Burroughs’ blockbuster

Carol Wright is a freelance writer and resides in Winfield.

By A Contributor

JOHN CARTER: THE MOVIE NOVELIZATION: ALSO INCLUDES: A PRINCESS OF MARS BY EDGAR RICH BURROUGHS. Stuart Moore and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Disney Editions, publisher, in arrangement with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
2012. 560 pp. $9.99, pap.

What a relief it is to read and review some of the early written works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. And what a pleasure it is for Burroughs’ adventurous sci-fi hero, a conquistador extraordinaire, to finally leap into action in the newly-released film, “John Carter.”

It did not take “Tarzan” this long to swing into television episodes, films and their sequels. The “Ape Man” character featured in Burroughs’ books, comics, pulp-fiction magazines and on TV thoroughly entranced kids, adults, even the author himself when Tarzan hit the big time during the 20th century.

Burroughs (1875-1950) was to thousands of people a brilliant and prolific writer of numerous full-length novels. He is probably most famous for writing the “Tarzan” and “John Carter of Mars” series.

A total of 11 books alone exist in the “John Carter” series. “A Princess of Mars” was the first book in the series and is the basis for the 2012 Disney film.

It has been 100 years since Burroughs first introduced John Carter in book form to his public. Where his thoughts came from no one really knows except Burroughs. He wrote with terrific (and terrifying) imagination the adventures of a war-weary former Civil War veteran who gets transported to Mars, or “Barsoom,” as the planet’s inhabitants call it.

While there, Carter must adjust to life on Barsoom and learn strategies to survive. He is swept up in the bloody battles between the Zodangas (red), of the predator city, Zodanga, and the Heliumites (blue), and along the way earns the respect of a separate group called

the Tharks who display, in humanistic terms, much love and devotion to their offspring and family members.

Upon first setting eyes on the Tharks, Carter views them as strange creatures, but he is quickly impressed by their own unique intelligence and concern for loyalty, family and fighting for their purposes in life.

As farmers on planet earth raise cattle and other livestock, the Tharks raise thoats, or beasts, and use them for labor and transportation. It is Carter who shows the leader of the Tharks, Tars Tarkas, that animals should be treated with kindness. This philosophy is just one of the issues that Burroughs brings to some of his novels. In his lifetime, Burroughs also was very humbled by and compassionate toward family, loyalty and trust.

Burroughs’ novel is full of action with lots of cruel arena battles with giant white apes and lots of fights with sinister rulers, gods and goddesses as they are known on Mars.It’s good that readers have “John Carter: The Movie Novelization” available to them. The names of the inhabitants of Barsoom can be tricky and frustrating to keep track of. It could be said that there may be just too many names spelled with “T’s,” that it becomes a learning experience to recall who-is-who. (There are Tharks, then another race belonging to a shape-shifter-type powerful spiritualist Matai Shang (Mark Strong), known as the Therns, plus lots of other inquisitive characters.)

It helps readers and movie-goers alike to have the movie novelization, along with “A Princess of Mars.” Several movie critics have gotten lost in trying to follow what exactly Burroughs goals are, though the film is directed by Andrew Stanton, who also directed “WALL-E” and “Finding Nemo.”

It’s safe to just enjoy reading the book and watching the movie (the adaptation is written by Stuart Moore) without thinking too deeply or analyzing every detail, everything that happens, throughout the novel and film.

Some movie critics adore the movie. Others have not favored the movie at all, but their opinions and views are not disrespectful of Burroughs himself. If Burroughs was alive today (and some people believe he still is…see the term, “Inter Mundos,” which means “Between Worlds”), it would be interesting to see how the author might feel about his book being made into a movie.

Of special interest in the book is how Burroughs introduces John Carter as a man he knew as a youth. Carter refers to Burroughs as “Ned.” Burroughs (or Ned) calls Carter “Uncle.”

Ned had visited Carter’s Virginia estate on many occasions and was quite spellbound by Carter’s tales of adventure. He describes Carter as “Six-foot, two inches tall with broad shoulders, narrow hips, close-cropped black hair and gray eyes.”

Ned/Burroughs, supposedly is captivated by him, writing that Carter is a “Southern gentleman” of outstanding, noble character. In Burroughs’ time, a man who reached the height of Carter was indeed a rare sight.

In the book, as in the film, Ned receives the sad and tragic news that his uncle has died and that he had left him a manuscript detailing instructions upon his death, unexplained time-travel to Mars and the inability to comprehend how he has not aged.

A span of 20 years has passed from the time the author first saw him to the time when the story had been written. In his written words from the manuscript, Carter can’t explain how he has remained the same age of 40.

After reading the manuscript, Burroughs (Ned) senses that there is something very superior that has had a hold on Carter for Ned has witnessed early on Carter’s haunts, quirky behavior and restlessness.

The element of time is ever-present in many of Burroughs’ works, and especially rings solid and true in this novel and in his “The Land That Time Forgot.”

In the manuscript, Carter writes of the mysterious Barsoom and a strangely curious medallion that can transport him to and from two different worlds. He writes of the beautiful princess-warrior of Barsoom, a scientist and heir to the throne of Helium, Dejah Thoris (played by Lynn Collins.)

This female character should appeal not only to men, but also to women who are liberated and who do not have to suffer through the need for a princess/damsel to be always saved or rescued as in fairy tales. However, it is Burroughs’ gift of imagination that encourages young people and grownups to be more imaginative and less practical. In real life, Burroughs tried to be successful in several business ventures, but never truly found his calling until he began to write.

His sharp imagination of space and spaceships, Mars, then later, Venus, and also his fascination with jungles and the Wild West on earth and in other worlds, led him in the direction of the right career, so-to-speak.

Many people have been influenced by Burroughs including Jane Goodall, Carl Sagan and a multitude of authors. He shares similar themes, ideas and plots with writers such as H.G. Wells, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard, Lewis Carroll, Jules Verne and, to a certain extent, H.P. Lovecraft.

It was Burroughs’ belief that mankind would eventually turn on itself and become its own worst enemy. In an online article by Steve Gregory, he mentions Burroughs’ book, “The Land That Time Forgot.” On an island in the Antarctic, time has not “taken hold and dinosaurs still rule.”

Gregory notes:”Burroughs indicates that time controls the destinies of men and

animals, not the other way around.”

To Burroughs, “Time is master of all and can never be otherwise.”

Burroughs is a descendant from the English immigrant Edgar Rice who came to Massachusetts in the 1600s. Burroughs was discharged from the Army with a heart problem and later survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii where he lived during World War II. He and Emma Hulbert married on New Year’s Day, 1900, and they had three children. Burroughs died in 1950 from heart problems.

Incidentally, there is a crater on Mars (or Barsoom) named after him for his science fiction novel, “John Carter.”

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