John Carter, Dejah Thoris and a number of Green Martians.
If I sometimes seem to take too great pride in my fighting ability, it must be remembered that fighting is my vocation. If your vocation be shoeing horses, or painting pictures, and you can do one or the other better than your fellows, then you are a fool if you are not proud of your ability. And so I am very proud that upon two planets no greater fighter has ever lived than John Carter, Prince of Helium.
— from The Warlord of Mars
An influential series of Planetary Romance novels, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (also the creator of the Pellucidar series, Carson Napier of Venus and of course Tarzan) between 1912 and 1948, with the final book in the series (a collection of shorter stories) being published posthumously in 1964.In the first novel, A Princess of Mars, John Carter of Virginia somehow mentally projects himself to the dying planet Mars, known to its various native races as "Barsoom", where he has death-defying adventures, romances the eponymous princess, and saves the world. The novel was a hit, and a series of ten sequels followed over the course of the next few decades, initially chronicling the further adventures of John Carter before shifting their focus to other Martian characters.The complete series is composed of the following novels, the first few of which are Public Domain due to their age;
The Master Mind of Mars. First published July 15, 1927, book form in March 1928.
A Fighting Man of Mars. Serialized April-September, 1930, book form May 1931.
Swords of Mars. Serialized November, 1934-April, 1935, book form February, 1936.
Synthetic Men of Mars. Serialized January-February, 1939, book form March, 1940.
Llana of Gathol. Serialized March-October, 1941, book form March, 1948.
John Carter of Mars. Mostly composed of the short stories John Carter and the Giant of Mars (January, 1941) and Skeleton Men of Jupiter (February, 1943). Combined into a novel and published in July, 1964.
Accidental Proposal: In A Princess of Mars, John Carter addresses the princess, Dejah Thoris, in a way that might be considered a marriage proposal according to Martian etiquette; since she already knows he's an ignorant foreigner, though, she is only amused and doesn't hold him to it. (Later, when they know each other better, he proposes properly and she accepts.)
The Ace: Carter. And to a lesser extent, every other male protagonist.
Action Girl: Llana of Gathol. For its time, this was an extremely daring thing to do.
Even more so Tavia, the heroine of A Fighting Man of Mars.
The Martians themselves reach maturity, then appear to hover permanently in their twenties, if they do not go down the River Iss, or (more likely) die violently. There are Martians who appear old (most notably Issus), but they've usually been around for millenia.
John Carter says he is very old, has been a soldier for centuries, but always appears as a man about thirty. John Carter, however, is pretty clearly not a Barsoomian somehow transplanted to Earth, as his skin color and eye color are not Martian. It is not shown that he will regenerate any wound, but Martian medicine is very effective, and any wound not rapidly fatal is quickly healed, for anyone.
Alien Sky: The twin moons of Mars are often mentioned.
All Animals Are Dogs: While this is not shown to apply to the majority of Martian creatures, John Carter does manage to gain the undying loyalty of the calot Woola in the early chapters of A Princess of Mars by treating him with the same kindness he'd show to a dog on Earth.
Almost Dead Guy: In A Fighting Man of Mars, men are found, broken, on the ground; one lives just long enough to tell how of their ship disintegrated under them.
Always Chaotic Evil: Somewhat subverted. Green Martians tend to be brutal raiders—because that's the deliberate path their civilization took, millennia ago. The White Martians play this one straight.
Except that after their religion got exposed, they integrated with society again. Carthoris, in Thuvia, Maid of Mars, actually passes off a companion as a thern.
The Black Martians are a toss-up: they're more honorable than the therns by a long shot, but even after the death of Issus, they still tend to be ruthless pirate lords.
And the Morgors from Skeleton Men of Jupiter definitely count. They are described as an uncultured barbaric race that can only think of war. In the story we only meet one Morgor who is willing to help the heroes, and only because his own life depends on it.
Always Save the Girl: Warriors from Helium have a bad case of this. Though John Carter himself subverts this trope in Gods of Mars reminding himself that Dejah Thoris herself would never dream of sacrificing the good of Helium for her own sake - and neither should he.
Ambiguously Human: Carter himself; he looks human and considers himself such, but there is that matter of his unexplained agelessness. Interestingly, "human" is sometimes used to describe Red, White, Black, Yellow (all of whom at least look like humans) and even Green (who don't look human in the slightest) Martians, though it's plain to the reader none of them are human as we understand it.
The American Civil War: John Carter is described as having served as a captain in the Confederate Army before the beginning of the series.
Ancestral Weapon: In The Gods of Mars, John Carter meets a young man who recounts setting out with his father's sword.
And This Is for...: When Phaidor kills Thurid at the climax of Warlord after he betrayed and killed her father and tried to kill Carter:
That for Matai Shang! That for the wrong you would have done Dejah Thoris. And that, and that, and that for John Carter, Prince of Helium!
Arranged Marriage: Commonly practiced on Mars, and frequently used by Burroughs as one of the obstacles keeping the hero and heroine apart. Both John Carter and his son Carthoris have to deal with their respective love interests being promised to other men in the earlier books in the series.
Attempted Rape: Tal Hajus quite clearly intends to force himself upon Dejah Thoris at one point in A Princess of Mars. Fortunately, John Carter is watching from behind a nearby pillar and immediately runs in to stop him.
Author Existence Failure: The last novel, Skeleton Men of Jupiter, was never completed due to Burroughs' death in 1950. The existing sections of it were, however, published as a shorter story in the collection John Carter of Mars 14 years later.
Bad Ass: John Carter most of all, naturally, but really it's kind of expected of all Martian men.
Bad Ass Boast: John Carter gives the 'First Born' a good one in Gods of Mars.
"I am a citizen of two worlds; Captain John Carter of Virginia, Prince of the House of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium. Take this man to your goddess, as I have said, and tell her too, that I as I have done to Xodar and Thurid, so also can I do to the mightiest of her Dators. With naked hands, with long-sword or with short-sword, I challenge the flower of her fighting-men to combat."
Badass Damsel: Most of the heroines have their moments: A captive Dejah Thoris saves John Carter's life by striking the gloating villains with her manacles, her daughter Tara of Helium coolly dispatches an attempted rapist with a single dagger thrust, and Tara's daughter Llana of Gathol saved her grandfather's life by attacking his opponent from behind causing him to fall on John Carter's sword.
Badass Princess: Tavia in A Fighting Man of Mars, made even more striking in comparison to the usual helpless Burroughs' heroine. Cross swords with her at your own peril.
Back-to-Back Badasses: John Carter and Tars Tarkas at the beginning of The Gods of Mars. Also used as the cover image for some editions of the book.
Big Bad: The series as a whole doesn't have one, but most individual books do:
A Princess of Mars: No clear example, owing to the episoding nature of the book. Sab Than is the climactic villain, but doesn't show up until about two thirds of the way through.
The Gods of Mars: Issus.
The Warlord of Mars: Matai Shang and Thurid are a Big Bad Duumvirate, which gains a third member, Salensus Oll, midway through the novel.
Thuvia, Maid of Mars: Prince Astok.
The Chessmen of Mars: Jeddak O-tar.
The Master Mind of Mars: Xaxa.
A Fighting Man of Mars: Tul Axtar.
Swords of Mars: Looks like Ur Jan at first, but Gar Nal proves Eviler than Thou.
Synthetic Men of Mars: Jal Had.
Llana of Gathol: Though episodic, the four sections have an overarching villain in Hin Abtol.
John Carter & The Giant of Mars: Pew Mogel
Skeleton Men of Jupiter: Bandolian
Big Damn Heroes: In The Warlord of Mars, an army composed of the combined forces of virtually every major Martian race conveniently invades the capital city of the Yellow Martians and throws it into disorder just as John Carter and a group of freed Red Martian slaves find themselves vastly outnumbered in a battle against their former captors.
This actually qualifies as The Cavalry seeing as it's a bunch of people coming to save the hero and not the other way round. And happens to varying army size almost once a book, if not more.
Although John Carter is rather fond of doing this himself.
Bling of War / Bling Bling Bang: In The Chessman of Mars, Gahan of Gathol carries a jeweled sword along with his other finery. Tara is so less than impressed that he has to work to overcome it, disguising himself as a mercenary in plain clothing to win her favor.
Blondes are Evil / Blond Guys Are Evil: Despite actually being bald, the Therns arguably count due to constantly wearing blonde wigs in order to resemble their naturally blonde-haired ancestors. By contrast, the other, less evil Martian races generally either have black hair or visibly have no hair at all.
Blood Bath: In The Warlord of Mars #17, Commandant Keisari, military commander of the Vathek (a race of vampires who dwell on Saturn), is shown bathing in a tub that is being filled from draining corpses suspended above it.
Body Horror: the Hormads from Synthetic Men of Mars; they are utterly repulsive, and although most of them are human looking, there are a lot of them that are grossly disfigured, having body parts in the wrong places etc.
It gets turned up to eleven when something goes horribly wrong in one of the tissue vats from which the Hormads are created; instead of individual Hormads, one colossal pile of flesh, bone, organs etc. is created, with multiple arms, screaming heads and other body parts sticking out. It keeps growing, sustaining itself by eating its own flesh, and threatens to eventually engulf all of Barsoom.
Changing of the Guard: After the first three books of the series, Burroughs began featuring other heroes and heroines, including John Carter's son (Carthoris), daughter (Tara of Helium), and granddaughter (Tara's daughter Llana of Gathol), as well as several unrelated characters.
John Carter did continue to appear as a supporting character, and eventually returned in a starring role in Swords of Mars and Skeleton Men of Jupiter.
Chronic Hero Syndrome: John Carter has a bad case of this. And almost all the other heroes suffer from a touch of it.
In The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars, Thuvia falls in love with John Carter. At the end, when he is reunited with his wife, they get to watch as Thuvia and their son are flirting (though they get a book of their own before they actually get to marry).
At the end of The Chessmen of Mars, Tara learns, greatly to her relief, that her betrothed, believing her dead, had fallen in love and married, thus freeing her from her word and letting her marry the hero.
Cliff Hanger: The endings of A Princess of Mars and The Gods of Mars.
The ending of "Skeleton Men of Jupiter" can also be considered one. At the end of the story John Carter and Dejah Thoris are still on Jupiter (they have a ship that can take them back to Barsoom, but still), the Big Bad has not been defeated yet, and there is no reason to believe that the Morgors' planned invasion of Barsoom has been thwarted. This cliffhanger was left unresolved.
Clueless Chick Magnet: John Carter beginning, but alas, not ending with Dejah Thoris. Just about every adventure he is embarrassed by a beautiful young woman declaring her hopeless love to him. So he takes them home to Dejah Thoris who 'gets him out of it' by playing big sister and matchmaker to the girl.
Tan Hadron raises cluelessness to new levels by not only failing to realize that Tavia is in love with him but that he is in love with her!
The Green Martians often make references to torturing their captives, particularly during their more villainous moments in the earlier chapters of A Princess of Mars. Though they sometimes do so in order to extract information or punish those that break their laws, the majority seem to be motivated by pure sadism.
In Sola's backstory, they tortured her mother in an attempt to learn who her father had been.
A Fighting Man of Mars gives us Ghron, an extremely sadistic Jed who loves doing this to both his slaves and subjects. He threatens to do it to Tan Hadron as well.
Contrived Coincidence: Many. A common feature of stories written by Burroughs. One of the most notable examples comes from "A fighting men". Tan Hadron and Tavia are on top of a plateau surrounded by cannibals. Just when all hope seems lost, Tan Hadron discovers that the invisible ship he acquired earlier but got stolen by the Big Bad has somehow ended up on the same plateau, providing them with a way of escape. It's given a bit of explanation later on, but still.
Cool Pet: In the first three books, John Carter is often accompanied by Woola the calot, a ten-legged, vaguely reptilian creature with several rows of enormous teeth that would quite literally go to the ends of the earth (well, Mars, anyway) for his master. More or less the Martian equivalent of a loyal Canine Companion.
Culture Clash: Frequently occurs in the early chapters of A Princess of Mars, as John Carter has only just arrived on Mars and has little knowledge of the customs of its people. His failure to recognise a Martian gesture symbolising an appeal for help and protection, for example, initially causes Dejah Thoris to mistake him for an enemy collaborating with her Green Martian captors.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Towards the end of A Princess of Mars, Tars Tarkas challenges the Green Martian chieftain Tal Hajus to a duel to the death for the throne. It's over within one sentence.
Curtain Camouflage: A popular feature of palace decor is rich wall draperies hung so as provide a lurking place for guards, assassins, eavesdroppers, etc. Yes, royal Red Martians are a little paranoid. Maybe more than a little.
Every single novel's plot revolves at least partly around the male hero rescuing his love interest. However he inevitably gets captured and/or enslaved himself several times while searching for her thus invoking Badass in Distress.
Deadly Decadent Court: The court of Issus and the other Black Martians in The Gods of Mars, who use Red Martian and White Martian slave labour for virtually everything except warfare. Particularly extreme cases include slaves that constantly speak for their masters (who are too lazy to speak themselves) and one female Black Martian who has a slave describe the world around her to avoid having to open her eyes.
Development Hell: The film of A Princess of Mars has been in on-and-off development since 1931. It eventually reached the big screen as John Carter in 2012, just in time for the 100th anniversary of the first book's publication.
In A Princess of Mars, John Carter describes Tal Hajus as this to force him into battle.
You are a brave people and you love bravery, but where was your mighty jeddak during the fighting today? I did not see him in the thick of battle; he was not there. He rends defenseless women and little children in his lair, but how recently has one of you seen him fight with men?
In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Jav exults when he thinks Tario dead, and instantly cowers when he realizes he's alive. It does not save him, and he whimpers through the following ordeal.
In The Chessmen Of Mars, O-Tar. When he berates his followers for cowardice, one of them declares:
The jeddak knows that in the annals of Manator her jeddaks have ever been accounted the bravest of her warriors. Where my jeddak leads I will follow, nor may any jeddak call me a coward or a craven unless I refuse to go where he dares to go. I have spoken.
Disappeared Dad: After finding himself back on Earth at the end of A Princess of Mars, John Carter is this to Carthoris for the next 10 years, albeit unintentionally.
Driven to Suicide: In battle, it is customary for the captains of Red Martian airships to throw themselves overboard and plummet to their deaths upon surrendering to the enemy. Zat Arras resorts to this near the end of The Gods of Mars in order to avoid being captured or defeated in combat by John Carter.
Dual Wielding: The Yellow Martians in The Warlord of Mars use this as their signature fighting style, with a curved hook sword in the left hand and a straight double-edged sword in the right hand. The Green Martians, meanwhile, are theoretically capable of quadruple-wielding, and seem to carry as many swords and/or guns as possible.
The Dulcinea Effect: Influences more or less every single heroic male character on Mars to an extreme degree. Pretty typical of Burroughs protagonists in general.
John Carter himself feels that Pan Dan Chee's falling instantly in love with Llana of Gathol's image as a Jetan (Martian Chess) piece is a little extreme. Ulysses Paxton aka Vad Varo falls instantly in love with the beautiful Valla Dia - and to his credit stays in love with her after she is transferred to an aged and hideous body.
Everything's Better with Princesses: Most major female characters in the series are the daughters of kings or chieftains. Of the many, many examples, Dejah Thoris is probably the best one to cite here, being the World's Most Beautiful Woman, the primary love interest in the earlier books of the series and a universally beloved figure among the citizens of Helium.
Evil Eye: In The Chessmen of Mars, the kaldanes' mind control depends on it; Tara learns if she looks away, she can not be controlled.
Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: In A Princess of Mars, John Carter observes that Green Martians consider hitting a helpless prisoner the height of jests.
Evil Laugh: In The Gods of Mars, when John Carter and Tars Tarkas enter a chamber, the door closes behind them "And then, from unseen lips, a cruel and mocking peal of laughter rang through the desolate place." As noted above, many Green Martians also have these, as they find violence to be legitimately funny (though they're not all evil).
Evil Overlord: A common variety of villain in the series- the initial loose trilogy alone brings us Tal Hajus (of the Tharks), Matai Shang (of the Therns), Issus (of the First Born- though she's revered as divine across Mars, they're the only ones she actually controls) and Salensus Oll (of Okar).
Exact Words: In The Master Mind of Mars, Ulysses Paxton has promised to return the two Grand Theft Me perpetrators to their own city. With a bit of clever maneuvering, he does manage to arrange a punishment for them that doesn't go back on his promise.
Fate Worse Than Death: In A Princess of Mars, after John Carter saves Dejah Thoris from an Attempted Rape, she tells him that even if they meet their deaths in their escape attempt he still has her gratitude for saving her from worse than death.
Defiled Forever is averted; While women are praised for killing themselves to avoid rape those who are unable or unwilling to do so suffer no diminishment of reputation. The fact that Thuvia 'Maid' of Mars was the slave concubine of her Thern captors matters not at all to Carthoris - or even the villainous Prince Astok. Tan Hadron gladly kills Phao's rapist but neither he nor her lover Nur An respect her any the less for her 'defilement'. And the 'Great Jed' of Manatos frees the somewhat used slave concubine his ruler presents to him and makes her his princess.
Faux Death: In The Master Mind of Mars, Ras Thavas does this to preserve the bodies he swaps (or swaps parts of). When Valla Dia is in danger, Ulysses Paxton resorts to it as the only way to hide her safely.
Female Gaze: Tara is only admiring the nearly nude Gahan's swordsmanship - really!
Fire-Forged Friends: John Carter and Kantos Kan in A Princess of Mars. Also applies to a lot of the other allies he gains throughout the series to varying extents.
First Kiss: In The Chessmen of Mars, this happens right after Tara's profession of love to Turan, and right before her begging him not lead her into dishonor: she's betrothed to another man.
Fleeting Demographic Rule: The series was very influential among old fandom, and it shows. Of course, being literally a hundred years old, many people associate things like the term "Sith" to other franchise.
Follow the Leader: Does anyone really think the movie would have gotten out of its epic-length stretch of Development Hell and finally got around to getting produced when it did if it hadn't been for Avatar?
Food Chain of Evil: You know the White Martians are bad 'cause they eat the Red ones. You know the Black Martians are bad, 'cause they eat the White ones.
A Friend in Need: Numerous instances, including an occasion in The Gods of Mars where John Carter steps in to help a man he doesn't actually like much himself because he's appalled that all the man's own friends have failed to do so.
Friend or Foe: In The Gods of Mars, John Carter, trying to escape, attacks the approaching jailor — only to realize that it wasn't the jailor, it was his own son. Briefly, he even thought he had killed him.
Go Mad from the Revelation: In The Chessmen of Mars, this is claimed for looking on the face of the dead O-Mai, a jeddak said to have died without showing a mark, and whose body was said to lie in a haunted room.
Good Old Ways: In The Chessmen of Mars, the ancient I-Gos is perpetually praising his days. So thorough is his admiration that he changes his loyalties on seeing the hero and heroine demonstrate valor worthy of the Old Days.
Halfway Plot Switch: "Swords of Mars" begins with a plot that involves John Carter going on an undercover mission in Zodanga to try and take down the assassins guild there, but after the assassins realize who they're dealing with, they kidnap Dejah Thoris and the plot switches to the more traditional Burroughs formula of John having to locate and rescue her.
Heavy Worlder: John Carter compared to the Martians. Possibly the oldest known example.
Hidden Elf Village: Too many to list, from the Therns to the Yellow Men to the Orovars. The Black Martians would count, but they raid out for slaves and food.
High Heel Face Turn: Phaidor is the only named female Thern, and also the only Thern to do a Heel Face Turn on-page though she doesn't survive it. She's also the only female of the four main villains of Warlord (the others being Matai Shang, Thurid, and Salensus Oll) and again, the only one to be redeemed.
Horse of a Different Color: Various forms of thoat (a large, hairless grey-and-white creature with eight legs, a long head and neck and a wide, flat tail) are used as the equivalents of horses by several of the Martian races. Most stand around ten feet tall at the shoulder and are best suited to the enormous Green Martians, though references are occasionally made to the more humanoid races breeding smaller, less disproportionate thoats for themselves.
Hufflepuff House: The Yellow Martians. They're not as continually in-focus as the Red and Green Martians, nor are they as central to the mythology of the series as the White and Black Martians. After being introduced and playing a major role in Warlord, they largely fade into the background.
Human Aliens: Everybody on Mars except the Green Martians looked human, but hotter. The earth-born hero John Carter and his Martian Princess wife have two kids, despite massive biological differences including Martians being oviparous.
Human Sacrifice: In The Master Mind of Mars, Dar Tarus, captive, is brought before the altar for this.
Humble Hero: John Carter maintains he's no hero, because it never occurs to him to do the cowardly thing until long after.
Hypnotize the Princess: In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Tario uses this on Thuvia, convincing her in moments that he is friendly, and that she is in love with him. However, it doesn't last long — either his smug expression reminds, or she gets a more powerful counter-suggestion from Carthoris.
Idiot Ball: At the end of the first book, the Applied Phlebotinum that maintains Mars' atmosphere is breaking down, and only John Carter now knows the password to get in the door of the complex to fix it. The planet has three days to live: does he immediately set out with a team of Martian engineers? No — he waits until the three days are nearly up, and only then does he remember that he is the last person alive on Mars who can save the planet. This, after the book has repeatedly portrayed him as making correct decisions instantly in the heat of battle.
In the second, he despairs that Dejah Thoris has already been imprisoned by Issus for a year, as she kills her prisoners after that time. Except he'd forgotten that years on Mars are twice as long as on Earth. In the same book, he goes several chapters without realizing that the strangely familiar young man who speaks of his father as the greatest warrior in Barsoom history is his own son.
And in the third, he's appalled that Dejah Thoris gives him a scornful look when he gives the Barsoomian romantic gesture, having forgotten that he's disguised as a Yellow Martian. This is despite the fact that he's in the room with another Martian in the same disguise, and he doesn't question his disguise holding up to every single other character in this very scene.
If I Can't Have You: Upon being rejected by the already-married John Carter in The Gods of Mars, Phaidor... does not take it well.
I Have You Now, My Pretty: Happens a lot to Burroughs heroines, but Dejah is a downright magnet for it. Almost every major male villain in the first three books wants to either rape her or force her into a political marriage. Subverted in Swords of Mars, where the bad guys abduct Dejah purely to distract Carter, and show little real interest in their captive once they have her.
I'm a Humanitarian: The White Martians subsist solely on the flesh of Red and Green Martians, considering themselves to be above dining on mere animals. The Black Martians, in turn, eat only White Martians.
I'm Not Hungry: In The Chessmen of Mars, when O-Tar declares that Tara shall dine as a princess, Tara declares she sits as a prisoner, not a guest.
As a family we are not rich except in honor, and, valuing this above all mundane possessions, I chose the profession of my father rather than a more profitable career.
In a Single Bound: Real Life Mars has a surface gravity about 40% that of Earth. A human would be able to jump about 2-3 times higher there than he could on Earth. In A Princess of Mars, on the other hand, John Carter can leap thirty feet vertically.
Interspecies Romance: Carter (some sort of maybe-human immortal) and Dejah Thoris (Red Martian) being the most obvious example. In Gods and Warlord, Phaidor (Thern) wants this to happen between her and Carter, but doesn't get it. Later, we get Ulysses Paxton (human) and Valla Dia (Red Martian).
In the Back: In The Master Mind of Mars, Gor Hajus is a respected assassin, and part of the reason is that he will not attack from behind.
Informed Ability: In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, we hear Carthoris declaiming on his inventions, which are marvellous. He never shows any mechanical aptitude on stage, or even any interest in machinery.
Invincible Hero: No important good guy ever dies or loses a duel with a bad guy.
I Owe You My Life: In The Gods of Mars, when John Carter is prisoner to the Black Martian pirates, Xodar is willing to aid him and make his life more bearable, because Carter had spared his life when he could easily have taken it.
I Will Wait for You: In The Master Mind of Mars, Dar Tarus was assassinated in order to clear the way for the rival. (Fortunately for him, his body was sold to the Mad Scientist and he got better.) His love, Kara, fled as soon as her father was assassinated, and returned to be reunited with him.
James Bondage: John Carter, Tars Tarkas, Carthoris, Kar Komak, Turan. . . almost every major male character at one point or another.
Zat Arras attempts this in The Gods of Mars, packing the court with his allies in order to ensure that all the heroes will be executed for blasphemy against the Martian religion. Due to the intervention of Kantos Kan, it fails.
In The Chessmen of Mars, Tara, Turan, and Ghek's trial as Corpals is such a farce that they escape by force before it's over (U-Thor attempts to advise them but is unable to stop it).
In A Fighting Man of Mars, Tan Hadron explains the truth of where he came from, and is still convicted as a spy by an obviously biased jeddak.
Karma Houdini: Ghron, the jed of Ghasta who serves as a secondary antagonist in "Fighting Men". He's by far one of the cruelest, saddistic and ugliest villains of the series, who tortures people for his own amusement, yet his evil reign is not put to an end and basically the only "bad" thing happening to him is that the protagonists escape his clutches before he can have his way with them.
Kill It with Fire: this is basically the only way the Hormads (Ras Thavas' synthetic men) can be permanently destroyed.
King Incognito: In The Chessmen of Mars, Gahan the Jed of Gathol met, and rather repulsed, John Carter's daughter Tara. He disguised himself as a panthan, a wandering swordsman, named Turan when they met again.
Klingon Promotion: The standard method of elevating one's station among the Green Martians is to kill one, thereby assuming their social status and property. However, the rules have to be followed; to overthrow a jed requires the unanimous approval of his council, and to overthrow a jeddak requires unanimous agreement of all jeds.
Leave Behind a Pistol: In The Chessman of Mars, when they decide to proclaim A-Kor jeddak of Manator, the discredited previous jeddak is given a dagger and the reminder that "There can be but one jeddak in Manator."
Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: SOP for Martians of all colors except for the Therns who cheat like crazy. Take note; when facing John Carter it is wise to fight honorably - you'll lose anyway but he will probably not kill you.
Literary Agent Hypothesis: Edgar Rice Burroughs presents himself as the friend and literary executor of John Carter at the beginning of some of the novels. This idea is further developed in The Master Mind of Mars, where we are told that Ulysses Paxton has read the earlier works and so recognizes Barsoom when he reaches it.
I loved Dejah Thoris. The touch of my arm upon her naked shoulder had spoken to me in words I would not mistake, and I knew that I had loved her since the first moment that my eyes had met hers that first time in the plaza of the dead city of Korad.
Yes, I was a fool, but I was in love, and though I was suffering the greatest misery I had ever known I would not have had it otherwise for all the riches of Barsoom. Such is love, and such are lovers wherever love is known.
Loving a Shadow: In The Gods of Mars, Thuvia professes her love for John Carter and is unmoved by his speaking of Dejah Thoris — not that she would ever dream of rivaling her. He tells her "Forget your foolish gratitude-begotten infatuation, which your innocence has mistaken for love."
Tan Hadron's 'love' for Sanoma Tora is clearly of this nature, he projects the virtues he admires on the woman behind her beautiful face. In fact she is vain, shallow, weak and treacherous.
In The Chessmen of Mars, the Reverse Mole who saves Gahan and Tara was a childhood friend of Gahan's, enslaved.
Tavia's backstory in A Fighting Man Of Mars, though she was too young to remember. Also that of Tavan, a minor but significant character; John Carter frees him for his services and because he was obviously of noble birth gave him a place in the fleet. Plus, he turns out to be Tavia's father.
The Magnificent/ Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Quite a few villains in the series have a large number of grandiose (and usually undeserved) titles. The evil White Martian leader Matai Shang, for instance, is referred to as the "Holy Hekkador of the Holy Therns, Father of Therns, Master of Life and Death Upon Barsoom, Brother of Issus, Prince of Life Eternal" by his daughter in The Gods of Mars. Issus, meanwhile, is implied to have around 53 titles later in the same book, though fortunately only three of them are actually listed anywhere.
Male Gaze: To his infinite credit Gahan of Gathol manages to keep his eyes mostly on Tara of Helium's face, only occasionally straying lower. Male Martians in general seem to gallantly ignore the fact that their love interests are wearing nothing but jewelry.
In A Princess of Mars, Sarkoja, who also bears true but malicious tales.
"Sarkoja told Sola that you had become a true Thark," she said, "and that I would now see no more of you than of any of the other warriors." "Sarkoja is a liar of the first magnitude," I replied, "notwithstanding the proud claim of the Tharks to absolute verity."
In The Chessmen of Mars, E-Thas repeats the tales that accuse the jeddak O-Tar of being afraid to go into rooms reputed to be haunted, and quickly assures him that it's all "foul slander".
With a cry of pleasure he sprang toward me and threw his arms about my neck, and for a brief moment as I held my boy close to me the tears welled to my eyes and I was like to have choked after the manner of some maudlin fool—but I do not regret it, nor am I ashamed. A long life has taught me that a man may seem weak where women and children are concerned and yet be anything but a weakling in the sterner avenues of life.
Master of Illusion: The Lotharians in Thuvia, Maid of Mars are somewhere between this trope and Reality Warper, being capable of spawning endless numbers of soldiers from thin air which proceed to vanish again once their enemies are defeated.
Master Swordsman: Carter himself is often referred to as the greatest swordsman of two worlds, for good reason. In The Warlord of Mars, though, he meets his equal in the form of the Yellow Martian warrior Solan, and the narration spends pretty much their whole duel waxing poetic about how good they both are (Carter wins more through luck than anything).
Memento MacGuffin: In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Carthoris finds a hair ornament, with the insignia of Thuvia's house — and unfortunately, blood. He instantly adds it to his own harness before going in search.
Men Are the Expendable Gender: In The Chessmen of Mars, Ghek uses mind control to stop the Kangaroo Court, but must maintain eye contact; he tells Turan that they will kill Tara, and Turan overcomes his reluctance to leave Ghek to carry Tara off. Afterward, he apologizes and says if they had been three men, they could have all stayed and fought, but he could not leave her in danger.
The Men First: In The Chessmen of Mars, when Gahal's ship is caught in a storm, one of his men is knocked overboard and barely manages to grab hold. On seeing it, Gahal instantly goes to the rescue — which results in his own fall.
Microts: 1 tal = .9 second, 1 xat = 3 minutes and 1 zode = 2 hours 28 minutes.
Mighty Whitey: The main character. Most of the other people on Barsoom are red- or green-skinned. There are white-skinned Martians, but they're villains.
Mobile Maze: In The Gods of Mars, John Carter and Tars Tarkas are trapped in such a maze — with monsters for more fun.
Moral Myopia: Despite encouraging members of the other Martian races to end their lives with a one-way pilgrimage to the Valley Dor and using those that do so as a source of slave labour and food, the White Martians are still horrified by the Black Martians occasionally raiding them and enslaving their women in The Gods of Mars. Being the daughter of one of their religious leaders, Phaidor suffers from a particularly severe case of this, even going so far as to argue that being a slave to her supposedly-holy race is an honour and a privilege.
In The Gods of Mars, John Carter and Tars Tarkas argue over who should attempt to escape through a gap first.
In The Chessmen of Mars, when Tara and Turan do not wish to leave Ghek in danger, Ghek persuades Turan that he must force Tara to go, or they will kill her.
Ms. Fanservice: The typical Martian woman. Art varies from presenting them in what amounts to abbreviated versions of the Princess Leia slave bikini to showing them.... well, clothed in jewelry, but with none of that jewelry covering anything.
Mysterious Past: We don't learn anything about John Carter's life on Earth before his first arrival on Barsoom, and his own past is a mystery even to himself. It is suggested more than once that he is much older than he looks, but he has always been a man of about thirty and remembers no childhood.
Necromancer: In The Chessman of Mars, Tara is accused of being "one of those horrid Corphals that by commanding the spirits of the wicked dead gains evil mastery over the living".
Nice to the Waiter: In A Fighting Man of Mars, Tan Hadron pledges to defend a slave who saw a kidnapping and says that what he has to say will not please someone prominent.
Nigh Invulnerability: The Hormads; you can stab them, cut them, chop off their heads and other body parts, and yet they keep coming. Joog the Giant as well.
No Ending: Thanks to Author Existence Failure (see above.) Skeleton Men of Jupiter ends with Carter having escaped from the Morgors and flown to the rival Jupiterian country of Zanor, where Dejah Thoris had previously escaped to. We never find out whether Dejah Thoris is actually there, or how the Barsoomians will get away from Jupiter.
Oblivious to Love: Your typical Edgar Rice Burroughs hero needs to be hit over the head with a club, several times, before he realizes that he has fallen in love with the heroine.
Tan Hadron is in class by himself in that it takes him the entire book to realize that he has fallen out of love with Sanoma Taro and into love with Tavia - a fact painfully clear not only to the reader but to everybody else in the book.
Offered The Crown: Happens to John Carter several times throughout the first three books, although his various Martian comrades are usually crowned in his place to ensure that no race will become ruled by a different species to their own. The ending of The Warlord of Mars is the one exception to this, as all the Jeddaks he previously befriended or brought to power end up unanimously declaring him ruler of the entire planet, thereby uniting all the main Martian races under one leader.
Offing the Offspring: In The Chessmen of Mars, the jeddak O-Tar — a Royal Brat and Dirty Coward — has clearly evil intentions toward his more worthy son A-Kor, imprisoning him. Rumors begin to circulate that he has had A-Kor murdered.
Parental Abandonment: Standard practice for the Green Martians. The women do not know whether their eggs were selected for hatching, and couldn't identify the fathers. John Carter attributes much of their harshness to this; one Green Martian who was raised by her mother, and knowing her father, is far more generous and gentle than her fellows.
Parental Substitute: In The Chessmen Of Mars, U-Thor received a slave woman from his jeddak; he freed and married her, and regards the son she bore the jeddak, A-Kor, as like a son to him. When the jeddak, a Royal Brat, has A-Kor imprisoned out of fear and envy, U-Thor demands an accounting.
I have made of her a free woman, and I have married her and made her thus a princess of Manatos. Her son is my son, O-Tar, and though thou be my jeddak, I say to you that for any harm that befalls A-Kor you shall answer to U-Thor of Manatos.
Path of Inspiration: The religion of the Red and Green Martians encourages them, near the end of their lives, to make a pilgrimage to the South Pole - where they're killed and eaten by the cannibalistic white Martians. (Sometimes they're enslaved at first, which generally just postpones the killing and eating.)
Pirate: Since they're only ever seen by other civilisations when they're trying to raid them for slaves, the Black Martians/First Born are initially viewed as pirates in The Gods of Mars.
Pirate Girl: Phondari, Pirate Queen of Mars, from Dynamite Comics Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris.
Pragmatic Villainy: The Morgors, to some degree. On their homeplanet Jupiter they have left the island country Zanor, home of the Savators, unconquered; not because they can't conquer it, but because doing so would cost a lot of men and ships, which isn't worth the effort since the island has little to offer.
Pride: In The Chessmen of Mars, the men of Manator are particularly proud and maltreat their slaves from contempt because they have never been defeated and enslaved themselves. Presumably this changes after their kingdom is conquered by the combined forces of Gathol and Helium.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: Practically everyone, but especially the Green Martians. The only real exception are the Therns - while Carter notes that Thern swordsmen are quite skilled, they have no real conception of honor and will happily break any and all rules of combat for a momentary advantage.
Psychic Powers: Martians control their riding beasts by telepathy, and also use it to assist verbal communication. Some hidden cultures have reached much greater levels of power, such as invisibility, or - for the Lotharians - creating matter, and even sentient beings, from nothing!
Among the Black Martians, despite the fact that they consider themselves to be the most advanced Barsoomian race, Psychic Powers are largely unknown- except by Issus, who uses them to cement her people's perception of her as divine, since obviously only a goddess could read minds.
Puny Earthlings: Inverted, but this series is Older Than Television, so it may pre-date that trope. The Earthman transported to the lower gravity of Barsoom has remarkable strength, leaping abilities, and endurance. Siegel and Shuster created Superman as "John Carter in reverse".
Rags to Royalty: Some royalty are in disguise, or ignorant of their births.
Really 700 Years Old: Martians are very long lived. A 200 year old Martian can still look like a man in his 20's or 30's. John Carter himself also counts, since he has always been a man of about 30 for as long as he can remember, but he doesn't know how this is possible.
Reasonable Authority Figure: The Great Jed, U-Thor, in The Chessmen of Mars. He gives Tara advice on defending herself against charges, valiantly defends his stepson A-Kor against A-Kor's own father, the jeddak, and in the end is instrumental in replacing the jeddak with A-Kor.
Refuge in Audacity: John Carter has contrived (and carried out) several plans that he felt would work because of their "sheer boldness." That is, the plan was so ludicrous that anyone witnessing it would be frozen in shock for a few moments, giving him an advantage he could exploit.
Reliable Traitor: The Black Martian prince Thurid turns on Matai Shang (a White Martian leader) and throws him out of an airship to his death near the end of The Warlord of Mars, having only cooperated with him in the first place due to their mutual hatred of John Carter.
Religion of Evil: The White Martians and Black Martians promote the worship of Issus in order to perpetuate a centuries-old system of slaughter, rape and cannibalism.
Revealing Coverup: In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Carthoris is framed for Thuvia's kidnapping. Not that his love would have let him leave the matter alone, but it always helps to implicate his honor.
Revenge: In The Gods of Mars, during the Gladiator Revolt, the slave women in the stands start to take revenge.
Revenge by Proxy: In The Gods of Mars, John Carter is particularly horrified to learn that Issus has Dejah Thoris prisoner and knows that she is the wife of John Carter and the mother of Carthoris — the two men who dared raise their hands against her.
Reverse Mole: In The Chessmen of Mars, a character suddenly comes to Turan and Tara's aid, and reveals that he was one of the Gathol slaves held captive there.
Romantic False Lead: In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, the story opens with the news that Carthoris's Cannot Spit It Out has resulted in Thuvia's accepting the suit of Kulan Tith. Unusually, she then gets kidnapped, Carthoris goes to rescue her, and Kulan Tith does not even feature until the very end, when Carthoris get her to his ship, where he can protect her and goes to leave, Thuvia begs him to stay though she knows she is dishonoring herself, and Kulan Tith steps aside.
All over the place, what with all the princesses and whatnot.
In The Chessman of Mars, Corpals "that by commanding the spirits of the wicked dead gains evil mastery over the living" are said to be killable only by those of Royal Blood. And the weak and cowardly king can not be deposed for a brave nobleman, only another royal; fortunately, he also has a brave and popular son whom he hasn't killed yet.
In The Chessmen of Mars, O-Tar the jeddak is entirely self-centered, on top of being a Dirty Coward, despite being old enough to have a grown son, A-Kor. He is extremely jealous of his son's courage and popularity and imprisons him.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Dejah Thoris is leading a scientific mission conducting atmospheric studies when her ships are attacked by the Tharks. She is later shown as making weekly tours of selected portions of her grandfather's kingdom. In other words she does more than sit around waiting to be kidnapped (again). Male royals are almost without exception depicted as active military officers, espionage agents or knights errant.
Sacred Hospitality: Thuvia refuses to let Cathoris defend her honor after Asok's behavior on the grounds he is her father's guest.
Schizo Tech: Though the Red Martians are more advanced that humanity in many respects (particularly with their airships and medical science), their weapon technology often comes off as pretty medieval. Justified by their honor system- they have powerful firearms, but swordsmanship is more highly regarded, so it's the weapon and fighting style that gets emphasized.
Science Marches On: Burroughs was just one of many sci-fi writers of his era that depicted Mars as a habitable planet filled with various exotic fauna as well as intelligent life. All those dreams were ruined by the Mariner 4 misson to Mars in 1964.
Snark Knight: John Carter had developed into this by Llana of Gathol.
To the Jed who has offered to explain why Carter must die for aiding one of their own: "It is going to take a great deal of explaining, your majesty."
'It might almost be a pleasure to have one's throat slit by one of them (the Olovars), he would be so polite about it.'
"Had I not done so we might have been saved some very harrowing experiences. Although, if my past life is any criterion we would have found plenty of other adventures."
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: In The Master Mind of Mars, Valla Dia, when she finds herself transplanted into an old and ugly body, admits that she enjoyed her beauty, but that it had not been an unmixed blessing, as men had fought and died over her. She is content in this body, which, at least, no one would fight over.
Kidnapping and enslavement are a constant threat to a woman of Barsoom and the more beautiful she is the more she is at risk.
So Proud of You: In The Gods of Mars, John Carter, prisoner, meets another prisoner, a young man who recounts how he fought valiantly with his father's sword before his capture, and has the consolation that his Disappeared Dad would have been proud of him, if he had known. Later, speaking of his fights within the Gladiator Games, he says his mother would be proud to see "how well I have maintained the traditions of my father's prowess". The reader, who is hopefully not quite as thick as Captain Carter, probably figures out well before it's stated that the young man, Carthoris, is Carter's own son.
Someone to Remember Him By: Carthoris initially believes himself to be this in The Gods of Mars, having hatched fromhis egg at around the same time John Carter returned to Earth at the end of the previous book. Later on, however, he's proven wrong when he and his father finally recognise one another.
Stripperific: Equal opportunity! Except when necessitated by the climate, nobody on Mars wears any clothes; just a harness to hang their weapons and a pocket pouch from.
Bowdlerization: Burroughs never shows Carter to be sexually aroused by all the casual nudity on Barsoom, and nobody's genitalia are specifically attacked during the copious fight scenes. Most visual adaptations of the novels (including the Asylum and Disney movies) show the characters wearing clothes, and Michael Whelan's book covers for the Del Rey paperbacks (example pictured above), while extremely accurate in their depiction, still have to resort to Hand or Object Underwear and/or Scenery Censor.
Strong Family Resemblance: Carthoris is frequently described as incredibly reminiscent of his father in more or less every way. As a result, their complete failure to recognise one another for several chapters in The Gods of Mars comes across as a serious case of them both having caught the Idiot Ball.
Sour Supporter: In The Master Mind of Mars, Gor Hajus laughs at the quest Ulysses Paxton proposes, after rousing him from a Faux Death; if he supports him until it's done, it will be forever. He still helps him, however, since even that's better than the Faux Death.
Survival Mantra— Tara of Helium's "I still live." Of course, she's quoting her father.
Take Over the World: In A Fighting Man of Mars, this is the jeddak of Jalar's intention — though being a Dirty Coward, he insists on marvelous Mad Scientist inventions in sufficient quantities first. Also Phor Tak, who had made him those inventions and been exiled by him; desire for revenge drives him insane.
In The Gods of Mars, when Carthoris learns that the man he had met only days before is his father, and John Carter convinces him of it by asking after his mother, Carthoris jumps to embrace him and weep Manly Tears.
In The Chessman of Mars, on learning that A-Tor is the son of Haja of Gathol and so his cousin, Gahan of Gathol is immediately interested in him, and assures him that if he had made it to Gathol, being Haja's son would have assured him a welcome.
Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: In Swords of Mars, John Carter meets, while in disguise, a woman named Zanda, who comes from the city of Zodanga, destroyed because of Carter's actions. She has sworn revenge if she ever meets him. She therefore deliberately feigns this trope when she realizes the truth.
"I am very happy, Vandor," she replied, "happier than I ever expected to be in my life." She emphasized the word Vandor, and I thought that I detected a smile lurking deep in her eyes. "Is your happiness so great," I asked, "that it has caused you to forget your vow to kill John Carter?" She returned my bantering smile as she replied. "I do not know anyone by the name of John Carter."
Time to Unlock More True Potential: Solan in Warlord is John Carter's most capable and deadly foe ever, when it comes to swordsmanship. Of course, this means that the Prince of Helium gets a chance to learn how good he really is. Solan's still better. John Carter only wins because he manages to distract Solan by hitting a switch. Solan had him before being caught by surprise.
Tin Man: In The Master Mind of Mars, both Ras Thavas and Toonolians appear to have reached this state from excessive desire to be The Stoic. They profess to be above such things as sentiment, but when they manifest it, and Ulysses Paxton calls them on it, they are in complete denial.
Gor Hajus was essentially a man of sentiment, though he would doubtless have run through the heart any who had dared accuse him of it, thus perfectly proving the truth of the other's accusation.
Turncoat: In The Chessmen of Mars, the ancient I-Gos is perpetually praising his days. So thorough is his admiration that he changes his loyalties on seeing the hero and heroine demonstrate valor worthy of the Old Days.
Two Part Trilogy: The initial three books have this feel; Princesss is largely self-contained, apart from the ending cliffhanger, while Gods and Warlord are both parts of what amounts to the same storyline and are far more connected to each other than any other books in the series.
Unfamiliar Ceiling: Happens to Carter a few times, although he generally winds up as a prisoner in those situations.
Villainous Breakdown: At the end of The Gods of Mars,Issus degenerates into an insane, gibbering wreck upon finally being exposed as weak and powerless before the Black Martians, who all previously worshipped her as a goddess.
Whale Egg: The Red Martians reproduce by laying eggs, but are somehow able to crossbreed with humans.
What Could Have Been: Famous Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett wanted to make a John Carter feature film. Only about 2 minutes of pencil and color tests exist. You can watch them here for now. Keep in mind that this footage was 4 years before Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and 6 years before the Fleischer Superman cartoons. MGM nixed the project because the idea of a man having adventures on Mars was considered "too outlandish" by exhibitors, particularly in the midwest (though the Flash Gordon serials played to great success a short time later).
Weird Moon: The moons of Mars cause size-shifting when one approaches them from Mars.
In "A Fighting Man of Mars", Nur An and Tan Hadron end up in the palace of Ghron, an exeptionally cruel Jed. Naturally, everone expects that he will be defeated by the protagonists, but after Nur An and Tar Hadron manage to escape from him the whole matter is quickly forgotten about and Ghron and his prisoners are never mentioned again.
In "Llana of Gathol", we never learn of the final fate of the Dusar and John Carters allies Fo-nar and Tan Hadron, who were still on board after the mutanious crew leaves John Carter and Gor-Don stranded in the arctic and takes off with the ship.
What Measure Is A Nonhuman: To John Carter's considerable credit he regards all the speaking races of Barsoom as 'human' whatever they may look like.
Will Not Tell a Lie: John Carter's Virginia honor says that he should never lie to save himself, while Martian honor forbids lying at all. Ignored more often than not, since strict adherence to this rule would forbid espionage, which is the plot of most of the novels.
With Due Respect: In The Chessmen of Mars, the jeddak O-Tar demands that his major-domo, E-Thas, tell him the rumors about him. E-Thas, with obvious reluctance, does so, with many claims that this is Malicious Slander and that he is only repeating what others are saying.
Woman Scorned: Phaidor in The Gods of Mars and The Warlord of Mars. May also count as a Yandere due to her clear mental instability and willingness to Murder the Hypotenuse after learning that John Carter is married to Dejah Thoris.
World War One: Ulysses Paxton introduces himself as having served as a captain in the trenches of the Western Front before being transported to Mars in The Master Mind of Mars.
Worthy Opponent: Quite a few honorable men end up opposing John Carter because he is their enemy. Most tend to undergo a Heel Face Turn later, since this is a rather idealistic series.
Wouldn't Hit a Girl: John Carter adheres to this so rigidly that he's even reluctant to kill Issus at the end of The Gods of Mars. The Black Martians she manipulated into worshipping her for thousands of years, however, are not.
In general, all Red Barsoomians adhere to this as part of their etiquette of battle. Other races may or may not.
For the Green Martians it's more a case of "Wouldn't Hit the Other Sex", it being equally against their ethics for a woman to threaten or harm a man as for a man to threaten or harm a woman.
You Fight Like a Cow: not meant as an insult, but as a fact. The Hormads are terrible sword fighters. If it wasn't for the fact they are almost indestructible, they wouldn't be a match for John Carter or other skilled warriors at all.
You Have Waited Long Enough: In A Princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris agrees to marry another prince, believing John Carter to be dead. He appears and leads on an attack on the city to free her — carefully ensuring that someone else kills the prince, since she would be forbidden to marry the man who killed her fiance.