Crom and Other Cimmerian Deities
Posted 08 April 2003 - 06:04 AM
Howard's Cimmerians pretty much seem to be based on dour Scottish presbyterians, however when you look at their viewpoints as mentioned in the Conan stories.
For more on Crom there is an essay taken from a term paper I did over on www.folklegend.com .
Posted 27 April 2004 - 05:32 PM
I, who was born in a naked land and bred in the open sky.
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die dogs--I was a man before I was a king!
---From The Road of Kings
Posted 27 April 2004 - 07:36 PM
I think Manannan Mac Lir is actually one God, at least according to this site:
That is "Lir and Manannan, son of Lir" in Gaelic and those are ancient Irish Gods.
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Posted 28 April 2004 - 03:58 AM
2. Mannanan (son of Lir)
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Posted 01 April 2005 - 06:58 AM
To me this quote sums up a large part of Howards ideas on religion. A large theme in Conan stories is the interplay between the many different gods and religions throughout the Hyborian age and the ancient sorceries and magics tied up therein, yet despite Conan often meeting these very gods face to face he still has unshakeable belief in Crom (whom I dont believe we ever actually see). What is it about the invisible Crom that keeps Conans devotion so? Conan seems to detest organized religions and anything mysterious or magical yet keeps faith in a god that seems to be no more than the force of nature at work. Could it be that Crom represents the complete absense of religion and deities? The stripping of belief to its purest form?
Posted 01 April 2005 - 03:00 PM
Posted 01 April 2005 - 08:40 PM
Maybe it was Howards bitter opinion about (christian) god, who doesn't cares of his worshippers?
Could it be that Crom represents the complete absense of religion and deities?
"Jewels of Gwahlur" by Robert E Howard
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Posted 02 April 2005 - 12:53 AM
I think it is not as complicated as it would appear. If there is no cost to his faith (or belief) in Crom than why go to an effort to not have faith (or belief). It is what he was taught as a youth and during his exploits and adventures nothing was presented to him to make him disbelieve in the God of his people. There are no discrepancies in what he was taught. In fact, after surviving all of the many adventures in his life, I could imagine his belief in his God would grow stronger.
What is it about the invisible Crom that keeps Conans devotion so? Conan seems to detest organized religions and anything mysterious or magical yet keeps faith in a god that seems to be no more than the force of nature at work. Could it be that Crom represents the complete absense of religion and deities? The stripping of belief to its purest form?
But he gave a man courage at birth, and the will and might to kill his enemies, which, in the Cimmerian mind, was all any god should be expected to do."
Conan certainly had courage and the will to kill his enemies and certainly faced his death many times only to always prevail.
As for the correlation between Howard's views and Crom's interpretation, I think it would be intertwined with his commentary on civilization/barbarism. I would say that even in his most famous barbarian there was faith, albeit one outside organization and civilized rituals. But faith nonetheless.
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Posted 02 April 2005 - 11:44 AM
In Conan's life, Crom is seen as a God breathing life into a being, and the rest is up to him/her, he needs no allegiance nor sacrifice, no worshipping nor buildings dedicated to him. He has no parallel in History, as religions in history were first a way for men to interprete Nature, then evoluated into a means of control over the crowds. Conan fears the Gods, because of his conservation instinct, as the slaying of anyone God or priest is no problem to him when needed, and every time he's confronted to supernatural forces, his basic beliefs have the upper hand, meaning life is a constant battle and that when confronted to an enemy (let it be a god), the only thing worth doing is to strike and fight to the death. Conan appealed me for that reason among many others, because his beliefs were not dictating his life. Religion is a very powerful weapon to manipulate people's minds, and Howard was extremely aware of that, distillating his philosophy without unleashing controversy. It is also true that some of his characters were driven by strong religious beliefs, Solomon Kane coming to my mind, but the threading line and the actual pattern of the character differs. Where Conan is a barbarian opposed to a decaying civilized world, Kane is incarning the forces of Good opposed to Evil forces. What strikes me now is that in his long-term vision, he wrote about Aquilonia blooming under her barbarian-king reign, just like if the world could only be runned when a balance is reached between the extremes. This concept has of course to be fine-tuned, and some readers could of course see it as totally wrong, but I hardly imagine any author writing down a story without seeding any part of his soul within.
Posted 03 April 2005 - 03:18 AM
Sorry for not explaining this better. I mean that Crom seems to represent the survival instinct of all natural things, not in some mystical power or promised magic to its belivers as the other gods in Hyboria seem to promise. In fact what Crom represents after birth seems to be nothing more than courage and faith in ones own ability. If you lack courage and strength then Crom is not with you. If you have great might and will then Crom is with you. It is not so much a religion in outside forces but a supreme faith in your own self. It is interesting that Conan thinks that this is all a god should be expected to do, meaning that a god should not be expected to live your life for you or intercede in your affairs for good or bad. Originally it is my opinion that belief in gods existed in that realm of life that we as humans had no control over: weather, environment, disease etc. But other than that you were very?@much on your own. Conan living the life of a primitive holds these views and so Crom is not so much a god but a power of confidence that exists in your heart.Explain this a little more. What do you mean?
Could it be that Crom represents the complete absense of religion and deities? The stripping of belief to its purest form?
I would write on this topic further but I would be retreading on cimmerianblokes points, who explained already very well.
Posted 03 April 2005 - 10:21 AM
Well, I'm not sure I refuted anything really. I basically agree with your position that Howard inserted his own world-view and values into his work... but it wasn't necessarily an unconscous act of "projection". Howard had something to say, strong opinions, and he wanted to write something that was "realistic," if I may apply the term to his fantasy writings, and that said something important. But there might also be some content in his stories that filtered up from his unconscious and was written on the page without his awareness of its meaning. So far, I'm more apt to conclude that most of what we think of as being part of REH's psyche in his work was actually put there consciously by REH himself -- either as the result of his creative method or intentionally as literary devices.
Well, that is an interesting thought. I personally think that Howard had somehow projected his own world and values into the setting he called Hyboria, even though Ed refuted my argumentation in a previous link, I continue to believe that way.
If you go from Howard to Conan, it works out fine. But going the other way, taking what we know about Conan and applying it to Howard doesn't ring true and is very risky indeed. In any case, I think we're probably much more in agreement than your statement implies.
Incidentally, Solomon Kane is at odds with his religious beliefs. He is the embodiment of hypocrisy. His inner nature, his instinct commands him to fight, to kill, to seek adventure and revenge... in short, to break with his religious beliefs and doctrine time and again. Yet he uses his religion to justify his murder, his adventuring, and his lust for violence. In this way, not the religion but the driving instinct, Solomon Kane and Conan are the same.
Conan living the life of a primitive holds these views and so Crom is not so much a god but a power of confidence that exists in your heart.
I guess you could look at it that way. My view is a bit more pessimistic, though... I guess.
From "Queen of the Black Coast":
?Their chief is Crom. He dwells on a great mountain. What use to call on him? Little he cares if men live or die. Better to be silent than to call his attention to you; he will send you dooms, not fortune! He is grim and loveless, but at birth he breathes power to strive and slay into a man?s soul. What else shall men ask of the gods??
?But what of the worlds beyond the river of death?? she persisted.
?There is no hope here or hereafter in the cult of my people,? answered Conan. ?In this world men struggle and suffer vainly, finding pleasure only in the bright madness of battle; dying, their souls enter a gray misty realm of clouds and icy winds, to wander cheerlessly throughout eternity.?
So it appears that Crom's only gifts are power and motivation -- the power to strive (contend, struggle, fight), the power to kill, and the desire or instinct to do both. Very Darwinian, eh?
Confidence? I don't know. It might be merely a matter of semantics, but "instinct" fits better for me... the instinct for survival. Thinking about Conan in this way, it becomes clear that violence and conflict (today we call it "competition") is its own reward, in a way. Part of one's nature that must be obeyed.
So if we believe Conan, he has nothing to look forward to after death but misery... regardless of how he lives his life. Courage, cowardice, goodness or evil, nothing matters. He will end up in a gray misty realm of clouds and icy winds no matter what he does or believes. In life, there is nothing to expect from his god other than ill will and doom. All one can expect, even desire, is strife and bloodshed -- all is ultimately futile. Pretty grim and hopeless.
So, in my opinion, if there was any attitude that his worshipers would have toward Crom it would be fear, and their beliefs would instill in them a deep mournful sorrow and depression, an utter lack of hope. Not even the transitory pleasures of life would be valued, as in the end they are doomed. Only their instinct to survive would keep them from ending their own lives, and their desire to strive and kill from utterly resigning to their fate. Cimmerians, a race of black moods, shaped by a black god with a black, cruel heart.
In "The Phoenix on the Sword," Prospero remarks: "I never saw another Cimmerian who drank aught but water, or who ever laughed, or ever sang save to chant dismal dirges."
But Conan, is not quite the average Cimmerian. Although he can not escape his Cimmerian heritage, he is much more. He values life, revels in its pleasures, and doesn't worry about the afterlife and his waiting, ultimate doom. For Conan is not entirely certain that that is the fate that awaits him when he dies. His ultimate fate may be doom... or Valhalla... or nothing. He knows not, and neither does he care.
"Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content." quoth Conan from QOTBC.
Posted 03 April 2005 - 04:24 PM
Posted 04 April 2005 - 04:47 AM
It could be. I find that people generally read into REH what their own world view is. I wish I could say that I didn't do the same, but in reality I am just as guilty when I start off. The only difference, if it is a differece, is that I then do a thorough investigation into the facts of the matter and gather as many as I can... and if I find that the facts contradict my ideas, then I abandon them and try to see what REH was really trying to say. It's been a long road, and it keeps on winding on into the distance...
That could be an oversimplification, I don't know, but I think we just read too much into these things sometimes.
Patrice Louinet does good work and his statements are well worth considering. Nearly everything he has written in those introductions is pretty much on target in my opinion.
By the way, can you give me the page number of where you read that Conan's philosophy was a way for REH to cope with life? I looked, but didn't find it. Maybe it's in The Bloody Crown Of Conan?
Posted 04 April 2005 - 03:02 PM
Posted 05 April 2005 - 03:05 AM
If it's a hassle, don't worry about it. It's not a big deal. The statement is generally correct. We all cope with life's difficulties, strive and contend with them in one way or another. Sometimes it's difficult and the cards are stacked against us, sometimes the odds are even and we have success. Many of us try many differernt ways to strive and cope, and Howard was not dissimilar. It's just too bad he threw in the towel.
I don't have my copy with me atm, but I'll see if I can find an exact page for you, Aqua. I'm not certain if it says exactly that or if I just took that impression from the discussion of how Howard viewed Dark Valley as his own Cimmeria or the many examples of his melancholy over the years. I'll see what I can find for ya
Posted 05 April 2005 - 07:43 AM
I've always understood Conan as the man who needs nothing in the larger sense. He has lesser purposes, inculding but no limited to women, wealth, power, and glory. But all these come because of what he is, because he truly needs none of it, and therefore can take steps and do deeds that 'lesser' men cannot.
What kind of god would such a man worship? Would a 'greater' man worship any Hyborean god who demanded things of him? Who asked for pledge and sacrifice? I tend to think not. Instead Conan (and by extension his people, the Cimmerians) would not worship, he would confront any god with a feeling of equality, and this seems to me to be the way that he explains his relationship with Crom.
Instead of a demanding power, or a power to be feared, or slaved for, or even to fall too ones knees and thank, Conan take what Crom will give him and asks no more. Crom gives will, but not everyone uses it. This sort of egalitarian apathy toward men except those who use his gifts well strikes me as the perfect god for Conan, as the barbarian rises above others with his every deed.
Posted 05 April 2005 - 04:29 PM
Or maybe he is the great sage, who knows, that human mind can't describe and know god at all, like a bacterium can't understand a man?
So he thinks rightly: does it matter?
"Jewels of Gwahlur" by Robert E Howard
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Posted 06 April 2005 - 12:46 AM
I don't think Solomon Kane is a "hypocrite" though he often is portrayed as having doubts and confusions about his faith. He has been persecuted by other Christians (denominational bigotry) and likely seen brutalities done in the name of God against those who believe in God (but worship differently). He doesn't adventure of his own lust for adventure, so to speak, but out of a sense of purpose. In "Red Shadows" for example he goes all over the place to track down a murderer/rapist until he finally confronts him in Africa. I don't recall him adventuring out of mere wanderlust or a sense of adventure. There is usually an element of revenge for those who can't revenge themselves, an injustice gone unpunished. He wrestles with how to have faith and be proactive in an unjust world.
Posted 06 April 2005 - 01:11 AM
Very Nietzschian. Pretty much on target as far as I see.
What kind of god would such a man worship? Would a 'greater' man worship any Hyborean god who demanded things of him?
Just an interesting observation... in Conan's early career in "Queen of the Black Coast" Belit asks Conan why she hasn't heard him call out his god's name or swear oaths in his name, as most other men do, and Conan goes on to tell her that to do so would call Crom's attention to him and probably bring misfortune down on him. It was better to leave him alone, etc..
Yet later in his career, in The Hour of the Dragon, Conan is swearing Crom's name left and right! "Crom, it's a sorcerer! Crom! The guard is dead! Crom! My pants have a rip!"
This may indicate a change or development of Conan's attitude toward Crom and religion in general. It certainly doesn't seem like Conan is worried about Crom sending down doom anymore...
I don't think Solomon Kane is a "hypocrite"
Well, I guess you can look at it that way, but I probably should have explained a bit. Solomon Kane is a hypocrite because he lusts for revenge. Where in the New Testament does it say seek vengence and blood for justice? Kill your enemies and all who stand against god? Murder the murderers and justice will be done. I don't recall Jesus ever saying that. As a matter of fact, now that I think of it, didn't Jesus say something to the contrary... something about forgiveness and turning the other cheek? Ah, who knows? My knowledge of christianity is doubtless a little weak.
Solomon Kane is a hypcrite because his religious doctrine held that all forms of magic and witchcraft that did not come from God are blasphemous and evil... and yet Kane befriends his witch doctor friend, takes a sorcerous staff from him, seeks sorcerous help from him, and uses it all without qualms. He knows he shouldn't, but he does it anyway.
And I vaguely recall a passage that describes Kane on a ship sailing with some great military figure as a privateer, I think, and knowing that he should probably go back home to his worships, but can't seem to tear himself away from the adventurous life, the wanderlust has taken hold of him. But my memory of which story this is, or if I jumbled them up -- which stories, is a little shakey. I do recall a passage somewhere showing him brooding about this topic of going home to lead a pious life but his desire for travel and adventure is too great.
Just my point of view. It's not a big deal and it's probably wrong anyway. I don't claim exclusive rights to truth...
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