The document below is R. D. Mullen's famous survey of the Burroughs corpus (works written 1911-1915), detailing occasions upon which heroines are faced with the imminent threat of rape or molestation at the hands of a villian, and the methods by which this fate is avoided. It first appeared in the Canadian fanzine Riverside Quarterly (vol. 4, no. 3) in June 1970.

Richard D. Mullen, the Elder

Late Professor of Moral Science
University of Terre Haute

The stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs contain many lessons of great value for the attentive reader, but none more valuable than the warning that an unprotected girl is always in danger of being raped by an Arab, Negro, great ape, Green Martian, or monster of some other kind, or by a wicked white man, or sometimes even by a good white man.  Unwilling to rest content with a mere warning, Burroughs also provides many useful pointers on how an endangered young lady may defend her honour -- or, if her own resources fail, on the kinds of rescue that may be expected from an ever-watchful Providence.


The following table has been prepared as a service to serious students of literature and morality, and it is earnestly hoped that no reader will use it as an index to incidents that might appeal to his prurient interests.  It covers all works written by the Master in the period 1911-1915, except H.R.H., the Rider, which I have been unable to consult.  Other Burroughsians may perhaps be induced to assist in extending this survey over the entire corpus.  In this day of declining moral standards, nothing could be of greater importance.

So that the reader may appreciate the full horror of the heroine's peril, the villain is designated by name only when his race is the same as hers, with exceptions allowed for the two Emperors of Abyssinia, whose high rank may be thought to offer some compensation.

The asterisks in the second column indicate the imminence of the heroine's peril:

* Hero unable or barely able to restrain himself.
** Villain with heroine in his power, or attempting capture of heroine, or to whom heroine is being delivered.
*** Villain within minutes of accomplishing his vile purpose.


1JaneA great ape*** Tarzan (T1: 19)
2 "Tarzan* The power of her purity (T1: 20)
3 "A usurer** Tarzan (T1: 28)
4 "Rokoff*** Sven, a subsidiary hero (T3: 9)
5 "Rokoff*** Her braining him with his own pistol (T3: 13)
6 "Rokoff** Her holding a gun on him (T3: 15)
7 "Rokoff** Tarzan (T3: 17)
8 "Schneider*** Tarzan (T3: 21)
9 "A black sultan** A great ape (T5: 17)
10 "The great ape*** A lion (T5: 19)
11 "An Arab*** Werper (T5: 25)
12 "Werper** Her belief in his honour (T5: 21)
13 "Menelek II* Lions (T5: 19)
14OlgaTarzan* Her husband's arrival (T2: 5)
15MeriemA great ape*** Korak, son of Tarzan (T4: 10-11)
16 "Korak* His being attacked by a great ape (T4: 11)
17 "Malbihn*** His partner in crime (T4: 13)
18 "Malbihn*** Tarzan (T4: 14)
19 "Malbihn*** Her braining him with his own pistol (T4: 20, 22)
20 "Baynes** Her belief in his honour (T4: 22)
21 "A Negro*** Baynes and Korak (T4: 25)
22DejahA Green Martian*** John Carter (M1: 17)
23 "Sab Than** John Carter (M1: 25)
24 "A White Martian and a Black** Failure of the White, who had first turn, ever to get around to it (M3: 1-13)
25 "A Yellow Martian** John Carter (M3: 14)
26 "The WM-BM team** John Carter (M3: 16)
27 "Yellow Martians** John Carter (M3: 17)
28ThuviaWhite Martians** Their not getting around to it in the 15 years they had her, and by John Carter (M2: 4)
29 "Green Martians*** Carthoris, our hero (M4: 5)
30 "A White Martian*** Her stabbing him (M4: 7-8)
31 "A second White** A Martian lion (M4: 9-10)
32 "Astok** His losing his nerve (M4: 12-13)
33DianJubal the Ugly** David, our hero (P1: 14)
34 "Hooja the Sly** David (P2: 10-11)
35 "Unnamed man** David (P2: 12)
36NadaraHairy Men** Waldo, our hero (X1: 2-3)
37 "A Cave Man*** Waldo (X1: 8)
38 "Second Cave Man*** Waldo (X1: 10-11)
39 "A Hairy Man*** An earthquake (X2: 5)
40 "The Hairy Man** White man happening along (X2: 7)
41 "Stark*** Her screaming and his thereupon knocking her out (X2: 7)
42 "Stark** Her jungle skills (X2: 8)
43 "River Men** Waldo (X2: 8-11)
44 "A Negro*** Waldo (X2: 12)
45VictoriaAn Arab*** Nu, our hero (X3: 11-12)
46Nat-ulHud*** Her stabbing him (X4: 2-3)
47 "A Boat-Builder** A pterodactyl (X4: 6)
48 "Great Apes** Their fighting each other for first turn (X4: 6)
49 "The Boat-Builder*** Nu (X4: 12)
50 "The Boat-Builder** Her braining him with a paddle (X4: 12)
51 "The Boat-Builder** Her jungle skills (X4: 13)
52 "Lake-Dwellers** Nu (X4: 14)
53EmmaMaenck*** Barney, our hero (X5: 5)
54 "The King*** Barney (X6: 9)
55BarbaraA Japanese head hunter*** Her killing him with his own sword (X7: 10)
56 "Billy* The power of her purity (X7: 17)
57BertradePeter** Norman, our hero (Z1: 7)
58 "Peter*** Norman (Z1: 9-10)
59JoanBuckingham*** Norman (Z1: 13)
60JuneContinued sin The goodness of one man (Z2: 4)
61 "Her boss** Her quitting her job (Z2: 5)
62 "A blackmailer** Her defying him (Z2: 8)
63Virginia MaxonA Monster Man*** Number 13, our hero (Z3: 3-4)
64 "A Malay*** His falling overboard (Z3: 3-4)
65 "An orang-utang** Number 13 (Z3: 10-12)
66 "The Malay*** Number 13 (Z3: 13)
67VictoryBuckinham** Jeff, our hero (Z4: 4)
68 "Snider*** Her stabbing him (Z4: 4)
69 "Menelek XIV*** Jeff (Z4: 9)
70Virginia ScottTaylor*** Her grabbing his pistol and holding it on him (Z5: 5)
71 "Taylor and gang*** A lion (Z5: 5)
72NakhlaBandits** Aziz, our hero (Z6: 8, 10)
73 "Ben Saada** Her slipping away into the desert (Z6: 20)
74 "Bandits** Aziz (Z6: 20)
75 "Bandits*** Aziz and two lions (Z6: 22, 24)
76MarieAn Arab*** Aziz (Z6: 14)


The youthful reader of the gentler sex will surely be happy to learn from the Table that there is an even chance of being rescued by a hero.  No hero is available in the remaining thirty-seven incidents, but in nineteen of these the heroine saves herself with her own resources, which means again that she has an even chance.  If she has a weapon of her own, she can use it to good advantage (Incidents 6, 30, 46, 68); if she has none of her own, she can sometimes seize and use the villain's own weapon (5, 19, 55, 70); if neither has a weapon, she can pick up any-thing handy -- e.g., if the struggle occurs in or near a small boar, a paddle will do nicely (50).  When friends are nearby, she can gain at least temporary respite by screaming, which will force the villain to deprive her of her voice rather than her honour (41).  If the villain drags her into the jungle, she can escape if her jungle skills are superior to his (42, 51).  If the villain depends on the wildness of the country to keep her from running away, she can choose to risk death rather than dishonour (73).  Similarly, if the villain's power is economic or social rather than physical, she can defy him to do his worst (61, 62).  If the potential attacker has been reared by the great apes in Africa or by immigrant Irish on the Chicago West Side, a virgin will find sufficient protection in the power of her purity (2, 56).  Finally, a steadfast though mistaken belief in the honour of a man pretending to be her protector may well cause him to abandom his evil purpose (12, 20).

When her own resources fail and no hero is at hand, the imperiled girl must rely on the mysterious ways of Providence.  Although earthquakes sometimes occur at opportune moments (39) and bands of white men turn in the most remote places (40), Providence seems to favour lions as a means of frustrating the designs of wicked men and lustful apes (10, 13, 31, 71, not to mention 75).  More awesome means are sometimes used: it was a pterodactyl seeking food for its young that first saved Nadara from the clutches of the lustful Boat-Builder (46) and a lustful great ape that stole Jane from the slaves who had intended to sell her to a black sultan (9).  But the ways of Providence are not always so spectacular: villains sometimes lose their nerve or their footing (32, 64) or fight among themselves (11, 17, 48), and good men are sometimes granted a timely interruption so that they can think better of what they were about to do (14, 16).

It follows that a young lady should not lose heart just because she has been captured by villains.  Dejah Thoris was for a considerable time in the power of two of the vilest villains that ever lived, but still managed somehow to retain her honour (24).  Even more inspiring is the case of Thuvia (28), who was "for fifteen years a plaything and a slave" (M2: 8) of the wicked White Martians, the horribly misnamed Holy Therns.  When John Carter and Thuvia first met, he displayed his great delicacy by steadfastly ignoring the fact that they were both completely naked and his acute perception by addressing her as "Maiden" (M2: 4).  In this he was surely correct, for how else could the fourth Martian novel be named Thuvia, Maid of Mars?

Hope remains even when the worst happens.  Having been tricked into "marriage" by an already-married man and having found, on the death of her "husband," that she was living in a house of prostitution, June (60) saw no reason to believe that there were any good men in the world and hence no reason not to continue in a life of sin.  But when our hero demonstrated his goodness and encouraged her to change her way of life, she found within herself the necessary strength.  If the Master had written nothing else, The Girl From Farris's would be enough to win him the undying gratitute of all parents with young daughters.


We should also notice that Burroughs has as much to teach us about Biology as about Morality.  While it is true that Dejah Thoris was hatched rather than born and that she brings forth eggs rather than live babies; while it is true, in short, that she is oviparous rather than mammalian, it is also true that she has navel, nipples, and protruding though milkless breasts, for we are expressly told that when John Carter first saw her she had "a slender, girlish figure, similar in every way to the earthly women of my past life" (M1: 8).  And if that is not sufficient, we have similar words about Thuvia, who is of the same race: "She was a perfect type of that remarkably beautiful race whose outward appearance is identical with the more god-like races of Earthmen, except that this higher race of Martians is of a light reddish copper color" (M2: 4).


The references in the Table and in the text are to volume and chapter, or to part and chapter, with the volumes or parts designated in the following way:

T1 Tarzan of the Apes 1911-12 1912 1914
T2 The Return of Tarzan 1912-13 1913 1915
T3 The Beasts of Tarzan 1914 1914 1916
T4 The Son of Tarzan 1915 1915-6 1917
T5 Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar 1915 1916 1918
M1 A Princess of Mars 1911 1912 1917
M2 The Gods of Mars 1912 1913 1918
M3 The Warlord of Mars 1913 1913-4 1918
M4 Thuvia, Maid of Mars 1914 1916 1920
P1 At the Earth's Core 1913 1914 1922
P2 Pellucidar 1914-15 1915 1923
X1 The Cave Girl (I) 1913 1913 }  1925   
X2 The Cave Girl (II) 1914 1917
X3 The Eternal Lover (I) 1913 1914 }  1925   
X4 The Eternal Lover (II) 1914 1915
X5 The Mad King (I) 1913 1914 }  1925   
X6 The Mad King (II) 1914 1915
X7 The Mucker (I) 1913 1914 1921
Z1 The Outlaw of Torn 1911-12 1914 1927
Z2 The Girl From Farris's 1913-14 1916 1965
Z3 The Monster Men 1913 1913 1929
Z4 Beyond Thirty 1915 1916 }  1957   
Z5 The Man-Eater 1915 1916
Z6 The Lad and the Lion
  (even-numbered chapters)
1914 1917 1938