A Princess of Mars

 
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A Princess of Mars

Who is the only author who has a town or community named after one of his fictional characters? The answer is Tarzana, California. It was the home of American author, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan. However, next to Tarzan, John Carter, the sci fi, fantasy, and adventure hero in The Princess Of Mars published in 1912, is the author's second most popular character. Personally, my favorite Burroughs hero is David Inness beginning with At The Earth's Core (1914). In one novel, Tarzan even helps David out. We also can't forget his other planetary hero, Carson of Venus. All total I count over eighty Burroughs novels.

"Princess" begins with Captain John Carter, an ex-civil war veteran, falling asleep in a strange cave while prospecting out West. He wakes up on Mars, which Martians call Barsoom. Initially, captured by the giant, four armed green Tharks, he wins them over gaining a loyal, warrior friend, Tars Tarkas.

Throughout the story, the swashbuckling hero is confronted with numerous thrilling, life threatening adventures involving both humanoids (red Martians) who have their young hatched from eggs, green Martians who are giants with six limbs and tusks, and bizarre creatures such as huge hornets, banths, malagors, the Calot, which is a watchdog about the size of a Shetland pony, with ten legs, three rows of tusk, and a head like a frog, and there is always the eight legged Martian horse, a Thoat.

There are airships, warring kingdoms such as Helium versus Zodanga, and an "atmosphere machine" which is needed to maintain the planet's air supply. Of course, John Carter also finds romance--"...a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women. Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature finely chiseled...her skin ...a light reddish copper, against the...ruby of her
beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect...she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect...figure." At the end of the novel, the hero awakens in the cave back on earth. Does his princess wife and, perhaps, son survive? Will John Carter return to Barsoom? You should read the follow-up novels, Gods Of Mars and Warlords Of Mars, to find their fate!

Early illustrations were usually by Allen St. John or Frank Schoonover. Part of the reason for the Burroughs resurgence in the 1960s was the new muscular and sensual illustrations of Frank Frazetti.

Duringthe 1960s and early 1970s Edgar Rice Burroughs was one of the ten most popular writers in the world. His importance and influence to the science fiction genre was considerable. As Arthur C. Clarke says, ' " Iwant to go along with Ray Bradbury's views on the importance of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was Burroughs who turned me on, and I think he is a much underrated writer. The man who can create Tarzan, the best-known character in the whole fiction, should not be taken too lightly! " '

Since so much more fantasy fiction has been written in recent years, John Carter's popularity has waned. However, once the upcoming Walt Disney movie, John Carter of Mars, hits the theaters probably
becoming a blockbuster, a whole new generation of adolescent boys may envision Barsoomian combat and experience reoccurring dreams of rescuing the alluring and beautiful princess, Dejah Thoris. And, no doubt, girl readers will imagine being swept up in the arms or off their feet by the handsome, virile, and chivalrous southern gentleman, John Carter of Mars.

Note: If one wants to brush up on the culture, flora and fauna of Barsoom, feel free to visit the Barsoom glossary at http://www.erblist.com/abg/index.html. 253 pages. Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, High School Librarian

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