Our story in this week’s American Stories is the third part of A Princess of Mars, in which we learn about the Princess Dejah Thoris, a scientist from the city of Helium. She is captured by the green Martians, who will use her in their deadly games.
Sola, a green Martian warrior, explains to John Carter, the Earth human who is telling the story, how her mother died in those games. Sola’s mother broke the rules of her tribe by raising her daughter separately from those of the other children of the tribe. She explains that her tribe forbids children to know who their parents are and parents to know who their children are:
- No, John Carter. My mother died in the games. That is a secret you must not tell anyone. The wall where Tars Tarkas found you held eggs that produce our young. All the children belong to the tribe. A mother never knows which child is hers when they come out of the egg.
- My mother hid the egg that carried me. It was not placed within the walled area. She kept her secret until after I was born. But others discovered her secret and she was condemned to die in the games. She hid me among other children before she was captured. If this secret were learned, I too would die in the games.
- Before she left me, my mother told me the name of my father. I alone keep that secret. It would mean death for him as well as me. My people are violent and cruel.
This concept struck me when I read it. I can understand the reason the tribe developed a practice like this: if all are responsible for each member of the tribe equally, they will share with others and not show favoritism for any one individual.
However, the tribe seems to be very warlike, and I wonder if this child-raising practice supports that kind of society. The tribe trains its members to fight against other groups of Martians. Their loyalty is to their own tribe, not to a family group. I guess that this practice – raising their young as members of the tribe but not of a family, means they will be more cruel and violent as warriors.
How would this work on Earth? Do you know of any cultures that raise children in groups, rather than as individuals? What effect does this have on the psychology of the child?
Write in the comments to share your ideas on the Martian practice of raising their children – and how this would work if it was done on Earth.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Dr. Jill Robbins