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

carter_lsmallChapter Twelve: A Prisoner With Power

Lorquas Ptomel wants to have a nice little chat with John about his plans to escape with Dejah Thoris. He is very reasonable and points out that John has a lot of prestige despite being a prisoner, and that John’s plans of escape are not very honorable! Lorquas mentions that there is some indication that John is a heretic, and this is another reason why John needs to chill on his escape plans. Lorquas also points out that John’s behavior is making the politics of this particular tribe very murky and problematic and John needs to stop causing problems. Lorquas also states that Dejah Thoris is a very important prisoner and absolutely needs to be transported to the big Thark shindig where she will be torn to bits or worse. He then finishes up with a speech that Tharks are honorable and justice-seeking beings and that Dejah’s lecture is completely untrue.

 

The interesting part here is that we can see that Tharks do not see themselves as particularly uncivilized. Lorquas is stating that for reasons of position and prestige, John should want to fall in line and not attempt to escape or seek alliance with the hereditary enemies of the tribe that has given him that position and prestige. Lorquas is being really reasonable! However, we have also had John ragging on the Tharks for the past eleven chapters, and have seen no actual evidence of any of the positive traits that Lorquas is mentioning (except as exemplified by Tars Tarkus and even then we only have it on John’s say-so).

John of course does not care about the politics of this tribe, or about the delicate balance of power he is screwing up (because the writer does not care either), and continues to plot. (In this, he is exactly like the movie version.) He informs us that he has learned from Sola that Tal Hajus, who is the king of this particular tribe of Green Men is brutal, savage and likely to do horrible things to Dejah. (He also makes references to women settlers retaining a bullet so they could shoot themselves instead of being taken captive by Indians during a raid.)

Tars Tarkus turns up, wanting to know what the heck John is up to, with assigning Sola to Dejah Thoris. (If this were any writer other than Burroughs, I think I would have suspected that this was a covert attempt to find out how Sola was being treated considering what we find out later about the relationship between Sola and Tars. However, this is Burroughs, and Burroughs does not weave delicate interpersonal character dynamics.) Tars also would like to know where John’s quarters are going to be. John says he does not have quarters, and he would like to bunk with the other warriors or by himself, and cites that he knows little of Thark customs.

Tars takes John to the building where he lives. This building is near to the building where John moved Dejah’s quarters. I am guessing that Burroughs was attempting to avoid any implication of less than gentlemanly behavior on John’s part. Sadly, to the modern eye John is a complete moron from a security standpoint since a building adjoining another building is too far away if you need to rush to someone’s rescue in an emergency.

Once John picks out his quarters, he receives all of the goods that had belonged to the two chieftans he had killed. He also receives their entire households, which he uses an opportunity to continue detailing what horrible squalid lives the Green Martians lead, since everything they own is held in common and how horrible and unnatural their customs are (while also trotting out the noble savage stereotype). It is interesting that John is definitely benefiting from these same customs but is still complaining about them. After talking a great deal about how little consideration or kindness Green Martians have for each other, John proceeds to have very little care or consideration for his new household. (At least he has the common sense to let them do their ordinary jobs, except for a girl he retains to cook for him. Apparently without finding out if she could cook.)

Chapter Thirteen: Love-Making on Mars

Don’t get your hopes up kids.

The next little while, Tars Tarkus teaches John some of the customs of the Tharks. John also learns how to ride a thoat. John being John, he is quickly able to master and improve upon the thoat riding skillset by using his awesome powers of being kind to animals. (Something Tharks are not capable of, since they are cruel noble sadistic savages.) John’s amazing thoat-training skills are so impressive that he is gifted with more gold from Lorquas Ptomel.

John is pretty busy being a thoat riding wunderkind so he doesn’t get in much time to visit Dejah. They do share a few brief conversations, but usually Dejah is out and about with Sola.  When he does get an opportunity to see her, he is horrified to learn that they are making her work for a living. Dejah gives us a very detailed report of how Thark guns work and how the ammunition is made. During their conversation Dejah refers to John as her chieftan, which has a significance that John will not learn about until later. In return, John refers to Dejah as “his princess,” which causes Dejah to have a very strong reaction.  She does not explain the reason for her reaction, though it is pretty clear that John said something significant without intending to. (You should have told him, Dejah. John is thick as a brick.)

John realizes that he is in love with Dejah. (I told you not to get your hopes up, didn’t I?)

Chapter Fourteen: A Duel to the Death

John decides not to tell Dejah that he is in love with her. He does ask if Martians kiss and some personal questions that go a little too far, so Dejah returns to her quarters. (Smooth move, genius. Boys, never accept romantic advice from John Carter.)

A little later, the Tharks pack up to leave. John finds that they have chained up Dejah and goes to Tars Tarkus to complain. Tars reminds him that Dejah cannot be allowed to escape. After some more arguing, and John professing his friendship, Tars relents and unchains Dejah.

Dejah however is not speaking to John. Something he did or did not do completely annoyed her and now she apparently hates him. (Dejah, why do you keep forgetting the part where he does not know your customs and probably wouldn’t care anyway because he thinks his own customs are inherently better? Princess, I realize you’re encumbered by having been written by a dude who thinks women are strange coy and unknowable creatures, but really, you know he’s dense as a post, so get out the puppets and use really small words to explain what he’s doing wrong.)

 For someone who implies that he is much, much older than he appears, John spends a great deal of time moping like a teenager suffering from his first crush. He is also suddenly homesick, and we learn that he is at least old enough to be someone’s Great Uncle. He is moping and sulking a great deal when Sarkoja the lady Green Martian he annoyed previously gets a young warrior to challenge him to a duel.

The fight ensues, and we find that the lady Green Martian was about to cheat like crazy to make sure John lost the challenge. Dejah however prevented the lady from cheating and a fight ensues between the Sarkoja, Sola, and Dejah. John misses most of it because he is still busy fighting the young warrior. We do not immediately see how the battle turns out because John blacks out in the middle of a murder-suicide move.

Part Four | Part Six

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Filed under a princess of mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs, non-earth, planetary romance, Reading, science fiction, science fiction elements

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