'A Princess of Mars' by Edgar Rice Burroughs
I am a very old man. How old I do not know. It is possible I am a hundred, maybe more. I cannot tell because I have never aged as other men do.
So far as I can remember, I have always been a man of about thirty. I appear today as I did forty years ago. Yet, I feel that I cannot go on living forever. Someday I will die the real death from which there is no escape. I do not know why I should fear death. I who have died two times and am still alive.
I have never told this story. I know the human mind will not believe what it cannot understand. I cannot explain what happened to me. I can only tell of the ten years my dead body lay undiscovered in an Arizona cave.
My name is John Carter. I am from the state of Virginia. At the close of the Civil War I found myself without a home, without money and without work.
I decided the best plan was to search for gold in the great deserts of the American Southwest.
I spent almost a year searching for gold with another former soldier, Captain James Powell, also of Virginia. We were extremely lucky. In the winter of eighteen sixty-five we found rocks that held gold.
Powell was trained as a mining engineer. He said we had uncovered over a million dollars worth of gold in only three months. But the work was slow with only two men and not much equipment. So we decided Powell should go to the nearest settlement to seek equipment and men to help us with the work. On March third, eighteen sixty-six, Powell said good-bye. He rode his horse down the mountain toward the valley. I followed his progress for several hours.
The morning Powell left was like all mornings in the deserts of the great Southwest -- clear and beautiful.
Not much later I looked across the valley. I was surprised to see three riders in the same place where I had last seen my friend. After watching for some time, I decided the three riders must be hostile Indians.
Powell, I knew, was well armed and an experienced soldier. But I knew he would need my aid. I found my weapons, placed a saddle on my horse and started as fast as possible down the trail taken by Powell.
I followed as quickly as I could until dark. About nine o'clock the moon became very bright. I had no difficulty following Powell's trail. I soon found the trail left by the three riders following Powell. I knew they were Indians. I was sure they wanted to capture Powell.
Suddenly I heard shots far ahead of me. I hurried ahead as fast as I could. Soon I came to a small camp. Several hundred Apache Indians were in the center of the camp. I could see Powell on the ground. I did not even think about what to do, I just acted. I pulled out my guns and began shooting.
The Apaches were surprised and fled. I forced my horse into the camp and toward Powell. I reached down and pulled him up on the horse by his belt. I urged the horse to greater speed. The Apaches by now realized that I was alone and quickly began to follow. We were soon in very rough country.
The trail I chose began to rise sharply. It went up and up. I followed the trail for several hundred meters more until I came to the mouth of a large cave.
It was almost morning now. I got off my horse and laid Powell on the ground. I tried to give him water. But it was no use. Powell was dead. I laid his body down and continued to the cave.
I began to explore the cave. I was looking for a safe place to defend myself, or perhaps for a way out. But I became very sleepy. It was a pleasant feeling. My body became extremely heavy. I had trouble moving. Soon I had to lay down against the side of the cave. For some reason I could not move my arms or legs.
I lay facing the opening of the cave. I could see part of the trail that had led me here. And now I could see the Apaches. They had found me. But I could do nothing.
Within a minute one of them came into the cave. He looked at me, but he came no closer. His eyes grew wide. His mouth opened. He had a look of terror on his face. He looked behind me for moment and then fled.
Suddenly I heard a low noise behind me.
So could the rest of the Apaches. They all turned and fled. The sound became louder. But still I could not move. I could not turn my head to see what was behind me. All day I lay like this. I tried again to rise, and again, but still I could not move. Then I heard a sharp sound. It was like a steel wire breaking. I quickly stood up. My back was against the cave wall.
I looked down. There before me lay my body.
For a few moments, I stood looking at my body. I could not bring myself to touch it. I was very frightened. The sounds of the cave and the sight of my body forced me away. I slowly backed to the opening of the cave.
I turned to look at the Arizona night. I could see a thousand stars. As I stood there I turned my eyes to a large red star. I could not stop looking at it. It was Mars…the red planet…the red god of war. It seemed to pull me near.
Then, for a moment, I closed my eyes. There was an instant of extreme cold and total darkness. Suddenly I was in deep, dreamless, peaceful sleep.
I opened my eyes upon a very strange land. I immediately knew then I was on Mars. Not once did I question this fact. My mind told me I was on Mars as your mind tells you that you are upon Earth. You do not question the fact, nor did I.
I found myself lying on a bed of yellow colored grass that covered the land for kilometers. The time was near the middle of the day and the sun was shining full upon me. It was warm.
I decided to do a little exploring. Springing to my feet, I received my first Martian surprise. The effort to stand carried me into the Martian air to the height of about one meter. I landed softly upon the ground, however, without incident.
I found that I must learn to walk all over again. My muscles were used to the gravity of Earth. Mars has less gravity. My attempts to walk resulted in jumps and hops, which took me into the air. I once landed on my face. I soon learned that it took much less effort for me to move on Mars than it did on Earth.
Near me was a small, low wall. Carefully, I made my way to the wall and looked over. It was filled with eggs, some already broken open. Small, green creatures were in them. They looked at me with huge red eyes.
As I watched the fierce-looking creatures, I failed to hear twenty full-grown Martians coming from behind me. They had come without warning. As I turned, I saw them. One was coming at me with a huge spear, with its sharp tip pointed at my heart!
The creature with the spear was huge. There were many other similar creatures. They had ridden behind me on the backs of large animals. Each of them carried a collection of strange-looking weapons.
The one with the large spear got down from the back of his animal and began walking toward me. He was almost five meters tall and a dark green color. Huge teeth stuck out of his face, and his expression showed much hate and violence.
I immediately knew I was facing a terrible warrior. He began moving quickly toward me with the spear. I was completely unarmed. I could not fight. My only chance was to escape.
I used all my strength to jump away from him. I was able to jump almost thirty meters. The green Martian stopped and watched my effort. I would learn later that the look on his face showed complete surprise.
The creatures gathered and talked among themselves. While they talked, I thought about running away. However, I noticed several of them carried devices that looked very much like rifles. I could not run.
Soon, all but one of the creatures moved away. The one who had threatened me stayed. He slowly took off a metal band from his arm and held it out to me. He spoke in a strange language.
JOHN CARTER: Slowly, he laid down his weapons. I thought this would have been a sign of peace anywhere on Earth…why not on Mars, too? I walked toward him and in a normal voice announced my name and said I had come in peace. I knew he did not understand, but like me, he took it to mean that I meant no harm.
Slowly, we came together. He gave me the large metal band that had been around his arm. He turned and made signs with his hands that I should follow him. Soon we arrived at the large animal he had been riding.
He again made a sign with his hands that I should ride on the same animal behind him. The group turned and began riding across the land. We moved quickly toward mountains in the distance.
JOHN CARTER: The large animals we rode moved quickly across the land. I could tell from the surrounding mountains that we were on the bottom of a long dead sea.
In time we came to a huge city. At first I thought the city was empty. The buildings all were empty and in poor repair. But soon I saw hundreds of the green warriors. I also saw green women and children. I soon learned about many cities like this. The cities were built hundreds of years ago by a people that no longer existed. The green Martians used the cities. They moved from one empty city to another, never stopping for more than a day or two.
We got down from our animals and walked into a large building. We entered a room that was filled with fierce green warriors.
It was not difficult to tell that these were the leaders of the green Martians. One of them took hold of my arm. He shook me and lifted me off the ground. He laughed when he did so. I was to learn that green Martians only laugh at the pain or suffering of others.
This huge warrior threw me to the ground and then took hold of my arm again to pick me up. I did the only thing I could do. I hit him with my closed fist as hard as I could.
The green warrior fell to the floor and did not move. The others in the room grew silent. I had knocked down one of their warriors with only my hand.
I moved away from him and prepared to defend myself as best I could. But they did not move. The green Martian that had captured me walked toward me. He said in a clear voice:
TARS TARKAS: "TARS TARKAS -- TARS TARKAS."
JOHN CARTER: As he spoke, he pointed to his own chest. He was telling me his name! I pointed to my chest and said my name, "John Carter."
He turned and said the word, "Sola." Immediately, a green Martian woman came close. He spoke to her. She led me to another building and into a large room.
The room was filled with equipment carried by the green Martians. She prepared something for me to eat. I was very hungry.
I pointed to her and said the word "Sola." She pointed at me and said my name. It was a beginning. Sola was my guard.
She also became my teacher. In time she would become a close and valued friend. As I ate my meal, my lessons in the language of the green Martians continued.
JOHN CARTER: Two days later, Tars Tarkas came to my room. He carried the weapons and the metal armbands the green warriors wear. He put them on the ground near my feet. Sola told him I now understood some of their language. He turned to me and spoke slowly.
TARS TARKAS: The warrior you hit is dead. His weapons and the metal of his rank are yours, John Carter. He was a leader of one small group among our people. Because you have killed him, you now are a leader.
You are still a captive and not free to leave. However you will be treated with the respect you have earned. You are now a warrior among our people.
JOHN CARTER: Tars Tarkas turned and spoke softly. From beyond the door a strange creature entered the room. It was bigger than a large dog and very ugly. It had rows of long teeth and ten very short legs. Tars Tarkas spoke to the creature and pointed at me. He left. The creature looked at me, watching closely. Then Sola spoke about the creature.
SOLA: His name is Woola. The men of our tribe use them in hunting and war. He has been told to guard and protect you. He has also been told to prevent your escape. There is no faster creature in our world. And in a fight they can kill very quickly. Do not try to escape, John Carter. Woola will tear you to small pieces.
JOHN CARTER: I continued to watch the creature named Woola. I had already seen how the green Martians treated other animals. They were very cruel.
I thought, perhaps this beast can be taught to be my friend…much like a dog on Earth. I walked close to the creature and began speaking in much the same way I would speak to a dog or other animal on Earth.
I sat down next to him while I talked softly. At first he seemed confused. I believe the creature Woola had never heard a kind word.
For the next several days I gained the trust and friendship of Woola. In a few short days Woola was my friend and fierce protector. He would remain my loyal friend as long as I was on Mars.
JOHN CARTER: Several days later, Sola came to me with a look of great concern.
SOLA: John Carter…come with me. A great battle is about to take place. An enemy is coming near this city. We must prepare to fight and we must be ready to flee.
JOHN CARTER: Sola, what enemy is this?
SOLA: A race of red men who travel our world in flying machines. A great number of their machines have come over the far mountain. Take your weapons with you and hurry.
JOHN CARTER: I collected my sword and a spear. I hurried out of the building and joined a group of warriors moving toward the end of the city. Far in the distance I could see the air ships.
They were firing large guns at the green warriors. I heard huge explosions. The green warriors were firing back with their deadly rifles. The air was filled with the sound of violent battle.
Suddenly a huge air ship exploded. It came down, crashing near me. Red Martians were falling from the side of the huge ship. And then it exploded again.
Another of the large air ships exploded high in the air. Members of the crew fell to the ground. The huge ship lost control and began turning again and again.
Soon it was close to the ground. The warriors climbed aboard the ship and began fighting the members of the crew who were still alive. Soon the fighting stopped. The warriors began taking everything from the ship.
At last, they brought a captive from deep within the ship. Two of the warriors had their captive by each arm. I wanted to see what new and strange form of life this creature would be.
As they came near, I saw that it was a woman. She looked like a woman from Earth. She was young. Her skin was a light red, almost a copper color.
I saw at once that she was extremely beautiful. She had a fine face with large dark eyes and long, black hair. As her guards led her away, she saw me for a moment. She seemed very surprised. Her face looked hopeful. But when I made no attempt to speak to her, her face grew sad and she looked very small and frightened. As I watched her disappear into a building, I realized that Sola was near me.
SOLA: John Carter, that woman will be saved for the great games that are held by our people. The games are long and cruel and end in death for those captured in battle. Her death will be slow and painful. She will die for the enjoyment of all.
JOHN CARTER: Sola's face seemed sad when she said this. I could tell by the way she spoke that she did not like the games and did not want to see the young woman die. She was very different from the rest of her people.
Sola, do you not like the games?
SOLA: No, John Carter. My mother died in the games. That is a secret you must not tell anyone. The wall where Tars Tarkas found you held eggs that produce our young. All the children belong to the tribe. A mother never knows which child is hers when they come out of the egg.
My mother hid the egg that carried me. It was not placed within the walled area. She kept her secret until after I was born. But others discovered her secret and she was condemned to die in the games. She hid me among other children before she was captured. If this secret were learned, I too would die in the games.
Before she left me, my mother told me the name of my father. I alone keep that secret. It would mean death for him as well as me. My people are violent and cruel.
JOHN CARTER: The next day I entered the great room where the green Martians held meetings. The red woman prisoner was there too. Soon, the leader of the green Martians came into the room. His name was Lorquas Ptomel. He began speaking to the prisoner.
LORQUAS PTOMEL: Who are you and what is your name?
DEJAH THORIS: I am the Princess Dejah Thoris, daughter of Mors Kajak, the ruler of Helium. Our air ship was on a scientific flight. We were to study the air and atmosphere. Without our work the air on our planet would grow thin and we would all die. Why would you attack us?
JOHN CARTER: As she talked, a warrior ran to her and hit her in the face, knocking her to the ground. He placed a foot on her small body and began laughing.
I reached for the small sword I carried and rushed to attack the huge warrior.
JOHN CARTER: He was a strong opponent. But again, because of the low gravity on Mars, my strength was far greater than his. In a few short minutes, the green warrior was dead. I helped the young woman to her feet.
DEJAH THORIS: Who are you? Why did you risk your life to help me? You look almost the same as my people, but you wear the weapons of a green warrior. Who… or what.. are you?
JOHN CARTER: My name is John Carter. I am from the planet Earth. How I got here is a long story. I attacked that warrior because, where I come from, men do not attack women. I will offer you my protection as long as I can. However, I must tell you that I, too, am a captive.
SOLA: Come, John Carter, and bring the red woman with you. Let us leave this room quickly before some warrior attempts to stops us.
JOHN CARTER: The three of us quickly returned to the building where I had spent the last several days. Sola then left to prepare food. Woola sat in the corner and looked at the both of us. The young woman was afraid of poor, ugly Woola.
I told her not to fear him. You must tell no one, but Woola is not only my guard. He is my friend. I have treated him with kindness that he has never known. As each day passes, he trusts me more. I now think he would follow any command I give.
Sola has told me that all captives are held until they can die in the great games held by the green Martians. Our only chance to survive is to escape. But we must have Sola's help for our plan to succeed.
DEJAH THORIS: Yes. If we stay with the green warriors, we will both die. If we are to escape, we will need several of the animals to ride. It would be our only chance.
JOHN CARTER: I have several of the animals. They were given to me when I became a warrior.
Sola came back later with food for the two of us. Dejah Thoris and I asked for her help. The three of us talked long into the night. At last Sola gave us her answer.
SOLA: Your best chance for escape will be in the next two days. We will leave this city tomorrow and begin a long trip to the home of our tribe. I will help you escape. But I must come with you. I will be killed if you escape.
DEJAH THORIS: Sola, of course you must come with us! You are not cruel or violent as many of your people are. Help us and I can promise you a much better life. You will be treated with respect as an honored guest.
JOHN CARTER: The next morning we rode away from the city on our animals. More than a thousand animals were carrying the huge tribe of green Martians. Also in the group were one American, one Princess of the Royal House of Helium, our guard, Sola, and poor ugly Woola.
Late that night we left the camp. One animal carried me. Another Sola and Princess Dejah Thoris. Woola followed close behind.
We rode quickly through the Martian night. I looked into the sky and saw Earth across the great distance of space. Since I had met the Princess Dejah Thoris, I had not thought once of Earth or home. I knew then that I would never willingly leave her.
The next morning, I could see that we were being followed by several hundred of the green warriors. Our animals were very tired. I knew we must stop.
I told Sola and the Princess to take the stronger of the two animals and ride away. I will hold back the green warriors as long as I can. Woola! Go with them and guard them with your life.
DEJAH THORIS: We can't leave you alone. It would be certain death if you are captured again. You must come with us!
JOHN CARTER: Sola took the princess by the arm and lifted her on top of the animal she had chosen. Quickly she began riding away. For a moment, Woola looked at me, then turned and ran after them.
I took out my rifle from its case. I began firing to slow the green warriors.
I was able to slow them for more than an hour. But then I had no more ammunition. Soon I was surrounded. A green warrior got off his animal and came toward me. He pulled out his long, thin sword. I reached for mine. As we neared each other I saw it was Tars Tarkas. He stopped and spoke to me very slowly.
TARS TARKAS: You will die here… today… John Carter. It is I who must kill you. Know that I will take no pleasure in your death.
The huge green warrior Tars Tarkas came slowly toward me with his thin sword. I backed away. I did not want to fight him. I did not wish his death. He had been as kind to me as a green Martian can be.
As I stood watching him, a rifle fired in the distance, then another and another. Tars Tarkas and his warriors were under attack from another tribe of green warriors.
Within seconds, a terrible battle raged. As I watched, three of the attackers fell on Tars Tarkas. He killed one and was fighting with the other two when he slipped and fell.
I ran to his aid, swinging my sword. He was on his feet. Shoulder-to-shoulder, we fought against the attackers. They finally withdrew after an hour of fierce fighting.
John Carter, I think I understand the meaning of the word "friend." You saved my life when I was about to take yours. From this day, you are no longer a captive among our people, but a leader and great warrior among us.
There was a smile on his face. Once again, he took off a metal band from his arm and gave it to me.
I have a question for you John Carter. I understand why you took the red woman with you. But why did Sola leave her people and go with you?
She did not want to see me or the Princess harmed. She does not like the great games held by your people where captives are led to die. She knows if she is caught, she too will die in the games. She told me she hates the games because her mother died there.
What? How could she know her mother?
She told me her mother was killed in the games because she had hidden the egg that produced her. Her mother hid Sola among other children before she was captured. Sola said she was a kind woman, not like others of your tribe.
Tars Tarkas grew angry as I was speaking. But I could see past his anger. I could see pain in his eyes. I immediately knew Sola's great secret.
I have a question for you, Tars Tarkas. Did you know Sola's mother?
Yes… and if I could have, I would have prevented her death. I know this story to be true. I have always known the woman who died in those games had a child. I never knew the child. I do now. Sola is also my child.
For three days, we followed the trail left by the Princess Dejah Thoris, Sola and poor ugly Woola. At last, we could see them in the distance. Their animal could no longer be ridden. They were talking. When we came near, Woola turned to fight us. I slowly walked to him with my hand out.
Sola was standing nearby. She was armed and prepared to fight. The princess was lying next to her feet.
Sola, what is wrong with the princess?
She has been crying much these past few days, John Carter. We believed you died so we could escape. The thought of your death was very heavy on this woman…my friend Dejah Thoris. Come and tell her you are among the living. Perhaps that will stop her crying.
I walked to where the Princess Dejah Thoris was lying on the ground. She looked at me with eyes that were red from crying.
Princess, you are no longer in danger. Tars Tarkas has come with me as a friend. He and his warriors will help to see you safely home.
And..Sola! I would have you greet your father -- Tars Tarkas -- a great leader among your people. Your secret no longer means death to anyone. He already knows you are his daughter. The two of you have nothing to fear.
Sola turned and looked at Tars Tarkas. She held out her hand. He took it. It was a new beginning for them.
I know our world has never before seen anyone like you, John Carter. Can it be that all Earthmen are like you? I was alone, a stranger, hunted, threatened. Yet you would freely give your life to save me.
You come to me now with a tribe of green warriors who offer their friendship. You are no longer a captive but wear the metal of great rank among their people. No man has ever done this.
Princess, I have done many strange things in my life, many things much smarter men would not have done. And now, before my courage fails, I would ask you, to be mine in marriage.
She smiled at me for a moment and then her dark eyes flashed in the evening light.
You have no need of your courage, John Carter, because you already knew the answer before you asked the question.
And so Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, a daughter of the Red Planet Mars, promised herself in marriage to John Carter, a gentleman of Virginia.
(MUSIC AND SOUND EFFECTS)
Several days later, we reached the city of Helium. At first, the red men of Helium thought we were an attacking army. But they soon saw their Princess. We were greeted with great joy. Tars Tarkas and his green warriors caused the greatest excitement. This huge group of green warriors entered the city as friends and allies.
I soon met Tardos Mors, the grandfather of Dejah Thoris. He tried several times to thank me for saving the life of the Princess. But tears filled his eyes and he could not speak.
For nine years, I served in the government and fought in the armies of Helium as a Prince of the royal family. It was a happy time. The Princess Dejah Thoris and I were expecting a child.
Then, one day, a soldier returned from a long flight. When he landed he hurried to the great meeting room.
Tardos Mors met with the soldier and reported that every creature on the planet had but three days to live. He said the great machines that produced the atmosphere on the planet had stopped producing oxygen. He said no one knew why this had happened, but there was nothing that could be done.
The air grew thin within a day. Many people could do nothing but sleep. I watched as my Princess was slowly dying. I had to try something.
I could still move with great difficulty. I went to our airport and chose a fast aircraft. I flew as fast as I could to the building that produced the atmosphere of the planet.
Workers were trying to enter. I tried to help. With a great effort I opened a hole.
I grew very weak. I asked one of the workers if he could start the engines. He said he would try. I fell asleep on the ground.
It was dark when I opened my eyes again. My clothing felt stiff and strange. I sat up. I could see light from an opening. I walked outside. The land looked strange to me. I looked up to the sky and saw the Red Planet Mars. I was once again on Earth in the desert of Arizona. I cried out with deep emotion.
Did the worker reach the machines to renew the atmosphere? Did the air reach the people of that planet in time to save them? Was my Princess Dejah Thoris alive or did she lie cold in death?
For ten years now, I have watched the night sky, looking for an answer. I believe she and our child are waiting there for me. Something tells me that I shall soon know.