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Pellucidar is a fictional Hollow Earth milieu invented by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs for a series of action adventure stories. In a notable crossover event between Burroughs' series, there is a Tarzan story in which the Ape Man finds his way into Pellucidar.

The stories initially involve the adventures of mining heir David Innes and his inventor friend Abner Perry after they use an "iron mole" to burrow 500 miles into the earth's crust. Later protagonists include indigenous cave man Tanar and additional visitors from the surface world, notably Tarzan, Jason Gridley, Von Horst and (in a non-Burroughs sequel authorized by his estate) Christopher West.

Original map of Pellucidar, from the first edition of Pellucidar (1915)


In Burroughs' concept, the Earth is a hollow shell with Pellucidar as the internal surface of that shell. Pellucidar is accessible to the surface world via a polar opening permitting passage between the inner and outer worlds, through which a rigid airship visits in the third book of the series. Although the inner surface of the Earth has an absolutely smaller area than the outer, Pellucidar actually has a greater land area, as its continents mirror the surface world's oceans and its oceans mirror the surface continents.

A peculiarity of Pellucidar's geography is that due to the concave curvature of its surface there is no horizon; the further distant something is, the higher it appears to be, until it is finally lost in the atmospheric haze.

Pellucidar is lit by a miniature sun suspended at the very center of the hollow sphere, so that it is perpetually overhead wherever one is in Pellucidar. The sole exception is the region directly under a tiny geostationary moon of the internal sun, which lies under a perpetual eclipse and is known as the Land of Awful Shadow. This moon has its own plant life and (presumably) animal life, and hence either has its own atmosphere or shares that of Pellucidar. The miniature sun never changes in brightness, and naturally never sets; so with no night or seasonal progression, the natives have little conception of time. The events of the series suggest that time is in fact elastic, passing at different rates in different areas of Pellucidar and varying even in single locales.


Pellucidar is populated by primitive people and prehistoric creatures, notably dinosaurs. The region in which Innes and Perry initially find themselves is ruled by the cites of the Mahars, intelligent flying reptiles resembling pterosaurs with dangerous psychic powers, who keep the local tribelets of Stone Age human beings in subjection. Innes and Perry eventually unite the tribes to overthrow the Mahars and establish a human "Empire of Pellucidar" in its place.

While the Mahars are the dominant species in the Pellucidar novels, they seem confined to their handful of cities. Before their overthrow they utilize the Sagoths, a race of gorilla-men who speak the same language as Tarzan's apes, to enforce their rule over the human tribes within the area over which they hold sway. Though Burrough's novels suggest that the Mahar realm is limited to one relatively small area of the inner world, John Eric Holmes' authorized sequel Mahars of Pellucidar indicates there are additional areas of Mahar domination.

Both within and and outside the Mahars' domain are scattered independent human cultures, most of them at the stone age level of development. Technically more advanced exceptions include the Korsars (corsairs), a maritime raiding society descended from surface-world pirates, and the Xerots, an indigenous Bronze Age civilization. All or most of the human inhabitants of Pellucidar share a common world-wide language.

Pellucidar also harbors enclaves of various nonhuman or semi-human races. Besides the Sagoths there are three known ape-like races. The Ape Men and Sabertooth Men are both black with prehensile tails, through the former are arboreal and the latter are cannibals with dagger-like tusks. The Brute-Men are peaceful, gorilla-like farmers. Two subterranean races are the Coripies or buried people, short eyeless carrion eaters, and the Gorbuses, cannibalistic albinos who are apparently resurrected surface-world murderers. Other species seen include the Azarians, primitive man-eating giants, the Ganaks, a race of horned bison men, and the Horibs, ferocious, dinosaur-riding reptile men.

The Novels

  1. At the Earth's Core (1914)
  2. Pellucidar (1915)
  3. Tanar of Pellucidar (1929)
  4. Tarzan at the Earth's Core (1929)
  5. Back to the Stone Age (1937)
  6. Land of Terror (1944)
  7. Savage Pellucidar (1963)

Sequels by John Eric Holmes

Mahars of Pellucidar was a sequel to Burroughs' Pellucidar novels authorized by the Burroughs estate. Holmes' follow-up novel, reportedly ready for publication in 1980, only saw print later.

  1. Mahars of Pellucidar (1976)
  2. Red Axe of Pellucidar (1993)

Influence in Literature and Other Media

Pellucidar was the major inspiration for Lin Carter's Zanthodon novels of the late 1970s and early 1980s, set in a vast cavern beneath the Sahara Desert.

The Hollow Earth milieu of Skartaris in the Warlord series of comic books by Mike Grell, published during the same period, is essentially a translation of Pellucidar into the graphic medium, with the admixture of magic and elements of the Atlantis myth.

In James P. Blaylock's The Digging Leviathan (1984), a pair of rival scientific teams compete to reach Pellucidar; the story concludes before the goal is attained.


John Eric Holmes' Red Axe of Pellucidar supposedly was intially blocked from publication by Burroughs' estate, though it had authorized its predecessor, Mahars of Pellucidar.

During the initial explorations of Lechuguilla Cave in the late 1980s, a chamber was named "Pellucidar" in honor of these stories.

The first novel was filmed as At the Earth's Core (1976), directed by Kevin Connor and starring Doug McClure as David Innes and Peter Cushing as Abner Perry.

See also

External links