The Enchantress of Venus

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The Fall 1949 issue of Planet Stories

"The Enchantress of Venus" is a short story written by Leigh Brackett. It was originally published in Planet Stories in 1949 .[1] It is one of the first stories in the genre of space opera, and is part of the Eric John Stark series of books and stories.[2] The story has been reprinted numerous times since its first publication,[3][4] and has been the subject of critical commentary in the Science Fiction community.[5][6]

Plot summary[edit]

The Enchantress of Venus is a story about a man known as Stark and his adventure to Inner Venus, specifically the town of Shuruun, to find his missing friend Helvi. Stark was taken to this town by boat captain Malthor. The captain offered Stark a place to stay, but Stark denied the offer. Malthor attacked Stark from behind causing Stark to jump into the mysterious Red Sea. Stark eventually swims to the town and sees the people who are shocked to see someone with such a dark complexion. Stark was eventually approached by Malthor’s young daughter, Zareth, who warns him of the plans of her father. She explains to him about the Lhari who are basically the royalty of the town. Stark ends up enslaved by these people. Once enslaved Stark finds Helvi and also meets a woman by the name of Varra They somehow manage to free themselves, and Stark leads the slave rebellion. Stark kills the Lhari with the help of his fellow slaves. Then Stark and most of the slaves, specifically the ones that weren’t born there, leave via spaceship.


  • Erik John Stark, the protagonist, who appears in several of Leigh Brackett's Solar System series a set of early space opera works. After traveling to the planet Venus in an attempt to rescue his close friend Helvi, he became a prisoner to the Lhari beneath the “shrouding veils of mist” of the Red Sea. His physical appearance is described throughout the novel as “dark” in nature and his stature is that of a “big man”. His character can be closely compared to that of Conan the Barbarian due to the traditional masculine role that they each play within their perspective stories.
  • Zareth Malthor the captain of a freighter ship and a slave to the Lhari. He has a vendetta throughout the story to kill Stark because he was viciously attacked by him after first attempting to kill him in the opening pages of the novel.
  • Lhari are a group of “Cloud People” who are seen as six “god-like” figures that separate themselves from the people of the “swamps” of the planet. They possess many slaves which do their bidding beneath the Red Sea. There is a division between the various members mainly that of Varra and Egil who are bidding to discover technology that will “do amazing things to human tissue”.
  • Zareth the young girl who is seen as a “stupid” and weak feminine character who confronts Stark looking for him to help her escape from her father Malthor. Her role is very much like most other females during this time that of a repressed figure and lack of “Feminist literary criticism”.


Man vs. Temptation there was few time in the story that Stark was tempted to give up his quest to find his lost friend for wealth, power, and lust. He was given the choice of siding with the Lhari or with at least Varra who was willing to work with him as long as he was willing to help her win the throne from her grandmother. He was given the same choice again and for the last time to help her get into power when he was a slave.

Man vs. Captor when Stark was being held as a slave he was worked to the brink of death with little or no time at all for rest, and at some point he was ready to give up his life just to let the pain end. However, he held out and was able to break away from his captors and lead a rebellion.