Lewis and Burroughs on Mars

“There was one God, according to them, Maleldil the Young; nor was it possible to imagine Hyoi or Hnohra worshipping a bloodstained idol. Unless, of course, the hrossa were after all under the thumb of the sorns, superior to their masters in all the qualities that human beings value, but intellectually inferior to them and dependent on them. It would be a strange but not an inconceivable world; heroism and poetry at the bottom, cold scientific intellect above it, and overtopping all some dark superstition which scientific intellect, helpless against the revenge of the emotional depths it had ignored, had neither will nor power to remove.”
(C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, Chapter 14)

Isn’t that last sentence exactly the situation in E.R. Burroughs’ Barsoom, especially in The Gods of Mars? You have strong, heroic red and green Martians on the bottom; advanced white Martians fooling them with a false religion that makes the White Martians Gods; on the top, black Martians who are themselves captive to an even sillier religion. I don’t know if Lewis ever read Burroughs, and maybe this is a generic enough sci-fi trope that he didn’t have to. But the similarity certainly struck me when I read it, and especially the fact that Ransom’s hypothesis couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to Lewis’ Mars.

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