The Warlord of Mars

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The Warlord of Mars
Warlord of Mars-1919.jpg
The Warlord of Mars
Author Edgar Rice Burroughs
Country United States
Language English
Series Barsoom
Genre Science fantasy novel
Publisher A. C. McClurg
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 296 pp
Preceded by The Gods of Mars
Followed by Thuvia, Maid of Mars

The Warlord of Mars is a science fantasy novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the third of his famous Barsoom series. Burroughs began writing it in June, 1913, going through five working titles; Yellow Men of Barsoom, The Fighting Prince of Mars, Across Savage Mars, The Prince of Helium, and The War Lord of Mars.

The finished story was first published in All-Story Magazine as a four-part serial in the issues for December, 1913-March, 1914.[1] It was later published as a complete novel by A. C. McClurg in September, 1919.

Plot introduction[edit]

This novel continues where the previous one in the series, The Gods of Mars abruptly ended. At the end of the previous book, John Carter's wife, the princess Dejah Thoris, is imprisoned in the Temple of the Sun by the vile pretender goddess Issus. It is said one has to wait an entire Barsoomian year before the room the prisoner is in revolves back to the entrance.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

John Carter discovers that a First Born knows the secret of the Temple of the Sun and he and the Holy Hekkador Matai Shang want to rescue the Holy Thern's daughter, who is imprisoned with Dejah Thoris and another Barsoomian princess, Thuvia of Ptarth. John Carter follows them in the hope of liberating his beloved wife. His antagonists flee to the north, taking the three women along. Thereafter John Carter follows them untiringly into the north polar regions where he discovers more fantastic creatures and ancient, mysterious Martian races. These he overcomes in battle, and is later proclaimed "Warlord of Barsoom" by his allies. This book is the last to feature Tars Tarkas, John Carter's ally, in any major role; indeed, the green Barsoomians of whom Tars Tarkas is an oligarch disappear altogether from most of the later novels.


  • John Carter: Protagonist of the first three novels. Carter is an American Civil War veteran, transported to the planet Mars by a form of astral projection. There, he encounters both formidable alien creatures and various warring Martian races, wins the hand of Martian princess Dejah Thoris, and rises to the position of Warlord of Mars.
  • Dejah Thoris: A Martian Princess of Helium, who is courageous, tough and always holds her resolve, despite being frequently placed in both mortal danger and the threat of being dishonored by the lust of villains. She is the daughter of Mors Kajak, jed of Lesser Helium and granddaughter of Tardos Mors, jeddak of Helium; highly aristocratic; and fiercely proud of her heritage.[3] She is the love interest of John Carter.[4] She was imprisoned by the Martian false deity Issus, at the end of The Gods of Mars.[2] A central character in the first three Barsoom novels, whose capture by various enemies, and subsequent pursuit by John Carter, is a constant motivating force in these tales.
  • Tars Tarkas: A Green Martian, who becomes the ally of John Carter and at his behest, the overlord of his clan. An archetypal noble savage, and considered John Carter's first and closest friend upon Barsoom.
  • Thuvia of Ptarth: A Princess of Ptarth, who appears in The Gods of Mars as a slave girl rescued by John Carter from the Therns. She is later imprisoned with Carter's wife Dejah Thoris, in a prison which can only be opened once per year and remains by her side until the conclusion of The Warlord of Mars.[5] Like many of Burroughs' heroines, she is tough, courageous, proud, and strongly identified with her aristocratic position in Martian society.[6]


The novel can be classed as a planetary romance.[7] This genre is a subset of science fiction, similar to sword and sorcery, but including scientific elements. Making it the genre of sword and planet. [8] Most of the action in a planetary romance is on the surface of an alien world, usually includes sword fighting, monsters, supernatural elements as telepathy rather than magic, and involves civilizations echoing those on Earth in pre-technological eras, particularly composed of kingdoms or theocratic nations. Spacecraft may appear, but are usually not central to the story.[7]


Scientific basis[edit]

Burroughs vision of Mars was loosely inspired by astronomical speculation of the time, especially that of Percival Lowell, who saw the planet as a formerly Earthlike world now becoming less hospitable to life due to its advanced age, whose inhabitants had built canals to bring water from the polar caps to irrigate the remaining arable land.[9] Lowell was influenced by Italian astronomer, Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, who in 1878, had observed features on Mars he called canali (Italian for "channels"). Mistranslation of this into English as "canals" fueled belief the planet was inhabited.[10] The theory of an inhabited planet with flowing water was disproved by data provided by Russian and American probes such as the two Viking missions which found a dead, frozen world where water could not exist in a fluid state.[9]

World of Barsoom[edit]

Main article: Barsoom

A million years before the narrative commences, Mars was a lush world with oceans. As the oceans receded, and the atmosphere grew thin, the planet has devolved into a landscape of partial barbarism;[11] living on an aging planet, with dwindling resources, the inhabitants of Barsoom have become hardened and warlike, fighting one another to survive.[12] Barsoomians distribute scarce water supplies via a worldwide system of canals, controlled by quarreling city-states. The thinning Martian atmosphere is artificially replenished from an "atmosphere plant".[13]


The world of Barsoom is divided by the territory of Black, Green, Red, Yellow and White skinned races. Each has particular traits and qualities, which seem to define most individuals within them. This concept of race is more like a division between species than ethnicity.[13] The Warlord of Mars introduces the Yellow Martians, supposedly extinct, whom John Carter finds in secret domed cities at the poles. They are black-bearded, exceptionally cruel, and keep slaves, acquiring these by using a giant magnetic device which sends fliers off course, and allows the Yellow Martians to capture the occupants.[5]


The copyright for this story has expired in the United States and, thus, now resides in the public domain there. The text is available via Project Gutenberg.


  1. ^ Sampson, p. 182.
  2. ^ a b Porges, p. 163.
  3. ^ Holtsmark, pp. 28-9.
  4. ^ Holtsmark, p. 22.
  5. ^ a b Bleiler & Bleiler, pp. 98-100.
  6. ^ Holtsmark, pp. 29-30.
  7. ^ a b Westfahl, p. 37.
  8. ^ Harris-Fain, p. 147.
  9. ^ a b Baxter, pp. 186-7
  10. ^ Seed, p. 546.
  11. ^ Bainbridge, p. 132.
  12. ^ Sharp, p. 94.
  13. ^ a b Slotkin, pp. 203-5.

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