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R E H Story Of The Month: "Worms Of The Earth"


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#41 deuce

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Posted 01 December 2008 - 06:15 AM

Hey Khemsa! You did some serious cogitatin' on this very thorny problem. I applaud your scholarship. B) It's hard to argue with your scenario, IMO.

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#42 evisceratedmemories

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Posted 11 December 2008 - 03:25 PM

Worms of the Earth...ironically i just picked up a copy of this in paperback form...i know its in my Bran Mak Morn delrey...and probably a couple other collections i have...but this is one story ive always held off on reading till now...some stories i enjoy reading in the stand alone book format instead of the collections cause it just seems more special when you do it that way?...this one is pretty close to next on my list!
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#43 guilalah

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Posted 07 January 2009 - 10:17 PM

Does anyone think there's considerable affinity between 'Worms of the Earth' and C L Moore's 'Jirel' story, 'The Black God's Kiss', which was published a couple years after 'Worms'?

The stories start with Jirel captive, and Bran a captive audience; the heroes 'weapons' are gained via a kiss (a night of a kings kisses for the werewoman in 'Worms', while Jirel draws Guillame's death from an idol's lips); vengeance, but also the sense of being tainted by the means of vengeance; tunnels under the Earth leading to very weird places inhabited by bestially degenerated humans; towers; and a sense of discovering something so ghastly that one ends up feeling, in comparision, a certain human solidarity with one's hated enemy.

Edited by guilalah, 07 January 2009 - 10:17 PM.


#44 Taranaich

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Posted 09 January 2009 - 05:58 PM

Hmm, now that you mention it, there is quite an interesting similarity there. I personally thought BGK owed a lot to "The Scarlet Citadel", personally (compare Jirel's journey into the underworld with Conan's creeping under the Citadel), but WotE shares that "descent into the underworld" element too, and the use of sexual/romantic gestures with something hideous to gain a weapon is quite specific.

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#45 crossplain pilgrim

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Posted 13 January 2009 - 03:01 AM

I just finished reading WotE in the Del Rey horror collection. It's a great read, but strangely mournful and unsettling. That's the thing about Howard that people who have never read him extensively just don't know. He didn't just knock out hack pulp stories with thunderous action and predictable plots. Worms has very little action in it, but what a great story. Howard sets you up for the big face-off between Bran and Sulla, and then ends it another way. I keep finding these rope-a-dopes in a lot of Howard stories. Maybe it was the boxer in him. If Bran had just killed Sulla in a predictable climatic duel, it would have just been another typical S&S finale. Instead, you have Bran feeling both disgust and compassion, and maybe a little guilt. And you remember that ending for a long time.
A wild moon rode in the wild white clouds,
the waves their white crests showed
When Solomon Kane went forth again,
and no man knew his road.

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#46 Elegast

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Posted 19 January 2009 - 03:24 AM

Howard was a deeply depressive geezer ( come to think of it a suicidal one! ). This part of his character, of not well balanced misfit pops up in many of his stories, though not so much the Conan ones. One need only think of Kull's dark moods in " The Shadow Kingdom ". In fact, knowing the story behind the stories adds to their pathos and dramatic intensity.
Was not " Worms of the Earth " very similar to another tale of subterranean snake men set in Texas? Howard often plagiarised himself. The Texan tale, for me, was the better of the 2. It was darker and even more morally ambiguous.
I recall the Jirel from Joirrey tale. I read in it that after she destroyed her enemy she realised that she secretly had loved him as well as hated him. A classic love-hate relationship.
I'm afraid some of the best stories are based on how s----ed-up people really are.

Edited by Elegast, 19 January 2009 - 03:26 AM.


#47 crossplain pilgrim

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Posted 19 January 2009 - 05:09 AM

The Texas story was "Valley of the Lost" and it did feature snake men similar to those in "Worms of the Earth." I'm not sure "plagiarism," which has an unsavory connotation, is the best term for an author using similar elements in telling different stories, and there are considerable differences in the two stories. IMO, "Worms" is the better of the two tales. As well as the horror, it has an emotional resonance superior to the bleak ending of "Valley." Of course, it's all just a matter of personal preferences.
A wild moon rode in the wild white clouds,
the waves their white crests showed
When Solomon Kane went forth again,
and no man knew his road.

"Solomon Kane's Homecoming"

#48 Taranaich

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Posted 25 January 2009 - 10:52 AM

Steve Tompkins has an absolutely stunning post regarding "Worms of the Earth" over at The Cimmerian, specifically dealing with Atla, miscegenation & the sexuality aspect of Little People mythology.

It's a fantastic read, but in particular I feel the need to comment on the penultimate paragraph:

Unlike Don Herron, I?m an admirer of Karl Edward Wagner?s Legion from the Shadows, but in a different, more perverse sequel to the story, Bran might have found no sexual healing in the arms of ?purely? Pictish or Celtic women ?supposing Atla were his best, rather than his worst experience? Once you?ve gone snakey, all else is just fakey. Actually, having absorbed the story of Arthur and his sister Morgause years before I read ?Worms,? my fealty has always been to an even darker outcome, the sinister signposts to which would be Atla?s ?stay and let me show you the real fruits of the pits? and ?in their own time, they will come to you again!? In nine months? time? Could the tidings we receive long centuries later in ?The Dark Man? from Brogar, that ?Bran Mak Morn fell in battle; the nation fell apart,? involve not just renewed Roman aggression but the Mordred of a Caledonian Camlann? Posit a careworn Bran, with no trueborn heirs, and the arrival at Baal-dor of a son with the ability to, yes, cloak himself in human attributes?What other ?real fruit? would so bear out the witch?s But you are stained with the taint taunt?


I had previously considered the possibility of Bran's tryst resulting in offspring, but the Arthurian overtones of Bran & son falling in battle by each other's hand, a final cruel twist in the tale where his desire for vengeance turned out to be Bran and his people's own undoing, is just brilliant.

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#49 deuce

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 06:57 AM

Steve Tompkins has an absolutely stunning post regarding "Worms of the Earth" over at The Cimmerian, specifically dealing with Atla, miscegenation & the sexuality aspect of Little People mythology.

It's a fantastic read, but in particular I feel the need to comment on the penultimate paragraph:

Unlike Don Herron, I'm an admirer of Karl Edward Wagner's Legion from the Shadows, but in a different, more perverse sequel to the story, Bran might have found no sexual healing in the arms of "purely" Pictish or Celtic women ?supposing Atla were his best, rather than his worst experience? Once you've gone snakey, all else is just fakey. Actually, having absorbed the story of Arthur and his sister Morgause years before I read "Worms," my fealty has always been to an even darker outcome, the sinister signposts to which would be Atla's "stay and let me show you the real fruits of the pits" and "in their own time, they will come to you again!" In nine months' time? Could the tidings we receive long centuries later in "The Dark Man" from Brogar, that "Bran Mak Morn fell in battle; the nation fell apart," involve not just renewed Roman aggression but the Mordred of a Caledonian Camlann? Posit a careworn Bran, with no trueborn heirs, and the arrival at Baal-dor of a son with the ability to, yes, cloak himself in human attributes?What other "real fruit" would so bear out the witch's But you are stained with the taint taunt?


I had previously considered the possibility of Bran's tryst resulting in offspring, but the Arthurian overtones of Bran & son falling in battle by each other's hand, a final cruel twist in the tale where his desire for vengeance turned out to be Bran and his people's own undoing, is just brilliant.


Hey Taranaich! Yep, another damned fine essay from ST. :D However, I felt quite proud of the fact that several members of this forum had anticipated many of the points examined by Mr. Tompkins in THIS thread: http://www.conan.com...?showtopic=5467

Right from the first post, the "Grendel's mother" analogy was made. Miscegenation themes were also brought up. I'm gratified that Tompkins seems to also feel that envisioning Atla as a hideous, "witchy" hag takes some of the power out of this powerful REH yarn.

"Arthur/Mordred" themes were discussed even earlier on THIS thread:
http://www.conan.com...?showtopic=5084

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#50 Libaax

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 03:50 PM

I read Worms of the Earth just now in my Last King collection.

It was a masterpiece,a great Bran,REH story. It might not be as good adventure,action as the other Bran stories but it was very strong mood,creepy,supernatural wise. All the only Pict,Bran Mak Morn story told in the POV of a pict and Bran makes it very special.

It reminded me of the more creepy,supernatural Conan stories but the fact that it was Roman Briton days,revenge story was really special.

Its a shame more stories wasnt written in POV of Bran Mak Morn. He is a great REH hero.

#51 crossplain pilgrim

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 08:48 PM

A lot of fans hear all the praise about "Worms of the Earth," read it, and get hooked on Bran Mak Morn. Then they are disappointed to discover there are so few stories in which Bran takes an active role. Compared to Bran, the handful of Solomon Kane stories are almost biblical in number. It would be interesting to know why Howard discontinued such a great character so quickly. Any of our resident experts listening?
A wild moon rode in the wild white clouds,
the waves their white crests showed
When Solomon Kane went forth again,
and no man knew his road.

"Solomon Kane's Homecoming"

#52 Libaax

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 12:10 AM

A lot of fans hear all the praise about "Worms of the Earth," read it, and get hooked on Bran Mak Morn. Then they are disappointed to discover there are so few stories in which Bran takes an active role. Compared to Bran, the handful of Solomon Kane stories are almost biblical in number. It would be interesting to know why Howard discontinued such a great character so quickly. Any of our resident experts listening?



Yeah i felt like that too about Bran, he is seriously got forgotten by REH too fast. I was shocked to see for a famous REH hero there is only 4 stories about him and one of them he doesnt even appear in really.

There are theories on why REH changed characters so fast. His own words say in several collections in letters that he couldnt force himself to go back to a character when he didnt feel it anymore.

Also he liked several other genres that he always wrote. Its understandable in his short career he couldnt be writting westerns,historical,boxning etc while he wrote Bran,Kane stories several other fantasy series all his short career.

Im not really dissapointed he gave up on Bran too fast he wrote so many other things in genres i like. I ordered Lord of Samarcand collection now that i have finished Bran collection.

Edited by Libaax, 02 June 2009 - 12:11 AM.


#53 Trond

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 07:51 PM

I just finished reading WotE and thought it was great! Can't say that Bran is my favorite REH character, but I can see why this story gets a lot of praise.

Some of you have noted the similarity between Atla and Grendel's Mother in Beowulf, but I think this only holds for the relatively recent movie, starring Angelina Jolie (in many ways a new interpretation by Neil Gaiman). I haven't read the original story, but I have heard that there is originally no mention of Beowulf sleeping with Grendel's Mother (nor that she was attractive in any way). Is there anybody here who knows more about this?

#54 Mikey_C

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 10:37 PM

I haven't read the original story, but I have heard that there is originally no mention of Beowulf sleeping with Grendel's Mother (nor that she was attractive in any way). Is there anybody here who knows more about this?

That's absolutely right - in the original poem she is a terrifying monster worse than Grendel. Nothing like Atla (or Angeline Jolie!) If you want to read it, Seamus Heaney's translation is great.
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#55 AllenSmith

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Posted 05 April 2010 - 01:07 PM

Worms of the Earth is my favorite Howard story ever. Is there a current comic book featuring Bran Mak Morn?

#56 terryallenuk

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Posted 05 April 2010 - 01:15 PM

Worms of the Earth is my favorite Howard story ever. Is there a current comic book featuring Bran Mak Morn?


No, not yet.

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#57 Axerules

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Posted 05 April 2010 - 09:54 PM

Worms of the Earth is my favorite Howard story ever. Is there a current comic book featuring Bran Mak Morn?

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#58 chris75

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Posted 08 May 2010 - 05:09 PM

Interesting, but I like the best of the Conan stories better. I kept hearing this was THE Howard masterpiece, so it probably got built up too much for me. Little or no memorable combat. Plenty of sneaking around in the dark. Bran subjects a bunch of innocent Romans in the castle to his vengeance, as if they were responsible. He should have known the worms would undermine the walls; that's what they do. They travel in the earth. What did he expect, that they'd sneak through the front door past the guards? They don't seem to be civilized careful killers, after all.

#59 Primeval

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 09:03 AM


Worms of the Earth is my favorite Howard story ever. Is there a current comic book featuring Bran Mak Morn?


No, not yet.

Terry


"yet"? Holding out on us? :)

Based on the previews from the upcoming Hawks of Outremer comic, I'd like to see Boom! get a shot at some other REH stuff like this. At first glance they seem to have the right sensibility to do it right.

"Roll on me like a flood, now, if ye dare! Before your viper fangs drink my life I will reap your multitudes like ripened barley - of your severed heads will I build a tower and of your mangled corpses will I rear up a wall!" - Bran Mak Morn in "Worms of the Earth"


#60 Lord of the Animals

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Posted 12 May 2010 - 04:37 AM

I don't know if Worms of the Earth is Howard's best story, but it's definitely the best of his Bran Mak Morn stories.
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