Master of Adventure: The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs

By Richard A. Lupoff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
The Last Hero

In November, 1940, Burroughs began writing a fourth series of scientific romances which might ultimately have stood beside his Barsoomian, Amtorian, and Pellucidarian tales in interest and in extent, had the author not become a war correspondent after witnessing the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Late in 1940 Burroughs completed two novelettes in his new series.

He then put them aside, and once war broke out, although he did not completely abandon fiction writing (in fact he wrote a complete Tarzan novel in 1944 and several shorter items during the war) he never returned to this new series, and all that exist are two novelettes. The first, Beyond the Farthest Star, appeared in Blue Book for January, 1942. The second, Tangor Returns, remained unpublished until the first book edition in 1964 of Tales of Three Planets, which included both these novelettes.

The hero of the new series was to be an earthman whose true name, at least in the existing material, was never revealed. On the planet Poloda where the stories take place, he is known as Tangor, a local neologism coined to serve as his name, and meaning “from nowhere.”

Nowhere is the place of Tangor's origin, as far as the Polodans are concerned. He appeared, naked, on the surface of their planet, quite suddenly, and without mechanical assistance of any sort. The reader learns that this man was a World War II fighter pilot “fatally” wounded in a dog-fight with a group of Luftwaffe Messerschmitts. A bullet through his heart, his plane about to crash, the earthman estimated his remaining life span at fifteen seconds. Instead—Poloda.

The parallel to both John Carter and Ulysses Paxton, particularly the latter, is obvious.

On Poloda Tangor finds a modern industrialized civilization equal in technology to contemporary Earth. This was a departure for Burroughs, in that all the new worlds discovered in his previous stories were either

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