NOTE: The following article was first published on May 9, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.
“The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune” is Robert E. Howard at his most poetic.
His writing had taken a quantum leap forward in quality compared with his earlier Kull stories as he transitioned from working in familiar genres to blazing a trail none had attempted before him. More than his gift for well-turned phrases and evoking imagery so powerful, it literally sears itself in the reader’s mind; Howard reaches for a depth of character and achieves a work that is both psychologically and philosophically rewarding.
Sadly, as the author would later tell his friend, Clyde Smith he was disappointed in the result and resolved to never attempt anything so deep again.
The tale starts off with Kull, plagued with ennui and yearning for something more substantive than riches, power, and transient beauty. The brooding king rejects the company of loyal Brule, the Pict who won his respect and friendship in “The Shadow Kingdom,” but foolishly takes the advice of an alluring Eastern female.
Read More Read More
NOTE: The following article was first published on April 18, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.
Robert E. Howard’s “The Shadow Kingdom” is a remarkable advancement upon “Exile of Atlantis” and the “Am-ra of the Ta’an” fragments. Howard’s first published story of what will later be known as the Pre-Cataclysmic Age leaves behind the derivative world of Edgar Rice Burroughs pastiches to mine new territory in terms of character and setting as well as genre.
Kull, the barbarian who has recently seized the crown and now must struggle to keep it, marks a significant break from both Howard and the fantasy genre’s past while continuing to build upon the age-old theme of the outsider as noble savage. Howard was hardly the first young man who felt a sense of kinship with such characters. It is not hard to imagine the aspiring young writer, alienated in Cross Plains, pouring his feelings into the exiled Atlantean who remains an outcast even after rising to the throne of Valusia.
The story opens with Kull making a proper royal entrance. Unsurprisingly, the barbarian king’s empathy rests not with Valusia’s finest archers and trumpeters, but with the mercenaries paid to act as foot soldiers – men who show the king little respect, but who demonstrate integrity for all their brash honesty. This sets the stage for the introduction of Brule, the noble Pict destined to become Kull’s loyal companion. While Brule enters the series as a figure of suspicion, Kull soon modifies his opinion of the man’s character. Brule, like Kull, is a man of integrity.
Read More Read More
“Beyond the Sunrise” is the unofficial title afforded an unfinished Kull story that did not see print until over forty years after the author’s death. Its significance is due largely to the fact that it was the first of four widely differing attempts to continue the Kull series following the publication of both “The Shadow Kingdom” and “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune” in Weird Tales in 1929.
Robert E. Howard starts the story off with a bored Kull sitting on his throne listening to a rather dull tale of the Valusian noblewoman, Lala-ah who has run off with her foreign lover leaving the nobleman she was promised to waiting at the altar. The barbarian king’s pride is piqued once he learns the foreigner insulted him behind his back. He then readily agrees to lead a posse to retrieve the noblewoman and restore his and his nation’s honor.
I was about as enthusiastic as Kull when I first started the story and thought the Atlantean was acting like a childish oaf for getting his nose out of joint just because a foreigner called him a sissy when he wasn’t around to defend himself.
Read More Read More