Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars

A Review

Thuvia, Maid Of Mars

Part II


R.E. Prindle


     Apparently at this time in his life ERB’s mind was focused on hypnotism.  The raison d’ etre of the novel seems to be his explanation of hypnotism and some of its effects.  He certainly makes a fascinating story of the phenomenon.  In fact the whole story concerns hypnotism with a few embellishments to get Carthoris and Thuvia to Lothar and once he’d exhausted the possibilities of his hypnotic theme he ended the story and even then he ends on a wild hypnotic note.

     Thuvia was his fourth Mars novel and his first without John Carter.  The hero is Carthoris the son of John Carter and Dejah Thoris.  ERB’s father, George T. had died about a year previous to the writing.  This novel was written shortly after The Lad And The Lion.  As it includes a scene of psychological rebirth it may be a declaration of independence from his father, severing the relationship more denfinitely than did Lad. 

     On entering the land of the Lotharians Carthoris passes through a cave quite similar to the birth canal.  There are Banths, Martian lions, before and one huge one behind him.  Those before seem to vanish while the one large Banth remained behind him; that would be the memory of his father and the past.  Carthoris placed himself in a posture of defense in the dark but the charging Banth passed to his side missing him much as a ghost from the past might do.  Thus ERB seems to dispense with the Old Looney aboard ship in The Lad And The Lion who did represent ERB’s dad.

     Thuvia had been kidnapped by a disappointed suitor who had her taken to Aanthor, one of the innumerable dead cities lining the shores of the vanished seas.  There she was captured by the Green Men who fled through the cave to Lothar.  There Carthoris and Thuvia are delivered to the scene of the action by ERB.

     Carthoris then finds Thuvia in the possession of the Green Men who are waging a gigantic battle against the Phantom Bowmen of Lothar, themselves aided by large prides of both phantom and real Banths.

     Piles of Green Men killed by little arrows lie about amongst legions of Bowmen who have been cut down, and still they stream through the city gates.  Carthoris who has gotten to the side of Thuvia and she marvel at the carnage.  They turn to watch the defeated Green Men flee.  When they look back they are astonished to see that the dead Bowmen have all disappeared while the dead Green Men no longer have phantom arrows sticking in them.  The pair are at a loss for an explanation.  The Banths however were real and were now gorging themselves on the remains of the Greenies.

     As a nice touch ERB has Thuvia essentially hypnotize the Banths.  Rather than fear them as Carthoris does she merely makes a low melodic warbling sound that so charms the Banths that they come fawning before her.

     This may seem improbable or even impossible and yet I have seen it done but with house cats.  What can be done with one size cat I’m sure can be done with all sizes.  The effect was quite astonishing with the woman I saw do it but the result was exactly as ERB describes it.  Apparently he’d seen it done too.  ERB thus establishes the ability of Thuvia that will be even more important soon.

     Thus they gain access to the city of Lothar by passing through the Banths with safety.  As a nice touch ERB gives Lothar an exotic round gate that rolls back into a slot.  Perhaps he had seen a house with such a door somewhere.  Once inside they meet the Lotharian Jav who begins to unfold the story while unfolding the hypnotic power of the mind.

     If ERB had read H. Rider Haggard’s Cleopatra that deals quite extensively with hypnotism in a scenario somewhat similar to this one Haggard may have been another source for Thuvia.  Quite possibly ERB had ingested and digested his earlier reading so that he wasn’t aware of how close he was to the originals.  After all, anyone who could learn of Numa, the Roman King, from his Jr. High studies and think he had invented the name Numa for the king of beasts twenty years later, which he says is what happened, probably could think he was inventing his details himself.

     Many strange phenomena appear to the pair on their way to the palace of the despot who was named Tario.  They see marching files of Bowmen who appear and disappear.  But the Bowmen are not real they are a projection of the mind of Tario who has hypnotized the pair into seeing what isn’t there.

     While it is clear that ERB is quite familiar with Homer’s Odyssey it isn’t quite so clear what he knows of Homer’s Iliad or Greek mythology in general.  One hesitates to give him too much knowledge and yet elements from the Iliad and Greek mythology seem to materialize before one’s eyes like the Phantom Bowmen of Lothar.

     One can’t know whether ERB read the Iliad more than once and whether that once was in the seventh or eighth grade.  How much he understood of an early reading like that would be questionable.  I first read the Iliad in the seventh grade but got nothing but impressions of the action from it.  The gods, goddesses and humans were very confusing.   Lot of boy and girl stuff that was well beyond my experience.  I have read the book seven times in various translations since.  It was only in the fifth, sixth and seventh readings that I began to develop what I would consider any real understanding of Homer’s message.

     One of the things I understand is that the Iliad is a story about the power of mind and its limitations.  Zeus, of course had the mind of ultimate power that gave him the advantage over mortals and the other gods.  Tario in Thuvia has the most powerful mind in Lothar which keeps him in authority over the few permanent emanations in Lothar.  But, these are all figments of his or someone’s imagination.

     It seems that long generations before the women had all died out leaving only the men who over a period of time would also have died out but they survived by being able to imagine themselves.  Here we have a possible reference to Poe’s  The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar.  In that story Valdemar was a dying man who was first hypnotized and then expired.  Being under hypnosis while alive he could not actually die as he was hypnotized alive.  This is somewhat the condition of the Lotharians.

     Taking hypnosis a step further ERB posits that there are phantom ‘realists’ who believe they can wish themselves into a permanent corporeal existence of which Jav is one.  Opposed to them are the phantom ‘etherealists’ represented by Tario who believe they must remain imaginary.

     Getting back to Greek mythology in which we do know that ERB was read the ‘realists’ believe that they have to eat so they conjure up ‘ephemeral fruits’ on which to gorge themselves.

      Ephemeral fruits make their appearance in the myth of Typhon and Zeus.  So there is a possibility that Jav and Tario is a version of that myth.  Hera in her squabbles for supremacy with Zeus conjures up the monster Typhon to take on Zeus.  Typhon makes mincemeat of Zeus removing his sinews and bones and placing them in a leather bag in a cave in Caria.   Sad plight for the Big Fella with the all powerful mind and no sinews.  Worse yet, as a god he is immortal so there he and his all powerful mind are in his sack perhaps for all eternity.

     While Apollo and Hermes come to the Big Guy’s aid by putting the dry bones back together and reattaching the sinews the nymphs feed Typhon ‘ephemeral fruit’ that looks like the real thing but lacks nourishment.  Thus when Zeus is reassembled and ready for action he faces an enfeebled Typhon who this time he easily defeats.  Great story when you think about it.  So there you have two stories reflected that ERB may or may not have read  but having read them probably didn’t consciously remember them as he was writing.  I can’t guarantee ERB read those stories but I can state with assurance that ERB just didn’t make this stuff up.  He never does; it all has been suggested  from someplace.  It is not impossible that he heard similar stuff from Baum and the Theosophists in California.  ERB does have a retentive memory that provides him with a lot of material.

     Thuvia and its successor Martian novel- The Chessmen Of Mars- are an examination of mind and matter.  The later Mastermind of Mars and the Synthetic Men Of Mars are examinations of the application of mind to matter.  In the Chessmen the mind and body were separate entities.  It will be remembered that the Kaldanes were also skilled hypnotists.

     Here ERB is interested in a projected reality, in itself a form on insanity in an unbalanced mind.  PP 66-67, Ace paperback:

     Jav speaking: “(The Banths) that remained about the field were real.  Those we loosed as scavengers to devour the bodies of the dead Torquasians.  This thing is demanded by the realists among us.  I am a realist.  Tario is an etherealist.

     “The etherealists maintain there is no such thing as matter- that all is mind.  They say that none of us exists, except in the imagination of his fellows, other than as an intangible, invisible mentality.

     “According to Tario, it is but necessary that we all unite in imagining that there are no dead Torquasians beneath our walls, and there will be none, nor any need for the fierce scavenging banths.”

     ‘You, then do not hold to Tario’s beliefs?”  asked Carthoris.

     “In part only,” replied the Lotharian.  “I believe, in fact I know, that there are some truly ethereal creatures.  Tario is one, I am convinced.  He has no existence except in the imaginations of his people.

     “Of course, it is the contention of all us realists that all etherealists are but figments of the imagination.  They contend that no food is necessary nor do they eat, but anyone of the most rudimentary intelligence must realize that food is a necessity to creatures having actual existence.”

     “Yes,” agreed Carthoris,  “not having eaten today I can readily agree with you.”

     “Ah, pardon me,”  exclaimed Jav.  “Pray be seated and satisfy your hunger,” and with a wave of his hand he indicated a beautifully laden table that had not been there an instant before he spoke….”It is well,”  continued Jav, “that you did not fall into the hands of an etherealist, then indeed, you would have gone hungry.”

     An interesting passage laden with humor and a joke or two.  On the one hand this is a takeoff on Bishop Berkeley and those who believe that nothing is real but only a figment of our imaginations.  They do believe that when you close your eyes the world ceases to exist.  I could never follow the argument, and on the other hand the ideas can be construed as a variation on the Theosophical belief that the gods were first ethereal becoming more materialistic as existence descended to man who is most material.  Thus Tario is visible air, as it were, as an ethereality while Jav is condensed into, as he believes, permanent air/matter while Carthoris and Thuria are solid matter as humans.

     The food Jav produces is ephemeral food.  It looks real but having no real substance has no nourishment.  As he smirkingly says:  It is well that you did not fall into the hands of an etherealist.  Then, indeed, you would have gone hungry.”  A funny joke.  But Jav has hypnotized the pair into seeing the food even though Carthoris is not so hypnotized as to not realize it is not real food.  He eats it anyway.

     Once in this land where nothing is real but the Banths, one wonders that we don’t have a situation that was replicated later in the movie The Manchurian Candidate.   In that movie the hypnotized soldiers imagine they are at a ladies social and actually see American women where Korean people are.

     Perhaps Carthoris and Thuvia are standing in an empty field talking to themselves.  Perhaps the Lotharians exist only in their own imaginations but have conjured Carthoris and Thuvia out of thin air.  Pretty spacy stuff.

     As Carthoris is hypnotized he is easily persuaded to do things he wouldn’t ordinarily do such as letting Thuvia be led away alone to Tario.  He does and Thuvia meets Tario alone mystyfied that Carthoris would let her out of his sight.    Seeing Thuvia the etherealist’s phantom cojones  are aroused and he makes an all out assault on Thuvia.  As he doesn’t exist, of course, the assault can only have force in Thuvia’s imagination.  Just as those little arrows the Torquasians believed were real killed them one wonders what effect a phantom penetration  would have on Thuvia.  Would she have a little phantom child after a phantom pregnancy?

     We’ll never know because she pulls out her thin blade stabbing Tario to his phantom heart.  He falls apparently dead seemingly oozing out his lifeblood.  But, as we know he is an etherealist hence only a figure of someone’s imagination we know he must be feigning death with phantom blood.

     Hearing Thuvia’s screams Carthoris races to the rescue followed by Jav.  Jav, who should have known better, is overjoyed confessing his desire to replace Tario.  It was almost like a plan.  Tario leaps up explaining he always thought Jav did and now he is going to execute him.

     Here ERB evades the issue taking a cheap but effective way out.  These two guys are actually magicians and should be made to match powers in efforts to do the other in.  ERB isn’t up to it so he has Jav cave just awaiting his fate that he could always evade with his hypnotic powers.  Now, we’ve all been advised not to trust our senses so whether any of this happened is open to question.  Nevertheless a hole opens in the floor, the floor dishes so that all falls into the memory hole.  The three are ostensibly history.

     They are precipitated into the chamber of the Lotharian god.  One might expect this god to be pure essence but instead he is pure matter.  As so often is the case a Burroughsian god turns out to be a lion or the Martian Banth.  Why Jav should be concerned isn’t clear as he has no real substance and can’t be eaten while with his hypnotic powers he could make the Banth believe it was a mouse.

     Carthoris draws his sword but this one’s a piece of cake for Thuvia.  Using her own particular hypnotic talents she charms the Banthian god and all four walk out through the Banth’s quarters as chums. 

     At this point Jav calls into existence old Lothar for us all to see. 

     Outside the gates of Lothar Jav conceives a desire for Thuvia.  Using considerable hypnotic talent he persuades Carthoris that he and Thuvia are heading for the woods.  Carthoris walks off alone convinced he is leading Thuvia by the hand.   He is soon disillusioned.  Returning he finds the realist Jav really mauled by the Banth and dying.  Thuvia and the Banth have headed back to Aanthor.  Carthoris has no choice but to follow.


     Now, what’s been going in addition to this hypnosis stuff is ERB’s ongoing attempt to reconcile his Anima and Animus.  He has followed the usual Pyche and Eros storyline of Apuleius’ Golden Ass of Greek mythology.  The Anima and Animus get together, circumstances separate them, then during the rest of the novel they try to get together amid difficulties, finally succeeding.

     In Lad And The Lion ERB introduced the lion as his totem.  Even though a male lion it is associated with his  female Anima.  At the risk of repeating myself, just in case anybody has been reading this stuff for the last four or five years the cause and evolution of his dilemma progress thusly:

     In 1883 or 1884 ERB was terroized on a street corner by a young thug he identifies only as John.  Possibly Emma was with him and kept walking abandoning him to his fate.   Thus it was suggested to his subconscious that his Anima had abandoned him.  John being the terrorist filled the vacancy.  Thus ERB had the seemingly impossible anomaly of a male representing his female Anima.

     We know this was the result because ERB writes incessantly about it.  In the Outlaw of Torn the king’s fencing master, De Vac lures young Prince Norman/Burroughs outside the gate.  Norman’s nurse Maud representing his Anima noticing too late rushes to the scene to be struck down dead by De Vac.  Thus ERB’s Anima is murdered.  How does ERB handle this?  In his dream image ERB has De Vac take Norman to London where they live in the attic of a house over the Thames River.  The house is a symbol for self, the attic being the mind.  Water is a symbol of the female.  The house extending out over the water but separated from it indicated the separation from the Anima.  To compensate for the impossible situation of a male on the Anima, De Vac improbably dresses as a woman for the three years they live together in their attic.  At the end of the novel Norman/Burroughs kills De Vac.

     In the succeeding novel The Mucker he associates himself with the Irish thug Billy Byrne.  Byrne being paired up with the socialite Barbara Harding  is also an impossible match.  It would seem probable that ERB’s father and John were two of the components clothing ERB’s Animus.  Thus ERB has this very strong feeling about having a dual personality that he talks about constantly.

     In Lad And The Lion we have the improbable situation of a powerless ship, representing the self,  drifting up and down the Atlantic endlessly, manned by the deaf and dumb Old Looney, the Lad, and a Lion in a cage on deck.  That the Old Looney who represents ERB’s father was deaf and dumb probably indicates he wouldn’t listen to ERB and had nothing to say that the Lad/ERB wanted to hear.  So, the Lad was brutally abused the whole of his childhood.  That’s how ERB saw the Bad Father.  It would seem that John Carter represents the Good Father as ERB would have liked him to have been.

     With De Vac and John dead the Lion begins to take his place as the male aspect of ERB’s Anima which has now been reoccupied by a female reprsentative.   The male lion becomes a permanent aspect of the Anima in 1922s Tarzan And The Golden Lion as Jad-Bal-Ja.  In Lad he and the Lion go ashore after the death of the Old Looney, or, in other words, his father, where the lion is loosely associated with the Arab princess Nakhla.  Lad was written a short two months before Thuvia.

     Now Thuvia wows Carthoris/ERB by charming the raging Banths/lions of the battlefield and the Lotharian God.  Thuvia and the god become as one as she walks by his side her fingers twisted in his mane.  So the traditional goddess of the male Anima is united with a male god to form ERB’s Anima.  The female Anima who moved closer to reassuming her place in Lad now definitely becomes part of ERB’s psyche.

     They pass through the tunnel before Carthoris.  As ERB exits the tunnel he encounters his doppelganger Kar Komak.  This is great stuff actually.  Komak is literally a new man.  He was the first successful materialization of an hypnotic imaginary man of the Lotharians.  That’s likely enough, isn’t it?

     He comes running through the scarlet furze, naked, to greet Carthoris.  Well, picture that.  Nakedness is something else appearing regularly in ERB”s works most notably in Tarzan And The City Of Gold.  (See my review.)

     The duo then continue on to Aanthor where as they arrive they are met by Torquasians who upset the plans of the men of Dusar who had come back to pick up Thuvia.  We know that Carthoris for sure represents ERB because he takes a sword swipe to the forehead that lays him out.  Thus the novel has the obligatory bash to the head recalling ERB’s adventure in Toronto.

     When the sleeper wakes he finds the dead carcass of Thuvia’s lion lying half across his body.  Probably his left half that derives from the ovum.  Must have been uncomfortable to say the least.  Thus the male half of his Anima is now dead and the female half in possession of the Dusarians.  ERB gets her back and as in Psyche and Eros the Anima and Animus we may assume are permanently reunited.

     Not quite but that will take us too far afield to discuss it this moment.  I deal with the future development of the problem in my reviews of Out There Somewhere (The Return Of The Mucker), Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid (The Oakdale Affair) and Marcia Of The Doorstep.

     A Part 3 will follow that attempts to deal with the bigotry charges against Burroughs.  If there is such a thing as guilt concerning the issue, ERB is not guilty, of course.


Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars

A Review

Thuvia, Maid Of Mars


Edgar Rice Burroughs

Part I

Review by R.E. Prindle

     This very interesting sdtory was written shortly after ERB returned to Chicago from his first San Diego excursion.  It was placed between the Girl From Fariss’s, the last story written in San Diego and The Cave Man.

     The material deals almost exclusively with suggestion and hypnosis.  Although hypnosis is a recurring theme in Burroughs one is startled by his concentration on the subject and his seemingly informed ideas of  it, especially  the role of suggestion.

     One wonders why his interest surfaced at this time and where ERB learned or developed this information.  He was just back from San Diego and I’m going to suggest he picked it up from his hero, L. Frank Baum.  As Baum was such a significant influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs perhaps it may be worthwhile to attempt an assessment on Baum’s role in literature and history.  There can be no question but that the OZ series of Baum took a central place in the American psyche and a place in the European psyche.  Baum’s books have been in demand since 1900 when he began writing them to the present.  Baum put Kansas on the map.  The Wizard, Dorothy and Toto are household names.  Baum’s play from the Wizard was a box office success while MGM’s movie is certainly in the top ten of influential movies, perhaps even in a tie for first with Gone With The Wind.  Even American Negroes made their own Black version called The Wiz.  The list goes on.

     I’m going to suggest that Fritz Lang, the movie Director, was highly influenced by Baum as reflected in his important film, The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Lang was also very familiar with Burroughs.

     Baum himself was a committed Theosophist.  Introduced to the religion by his mother-in-law Baum picked up his card in 1893.  By 1913 when he met Burroughs he had been a practicing member for twenty years.  When he left Chicago he first went to Coronado across the Bay from San Diego.  Katherine Tingley had established her Theosophical organization on Point Loma near that city.  Baum must have been an important member of that congregation.  Perhaps he had a falling out with Tingley but he did remove himself to Hollywood in 1910.  In Hollywood he undoubtedly connected with the Pasadena Theosophical Society that at present is the mother organization.

     As a Theosophist Baum would have had to have been familiar with the works of Madame Helena Blavatsky.  Her great works are Isis Unveiled and The Secrect Doctrine.  Theosophy of course is on a par with the Semitic religions of Judaism and Christianity.  While Madame B is often referred to as nonsense she is in fact very learned in the ancient religious doctrines of the human mind that went to form all Middle Eastern religious expressions.  Hence while Madame B’s works are metaphysical in nature they are no less relevant to the development of the human intellect than say, St. Augustine or others of the metaphysical ilk.

     Madame B had some strong opinions on hypnotism.  Hypnotism had come to the fore of Euroamerican consciousness in the years preceding the French Revolution through the efforts of  Dr. Franz Mesmer.  Though discredited as as a charlatan he was dealing with the real thing as subsequent history shows.  He originally called hypnotism Animal Magnetism.  That was changed to Mesmerism and then to Hypnotism.  As far as possible influences on Burroughs it will be remembered that Edgar Allan Poe wrote Mesmeric Revelation in 1844 and The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar in 1845.  There are clear indications that ERB was familiar with the Valdemar story.

     Now, the essence of hypnotism is the suggestion.  Suggestion is perhaps the most important intellectual or psychological phenomenon.  Suggestion isperhaps the basis of intellect, intelligence and psychology.  C.G. Jung in his investigations of symbols was dealing with the nature of universal suggestion from nature.  Freud early learned to separate suggestion from the hypnotic trance.  Artfully used suggestion obviates the need for trancelike states.   Thus people don’t understand that and how they are hypnotized by movies and TV.

     The art of successful literature is merely to suggest scenes and situations and have the reader visualize them in his own mind.  Once accepted the suggestion becomes part of the intellect of the reader.  He may be able to reject it later but that is a separate volitional act.  The great writers realize this.  Freud understood perfectly, while Baum developed the art of the concrete image to a remarkable degree.  His works are a series of remarkable images.  If Freud had had Baum’s skill, and he wasn’t far short, he would have been even more effective than he has been.

     The prescient Fritz Lang picked up on Freud, Baum and hypnotism in his remarkable Dr. Mabuse series of movies.  The first story, Dr. Mabuse The Gambler of 1922, concerns a Freudlike megalomaniac named Dr. Mabuse.  Freud’s activities during the Great War and after would be known to the cognoscenti.  It would be foolish to think that Adolf Hitler and other Volkish leaders wouldn’t have been aware of what Freud was up to.  Mabuse is into all kinds of criminal activities to undermine society and the State, as was Freud.  He is also a master hypnotist as was Freud.  In a scene reminiscent of the scene in Thuvia where Jav says ‘You want to see them?  Then, look.’  The scene of ancient bustling Lothar then appears to Carthoris and Thuvia’s wondering hypnotized eyes.  As well as mine, certainly.  I had no trouble seeing what Burroughs wanted me to see.  So Dr. Mabuse in his role of stage hypnotizer, the man wore many hats, makes a parade appear before the wondering eyes of his audience.  It can be done.  I saw a man make Diamond Head disappear before the whole world on TV.  Pretty amazing.

     At the end of the movie Mabuse is captured and conveniently tucked away in an insane asylum.  He goes catatonic until 1930 or so when Lang made the sequel The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse.  The Dr. emerging from his catatonic state makes signs that he wants pen and paper which the head of the asylum, one Dr. Baum, provides.

     Mabuse then turns out page after endless page of instructions to destroy civilization not unlike what Herr Dr. Freud was doing from his study in Vienna.  The writing had an hypnotic effect on Dr. Baum who executes the plans of the cell bound Dr. Mabuse.

     The use of the name Baum could be a coincidence but Dr. Baum like the Wizard Of Oz is an unseen superior.  He issues orders but is otherwise an unknown to those he directs.  In issuing his orders we are led to believe that he sits behind a curtain unseen while giving his directions.  Then, just as Dorothy did, the hero dares to pull back the curtain and he finds…a phonograph player.  Unlike Dorothy who finds a tubby timid little imposter, there is no one there.  Surely this is a parody of Dorothy’s famous scene which makes the name Dr. Baum less of a coincidence.

     So it would seem that L. Frank Baum’s influence extended to Germany and an originator of film noir.  Not so unlike as Baum’s stories are much darker than they might appear at first reading.  At any rate his literary images make long remembered illusions of reality not unlike that of Dr. Baum while being of a suggestive hypnotic nature.  I can still visualize Dorothy pulling the curtain back exposing the mild mannered Big Brother sixty years after.  I can remember the image I formed.

     So, my suggestion is that L. Frank Baum was the direct inspiration for Thuvia of Mars.  As noted ERB was probably familiar with Poe’s stories of hypnotism while I am certain that he had read George Du Maurier’s Trilby concerning the hypnotist Svengali and probably also Du Maurier’s other two novels, Peter Ibbetson, and The Martian both related to unusual psychological states.  Len Carter believes that ERB read William Morris who also uses some hypnotic themes in his fantasy novels.  Lew Sweetser, ERB’s mentor in Idaho via Yale, might also have given him some information on hypnotism while ERB was still a boy.  Plus I’m sure hypnotism was a hot topic of popular discussions.

      ERB’s emphasis on suggestion as the operative means of hypnotism points to some more direct instruction.  Most think that ERB first met Baum in 1916 which means the two formed a fast friendship immediately.  I think it more likely that they met in 1913 renewing the acquanitance in 1916.  Whether Baum had read any of Burroughs’ stories in 1913 which seems would be paying pretty close atention to literary trends in pulp magazines he may have heard of Tarzan.  Probably aware of this ERB may have brought along a magazine or two to show Baum.  If Baum then read the proffered stories he certainly would have seen his influence in the Mars stories if ERB didn’t actually point them out to him hoping for the Zeusian nod of approval from the master.

     Probably flattered Baum would have encouraed the relationship.  Assuming that to be true the two men having similar interests would certainly engage in conversations on Theosophy, hypnotism, writing techniques and whatever.

     Certainly Burroughs writing style which while always colorful was a little heavy on the narrative side seems to open up to a more allusive suggestive style blossoming significantly in 1915’s Tarzan And The Jewels of Opar.

     I can’t find a more immediate source for ERB’s sudden interest in hypnotism.  But, on to the story.


If Pigs Had Wings

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Three Trips West


R.E. Prindle

Edgar Rice Burroughs

     During the years 1911 to 1919 ERB visited Southern California three times, once in 1913, again in 1916 and his final visit in 1919 when he established himself there.  The question is why, what motivation did he have for those visits.

     After 1911 life began to move very fast for ERB in dizzying leaps of change while all the time his mind disgorged a lifetime’s worth of stories based on his reading and experience from 1875 to 1911.

     One of the most important influences of this early period was the OZ books of L. Frank Baum.  The whole Mars series of Burroughs can be seen as the transportation of OZ to Mars as filtered through Burroughs’ mind.  John Carter can easily be seen as the Wizard while Dejah Thoris is perhaps Ozma rather than Dorothy.

     Baum while not a native Chicagoan lived in that city at least through the nineties.  In 1900 he began to turn out his OZ stories that so impressed ERB.  Then he moved to San Diego, California which city he left for Hollywood in 1910.  At that time Hollywood was just a town on the outskirts of LA.  The movies didn’t arrive until 1914 so the films had no bearing on Baum’s choice to live there or ERB’s visit.  I believe that one purpose of ERB’s visit was to present himself to Baum with his own stories as an entree.  There is hard evidence that at this time ERB made a trip to LA to see Baum and I believe it certain that he did.

     Now, it is debated whether Burroughs ever had any interest in Theosophy.  David Adams, so far as I know was the first to suggest he did.  Once again we’re on thin ice in saying that he learned something of it most likely during this visit but the ice isn’t all that thin.

     Baum himself had been a card carrying Theosophist since about 1883, his mother-in-law much longer.  there are those who argue that the OZ stories are virtual treatises on Theosophy.  They make a good case.  It follows then that Burroughs must have imbibed a good deal of Theosophical talk from Baum, including discussion on Madame Blavatsky if not beginning in 1913 then at least in 1916 when we do have a record of his visiting  Baum.

     In San Diego in 1913 ERB first stayed in Coronado across the Bay from San Diego.  Across the narrows from North Island just above Coronado is Point Loma.  The Point Loma Theosophical Society under the guidance of Katherine Tingley had a spectacular campus reminiscent of the Columbian Exposition of ’93 in miniature.  Tingley built the first Greek Theater in America there.  I should think it impossible that ERB and Emma didn’t visit the campus at least once.  With ERB’s curiosity in religion I think it probable that he spent some time there familiarizing himself with their texts in emulation of his own hero, Baum.

     Also by 1913 Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Society had been in operation for several years in Oceanside just a skip from Point Loma.  I can make no claims that ERB also took Rosicrucianism in but a man of his interests may easily have done so.

     Baum was one reason for Burroughs to visit San Diego in 1913 which was also his earliest opportunity.

     ERB’s mental turmoil in dealing with success was exacerbated in the first quarter of the year by the death of his father.  I’m sure this event had a terrific impact on ERB.  His was a difficult relationship with his father.  While ERB regretted his father’s death I suspect he rejoiced in it too.

     According to Herb Weston, George T., the father, humiliated his son by publicly declaring that he was worthless.  Thus on the one hand ERB created an ideal father figure in John Carter, but way off on Mars.  He also created an evil fatgher figure in the deaf and dumb looney who tortured the Lad of Lad And The Lion.  that book was written over March and April of 1914 almost exactly a year after his father’s death.

     Perhaps his father’s death caused a reaction where he had to get far away from the memory of that hateful father.  After writing The Lad And The Lion on the anniversary of his father’s death, as it were, he was able to return to Chicago.

     Another reason for his leaving for San Diego may have been the need to rectify and reverse the disastrous trip with Emma to Idaho in 1903.  In that instance they packed their furniture and all their belongings to go West.  The trip to Idaho may have been in emulation of  Owen Wister’s Virginian in which the Virginian and his wife lead an idyllic existence away out there.  The experiement ended in disaster a year later when after serving as a railroad dick in Salt Lake City while trying to run a boarding house  the couple was forced to sell their belongings at auction although returning to Chicago first class.

     The failure nearly disrupted the marriage while apparently causing ERB no end of personal grief.  As he did in his stories ERB believed that by reversing the results by a subsequent action he erased the actual occurrence of the first.  Thus in 1913 once again the family now of five packed all their belongings including their second hand car and traveled first class to Los Angeles as the only rail service into San Diego was from LA.  It should be noted here that the IWW or Wobblies invaded San Diego in 1913 so ERB was probably present at that debacle which is worth reading about.

     After some months in San Diego the couple once again sold all their belongings including the second hand car before returning to Chicago.  This time ERB could return in comfort knowing that he was solvent in Chicago. On his return he bought the same car, a Hudson, that his hero Baum drove.

     Still, a very strange interlude.

     Once back in Chicago ERB remained there in what sounds like one the finer houses of  the city for two years until 1916 when he returned a second time to San Diego.

     Tremendous events occurred between his arrival back in Chicago and his second departure for San Diego.  Of course, the Great War broke out shortly after his return.  I don’t mean to say that the war didn’t overshadow everything else but I don’t think it over shadowed everything else in ERB’s mind.

     There were at least two other events of signal importance for Burroughs not including the Jack Johnson Affair.  These were busy times.  The first was the creation of the Panama Canal that was completed in 1913, opened in 1914.  The canal overwhelmed ERB’s mind.  A few years later he and Emma would voyage through the canal, the only trip outside the US with Emma of which we have knowledge.

     The second was the announcement of the construction of the Lincoln Highway from NYC to San Francisco.  The highway was dedicated in 1913 but would not become a reality until long after ERB decided to make the trip in 1916.

See http://lincolnhighway.jameslin.name/history/part1.html

     In 1912 there were almost no good roads to speak of in the United States.  Tje relatively few miles of improved roads were around towns and cities.  A road was “improved” if it was graded; one was lucky to have gravel or brick.  Asphalt and concrete were yet to come.  Most of the 2.5 million miles of road were just dirt, bumpy and dusty in dry weather, impassible in wet weather.  Worse yet, the roads didn’t really lead anywhere.  They spread out aimlessly from the center of the settlement.  To get from one settlement to another, it was much easier to take the train.


     According to the Association’s 1916 Official Road Guide a trip from the Atlantic to the pacific on the Lincoln Highway was “something of a sporting proposition” and might take 20 to 30 days.  To make it in 30 days the motorist would need to average 18 miles an hour for 6 hours per day, and driving was only done in daylight hours.  the trip was thought to cost no more than $5 a day per person, including food, gas, oil, and even “five or six meals in htoels.” Car repairs would of course, increase the costs.

     Since gasoline stations were still rare in manyparts of the country, motorists were urged to top off their gasoline at every opportunity, even if they had done so recently.  Motorists should wade through water before driving through to verify the depth.

     So ERB;s little caravan seems to have been a wise precaution.  J.C. Furnas in his book Great Times says that 60 days for the trip was a more likely figure so ERB wasn’t  too out of line in what seems like an overlong journey.  Furnas born in 1906 probably remembers something of the hoopla first hand.  He remembers the route terminating in San Diego which was where ERB ended up at any rate.

     The trip was obviously a first rate adventure for which ERB was prepared but which he didn’t care  to repeat.  Of course his children who were free of cares enjoyed things immensely.

     An object influencing ERB’s decision to make the trip was the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Diego in 1916.  The opening of the Panama Canal benefited California directly.  The route whether from the East Coast or Europe was shortened immensely.  Thus both San Francisco and San Diego had exhibitions.  the one in San Francisco ended in 1915 so many of those exhibits shifted to San Diego.  One can’t expect the San Diego Expo to rival that of the great Columbian Expo of 1893 but I suppose it was still something.   There was one exhibit that probably had a profound effect on ERB’s future.  Furnas, Great Times, p. 186:

The also highly California purpose of the whole doings was candidly to promote settlement and land sales in this relatively undeveloped corner, as the most original feature was what the advertising called “moving, throbbing, real life” demonstrations.  That instead of just showing the latest farm machinery in an Agricultural Hall, here was an impressively extensive model farm with the machines actuallyout there plowing, cultivating, ditching.  For the other kind of farmer, here was a model five acres to show what irrigations could do to intensive cultivation-orchards of walnuts and four different fruits with all kinds of garden truck flourishing between the rows of trees and a model farm family inhabiting a model California bungalow with such fancy modern gadgets as an automatic electric pump and a vacuum cleaner.

     Sounds like it might have given ERB ideas that came to fruition three years later.

     We know for sure that ERB made the trip in 1916 to Hollywood to visit L. Frank Baum.  Baum called his residence Ozcot after his famous wonderland.  I’m sure ERB was very impressed so that it comes as little surprise that he named the estate he bought in 1919 Tarzana.

     A question I would dearly like answered is did ERB make a trip to San Francisco in either 1913 or 1916?  San Francisco appears in a few novels from The Mucker to Marcia Of The Doorstep always with negative connotations.  It would be nice to know what if anything happened to sour ERB on Baghdad By The Bay.  It will be remembered that Billy Byrne was shanghaied from San Francisco in 1913’s The Mucker when ERB was already in California.

     At any rate the family returned to Chicago to spend a year or two before they made the final move to California in 1919.  In 1917 the US entered the war.  ERB had earlier tried to enter the fray as a war correspondent but was refused.  Now he found a place in the Illinois National Guard as a Major.  He stands so proudly in his uniform, an officer finally after all those years.

     The war brought out an aspect of his character that may have caused him harm hastening his departure from Chicago.

     ERB was acutely aware of having a split personality or, as he put it being two different people a la Jekyll and Hyde.  While one finds a reflection of a deep thinking man in his novels many of his actions reveal a very gauche side to his character.  I have read very few of his public pronouncements that show him in a truly positive light.

     The writing of his anti-German story The Little Door which was presented with little approval from his publishers being rejected by all.  The amazingly prescient Beyond Thirty was also coldly received.  Even his published writing found tough sledding from time to time.  It seems that both Metcalf and Bob Davis of Munsey’s had mixed feelings about him.  The manner in which Davis writes to him I find fairly insulting.  Of course, as time went on publishers wanted only Tarzan stories from him accepting anything else only grudgingly or even, in two notable cases rejecting the stories outright.  Nor was ERB ever accepted by the Chicago literary establishment.  Chicago in the teens had a vibrant literary scene to which ERB rightfully belonged yet the only literary club he was able to join was the White Paper Club that any scribbler or wannabe could join.  There was something in the character of ERB that obviouslyput people off.

     Porges, in discussing ERB’s wartime activities is openly ambivalent about this.  Porges describes some of his actions as ‘interperate.’  Something I wish he hadn’t done at the this period that I think was inconsiderate was, as Porges says, p. 288:

     In this and other articles Ed revealed how he had been influenced by the wave of public suspicion directed at German-Americans.  He admitted that his methods for selling Liberty Bonds may not have been ethical:  “We went out in selected groups decked out in all the panoply of war and armed with a bunch of yellow cards each of which bore the name of some suspected German sympathizer… He endorsed this as a way to “spear a Hun right here at home.”  (Italics mine)

     Only suspected.  That’s something I wish a hero of mine hadn’t done.  while no one probably said anything to him in wartime I suspect there were repercussions after the Armistice.  Many people who hadn’t before probably looked at him askance.  His wartime actions were too at variance with his more thoughtful writings.  Of course, so far I’m about the only critic who perceives the deep reflection in his stories.  Most people then probably thought his novels were pure balderdash.  Still he was a best selling author whose main creation had become a household word within six years or less and has since become one of the best known literary characters in the world.

     Nevertheless not too long after the Armistice ERB upped stakes making his third and final trip West.  His send off by his Chicago clubmates at the White Paper Club was less than sterling to my mind.  The cover of the menu showed a pig with wings flying West.

     This was ostensibly in reference to his statement that he was going West to be a hog farmer.  Still the phrase ‘when pigs have wings’ is usually a negative reference.  I can’t escape the notion that there was an element of ‘good riddance’ in his farewell party.

     Regardless of how ambiguous his position in Chicago had been he left the Chicago phase of his career behind in January of 1919.  It was a new world in the morning when he arrived in LA.  But strangely it soon took a Chicago turn.  Tarzana awaited him