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


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#1 Winterghost

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 11:30 PM

Bran Mak Morm: "Worms of the Earth"
Source: Bran Mak Morm- The Last King (Del Rey)


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SPOILER ALERT: Plot details will be discussed here.
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"I seek a Door," he answered, chin resting on his fist. "I have a song to sing to the worms of the earth!"


We will finish the year with what is likely Howard's most famous Bran story, "Worms of the Earth".

While Bran is not one of my favorite Howard creations, I thought this story had some great moments. It also had some let-downs. It has the feel of a dark fairy tale.

In general, I am not a big fan of the Picts in the Bran stories. As Howard depicts them they come off (to me) as trollish mutants with a child's intellect. Grom even comes off as an Igor type. I don't quite see what's worth saving here for Bran. KIng of what? A horde of inbred imps? Please send your hate mail to...

I recall a long time ago reading or hearing something John Milius said, that he enjoyed the Bran stories far more than he did the Conan tales (anyone have a reference for that?) This was the first time I've read all the way though Worms, and I was surprised to see that this was where Milius has lifted his Wolf Witch character, but then he did steal from the Kull stories too. As much as I don't like CTB as a Conan movie (a great movie by any other name), I have to appreciate that he at least read the source material and then some.

Atla was the most interesting character to me, almost a female Smeagol. "What have I known but the lone winds of the fens, the dreary fire of cold sunsets, the whispering of the marsh grasses?-- the faces that blink up at me in the waters of the meres, the foot-pad of night-things in the gloom, the glimmer of red eyes, the grisly murmer of nameless beings in the night." I can't believe Bran slept with her. Ick!

Dagon's Mere-- creepy, yes, but where the heck was the figh with the monster!?! Since Howard skimped on a fight with Sulla at the end, he could have at least given us more with the water-monster here.

I was obviously dissapointed with the ending. It was okay, but it lacked climax for me. There wasn't much going on. Bran came off as a hypocrite; like his Picts are a band of prom queens or something. Like his Picts don't stink. Bran is the one who set this all in motion, he makes the deal with these creatures after stealing from them, and then he acts all offended and such. Kull should have kicked his prissy can in Kings! (Did I mention it's early morning and I haven't had coffee yet...)

I hope that if Peter Berg does adapt this story for his Bran movie, he does do some tweaking to put some more action in it. I'm noit saying that all of Howard's stories need a fight or action (I've made that comment plenty of times elsewhere), but this one was really aching for it.

That said, Worms has been my favorite Bran story thus far. I've yet to read The Dark Man or the Lost Race or all the bonus material in the Del Rey edition. I'm going to give this story a weak 8.



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Next month I'm going to step off the Del Rey path and see how many will wander off with me. I've recently picked up the first three trades of Wildside's Weird Works of Robert E. Howard. Each volume, and their hardback counterparts, have been readily available on the shelves of my local Borders since they were published, which is great since they so often lack in the Del Reys. So if I can get my grub hooks on them so easily, it shouldn't be so hard for the rest of you. They're also affordably priced (I paid ten bucks for each trade). I've heard various complaints about these editions, but I like how they've laid out the stories in the order that they were published. These editions also offer some variety, so I thought we might read through them one story after the other, much like Kortoso has us doing with the Conan stories. That means that those of us on a limited budget don't have to rush out to buy a new book each month.

So we'll give this a shot and see how it goes in January with our first story, "Spear and Fang."

Edited by Winterghost, 04 December 2006 - 01:17 PM.


#2 Adam

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Posted 14 December 2006 - 05:24 PM

It's a wonderful short story.

I like it for the same reasons you dislike it.

Scene with the lake monster is great - adds to the atmosphere of gloomy and dark reality.

The opening with crucifixon is also memorable as well as a different look onto Picts, different from Conan stories.

Look, the Picts in Bran Mak Morn stories are depicted as the last remnants of once proud race, who can only fight as are nearly degenerated and only Bran (and old shaman Gonar) stand between them and complete wilderness.

With Bran gone, everything will be lost.

It's the tragism of the situation that makes this story worth reading. Children of the night - filthy remnants of once degenerated race - will "remember Bran" as Altha tells him in the end.

It's also a great story due to its humane nature: man is strong and there are some weapons that shouldn't be used against other men.

Pity triumphs over anger and revenge in the final. Bran slays the Roman, but does he wreak revenge on him?

#3 deuce

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Posted 16 December 2006 - 02:38 AM

Hey WG! Don't drink the Kool-Aid, but please, drink some coffee. :) Anyway, I noticed you edited out "Villefere". If we do read it, I think it would be cool to read its sequel,"Wolfshead" with it. My two cents. :)

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#4 Winterghost

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Posted 17 December 2006 - 11:38 PM

Hey WG! Don't drink the Kool-Aid, but please, drink some coffee. :) Anyway, I noticed you edited out "Villefere". If we do read it, I think it would be cool to read its sequel,"Wolfshead" with it. My two cents. :)


LOL. Yes coffee is a must for any reading-- or wriing-- for me these days.

I did remove Villefere for the very reason that it's a two-pack with Wolfshead. I'm not sure if we'll get to do it, though, since interest in this has dropped significantly each month. I am keeping in mind that being a busy holiday season people have little time to take a break, sit down and relax a bit. Heck, I'm only half-way through the Blood and Thunder book; bit by bit, here and there. We'll see.


Adam, I understand your points, but it still doesn't change my opinion. Great that there was a scene with the lake that set a creepy mood, but bad that the follow-up scene didn't have pay-off.

Mark Finn's book does a great job discussing the whole Pict thing, and it's great and all, but I still can't get excited about them.

I also like what he said about Bran's encounter with the Worms is really an encounter with what will one da be the Picts themselves. (sorry if I'm off there, Mark)

Did any of you read Songs of the Dead; how Landsdale incorperated the Worms into their comic book?

#5 deuce

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 12:44 AM

Personally, I do think the season has a lot to do with it. I know I've been plenty busy since about Halloween. Plus, my grandma has been in the hospital for the last 3+ weeks. :(

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#6 Winterghost

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 10:59 PM

Yeah, I'm hoping it will pick up. I'd really like to go through the first volume there with a group (yes, I'm talking to the 140 Views but no posts :P ). I've noticed that the Conan SotM has slowed this month too, so either everyone has got bored with the idea or this is just too busy a season. I'd like to think it's the later.

Once I get Finn's book read, I'm going to go back and finish reading the rest of the Bran book. Gotta. Y'know, 'cause it's Howard, man.

Sorry to hear about your grandma. Is it serious?

#7 deuce

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Posted 18 December 2006 - 11:43 PM

Yeah, it is. Thanks for asking, Winterghost.

Edited by deuce, 18 December 2006 - 11:43 PM.

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#8 nabonidus11

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Posted 25 December 2006 - 06:51 PM

"Worms of the Earth" is a great story. One of the best, a 10 out of 10, that shows how revenge is an empty desire. Yes there is much more to the story but Howard explores this emptiness as a main theme. Bran has earned the anger of the Worms and for nothing. Bran's rage and stubborness led him down a dark path and the earned reward doesn't fit the consequences he will pay. This has been in my top five Howard stories since I read it the first time. I feel that, ironically, Bran shows more bravery in this story than in stories of battle like "Kings in the Night". All of it didn't earn him that which he desired, to face Titus Sulla in a duel to the death. Bran would not mind dying in battle but to slay his enemy as a mercy steals his goal, his desire.

The Pictish thing has intrigued me for a long time. And it doesn't end with Bran but it carries all the way to the Lovecraftian circle stories Howard wrote. Also, in between was the rescue of the Statue of Bran from Vikings. It seems that there is a requirement for the remaining true Picts to make a pilgrimage to Bran's Statue in the hills of Scotland. So in a way he has become like the Black Stone that he stole.

Just an aside, having the Howard reading group as an independant subject instead of threads within subjects might make it easier to track. I just stumbled on the other threads and would have liked to jump in but they were over by the time I found them.
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#9 deuce

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 05:04 AM

Hey Nabonidus! Feel free to post on "expired" story threads. I plan on getting to some I missed out on in the near future. :)

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#10 nabonidus11

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Posted 31 December 2006 - 03:12 PM

Thanks for the idea duece! I wasn't sure how the rules were running for these threads.

Sorry to read about your grandma. It's been a rough Holiday for us too, my family had medical issues and my wife's family had some big emotional blow outs. But we made it through and things are better at this stage. I hope that it can happen that way for you.
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#11 Winterghost

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 06:00 PM

Happy New Year, All!

Nabonidus, 2006's REH Stories of the Month were:

1. Phoenix on the Sword, found in the Library of Epemitreus in the Conan Forum (September's story)

2 The Hills of the Dead, located in Solomon Kane Forum (October's story)

3. The Shadow Kingdom, in the Kull Forum (November's story)

4. Worms of the Earth, in the Bran Mak Morn Forum (December's story)

Hope this helps. I know it's a bit confusing, but this part of the project is out of my hands. Unlike the Conan Story of the Month, because we have dealt with a different character who has their own forum each month, we've had to move around (wandering vagabounds through Howard's imagination) This is why I let you know where next month's thread will be, though if you come in on the last one there's no way of knowing what the past stories were.

The good news is that the next few stories should all be going into Howard's Other Literary Creations, so there won't be much need to search about for some months.

There is also a Conan Story of the Month, which branched off in October to continue the Cimmerian's adventures, reading one story a month straight through Del Rey's The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, in the order Howard wrote them. Good stuff.

#12 El Borak's Li'l Brother

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 10:45 PM

I got to thinking about an interesting event in Worms of the Earth and possible future consequences. What I speak of is the night of passion between Bran Mak Morn and the were-woman of the moor, Atla. A price to pay for Bran Mak Morn -- that could've brought back some change in the future?! As in a child. If Howard had written more about the Pict, do you think this might've come into play?
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#13 deuce

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 11:23 PM

I got to thinking about an interesting event in Worms of the Earth and possible future consequences. What I speak of is the night of passion between Bran Mak Morn and the were-woman of the moor, Atla. A price to pay for Bran Mak Morn -- that could've brought back some change in the future?! As in a child. If Howard had written more about the Pict, do you think this might've come into play?

]
It might have. Of course, it would've taken 10-20yrs for the spawn of such a union to reach young adulthood. The hypothetical "son of Atla" would've been only a minor player until he became a formidable warrior himself. Considering some of the "Once and Future King" nuances that REH gave BMM, one could see such a union producing a "Modred". He might've been at the "great battle" where Bran died (just like Arthur).

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#14 yimsha

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 11:42 PM

I got to thinking about an interesting event in Worms of the Earth and possible future consequences. What I speak of is the night of passion between Bran Mak Morn and the were-woman of the moor, Atla. A price to pay for Bran Mak Morn -- that could've brought back some change in the future?! As in a child. If Howard had written more about the Pict, do you think this might've come into play?

]
It might have. Of course, it would've taken 10-20yrs for the spawn of such a union to reach young adulthood. The hypothetical "son of Atli" would've been only a minor player until he became a formidable warrior himself. Considering some of the "Once and Future King" nuances that REH gave BMM, one could see such a union producing a "Modred". He might've been at the "great battle" where Bran died (just like Arthur).



his line can be traced directly to the original inhabitants of Sunderland. :lol:
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#15 Taranaich

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 12:14 AM

It might have. Of course, it would've taken 10-20yrs for the spawn of such a union to reach young adulthood.


Or would he? Perhaps the woman's ambiguous genetic heritage would have allowed a rapid maturity. Or perhaps, like alligators, he just keeps on growing... ;)

The hypothetical "son of Atli" would've been only a minor player until he became a formidable warrior himself. Considering some of the "Once and Future King" nuances that REH gave BMM, one could see such a union producing a "Modred". He might've been at the "great battle" where Bran died (just like Arthur).


Heh, Mordred meets Grendel is the vibe I get!

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#16 deuce

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 12:16 AM

It might have. Of course, it would've taken 10-20yrs for the spawn of such a union to reach young adulthood.


Or would he? Perhaps the woman's ambiguous genetic heritage would have allowed a rapid maturity. Or perhaps, like alligators, he just keeps on growing... ;)

The hypothetical "son of Atli" would've been only a minor player until he became a formidable warrior himself. Considering some of the "Once and Future King" nuances that REH gave BMM, one could see such a union producing a "Modred". He might've been at the "great battle" where Bran died (just like Arthur).


Heh, Mordred meets Grendel is the vibe I get!


Good ideas there. Where was KEW when he needed us? ;)

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#17 deuce

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 03:21 PM

>>>>>>>>>>>SPOILER<<<<<<<<<<<<


Of course, in "Legion", there appeared to be an unholy bun in Bran's sister's oven by the end of the novel.

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#18 timeless

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 07:44 PM

Tim Conrad and Barry Smith did a fanTAStic job in the Marvel Savage Sword adaptation of 'Worms.'
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Is but a dream within a dream. - Edgar Allen Poe

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Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. - Norman Maclean

#19 deuce

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 07:49 PM

Tim Conrad and Barry Smith did a fanTAStic job in the Marvel Savage Sword adaptation of 'Worms.'


I agree. :) Though Tim made Atla a little more hag-like than REH described, IMO.

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#20 El Borak's Li'l Brother

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Posted 14 November 2007 - 06:13 PM

I got to thinking about an interesting event in Worms of the Earth and possible future consequences. What I speak of is the night of passion between Bran Mak Morn and the were-woman of the moor, Atla. A price to pay for Bran Mak Morn -- that could've brought back some change in the future?! As in a child. If Howard had written more about the Pict, do you think this might've come into play?

]
It might have. Of course, it would've taken 10-20yrs for the spawn of such a union to reach young adulthood. The hypothetical "son of Atli" would've been only a minor player until he became a formidable warrior himself. Considering some of the "Once and Future King" nuances that REH gave BMM, one could see such a union producing a "Modred". He might've been at the "great battle" where Bran died (just like Arthur).


I never quite saw it as Howard rewriting the Arthur legend. I would've expected a more original tale...

Question: In my copy of The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard her name is "Atla", yet you spell it "Atli". Is it a typo in this book?
Crom!