I recently completed a piece on Edgar Rice Burroughs for our community magazine. Burroughs was born 140 years ago this month. I googled a few phrases in search of some illustration to go along with the article, and came up with this neat picture: a Thark on a Thoat.
I suppose I’ve seen a Tarzan movie or two in my day, but I never read one of the books. My father did own some Tarzan, but the ones he had that I was most interested in, my brother was too, the series we both read in its entirety, was the Barsoom series. I can still picture the line of books in the big bookcase at the end of the upstairs hall at my grandmother’s house. They soon made their way to our own bookcases.
Mars! Now those were adventures! The series starts with John Carter’s mysterious transportation from a cave in Arizona to Mars, what the local folks call Barsoom. That was amazing enough, but in the eleven books in the series Carter and his descendants encounter two-armed red Martians, four-armed green Martians,the Tharks, six-legged horse-like thoats, and many other humanoid races and animals. The strangest were those Kaldanes and Rykors. I had to look up the names because I’d forgotten them over the years, but I never could forget the picture of them in my mind. Here’s a great description from the ever-helpful Wikipedia:
The Chessmen of Mars introduces the Kaldanes of the region Bantoom, whose form is almost all head but for six spiderlike legs and a pair of chelae, and whose racial goal is to evolve even further towards pure intellect and away from bodily existence. In order to function in the physical realm, they have bred the Rykors, a complementary species composed of a body similar to that of a perfect specimen of Red Martian but lacking a head; when the Kaldane places itself upon the shoulders of the Rykor, a bundle of tentacles connects with the Rykor's spinal cord, allowing the brain of the Kaldane to interface with the body of the Rykor. Should the Rykor become damaged or die, the Kaldane merely climbs upon another as an earthling might change a horse.
Now if that didn’t make you sit up and take notice, I don’t know what would. I always did wonder how the Rykors ate and breathed and such, but hey, this was fiction, and I didn’t let it stop my reading.
All of the Barsoomians were telepathic, and all their differences invited great conflicts and vigorous fight scenes. The heroines were the complete opposite of prissy, fainting maids, but they did get abducted a time or two and there was always a stalwart hero to rescue them.
I don’t suppose I’ll get to read them all again, maybe one or two, but as readers everywhere lament: So Many Books, So Little Time.
|A Kaldane and a Rykor (ick!)|