3. ADDRESSING THE PROBLEMS IN DETAIL
So, you have seen above some of my objections to the setting that Barsoom has as a world. As a matter of fact, a huge number of them. I hope I didn’t bore you too much. But I had to bring them up since I intent to question the whole inner logic of Barsoom. I’ll discuss the most problematic of them here below in detail and also bring along new ones if they pertain to the point of the discussion.
After reading carefully all the clues, we must draw two conclusions:
3.1 This is NOT our Universe.
3.2 The very universe described in the material has many internal problems.
3.1 NOT OUR UNIVERSE
First we must address the problem nr.1, that we’re NOT talking about the same universe as ours. As our friend Den Valdron has explained, the action of ERB’s opus doesn’t take place in our universe but in the Burroughs Universe, parallel with our own, very similar but also substantially different. We’ll call it "the BU". Many readers forget this fact.
In our universe, Edgar Rice Burroughs is just a very imaginative writer and his heroes are just colorful figments of imagination. Or is it so simple?
Well, it’s pretty obvious his universe doesn’t exactly match ours:
His planets are hollow and habitable by humans, Physics has different laws etc.
Barsoom is NOT our Mars: first, it’s inhabited, duh! But although there are some similarities, its geography also is totally different, like the absence of big mountains and of big gradients in altitude in general, and stuff. Plus the weather patterns, no storms at all etc. Upon Barsoom, the only big differences in altitude are in the Kamtol valley (~3.3km), Korus (~1800-2000m) and Omean (but even that one is underground); plus maybe the Artolian Hills since they have eternal snows but we’re never told their height… anyway it’s very different from our Mars with its 27km high mountains, its Valles Marineris etc.
Earthly geography in the BU is also substantially different from our own. There are countries that never existed in our world like Lutha, or lands like Pal-ul-Don or Caprona, or even pre-historical Eras, like the Niocene.
Venus (Amtor) is not only habitable but it has a rotation like ours and not the almost year-long day it has in our universe.
But the difference goes beyond geography and the planets being habitable.
In the BU, the terrestrial history and chronology is also different from our Earth: let’s just remember that The Moon Maid and Beyond 30 tell us that Europe and eventually the world are supposed to be eventually destroyed by a succession of wars and Kalkar invasions, which should have taken place by now… In fact, there’s supposedly a war in Turkey in 1938, one long war in Europe from 1914 to 1967, but here MM and B30 contradict each-other since in B30 Europe self-destructs while Pan-America gets super-high-tech and isolationist until 2170, while in MM everybody’s happy in 1967 (there’s mentions of "tribes in Russia" being fought, though?!) but then they disarm everywhere on Earth and then land on the Moon in 2025 (only) and are all destroyed by the Kalkars around 2035 or so… speaking of that, these events don’t fit even the Burroughsian canon itself since its history moves away from them (WW2 takes place as in our universe)… but we’ll come to that as well.
And yet B30 and MM ARE Burroughsian canon since they supposedly get messages from Barsoom in 1967 and there’s even a failed flight from Barsoom to the Earth in 2015…
So you see, there are many big contradictions out there…
Or, in order to give you more subtle and less visible examples, Tarzan is supposedly born in 1888 and has a son around when he’s 20, meaning in 1908 or so. Yet, his son fights in WW1 when he should be just about 10 and lost in Africa under the name Korak. But the differences go much further away than that.
Let’s delve into that a bit, for you to realize the degree of difference between our universes: in Tarzan the Untamed, we’re told that the Germans take advantage of the fact that the news of the start of WW1 didn’t yet reach the British colonial territories where Tarzan lives, and burn his estate and kidnap Jane by surprise. That should happen in September 1914 at the latest. Then Jane and Tarzan are only supposed to get together again after the end of the war, since Korak joins them as well, in Pal-ul-Don, after having fought on the Argonne front… meaning he was present in the very last operation of the war.
He couldn’t have arrived in Africa before December 1918. That would mean Jane was prisoner and then wandered in the wilderness for more than 4 years which is quite preposterous. Also, we don’t get the impression that the separation of our heroes lasts more than several months or maybe a year at most – from the books. Besides how would Tarzan be mistaken about her destiny for 4 years, when he keeps directing hits at the Germans?
For someone in his position and with his abilities, he should have found out she was alive, have been gone after her and have found her in a matter of months at most! Does WW1 last less time in the Burroughs Universe?... Also, there’s a German general mentioned in German East Africa, and he’s already present at the beginning of the action meaning in 1914 according to our timeline. He appears right after Tarzan starts his vengeance, meaning 1914. Except that… there was no general in German East Africa! Not until 1917. The hero of the German operations there was the legendary Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, and he was made general only in 1917.
But this is not all: we are also told that the "small British force fought against the much bigger German one". And also that Tarzan "out-generaled the Germans". And that German East Africa surrendered sometimes before the end of the war in Europe (Tarzan the Terrible). Well, nope. Not on this planet. On this planet it was the opposite: there were 18-20,000 German troops against more than 300,000-500,000 Brits.
Von Lettow-Vorbeck was a real genius who out-generaled the Brits. As a matter of fact he was the last German commander to surrender, the 1918.11.25, which means after Germany itself which had surrendered the 11.11. Also, there were no significant German brutalities. In fact, von Lettow-Vorbeck was among the most pro-African colonial officers. Also, the German troops were continuously on the move – they moved from Kenya to Mozambique - and so there was no possibility to keep a prisoner indefinitely, things were complicated enough like that. Besides they lost like 80% of their numbers in the adventure. What would have been the chances for Jane to survive then?
So, if ERB was in touch with Tarzan or his kin, he definitely should have known better. It just seems "this" WW1 is significantly different from "our" WW1, otherwise things don't fit at all.
So there, the universe in which Burroughs’ heroes have their adventures, the BU, is significantly different from ours. I hope I’ve given you enough proof. With that, we’re done addressing point 3.1.
3.2 THE SOLUTION - SEVERAL PARALLEL UNIVERSES?
This point is the one that necessitates most of the explanations.
But when it comes to addressing this point 2, what if there IS a link between the universes and this link is ERB himself? What if he’s a medium receiving messages from the ERB of the BU?
We know he was having regular and strong headaches. What if this was not him thinking hard about his heroes, but him receiving messages from his parallel self?
I’ll go even further and say he was receiving messages from SEVERAL parallel universes.
Some of you will question the necessity for me to think in these terms.
Well I’m sorry, but if some things in the BU can be explained by its own internal logic, some others cannot possibly fit in a single universe. Its internal logic just doesn’t hold with such contradictions.
I mean, let’s brush aside the livable and hollow planets, the telepathy, the sheer (almost supernatural) luck of almost all the characters, the astral projections, the ray technologies, the living mummies, and many other things, and let’s just say it all sustains itself by the "BU Physics".
But, even if we "solve" many problems by imagining for the BU a set of natural laws different from the ones of our Universe, we cannot solve all of the problems. For many of them are not of the "different universal law" type, but of the "flawed internal logic" type.
3.2.1 WHAT CAN BE EXPLAINED
First, let’s see what we can solve by the "it’s just the BU structure" logic:
- Habitable telluric planets everywhere
- Hollow worlds
- Weird countries upon Earth
- Divergent Earthly history
Eurobus and Thuria being inhabited enter here.
Sorry dear Den Valdron, Eurobus is not a world of giant icebergs floating on an Equatorial habitable strip. ERB tells us it has a basaltic, very hard surface, and the Morgor cities are made of basalt. Basalt and ice don’t spring from each-other. We must just accept that the BU Jupiter is a solid planet.
Thuria is clearly described as a big world with vast vistas. No pocket world. Besides, its inhabitants worship the Sun and have days and nights. No interior world therefore. But then, how is it inhabited, and how is its life not noticed by the Barsoomian astronomers who can see the grass upon Earth? Well, there’s only one explanation to that, Thuria is in fact not much smaller than Titan, and similarly clothed in a totally out-of-proportion atmosphere – only, a breathable one.
This explains life upon it and the fact of not being observable from Barsoom. We can also imagine some weird phenomena of refraction, Albedo etc. which blind the telescopes. It’s better and more believable than a world that shrinks those approaching it, anyway. So, the Mars from the BU and its satellites form a system much like Pluto and Charon and the other bodies, or something like that. ERB just got the information wrong about the matter, or he jumbled an adventure from a universe where Thuria is big among the stories taking place in universes where Thuria is small.
This brings us to the next problem: how much is ERB to be believed?
How accurate is the rendition of the information he’s intercepting from the BU?
Well there clearly ARE some errors.
Let’s think of that a bit: so John Carter sends info to the ERB of the BU.
- JC describes what he sees through his own perceptions and biases and errors and taboos
- Some of the info is lost in the inter-dimensional travel, since it’s not like radio but more medium-like (remember the astral projections, matter generation and stuff)
- ERB receives it and processes it according to his own perceptions, biases, errors, taboos
- The ERB of our universe intercepts some of this stuff himself and twists it according to his own errors
Examples? Well the simplest and biggest would be the characteristics of Thuria and the adventures upon it. This story has clearly been very twisted, for some reason its transmission was very faulty.
Or the location of Zodanga. Sorry, it hasn’t been moved, older buildings from before its fall are mentioned.
Or the Barsoomian chronology:
Along the Opus we are told that the ruined cities have been abandoned for 1000 years, 50,000, 100,000, 1 million… which of these dates is true? That one can be solved in two ways: maybe ERB doesn’t receive good information about the Barsoomian past, or doesn’t get it well. Or… maybe the Barsoomians have lengthened their history a bit like the Babilonians who claimed a history of 432,000 years, or the Hindus who claim millions of years for their culture when everything points to less than several millennia, of which less than 3 millennia of recognizable Hindu culture as we know it (the Indus Valley culture is another matter)! (and if you’re asking, the first Hindu temple recognizable as such dates from the 4th century AD, and the Hindu Sacred Literature does not go beyond the 8rd century BC, the earliest inscriptions dating from 600BC at most… so there, less than 3 millennia in all.)
Then why not something similar happening upon Barsoom? True, Martians are long-lived. Nevertheless, the Hindus already boasted millions of years only centuries after writing their texts, so who knows, maybe Barsoomian modern culture is not more than 10,000 years old or so, as I’ve already speculated in an older essay…
Now, these are examples of clear errors due to bad transmission or bad historical knowledge, or such.
3.2.2 WHAT REMAINS PROBLEMATIC DESPITE ALL EXPLAINING
But then we have the more important errors that cannot be explained by either "BU internal logic" or transmission glitches.
These are errors that no amount of internal logic can redeem.
We’ve had above the example, from the non-Barsoomian parts of ERB’s opus, of Beyond 30 or the Moon Cycle, which sport clearly divergent history lines within the same time period. By the very "ERB timeline", things like WW2 take place in schedules similar to ours, so the BU historical timeline does not go according to the above mentioned works although they are theoretically part of the same BU. We covered that already.
But there are other problems in the BU: for example, almost all the societies visited by the heroes, upon most planets, are in some sort of crisis, and most of the royal houses are about to get extinct, and generally have only one daughter left. Well I’m sorry but this is not possible. There have always been crises and there have always been extinctions of royal houses but not all of them in the same short timeframe of several decades. Statistically this is absolutely impossible.
In the Barsoom Cycle alone we see contradictions that cannot be all explainable or true in the same universe. Since it is the cycle we focus on, we will discuss them in detail.
188.8.131.52 PROBLEMS WITH EUROBUS
The effects of some different gravity upon Eurobus are not noted to exist and the way how bodies move is also not shown to be visibly dissimilar from our own, besides flight seems ok so it looks like there’s no weird physics upon Eurobus - therefore I stand against Den Valdron here as well, there’s no justification for the limits to a mechanical civilization, such as we notice in the book.
On the whole, Eurobus presents just too big similarities with Barsoom, there are just too many sword-yielding societies with flying ships in the BU solar system...
184.108.40.206 PLACE OF BARSOOM IN THE DESTINY OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM
Barsoom is said to be old and dying – but what then about Thuria, or Sasoom? As I’ve already hinted above, these are just as further from the Sun, or much more so, than Barsoom, and they don’t seem old and dying at all. So what is the position of Barsoom in this context?
220.127.116.11 ECONOMY AND POLITICS OF BARSOOM
I’ve already covered many aspects in that field in ERBzine 1518 especially, most satisfyingly so, therefore I won’t re-discuss them.
I’ll bring other problems in the forefront.
And in order to do this, I will finally explain the term "HYDRAULIC SOCIETY". I must have bugged you to death with it, so I owe you a serious explanation.
But I’ll try to keep the thing very short, in order not to turn this already long essay into an encyclopedia of sorts. If you’re interested in the details, you can read online "Oriental Despotism" by K.A.Wittfogel. I know, the concept is under scrutiny now, but nowadays pretty much everything is, tomorrow they’ll question the color of the sky or something.
Who disagrees must come up with better explanations, not just rebuttals for the sake of some ideology or for the sake of looking interesting by being negative. Besides, you can disagree with some of the ideas but it’s really difficult to disagree with the main concept.
Anyway, back to the idea.
So, very simplified, it goes like this:
Basically you have only 3 types of society upon Earth: the more or less despotic, the more or less decentralized, and the tribal. The tribal are the ones which haven’t reached the level of "civilization" (a vast society with complicated production and institutions) and therefore don’t concern us here.
Now, the reasons for a society to be despotic are many, but in most cases it started from a very simple but vital thing, and you’ll immediately see what has all this to do with Barsoom: the management of WATER.
The societies where the access to water is severely restricted, as in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia to give you the most typical and well known examples, this constraint forces the communities to develop a wide and complex management of this resource: the people are mass-mobilized to build dikes, dams, canals, reservoirs etc. The managers of the water-works become also expert in meteorology, astrology – to correctly estimate the time of the seasons – and in time become an all-powerful very structured elite.
Under such a system, the society is heavily centralized, and its head has absolute power. Such a society can only be despotic, meaning its Leader theoretically obeys some rules and customs but in fact he has much leverage to bend them at his will: if we wills so, no one is sheltered from his decrees. The checks and balances, if they exist, are no match for his will, if he is a strong character.
Such societies are (more technically and less ideologically) called "HYDRAULIC" because of the deep reason for their existence and structure being the management of water.
By contrast, the societies where the access to water is free and plentiful, as in Europe for example, where rain is not a problem most of time, the local communities can develop local centers of power and, even if someone unifies several of them, he has to make many compromises and to negotiate with the local rulers, and from this spring things like local parliaments, powerful aristocracies, Magna Charta etc. Such societies surely have their abuses and moments of authoritarianism but, on the whole, they have decentralized and shared power among several actors. They are rarely despotic.
Now, history is complicated. We can understand how things went for Egypt or Mesopotamia but things haven’t been that clear for other places: for example, China has a lot of places where rains are plentiful but, as it happened, its state-building has started from the Central Plains where the society was deeply hydraulic. The expansion of the Qin polity and the colonization of Hans everywhere has brought everybody under the same model.
Or in South-East Asia, rain is plentiful but rice-growing necessitates a lot of mass-coordinated effort, which can start pretty freely in a community of equals but is very easily taken over by a centralized administration. Which happened in places like Ayutthaya or Angkor.
Rome started as a decentralized Republic but it grew more centralized with its militarism and expansion, and eventually by annexing Egypt and making it the pivotal province in its unified Mediterranean economy, it became a – marginally but essentially – hydraulic entity.
Russia never needed a hydraulic order but got a quasi-one by its Mongol overlords. It presents the curious case of a hydraulic structure of power without a hydraulic economy and society.
OK, let’s end these examples here.
You see why this concept is interesting – and indeed inescapable – if we want to discuss Barsoom.
Barsoom could be THE poster-case for a hydraulic order.
We will therefore list here several characteristics of a hydraulic society.
So, it is a deeply hierarchical society, with a god-emperor, or quasi-so, at its head.
This emperor like all the (quasi) gods, has absolute power, the only limits being set by vague and easy to overstep traditions and customs, and by the force of his grip over his subjects. If he’s incompetent or decadent like many sultans or emperors, he might be feeble, but this is NOT structural, it’s only allowed by his weakness.
His subordinates are usually a bureaucratic class, or sometimes a court of soldier-slaves and eunuchs.
He normally is the richest in his society, by far. He centralizes the taxes and allocates them at will. Private property can exist, and great fortunes too, but the Ruler could end anybody’s fortune - and existence - at will. Speaking of fortunes, they are generally created by him allowing monopoles on things like salt or exports or imports of important stuffs. But these fortunes, though immense, and on occasion very influential, can nevertheless be terminated at will.
Generally the Ruler has a huge harem, and powerful females are rare to manifest in national politics. Generally they are there to produce heirs and to rule the inner court. And to stab each-other, and each-others’ kids in many cases.
As said above, the Ruler has a bureaucracy at his orders, whose members also have absolute powers, at smaller scale, over the subjects they happen to need something from, or whom they simply dislike. Not by law but by state of affairs. Theoretically the bureaucrats are subjects like the others, and in some cases even slaves, but in reality they are small potentates. The power of the Bureaucracy gives huge muscles to each of them. Speaking of power, they generally fear the Ruler and he fears them. The two tend to terrorize each-other, directly in his case, indirectly and diffusely in theirs. He routinely fabricates reasons to execute the ones who get too much influence for his taste, and they band against him and support someone else or some secondary son. Or, more frequently, they make the ruler an impotent tyrant by surrounding him with their very tight ranks. In such occasions the dynasty can end up falling, or some barbarians or foreigners can end up conquering the state which generally is impotent as well at such a stage.
The ruler of such a polity generally hates strong elites, especially local ones. If he can’t terminate them he marginalizes or castrates them politically. The Ottoman sultans gradually marginalized or terminated the other 27 families that helped them raise the Empire. The Chinese Emperors couldn’t kill the Gentry but they kept them away from any meaningful central position of authority. European Absolutist monarchs like Louis 14 did their best to turn their nobilities into ridiculous sycophants. So did the Tokugawa Shoguns to their daimyos.
Small private property is left alone – that is, if a bureaucrat doesn’t happen to like your belongings, in which case you’re screwed – and even small gentry are left alone. But nobody is untouchable and, if the interest is such, anybody can be dispossessed or worse by some superior member of the hierarchy. When they don’t band against a superior or an unpopular ruler the bureaucrats tend to sabotage and denounce each-other for real or imaginary reasons. The Byzantines were well-known for their intrigues but they were quite innocent compared to the Chinese.
If small fortunes are generally left in peace, big fortunes are seen with deep suspicion: each one could be a base for a political rivalry. Whoever became rich automatically was at risk of being denounced as an enemy of the Ruler and dispossessed or worse. There’s a reason why one of the most popular Turkish curses was "may you become Vizier!" Therefore, complex productive investment was something almost unheard of. Who was rich had all the reasons to spend his fortune as soon and as much as possible.
And generally did that by having lots of concubines, lots of kids and therefore lots of heirs to divide the fortune to. And by buying many gifts to the various potentates to have them put a good word for him if need be. Big works were generally confined to agriculture and were mostly state run.
Which is not to say these regimes were inefficient. In agriculture and bureaucratic control they were even very efficient. But ruthless, as a rule. Not that they were worse people than others, but this is how bureaucracies behave. Life is cheap from their point of view.
Of course, it’s not all the time like this nor is everybody like this. But many times, if not most, it is. It happens especially on the descending half-time of each dynasty. At the beginning of each dynasty it is generally not so, since the rulers are strong, bureaucrats are new, the system is quite fresh and the network of subterranean interests doesn’t yet exist. Towards the end of the dynasty the rulers are weak and paranoid and the bureaucrats have vast networks of mafia-like interests.
Such regimes are generally anti-militaristic, which doesn’t mean pacifist. Ottomans were anything but pacifist. But the Hydraulic regimes prefer to avoid strong deeply rooted native military structures, the Ruler and the bureaucracy being scared to death by the possibility of a strong military leader with local connections and prestige who could topple him/them. Or if they need strong armies, they make soldiers out of young foreign assimilated slaves or mercenaries, like the Janissaries or the Mamluks and other Akindjis. Anything but strong local native officers. Even if Turks and Italians started empires like the Ottoman and the Roman, towards the middle of their existence these empires employed almost anything BUT Italians or Turks in their armies.
Hydraulic systems almost hate their popular base. The Ottoman elite profoundly despised Turks. Lenin hated Russians. Many good officers were executed by the Ruler or the other bureaucrats by pure rivalry or fear, even when the country was in dire need of them. There’s a reason why the Chinese were conquered by minuscule peoples like the Mongols or the Manchus. Or the Romans were replaced by the Franks.
Such societies are usually deeply xenophobic and self-centered, tending to see their culture as THE culture, and external trade is generally restricted and controlled by the state or by the merchants the Ruler delegates to take care of it.
As far as manners go, hydraulic societies tend to be EXTREMELY obsessed with propriety, ritualistic, stately and protocol-oriented, at least at elite level. Everything is formalized to death and not following the strictures of ritual interaction can be even a criminal matter, in some extreme cases. The subjects generally bow to the ground in front of the rulers. Relations between genders also tend to be stilted, females being usually just mobile belongings in such social structures, especially in the higher classes. For example, almost all the upper-class females had their feet bound in China, and almost all women from the higher classes were strictly confined in their homes. Same in most of Islam. Russia was not very far from all this, in many respects. Except for the very Russian boorishness of behavior. Structurally they were quite stilted too, though.
As a rule, foreigners were not very warmly received unless so instructed by the Ruler, and generally there was some suspicion for the non-typical members of the society in question.
Of course, all these strictures were less present in the lower classes and in the more marginal provinces or the marginal groups. Even in the core regions you had differences, like for example between the stoutly Puritanical Confucian Northern China and the much more laid-back Southern China. But everyone progressing on the social ladder and interacting with, or acceding to, the higher classes, was compelled to behave accordingly.
Communication was extremely and surprisingly efficient in hydraulic societies, all the more remarkable since it was operating in a non-technological world. For example a guy who was accused of treason managed to quit Beijing but, although successful in reaching some southern province, he eventually got caught. Despite the immensity of the country and its population, he couldn’t get lost in the vast crowd, nor bury himself in some remote spot, or quit the country.
Now, the alternative to all that was Medieval Europe or Japan which were decentralized aristocracies with comparatively weak monarchies, almost inexistent bureaucracies and quite a strong and very developed Church and also many Independent Cities with free and rich Bourgeois. Taxes were generally small and stable and the investment was free. Power was shared, they had to even if they didn’t like it. Trade was quite free, the famous feudal tolls were small in reality. The rulers had to be reasonably moderate with their subjects since otherwise the said subjects could easily desert them and run to some nearby different polity.
Even in the time of the Absolutist Monarchs they didn’t come too close to the Hydraulic systems, except Russia which WAS hydraulic since the Mongols, and also somewhat France which was the most absolutist and bureaucratic. Nevertheless, despite increasingly big taxes during Absolutism in the 17th-18th centuries, the Economy was stable, the fortunes safe and the private initiative left alone, and this is the reason for the Industrial Revolution. As for manners, Medieval Europeans even hated good manners: they saw them as effeminate and false. Sengoku Japan was not much different. Peasants and nobles were quite naturalistic, although, of course, some rituals and norms and taboos and class restrictions DID exist. But they were far from having the importance they had in, say, China. Foreigners were seen with indifference and sometimes with interest. The men had no qualms presenting you their wife or daughter and even letting you alone with them.
The protocols and good manners began to inflate especially with the advent of Absolutism in Europe and with the unified Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan. The female rights took a dive about the same time in these societies. Christianity dived into Puritanism - mostly as a competition between the Catholics and the newly appeared Protestants, as a "who’s the holiest" contest. It may seem weird to the large public, but life was more carefree, and women had much more rights, in the Medieval period, both in the West and in Japan, than they had during the late "Renaissance" or even until the late 19th century.
Now, all Hydraulic systems are not the same. There are "central and "marginal" ones. Egypt, Qin and Babylon were "Central". Rome or the Ottomans were "Marginal". A "central" can have "marginal" areas and a "marginal" can have "central" areas. For example, "marginal" Rome had "central" Egypt. "Central" China had "marginal" Yunnan or such… Even the "core" areas could be quite different as I said above.
Very shortly and simplified, this is what we are talking about.
I hope you see where I’m going with all of the above. You’ve probably recognized some parallels…
As I said, Barsoom should be quite THE Postcard-Hydraulic society. Think of it: canal-states vitally dependent upon water pumped from the poles! Normally, the organization in charge of it should hold absolute power over all the other inhabitants!
And it IS hydraulic: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there IS indeed a very ‘’hydraulic’’ problem upon Barsoom: many tyrannical jeds. I mean, MANY of them. We know of at least 15 of them – when there are no more than 40 of them, or so, in total…
So, 15-16 out of the 40-50 entities are ruled by tyrants, many of them psycho level… That’s pretty bad, especially since they are long lived and all the adventures happen in less than 60 years or so...
We see many hydraulic – and "ultra-hydraulic" traits in the Barsoomian order: the land belongs to the ruler and he leases it to nobles or entrepreneurs. That alone excludes capitalism as we see it. There cannot be an accumulation of capital in such a setting. We also know trade and circulation of people – and obviously of capital as well – are restricted and small. Therefore, it is impossible that the said entrepreneurs could be comparably rich with the ruler: the ruler HAS to be the richest, by far, in that setting. He only ALLOWS others to be rich. In such a society, the other nobles shouldn’t be very rich either, their good fortunes should normally be checked by the Big Boss.
So, no nobles richer than the rulers, not even Heliumite nobles that could be richer than smaller jeds. It just can’t be: a jed always masters the lion’s share of his principality’s resources, whereas a noble, even a big imperial one from Helium, can only have a slice of his empire’s, as allowed by his jeddak. And that can’t be too big. Unless the principality we are talking about is really small, like Albania compared to Russia or so… but I don’t think there are that big differences between the Barsoomian states. (and we are talking here normal polities like Tjanath, not hidden weird outliers like Ghasta or so).
On other hand local rulers very autonomous and very proud, and information doesn’t circulate well, see the jeddak of Manator who doesn’t know his principal rival married his ex… and his rival stands up to him with a lot of poise… that’s very un-hydraulic…
Yes, Barsoom is a weird world, a mix of modern and archaic.
Maybe did they just have all the progress only at time of the Collapse of old Barsoom, and they stayed almost unchanged since?
Yes, Barsoom seems to be going from feudal to absolute monarchy, but to be stuck in archaic warrior mode.
Is slavery a relic? well not necessarily... let’s not forget the long lasting products, the many wars, the stable population... they don’t need many people working for the economy to turn so… maybe wars are just ways to get workers for otherwise unwanted jobs? We can well imagine someone with a bit of land and eternal items - and few clothes - doing nothing for centuries, or very little...
Indeed scientists and/or well-meaning people like Ras Thavas, Fal Sivas, Phor Tak, Dejah are rare - and we don't hear anything anymore about Dejah's project, after the expedition at the beginning of POM.
The entrepreneurs and main industries appear to be tied mostly to war.
To adapt the book of Wittfogel here, it's the structure of the society, the ''hydraulic despotism'', that perpetuates the situation, not just the old trauma of the ecological collapse...
But maybe there used to be some sort of equilibrium between centralized despotism and decentralized aristocracy, and which is now in danger of changing.
Maybe, despite being ribbon-like entities along the canals, the states of Barsoom avoided the Egypt-like centralization and cultivated the local centers of power because it was the only way to resist the Greens. But this situation seems to change. It looks like centralized absolute monarchy is progressing. One can wonder why now, maybe it’s the flying fleets, maybe once flight is known, the huge fleets can arrive at any point on the map of the said state in a matter of hours and so, no more need for local warrior aristocracies to defend the far areas… Not only that, but the fleet gives the Jeddak not only the possibility of more rapid and massive intervention, but also the direct control over the whole territory and with that the total mastery over the main industries and the elites. Normally, the time of the warrior nobles is over, they are increasingly just subjects of the leader with no leverage against him, but they should also logically become subdued by the bureaucrats of the capital, as we seem to sort of see in FMM where we get a glimpse of the non-noble/non-warrior elites of the capital almost despising the warrior elite, like the father of Sanoma Tora or Sil Vagis.
Anyway, in this context, the progress towards absolute monarchy and bureaucracy is not necessarily for the better: big kings can afford to be more reckless and risk more losses, face the destruction of entire provinces if the national interest doesn’t suffer too much, they can send more people to slaughter, they can have more people repressed… small rulers must be much wiser in all these respects, by their very smallness. I think it’s no coincidence things like the Jaharian arms race and U-Gor devastation and all these dangerous discoveries we see in the books take place in the same timeframe: they come as they are called by the ethos of total war and big bureaucratic polities. Methinks nobility is in retreat at this particular time.
The Barsoomians were warriors but a bit like the knights or samurais, much ritual and bravado and less actual bloodshed, at least when war was done between Red polities. Total war is coming NOW, at the time of the stories.
But since the Barsoomian polities were hydraulic since the beginning, one wonders why would things go in this direction right now. It must be the discovery of flight, and it’s also a confirmation that this knowledge is only recent.
But with this novelty, things seem to change for the worst: we get repeated hints of tyranny, rival elimination, court sycophants etc. Maybe JC was right to present the leaders of Barsoom as benign, BUT he was talking of the old-fashioned ones, and less of the more recent ones!
Clearly, the Greens are the principal element that blocks this world on militarism, they are the only ones who are offensive and intractable (except for the Tharks). That being said, if the Reds really wanted it, they could terminate them, with a serious effort. But maybe none of the polities is willing to make this effort.
From what we’ve observed, most rulers are more flexible about conflict than it would seem: even the Zodangan rulers, reputed to be bad, were not that unreasonable.
But in fact their political system seems to be "marginal hydraulic": it can’t be full bureaucratic because of the presence of the Greens… so, it gotta be aristocratic/warrior oriented. In fact, we don’t even hear a lot about the management of water.
I explain myself right now: the Barsoomians can’t afford the luxury of being conquered by the Barbarians. Barsoomian barbarians are NOT other humans that eventually get assimilated. They are NON-HUMAN GREENS. To be conquered by them means to be exterminated. Our Jasoomian barbarians were, for the most, pretty cool: Roman peasants preferred the Franks and Chinese peasants preferred the Manchus, in fact. Invaders are better than local corrupted bureaucrats. Lesson for all the Statists…
Anyway, this doesn’t apply to the Greens who simply exterminate all the captives. If you want to survive them, you must fight them. And for this, you need a perpetually strong army. Therefore you need a martial culture. And, since your polity is spread like a thin ribbon for thousands of miles, it is excluded to have a centralized defense: you need strong points with decentralized defense all along the territory. All this state of things sounds very bad for a bureaucracy: even though the water management MUST be centralized - for the flow must be continuous and well apportioned upon all plots of land, therefore must be centrally planned and directed – the defense MUST be decentralized because it has to adapt to very different local conditions and keep the control of a certain tract of canal autonomously, with or without help from the capital, at least until receiving it. This is why Barsoom HAS to be an aristocratic society despite its profoundly hydraulic main structure.
Bureaucracies are very bad with war, and the Barsoomians CANNOT be bad at war, therefore war must be the domain of a professional army. Now, this one can be aristocratic like before the French Revolution or based upon draft with a strong aristocratic influence like the British or German one after about 1700. Now we know Barsoom has many nobles and they prefer to be soldiers. We don’t hear almost anything about bureaucrats. And this goes for all the Barsoomian races.
On the other hand, we are told Barsoomians are on the whole TRIBAL and FEUDAL. Well although we saw this a lot in the stories and we established the Barsoomian polities are MARGINAL hydraulic, they could NEVER really be feudal/tribal. Hydraulic order and feudalism don’t go together at all. At most they could be parallel systems, but not coexist within the same socio-political structure. Hydraulic order means absolutist monarchy and centralized bureaucracy, and this is totally incompatible with feudalism/aristocracy. No way an autonomous class of people, with privileges and extra-territoriality in many respects, can coexist with centralized autocracy. Let’s say a hydraulic country can have feudalistic marginal vassals on the margins, maybe. But the two could NOT be integrated in the same entity. As for tribalism, BOTH feudalism and hydraulic order are strongly AGAINST it: feudalism created INDIVIDUALISM.
Despite the apparently tribal ethos of the aristocracy, and all the autonomous regions, it is anything but that. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about that. Feudalism creates, in fact, individualistic civil society. It’s exactly aristocracy and free cities and regionalism that BREAK the clans and form first regional small Peoples, and then the Nation. In a hydraulic society as well, the central authority doesn’t like too much independence as tribes are bound to have. So it breaks them at the level of family clans, at most. As it did in China. And it also forms a Nation on the long run. If there are still tribes, they only exist in frontier and remote regions.
The only societies that stay tribal are the ones which don’t evolve to centralized states, like the Aztecs for example, or most of the Hindu states, or the Muslim entities on their nomadic side, since they had 40-60% nomads in their ranks until the beginning of the 20th century. None of this happens in either feudal or hydraulic societies. These dilute their tribes and only tolerate family clans, at most.
Barsoomian societies HAVE to be mostly hydraulic because otherwise it is impossible to build and keep and manage the canals, and without central planning for the whole network necessary for a nation it would simply not work and the nation would fall. Especially since some entities run ''from pole to pole'' – such a network can’t really be done in stages. It has to be planned and executed in one initiative, even if takes centuries, but it has to be ONE project.
Which turns into another set of problems: we know some polities like Gathol, Manator, Kamtol or probably Helium rely on local water resources and therefore they are not (that) dependent on polar waters. But what about the other polities? Once the catastrophe started, their populations would have had to retreat near the poles and from there, to start and to extend the irrigation network and the resettlement towards the Equator and then join the two hemispheric networks into one.
Anyway, the region between the poles should have been depopulated for a while, with two distinct cultures and probably races developing in the two hemispheres. And normally the remaining isolated centers should have fallen to the Greens. None of these did happen. Another thing is, with all the survivors massing around the poles, how would the Yellows and the Whites and Blacks remain hidden there?
And, one wonders why didn’t the civilization pushback start from the Toonolian marshes or Gathol or Okar or Korus/Omean though...
And besides all this… one more big question: WHY CANALS?!
If the Barsoomians know pumps – and they MUST have had them from the beginning, otherwise such long irrigation networks would be impossible without pumps, then THERE WOULD BE NO NEED FOR CANALS – they would be simply illogical, too difficult to manage and especially defend. JUST PIPELINES would be more than enough, directed towards the best places to settle an oasis! Canals suck strategically! Circular compact walled oases are the best! Even if the canals are a relic, still they don’t make sense: who would direct water from the polar ice to the equator despite the rough terrain, the differences of altitude and the enemies? And why is there no more population around the Toonolian Marshes or Kaol?
As we can see, the Barsoomian history is full of mysteries and quite illogical developments…
In addition to being ''marginal hydraulic'', the Barsoomian societies HAD to have an early and strong start to survive and evolve. They would have had to build their new society and canal network very fast and early, otherwise they would not have survived the ecological and green onslaught.
I bet the transition between the ancient and the new Barsoom was quite rapid. That should solve some of the problems with how Barsoom presents itself, but not all of them, far from it.
Yes, full nudity is mentioned in POM but only there. In all other books we are told Martians wear a harness that, obviously, covers the genitals since the cannibal from U-Gor doesn’t see Tavia is a woman until he gets closer. And we know the one for men covers the chest so since Tavia wears one it could cover her breasts too. We don’t know if the harness for women covers the breasts, though.
Sorry dear Spratt, Martians do not go around totally nude. Besides we are told they don’t have much hair, especially not on the body – hairy people like the jed of Ghasta or the savages from the Toonolian Marshes are significant exceptions. And since the Barsoomian females don’t breastfeed, their breasts are only due to the female hormones and, as a rule, could not be very big. Therefore, sorry Spratt, no big tits and no big body hair upon Barsoom.
Various Gods get repeated mention, but they are never named except, vaguely, the "mother of the further moon" (POM and LOG). But we never learn anything about their mythology and their place in the Barsoomian religion. It would have been a more complex picture of the Barsoomian society, had JC told us even just a little bit more about these secondary divinities and the relationship Barsoomians have with them. As with the ancestors’ cult, by the way, it’s clearly very important for them but we know nothing in detail about it!
Towers, spire and domes are repeatedly said to be the staple of Barsoomian architecture. But, as I said earlier, they can’t really be. It doesn’t really fit with the type of society Barsoom is.
18.104.22.168 THE DEMOGRAPHY OF AN EGG-LAYING POPULATION, AND ITS ROYALS
I've already addressed the demography, but not the demographic DYNAMIC, of Barsoom… which is totally different from what we know here upon Earth.
POM C4 – we get here a bit of demography and religion, but only for the Greens.
To make it clearer for the readers, I need to quote this one part completely:
I saw no signs of extreme age among them, nor is there any appreciable difference in their appearance from the age of maturity, about forty, until, at about the age of one thousand years, they go voluntarily upon their last strange pilgrimage down the river Iss, which leads no living Martian knows whither and from whose bosom no Martian has ever returned, or would be allowed to live did he return after once embarking upon its cold, dark waters.
Only about one Martian in a thousand dies of sickness or disease, and possibly about twenty take the voluntary pilgrimage. The other nine hundred and seventy-nine die violent deaths in duels, in hunting, in aviation and in war; but perhaps by far the greatest death loss comes during the age of childhood, when vast numbers of the little Martians fall victims to the great white apes of Mars.
The average life expectancy of a Martian after the age of maturity is about three hundred years, but would be nearer the one-thousand mark were it not for the various means leading to violent death. Owing to the waning resources of the planet it evidently became necessary to counteract the increasing longevity which their remarkable skill in therapeutics and surgery produced, and so human life has come to be considered but lightly on Mars, as is evidenced by their dangerous sports and the almost continual warfare between the various communities.
There are other and natural causes tending toward a diminution of population, but nothing contributes so greatly to this end as the fact that no male or female Martian is ever voluntarily without a weapon of destruction.
Now, that’s the Greens. At this point, JC doesn’t even know there are other intelligent beings upon Mars (yet "aviation" is mentioned, when airships haven’t yet appeared…). Later we are clearly told the Red women don’t fight, and besides they are seldom assassinated. We can surmise the statistics are different for the Reds: in their case, the number of little ones perishing by neglect and savage beasts must be very small. We don’t see many duels mentioned in the stories. Not in time of peace anyway, nor among one’s own people. Besides wars don’t seem to be that sought after, we see many instances when some leaders prefer to forget insults in order to avoid war from fear of weakness towards other enemies. I’m ready to bet the life expectancy for Reds is significantly bigger than for Greens.
With all that being said, I’ve already mentioned the totally abnormal and illogical dearth of royals, especially if we talk about an egg-lay society.
You see, normally this society should go like this:
Let’s say we have a young jeddak of 100, and his sexy jeddara of 100 as well.
Let’s say they are both healthy, monogamous and faithful. Let’s say Barsoomian women lay eggs until they are, say, 500.
Well that would be like 5200 eggs from 100 to 500, from just one friggin’ couple! Even if some are not fertilized, some are defective, some have accidents and so on, still there should be like 3-4000 descendants from just this one pair.
Would they have that many kids?
Well, why not? She would lay these eggs anyway, fertilized or not. They don’t make her fat and flabby, or anything like our pregnancies. The investment of a woman in her descendants is almost zero:
she issues her eggs whether they are fertilized or not - no physical effort and sacrifice. And, if they are fertilized, she doesn’t have anything to do but wait for 5 years until they hatch. Maybe just to call professors to recite telepathically all the cultural stuff into the egg, so that the hatchling gets out fully cultured… why not? I mean we DO know the child becomes autonomous both physically and intellectually in like 4 years – see Carthoris who looks and acts like an 18-20 year old at 5 or 6 Barsoomian years – and when he appears in GOM he had been a prisoner for 1 year already! So he was a warrior and a polar explorer at 4 Barsoomian years!
Therefore any woman could have several dozens of descendants without investing more than 10% of her millennium into them! The only limit would be economic, and royals don’t have it: this couple of ours has a palace several dozens of acres if not several square miles big. And several thousand servants.
Therefore the royals should have thousands of descendants, and that’s just assuming the jeddak is monogamous! And even if the jeddak X maybe has a problem and cannot have kids, but he should nevertheless have literally regiments upon regiments of relatives: brothers and uncles and cousins and nephews.
True, assassins and war and competition for power might kill a bunch, but not all of them.
I mean even China did not have, as a rule, massive hecatombs of princes; even the ottomans stopped their practice of fratricide after a while, and we're not told of any established practice of that type upon Barsoom. Yes, we are told some jeddak here and there thins the ranks of his relatives, but it seems to be rare.
Then, the great nobles and the most important royal descendants should also imitate the royals to the best of their abilities, and have dozens if not hundreds of descendants.
So, if we follow these people for 4-5-6 generations, they should form a very sizeable chunk of the population. Just see the mass reproduction of Chinese or Vietnamese emperors, and the average commoner status and level of wealth of most princes – some of them were even starving in tough times.
Anyway, after 6 generations, the majority of the population of the kingdom should be descended from, or related to, the top 1%.
Even here upon Jasoom, we have cases like that: the pretense of the Irish to be all royalty is not so crazy - 8% descend from Niall of Nine Hostages - and that's just one of several dozen of successful reproducers in Europe. Charlemagne is thought to be the ancestor of 25% of Western Europe. Only the KNOWN descendants of the kings of France number like 60,000. And there are about 600 certified Habsburgs, only several generations away from the throne!
You see what I mean.
And on the other hand, if we look at the lower classes, most of the population doesn't appear to have many possibilities or perspectives, although thanks of the social organization they don’t have a bad life.
But it seems to me they get no interest to reproduce a lot, and not many opportunities to find interesting careers.
1-2 kids should be the norm for most of those who arrive at reproducing themselves.
And we should expect many to have no kids - captives/slaves, assassin victims, celibates - even if celibacy is taxed. Even in medieval Europe there were about 20% of the adults who did not reproduce, and they were mostly in the lower classes.
As a rule, here on Jasoom, in a century something like 20% of the people being born the year 1 have 80% of the great-grandkids by the year 100. Well upon Barsoom it would take several centuries but it would be more like 1% having 90% of the great-great-grandkids.
After about 6-7 generations, something like 70-80% of the nation would be, if not descended, at least related, to the royal family! The royals literally WOULD be the parents of the nation!
Why not? Who wouldn’t like to father a nation? And why not prefer a fleshly link to your subjects rather than an ideological one?
Plus, in case you conquer a land, with so much egg-laying, they should be able to replace the full conquered population after conquest - or at least the full male population - in a matter of decades!
And instead of that, we get all these minuscule or dying royal lineages everywhere upon Barsoom? Gimme a break!
You saw above that I had several observations concerning societal traits that pose a problem since they are at odds with the internal logic that the very structure of the Barsoomian society is described, or is implied, or bound, to have.
But there are other problems.
I asked several times, how did the Therns lie, for so long and so seriously, in a society of telepaths who, we are told, seldom if ever lie? And since we are at it, how do assassins, spies, kidnappers lie, in order to be able to do their jobs?
Plus the psychologists who question even the dead - one should be not only a liar, but a supernatural one, to be able to pull a lie, in such a society! And what to say of the multi-generational big lies like the Iss faith!
What about the matter of "honor to the death"? Well apparently, it mostly happens to the MAIN female characters: Thuvia has to become one for it to matter, and so she turns into a maid again... otherwise, the mom of the jed of Manator accepts the tyrant jeddak as a lover and then when he has enough of her and sends her away she marries the other jed, with no problem.
Plus there’s Phao reuniting with Nur An after being raped by Yo Seno... with no problem either.
Even the princess from Thuria returns to her father with no problem after being forced to wed the Tarid prince, etc.
On the other hand we see a few characters who DO commit suicide or pilgrimage if their man is dead or if shamed - the females courted by the jeddak of Dusar, the mom of Zanda, the jeddak of Manator...
But it doesn’t appear to be that general.
22.214.171.124 TIMELINES, PAST PRESENT… AND FUTURE – EXPECTED VS REVEALED
No, that one is not about the chronology of the Barsoomian history books, be it real, legendary or ideological. No, it’s about the timelines of our stories and the internal logic of the historical timelines. Let’s remember and accentuate upon them:
Chessmen: from the story, the whole affair clearly cannot last more than several weeks, 2 months at most – then in the end we learn it has lasted more than a year – a Martian one! How can that be?
LOG – it is said no further contact occurred with Okar after the adventures of JC there - but in WOM we were beginning to see the start of a sort of United Nations of Mars and in COM it was said Carthoris was friend with Talu!
The ancient civilization was MAYBE 1 million years in the past – so are we told…
But in other places we are told significantly different. Again, not very accurate…
The atmosphere factory - some say Red men built it, some say Whites – again, not certain/not accurate.
After WOM and the dynamic beginning of the UN of Mars, we get not one mention anymore of Korus or Omean with all their priceless resources? Nothing happens with these fertile and rich areas after their unveiling and conquest? Hmmm…
No mention, either, of Okar’s domes although they are very practical should the atmosphere factory cease its function? It’s not like it never happened…
Whites and blacks were not mentioned ONCE in POM, despite JC passing a decade upon Barsoom. He should have brought them up at least once, at least as rumors…
How do the Blacks and Therns get their resources after JC? We were told they were completely parasitic! Plus, they were completely shaped and structured by their religious vision. Normally their societies should utterly collapse after JC. And we don’t hear much about the Therns, despite the fact that they still have their networks of intelligence and temples, and they still have ambitions – see the rumors in COM. And there are still people who believe their stuff, we see that throughout the books. Instead, we hear the Blacks have the second fleet upon the planet! How come? It’s not logical at all!
Speaking of them, how come the sooo mysterious Therns were visible to some? We see in WOM that both the Kaolians and the Okarians seem acquainted enough to them not to make a big case of the fact they are visible and known. Even the Manatorians know well how they look despite their isolation. How come there’s this difference with the other Red polities? And as I’ve already asked, how come the presence of Thurid with Matai Shang doesn’t make anyone question the narrative?
Speaking of Blacks, how did they fly before flyers were invented? Did they use balloons, or were they pirates upon the Iss? No, can’t be, how would they have had the image of being aliens then? Or rather did everybody have airships from the start? Can’t be that either, we are told airships are known for only about 1000 years.
The Therns, the Blacks and the atmosphere factory: if you were them, would you let such a vital thing in the care of "inferior" subordinates such as they consider the Reds to be?
We are told in GOM that the South pole pumps are under the control of the Blacks. Why did they not enslave the whole planet then? Especially if they also knew flight sooner than the others…
Did they just satisfy themselves with being secret rulers and plunderers? Very unlikely, humans are not like that in the vast majority of cases… besides, only bureaucracies are not expansionistic, historically - and all the Barsoomian polities, black included, are warring states…
Even ancient arch-bureaucrats like the Chinese had moments of expansionism, despite their generally anti-militaristic stance.
See where I’m hinting? Both the past and the future of Barsoom should be very different from what the books show, if all the observations above were taken into account. The society JC found should be different if based upon its very main patterns, and the one he ushered by his actions should be different too. Instead we get a society rife with mysterious contradictions, which appear to continue after the actions of JC despite an initial impetus towards fundamental change but which, also mysteriously, gets suspended along the way...
126.96.36.199 SCIENCE AND GAP BETWEEN SCIENTIFIC LEVEL AND SOCIETAL STAGE
Radium, 8th ray, 9th ray? As I said already, that’s unobtanium and transmutation rolled into one! Normally a civilization that can do this is a "Kardashev to the n-th" type of society and therefore shouldn’t worry about "the few resources of dying Mars" nor of sword fight nor of airships going 1000 miles per hour, or of polar paradises for that matter. Most likely they should dominate the galaxy or a sizeable part of it.
I know, I wrote in an older essay about the Thern telepathic mass block of the planet’s minds and all, but - There’s too much big scientific knowledge, totally at odds with idea of a world-wide prisoner mind
- There are many dissenters, both at mass level – pagan Phundahl, schismatic/heretic Manator and Okar, unbelieving Toonol – and individual – the guy from Kaol for example… so the Thern grip on the collective mind is far from total; besides, doesn’t JC convince his Heliumites quite rapidly to follow him in the attack of their mythical paradise?
- The Therns themselves were fooled by the Blacks so their grasp on the planetary Mind was far from perfect.
188.8.131.52 THE TONE OF THE STORIES
In both LOG and JCM, ERB is not really himself, he sounds a bit too schematic and too fast-paced and forcing too hard the suspension of disbelief, especially in Giant and Skeletons but in LOG also a bit. You see, ERB’s characters are usually not too deep but they also usually resemble Japanese stamps somehow, in the sense that they are sketched in few but very powerful and full of meaning strokes – but not in these books. Here, there’s a clear feeling of lacking depth and consistency.
184.108.40.206 THE ASSASSINS
– why do they exist, in fact? Stupid question, but which nobody asked…
Mass scale assassinates appear to be the global sport upon Barsoom but don’t seem to start at the Jeddak, nor at some other governmental level, except for some girl or rival throne candidate – and these are not many.
Life seems pretty stable for the great mass of people: we don’t hear of mass social unraveling except in Jahar (plus for the Therns and Blacks, but only after JC, and in fact we don’t know much about what happens in their realms after WOM).
THEREFORE WHY SO MUCH MURDER?
Is it Politics? Nope. NOT in tyrannies or absolute divine monarchies as functioning upon Barsoom, only in malfunctioning parliamentary systems do such happen. There’s no political rivalry for the small people in absolutist regimes. The Ruler has monopoly over violence in such regimes and society is well kept under control, as I said. What’s plentiful in tyrannies is executions, not assassinates, if death must be meted.
Is it Religion? No hint of any death cult upon Barsoom. Not the Therns either, not anymore anyway, and they don’t appear to have been linked to that in the past either. Besides they had all the victims they wanted coming to them by their own will, through the pilgrimage…
Then what? Economic reasons? Again, Barsoom is an old, stable society.
Sexual reasons? Well, here we might get somewhere, for we DO learn husbands quite frequently kill wives. And, wives hire assassins. And we DO see it happening (COM, SMM). But then if THIS is the main reason, the reality of the Barsoomian society would be EXTREMELY different from the idyllic vision JC serves us… And, speaking of murder, each victim has relatives, who might take revenge upon the murderer, but prefer to hire assassins… could all this mass-scale assassinations be about a cascade of vendettas? But that would make the Barsoomians pretty psycho, at mass level… they normally should all distrust and hate each other. Not at all the image we have of them. Besides from the books they look quite naïve and trustful in general, really simple people, even a bit childish. Not Machiavellian at all. Plus, they can’t lie. Therefore we just can’t tell what it is about this feature of theirs.
That being said, if war is the criterion for the degree of violence upon Barsoom, it is a confusing one since wars seem NOT to be that murderous – JC does not destroy Dusar after TMM, nor Jahar after FMM, nor Dor and Omean and Okar after WOM, he doesn’t even colonize them, Valla’s dad stays on the throne after his realm being sacked, the royals of Zodanga wanted to go easy on Helium in POM etc.
Therefore it doesn’t seem the Barsoomian polities in war are too violent. We’ve seen many more atrocious things here on Earth than on the "Planet of War"…
So, since the wars are not that destructive it means the assassinates are clearly the first source of violent death upon Barsoom and, since the State is clearly the most violent entity in any human society, it’s very odd that there are other things upon Barsoom which surpass it.
We get that the proportion of men and women is similar upon Barsoom, and there’s no mention about the females living longer and being more numerous than the men.
Therefore most women must be killed by their husbands! Creepy… and except the short passage in SOM, we’re never told about such horribly huge domestic violence, quite the contrary! Besides, how could telepaths hate each-other so much, or get to hate each-other like that? Normally, when you hate someone in a telepathic society, it shows immediately. Even if you shut down your mind, it still shows you hide stuff from your entourage. And on a planet so rife with enmity as Barsoom appears to be, people should normally investigate immediately what the problem is. Yet it doesn’t seem to happen. Huge mystery.
Therefore, the very existence of the Assassins and the size of their endeavor is a mystery, one of the biggest of that world in fact, and we know nothing about its reason!
I came with an idea, thinking about Issus and her apparently indefinite age, and the mummies of Horz: could Issus possibly be a preserved corpse like them? Hmm, it doesn’t seem so, since she’s really old… but maybe she was already old when preserved? Another mystery…
WHY THESE CONTRADICTIONS?
It would be easy to say ERB lied when he published his informations… or JC, when he gave them…
But did they lie? Or was JC blinded by things like his own old-fashioned earthly-gentleman sensibilities and his love for Dejah?
Well see upon our dear old Jasoom, the example of pre-modern Japan, they had much naughtiness, and yet on the exterior their society was extremely stately, serious and ceremonial… so, maybe Barsoom does the same? Maybe they just don’t manifest their naughtiness on the outside, and do not talk about it? Maybe the Barsoomians are the type who have strong respect for outwardly forms but are much wilder in private. They may be the "divorce no, murder yes" types.
Could there also be the fault of telepathy? JC’s witnessing and interpretation of what he saw can be faulty as we said already, and the transmission itself can be faulty too, telepathy is tricky. And then ERB comes with his own interpretation…
Or maybe… ERB receives conflicting scenarios from several parallel universes, let’s not forget his heroes don’t inhabit here in our universe… maybe what he catches are imprecise emissions destined to the ERB from the Burroughs Universe, which he also filters through his own values.
So here, some things could be explained to an extent, but only so far. But other contradictions are simply unsolvable. It becomes un-escapable to acknowledge that all the things described in the BU, and even those within just the Barsoomian cycle, cannot all exist within the same frame. Which is to say, they cannot all exist in the same universe.
So, no matter which it is, if Barsoom really exists in some parallel universe, it’s very likely to be substantially different from what we get from the novels.
ERB clearly did not receive information from our universe, but echoes from a parallel one, in fact several parallel universes, for otherwise several contradictions, as debated above, are absolutely inexplicable.
So, if you readers don’t want to remember all my lengthy argument, please retain these 2 ideas:1)The Burroughs Universe is not our universe.I think it’s useful to ponder about all this when you’re thinking of Barsoom.
2)But BU itself is not at all coherent - so there HAS to be SEVERAL Burroughs Universes, sending different and conflicting information to us, and there could also be some bad transmission from them to us. These universes have different arrangements, and their variants of the societies such as the Barsoomian one could be vastly different, with different levels of development and social and political rules, even while being similar in general.
ERB must therefore jumble information from several similar realities, not being aware they are several. Therefore he has conjured this composite image of Barsoom which, though very consistent, doesn't make sense in many of its aspects.
Barsoom Analysis Part I: Demography, Polity, Society and Economy
Barsoomian Analysis II: Sociology and Morality
Barsoomian Analysis III: Girl, Reconstructed
More Barsoomologist and Amtorianist Musings
Tarzan and Nemone of the City of Gold
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