What is Pellucidar, you ask?
Well, I will answer, you know the earth is hollow, right?
What? The earth isn’t hollow, you say? It’s made of rock and magma surrounding a molten core, you say?
Nonsense! The earth is hollow. There is a whole inverted world inside our own globe. There is a sun inside our earth that warms and lights a world that clings to the inside of our own. Just as the earth has a curvature, so to does the inner world, but the curvature goes the other way. If you stand anywhere in the inner world you can see the land sloping up around you like a great bowl. If it weren’t for the blinding light of the inner sun you could observe everything, the whole inner world as it curves up and around you. If you had a telescope you could see all the people clinging to the surface directly above your head.
This world is called Pellucidar. And it is home to giant, dinosaur-like creatures, and brutal ape men and it is ruled by cruel winged lizard-like bird creatures who will surely hypnotize you and eat you bit by bit. And there are human beings as well, like us, but savage and strong. And the women! The women are beautiful and magnificent…
Why are you looking at me like that? I’m not crazy. I’ve not been drinking. You don’t believe me? Next you’ll be telling me that Mars is a dry, barren rocky planet and not inhabited by red-skinned men and women and giant, four armed green warriors with curved tusks.
Okay, so is it wrong to choose to live in the worlds created by author Edgar Rice Burroughs? His books shaped my childhood and influenced the current shape of science fiction and fantasy in a myriad of ways. Everyone knows his most famous creation, Tarzan of the Apes, and many know his romanticized version of Mars (or Barsoom as the inhabitants know it), but fewer people are familiar with the savage interior world of Pellucidar which he introduced in his novel At the Earth’s Core. In all Burroughs wrote seven adventures set in Pellucidar. (There was one attempt to continue the series in the 1970’s with the release of Mahars of Pellucidar by John Eric Holmes. It didn’t take despite sporting a kick-ass Boris cover) He even managed to bring Tarzan into the interior world for one novel.
The introductory novel tells the story of David Innes, a wealthy industrialist and geologist who, with the help of elderly scientist Abner Perry, has developed a fabulous digging machine dubbed the “Iron Mole” to aid in his mining interests. On its maiden voyage, however, something goes wrong. The machine is designed to turn around under the earth, but something happens to the mechanism and it keeps on moving downward, digging further and further away from the surface of the earth. Our heroes are afraid that they are done for as they dig towards what conventional wisdom tells them is a fiery death in the molten core.
Fortunately, conventional wisdom is mistaken and they end up in Pellucidar.
Pellucidar is inhabited by prehistoric creatures of all geological eras, and dominated by the Mahars, a species of flying reptile both intelligent and civilized, but which enslaves and preys on the local stone-age humans. Innes and Perry are captured by the Mahars’ ape-like Sagoth servants and taken with other human captives to the chief Mahar city of Phutra. Among their fellow captives is the lovely Dian the Beautiful of Amoz.
Well, what is a handsome young, rough and ready industrialist to do but to fall in love and spend the rest of the book trying to rescue her from the clutches of various monsters and other ne’er do wells, to travel the length and breadth of this strange new world seeking to win her affection and a chance to declare his love for her while battling to overthrow the evil, despotic rule of the Mahars.
It’s all nonsense. of course, but to a fourteen year old avid reader of fantasy adventure it was just the ticket.
As far as illustrating the wonders and delights of the inner world we have rounded up the usual suspects when it comes to Edgar Rive Burroughs. There’s J. Allen St, John who illustrated the first editions back in 1914 and on. Roy G. Krenkel who illustrated editions in the 1950’s and 60’s and, of course, Frank Frazetta who illustrated editions from the 1960’s and the 1970’s.
There was one movie, made in 1976 released by American International Pictures. It was a follow up to their popular adaptation of another Burroughs novel, The Land That Time Forgot. Like that picture, At The Earth’s Core starred Doug McClure in the lead role along with Peter Cushing and Caroline Munro. As an adaptation of Burroughs, the film is a disappointment. Still, some have a great fondness for the picture and it is the best adaptation so far. Pellucidar has appeared in other works which range from execrable to… well, let’s not go there.
Since the release of the film interest in Burroughs’ inner world has waned (despite a recent graphic novel adaptation from Dark Horse by writer Bobby Nash and artist Jamie Chase). The perceived failure of the film adaptation of Burroughs Mars books, John Carter, means that a big-budget adaptation of his Pellucidar books is not in the cards, which is unfortunate.
As I said, it’s all nonsense… but such wonderful nonsense!