Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thark Thursday: Thoats, Martian Steeds!

Thoats are the staple mount found on Barsoom, employed mainly by the Tharks (and by extension, John Carter). The eight-legged creatures first appeared in A Princess of Mars, are not hooved, but instead have "pads" on their feet. From the novel:
And his mount! How can earthly words describe it! It towered ten feet at the shoulder; had four legs on either side; a broad flat tail, larger at the tip than at the root, and which it held straight out behind while running; a gaping mouth which split its head from its snout to its long, massive neck.
Like its master, it was entirely devoid of hair, but was of a dark slate color and exceeding smooth and glossy. Its belly was white, and its legs shaded from the slate of its shoulders and hips to a vivid yellow at the feet. The feet themselves were heavily padded and nailless, which fact had also contributed to the noiselessness of their approach, and, in common with a multiplicity of legs, is a characteristic feature of the fauna of Mars. The highest type of man and one other animal, the only mammal existing on Mars, alone have well-formed nails, and there are absolutely no hoofed animals in existence there.
Thoats have generally been portrayed as horse-like, sometimes even lizard-horses. It was refreshing to see an original approach used in the design for thoats that appeared in John Carter--but still keep some of Burroughs more signature touches like the paddle-shaped tail.
Though they served as the mainstay beasts of burden and battle for the Tharks, they also were often the target of their masters' abuse who assumed the only way to get through control the creatures was with corporal enforcement.

(Above) Great concept art by Thomas Denmark!

The direhorse, a six-legged mount from the film Avatar, is thought to be inspired by Burroughs' thoats, supposedly about the size of an Earth elephant.

Carter relies on his natural talent with animals to win their obedience without resorting to gratuitous abuse--and ensures his place in the tribe as a sort of "thoat whisperer".
My experience with Woola determined me to attempt the experiment of kindness in my treatment of my thoats. First I taught them that they could not unseat me, and even rapped them sharply between the ears to impress upon them my authority and mastery. Then, by degrees, I won their confidence in much the same manner as I had adopted countless times with my many mundane mounts. I was ever a good hand with animals, and by inclination, as well as because it brought more lasting and satisfactory results, I was always kind and humane in my dealings with the lower orders. I could take a human life, if necessary, with far less compunction than that of a poor, unreasoning, irresponsible brute.

In the course of a few days my thoats were the wonder of the entire community. They would follow me like dogs, rubbing their great snouts against my body in awkward evidence of affection, and respond to my every command with an alacrity and docility which caused the Martian warriors to ascribe to me the possession of some earthly power unknown on Mars.
LOVE this painting by Frank Espinosa! 
In other news:

John Carter Rakes in $100 Million Worldwide
If I were Andrew Stanton right now, I'd be taking some relief in the fact that John Carter did $70 million over the weekend in foriegn markets--adding to the only $30 million it pulled in here in the US. Apparently overseas press aren't as stingy, latching on to poor marketing and creating a "bad narrative" about the film in their coverage. Here's hoping that it at least breaks even in the long run and gets a decent release on blu-ray.


  1. A really lovely and even clever film. There may be slightly too much cleverness going on for some audiences, there was rather a lot of plot, peoples, locations, meanings of relics and so on to follow for a things go boom movie. Good reading material there in Barlowe's Guide!

  2. I agree Taha. I think it may even be biting off a little more than it can chew, but I give the filmmakers extra credit for even trying. I hope it gets a decent DVD release with some great extras.

    Thanks for the kind words and the shout out to the reading list! :)