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Literature / John Carter of Mars
aka: Barsoom

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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 Venus-set Amtor series, the Pellucidar series, 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 in the US due to their age (anything published in 1925 or earlier). All of Burroughs' works are PD almost everywhere else in the world. Since most countries now have a term of "life plus 70"—i.e., the author's lifespan, plus 70 years—and Burroughs died in 1950, his works entered the PD in Australia, Canada, the EU, New Zealand, and the UK no later than 2021.note  That said, the trademark is another story entirely.

  • A Princess of Mars. Serialized February-July, 1912, book form October 1917.
  • The Gods of Mars. Serialized January-May, 1913, book form September 1918.
  • The Warlord of Mars. Serialized December, 1913-March, 1914, book form September 1919.
  • Thuvia, Maid of Mars. Serialized April, 1916, book form October, 1920.
  • The Chessmen of Mars. Serialized February-March, 1922, book form November, 1922.
  • 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.

Attempts to make The Film of the Book began as early as the 1930s, when Bob Clampett got so far as to produce test footage for an animated adaptation, but it was not until the next century that a film made it all the way to release. An Mockbuster adaptation of A Princess of Mars was made by The Asylum in 2009. The film it was made to borrow the publicity from, a Disney-financed film adaptation directed by Andrew Stanton and starring Taylor Kitsch as John Carter, spent several more years in Development Hell before finally coming out in March 2012 under the title John Carter.

John Carter also has been adapted into comic book format and published by companies like Marvel. The most prominent and recent adaptation is Dynamite's Warlord of Mars, which features several spin-offs and original stories exclusive to Dynamite, as well as crossovers with other properties like Gullivar of Mars and Tarzan. There were also Czech comic adaptations of some of the first books done in the 60s and 70s, apparently the only ones to ever follow the original storyline all the way to Thuvia, Maid of Mars.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: When used the guns have two types of bullets:
    • Explosive: The casing is made of glass, and contains a powder that explodes when exposed to sunlight.note 
    • Non-explosive: intended for use in night raids; especially if you don't intend to stick around to clean up after.
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: At the end of The Chessmen of Mars, Djor Kantos reveals that, believing Tara dead, he had married another. She's delighted. By Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends that way, he had freed her from The Promise, and she can marry the hero.
  • Abusive Precursors: The Black Martians are known as "the First Born" due to being the first race to achieve sentience on the planet before everyone else. They are also vicious raiders that regularly attack Therns and Red Martians (to whom they were descended from the Black Martians through interbreeding with White and Yellow Martians), taking their females as slaves for their goddess and others for labor. They do reform themselves once Carter exposes the tyrant in control of them.
  • 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.)
  • Accidental Suicide: The ending of sees the fanatical Phaidor leaping to her death, convinced that her "divine heritage" means that the fall won't even injure her.
  • The Ace: With the combination of his military and other skills from Earth and his superhuman strength on Mars, as well as his unbending attitude, Carter soon finds himself a leader in the struggles against the various evil factions.
  • Action Girl: Every female of many (though not all) of the Martian races is supposed to be able to fight (though they're generally expected to avoid doing so), but many of them aren't very impressive at it, especially earlier in the series. On the other hand, Tavia and Llana of Gathol are both excellent swordswomen and fully able to fight alongside the men.
  • Adaptational Curves: Many comic book adaptations of the novels give Green Martian females breasts. It's not clear in the novels if they would have breasts or nurse their young (being egg-layers). Of course, the Red Martian females are also oviparous, and there's no question that their females have breasts (though what they use them for is an open question, since by the time the eggs hatch the young martians are well beyond infancy).
  • After-Action Patch-Up: John Carter treats Dejah Thoris's injuries after she is struck by a Green Martian warrior.
  • After the End: Martian civilization peaked millennia before the events of the novels - the Barsoom Carter finds himself on is a Scavenger World.
  • The Ageless:
    • The Martians themselves reach maturity, then appear to hover permanently in their twenties, if they do not voluntarily go down the River Iss (usually at the age of around 1000), or (more likely) die violently. There are Martians who appear old (most notably Issus), but they've usually been around for millennia. Ras Thavas in The Master Mind of Mars is old enough to actually be infirm due to age, so he's probably well over a thousand Martian years old (closer to 2000 in Earth years), and the events of that book mean that he can expect to live at least that long again.
    • 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.
  • Aliens Never Invented Democracy: All of the Barsoomian races are ruled by monarchs, and all except the Green Martian tribes are hereditary. John Carter of course marries the princess of the Red Martian city of Helium.
  • Alien Princess: one of the earliest examples, Dejah Thoris, Princess of the Red Martians and Love Interest for our hero, John Carter. She is also the subject of Bizarre Alien Biology, as Red Martians, just like Green Martians, hatch from eggs.
  • 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. Calots also figure into a lot of Martian idioms in much the same way dogs would 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: In this setting, this is nearly always subverted. To the extent that it's true, it's a matter of the race having a twisted culture, and almost all races are shown to have some decent individuals among them.
    • Subverted with the Green Martians; they tend to be brutal raiders—because that's the deliberate path their civilization took, millennia ago. Individual Green Martians are people like any other, and they have about the same mix of good and evil individuals as the Red Martians.
    • The White Martians play this one straight on their first few appearances, being racist, cannibalistic monsters. However, after their religion got exposed, they integrated with society again. Carthoris, in Thuvia, Maid of Mars, actually passes off a companion as a thern. Other White Martian groups (the Lotharians and Orovars) are shown as people, with good and bad members.
    • 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, racist pirate lords. There's one example of a Defector from Decadence shown, and he's clearly the exception.
    • The Morgors from Skeleton Men of Jupiter 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.
    • In Chessmen of Mars, Turan apologizes to Tara for forcibly carrying her to safety while leaving their companion Ghek in danger, explaining that if they had been three fighting men they could have died together, but both he and Ghek are morally required to give their lives to save a woman. Tara accepts this with regret but not anger. That's just how things roll on Barsoom.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: Panthans (mercenary fighters) are stereotyped as this, which makes it easy for a protagonist to simply claim to be one. Since there's always fighting to be done on Barsoom, nobody asks too many questions.
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • Commonly practiced on Mars. In Helium, the girl must give her free consent to make it binding, but to refuse a parent's promise is dishonorable; many other nations don't bother with such niceties. 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.
    • Tara and Djor Kantos' fathers are best friends, so they grew up together and their marriage came to be expected without a formal agreement - nonetheless, said expectation was still enough to create a potential matter of honor. It proves to be a non-issue, as Djor Kantos marries someone else while Tara is presumed dead.
  • Artificial Human: The Hormads from Synthetic Men of Mars are grown in tissue vats by the Mad Scientist Ras Thavas.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Oh so very much.
    • The Red, White, Black and Yellow Martians are oviparous, and yet not only (coloration aside) identical in appearance to, but also cross-fertile with, humans.
    • The eggs take five years(it's not clear if the text means Martian or Terrestrial years, but either way it's a very long time) to hatch, during which the egg itself grows larger ... somehow.
    • And remember that "identical in appearance to"? That extends to the females having Non-Mammal Mammaries, despite the fact that by the time they could be used for the purpose to which Earth mammals put them, the offspring are well beyond the infant stage.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Even in the lesser gravity of Mars, John Carter should not be able to jump many times higher/longer than he could on earth due to this alone. His seemingly supernatural strength may of course be ascribed to the weird nature of his teleportation/projection instead, but the books appear to assume that the gravity differential is the reason.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Among the Green Martians, though it can be subverted due to the challenge protocols. See Klingon Promotion.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Martians of all colors seem prone to this as Carter notes on several occasions.
  • 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.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Discussed and deconstructed in Chessmen of Mars. The kaldanes believe their "superior intellect" can allow them to do this, but in reality they are clumsy and inefficient swordsmen. The hero explains that a real fight is a matter of instinct and practice, rather than theory.
  • Badass 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 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."
    • In his own way, Ras Thavas in Master Mind of Mars:
      "I am Ras Thavas, why should I incline the head to any other? In my world, nothing counts but brain and in that respect, and without egotism, I may say that I acknowledge no superior."
  • 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.
  • Bald of Evil: The Always Chaotic Evil Therns, who wear blonde wigs to hide it.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Both the insectoid and the humanoid Martians procreate by laying eggs which gestate for five (Earth) years before hatching, and death by old age is unknown. Disease does technically exist, but the medicine of the Martians is so advanced that, in essence, Martians are incapable of dying unless directly killed by an outside event. Since they live on a dying world, this in turn forces every single Martian to balance the needs of the entire community against their own and make sure there are enough resources to go around.
  • 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.
  • 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 fleshnote , and threatens to eventually engulf all of Barsoom.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Several Barsoomian words are substituted for perfectly applicable English terms, such as calling kings "jeddaks".
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": The White Apes. All those other crazy multi-limbed creatures do have their own names, but they are repeatedly compared to horses, lions, etc. At least it's acknowledged that the locals would already have named everything, and what some of those names are.
  • 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.
  • The Cavalry: 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.
  • Cavalry Officer: John Carter is an ex cavalry-man of the state of Virginia in the American Civil War.
  • Challenging the Chief: In A Princess of Mars, it's explained that among the Green Martians, if you want to invoke You Kill It, You Bought It on a jed or jeddak, you need the approval of their council before you can call them out. When John Carter challenges Tal Hajus on behalf of Tars Tarkas, therefore, he has to make such an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech that the jeds agree that Tal Hajus has to respond to it. Once that's done, Tars Tarkas' fight with his jeddak doesn't even last one sentence.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends:
    • 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.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • A Princess of Mars, the first book of the initial trilogy, ends with John Carter returned to Earth against his will and left uncertain whether his last actions on Mars were sufficient to save the lives of his friends and family there.
    • The Gods of Mars, the second book of the initial trilogy, ends with Carter's wife Dejah Thoris trapped in a cell that can only be opened once a year, along with Phaidor, who wants Carter for herself and has no scruples about applying Murder the Hypotenuse.
    • 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, at least partially due to Burroughs' death a year or so after the first part was published.
  • 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!
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • 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: In "A Fighting Man of Mars", 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.
    • If any personal duel Carter is in is not this it's generally because Carter is deliberately sandbagging to waste time or because he doesn't want to kill his opponent (e.g., he can't kill Sab Than because Dejah Thoris has been semi-forcibly engaged to him, and a Martian custom says that a woman can't marry the man who kills her fiancé). In the entire series there are only a couple of times when Carter acknowledges that he's facing someone nearly as good as he is.
  • 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.
  • Cut Short: 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. Burroughs died without completing the intended sequel, so we never find out whether Dejah Thoris is actually there, or how the Barsoomians will get away from Jupiter.
  • Damsel out of Distress:
    • A captive Dejah Thoris saves John Carter's life by striking the gloating villains with her manacles.
    • Tara of Helium coolly dispatches an attempted rapist with a single dagger thrust.
    • Llana of Gathol saved her grandfather's life by attacking his opponent from behind causing him to fall on John Carter's sword.
    • Thuvia's first act, on being freed from slavery, is to shoot and kill her Thern captor.
  • 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.
  • Dead Guy on Display: the city-state of Mantos is full of them, since it is considered a normal and respectful treatment of the dead, both allies and enemies alike. Honored dead are perfectly preserved and displayed in their best clothes on roof and balconies of the family home. Dead enemies are given a treatment that shrinks them into small mummies and displayed in niches in the main city gate.
  • Death World: Barsoom's cities are safe enough (though beware the wars and the Decadent Court), but away from civilization, the dead world is an extremely dangerous place. Aside from being a planet-sized desert, just about every animal is either an easily-angered berserker of a herbivore, or is a carnivore with a special taste for human flesh. And if a place is not a desert, that means that something's going on and the place is even more dangerous.
  • Defiled Forever: 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.
  • Diamonds in the Buff: Standard attire for Red Barsoomian females is jewelry... and nothing else.
    She was as destitute of clothes as any Martian, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.
  • Direct Line to the Author: 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.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • 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.
  • Disney Villain Death: Sola survives one in Gods of Mars: the airship she was thrown out of just so happened to be passing over a very high hill on a very dark night...
  • 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.
  • Duel to the Death: Often held by Green Martians, generally with the winner gaining status via Klingon Promotion. One such between Tars Tarkas and Tal Hajus features in A Princess of Mars.
  • 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.
    • In Chessmen of Mars, the hero, while searching for the heroine, sees a woman trying to escape what are obviously her captors, and thinks that he really would be under an obligation to help her, if he weren't engaged on an entirely separate quest.
  • Dying Race: The Lotharians in Thuvia, Maid of Mars, there are only a thousand of them left alive with no women and children among them. Their leader Tario is trying to use his powers to materialize a female to probably circumvent this problem with little success.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • John Carter's is when he charges into an entire camp of Apaches to rescue his friend—whom he knows very well is probably already mercifully dead—with only the comment that he couldn't think, then or later, of anything else to have done.
    • In Gods, Phaidor's character is revealed when she flashes an evil smile as John Carter prepares to kill their erstwhile captors. Another moment is during the gladiator rebellion: while almost all the other women in the arena are turning on their masters, Phaidor is quietly waiting it out.
  • Ethnic God: The god Tur is worshipped solely by the Phundahlians, while the god Komal (who is actually just a large Banth) is only worshipped by the Lotharians.
  • 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. Which also works in his favor, because when he retaliates and kills one of the Green Martians, that makes him the life of the party as far as the other Tharks are concerned.
  • 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).
  • 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.
    • In Gods of Mars, John Carter persuades his jailer to carry a message to Carthoris by promising him a harness and weapons of his choosing, from Carter's own personal arsenal. Carthoris dutifully gives the warrior his choice, and then throws him in jail.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Despite living on a cold world, the Martians still run around naked, or close to it. The yellow-skinned Okarians who live up in the far north are the only exception, wearing heavy cloaks.
  • Fantastic Fauna Counterpart: Some of the fauna of Barsoom have clear counterparts on Earth. The Banth is clearly a ten-legged lion, the Toath are horses and the Calot are stocky pets similar to bulldogs (who show a lot of dog-like behaviour). The White Apes, despite their name, only look like white, four-armed gorillas, but their ecological role is more similar to large predators like bears.
  • Fantastic Rank System:
    • Than = Ordinary warrior or seaman
    • Padwar = Lieutenant
    • Dwar = Captain (commands 100 men or one flier)
    • Odwar = General/Admiral (commands 10,000 men)
    • Jedwar = General of generals (warlord)
    • A Jed is a noble, generally the ruler of a single city or Green Martian tribe.
    • A Jeddak is equivalent to a king, ruling over a nation of several cities or tribes.
    • The Warlord of Barsoom is an honorary rank given to John Carter. In theory, he commands an alliance of Martian nations during wartime. (The alliance has never been called to war as such.)
  • Fantasy Counterpart Religion/Fictional Religion: Burroughs gave the Red Martians their own religion based around the goddess Issus. The second book in the series, The Gods of Mars, prominently features this religion and the eventual discovery that it's all a fraud. Issus is just an old Black Martian, not a goddess. The book The Master Mind of Mars introduces another Martian religion centered around the god Tur. Unlike the Issus-based religion, which is global, this one appears to be limited to just the city of Phundahl. And like Issus, it's all a big scam. The statue of Tur in the temple is just an animatronic operated from within.
  • 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.
    • Phaidor fears this waiting for her when she is kidnapped by the Black Martians. Over time, they regularly raided the Therns' domains and captured any women they could put their hands on, and only the women, with the implications being that their fate is worse than death.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Forever War: The Therns and the First-Born have been locked in conflict for untold ages, but nether side being able to completely wipe out each other: the First-Born only raided their home for treasure and women, and the Therns only succeed in driving them off and losing some females in the prospect, without even daring to strike back at their enemies. As it turns out, this has only been war from the Therns' viewpoint, as the First-Born doesn't view them necessarily as enemies, but rather as cattle and puppets to control the rest of Barsoom.
  • A Friend in Need: In The Gods of Mars 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 jailer — only to realize that it wasn't the jailer, it was his own son. Briefly, he even thought he had killed him.
  • Full-Name Basis: John Carter is always referred to as John Carter by the various Martian races, who don't appear to make a distinction between first names and surnamesnote . This appears to be common among the Martians themselves as well; people always use the name in full even when referring to close friends or relatives (though not all females have multiple names, even among the aristocracy).
  • Giant Animal Worship: In Thuvia, Maiden of Mars, the Lotharians worship Komal, who is supposedly a great beast god, but is in fact merely an unusually large banth (the Barsoomian equivalent of a lion.)
  • Global Currency: Everyone seems to use the same currency units, "tanpi" and "teepi."
  • A God Am I: Issus in The Gods of Mars. Almost universally worshipped as a goddess by all the Martian races, but actually just a manipulative old Black Martian crone with delusions of grandeur.
  • 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.
  • Grand Theft Me: In The Master Mind of Mars, the Mad Scientist Ras Thavas sells this.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Jav is second only to Tario but must cringe before him and knows that Tario is awaiting the slightest excuse to be rid of him.
    • In The Chessman of Mars, O-Tar is jealous of his son A-Kor because A-Kor would be much better for the throne than O-Tar is, and everyone knows it.
  • Grim Up North: Okar is the gloomy, freezing land of the Yellow Martians located on Mars' North Pole. Travelling there is impossible due to the Okarians using their technology to bring down any weapons that come close and walking on foot leaves you vulnerable to the apts.
  • 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.
  • Hat of Authority: In Gods of Mars, the Therns wear yellow wigs as a sign of office (and to hide the fact that they're all bald.)
  • Heavy Worlder: John Carter compared to the Martians; in Barsoom's lower gravity, he is able to perform great feats of strength and athleticism. Possibly the oldest known example.
  • 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.
  • Honorary Uncle: John Carter is described as having once been this to the author.
  • Hope Is Scary: Sola in Princess wishes she did not feel hope and love. Valla in Master Mind likewise refuses to hope to regain her own body because that would make her unhappy.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Various forms of thoat (a large, hairless grey-and-white creature with eight to twelve 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.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: In The Chessmen of Mars, the kaldanes' mind control depends on it; Tara learns if she looks away, she can not be controlled.
  • 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.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Tan Hadron. Then, he still chose to be a soldier.
    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.
  • Info Dump: Subverted in Gods of Mars. John Carter and Phaidor are escaping peril in an aircraft, with the captive black Martian, Xodar, tied up on board. Xodar starts a long, rambling and possibly mythological lecture on the origins of intelligent life on Barsoom. Carter finds himself wondering why Xodar would bother to do this. Turns out there's a whole battleship full of black Martians sneaking up to capture them and rescue Xodar, and he was just talking to keep them distracted while they got into position.
  • 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.
  • Insufficiently Advanced Alien: Martians have access to better advanced medicine, metallurgy, aircraft and firearms than we have even today. They still settle arguments by sword fight (due to cultural emphasis on honorable combat and to Mars being a dying planet where tech isn't very common outside of cities).
  • 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.
  • The Journey Through Death: Barsoom has a physical land of the dead, the Valley Dor, to which all Barsoomians are encouraged to travel when they feel they've lived long enough. Many Barsoomians make the pilgrimage, expecting to be reunited with their loved ones who have passed on. What they actually find is a wondrous valley that happens to be filled with carnivorous predators. Those who somehow manage to escape the white apes and plant men end up being captured and enslaved by the inbred Therns, who work them to death and then eat them. The Therns themselves have been suckered by a similar scheme; when they reach the end of their allotted life, they travel to the Temple of Issus, where they expect to be ushered into the Barsoomian version of Heaven. Instead, they find the First Born, who enslave them and then eat them.
  • Just Before the End: The first book enters this phase when the atmosphere manufacturing plant fails. John Carter, of course, pulls a last-minute save.
  • Kangaroo Court:
    • 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, most sadistic 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.
  • Killer Space Monkey: The White Apes are essentially gigantic, hairless, four-armed, carnivorous white gorillas.
  • 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.
  • Lost Technology: While the Martians seem to have a pretty good grip on most of their technology, there's only one atmosphere manufacturing plant on Mars. Everyone knows how to make more atmosphere and operate the plant at need, but nobody can build another plant - if it goes, Barsoom goes with it.
  • Love at First Sight: In A Princess of Mars, John Carter (finally) realizes this.
    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.
  • Love Father, Love Son: Thuvia hooks up with Carthoris after previously having a crush on John Carter.
  • Love Hurts: In A Princess of Mars, John Carter realizes he fell in Love at First Sight with Dejah Thoris, but then manages to offend her.
    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.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: When John Carter returns to Barsoom for the first time after being stranded on Earth for many years, he meets and befriends a young man named Carthoris who never knew his own father, who disappeared around the time he was hatched. After he's heard enough of Carthoris's backstory, Carter realizes what most of the readers had figured out already, and a reunion full of Manly Tears ensues.
  • Made a Slave:
    • In The Chessmen of Mars, The 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.
  • Mad Scientist:
    • Ras Thavas, the Master Mind of Mars. Slightly subverted in that he does a Heel–Face Turn at the end of his book.
    • In A Fighting Man of Mars, Phor Tak. Originally sane while making his inventions, but losing it after being maltreated and exiled by his jeddak.
  • 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.
  • Malicious Slander:
    • 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".
  • Manly Tears: In The Gods of Mars, when Contrived Coincidence has finally let one young man know that his companion is John Carter — his father.
    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.
    • The Tarids in Swords of Mars can cast illusions that make them invisible to all outsiders.
  • 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 Gahan's ship is caught in a storm, one of his men is knocked overboard and barely manages to grab hold. On seeing it, Gahan 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: In A Princess of Mars, the native Martian races admit that without the Earthling John Carter, they would never be able to unite against their enemies and defeat them so quickly. 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.
  • The 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.
  • Monstrosity Equals Weakness: The humanoid Red, Black, Yellow and White Martians always give John much more of a fight than the huge, monstrous Green Martians.
  • 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.
  • More Hero Than Thou:
    • 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.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous:
    • The Green Martians have four arms, and are ferocious warriors.
    • The White Apes of Barsoom, which are essentially 15-foot hairless gorillas with an extra pair of arms.
    • Almost every animal that exists on Mars fits this trope. Even those that aren't multi-armed are at least multi-legged. And very, very dangerous.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Phaidor tries to stab Dejah Thoris to death as the Temple of the Sun closes at the end of The Gods of Mars, but is revealed to have been thwarted by Thuvia in the next book.
  • Myself My Avatar: How John Carter gets to Mars. Done recursively by the fifth book after he studies Lotharian illusion powers and uses them to project a Martian avatar back to Earth.
  • 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.
  • Noble Fugitive:
    • The princess of Duhor in The Master Mind of Mars fled her city, disguised as a servant, after it was invaded.
    • In The Chessmen of Mars, U-Thor, after he questioned his jeddak's injusitce, had to fight his way to freedom and then escape.
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: All main antagonists in the first trilogy are killed by someone else's hands other than the John Carter.
    • It is actually a plot point in the first book that John can't kill the main villain Sab Than, since he is betrothed to marry Dejah Thoris and Martian custom decrees that John cannot marry a woman whose husband/betrothed he killed. Therefore, Tars Tarkas is the one to kill Than instead.
    • In the second book, Issus is lynched by a mob of angry Black Martians after having being exposed as a false goddess by John.
    • Played with in the third book, which has a Big Bad Triumvirate with Carter only personally killing one member of the group before the proper climax, while the other two turn on each other at the end. The last bad guy standing, Thurid, is then offed by Phaidor of all people for killing her father.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Someone raised in Earth's gravity is quite strong on Mars.
  • Oblivious to Love: Tan Hadron takes 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 — and which includes his explicitly telling Sanoma Taro that he's fallen in love with a slave girl, and another character's explicitly telling him he was in love with Tavia.
  • 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.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The Black Martians are an Unbuilt version, predating Tolkien. Tall, inhumanly beautiful to the point of Even the Guys Want Him, a Proud Warrior Race even compared to the Red Martians, and (at least according to the creation myth) the oldest and purest of the Martian races, ruled by the living goddess of all Barsoom. And they therefore consider themselves to be the Master Race, and exist by literal predation on the other Martian races, particularly the Holy Therns.
  • 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 fathernote , 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.
  • 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.
  • Prospector: What John Carter was doing between the end of The American Civil War and being transported to Mars at the beginning of the series.
  • Proto-Superhero: While Carter only has Super Strength relative to Martians who didn't grow up under Earth-level gravity, his incredible feats of athleticism have become stock maneuvers for many comic-book supers.
  • 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 Block Defense: John Carter's mind is unreadable, though he learned telepathy fairly quickly. He is also immune to illusions projected by other individuals.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Redemption Equals Death: At the end of The Warlord of Mars, Phaidor kills Thurid and saves the heroes at the last minute, but nonetheless considers suicide the only way to fully atone for her past attempts to murder Dejah Thoris and have John Carter for herself.
  • 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.
  • Reincarnate in Another World: In Master-Mind of Mars, Ulysses S. Paxton ends up on Mars after dying in the trenches in World War I.
  • 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 Cover-Up: 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.
  • Romantic False Lead: In Thuvia, Maid of Mars, the story opens with the news that Carthoris' 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 gets 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.
  • Royal Blood: 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.
  • Royal Brat:
  • 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.
  • Safely Secluded Science Center: In The Master Mind of Mars, reclusive genius Ras Thavas keeps his lab in the Toonolian Marshes because he has made more than a few enemies, but the marshes are full of some of the most dangerous beasts on Barsoom, including the dreaded white apes. A later book sees him forced to relocate to the abandoned city of Morbus.
  • Schizo Tech: Though the Red Martians are more advanced than 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.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: In The Chessmen of Mars, I-Gos speaks openly and bluntly. Then, he is always deriding the rest of the city for having fallen from the Good Old Ways of courage.
  • Sensory Tentacles: Plant-men have masses of flexible tentacles projecting from their scalps like hair, which serve as their auditory organs.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: In A Fighting Man Of Mars Hadron has to keep reminding himself that Tavia is just his "friend" and he is in love with Sanoma Tora.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Helium is known to be the the place to go for husband-hunting damsels as John Carter attracts the best of Barsoom's warriors to his service.
  • Sky Pirates: In The Gods of Mars, the Black Martians conduct airship raids on other cities for slaves and food.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: At one point in The Chessmen of Mars, Tara and her devoted slave girl have an intense argument over Tara's safety, which ends in the two professing their love for each other and kissing.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Solar System Neighbors: The series holds that much of the Solar System is inhabited, from the red and green Barsoomians of Mars to the Tarids of Thuria (Phobos) to the Skeleton Men of Jupiter. Also, while Carter himself never goes there, in another series of novels by Burroughs an Earthman trying to reach Barsoom by rocket is thrown off course by passing too close to the Moon and winds up landing on Venus, which he discovers is also populated and the natives call it Amtor.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Carthoris initially believes himself to be this in The Gods of Mars, having hatched from his 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.
  • Straw Vulcan: These come up a lot. Whenever someone declares themselves to be rationalists, "above emotions" or otherwise focused more on logic, it's a bad thing. Also, in almost every case, they're actually deluding themselves, and they're even more emotional and irrational than everyone else (the one exception, the kaldanes, don't count as human even by Mars' loose definition of the term).
  • 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. 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.
  • Strolling on Jupiter: Skeleton Men of Jupiter depicts Jupiter as having solid ground with forests, water, and at least two sapient species.
  • 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.
  • The Symbiote: A fairly accurate summary of the relationship between the Kaldanes and the Rykors in The Chessmen of Mars. The latter resemble large, headless Red Martians and are specifically created to be mindless host bodies, while the former are disembodied mutant heads on crab legs that sit on their shoulders and control them by connecting to their spinal cord. In other words, Edgar Rice Burroughs more or less invented a sentient version of the headcrab. In 1922.
  • 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.
  • Thicker Than Water:
    • 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.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: Valla Dia holds forth on this to reconcile herself with her new old and ugly body.
  • 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.
  • Turncoat: In The Chessmen of Mars, the ancient I-Gos is perpetually praising the heros of the distant past. 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.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Hormads are terrible fighters, coming out of the vats with no combat training to speak of, but as artificial Super Soldiers, they're strong and nearly indestructible.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: Both the Tharks and the white apes are this, each having an extra pair of arms.
  • Vestigial Empire:
    • The White Martians, who used to govern Barsoom in its distant past, have long died out and are reduced to reclusive civilizations such as the Therns and the Lotharians.
    • The Yellow Martians have retreated to the North Pole and so far, only two of their major cities are known to still exist.
    • The Tarids on Thuria (the Barsoomian name for Phobos) had a powerful empire that stretched across their moon (which they called Ladan). After a devastating war against another nation brought down their empire, the survivors retreated into a single city-state, where only a thousand people live, hiding from everyone else by using their psychic powers to render themselves invisible to outsiders.
  • 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.
  • Wandering Culture: The Green Martians are nomads, and are the only ones of the five main races of Barsoom to live this kind of lifestyle.
  • War Refugees: How Valla Dia ended up captured.
  • Whale Egg: The Red Martians reproduce by laying eggs, but are somehow able to crossbreed with humans.
  • Weird Moon: The moons of Mars cause size-shifting when one approaches them from Mars.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • 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 Carter's 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.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Because of the honor code. Radium firearms may be a Game-Breaker, but no honorable individual will use one against a swordsman.
  • White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: Captain John Carter of Virginia is the epitome of the trope.
  • 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.
    • Going under a false identity doesn't seem to count as a lie. Pretending to be a wandering mercenary (panthan) under an assumed name is a common trope used in the novels, and nobody thinks much of it.
  • 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 of Badass: Barsoom in a nutshell; it's a dying world filled with dangers, so anyone not a warrior or other form of badass won't last long.
  • Worldbuilding: Burroughs gave the Martians their own language, military ranks and titles, time measurement, and metric system for measuring distances. They also got some form of currency, but this is one aspect of Martian culture that is never described in detail.
  • World of Ham: Barsoomians are passionate people; be it sacred oaths of friendship, declarations of love, Evil Gloating or threats, everyone uses the most melodramatic overly flowery style.
  • 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 Are the Translated Foreign Word: "Jeddak", meaning either "King" or "Chieftain" depending on context.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Literally, in the case of the moon-dwelling Tarids in Swords of Mars.
  • 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 fiancé.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: See Klingon Promotion, above.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Lotharian illusions work this way; if the targets of an illusion do not believe that the illusion is real, they cannot be harmed by it. Conversely, they can choose to be affected by illusions, such as when eating illusionary food (and some of the more solipsistic Lotharians have given up eating at all).
  • You Shall Not Pass!: John Carter does this when faced with an enemy horde of Green Martians in A Princess of Mars so Sola and Dejah Thoris can escape from them.

Alternative Title(s): Barsoom, A Princess Of Mars, John Carter, The Gods Of Mars


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