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The Final Solution
of Julian 20th
by Alan Hanson
While usually concentrating on the more entertaining aspects of his stories, Edgar Rice Burroughs at times seemingly let contradictions in fact creep into his work. Most of them might be attributed to the author’s carelessness in attention to detail. However, there is at least one case of contradiction which Burroughs may have inserted in a story by design.
In chapter 4 of The Red Hawk, Or-tis says of his family line to Julian 20th, “our blood is as clear as yours—we are American. There is no Kalkar or half-breed blood in our veins.” However, near the beginning of The Moon Men, the first Or-tis is said to be the son of Orthis and a Kalkar woman. Therefore, the Or-tis line could not be totally free of moon blood as the Or-tis of Julian 20th’s time claimed.
In the past, some Burroughs fans have tried to take both statements literally and somehow account for the contradiction. However, Burroughs himself made no effort to explain it, and the reader must at first conclude that he simply forgot the earlier statement by the time he wrote The Red Hawk, better than three years having passed between when Burroughs rewrote The Moon Men in 1922 and when he wrote The Red Hawk in 1925.
However, it seems unlikely that Burroughs simply had a lapse of memory. Before the 1926 appearance of the book version of The Moon Maid, of which The Moon Men and The Red Hawk are parts two and three, Burroughs had to revise and shorten both stories to fit the book format. If he had forgotten he had married Orthis off to a Kalkar, he would surely have noticed it then. Also, the fact that the Or-tis line in The Red Hawk is pure is not a trivial one. It is essential to the storyline and the resolution of the Julian and Or-tis feud. It is not the kind of fact with which Burroughs was prone to be careless.
If it seems unlikely this contradiction was not accidental, why then did Burroughs make it? Perhaps he purified the blood of the Or-tis line to water down the rather nasty major theme of The Red Hawk—genocide.
On the surface, Julian 20th appears benevolent and enlightened. When Or-tis explained to him his father’s plan to end their families’ feud, Julian mused, “I wondered if, after all, the dead Jemadar’s way would not have been better.” He even felt “something of a friendliness” for Or-tis. Later, he even married an Or-tis, thus seeming to have the wisdom to end the 400-year-old conflict between the two families and allowing them to live in peace thereafter.
Beneath this smokescreen, however, are the more significant facts. Julian never wavered in his hatred of the moon men; he never showed mercy to any Or-tis suspected of having even a drop of Kalkar blood; and he pressed forward to the end with his final solution for the Kalkar problem—extermination.
Blood is what was important here, not the Julian and Or-tis feud, which was continually cited. Julian made his peace with only a few Or-tises and about a thousand others, who had “brought down their birthright unsullied.” But for the Or-tises with Kalkar blood and the thousands of others of that race, peace was never considered. In fact, after making a truce with the pure Or-tis in their prison cell, Julian, almost in the next breath, declared, “We will beat them (the Kalkars) again today and to-morrow and the next day until we have driven them into the sea.”
Drive them into the sea he did. Two years after the initial invasion, the Americans “had driven the Kalkars into the sea, the remnants of them flying westward in great canoes.” One almost gets the feeling that Julian would have pursued then even then, but for his conviction that they would sail off the edge of the world and die anyway.
For the author to get his readers to accept a story in which the hero commits genocide was a challenge. Burroughs tried to achieve in two ways. First, he attempted to convince readers that the Kalkars were a race deserving of extinction. Second, he appealed to American patriotism and traditional values.
What made a race worthy of extermination in Burroughs’ eyes? First of all, at least in the case of the Kalkars, he felt a race should be held accountable for the actions of their ancestors. In The Moon Maid, Burroughs detailed what the Kalkars cost the Americans. Their progress in science and technology, which made America the greatest nation in the world, was stripped from them. Railroads, airships, autos, steamships, telephones—all were gone. By the time of Julian 20th’s time, these outward signs of American greatness were forgotten, living only in the legends of the “slaves.” What had not been forgotten, however, was the damage done to American pride. “We are a proud people,” contended Julian, “and for generations before my day our pride had been ground beneath the heels of the victorious Kalkars. Even yet the wound was still raw. And we are a stubborn people—stubborn in our loves and our hatreds.” This sense of having been wronged was perpetuated among the Americans through the education of their young. Julian reported his schooling from his fifth to his tenth year included family history and hatred of Kalkars.
Julian also inferred the Kalkars deserved extinction because somehow they were imprisoning the Americans in the sweltering desert and denying them entry to the land of plenty. In announcing his decision to invade the Kalkar valley to his people, Julian reminded them, “For a hundred years we have dwelt beneath the heat of this barren wasteland, while our foes occupied a flowering garden, their cheeks fanned by the cooling breezes of the sea. They live in plenty; their women eat of luscious fruits, fresh from the trees, while ours must be satisfied with the dried and wrinkled semblance of the real.”
This indictment of the Kalkars simply does not hold water. First of all, Julian admitted that he knew nothing about the Kalkar valley, he having never been there, much less close enough to the sea to feel its “cooling breezes.” How, then, could he make the above comparison? Secondly, the Americans lived in the desert because they chose to live there, not because they were forced to live there. Julian knew there was rich pasture in the forests and mountains of Arizona, but he preferred his people live in the desert near his enemies, “rather than to settle down in a comparative land of plenty, resigning the age old struggle, the ancient feud between the house of Julian and the house of Or-tis.” Third, after the invasion, when Or-tis offered to share “this great, rich land,” Julian was not interested. Gaining the garden spot of plenty was never his goal. He merely used that theme to incite race hatred of the Kalkars among his people.
There is also the inference that the Kalkars were a kind of contamination that must be eradicated. Julian preached, “The Kalkars brought hatred and suspicion among us until now we trust only the members of your own clans and tribe.” The Americans believed that progress for their race was not possible until the last of the Kalkars was gone. Even the gentle Rain Cloud said he would be glad, “when we have chased the last of the Kalkars into the sea, so that some of us may sit down in peace and think.” On the contrary, it is clear that it was the Americans who would allow the Kalkars no peace.
Since the alleged crimes of the Kalkars might not be enough for the reader to accept genocide, Burroughs backed it up with an appeal to patriotism. First of all, the theme of Manifest Destiny was invoked when Julian referred to, “the shore of the western sea into which it is our destiny to drive the remnants of our former oppressors.” The Kalkars were also portrayed as having distinctly un-American values. They don’t honor their women as Americans do. They are ugly, unclean and crude. The most obvious appeal to American patriotism, though, is the constant presence of the “Flag.” After all, what is done in the name of the Stars and Stripes cannot be questioned. The Flag was unveiled to sanctify Julian’s announcement of the coming invasion. It flew prominently during the major battle below the pass of the ancients. The very last line of the story declared that Julian 21st will rule in America, “over which, once more, there flies but a single flag.” It was a parting apologia that this genocide was committed for the sake of Old Glory.
Perhaps, though, Burroughs felt he could justify to the reader the Kalkar genocide as revenge for their crimes and through an appeal to the reader’s patriotism. The ploy of creating, at the last minute perhaps, a small group of pure blood American Or-tises with whom Julian could make peace was the author’s final attempt to divert attention from the racial hatred that underlined the whole story.
Many have called The Moon Maid one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ best works. Whether or not he deliberately contradicted himself in doing so, he masterfully convinced the reader to sympathize with a hero who advocated and commited genocide, something for which most people would say there is never justification.
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