Thuvia, Maid Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Review

March 14, 2009

Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars

A Review

Thuvia, Maid Of Mars

by

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.

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