EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS'
Llana of Gathol
Copyright © 2002
David Bruce Bozarth,
This novel consists of four short stories, each number 13 chapters:
These last Barsoomian tales are actually quite remarkable. ERB writes with great charm and humor, poking fun at his famous characters while sending them on adventures that are parodies of his previous Barsoomian novels. The full depth of ERB’s accomplishment in these last stories can only be appreciated by a thorough knowledge of his former Barsoomian novels. As stand-alone tales, they seem clipped and rather silly, but as parodies of his former work, they are quite masterly. Burroughs was doing similar humorous parodies in his late works on Pellucidar. (David Adams)
ERB has insomnia one night at Lanikai on the Island of Oahu. As he muses about Kamehameha, one of the giant kings of old Hawaii, John Carter appears before him. He has come to visit one more time before the author’s death, which he says will be soon. ERB asks for an update on Barsoom, and John Carter tells this story. He begins without further ago: Gahan of Gathol and Tara of Helium have wed, and their daughter is Llana of Gathol.
The Ancient Dead
Seeking solitude, John Carter flies northwest as far as the deserted city of Horz. There he is surprised to see a lone red man being chased by a dozen green warriors.
Landing unobserved, he leaps over a 20-foot wall and lands in the middle of a sword fight in which the red man is holding his own against superior odds. In an amazing battle, John Carter cuts one green man entirely in half. During a lull in the fighting, John Carter notices that the man is not red, but white with yellow hair. They dispatch all of the green men but one, and the white man calls for help. A hundred warriors run to their aid, but John Carter mounts a thoat and pursues the green warrior.
Carter subdues the vicious thoat with the flat of his broadsword, then drives it (by telepathic commands) rapidly toward the escaping green man. He quickly gives the coup de grace (with the aid of his thoat who closed intelligently and attacked the green man’s mount). He returns to the 100 white men, who make him a prisoner, despite the protests of Pan Dan Chee, the man he helped save. Carter is to be delivered to Ho Ran Kim, the Jeddak of Horz, for judgment and eventual destruction. No one from the outside is allowed to enter Horz and live. Even Lan Sohn Wen, the commander of the utan cannot help him, but he does take him to Horz, even though no stranger has ever entered the city (a walled citadel).
The Jeddak of Horz explains that they are the remnants of the once dominant race of Barsoom, the Orovars. He gives Carter a history lesson, explaining why they kill all strangers, then sends him (and Pan Dan Chee) to the pits of Horz. The execution of them both is planned for the next day.
Since the pits haven’t been used for thousands of years, no one has a key to lock the rusty gates. They post two guards, then wish them good night -- they are as courteous and considerate a people as the green men are vicious. Carter and Pan Dan Chee are attacked by a giant ulsio (rat), which Pan kills because he still has a short sword in his possession. They find chests filled with jewels and a large chest containing an ancient warrior in a state of perfect preservation. He was presumably embalmed by Lee Um Lo, the ancient artist of embalmers. John Carter takes his swords, and they see a flicker of light, and laughter comes from down a black corridor.
They go in search of the source of light and laughter but find no one, so they sit down to play a game of jetan using John Carter’s pocket set. The pieces are exact likeness of his family. Pan Dan Chee falls in love with the Llana of Gathol piece. (The eternal torches of Horz are explained.) John Carter will not return to die, so loyal Pan decided he must fight him to the death.
Neither has the desire to kill the other, so they only duel halfheartedly. Carter hits on the idea to tip up Pan near the entrance (to save his honor)while he escapes alone. The sentence of death must be carried out in 24 hours or it becomes null and void. Despite all this conjecture -- they are lost in the winding corridors of the pits and cannot bet back to the entrance. The light and laughter come again.
They put their torches out in hope they might catch the laugher. They find an old madman who loves on ulsios and a dead man called Ro Tan Bim. He notices that Carter is carrying the swords of Hor Kai Lan. The old man tires to hypnotize them, but Carter struggles against his powers...
John Carter kills the old man and Pan Dan Chee wakes up, as do all of the ancient dead who come out of their chests (coffins). Carter explains the hypnotic spells of Lum Tar O -- that they have all been asleep for thousands of years. Suddenly a girl from one of the chests recognizes John Carter!
It is Llana of Gathol! Pan Dan Chee lays his sword at her feet, and she returns it to him hilt first -- a good sign for him! Llana explains how she came to the pits of Horz. (Her father, Gahan of Gathol, was visited by Hin Abtol, the Panar, Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North, who arrived in an ancient ship. He was a pompous braggart who managed to abduct her and steal her more modern ship.)
Llana jams the buoyancy tanks of her ship. (While Llana is telling her story, Kam Han Tor is leading them out of the pits.) They land in Horz, and Green Men chase the Panars back to the ship, leaving Llana behind.
(Her story continues: Llana enters the pits and seeing Lum Tar O, hides in a chest.) Finally they reach the ancient sea front of Horz, and the ancient dead are astounded -- “like losing the Pacific Ocean.” “Our very world is gone.” Then all the old ones crumble into dust. Pan decides to join Carter upon Llana’s wishes.
They discover that John Carter’s flyer has been taken by Hin Abtol. (Carter gives them his brief biography.) The three (Carter, Llana, and Pan Dan Chee) decide to walk 1500 miles to Gathol. Pan wants to call Llana “my princess,” but she says he has to fight for her first. A banth comes, and they all fight it, but it’s not good enough for Llana. She wants Pan to fight a man for her, not a lion. Carter comments, “Well, I never did understand women.”
The Black Pirates of Barsoom
The little party travels by foot toward Gathol. After thirty-seven days they see an approaching caravan of green men and try to hide, but their escape is blocked by a huge rift valley, near which are many human skeletons. Almost the entire caravan passes by, but eventually they are spotted.
Llana finds a path down the side of the ravine, and Pan Dan Chee and Llana escape down this path while John Carter lures away the attacking warriors. They eventually descend into the valley below.
Continuing the descent, they fail to figure out how the skeletons ended up where they are. Trees and a beautiful city can be seen in the valley. They decide not to approach the city, but entering the valley they stop for the night by a river. They gather nuts and catch fish, and Pan Dan Chee hunts down a thoat from a nearby herd.
Next day they are captured by two hundred black men on thoats and taken to the city, Kamtol. Their captors are of the same race as the dator Xodar; the First Born. In the city are many black men and some red slaves. Separated from the others, John Carter is strapped to a machine and asked many questions. Sometimes he is tortured, sometimes treated with kindness. Finally a great banth charges toward him, but is stopped at the last moment by a chain. The officer in charge then tells him that the examination is over.
John Carter is chained together with the other two and a red man by the name Jad-han, who turns out to be the brother of Janai [from A Fighting Man of Mars]. Jad-han tells them that they will be slaves and the machine which examined them has recorded their individual nerve indexes. If they try to leave this will be used to kill them at long range using a master machine which has the nerve indexes of all citizens of Kamtol recorded. The tyrant Doxus uses this machine to keep all citizens under his control. Jad-han also says that if destroyed the machine can never be replaced since the inventor is dead and the current maintainer, Myr-lo, could never repair it.
The next day Llana is sold to a noble and John Carter to a dator (noble) named Xaxak. John Carter says that he is the panthan (soldier of fortune) Dotar Sojat. John Carter's skill with the sword is tested against a soldier named Ptang. Carter wins easily and Ptang is impressed with his incredible skill. Xaxak decides to enter "Dotar Sojat" in the Lesser Games, thinking that he can win money on the fights.
John Carter and Ptang become friends. John Carter offers to fight with some soldiers that ridiculed Ptang because he was beaten by a slave. Xaxak agrees to this and Carter fights a man named Ban-tor. Carter wins easily and Ban-tor is furious over the disgrace. The Lesser Games are described and compared with a minor race meet. There is boxing, wrestling and duels. Nativity politics and population (200,000) of Kamtol are explained by Ptang. Dator Nastor comes to call on Xaxak and bets 100,000 tanpi (one tanpi equals one dollar) at 2:1 that his champion can kill John Carter, who pretends to be lousy, at the Lesser Games.
As the day of the games draws nearer, interest in the duel increases. The name of John Carter's opponent is Nolat. On the night before the event, John Carter awakens to discover an armed man leaving his room. Then it is time for the fight. Not only Nastor, Xaxak and the jeddak Doxus are present at the stadium, but also Llana, who is there with Nastor. The fight begins after Nolat has refused to salute his opponent. John Carter easily disgraces Nolat, who even though he now knows he will be defeated refuses an offer to give up. After having disarmed his opponent three times, John Carter calls upon a rule that says that he may be awarded the victory without a fight if cheating can be proven. It turns out that John Carter's sword has been exchanged for a shorter one during the night. The sword is recognized as belonging to Ban-tor.
John Carter is awarded victory and Nastor is forced to pay the 100,000 tanpi. Ban-tor is found guilty of exchanging the swords and is immediately sentenced to fight John Carter. Carter does not kill him, but puts a mark on his forehead. The jeddak decides to buy John Carter at a ridiculously low price, so Xaxak answers by giving him away. Later, Doxus asks John Carter to teach him some tricks with the sword. Practice begins in a secret apartment.
Practicing with Doxus, Myr-lo enters from a nearby room. John Carter spots a machine through the door. John Carter is given the freedom of the city and, after having discussed Myr-lo with the under-officer Man-lat, uses his freedom to gain access to the city hangars. There he is told that some Black Pirates from the Valley Dor have arrived. There is considerable risk that these will recognize him.
John Carter enters a shop to buy something for his escape. The concept of Barsoomian money is explained: One tanpi (gold coin) equals ten teepi (silver coin) which in turn equals ten pi (bronze coin). He then meets Pan Dan Chee who, together with Jad-han, was bought by Nastor. Pan Dan Chee says that Llana, who was bought by Nastor's principal wife Van-tija, has been fine so far but is in great danger since Nastor wants to take her away from his wife. He points out the tower where Llana is held captive. John Carter tells him to be ready together with Jad-han at midnight. He starts to tell his plan for escape, but is interrupted by a guard. The guard has had John Carter described to him by visitors from the Valley Dor and asks John Carter if that is his name, but Carter denies this.
When John Carter returns to the palace he is visited by Man-lat who tells him that there will be feasting that night and visitors from the Valley Dor will be there, along with Nastor and a beautiful slave. Man-lat also tells the First Born's story of creation [almost verbatim repeated from The Gods of Mars, chapter 7]. As John Carter is almost ready to spring his plan for escape he is summoned to the banquet and there he is ordered to fight dator Zithad from the Valley Dor for first blood. Zithad recognizes John Carter, but just as he is about to reveal his true identity, John Carter kills him. He escapes and goes to the secret apartment where Myr-lo is.
John Carter kills Myr-lo and destroys the machine that prevents escape. He then covers his skin with black skin cream that he purchased earlier. Disguised as a black noble he goes to the hangars and steals a flier. Hovering outside Llana's window he hears arguing voices and enters. Nastor is trying to force himself upon Llana and John Carter kills him with some help from Llana. The flier has drifted from the window, but John Carter jumps onto it and they both escape. They pick up Pan Dan Chee and Jad-han on their way and speed away from the city. Pan Dan Chee declares that he lays his heart at Llana's feet, at which Llana replies "You may pick it up, I am tired and wish to sleep."
Escape On Mars
After musing on Martian nights and the history of Gathol, the intrepid foursome arrive above the city, only to be fired upon by a strange ship. John Carter shoots it down, but their own buoyancy tanks have been damaged.
They set down just past some mysterious camp fires, and John Carter goes off into the forest in search of food. He is captured by red warriors from Gathol who think he is a Black Pirate because he has forgotten that his entire body is painted black. They want to take him to Gan Hor, so they gallop their thoats around him and rope him like a thoat. They drag him at full speed for a half a mile, and most of the black rubs off in the moss. Carter is mad, so he slaps Kor-an, which results in a sword fight. Carter carves him up, but does not kill the man.
They go to the herdsmen’s camp. These men are the warriors of Gathol, and their dwar is Gan Hor. Carter explains that he is the father of Tara of Helium, the princess of the Jeddak of Gathol. Gan Hor relates that they are under siege by Hin Abtol, the bragging Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North. Some time ago he came with thousands of men who flew into the city with equilibrimotors (individual flying belts). All of these men were killed or captured, but now he awaits reinforcements in his circle around the city. The padwar who has gone to fetch Llana, Pan Dan Chee, and Jad-han returns without them because they could not be found -- just some blood on the ground where they had been.
John Carter paints himself red and sneaks into the Panar lines like an Apache. He knifes a guard and dresses in his harness and weapons. In disguise, Carter gets into a conversation with a lone warrior who explains that he has been frozen for 50 years -- he’s just been thawed out for this campaign. Carter introduces himself as Dotar Sojat to this Em-tar from Kobol. He learns that Hin Abtol is planning to send Llana back to Pankor, so he heads for the landing field.
Carter applies as a flier to Odwar Phor San, who is drunk. He easily gets appointed as dwar of the ship Dusar, which he discovers is out of commission because it won’t fly.
The Dusar has but a crew of one, Fo-nar. The ship is well-supplied with provisions and weapons, but the engine does not work. Carter finds that it is clogged with dirt and fixes it in a day. Now he has a ship of war but needs a crew to man the guns. He learns that Fo-nar is from Jahar without any loyalty to Hin Abtol. Carter has a one-man crew.
Carter reads Fo-nar’s mind, so he knows he is no friend of the Panars, actually he is a dwar in his own right on Jahar but has been captured for 20 years. He sends Fo-nar out to pick a crew of 15 to 25 men. This is quickly accomplished, including the addition of Tan Hadron of Hastor, one of Carter’s finest fliers from Helium. Carter reveals his identity to Tan Hadron, happy to know he has such a man as one of his lieutenants.
Phor San storms aboard the Dusar, asking who gave permission to re-man this ship. Before his guards can put them under arrest, Carter flies off with an amazed Phor San, who thinks the Dusar could not fly. He shouts to the ground for his flagship, the Okar, to pursue. Carter gives order to bomb the ships on the ground, hitting the Okar first, and crippling many of them. Next he questions his crew of 23 men: eleven panthans and twelve assassins - a tough lot. He tells them they are flying to Pankor to rescue Llana. One man, Gan-ho, refuses to go back to Pankor, so Carter carves him up with his sword as an example. Gan-ho decides to jump to his death rather than be killed by Carter’s sword. No one else questions Carter’s authority.
Phor San gets drunk and tries to take over the ship but is taken below. Still pursued by a couple of ships, they bomb one in a tricky maneuver and the other runs away. Carter takes 5 survivors aboard the Dusar, and they agree to join his crew against Hin Abtol. A warrior reports that Phor San and his companion have “fallen” through a bomb door to their deaths.
One of the survivors taken aboard by Carter is Gor-don, a Panar padwar, who is not above suspicion. Nearing the North Polar region, everyone dresses in furs: the white fur of Apts for the warriors, and the black and yellow striped fur of orluks for the three officers. At night, Carter prevents two men (assassins) from throwing Gor-don overboard. He orders Tan Hadron to clap the two into irons and has a talk with Gor-don. He discovers that a mutiny is planned because the men are afraid to go to Pankor and be frozen there again. There are 4 men (Carter, Tan Hadron, Fo-nar, and now Gor-don) against the entire crew, however, the officers are quickly captured and bound. Carter and Gor-don are marooned upon the Arctic waste and the Dusar flies off with Tan Hadron and Fo-nar as prisoners.
Carter and Gor-don are only a few miles from Pankor, so they head in that direction. Carter is to pretend to be Gor-don’s slave. Suddenly, they are attacked by a terrible apt, a carnivorous monster with a thousand ocelli in each eye. Carter saves Gor-don again. They enter Pankor, a domed city where a springlike atmosphere prevailed. Carter is assigned as Gor-don’s personal bodyguard, so they can go everywhere together. He is also allowed to go to the marketplace (a source of information) to listen for news of Llana.
At the marketplace, Carter is chosen to go to the outskirts of the city where he sees thousands of frozen human corpses hanging by their feet. He thinks they are food for the citizens of Pankar, but they are merely slaves waiting to be thawed out when needed. Carter performs amazing feats of strength, lifting an entire ersite table over his head. When Hin Abtol hears about it, he takes him into his palace as a royal slave -- just the thing for Carter to get closer to Llana.
Carter notices his ship in the palace grounds. (Hin Abtol had stolen it from him in Horz.) While waiting to see the Jeddak, a warrior, Ul-to, insults him and a fight almost ensues. Hin Abtol pits Carter against Rab-zov, the strongest man on Barsoom. Carter throws him easily, then notices that Llana is sitting with the Jeddak. Next, Carter swordfights, Ul-to, and manages to tell Llana that when he kills him, she should run and start up his flier. They crash through the glass dome into freedom.
Invisible Men of Mars
Carter and Llana of Gathol fly toward her home. They talk about everything that has happened and decide the best course would be to fly directly to Helium and bring the great fleet to bear against Hin Abtol’s forces. Having to fly half way around the planet, they land in the rarest of Barsoomian forests for provisions.
Carter gathers fruits and nuts, but hearing Llana’s scream he runs back to the ship. He leaps into the air, trying to get onboard as it is taking off, and he sees absolutely no one driving the ship. A voice without a presence talks to him, telling him he is the prisoner of Pnoxus, son of Ptantus, jeddak of Invak. Invisible men tie him up and take him to Invak, where Llana has already been taken according to Pnoxus, who has taken a fancy to her. The invisible men cannot see each other and keep bumping into one another. Carter has to take the arm of a man while going through the dangerous “Forest of Lost Men,” and his hand disappears. His friendly guide is named Kandus.
At Invak, the warriors materialize (become visible) the moment they enter the city gates. There are special lamps in the city which makes them visible to each other. The entire city is covered in vines which grow from trees in many central courtyards. Carter is chained by an ankle in one of the large courtyards. He is kicked in the groin by the invisible Motus, but manages to knock him out. The girl , Rojas, accompanying Motus leaves the bully unconscious in the street.
Carter meets another red man chained to the tree next to him. It is Ptor Fak from Zodanga, one of the three Ptor brothers who had befriended him long ago when he was searching for Dejah Thoris in Zodanga. An invisible man overhears him confessing he is not really Dotar Sojat, so he tells the man his real name is the Sultan of Swat. Ptor Fak explains Invak name endings and the source of Invak invisibility to Carter. They take a large pill every day. It lasts but a day and takes an hour before it takes effect. The Invaks have a rival twin city called Onvak which they fight quite ineffectively since both sides are invisible. Carter is taken before Ptantus, Jeddak of Invak.
Ptantus wants to see Carter jump, so he easily hops to a 15 foot ceiling and back again. Carter learns that Llana is being held in the quarters of the female slaves and that Ptantus and Pnoxus are arguing over her. He gets a piece of wire from his friend Kandus “to make little shapes and figures for his amusement.”
Invisible Rojas throws herself at Carter, declares her love for him, and they kiss. He asks her to make him invisible so they can fly away together in his ship. She is angry when he tells her he wants to take Ptor Fak and Llana along. She thinks Llana is a rival for her affections.
Carter quotes William Congreve (1670-1729) from The Mourning Bride “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” He manages to pick the locks of their chains with the wire, but is immediately found out and locked up again by an invisible warrior. Kandus tells them that Llana has been given to Motus, and Carter suspects that it was the jealous Rojas’s doing. He asks Kandus to explain to Rojas that Llana is his granddaughter. He also tries to arrange a duel with Motus through the aid of a bribe of Ptor Fak’s jeweled medallion.
Rojas comes to apologize. She fears for Carter’s life at the hands of Motus, but Ptor Fak tells her “We have the princess,” an expression from jetan, meaning “It is in the bag.” Rojas gives them invisibility spheres, which they swallow, and Carter is taken away to the duel with Motus.
In the throne room, Carter manages to have Rojas go to Llana with an invisibility pill and the message to wait outside the slave quarters a little after midnight.
Carter plays with Motus for a half hour while he becomes invisible. He tells him he will die at precisely eleven xats past the 8th zode. It is an interesting swordfight in which Motus even kills the referee. Finally Carter cuts off his ear and tries to carve his initials on his chest but Motus already looks like a plate of raw hamburger. At the last second, or tal, which is eight tenths of a second, Motus runs away, but Carter throws his sword into his body at exactly 11 xats past the 8th zode.
Carter makes a break for freedom while still visible to throw them off the track. He wants them to look for a visible man. He immediately turns invisible, and it is nearly midnight, the time the escape is planned. (ERB explains Martian time in detail.) Returning to Ptor Fak, Carter has to kill a warrior who has stumbled into him, then when Rojas arrives and gives the whistle signal, their escape route over the roofs is betrayed. Not knowing that Carter is invisible the warriors search for him another way, and Rojas leads him to Llana. Carter has already sent Ptor Fak to the ship.
Carter jumps into the courtyard for Llana and quickly finds her with a whistle. He throws her to the roof. They reach the ship and fly away. Carter finally tells her that he is not Dotar Sojat, nor the Sultan of Swat, and already has a wife. Rojas gives a faint, tinkling, little laugh.
At Helium and visible at last, Rojas kisses Dejah Thoris on the mouth. She confesses that she never loved John Carter but was pretending just to get out of Invak where she was unhappy. Carter takes an invisibility sphere and flies a ship to Gathol. He lands in the Panar line and announces that “this ship is piloted by Death.” He goes into the command ship of the Panars and learns that Hin Abtol will arrive with a large fleet on the morrow. When Hin Abtol arrives, Carter easily kidnaps him, and when the fleet from Helium arrives, they quickly destroy the enemy fleet and lift the siege of Gathol. The war over, Carter returns to Panar and frees nearly a million frozen men. He also brings back Pan Dan Chee, who finally wins the hand of Llana of Gathol. The final fate of Hin Abtol himself is not told.