "Tanar of Pellucidar" was narrated by Abner Perry, in a radio message to Jason Gridley on the Earth's surface. Abner, an outer crust man accustomed to the concept of night, may have mistranslated Stellara's words and mistakenly used the term of "night" when he should have said something about "when they sleep."

Or, Abner could have said it accurately but ERB himself could have typed it wrongly when he was converting the story, third or fourth hand, to his typewriter.

  It's a natural assumption for an outer crust man to make, even when he knows better.

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

Visit our thousands of other sites at:
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2017 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.