A Princess of Mars
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"A Princess of Mars" Summary

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

science fiction | 186 pages | Published in NaN

A Princess of Mars is the first of eleven thrilling novels that comprise Edgar Rice Burroughs' most exciting saga, known as The Martian Series. It's the beginning of an incredible odyssey in which John Carter, a gentleman from Virginia and a Civil War veteran, unexpectedly finds himself on to the red planet, scene of continuing combat among rival tribes. Captured by a band of six-limbed, green-skinned savage giants called Tharks, Carter soon is accorded all the honor of a chieftain after it's discovered that his muscles, accustomed to Earth's greater gravity, now give him a decided advantage in strength. And when his captors take as prisoner Dejah Thoris, the lovely human-looking princess of the city of Helium, Carter must call upon every ounce of strength, courage, and ingenuity to rescue her-before Dejah becomes the slave of the depraved Thark leader, Tal Hajus!Excerpt:Her oval face was beautiful in the extreme, her every feature finely chisled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Similar in face and figure to women of Earth, she was nevertheless a true Martian--and prisoner of the fierce green giants who held me captive, as well!


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A Confederate soldier is transported to Mars and becomes embroiled in the planet's conflicts.


"A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs is a groundbreaking science fiction novel that introduces readers to the captivating world of Barsoom (Mars). The novel, first published in 1912, follows the extraordinary adventures of John Carter, a Confederate soldier who is mysteriously transported to Mars. Filled with thrilling battles, intriguing cultures, and a timeless love story, "A Princess of Mars" has captivated readers for generations with its imaginative storytelling and vivid world-building.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story begins in the late 1800s, where we meet John Carter, a former Confederate soldier who becomes a gold prospector after the Civil War. During a confrontation with a band of Apaches in the Arizona desert, Carter mysteriously finds himself transported to the surface of Mars. On Mars, known to its inhabitants as Barsoom, he discovers that the planet is inhabited by various warring tribes and civilizations.

Carter's strength and agility are greatly enhanced due to the lower gravity on Mars, and he soon becomes embroiled in the conflicts between the different Martian races. He encounters Tharks, a green-skinned, four-armed race, and the Red Martians, who resemble humans.

Carter's adventures lead him to meet Dejah Thoris, the titular princess of Mars, and the two develop a deep and enduring love for each other. Together, they navigate the political intrigue and warfare that threaten the existence of Barsoom.


The majority of the novel is set on the planet Mars, known as Barsoom to its inhabitants. Burroughs' vivid descriptions bring the planet to life, depicting a barren yet captivating landscape populated by diverse and often warring civilizations. The advanced technology and unique customs of the Martian races add depth to the setting, making it a central element of the story's appeal.

Main Characters

Below are the main characters:

John CarterA former Confederate soldier with enhanced strength and agility on Mars.
Dejah ThorisThe princess of Helium, a brave and intelligent woman who captures Carter's heart.
Tars TarkasA fierce and honorable Thark chieftain who becomes an ally of John Carter.
SolaA Thark who befriends Carter and plays a crucial role in the story.
Kantos KanA Red Martian officer and friend of John Carter.
Sab ThanA Jeddak (king) of Zodanga and an antagonist in the story.

Summary of Story Points Over Chapters

Chapters 1-5

John Carter, a former soldier, is prospecting for gold in Arizona. After a confrontation with Apaches, he mysteriously finds himself on Mars. Due to the lower gravity, Carter discovers he has superhuman abilities on this new planet.

Chapters 6-10

Carter encounters the Tharks, a fierce and barbaric green-skinned race, and is taken captive. He impresses the Thark chieftain, Tars Tarkas, with his strength and courage, earning the Tharks' respect.

Chapters 11-15

Carter becomes embroiled in the conflicts between the Tharks and the Red Martians. He saves Dejah Thoris, the princess of Helium, and develops a deep bond with her.

Chapters 16-20

Carter and Dejah Thoris navigate the political intrigues and power struggles between the various Martian factions. They form alliances and face betrayals while striving to protect their loved ones and their world.

Chapters 21-25

The story culminates in a climactic battle where Carter and his allies confront their enemies to secure the future of Barsoom.

Main Events

  • John Carter's arrival on Mars and his discovery of his enhanced physical abilities.
  • His encounters with the Tharks, the Green Martians, and the Red Martians, each with their unique customs and conflicts.
  • The blossoming romance between John Carter and Dejah Thoris, as they navigate the dangerous political landscape of Barsoom.
  • The climactic battles and alliances forged to protect the future of Mars.

Themes and Insights


  • Adventure and Exploration: The novel explores the thrill of venturing into unknown territories and encountering new cultures.
  • Love and Loyalty: The enduring love between John Carter and Dejah Thoris, as well as the loyalty among allies, are central themes.
  • Conflict and Honor: The conflicts between different Martian races and the concept of honor are recurring motifs throughout the story.


  • Burroughs' portrayal of Mars offers insights into the human condition, societal structures, and the complexities of relationships, albeit in a fantastical setting.
  • The novel provides a glimpse into the author's imagination and his vision of a vibrant and diverse interplanetary society, sparking readers' curiosity about the possibilities of life beyond Earth.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Princess of Mars" offers readers an enthralling blend of science fiction, romance, and adventure. The novel's imaginative world-building, dynamic characters, and compelling themes make it a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences. Readers are transported to a vivid and exotic landscape, where they can experience the thrill of discovery, the power of love, and the triumph of honor in the face of adversity.


In "A Princess of Mars," Edgar Rice Burroughs creates a rich and immersive world that continues to enchant readers with its imaginative storytelling and timeless themes. The novel's enduring appeal lies in its ability to transport readers to a captivating realm where honor, love, and adventure intertwine in the midst of interplanetary conflicts. As a pioneering work of science fiction, "A Princess of Mars" has left an indelible mark on the genre and continues to inspire readers to embark on thrilling literary journeys to the red planet and beyond.

A Princess of Mars FAQ

  1. What is 'A Princess of Mars' about?

    A Princess of Mars is a science fiction novel that follows the story of John Carter, a Confederate veteran who is mysteriously transported to the planet Mars. There, he becomes embroiled in the conflicts between different Martian tribes and falls in love with Dejah Thoris, a princess of Mars.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Princess of Mars'?

    The author of 'A Princess of Mars' is Edgar Rice Burroughs, who is also known for creating the character Tarzan.

  3. What genre is 'A Princess of Mars'?

    A Princess of Mars falls into the genre of science fiction, with elements of adventure and romance.

  4. Is 'A Princess of Mars' part of a series?

    Yes, 'A Princess of Mars' is the first book in the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which includes eleven novels set on the planet Mars.

  5. When was 'A Princess of Mars' first published?

    'A Princess of Mars' was first published as a serial in All-Story Magazine in 1912, and then as a complete novel in 1917.