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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reading: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs Part Three


What you may have noticed is the episodic nature of these short chapters! Like many early science fiction and fantasy novels, this novel was first printed as a serial! A Princess of Mars is actually fairly “joined together” for a serial novel. The next book in the series however is much, much worse, mostly because of the Very Obvious Repetitive Cliffhanger where it takes quite a long time to find out the full name of a young man John meets during his adventures. You will of course know who the young man is before the second cliffhanger cuts off the introduction. 

Chapter Five: I Elude My Watchdog

Sola sets John up in a room and leaves a very large monster named Woola to keep an eye on him. We are told this monster watchdog is unfailingly loyal and John’s life on at least two occasions. (This dog monster is the very best dog monster in the world, by the way.) John explores his new environment and studies a breathtaking mural that John immediately deduces could never, ever have been created by the brutish Green Men. (It would have been nice if Johnny Boy’s theory was proven to be incorrect, but the author agrees with character that the Green Men are a bunch of chumps.)


Sola eventually returns with food for John. What John and the author do not seem to realize is that her careful and solicitous care of John...kind of looks like someone taking care of a small child. (This is both extremely amusing, and also explains some things that happen in the movie!)

After John has his nap, he decides to do a little exploring. The dog monster follows along behind as he explores his surroundings. The monster is evidently supposed to keep an eye on him and act as a bodyguard, not keep him in one place. John decides to try outsmarting the dog, but the dog monster is surprisingly fast for something with such stumpy legs.  

John eventually takes to jumping and doubling back and eventually outsmarts the dog by jumping too high for the dog to reach him. This turns out to be a bad idea because he gets grabbed by a monstrous White Ape.

Chapter Six: A Fight That Won Friends

John has been attacked by two White Apes. These creatures are huge six limbed tool-using apes. Our Hero is in a very hairy predicament, since he has no weapon. One of the White Apes is about to bash his head in with a club when the monster dog appears and goes for the Ape’s throat. The poor monster dog gets tossed and gets knocked out. In the course of the battle, the Ape drops its club, which John grabs and uses to defend himself from the apes.

While he’s trying to fight (or at least, find a way to get away from) the Apes, Tars Tarkus and a few of his warriors show up. They do not help! Instead, they watch him fight with the Apes. John’s spin on this is that Tharks are so devoid of empathy or pity that they would never stoop to assisting someone in danger. The sole exception to this rule is Sola. (Dude, she is treating you like a little kid because you apparently strike her as being extremely childlike. Tars obviously didn’t think you needed any help with those apes, so stop whining.)

Sola tries to lead John back to his room after the fight with the apes, but John balks a little. The monster dog is waking up, and one of the warriors appears to be about to shoot it. John protests vehemently and prevents the warrior from killing the dog monster. Then John picks the dog up and carries it away. The Tharks are of course stunned because they apparently have no concept of compassion. (Except Sola.)

Chapter Seven:  Child Raising on Mars

As we have seen, John has absolutely no respect for Tharks or their culture, which he regards to be brutal, harsh and cruel. He also does not think very much of their intelligence even though Tharks make their own weapons and tools. He also doesn’t approve of the way Green Martians raise their children, and feels that the fact that Martians do not raise their own children is the primary reason why they have no empathy or “finer feelings.”

This chapter mostly involves a lot of complaining about Green Martian culture! He does not approve of community raised children or single parent families. (Tharks do not have a concept of marriage and they adopt instead of raising their own children. They do not seem to care very much about whom is related to whom.) He also seems to believe that the Thark language is extremely primitive. This is something he also blames on their crudity and lack of intelligence. (Instead of the fact that they, you know, have TELEPATHY and can READ EACH OTHER’S MINDS. Then again, John learns to receive telepathic transmissions, so maybe his theory has some credence, or not, because John is a bigoted twit.)

He does however mention that a great deal of their customs based on ensuring that everyone can survive the extremely hostile conditions of a dying world.  This requires draconian measures of population control to ensure that the population neither grows nor shrinks. John however feels that the real reason they are so harsh and lack empathy is because of the lack of customs that he thinks of as “normal” and “civilized.”
John accompanies Sola and a large number of Martian women and young adults as they head to one of the local incubators to acquire children. Sola adopts a male child, and John thinks it’s funny the little guy sees him as a rival for Sola’s parental attention. (Or at least, that would be a more modern interpretation.) 

After about seven (really short!) chapters you may be wondering where the princess in this story is. Don’t worry! She’s coming up next.