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"Marchers of Valhalla": REH "SotM" For February


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#21 Sermon Bath

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 11:24 PM

Dig me No Grave is a WILD tale!!!!! the imagery...whoa!
I don't worry...I have to much on my mind

#22 deuce

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 11:40 PM

Dig me No Grave is a WILD tale!!!!! the imagery...whoa!


Hell yeah! Every time I read it, by the time I get to the end, I'm hearing Don't Fear the Reaper in my head. Not saying they're exact matches, subject-wise, but one evokes the other, for me.

Anyway, back on topic, let's hear from some more members about this classic yarn (Marchers of Valhalla, that is) that was "lost" for nearly 40 years. Any comments on Tompkins' essay or Doc Hermes' review?

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#23 deuce

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 08:53 AM

Marchers of Valhalla from the Bison Books edition...

Hialmar: as I noted above, is the name Glenn Lord chose from James Allison's list of previous incarnations in The Valley of the Worm. I never asked Glenn why "Hialmar" made the cut when I talked to him (I was fairly speechless). Maybe it just sounded right (which it does). However, maybe Glenn knew that Hjalmar (or "Hialmar") is a famous "Viking" hero from Swedish legend. Historically, he appears to have flourished (if he ever existed) around the early 400's AD. While a true bad-a$$, Hjalmar was also a romantic hero. He pined after the golden-tressed Princess Ingeborg for years before staking his claim and causing some serious blood-shed (and dying a tragic death). REH's "Hialmar" also lusted after an "off-limits" blonde hottie, made blood run in torrents when he was denied and then died a tragic death. Just a thought. :)

Ishtar: She "was unbelievably beautiful. She was neither short nor tall; slender and yet splendidly shaped." Her face had a "strange beauty" which was "framed in the dark rippling glory of her hair." James Allison says that her eyes "were dark and luminous, lighted as no eyes I ever saw were lighted." Hmmm. Ishtar has "luminous, lighted" eyes. I guess she must be a daughter of the "monster-kings" as well. :rolleyes:
Allison admits that, "I do not remember her dress". (p.77) :lol: Sounds like she was hot enough to make me forget my own name!

James Allison: He says to Ishtar: "As you see, I have but one leg". "I was only fourteen when a mustang fell on me and crushed my leg so badly it had to be amputated." (...) "What have I to do except sit and wait for the death which is slowly creeping on me from an incurable malady?" (p.78) Howard told Lovecraft in a letter that he barely escaped death when a horse he was riding turned a somersault and almost crushed him. I have to wonder if the "incurable malady" JA suffers from is tuberculosis, which Howard's mother died of.

Allison's dream: Ishtar asks JA, "(M)an, do you never dream of drowning?" Allison, startled, asks, "How could you know that? Time and again I have felt the churning, seething waters rise like a green mountain over me, and have wakened, gasping and strangling -- but how could you know?" This passage describes an experience/dream eerily similar to that which JRR Tolkien recounted more than once (see The Letters of JRR Tolkien, et al). Tolkien called it his "Atlantis haunting/complex". He, too, awoke "gasping" after having this recurring dream of a "Green" (or 'Great') Wave" overwhelming the land... Later, he discovered his son, Michael, had experienced this same dream since childhood. Did Robert E. Howard perhaps experience a similar dream himself? I wouldn't place it outside the bounds of possibility.

Ishtar: She tells Allison, "The bodies change, the soul remains slumbering and untouched. Even the world changes." (p.79)

Texas: When asked "What is the peculiarity of the state as a whole?", Allison replies:"If you mean geographically, the peculiarity that has struck me is the fact that the land is but a succession of broad tablelands, or shelves, sloping upward from sea-level to over four thousand feet elevation, like the steps of a giant stair, with breaks of timbered hills between. The last break is the Caprock, and above that begins the Great Plains." (p.79) The Caprock is located in n-w Texas, in the Panhandle. Howard once lived in that region as a child. Here's a link:
http://www.tpwd.stat...aprock_canyons/
Ishtar tells JA that "Once the Great Plains stretched to the Gulf. Long, long ago what is now the state of Texas was a vast upland plateau, sloping gently to the coast, but without the breaks and shelvings of today. A mighty cataclysm broke off the land at the Caprock, the ocean roared over it, and the Caprock became the new shoreline. Then, age-by-age, the waters slowly receded, leaving the steppes as they are today." (p.79-80)

JA's "remembering": Ishtar threw her hands before his eyes "with a strange gesture" and cried sharply, "You shall see!" For Allison, there "was a sense of fading time and space -- a sensation of being whirled over illimitable gulfs, with cosmic winds blowing against me -- then I looked upon churning clouds, unreal and luminous, which crystallized into a strange landscape". (p.80)
Hialmar: Allison says that, "I dare not repeat what slaughters, rapine and massacres lay behind us." (p.83) This, as was noted long ago by "theGrayMan", was a favorite device of Howard's in his Conan yarns. Dark, sordid atrocities are alluded to, but never revealed in detail, giving the protagonist the cachet of utter bad-a$$edness, without alienating the reader.

Hialmar's horde: "They were big men, with yellow hair and cold blue eyes, clad in scale-mail corselets and horned helmets, and they bore shields and swords." They had fared out when "the yellow-haired folk still dwelt in Nordheim". Hialmar states that, "It was before the great drifts of my race had peopled the world, yet lesser, nameless drifts, had already begun." Their long, strange trek had led them around the world "-- down from the snowy north into rolling plains, and mountain valleys tilled by peaceful brown folk -- into hot breathless jungles, reeking with rot and teeming with spawning life -- through eastern lands flaming with raw primitive colors under the waving palm-trees, where ancient races lived in cities of carven stone -- up again into the ice and snow and across a frozen arm of the sea -- then down through the snow-clad wastes, where squat blubber-eating men fled squalling from our swords". From there, the AEsir headed south and east, through "lonely", unpopulated lands, eventually reaching the plains and finally, the Gulf. These AEsir had within them "the very spirit of the wild". Even the ways of their "wandering, warlike" folk back in Asgard "were too tame." Hialmar's posse were driven only by their "paranoidal drive to see beyond the horizon." Of the AEsir band, "there had been more than a thousand at the beginning". By the time they had reached the Gulf, they'd traversed at least 270 degrees of longitude and had lost over half their number. (p.80-82) Evidently, there were already some "nameless drifts" of the AEsir before Hialmar's war-band left Nordheim. One possible route for Hialmar was south through the "brown folk" regions, into the "jungles" of the "Med-basin", then through the "palm-tree" lands of northern Shem and Iranistan. From there, since no more jungles are mentioned, up through Hyrkania to "Siberia" and then across a frozen Bering Strait into "Alaska". Seemingly, REH places the advent of the Inuit peoples in North America before that of the actual "Amerindian" peoples (there is a difference).

Asgrimm: He had "grown old on that endless wandering -- a gaunt, bitter fighter, one-eyed and wolfish, who forever gnawed his graying beard." (p.82) His name means "Grim God", and he appears to be the "Odin stand-in" for this yarn. His one eye, grey beard and insatiable lust for wandering, human hearts and battle certainly suggest (REH's versions of) Odin and Ymir.
Kelka: Hialmar's "blood brother and a Pict." Kelka had joined Hialmar's band "among the jungle-clad hills of a far land that marked the eastern-most drift of his race". "He was short, thick-limbed, deadly as a jungle-cat." (...) "The pad of the tiger was in his stealthy tread, the grip of the gorilla in his black-nailed hands; the fire that burns in a leopard's eyes burns in his." (p.82-83) Since Grom's Picts were the "eastern-most drift" of Picts (in "TVotW") then one might think that Kelka's Picts were from the same area. Howard's description of Kelka is eerily close to that of Gorm in The Hyborian Age essay.

Khemu: It was "a great black cyclopean city", with "black towers" and "spires", massive turrets and abutments. It had "orchards, fields and vineyards outside the walls". The walls were built of "gigantic blocks of basaltic stone." The Khemuri used "war-drums". (p.81, 83)
So, we have a "black-walled Khemu" populated by the Stygianesque Khemuri, to go with a "black-walled Khemi" that lies across the "Western Ocean", populated by Stygians. I don't think this is a coincidence.

Hialmar's AEsir: They wore "girdles". Their weapons were "not of copper and bronze as our people in far Nordheim still worked in, but of keen steel, fashioned by a conquered, cunning people in the land of palm-trees and elephants". (p.83)

All for now... :)

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#24 timeless

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Posted 16 February 2008 - 10:05 PM

Deuce, I had 'Dig Me No Grave' in an old paperback I bought at a flea market (if memory serves.) Was it an edited version, do you think, or pretty accurate ala' Bob Howard?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream. - Edgar Allen Poe

It's the olden lure, it's the golden lure, it's the lure of the timeless things. - Robert Service

For the myth is the foundation of life; it is the timeless schema, the pious formula into which life flows when it reproduces its traits out of the unconscious. - Thomas Mann

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

#25 deuce

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 12:02 AM

Deuce, I had 'Dig Me No Grave' in an old paperback I bought at a flea market (if memory serves.) Was it an edited version, do you think, or pretty accurate ala' Bob Howard?


AFAIK, Howard's horror yarns (edited by Glenn Lord) were generally publisheded with little, if any, alteration.

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#26 Sermon Bath

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 01:06 AM

I would like to comment about the book titled "marchers of valhalla". This is actually a very nice collection. First off you get a truly tasty forward by none other than Fritz Leiber himself.....and he does some cool analysis on each of the stories. Nice. Of course the two best tales are Marchers and The Grey God Passes.....great stuff. Although there are only eight tales the quality is very high overall. Valley of the Lost is a much improved (in my opinion anyhow) take on his Dweller Under the Tomb theme. Its really a nice tale. Thunder Rider is also very interesting although I wish he would have made it a few pages longer or perhaps dropped the reincarnation theme........I would have liked more of Iron Heart and Conchita doing their thing and kicking butt. "Out of the Deep" is a very cool story that I enjoyed a lot. It was pretty creepy and again I only fault it in the sense that it was very short. The only story I didn't care for much was Sea Curse....for some reason I couldnt get into it much. My copy is the Berkley and if the stories and forward weren't enough there is a very killer fold out centerfold that I gazed out for a good while.........."Marchers of Valhalla" is a nice pickup indeed! And its always pretty cheap on the web

Edited by xssurdinynexes, 17 February 2008 - 01:08 AM.

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#27 deuce

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Posted 17 February 2008 - 05:58 AM

Thanks for reminding me about Fritz' fine introduction to the Berkley Marchers of Valhalla, XS. I meant to post it earlier. Here's his take on the yarn itself...

"Marchers of Valhalla" is the most ambitious and instructive of the reincarnation-tales of James Allison, the ailing cripple who, much like the hero of Jack London's Star Rover, is able to remember his past heroic lives and deaths, chief among them his career as Niord the AEsir, who met a memorable doom in "The Valley of the Worm." Here we learn that Allison lived in Texas and that the AEsir wandered that far south in prehistoric times, destroying and then perishing with a decadent kingdom of sorcerer-kings, giant serpents, and evil seductive women based on the imagined pre-Toltec Mexico and prefiguring the Stygia of the Conan tales. In the end, all of this Old Texas slides into the Gulf of Mexico. And here we also meet the woman ruling Allison's life, who turns out to be the goddess Ishtar in her various incarnations. (Glenn Lord has wisely altered the ancient hero's name -- Niord, as Howard left it in his unsold tale -- to Hialmar, so that AEsir is not made to perish twice.)

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#28 Sermon Bath

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 02:53 AM

Leiber went fairly in depth about several of the stories........Leigh Brackett wrote a truly wonderful forward to Sword Woman......you can tell she really like Howard....a ton...everybook would profit from a great forward in my opinion
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#29 deuce

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 03:00 AM

Leiber went fairly in depth about several of the stories........Leigh Brackett wrote a truly wonderful forward to Sword Woman......you can tell she really like Howard....a ton...everybook would profit from a great forward in my opinion


Yeah, Fritz did a great job. I posted his thoughts about The Thunder-Rider on its own thread awhile back. :)

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#30 Sermon Bath

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 03:24 AM

the only thing I can't stand about Howard is the fact he choose to die instead of writing sequels to some of his great tales like Thunder Rider.......I guess one should just be thankful for what we got but darn
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#31 Fernando

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Posted 24 February 2008 - 08:51 PM

"Their long, strange trek had led them around the world "-- down from the snowy north into rolling plains, and mountain valleys tilled by peaceful brown folk -- into hot breathless jungles, reeking with rot and teeming with spawning life -- through eastern lands flaming with raw primitive colors under the waving palm-trees, where ancient races lived in cities of carven stone -- up again into the ice and snow and across a frozen arm of the sea -- then down through the snow-clad wastes, where squat blubber-eating men fled squalling from our swords"


It seems the MoV's Aesirs didn't cross the Vilayet Sea. So, where could be "the eastern lands flaming with raw primitive colors under the waving palm-trees, where ancient races lived in cities of carven stone"? In Hyperborea - if they crossed lands at north of Vilayet -, or in another country (if they crossed lands southward of the inland sea)?

And who could be the "peaceful brown folk", also mentioned in "The Garden of Fear"?

Edited by Fernando, 24 February 2008 - 08:58 PM.


#32 deuce

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 12:06 AM

"Their long, strange trek had led them around the world "-- down from the snowy north into rolling plains, and mountain valleys tilled by peaceful brown folk -- into hot breathless jungles, reeking with rot and teeming with spawning life -- through eastern lands flaming with raw primitive colors under the waving palm-trees, where ancient races lived in cities of carven stone -- up again into the ice and snow and across a frozen arm of the sea -- then down through the snow-clad wastes, where squat blubber-eating men fled squalling from our swords"


It seems the MoV's Aesirs didn't cross the Vilayet Sea. So, where could be "the eastern lands flaming with raw primitive colors under the waving palm-trees, where ancient races lived in cities of carven stone"? In Hyperborea - if they crossed lands at north of Vilayet -, or in another country (if they crossed lands southward of the inland sea)?

And who could be the "peaceful brown folk", also mentioned in "The Garden of Fear"?


Hey, Fernando! I discuss their route in my "Hialmar's horde" entry. As for the "brown folk", they have to be the flotsam and jetsam left behind (probably mixed with a few Picts) after the Hyrkanian retreat.

Hope that helps. :)

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#33 Fernando

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 12:15 AM

Hey, Fernando! I discuss their route in my "Hialmar's horde" entry.


Sorry, but where can I find the "'Hialmar's horde' entry"?

As for the "brown folk", they have to be the flotsam and jetsam left behind (probably mixed with a few Picts) after the Hyrkanian retreat.

Hope that helps. :)


But, why couldn't "Marchers..." had happened some centuries - or some millenia - before Conan's Age? :unsure:

#34 deuce

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 01:57 AM

Sorry, but where can I find the "'Hialmar's horde' entry"?


In my big "annotations" post. :)


But, why couldn't "Marchers..." had happened some centuries - or some millenia - before Conan's Age? :unsure:


Short answer: Because there would have been plenty of virile/mobile/hostile Hyborians to oppose them. Also, plenty of manly Shemites in Shem. The Picts were never east of "the Pictish Wilderness" until the end of the Hyborian Age. One would have to go back at least 4000 years (from Conan's time) to try and "shoehorn" in "MoV" (and then it would fit very badly). It just can't be done. The Nordheimr were a very "new" race. The socio-cultural "landscape" through which Hialmar's wanderlusting/kill-crazy AEsir rampaged appears to be a "post-apocalyptic" one in every way.

Hope that helps. :)

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#35 Almuric

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 02:29 AM

Yeah, this is one grim story, but still one of his best. The great part about his James Allison stories is that the "protagonists" didn't have to survive to appear again for the series to continue. Just about all of them end with the hero dying, allowing the stories to go to their logical conclusions.

Edited by Almuric, 25 February 2008 - 06:48 AM.

"It is more than a mortal sea. Your hands are red with blood and you follow a red sea-path, yet the fault is not wholly with you. Almighty God, when will the reign of blood cease?"

Turlogh shook his head. "Not so long as the race lasts."


--- The Dark Man, by Robert E. Howard

#36 Fernando

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 12:11 AM

Sorry, but where can I find the "'Hialmar's horde' entry"?


In my big "annotations" post. :)


But, why couldn't "Marchers..." had happened some centuries - or some millenia - before Conan's Age? :unsure:


Short answer: Because there would have been plenty of virile/mobile/hostile Hyborians to oppose them. Also, plenty of manly Shemites in Shem. The Picts were never east of "the Pictish Wilderness" until the end of the Hyborian Age. One would have to go back at least 4000 years (from Conan's time) to try and "shoehorn" in "MoV" (and then it would fit very badly). It just can't be done. The Nordheimr were a very "new" race. The socio-cultural "landscape" through which Hialmar's wanderlusting/kill-crazy AEsir rampaged appears to be a "post-apocalyptic" one in every way.

Hope that helps. :)


Hey, Deuce!

First of all, you said, in a former post: "As for the 'brown folk', they have to be the flotsam and jetsam left behind (probably mixed with a few Picts) after the Hyrkanian retreat". However, MoV seems to take place before VotD, that takes place before - only some years, but before - the Ice Age. So, the Hialmar's group of warriors couldn't had appeared in a "post-apocalyptic" world.

I also wonder: what's the problem if MoV takes place 4000 years or more before Conan's Age? The Aesirs from that yarn could very well had gone to Hyperborea - where 1500 Aesirs wouldn't have bigger troubles with Hyborians - and eastward of that country, avoidind Vilayet Sea. The Pictish drift to the Ghanara homeland - where they found Kelka - could had happened in whatever time before Conan's Era - maybe a 1500 man and women's migration (the same quantity of MoV's Aesirs). They could, like Hialmar's raid band, had lost 1000 of them during the drift. I don't wanna change any mind, nor give "food for thought". It's only my own opinion. :) B)

Edited by Fernando, 26 February 2008 - 02:35 AM.


#37 deuce

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 02:58 AM

Yeah, this is one grim story, but still one of his best. The great part about his James Allison stories is that the "protagonists" didn't have to survive to appear again for the series to continue. Just about all of them end with the hero dying, allowing the stories to go to their logical conclusions.


Hey Almuric! I totally agree, this yarn is a stand-out. I've loved it since I first read it. I've maybe stressed the "grimness" a bit, but it is a very grim tale (thought there is a touch of humor). I also didn't want anyone to think I was glossing over the "grimness of it all". :rolleyes:

As you point out, one of the great things about the Allison yarns is that they "go to their logical conclusions". "Live by the sword..." and so on. Most of them (including the fragments) seem to be of the "death-song" variety. As Axerules pointed out, the fact that they're "first person" also lends immediacy to the narratives.

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#38 deuce

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 04:45 AM

First of all, you said, in a former post: "As for the 'brown folk', they have to be the flotsam and jetsam left behind (probably mixed with a few Picts) after the Hyrkanian retreat". However, MoV seems to take place before VotD, that takes place before - only some years, but before - the Ice Age. So, the Hialmar's group of warriors couldn't had appeared in a "post-apocalyptic" world.


Hey Fernando! I'm not very sure which yarn "VotD" refers to. :unsure: By "post-apocalyptic", I'm referring to the (more-or-less) utter collapse of Hyborian Age civilization (at least in the Hyborian West).

I also wonder: what's the problem if MoV takes place 4000 years or more before Conan's Age? The Aesirs from that yarn could very well had gone to Hyperborea - where 1500 Aesirs wouldn't have bigger troubles with Hyborians - and eastward of that country, avoidind Vilayet Sea. The Pictish drift to the Ghanara homeland - where they found Kelka - could had happened in whatever time before Conan's Era - maybe a 1500 man and women's migration (the same quantity of MoV's Aesirs). They could, like Hialmar's raid band, had lost 1000 of them during the drift. I don't wanna change any mind, nor give "food for thought". It's only my own opinion. :) B)


The Hyperboreans were highly "Nordheimr resistant" 3-4000yrs (adjusted) before Conan. In fact, the "Nordheimr" were just apish "savages" at that point. The Nordheimr finally pushed all of the Hyborians out of "Nordheim" only 500yrs (unadjusted) before Conan. REH says so. Where did REH say that Kelka's Picts settled in "the Ghanara homeland"?
BTW, to clarify my earlier post, it appears that the Picts were settled slightly farther east before the Hyborians (the Acheronians probably chief among them) pushed them westward. The line was probably somewhere in Nemedia.
Hope that helps. :)

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#39 Almuric

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 05:54 AM

On the other hand, every time I read one of Howard's "everybody dies" stories, I can't help but think that I'm getting a glimpse of the self-destructive impulses which ultimately ended his life.
"It is more than a mortal sea. Your hands are red with blood and you follow a red sea-path, yet the fault is not wholly with you. Almighty God, when will the reign of blood cease?"

Turlogh shook his head. "Not so long as the race lasts."


--- The Dark Man, by Robert E. Howard

#40 deuce

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 06:05 AM

On the other hand, every time I read one of Howard's "everybody dies" stories, I can't help but think that I'm getting a glimpse of the self-destructive impulses which ultimately ended his life.


True that. :(

On the other hand, Hialmar died well, IMO.

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