A Princess of Mars

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.

A Princess of Mars (1917) was Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s first novel, and introduced the character of John Carter. It is set on Barsoom, Burroughs’ mythical version of Mars.

Richard A. Lupoff (1965) has made a persuasive case that it was heavily influenced by Edwin Lester Arnold‘s Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905).

References:
  • Arnold, Edwin Lester (1905) Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation 
  • Burroughs, Edgar Rice (1917) A Princess of Mars
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn (1977) ”Introduction” to Arnold, Edwin Lester (1905, New English Library SF Master Series edition)
  • Lupoff, Richard A. (1965) Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure
  • Pringle, David & John Clute (1977) ”Edgar Rice Burroughs” in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction(online edition)
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